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  • How to Save Money on a Home Renovation

    Want to save money on a renovation? Many homeowners end up overspending and exceeding their budgets simply because they underestimate home renovation costs. Fortunately, with the right planning and budgeting know-how, it is possible to cut down on costs when renovating a property without compromising the quality. From prioritizing home projects and working in phases to repurposing used materials and seeking multiple bids, here are 11 ways you can save money on a renovation.


    11 ways to save money on a renovation

    1. Know your budget

      Before renovations begin, figure out how much money you are able and willing to spend on individual projects and on the renovation as a whole. Take a look at your personal savings and financing options. In addition, we recommend researching cost estimates for renovation projects. This should give you a rough idea of how much everything will cost, so that you can budget accordingly. For the latest renovation cost estimates, check out Remodeling’s 2019 Cost vs. Value report.

    2. Prioritize renovations that add value

      While perusing Remodeling’s Cost vs. Value Report, pay close attention to the renovation projects that get homeowners the most bang for their buck – especially if you plan to list your home in the future. Focusing on changes that add value to the home will increase your chances of getting your money back (and then some) when you decide to sell the property. Several renovations that tend to get the biggest return include a wood deck addition, kitchen and bathroom remodels, siding and vinyl window replacements, and an upscale garage door replacement. For more information about the most valuable home improvements, check here.

    3. Seek bids from multiple contractors

      Renovating the entire home? You’ll likely need a general contractor to handle and coordinate all of the individual projects throughout the property. While general contractors tend to be quite expensive, many homeowners will tell you that they are well worth the money. In addition to overseeing the entire renovation, general contractors help homeowners make budget-conscious decisions when it comes to improvement projects. To find the best value, we recommend interviewing and seeking bids from at least three different contractors. For tips on how to find a contractor, check here.

    4. Be your own contractor

      Think you have what it takes to coordinate your own home renovation? One of the best ways to save money is by being your own general contractor. That means finding and coordinating all subcontractors yourself. According to Angie’s List, general contractors typically cost anywhere from 10 to 20 percent of the total cost of the job. By acting as your own contractor, you will save thousands of dollars on your home renovation.

    5. Do as much of it yourself as possible

      If you fancy yourself a handy guy or gal, we suggest doing parts of the renovation yourself. This is the best, surefire way to save money on a renovation. Examples of home renovation projects that you may be able to do yourself include painting the interior, installing shelving and closets, installing wallpaper, painting tiles, installing kitchen backsplash, and demolition of walls. Of course, some parts of the renovation process are best left to the professionals. If you need to make plumbing or electrical changes, we recommend consulting with the pros.

    6. Find used renovation material

      Not everything needs to be brand spanking new. A great way to save money on a renovation is by seeking out gently used materials and finishes to use throughout the home. This could mean using leftover slabs (also known as remnants) of stone (i.e. quartz, marble, granite, etc) for countertops or flooring. Oftentimes, you can also find used vanities and appliances for sale on local online marketplaces. Amazon Warehouse is another great online marketplace for used items. Shoppers may be able to find great deals on quality pre-owned door knobs, cabinets, doors and more.

    7. Wait to purchase home items during big sales

      From backsplash and tile to appliances and furniture, the price of new home items quickly adds up. If you opt to purchase new materials over pre-owned ones, try to buy them during big holiday sales when prices are lowest. These big sales typically happen during Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Labor Day, Memorial Day, July Fourth, Christmas and New Year’s. You can also sign up for price alerts such as Google Shopping’s new price tracking optionto keep up-to-date with the latest deals on items you’ve been eyeing.

    8. Don’t do everything at once

      If you want to save money on a renovation do not attempt all changes at once. Instead, we recommend living in the home first to see what it is you really need and want to change. Chances are good that over time you’ll learn to live with some of the home materials and finishes you once couldn’t stand. Even if you do decide to go through with all of the planned renovations, doing so in separate phases will allow you to save up for each project.

    9. Sell the home’s old materials to purchase new one

      You know what they say: one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Before tossing the home’s old light fixtures, old doors and other home items, try selling them through an online marketplace. While those old doorknobs may not be your style, they could be someone else’s. To sell used items try posting them on Facebook Marketplace,, OfferUp and LetGo. You might be surprised how many responses you receive.

    10. Consider using a home equity line of credit to pay for renovations

      Can’t pay for your renovations with cash? Consider using a home equity line of credit (also known as a HELOC) instead of taking out a conventional loan. A home equity line of credit is a loan that you borrow against the equity in your house. The reason this will save you money is because a home equity line of credit typically has lower interest rates than a conventional loan. This will save you from having to make large payments on high interest loans. For more information about a HELOC, check here.

    11. Purchase floor model appliances

      It’s no secret that appliances can be quite expensive – especially if you plan to outfit your home in high end items such as a Sub-Zero refrigerator and a Wolf oven. Fortunately, there are ways to score major deals on home appliances that don’t involve shopping during the Black Friday madness. One such way is by purchasing a floor model instead of a brand new appliance. Many floor model appliances still come with a manufacturer’s warranty. According to Appliance Buyer’s Guide, buyers can expect to score between 5 and 15 percent off original prices when purchasing floor model appliances.

    Moving to a fixer-upper?

    We understand that moving before or after a renovation takes a good deal of planning and coordinating. To get organized for your upcoming move, use our comprehensive Move Planner. Our tool provides customizable moving checklists, personal tasks list, helpful recommendations, email reminders and plenty of coupons to get you organized. For assistance with finding the best movers for the jobs, check’s extensive network of reputable and reliable movers. All relocation companies in our network are licensed and insured, so you can rest assured that your move will be in good hands. Best of luck and happy moving!

  • 3 Tips to Keep Your Financial Resolutions for 2020

    A new year is here, and with it, a new decade. That means it's high season for making resolutions and charting ways to make improvements, achieve new things, and move toward a better future. Unfortunately, following through on those ambitions tends to be much more difficult than many people expect. 

    Research by U.S. News & World Report suggests that a shocking 80% of New Year's resolutions fail by February, and a study from the University of Scranton found that 92% of all resolutions are left unfulfilled. Some studies have found better success rates, but the overwhelming body of research on the subject shows that most people have trouble holding to their New Year's resolutions.

    Making big changes and hitting substantial milestones isn't easy, but smart planning and the right approach will help you achieve your resolutions for 2020. Read on to learn about three strategies that will help you make good on your financial goals and get the decade off to a great start. 


    1. Make your financial resolutions both inspiring and realistic

    The great industrialist and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie once said, "If you want to be happy, set a goal that commands your thoughts, liberates your energy, and inspires your hopes." The best financial resolutions will motivate and captivate you, but you also want to make sure your ambitions are feasibly within reach.

    Not only will choosing realistic goals put you in a better position to achieve them, but it will also help prevent you from taking on unnecessary risks. For example, a goal to have the stocks you buy in 2020 double by the end of the year could very easily lead to taking on more risk than is prudent. Setting a goal that's too difficult or unrealistic to achieve can actually wind up setting you back.

    In some aspects of life, there's truth to The Power of Positive Thinking author Norman Vincent Peale's maxim: "Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss you will wind up among the stars." This approach can yield great results when it comes to things like saving money or paying off debt, but it can also be dangerous if improperly applied to investing.

    Goals should be challenging and give you something to strive for. They should also be realistic and chosen so as to not expose you to unnecessary, dangerous levels of risk. Concentrating on a limited number of rewarding (but achievable) financial goals will put you in the best position for success.

    2. Break down your big goals into achievable increments

    Whether you're looking to save a certain amount of money before 2020 is over, hit a contribution target for your retirement fund, or pay off debts, it's often best to tackle these big objectives with an incremental approach. Breaking your goals for the year up into daily, weekly, or monthly milestones will make them more manageable and provide you with positive feedback as you move toward tackling big resolutions.

    Having a sense of satisfaction and achievement and being able to track your progress will help keep you motivated. Some people find it helpful to have these smaller goals written down on a list or planned out on a calendar. Whether you choose to reward yourself after completing each small milestone on your path to achieving your bigger goals, or simply take satisfaction in knowing that you've completed another step, having an incremental approach to your financial resolutions sets up a dynamic of positive reinforcement that will make it easier to stay motivated.

    Behavioral psychologist B.F. Skinner is perhaps the most famous expert to study and document this dynamic, and he once wrote, "Properly used, positive reinforcement is extremely powerful." It's easier to stick to goals if you're able to measure your progress along the way and get positive feedback and a sense of progression as you move toward the overall resolution. Make your large financial resolutions more manageable by breaking them down into smaller goals, and tap into the power of positive reinforcement to help keep you moving forward.

    3. Understand your habits and work to form new, positive ones

    American writer Edgar S. Burroughs is best known for his Tarzan and John Carter of Mars novels, but he also bestowed upon us some valuable wisdom about the role that habit plays in success and failure. Burroughs wrote:

    We are, all of us, creatures of habit, and when the seeming necessity for schooling ourselves in new ways ceases to exist, we fall naturally and easily into the manner and customs which long usage has implanted ineradicably within us.

    To paraphrase, it's human nature to fall into past habits if we're not making a conscious attempt to move into new directions and establish more beneficial practices.

    Being conscious of habits that have caused you to fall short of previous goals and being cognizant of going through the steps needed to form new habits will help you reach your goals this year. Failing to make good on otherwise achievable financial resolutions will typically come down to not establishing the right new habits.

    Looking further back in the Western canon, Aristotle is often sourced for this bit of wisdom: "We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit." In order to best achieve your resolutions this year, set goals that are both reasonable and inspiring, break them down into manageable increments, and then concentrate on establishing habits that put you on the path to excellence.


  • 7 Important Home Repairs to Do Right After Moving Out

    Congratulations: You're moving out, and on to your next home! Now all you have to do is pack up your things and skedaddle, right?

    Not so fast. If you're still trying to sell your current home, you'll want to make sure it looks its best, which means you might have to make a few repairs. And there's no better time to do this than after you've removed all your boxes and furnishings, since this means you've got plenty of space to get the job done right (and with minimal mess).

    Granted, you might have already made some upgrades during the early stages of sales prep ... but moving out means you could uncover a whole lot more. And trust us, buyers will notice!

     Of course, if you've already sold your home, you're off the hook ... but if not, it will behoove you to do these seven upgrades after moving out. Don't worry, they're fairly easy, and they'll make a big difference helping you find a buyer who'll pay top dollar.

    1. Patch holes in walls

    Seeing walls with holes—even small holes left by nails—is an immediate turnoff to home buyers, says Sarah Fishburne, director of trend and design at The Home Depot. But you don't have to repaint your entire house to have your home looking fresh again. A little spackling, followed by spot painting—a cinch if you've kept some original paint—will do the trick. (If you don't have any leftover paint, peel a dollar-size piece from the wall and bring it to the paint store so they can match the color for you.)

     If you have only a few holes and scratches, you can fill them with spackling compound, which is sold in small quantifrecities. For a greater number of gashes or holes, use joint compound, which is sold in quarts or 5-gallon buckets.

    2. Add a fresh coat of paint to rooms that are outdated or painted in loud colors

    Love that plum paint color you chose for your master bedroom? Home buyers might not! The good news is, painting a room is an easy, low-cost project you can do yourself. Selecting the right hue, though, is crucial.

    “Neutral colors are generally the safest choice, as they blend with many different decor styles,” says Hunter MacfarlaneLowe’s project expert. “Gray is a popular color to paint a room before selling, as it gives the walls depth while still tying furniture and other decor items together.”

    Moreover, “a fresh coat of paint never hurt resale value,” Fishburne says.

    3. Replace old outlet wall plates

    This is another quick and budget-friendly way to make a space feel cleaner and updated, Macfarlane says. Proceed with caution, however: Old wall plates can be a fire hazard if they’re cracked or damaged in any way. If you suspect there’s an issue, hire an electrician to replace the wall plates for you.

    4. Clean carpeting

    Dirty and dingy carpets are huge eyesores, which is why David Pekel, chief executive officer at the National Association of the Remodeling Industry, recommends that homeowners give their house’s carpeting a good cleaning after moving out. You can amp up your vacuum with rug-cleaning products such as powders, foam sprays, and liquid shampoos available at grocery and hardware stores. For stained areas, use a bristled brush to work the cleaning solution into the carpet before allowing it to dry and then vacuuming up.

    To remove embedded dirt, you may need to use a powerful industrial-style carpet-cleaning machine, like a Rug Doctor, which sprays hot water with a detergent over the carpet and extracts it with a high-powered vacuum. Industrial carpet cleaners have more washing and sucking power than most consumer carpet cleaners, but they’re expensive to buy—about $400 to $700—so it's more economical to rent one from a hardware store for about $25 to $30 per day.

    5. Clean hardwood floors

    Many home buyers swoon over hardwood floors. So if you have them, make sure they're glistening after you move out.

    “Wood is probably the easiest floor covering to keep clean, but you have to use the right cleaning products,” says Brett Miller, vice president of education and certification for the National Wood Flooring Association in St. Louis.

    Most wood floor installers or manufacturers recommend cleaners that contain isopropyl alcohol, which dries quickly, and are available at home supply stores. To make your own solution, simply add a capful of white vinegar to a gallon of water, which will help dissolve grease and grime on the floor but won’t strip the finish. To remove shoe scuffs, rub marks with a tennis ball, which cleans without scratching the finish.

    Under no circumstances should you use a steam mop, Miller warns.

    “Steam is horrible for wood floors. It opens the pores in woods and damages the finish, causing irreversible damage to any wood floor,” he says. Here's more on how to clean hardwood floors.

    6. Replace or refresh old hardware

    Swapping out old cabinet and door hardware is a simple, low-cost project you can tackle in a day that will make your home more visually appealing. All you need is a screwdriver and a free afternoon. Want to save some money? Keep your existing hardware and give it a makeover with spray paint—a few light coats can breathe new life and personality into rusty old knobs and pulls.

    7. Improve the look and functionality of your master bathroom

    full bathroom remodel is expensive; on average, it costs $10,344, according to HomeAdvisor. Just a few changes to your master bathroom, though, can make it one of the most stylish rooms in your house.

    Simple touch-ups, like regrouting and recaulking bathroom tile, will make the room look newer. In addition, swapping out inefficient toilets, faucets, and shower heads for products that aid in water conservation can add real appeal to prospective home buyers who are looking to lower their water footprint (and lower their water bill!). A low-flow toilet, for example, uses 20% less water than a standard toilet, and water-saving shower heads can help families save almost 3,000 gallons of water a year.

  • 5 Home Upgrades Millennials Couldn't Care Less About

    Despite being called out for their ineptitude at saving money and their overwhelming fondness for spending it on experiences instead of things, millennials actually do desire financial stability—especially if it means they can buy a house.

    So what kind of homes do they want? According to real estate professionals, a large majority of millennials seeks out properties that are move-in ready—with plenty of room for customization.

     "They care more about the home being clean and in good condition," says Mary Katherine Spalding, a Realtor® associate with Helen Painter Group in Fort Worth, TX. "Cosmetic changes are much easier to make, and millennials are a generation of DIYers.”

     But home sellers are also becoming well-vers

    ed in what they don't want. If you're looking to attract millennial buyers, be forewarned: These home upgrades will turn them away from your home faster than you can say, "What's your Wi-Fi password?"

    1. Over-the-top landscaping

     A spacious, well-manicured yard was the pride and joy of earlier generations that didn’t mind working up a sweat mowing and fertilizing their lawns. But that's not the case with busy millennials. They prefer cultivating indoor plants—and the convenience of an outdoor space that's easy to maintain.


    Jason Duff, founder and CEO of Small Nation, a real estate development company in Bellefontaine, OH, says millennials prefer to have landscaping beds (for growing a vegetable garden?) and other green-filled areas that look nice, are easy to maintain, and can be set up for quality time with pets.

    2. A formal dining room

    Mom and Grandma may have cherished dinner time in their fancy dining room with matching plates, sterling silver flatware, and gold-plated tea sets. But younger buyers tend to consider that dedicated room a stuffy waste of space.

    Duff says young buyers enjoy cooking in their kitchen and want to eat in or near their kitchen, too.

    “Most millennials don't care about formal dining rooms," says Duff. "It was a fixture for many homes in previous decades, but today dining tends to happen close to the kitchen—from the convenience of a meal home delivery box like Blue Apron—or on the go.”

    When it comes to gathering for a meal, millennials appreciate the laid-back simplicity of breakfast nooks and bar stools.


    3. A designated floor plan

    Older generations may be satisfied with a mapped-out floor plan that designates a living room, kitchen, and dining room, but millennials seek multifunctional rooms. Think wide-open spaces that make the home feel like one flowing space.

    “Where homes traditionally would have separate rooms, millennials are gravitating toward having large, open rooms that bring these all together like kitchens with breakfast bars or islands that open to the living space,” says John Steele, a real estate agent with Team Steele San Diego Homes in California.

    4. Brand-new carpeting

    If you're considering sprucing up your home before you sell, think twice before spending money on installing new carpets. Millennials are moving away from carpeting in favor of bare floors with statement rugs.

    “There are some buyers that like it in the bedrooms, but in the living spaces, laminates, tile, hardwood, and engineered hardwood are much more popular,” says Steele.

    Another reason to stick with noncarpeted flooring is that it's more pet-friendly—and millennials love their pets. Carpeting can absorb and retain odors, stains, and hair, and pet cleanup is easier on a hardwood floor.

    5. Memorabilia and game rooms

    Millennials aren’t defined by their possessions—and they definitely don’t want to showcase them in a room. So if you're thinking about staging a room where the owners can show off their stuff, think again.

    “Millennials may be a little different than previous generations in wanting to keep, collect, and show off all that they have accumulated," says Duff. "Put away the pool table and think digital,” says Duff.

    Millennials live a more digital existence, so Duff recommends staging your game area in a media room with a large TV or projector and maybe even surround sound.

  • 10 Secrets No One Tells You That'll Help Your House Fetch Top Dollar

    Maybe you’ve bought and sold a home before, or maybe this is the first time. Regardless, now you need to get top dollar for it. Yes, you can tidy up, bake some cookies so the house smells nice, and place fresh flowers (research says roses, lavender, and fuchsia most sway buyers) around the house. But these are the typical techniques most sellers deploy. Really want to get the best price possible—or even spark a bidding war?

    Here are 10 tips that are seldom mentioned in listing houses that just might put your property over the edge.

    1. Make sure your mailbox looks amazing

    First impressions matter, which is why you should check out your curb appeal. Is the driveway cracked? Is the mailbox old and leaning? The best sales rest on keeping these details in mind.

     “Replace the mailbox—literally the first thing people see,” says Teris Pantazes, CEO and co-founder of SettleRite, a pre-sale home improvement company in Baltimore.

    2. Make the right use of your rooms

    If you use the dining room for a kid's playroom, or if the loft is empty because you don't have a use for it, restage your rooms so they reflect their original purpose. Buyers want to see the space used in a traditional way—with a dining table in the dining room, a desk and chair in the office—to envision themselves living there.

    3. Reglaze the bathroom

     “The best tip I use to get top dollar for some of our houses is to reglaze an old bathroom that has a terrible color of tile—like pink or green,” says Michael Pinter, a house flipper in Long Island, NY, with LMPK Properties. "We reglaze the bathroom white for a few hundred dollars, and a dated bathroom will look 30 years younger."

    Bathrooms and kitchens sell houses, and any small improvement that makes those rooms more modern makes a huge difference.

    4. Get buyers to fall in love

    Russell Volk, a real estate agent with Re/Max Elite serving Bucks County, PA, worked with a home-selling couple who decided to hand-write a one-page letter about their life in the house.

    “Their story of how they raised their family and what kind of experiences they had in the home was very personal and emotional,” says Volk. The letter was framed on the kitchen counter for potential buyers to read. One buyer who liked the home absolutely loved the sellers' story—and paid full asking price.

    “If sellers can connect with buyers on an emotional level, chances of buyers paying top dollar for the house drastically increase," says Volk.

    5. List under value

    "Data shows that if you list a home 10% under market value, you will attract 75% of the buyer pool, versus only 30% if you were to list 10% over market value,” says Melissa Colabella, at Sotheby's International Realty. “Yet sellers fear that not leaving room to negotiate leaves money on the table, which is not true.”

    In fact, buyers are often motivated to bid by seeing other bids on a property, a dynamic that typically pushes bids above market value.

    6. Provide insider information

    Make sure to include tidbits in the listing that buyers will appreciate and that they can only get from you: the mention of a popular neighborhood coffee shop, the best Mexican restaurant nearby, or the free library box around the corner. No one knows these details better than you, the homeowner.

    7. Describe the neighborhood culture

    Think of everything interesting you can about your neighborhood—its proximity to a community pool, street basketball games in the cul-de-sac, the number of dog walkers who gather to chat—and mention them in your listing. The smallest detail can attract a buyer with a teenager, a dog, and kids with swimsuits.

    8. Don't forget to list the house extras

    The motion-sensitive outdoor lighting, an automatic garage door timer that closes the door before dark, a phone-activated security system, or camera door bell... These bells and whistles may seem banal to you, but they can make sellers feel that everything’s been taken care of for them—and inspire a top-dollar offer.

    9. Create a video tour

    Most people get great photos and fantastic descriptions. But filming a video tour of the property is inexpensive, can be done by an amateur, and is a novelty that will draw in buyers, says Bryan Stoddard, owner of Homewares Insider, a site exploring all things related to the home.

    “If the video is well made, it will showcase exactly the same things that an open house would," he says.

    10. Get a home pre-inspection

    Yes, the buyers will want their own home inspection, but getting a pre-inspection so that prospective buyers have a general idea of the property's condition before making an offer is a win/win, says Antonio Picillo III, a broker at Exceptional Home Team in Fort Wayne, IN.

    Home buyers will be impressed you took the time and effort to get your home pre-inspected to make sure everything is tip-top. It shows a level of integrity and commitment that can be hard to find.

  • How Soon Can You Sell a House After Buying? 3 Times to Break the 5-Year Rule

    They don't call it a forever home for nothing. Most of us buy with the intent of staying a long time—sometimes indefinitely. But here's the rub: Things change. Life takes us in a different direction, or the house you fell in love with only a few short months ago somehow becomes your biggest regret. Maybe the neighborhood is changing, or financial difficulties are making it impossible to enjoy your new home.

    ourself asking, “How soon can I sell this house?”—mere months after you moved in.

    But then there's that pesky five-year rule that everyone cites. Basically, it says you should never even consider selling until you’ve lived in the home for at least five years. And it's not arbitrary—there’s good reason for it.

     “Unless it's a superhot market, a seller likely won't even recoup their transaction costs if they sell within a few years of buying,” says James McGrath, real estate broker and co-founder of Yoreevo.

     McGrath, like many real estate professionals, even advises clients to avoid buying a house unless they plan on staying for at least five years, which is the typical amount of time it takes to break even on your initial investment.

    But rules are meant to be broken as needed, and sometimes your situation actually requires you to break them. Here are three times you should say to heck with it all and get out of that house.

    Exception No. 1: Your property value goes way up

    Sometimes the market is so white-hot that it seems like property values jump overnight. This would definitely qualify as one of those times you can get away with ignoring the five-year rule and selling your home, even if you haven’t been in it for long.

    But a lot depends on where you plan to go next. Moving to a lower-cost metro? You’re golden. Staying in the same area? You might not be able to get into a nicer place, or end up paying more money for a home much like the one you currently own. Look around and run the numbers carefully.

    Also, keep in mind this tactic works only if the profit you make from the sale is really significant—otherwise you might see it eaten up by closing costs and a little thing called capital gains tax.

    “Selling a home after owning it for less than a year generates a short-term capital gains tax,” says Denver real estate agent Alex Kishinevsky. “In this scenario, any equity you have accumulated from the sale is subject to taxation as ordinary income, according to the IRS.”

    Exception No. 2: The neighborhood is going downhill

    A bad neighborhood is bad news, and if there's a clear downward trend, you'd best get ahead of it. A declining neighborhood could ruin your chances of a profitable sale in the future.

    Neighborhoods can start spiraling downward for a number of reasons, not the least of which is when something new gets built—or destroyed—and disrupts the quality of life. We’re talking about malls, prisons, factories, and more.

    “How far away are you from the lights and noise it produces? Are citizens concerned about possible pollutants?" asks Benjamin Ross, a Realtor® with Mission Real Estate Group. "Are town hall meetings getting volatile? If the answers to these questions are yes, it may be smart to sell early and take a small loss, versus stay and lose your shirt.”

    Whatever is changing your neighborhood’s landscape, ask yourself if it devalues your home. If the answer is yes, break the five-year rule and get out.

    Exception No. 3: You really hate living there

    Although we keep harping on it, making a profitable sale isn’t the only important thing when it comes to deciding where to live and for how long. Your happiness is also significant. If you really, really hate where you live, then you might just need to get out—regardless of the cost.

    Depending on your mortgage and home insurance policy, you might even consider turning the house into an investment property. A lot of homeowners choose to rent out their homes when the market is less than stellar but they want to stop living there.

    “Allow someone else to pay your mortgage and grow your net worth,” says Seattle real estate agent Tyler Kirages.

    No matter why you’re considering breaking the five-year rule, always keep in mind that listing isn’t the same thing as selling.

    "Put it up and see what you can get,” Ross says. “Just because you list doesn't mean you have to sell. Explore your options by finding real values in a possible deal, and do it if it makes sense."

  • 5 Dire Mistakes People Make Moving Their Pets to a New Place

    Moving involves so many tasks: planning, packing, hiring movers, enlisting emotional and physical help, and lots more. Moving with pets can add even more to your to-do list.

    When we moved a couple of years ago, I never really considered how our two Lab mixes, Coco and Cookie, would handle it. That was a big mistake. I looked up a few tips online and tried my best to put them into practice. But, for the first few days in the new house, my dogs were stressed and anxious, got into fights with each other and barked all the time—all unusual behavior.

    After a couple of weeks, they started to adjust, and their anxiety subsided. But it got me wondering what I could have done to make this move less traumatic for them.

    To help keep your animals calm and safe when moving to a new place, we've highlighted some top mistakes pet owners make in the process. Here are some moves that experts say pet owners should avoid if they want a smooth transition.

    1. Keeping pets around on moving day

    Moving day will probably be chaotic, so boarding pets, or having them stay elsewhere for the day or overnight, is a good idea, says Nicole Ellis, a pet expert and certified professional dog trainer with the online pet sitter and dog walker network Rover.

    Cats can be confined to a specific room in the old or new place to keep them away from the activity, says Mikel Delgado, a cat behavior expert at Rover. She suggests placing a sign on the closed door that reads, “Cat Inside: Please Do Not Open Door,” to prevent escapes.

     We boarded our dogs for a few days during our move, which gave us time to start unpacking and get their things set up before bringing them home. Knowing they were safe and out of the way made the move less stressful. 


    2. Washing pets’ things before the move

    Familiar smells ease pets’ anxiety, Ellis and Delgado say. It may seem like a good idea to wash your pets' belongings or buy them new things before a move for a fresh start, but don’t.

    Beds, blankets, toys, litter boxes, and food and water bowls bring the scent of the old home into the new one, and this substantially reduces pets’ stress and helps them adjust, they say.

    Delgado also suggests not packing pets’ items until the last minute, so they’ll feel at home while you’re preparing to move.

    3. Not keeping an eye on them in their new environment

    Once you've moved, Ellis recommends watching your pets closely as they explore their new place—and checking (inside and outside) for possible escape routes. For instance, even if your new house has a fence, “Dogs can jump higher than we are often aware, so keeping them company outside is always safest,” she says.

    She also suggests walking them around the neighborhood one step at a time to ease them into new sights and sounds, which can be overwhelming.

    Another tip: Introduce yourself and your pet to neighbors. Give your number to neighbors and explain that your pets are still adjusting to a new place, so if they’re barking too much, neighbors can politely tell you.

    4. Changing their setup too much

    For cats, “Home turf is everything,” Delgado says. Cats are territorial and feel safest in familiar spaces; moving can cause unusual behavior, such as hiding, fearfulness, and being more vocal. Setting up a “safe room” with your cats' necessary and favorite things for the first few hours, days, or even weeks helps them adjust.

    Once cats get comfortable and are acting like their normal selves, they can be free to explore the rest of the house, Delgado says.

    Ellis recommends arranging beds, crates, and toys as close to the old setup as possible. Giving dogs a sense of familiarity with where their stuff is located makes them feel more at home.

    This is a tip I found online that seemed to work for us. We placed our dogs’ beds next to the couch in the living room of the new home, similar to where they had been in the old home, and put their water bowl in a similar spot in the kitchen. I also didn’t wash their favorite blankets and bedcovers before we moved, even though it was tempting.

    5. Changing your pets’ routine

    Routines are important for both dogs and cats, so sticking to regular feeding schedules, walk times, play activities, and other familiar tasks creates stability.

    “They really rely on their favorite blankets, beds, and scratching posts to feel safe, and routine is very important to cats,” Delgado says.

    Our dogs love their routine. They wake up at 6 a.m. every morning, ready to go outside to use the bathroom and then have breakfast. We kept up this schedule in the new house.

    The bottom line is that settling pets into a new place will take time. How much depends on the individual animal, the pet experts say. Ellis urges pet parents to have medical records, microchip numbers, and current photos on hand, in case a pet gets lost.

    Pets may show signs of stress and anxiety for several days, but there should be signs of improvement, Delgado says. If not, or if pets aren’t eating, call the vet.


  • Flat-Rate Movers vs. Hourly Movers: Which One Saves More Money?

    Are you thinking of moving? As the customer, it makes sense for you to review each company and the prices. Flat-rate movers may sound like the best deal. You pay one moving rate, no matter what. But when hiring a moving company, you want to save money, right? Sometimes hiring the flat-rate movers can end up sending your moving costs through the roof.

    It turns out that the whole hourly versus flat-rate moving question largely boils down to the size of your current home and the distance you're traveling. Here's how to weigh each moving company option and decide which one is right for you (the customer!)—plus measures to take to keep the price low and get the best offer in either case.

    When to hire hourly movers

    Here's a sample scenario: If you're moving across New York state to a new home or within the same New York City apartment building, this is considered a local move, and therefore the hourly option is better.

     A price based on time, which can range from $100 to $150 for two or three movers, often starts with a minimum of three hours, plus an hour for travel. A two-bedroom apartment might take three to four hours to move; a three-bedroom house could take seven or eight.

    If you're worried about your moving costs spiraling out of control, ask the moving company whether it can cap the cost for customers at a certain amount, even if the time spills over.

    When to hire a flat-rate moving company

    A flat rate is exactly that—a number that's determined after an in-home or virtual assessment by the moving company of the size of your space and the amount and type of furniture you own.

    A flat rate is typically the right choice if you're planning an interstate or cross-country move, or moving a greater distance, like to a new apartment a couple of hours away, since moving like this contains more unknowns. If your moving truck gets stuck in gridlock traffic, we doubt you'll enjoy paying your movers an hourly rate for this added time.

    But don't be fooled: The flat-rate price or flat offer you get from a mover may not include all the costs associated with your move.

    “In many cases, flat rates are not flat at all,” warns Manuela Irwin, a moving expert with Sometimes professional movers will charge unexpected fees for things you might assume are included (e.g., moving furniture up stairs or moving specialty items such as a pool table, piano, or bulky exercise equipment).

    To avoid getting blindsided by hidden company fees or a surprise rate from your movers, it's better to take the time and have an in-home estimate of your move. This way the movers can't say that you hadn't mentioned you have a piano when they saw it for themselves.

    Also be sure to ask the movers or the customer service office if there are any extra fees if they end up moving certain items or providing extra services or spending more time (like unpacking your belongings, hauling away packing materials, or disassembling furniture). The more details you can provide about your move, the less likely it is that you'll end up being surprised by unknown moving charges from the company.

    To get an estimate of how much it will cost to move into your new place, check out this moving cost calculator, where you can punch in your number of bedrooms, beginning and ending ZIP codes, and move date.

    Or use the phone number for your moving company and ask for a free quote. Ask movers about their fees for interstate and local moving so you end up with great service and a (relatively) stress-free move.


  • 6 Surprising Things You Never Knew You Had to Do Before the Movers Arrive

    Moving is stressful, so you’d be forgiven if after packing the last box you thought that you were finally done. Now it’s just time to wait for the movers to arrive, right?

    Not exactly.

    Working with professional movers is a great option for people making big moves, moving with kids, or moving large or fragile items that would be otherwise impossible to transport. But while many moving companies do a great job of providing end-to-end service, there are some things that only you can do to make the whole process run smoothly. Here’s our list of six surprising things you’ll need to do before the movers arrive in order to avoid disaster.


    . Make a clear path

    Whether you live in an urban apartment or a two-story house in the country, there are bound to be obstacles for your movers. By anticipating these issues before they happen, you can make everyone’s job easier, and possibly even save some money by taking up less of the movers’ time.

    First, you should consider the parking situation outside your home. Where will the movers be able to leave their truck when packing up your stuff? If you do have that house in the country, this might not be an issue. But if you’re living in an apartment or urban area, chances are good that a huge double-parked truck won’t be taken very kindly by the neighbors.

    “If you live in an apartment building or if there is limited parking in your area, ask the movers if they will handle the logistics or if you need to do so,” says Ali Wenzke, author of "The Art of Happy Moving."

    Some moving companies might be familiar with your neighborhood and know how to park in a way that doesn’t raise any red flags with the neighbors. But if they tell you they’d like your help with the logistics, then this will be on you to handle before they arrive.

    “You may need to contact your building manager,” Wenzke says, “or the local city government to get the appropriate signage and allowances.”

    There are other things to consider, too—like the state of your driveway.

    Pat Byrne, operations manager of Long Island–based moving company Moving Ahead Moving & Storage, always asks clients to remove ice and snow to avoid any accidents during the move. You should also make sure the driveway and front access points are clear of debris—like kids’ or pet toys that might pose a slip hazard.

    2. Make necessary reservations and get your paperwork together

    Some apartment buildings might have service elevators available for use. This would be another time-saving question to ask your building manager in advance.

    “See if service elevators can be reserved and whether the building needs any paperwork from movers—like a certificate of insurance,” says Byrne.

    3. Protect your house, including your floors

    To prevent damage to your house during the move, you should be aware of what furniture is going out the door, and anything fragile in its path that might be at risk of breaking.

    “Lightbulbs, fixtures, pictures, mirrors, wall hangings should be removed from the main areas where furniture will be moved,” Byrne says.

    And don’t forget about the hardwood floors. Nothing will put off a buyer more than seeing skid marks illustrating the path your sofa took out of the place.

    “If you have hardwood floors or tile in any rooms, let your movers know ahead of time so they can prepare the right materials—and make sure your contract includes hardwood floor protection,” advises Miranda Benson, marketing coordinator at San Francisco–based moving company Dolly.

    4. Measure!

    On a related note, you'll want to measure your furniture and make sure any large items will fit through the front door in the first place.


    5. Pack up the kids (and pets)

    Not literally, of course. But you should take the time to consider where your family will be when the movers are at work. If paying for a space in the nearby pet hotel isn’t an option, at least consider keeping your pets in a safe space within your home.

    “Pets should be kept in a room with everything they need that movers won’t need to access,” Byrne advises. “You’d want to do this even if your pet is friendly, to avoid [their] accidentally getting out of the house or injured.”

    Similarly, young kids should also be kept out of the way on moving day. This is important for their safety as well as the safety of your moving team.

    “The last thing you or your movers want to worry about is whether your 2-year-old's scream is going to shock them at the wrong time," Benson says.

    6. Make yourself available

    Once the family is out of the house, it’s time (drumroll, please) to sit down and relax—sort of. Find a central point in your home (that’s out of the movers’ way) and simply plan on making yourself available to them as they move your stuff.

    Do we mean supervising their every move and reminding them the box is marked “fragile”? Probably not. But you should be around to help answer any questions, or alert movers to anything special they should know about your place.

    “There are little things about your house that you only learn from living there: The hallway closet door never stays closed, the third step down has a slight bend, a pack of hornets tends to congregate around the back door, so use the front—these are all valuable things that make your movers' lives easier,” Benson explains.

    “On top of that, being available to answer questions, whether that's in person or via phone, can make your move much smoother," she adds.




    The Mission Inn Hotel & Spa - Southern California’s historic AAA-Four Diamond hotel will kick off the holiday season on November 29, 2019 with our 27th Annual Festival of Lights celebration a free, five-week-long holiday extravaganza featuring one of the nation's largest holiday light collections of its kind. Now in its 27th year, Festival of Lights is an annual gift to the community from property owners Duane and Kelly Roberts, who saved the historic hotel from destruction in 1992.

    The beloved Southern California tradition recently named “Best Public Holiday Lights Display in the Nation” by USA Today creates a magical, Disneyland-like experience in the heart of Riverside and attracts more than 500,000 visitors from all over the world each year, commencing with the famous “Switch-On” Ceremony, a spectacular event in which the castle-like hotel is instantly illuminated with 5 million holiday lights followed by a full fireworks display.

    Highlights of Festival of Lights include 200 animated figures including angels, elves and Dickens carolers; appearances by Santa Claus, the world’s largest man-made mistletoe, horse-drawn carriage rides, elf tuck-ins, freshly fallen snow, elaborately decorated Christmas trees; and delectable holiday confections at the famous Casey’s Cupcakes, among other festive offerings. 

  • 4 Reasons Why Summer Is the Best Time to Move

    Moving is the worst. But for those who can be flexible in scheduling their move, choosing the right season to relocate can make the whole experience smoother. So which time of the year is most preferable?

    For renters and buyers looking to move in the near future, the longer, sunnier days of summer are really ideal—and we'll tell you why. So if you find yourself planning a move soon, don't sign on the dotted line or book a moving company without considering the following reasons first.

    1. Long days with plenty of sun

    The weather conditions in the winter can make moving difficult. But warm weather means you won't have to deal with snow or cold, which can make a move difficult or uncomfortable.

     “Warmer weather means longer days and more daylight that gives you more time to move in and out of a home. This is especially helpful for those who are not hiring a moving company and will be doing the heavy lifting themselves,” says Kim Starks, associate broker, Better Homes and Gardens Rand Realty, Warwick, NY.

    2. Children are not in school

    For those with families, moving in summer means no disruption of the school year or daily routine for the children. Plus, you won't have to plan your move around a school schedule, and you'll have extra hands on deck to help you out with the move.

    “Given that school-age children are on summer break from school, families will benefit from moving in the summertime," says Starks. "Disrupting the school year with a major move can be difficult, not only with all the school activities, but also with after-school activities and sports activities."

    3. There are yard sales galore

    Summer also brings more neighborhood yard sales, which can be beneficial to both buyers and sellers. As a seller, you can team up with neighbors and share the task of promoting the yard sale and bringing in foot traffic. As a buyer, you will have more yard sales to peruse for any items you need.

    Plus, yard sales can be a great way to reduce the amount of stuff you have to move—and who doesn’t like the extra cash?

    For homeowners in a hurry to move, yard sales can even help you nab a buyer, says Jami Harich, of Avery Hess Realtors® in Fredericksburg, VA.

    “I once had a buyer come into my office explaining that they had just been to a yard sale and they liked the house so much that they wanted to make a cash offer on it,” Harich says.

    4. The selling season peaks in summer

    The summer housing market heats up for sellers, so if you're antsy to move, you'll probably have an easier time finding a new place and getting out of your current house.

    Todd Teta, chief product officer for ATTOM Data Solutions, says there are more buyers in the market in the spring and summer, with June topping the list as the best month to sell, based on seller premiums. He says that sellers could see premiums of 10% or more in the summer.

  • Everything Must Go! How to Sell Your Stuff—for the Most Money—Before You Move

    Taking the time to sort and sell your stuff before a move could save you a lot of money; in fact, it might even pay for your move entirely. And with the abundance of online marketplaces available, it’s never been easier to sell your stuff hassle-free.

    But what if you aren’t just looking to get rid of things, but also to sell them for the best price? We spoke with moving experts from around the country to bring you these insider tips on selling your stuff for the most money.

    Bundle items together

    There are a lot of online marketplaces claiming to be the best one to help you sell your stuff, but in practice they’re not all equal.

     “Craigslist is 80% flakes,” says New York City–based art collector Michele Hembree.

    In 2018, Hembree and her family began the grueling yearlong process of moving from their suburban Alameda, CA, home to a small apartment in New York.

    They had a lot of stuff to get rid of— everything from old books to 20 years' worth of Christmas ornaments, children’s toys, and camping gear. After making a checklist with her husband, she got to work on selling nearly everything they had.

    Using high-traffic sites like Facebook Marketplace (for small things) and Chairish (for furniture and larger pieces), Hembree’s strategy was to focus her efforts on marketing the items to get the best price.

    “Sometimes I’d bundle things together—then you can ask for more," she says.


    Put time into your photos and descriptions

    Hembree also found that she had the most success when posting her items for sale with high-quality photos and descriptions, including information about the item’s brand and quality.

    "If you take photos of your stuff in a dark corner, no one will buy it," she says. "The photos have to be good.”

    Miranda Benson, marketing coordinator for San Francisco–based moving company Dolly, emphasizes that point—with an extra trick to make your stuff stand out.

    "I always advise including at least one stock photo of the item—you can usually find this by Googling the product and brand name," she suggests. "And then a few well-lit, high-definition photos you've taken yourself.”

    Benson also stresses the importance of the description.

    “Make sure to be clear about what's included, what condition it's in, how long you've had it, and what kind of home it comes from, like if someone has a pet or smokes," she says. "Whether it's a designer handbag or a functional futon, buyers need to evaluate for themselves what they're getting.”

    Don't rely solely on online marketplaces

    To be sure she was getting the best price for her stuff, Hembree also sold through a variety of channels both online and offline.

    “We had a great secondhand store nearby,” she says. “So maybe once every two weeks I would drop off a box or a piece at the consignment store—then I’d pick up a check a few weeks later.”

    Just before the move, she got rid of her remaining things by selling them on site, bundling low-cost items together.

    “It was a huge garage sale, and we had a great turnout because I advertised it a lot on sites like and,” she says.

    Benson also encourages her clients to sell through multiple channels, citing Facebook Marketplace and OfferUp among her favorite online platforms. Although she doesn’t explicity dislike Craigslist, she says, “It does require you to be checking your email or texting people, which isn't always the most effective for a quick sale.”

    For more efficient sales, Benson recommends people tap into their personal networks, and take advantage of common interest groups, using them to advertise any niche items that might be harder to sell elsewhere.

    “I belong to a few Facebook groups that are specific buying and selling marketplaces, including one for fans of Modcloth and vintage-style clothing,” she says. “I find selling my clothes there to be much easier than selling them on Poshmark or similar sites, because I'm reaching a niche audience that's specifically interested in what I'm selling.”

    Time it right for the best sale

    Like most things, timing matters when it comes to making the best sale. Benson advises selling when people are in a shopping mood—that is to say, just after they get paid.

    “Post new items on payday—generally the 1st and 15th of the month, or the second and fourth Fridays of the month,” she says. “Unless you're selling a significant amount of items, you won't notice a big difference, but you're likely to see more activity and more deals being made after people get paid.”

    Hembree used a similar tactic to sell her stuff for the most money, often dropping items off at a consignment shop just before the weekend— or posting new items online Friday afternoon.

    “If people are going to be picking something up," she says, "or scrolling these sites or going to a store, that’s when it’s going to be."

  • Don't Fall Short! 6 Home Maintenance Tasks You Should Tackle This Autumn

    Autumn brings pumpkins and—love 'em or hate 'em—pumpkin spice lattes, sweater weather, and spooky skeletons. But most importantly, fall brings an end to a summer of outdoor adventures—and tedious yard tasks like weeding, mowing, and watering the lawn.

    But just because the weather's cooling off doesn't mean your to-do list will, too. Before busting out the cinnamon spice and mulled wine, take on a few home maintenance tasks that will put you in good standing once temperatures dip.

    "It's easier to prepare for a winter emergency in the fall," says Jericho McClellan, who works in construction management.

     But fear not: We've got you covered with our checklist of home maintenance chores to tackle this season. Read on for details about where to start, and whom to call if you need backup.

    1. Properly store your yard equipment

     One of the best parts about fall: You can usually put your lawn mower into hibernation mode until spring.

    But before you forget about that pesky piece of machinery entirely, remember this: Spring will suck if you don't prep your equipment this fall. That's because gasoline reacts with the air in the tank if left long enough, causing oxidation, which creates small deposits that can affect the performance of your mower.

    And it's not just gas-powered equipment that needs a fall refresh.

    Lester Poole, Lowe's live-nursery specialist, recommends running pressurized air through your pressure washers to remove any remaining water in the system, which will prevent freeze damage to the pumping mechanisms.

    If your winter is particularly snowy and gritty, you'll be glad to have your pressure washer on high alert.

    DIY: This project is easy to do yourself—just get rid of any spare gasoline. Many cities and counties have hazardous-waste programs, or your local auto parts store might take the old gas for you, too.

    2. Protect your pipes

    When temps dip below freezing, unprotected pipes can burst from exposure. Guard against burst pipes by wrapping them in foam insulation, closing foundation vents (more on that below), and opening cabinet doors under sinks to allow warm air to flow around supply lines. And make sure to keep your thermostat at 60 degrees or higher overnight.

    If you haven't tracked down your home's water shut-offs yet, now's the time. They might be located outside your house or in your crawl space. Once you've found them, give them a test.

    "The winter is not a fun time to try to figure that out, especially should a pipe burst," McClellan says. (More on that, too, in a minute.)

    Now's also a good time to drain all of your exterior water hoses to prevent an icy emergency.

    DIY: If your pipes do freeze, leave the affected faucets on and turn off your water supply, says Jenny Popis, a Lowe's Home Improvement spokeswoman. Then locate the freeze point by feeling the length of frozen pipes to determine which area is coldest. You can attempt to thaw it by wrapping the frozen section in washcloths soaked in hot water—then thaw until you have full water pressure.

    Call in the pros: If you can't locate the freeze point or your pipes have burst, call in a licensed plumber, which will run $150 to $600 on average(depending on the severity of the leak).

    3. Clear out your crawl space

    While you're winterizing your pipes, peek around your crawl space. Is your HVAC system blocked by boxes of 50-year-old Mason jars? Can you get to any leaking pipes quickly?

    DIY: While it's still warm, clear out any debris from your crawl space to ensure clear passage when winter's worst happens.

    Call in the pros: Creeped out by the idea of crawling around under your house? Professional crawl space cleaners charge about $500 to $4,500, depending on the size of your house and the state of the space.

    4. Close your crawl space vents

    During your crawl space expedition, this is a must-do: Close the vents that circle your home's perimeter.

    "The vents were placed there for a functional reason, not just aesthetics," says real estate agent, broker, and construction expert Ron Humes. "The problem is that most homeowners have no idea why they are there."

    Here's why: In warm, wet seasons, crawl space vents allow airflow, which prevents moisture buildup. But if you leave them open during cold, dry weather, that chilly air will cool down your floorboards—making mornings uncomfortable.

    DIY: "When the temperatures drop, slide those crawl space vents closed," Humes says. "Just remember to open them again in the spring."

    If one of your vents is broken, replacements range from $20 to $50.

    Call in the pros: If your crawl space stays damp through the fall and winter, you might want to consider waterproofing, dehumidifying, and sealing off your crawl space to prevent wet air. This can cost $1,500 to $15,000.

    5. Kick-start your composting efforts

     Now's the perfect time, with all those leaves and dead plants, to start a compost pile. You don't even need a fancy compost spinner; sectioning off a corner of your yard is enough.

    "Put yard waste to work by piling green leaves and clippings into a pile near your garden," Poole says. Next, layer with brown materials such as soil, dead leaves, and coffee grounds. Next up: kitchen scraps.

    "Through the season, turn your mound using a pitchfork to expose oxygen to all ingredients and use it in the spring for fertilizer," Poole says.

    Next year's tomatoes will thank you.

    DIY: If your yard lacks space for a compost corner—or you have no interest in regular pitchforking—consider a tumbling composter. This well-reviewed model from Amazon costs about $100.

    6. Protect your trees

    Not all species of trees are winter-hardy—especially thin-barked ones like beech, aspens, or cherry trees. For these varietals, "sun-warmed sap quickly freezes at night and causes bark to split," Poole says.

    He recommends wrapping your tree trunks with paper tree wrap, covering the entire bark from an inch above the soil to the lowest branches. Adhere the wrapping to the tree using duct tape to keep your trees in tiptop condition.

    DIY: You can find 150 feet of paper tree wrap on Amazon for $18, although you may need a few rolls depending on how many trees need winter protection.

    Call in the pros: Are your trees already looking the worse for wear? A tree service can help you sort out what's wrong. Pruning costs anywhere from $75 to $1,000.


  • Creature Comforts: This Fall's Biggest Design Trends Are Peak Cozy

    Everybody knows that fall is prime time for pumpkin spice, crackling fires, and oh-so-many plaid Pendleton blankets. But why settle for what everyone does? We scratched autumn’s surface just a bit to unearth a few looks that aren't quite so ... basic. 

    This year's autumn decor trends are undeniably cozy, yes—but with a twist. These are the freshest looks for your home this fall, so you can curl up in style.

    1. Separated spaces

     When it comes to floor plans, all home buyers want open, open, open, right? Not so much these days, reveals Justin Riordan, interior designer and founder of the Portland, OR-based home staging company Spade and Archer Design Agency.

     "Starting this season, there's a real demand for a return to the traditional layout, including a closed-off kitchen, dining space, and a separate living room," he says. "The great room is no longer en vogue and is instead being replaced by a well-defined core entryway, living room, dining room, and eat-in kitchen."

     "Surprisingly, we are also seeing a serious lack of television in the main formal living room," he adds. "Instead, we are seeing the TV tucked away in a media room, either in the basement or on an upper floor away from guests' eyes and ears."

    So why the change? Riordan thinks with all that's going on in the world, we're retreating more—and want dedicated spaces for private conversations.

    "The traditional layout lends itself to concentrated intimate interactions with the people we love and choose to spend our time with," he says.

    2. Burnt orange

     If you're planning to refresh your walls this season, you might want to think about painting over your off-white lacquer in favor of something with a bit more color, says Kate Spiro, an interior designer in New York City. Yes, this one veers dangerously close to pumpkin spice territory, but hey—there's a reason why the orangey hue is so perfect for fall.

    "Muted earth tones like rust, nude, and beige have become the new neutral, and burnt orange is a continuation of this trend," Spiro says. "Burnt orange can instantly brighten up a room and breathe new life into your space. This color will be popping up everywhere for fall."

    Add burnt orange strategically, preferably on an accent wall in your space, Spiro recommends.

    "This will create more impact and feel more modern than using this color in excess," she says.

    If you don't want to paint, you can also seek out burnt orange handcrafted ceramics, vases, textured pillows, or other decorative accents.

    3. Chaise lounges

     You probably remember the comfort of your family's La-Z-Boy. Well, the chaise lounge is the new comfy armchair, and it offers the perfect respite after a long day, says Annabel Joy, co-founder of Trim Design Co., in Massachusetts.

    "These long chairs are back in a big way," she says. ("Chaise lounge" is derived from chaise longue, which is French for "long chair.") "They’re showing up in boutique hotels, private homes, and all the design magazines. It’s really no surprise—wouldn’t you rather lounge than sit as you read that book? And who doesn’t secretly wish they could fling themselves dramatically down onto a chaise when their family members are driving them nuts?"

    Joy recommends using an elegant chaise lounge as an accent piece in a master bedroom or living room, and looking around antique and vintage shops for a custom piece. (They've been around since Napoleonic times!)

    "There are plenty of new models popping up in showrooms, but we prefer sourcing a vintage piece with great lines and transforming it with a fresh upholstery job," she says.

    4. Suzani prints

     Haven't heard of suzani yet? You'll soon be seeing this textile pattern everywhere as it becomes the print of the season, Joy explains.

    Suzani is a type of embroidered tribal textile—usually a cotton base, adorned with silk or cotton thread in various sun, moon, and floral motifs, she explains. It's traditionally made in Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and other Central Asian countries, but you can find it at online retailers like Etsy.

    Suzani looks beautiful on a bedspread, wall hanging, throw pillow, window treatment, or bed canopy, Joy says. It can also be used to upholster furniture like chairs, benches, ottomans, and headboards.

    "The large scale and bold colors of suzani are an excellent complement to the maximalist trend, and we love how this textile feels both traditional and bohemian at once," Joy says.


  • The 5 Biggest Mistakes Veteran and Military Home Buyers Make

    Having a place to call your own—whether you’re going to be there for four years or forever—is an essential part of the American dream. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs offers plenty of great programs to help those who have served in the military get a home loan, but the process isn’t foolproof. First-time home buyers aren't the only ones who make buying mistakes. Even people buying their second home, or their 10th, can be thrown off course when buying a new home and dealing with lenders.

    You can avoid your own buyer's tale of woe (or headbanging frustration) by avoiding those mistakes before you start your home search. We asked VA-savvy real estate agents to tell us which missteps they see the most—and how you can avoid them when you apply for and get a VA loan.

    Mistake No. 1: Not using a VA-savvy real estate agent

    If you’re getting a VA loan, make sure you work with a real estate agent who understands the VA home loan process.

    “I see a lot of people go with an agent who doesn’t understand the VA system,” says Katie Fraser, a Realtor® with Trident Realty Group Northwest in Seattle. “The VA won’t underwrite [just] any house. It is a huge, huge, huge deal to use an agent who understands the VA home loan system, the VA appraisal process, and what that all really looks like.”

    When you’re buying through the Veterans Affairs department, you’ll need to find a home that meets VA home loan property requirements. A VA loan program appraiser will have specific criteria (e.g., fixer-uppers, and even some newer homes, won’t qualify). An agent experienced with home loans for veterans will also know about VA loan limits, the debt-to-income ratio lenders will expect you to have to qualify for a home loan, and other essential information.

    Save yourself the headache of making an offer on a house that may not get approved, or for which you may not qualify for a VA loan, and work with a VA-experienced real estate agent from the start. Ask another veteran for a referral, or get help from Veterans United Realty to find the right real estate agent.

    Mistake No. 2: Not communicating with your lender

    Veterans have access to arguably the most powerful home mortgage option on the market, but about 33% of home-buying veterans don’t know they have a home mortgage benefit, according to the VA.

    When you first meet with your lender, be sure to discuss your service member status so you can be informed about all of the potential advantages for veterans.

    One of the biggest benefits you’ll get with a VA loan is the ability to buy with a 0% down payment (yes, we're totally serious). Not having to make a down payment can make it possible for veterans  to buy a first home, often years sooner than if they had to save up for a down payment first.

    VA loans also come with low-interest-rate mortgages, don't require mortgage insurance, and have more forgiving credit eligibility requirements.

    "Veterans should ask their lender if they offer any incentives for veterans," adds Alissa Gerke, broker and owner of Select Realty Group, in Columbia, MO. "I’ve seen lenders waive appraisal fees, offer a waiver of origination fee if the veteran has a certain credit score, or other lender credits."

    Pretty much everything will get easier as soon as your lender knows your eligibility for veteran status, so speak up!

    Mistake No. 3: Forgetting about all upfront home-buying costs

    While you'll have a ton of financial advantages with your VA loan, you willhave some borrower costs to deal with.

    “Probably the biggest mistake I see is active-duty members coming into the home-buying process and not knowing there are other closing costs and fees necessary for buying a home,” Fraser says.

    When you’re buying a home, even if you have little or no down payment, you’ll likely have to plunk down a bit of cash for things like a home appraisal and inspection. It might not cost much in the large scheme of things, but it'll help speed things along if you come prepared knowing what you'll have to shell out for.

    Mistake No. 4: Not thinking of your home as an investment

    Maybe you think there's no sense in buying if there's a chance you might be relocated in the next few years. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't buy; in fact, that home could end up being a smart investment.

    By searching in high-demand areas or choosing a popular home style and size (say, 1,500 to 2,000 square feet), you’ll give yourself a better chance at resale if you need to move later. Or, you can hang on to it and rent it out.

    My clients and I "often go out and look for their first rental home, not just a home for their family," Fraser says. "With so many in transition, they’re able to purchase a home and it becomes an investment property for them when they go on to their next duty station or they move.”

    Don’t like the idea of becoming a landlord? A VA loan is assumable (meaning you can transfer the loan and the property to another vet), or you can just sell the home to a nonmilitary buyer. And don’t forget: You can use your VA home loan benefits again and again, so you can own a rental property and a new home. You can even refinance a VA loan if you are an active-duty service member. You may want to refinance if you have a non-VA loan, to increase your loan amount and tap into your home equity, or if you can get a better interest rate with a new VA loan.

    Mistake No. 5: Making other big purchases before closing

    Once home buyers find a home and their offer is accepted, they can be excited about moving in and making it theirs. Maybe you have an eye on a new big-screen TV, and you're looking into financing a new living room set you love. But don’t do that until you're really a homeowner, even if your lender has approved your mortgage loan.

    It's easier to get a VA loan than a conventional, non-VA loan, but you still must meet lender requirements.

    “Opening a line of credit or making a big purchase after mortgage approval is a common mistake,” Gerke says. “This can oftentimes change the veteran's credit score and make them ineligible for the loan.”

    Wait until after closing to make any other financial moves, just to be on the safe side and to keep your loan on track.

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