Category Archives: Tips and Advice

2017’s Top Kitchen Design Trends

While a home’s curb appeal may draw buyers in, its interior matters just as much, if not more. Several features are high on the wish list of today’s homebuyer, including a modern kitchen. Whether you’re thinking of starting a remodel or you’re just curious about what the future holds, check out these trends that turn kitchens into buyer bait.

Hidden appliances: Upgrading appliances is one of the quickest ways to add value to a kitchen. If you’re looking to impress a buyer with deep pockets, look into hidden appliances. What’s the appeal? Less obvious appliances keep the eye on the kitchen’s overall flow and design.

Personalized pantries: The utilitarian kitchen pantry has evolved into a trending design element. Whether you choose a pocket door and complementary light fixture or a rustic barn door and wallpaper, there’s no shortage of ways to express your personal style.

Creative countertops: Looking for a revamp with an immediate impact? Upgrade the counters. Quartz and butcher block, both easy to maintain, are quickly replacing traditional marble and granite surfaces. You can dress up your kitchen further with sleek waterfall-edge countertops that extend vertically to the floor.

Mixed-up metal accents: Accessorizing with different finishes is a trendy, cost-effective way to update your kitchen. In addition to stainless steel and gold, homebuilders are seeing copper accents emerging as the metallic detail of choice.

Don’t let a dated kitchen cost you when it’s time to sell your home. Incorporating a trend or two could be enough to give your kitchen the face-lift it needs to entice buyers.


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Featured Image Credit: “The Kitchen: Chapter Six (Final Reveal!)” by Emily May © 2014 (CC BY 2.0)

Credit Score: What It Means and How to Improve It

Are you considering making a major purchase, like buying a home, this year? If so, your credit score will likely come into play. An understanding of the basics can help you effectively monitor and manage it.

Credit Score 101
Your credit score will usually range from 300 to 850. It’s derived from an algorithm that takes into account several factors, including payment history, the total debt owed and length of credit history.

Lenders use this three-digit number to predict risk and the likelihood that you’ll repay your debt on time. The higher your credit score, the less risk you are and the lower your loan terms will be. For example, a person with a “good” credit score of 700 may have a lower interest rate and smaller required down payment than someone with a “poor” credit score of 400.

How to Improve Your Score
If you don’t have much credit history or you have a few negatives on your report, consider these strategies to increase your score.

  • Pay all of your bills on time. Late payments can negatively impact your score.
  • Pay off debt where you can. The less debt you have, the lower your debt-to-income ratio.
  • Keep your credit card balances as low as possible, aiming to use no more than 30 percent of your available credit. And pay off as much as you can each month since higher balances can sink your score.
  • Review your credit report at least annually, and keep an eye out for mistakes and identity theft.

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Featured Image Credit: “Excellent Credit Score” by CafeCredit.com © 2016 (CC BY 2.0)

How to Be Prepared for an Emergency

Do you know what vital information to have on hand in the event of a natural disaster or family emergency? When an unexpected situation arises, there’s no time to sort through paperwork, no matter how essential it may be. Having everything you need in an organized emergency binder can streamline the process and give you peace of mind.

What to Include in an Emergency Binder
While there’s no shortage of important family documents and household records, a true emergency calls for a few must-haves:

  • Vital records like birth certificates, driver’s licenses, Social Security cards, naturalization documents, passports and child custody papers.
  • Insurance policies, including homeowners, renters, auto, life and health.
  • Property records such as real estate deeds, rental agreements, and vehicle titles and registration.
  • Financial documents like wills, trusts, powers-of-attorney and funeral instructions.
  • A family emergency plan with contact information and predetermined meeting places.

Safely Storing Other Important Information
Some items, such as account passwords and a backup of critical computer files, aren’t suited for a portable binder. Instead, house them in a secure location like a safety deposit box or lockbox. You can also include a home inventory list, contracts, business paperwork, tax returns and investment records.

Play it safe and include a recent photograph of every family member, along with fingerprints and dental records. You may also want to store valuable memorabilia, jewelry, and priceless family photos, letters and documents here as well.

There’s no way to predict when misfortune will strike, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be prepared. Set aside an afternoon to create an emergency binder that can help protect your family when time is of the essence.


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Featured Image Credit: “Better work flow: get organized” by Jodimichelle © 2011 (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Top Three Methods for Clearing Clutter in 2017

The new year represents a clean slate and the chance to begin again. It’s also the ideal time to clear out unwanted items and organize your home for the year ahead. If you want a fresh start to 2017, let these decluttering approaches inspire you.

Organizational Apps
Decluttering apps are plentiful, and they provide an effective way to complete the purging process. Some, like Snupps, let you digitize your belongings and organize them into simple categories or “shelves.” From there, you decide what to keep, sell or give away. You can also reach out to other users for organizational inspiration, discover items you may be interested in acquiring or show off your personal collection.

Room-by-Room Schedule
To systematically remove clutter over time, try monthly organization that’s broken down by room. For example, you can tackle the kitchen in January and give the home office a deep clean in February. Make a schedule that works for you. This method may feel less overwhelming and rushed.

Single Purge
Prefer to declutter your entire home all at once? Designate a few days or a weekend to devote to the process. The secret is to stay focused on one task at a time and avoid getting sidetracked. Work your way through each room one by one until you’ve cleared out all areas of your home.

The new year is fast approaching and now’s the time to eliminate your clutter. Whether it’s an app, a 12-month schedule or one big purge, there’s no shortage of methods to help you have a more organized 2017.


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Featured Image Credit: “an organized craft room” by alison headley © 2010 (CC BY 2.0)

Cleaning Tips for Your Four Hardest Working Home Appliances

Occasionally cleaning household appliances like stoves and refrigerators may seem obvious, but what about equipment that does the cleaning, like the dishwasher and washing machine? Give these often overlooked appliances a deep clean with the following tips before the holidays have them working overtime.

Unclog the dishwasher. The cleaner the dishwasher, the cleaner your dishes will turn out after going through a wash cycle. Take a moment to clean the dishwasher’s filter, usually located on the inside bottom of the machine. This detachable filter becomes clogged with food and debris over time, so empty it out regularly to keep it working efficiently.

De-gunk your garbage disposal. Use a natural abrasive combo of ice and salt to loosen grime from the blades. Though it will be loud, run the disposal until the ice is gone. When finished, you can grind up a lemon or lime wedge to deodorize the drain.

Give your washing machine a wash. Hosting out-of-towners during the holiday season? Avoid musty bedding and towels by sanitizing the machine and removing mildew buildup every few months. To do this, run a hot wash cycle without a load and add one cup of bleach to the soap dispenser or directly into the machine.

Give your vacuum more power. Increased foot traffic could have this tool working harder over the holidays. Keep your vacuum maintained with simple fixes like unclogging hoses, cleaning the rotating brush and replacing the filter.

Want to keep your appliances working hard for you? Give them regular attention and their own cleaning now and then.


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Featured Image Credit: “Washing Machine” by Christina Welsh © 2011 (CC BY-ND 2.0)

How to Throw a Seamless Dinner Party

Think being a good host means stressing in the kitchen while your guests enjoy the party? Think again. With a little advanced preparation, you can unlock the secrets of a stress-free holiday get-together.

Plan and Practice the Menu
Choose dishes that don’t have to be served piping hot, like lasagna, quiches and braised stews. Test out new recipes in advance so you can make necessary adjustments to the ingredients and perfect your prep time. Once you’ve got the menu figured out, prepare what you can ahead of time. Ready entire courses that will keep for a day; then heat them up just before your guests are set to arrive.

Don’t Forget the Drinks
Serving a signature holiday cocktail, whether it’s alcoholic or family-friendly, can simplify your hosting process. If you can, find one that can be premixed and served from a pitcher. Chill other beverages in an ice-filled tub to keep your refrigerator food-focused, and position the drink station opposite the food buffet to create a nice flow and avoid bottlenecks. This will help cut back on the number of people congregating in and around the kitchen.

Aim for Easy Cleanup
Plan out the number of serving dishes you’ll need in advance, and borrow from family and friends to supplement what you have. Want to reduce your dish-washing burden? Serve hors d’oeuvres, which can be filling and require little more than a napkin. If you do opt to use dinnerware, begin the party with an empty dishwasher so you clear plates and glasses as soon as guests have finished.

These tips will help you enjoy your gathering without the typical hosting hassles.


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Featured Image Credit: “Happy Thanksgiving everyone!” by Satya Murthy © 2010 (CC BY 2.0)

Latest Bathroom Trends and Features

According to a recent Houzz & Home survey, homeowners are investing more on bathroom renovations than in previous years, largely due to outdated designs and finishes. What types of upgrades are they spending money on? Here are some of the latest trends and tech updates being used in bathroom design.

Aesthetic Additions
You don’t have to tackle a full overhaul to make a big impact in the bathroom. Smaller changes can often bring big rewards, both from a resale perspective and by adding value to your daily experience.

Cosmetic favorites, according to the National Kitchen & Bath Association’s 2016 bathroom trends, include polished chrome finishes and neutral colors like white and gray. And bathrooms are becoming more streamlined with floating vanities, open shelving and undermount sinks. When larger changes are made, homeowners are incorporating amenities such as no-threshold showers and higher vanity heights that allow for aging in place.

Tech Touches
When you consider updating the appliances in your home, you may automatically think of doing so in the kitchen, living area or laundry room. Many, however, are quickly adopting technological advances in pursuit of the smart bathroom. Some of the more popular add-ons available include:

  • High-tech toilets: The most basic bathroom appliance now has seat-warming options, LED lights, motion sensors and automatic dryers.
  • Accessorized soaking tubs: You can take a basic bath, or you can soak in a chromotherapy tub with mood-enhanced lighting. Or enjoy an air bath, with massaging bubbles similar to a hot spring.
  • Digital faucets and showers: Along with reduced flow, which conserves water and money, faucet features also include touchless technology and programmable settings like a timed shower option.

Which market trends and tech updates appeal most to your family? When done well, these upgrades can improve your quality of life and increase the value of your home.


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Featured Image Photo Credit: “luxury-bathroom-design-axor-8-554×312” by home space © 2010 (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Home Fire Safety in Cooler Weather

Devastating house fires can happen in an instant, and many begin due to human error. The U.S. Fire Administration reports that cooking tops the list of residential building fire causes (50 percent), followed by heating equipment (12.5 percent) and electrical malfunction (6.3 percent).

Make your fall and winter seasons merry, bright and fire-free with these essential fire safety tips.

  1. Schedule a chimney inspection at least once a year. Creosote, or condensed smoke, builds up on the flue and can catch fire. An annual cleaning and inspection can help prevent chimney fires.
  2. Keep flammable items at least three feet from heat sources. According to the National Fire Prevention Association, 56 percent of fatal home heating fires ignite from items being placed too close to heating equipment. Make sure everything is a safe distance from heat sources, including the furnace, space heaters, fireplaces and wood stoves.
  3. Check smoke detectors frequently. Approximately 60 percent of house fire deaths happen in structures with no working smoke alarms. Test your home’s smoke alarms monthly and replace batteries each year.
  4. Have a family escape plan and practice it regularly. All household members need to know all exit strategies in case a fire breaks out, as well as where to meet once they’re safely outside. Have a semiannual drill and practice at different times of the day.
  5. Cook safely. Never leave the room when boiling, frying or baking, keep pot holders and dish towels away from the flame, and immediately turn off appliances when not in use.
  6. Be mindful of holiday decorations. If you choose to decorate with strings of lights, always check their condition first. Throw out those with exposed electrical wiring, and be sure to read over the manufacturer’s instructions.

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Featured Image Photo Credit: “Fireplace at Mom’s” by Catherine © 2009 (CC BY 2.0)

Adding Privacy to Your Patio or Yard

A yard or patio is the perfect spot for enjoying the outdoors, whether that means playtime with your kids or quiet relaxation after a long day. And while you may like your neighbors, you may not want to see and hear them every time you venture into your backyard. If more privacy interests you, consider these options below:

Fencing — Probably the most straightforward solution, fences have long been the go-to for homeowners seeking seclusion. Be sure to check city ordinances and HOA policies before installing one.

Hedges — Shrubs like boxwood and privet are commonly planted along property lines. Choose an evergreen variety for year-long privacy. Make sure it’s suited for your climate and matures to your desired height.

Screens — Stylish and effective, folding wood-panel screens add a nice visual element while blocking unwanted views. Opt for a weather-resistant screen designed for the outdoors.

Trellis — The lattice configurations on these simple wooden structures offer an element of privacy. They’re also a perfect host for climbing vines and plants if you’d like additional coverage. Just be sure to check the sunlight and care requirements for the vegetation you plant.

Pergola — A pergola helps block views from second-story windows and balconies. It can be as simple or intricate as you’d like and will offer a degree of shade along with privacy.

Drapes — Budget-friendly and chic, panels help screen off your patio and can be moved as desired. Make sure the fabric is suitable for outdoor use or spray it with a water-resistant coating.

Vertical Garden — If you’re looking to increase privacy and also want to grow your own herbs, consider a living wall. You can buy prefabricated tower planters for easy installation.

If neighborly noise is a problem, a water fountain is a relaxing, sound-muffling solution. Consider your outdoor space and choose the privacy-adding options that work for you.


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Featured Image Photo Credit: “RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2014” by Karen Roe © 2014 (CC BY 2.0)

Fall Landscaping Ideas: How to Prepare Your Yard for Winter

Fall landscaping preparation ideas ready your yard for a long winter and glorious spring.


By: Lisa Kaplan Gordon | Published: October 4, 2011

Fall landscaping chores are your last chance to prepare your property for winter, and to protect that curb appeal you’ve worked so hard to create. So pull on some gloves, grab your tools, and get ready to mulch, prune, and plant before snow and frozen ground turn the lights out on your landscaping.

Spread Mulch

“Fall mulching is better for the plants than spring mulching,” says Dan Taft, owner of The Cutting Edge in Chantilly, Va. “It helps protect roots from frost and helps retain moisture during a cold and dry winter.”

Spread 2 to 3 inches of fresh mulch around shrubs and trees. Taft warns home owners to avoid using free mulch from municipal piles, which often contain disease spores; instead, buy hardwood shredded mulch from home and garden centers, he says.

“Cheap, dump mulch mainly is made from trees that have died from disease,” Taft says. “Many diseases will linger in the mulch, like leaf spot and pine bark borers. You don’t want ground-up diseased plants around your landscaping.”

Remove the Dead and Dying

Fall isn’t the time to prune, because that encourages growth when healthy plants should remain dormant. But don’t shelve your shears and loppers yet. Fall is the time to neaten your landscaping before putting it to bed for the winter.

“If you remove dead landscaping in fall, you don’t have to look at it all winter,” Taft says.

  • Remove dead annuals.
  • Deadhead spent blooms, and cut back dead and desiccated ornamental grasses and perennials.
  • Lightly prune dead and dying branches from shrubs and trees. Carefully remove dried blossoms from hydrangea, but don’t remove dead-looking stalks, where new buds will form in spring.
  • After the first frost, cut back tea roses to about a third of their height.

Wrap Delicate Shrubs

Heavy snow, ice, and high winds can dry and split your delicate and pricey shrubs. To protect your landscaping from the winter elements:

  • Hide small plants under overturned plastic pots or buckets.
  • Wrap shrubs, such as boxwoods, in burlap.
  • Surround vulnerable trees with shredded leaves.

Take Advantage of Fall Sales

Early fall until the ground freezes is a good time to plant trees and shrubs. Not only do cooler weather and autumn rain put less stress on young landscaping plants, nurseries often have sales to empty their shelves before winter.

“They need to sell every plant by Dec. 1,” Taft says. “Nurseries generally pay a third of the price that you’re paying. So don’t be afraid to offer less than the asking price. If you’re buying several things, the manager may give you a break.”

Visit HouseLogic.com for more articles like this. Reprinted from HouseLogic.com with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.

Featured Image Photo Credit: “Williamstown, Massachusetts” by Doug Kerr © 2010 (CC BY-SA 2.0; Edited)