Friday, February 25, 2011

Consumers Focused On Bath Details

  "The bath may be considered the most private room in the home, a space most commonly used by only one person at a time. Even though it is usually a solo experience, research has found that consumers are concerned with every detail of their bathrooms.
Finish matters
The detailed consumer focus extends to faucet finishes. “Whether consumers are purchasing faucets for a remodeling project, replacing an existing faucet or selecting one as part of their new home construction, we’re finding that the finish does matter,” says Jack Suvak, Moen’s Director of Research and Insights. “And it’s much more than just selecting chrome instead of brushed nickel or oil rubbed bronze. Consumers are looking for product lines that have a number of finish options available to fit any style they desire.”
Research shows a shift in consumer bath purchases away from chrome since 2007, Suvak says. While it remains the most popular, chrome purchases have decreased from more than 60 percent to less than 50 percent. At the same time, stainless steel and brushed nickel have increased from 24 percent to 36 percent. Uhl sees a continued trend to warmer tones like nickel or bronze, but with a re-surging chrome preference just starting for top end contemporary faucets and accessories."

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Is It CrapeMurder?

 It's pruning time! The time of year when our scraggly roses and unkempt crapemyrtle's call to us from their wintery brown states. But what in our Georgia gardens really needs pruning, and what is the best way to do it? Walter Reeves, the Georgia gardener, says "One of the most confounding arguments I face is whether and how to prune crapemyrtles. They are mercilessly “murdered” by unaware landscapers and homeowners each winter… yet they still bloom in summer. Some people even believe a crapemyrtle won’t bloom unless it is severely pruned. Crapemyrtles do not HAVE TO be pruned at all. They will still bloom."

 Here are some examples of POORLY pruned crapemyrtles:
  Here are some WELL-TRIMMED crapemyrtles: 
  If you are just looking to perform general maintenance on your tree, the ideal crepe myrtle pruning time is either in the late winter or early spring when the tree is in its dormancy. This is the best time to prune if you are reshaping the tree, removing deep or weak branches, trying to encourage new growth or size maintenance. After pruning, save the long straight crapemyrtle branches: they make wonderful stakes which will last at least 2 years! Also, the thin branches make neat trellises for pot plants and for training small ivy on. Be sure to make these while the wood is still green, after they dry you cannot drive a nail in.

Monday, February 21, 2011

HomeSavvi: Top 10 Improvements To Help Sell Your House

Thanks to HomeSavvi for the great tips! See AK On HomeSavvi!

Planning to sell your home in 2011? As everyone knows, the real estate market is more competitive now than ever, and making the right home improvements will help you sell faster, and at a better price.  So, which improvements should you focus on? HomeSavvi interviewed several real estate and remodeling experts to bring you this important list.

Start from the outside and work in

A prospective buyer starts by looking at the outside of the house. You’ve heard the term “curb appeal”, so let’s get really specific about it. Bob Edwardsen, 30 year real estate veteran with Windermere Real Estate, states “I’ve had buyers decide not to even view the home at all based on a poorly maintained exterior. They simply say “keep driving” and we move on to the next house.”

What exactly does that mean? According to Edwardsen, “First impressions are everything. The general condition of the exterior of the house which includes fresh paint, an attractive front door, walkways in good repair, and well maintained yard, all make the first impression.”

So what are the most important items for strong curb appeal?

1.    Your front door and entryway. Edwardsen suggests,  “Add potted plants, install a bright porch light in an attractive fixture, and ensure the doorbell or knocker works. Paint or stain the door if needed. If the walkway or steps are cracked, broken or otherwise in bad shape, get them fixed.”

2.    Roof and siding. On roofing and siding, Edwardsen says, “Don’t forget to clean the roof and gutters of debris. If your roof is old, get it inspected and repaired or replaced; otherwise you can expect to reduce the price of the home by the price of a new roof.”

Chuck Reiling, broker and owner at Veritus Realty located on Mercer Island, agrees, “When roofing or siding obviously needs replacement, the buyer will typically lower their offer because of it, and then expect you to fix it anyway after inspection. And, the lender may require it too.  Why pay for it twice?”

3.    Garage door. Often overlooked, the garage door actually is one improvement that will return more money than you spend on it. If yours is not working properly, or beat up from years of use, a new garage door is a must.

4.    Landscaping. You don’t need to hire an expensive landscape designer to install a waterfall and pool. You DO need to ensure that your yard looks neat and well maintained. “Mow the lawn, water the plants, prune the trees and add fresh mulch or bark. If you have trees or shrubs that have grown up around the windows, cut them back to add more light,” says Edwardsen.

5.    Windows. Depending upon the type you have, windows can cost anywhere from $500 per window to $1,500 or more per window, installed.  Broken windows are an immediate deal killer and must be replaced before trying to sell a home. 

What about replacing older, single pane windows? “Buyers in Puget Sound are often environmentally sensitive, so energy efficient windows are very desirable vs. single pane older windows. If you plan on moving 5 years from now, put in the windows now so you can enjoy the warmth and benefit yourself,” advises Edwardsen.

Ok, the exterior is in great shape, and you’ve got the buyer into the house. Now what?

6 and 7.
According to Reiling, the kitchen and bathrooms are the most important.   “The most prominent dis-satisfiers inside the house are unattractive or disgusting kitchen and bath situations – cracked and discolored tile and grout, cracked or curled floors, and mold-stained seams and caulking. 

“If your house has a good floor plan and good setting – but the kitchen or bathrooms, are badly outdated, especially the master bath, then it may be worthwhile to do a remodel of both, ” says Reiling. “The cost can be modest, and the buyer rejection or low-balling they prevent is worth far more than the cost,” he adds. 

We asked Craig Haveson, owner of STS Remodeling in Seattle what he suggests for kitchen or bath remodeling before a sale. “In either room, a new countertop, flooring and fresh paint will do wonders. If you do just that, you’ve improved every surface in the room without spending a bundle.” 

8. Don’t forget the floors! If you have hardwood floors in good shape, a quick refinishing may be all you need. If you have peeling linoleum, or cracked tile, plan to replace it before selling, or plan to reduce the price of the house by the amount it will cost to get that done.

9. Where does a fresh coat of paint fit in?

According to Reiling, “Paint is cheap and does wonders for helping create a consistent look and feel to the house. Attractive means no weird colors, inside or out”   Haveson agrees, “Fresh paint is what is most important. Color makes less of a difference.” Edwardsen suggests, “Because of our many cloudy days, choose lighter colors which reflect light better.”

The hidden stuff

10. Finally, what about the non-cosmetic items such as water heaters, insulation, and plumbing? “Old infrastructure items such as water heaters, furnaces and plumbing systems can be a deterrent to a sale. Get your furnace serviced and hang an inspection sticker on it,” says Edwardson. 

Final advice from the professionals?

Realistically assess the time horizon you’ll stay in the house, and make appropriate changes to fit your budget, lifestyle and selling objectives.

“Don’t assume that the house in “as is” condition will be acceptable to buyers – and that the buyer won’t mind making the improvements. There is less tolerance in the market for product deficiencies,” says Edwardsen.

Haveson advises, “In today’s environment, you should renovate either to enjoy the way you live in the house more, or to repair obvious defects that will hinder a home sale. The days of renovating a house to sell it for more than the cost of the improvements are over.”

Finally, says Reiling, “If you are thinking ahead about selling in a few years, why not do the remodel now and enjoy it?  One of the most common comments we get from sellers who have recently remodeled to get ready for the sale is “I don’t know why we didn’t do it sooner.  Now we almost don’t want to leave.”   Do yourself a favor, and do it now.”

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Top 5 High Impact / Low Cost Home Improvements

  Shauna Zamarripa, of Yahoo's contributor network, knows a little something about home values. As a realtor and a financial writer, Shauna recognizes the need for homeowners to complete major remodeling and renovations projects as needed. Afterall, as many realtors will tell you, great kitchens sell homes! But what's great about Shauna's list below is that she has listed 5 easy and low cost home improvements that pack a big punch!

   These are great do-it-yourself home improvements to do prior to resale, before a major event at your home or just to spruce up a little for spring!
#1 - Paint
A fresh coat of paint livens up any room. Virtually any room in your house can be primed and painted for around $100 including paint and supplies. In addition, painting worn out cabinets in kitchens or bathrooms or purchasing a do-it-yourself refinishing kit is a project that can be done in a day or two, adding appeal and value to any room.

#2 - Hardware
Changing out door hardware throughout the interior of your home, or making some changes to an external doorknob or fixture improves the look of eye level door knobs without breaking the bank. You can buy new hardware from websites like for an entire home for around $100, or new outdoor hardware for around $50. While it may not seem like much, the little things can add substantial value and appeal.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Spring Maintenance & Home Improvements

  Our respected colleague, home adviser Brooks Powell, offers Spring Maintenance Services to his clients in Des Moines. Brooks talks about these services in the following way: "Over the past years the “Do-It-Yourself” mentality has had a big impact on homeowners.  Various television shows teach us everything from installing a ceiling fan to building a deck.  There are countless articles on the Internet aimed to give us the basics on home repair and remodeling.  But all of this assumes that we want to spend our evenings and weekends working on one after another house project.  A home is a work in progress – there is always something we want or need to repair, improve, or update.  And with our increasingly busy personal and work schedules, time is a precious commodity.  Sometimes it is quite worth it to hire a handyman. " 

   Locally, some 300,000 Atlanta area residents look for a handyman each month. It's this time of year as the weather prepares to change again when the need for a handyman, home maintenance and home improvements really spike!

   AK provides an innovative service for homeowners; in-home maintenance offering a comprehensive preventive maintenance program to preserve and enhance the value, life, and beauty of your home. AK's service was established to meet the needs of today's busy homeowner and provide our customers with the precious gift of extra time; extra time to spend on things more enjoyable and important to you. AK's Spring Maintenance and Home Improvement services offer items including, but not limited to:

  • Inspect the roof for leaks and damaged tiles or shingles
  • Check siding for loose pieces and check trim for cracked paint
  • Replace exterior caulking that is peeling
  • Repair damaged window frames and reinstall screens
  • Inspect decks, patios, porches, stairs, and railings for loose pieces and deterioration
  • Service the water heater pump and motor
  • Clean the air conditioning unit and replace the belt when necessary
  • Replace the furnace filter
  • Clear slow-moving drains and ensure that plumbing shutoff valves function properly

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Kitchen Transformations: Kitchen Remodel Contest

  Daily5 Remodel by Leah Thayer is calling for remodelers, designers & architects to submit your favorite kitchen remodeling project for their February contest! The daily5 is featuring a different project each day and the winning entry will receive a $250 gift card from National Lumber.
  Today's entry comes! Featuring great before & after shots of an Alpharetta Kitchen Remodel. 

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Adopt a CONTRACTOR and Protect Your ASSETS

 Thanks to our neighbor to the North, Chattanooga Remodeler, for sharing this great post!

If you are sitting on a million dollars or half a million dollars or even $200,000, you might consider getting advice from a financial advisor. With that kind of money, you’d want the best advice on how to grow your investment. During your first session with him you are going to go over your goals and ambitions, what assets you have, and when and how you plan to retire. With this information, your advisor will put together a plan to help you achieve your goals. You may put some of the money in stocks, some in bonds and some in annuities. At certain milestones you’ll change the funds from one place to another to maximize your return. Most of you will stick with your advisor for life, if he does a good job for you. Having a good financial advisor turns out to be a good move for you and your family.

We’ve all heard that most people’s homes are their largest assets. This is repeated in many ways, and in many circumstances. We’ve heard it so many times that it is rather a cliché of sorts, and we don’t give it that much thought. All we know is that when the time comes to sell our homes, we hope to get a good return on our investment.

So, how many of you have hired a financial advisor to protect your home, your largest asset in most cases? I’m guessing that very few have. Most live by the “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” rule. When you think about this philosophy, as far as your house goes, it’s plain dumb. Take a look at car maintenance for instance. Do you perform routine preventative maintenance on it? Sure you do. You don’t want to be stranded on the side of the road somewhere. What if the airlines adopted that philosophy? Now that’s scary. Nobody would want to fly anymore. So why let your house rot, and then fix it. Why have your furnace fail on a cold night, and then fix it. Why let your home decrease in value when it could be increasing in value with routine maintenance.

I think you get my point by now. Routine maintenance on your home is very important, not only financially, but also in terms of your comfort and convenience. You need a trusted advisor to look over your entire home and see when certain parts of the home need to be replaced or serviced. You need to know when the repairs or maintenance will be needed and how much it will cost. It’s time to —– Adopt a contractor!

Just as you hired your financial advisor, you need to interview a few contractors and get references. She or he need to be experienced with all facets of your home. I would suggest a full service remodeler, possibly with design-then-build experience. They need to know what products are best, and how they should be installed and who should install them. A good contractor should be surrounded by experts in all fields. She or he should have built relations with the best in the business, so you get the best advice and service when it is needed.

Your home is a system. Everything in your home has to work together. Your home’s function is to keep you warm and dry, safe and comfortable at all times. It is an envelope that protects you from the outside world. Find a contractor that understands this; one that can see the big picture, and will guide you toward the best possible return on your investment. This should be a long term relation, so that your contractor becomes familiar with your home and your lifestyle and you know what to expect from your contractor. When you find such a person, life will be so much better. Now you can set up an annual budget for the future maintenance needs of your home and schedule them at your convenience.

Your contractor may not wear a suit and tie, but he may well be the most important financial adviser you’ve ever hired.