Hot Home Decor Trends

Tax Refund on the Way? Invest It in Your Home

If you’re fortunate enough to have a nice windfall coming your way in the form of a tax refund, there are lots of ways you could spend that money, from a much-needed vacation to a shopping spree at the mall.

But a better idea might be to multiply those dollars by investing them in a home improvement project that will not only enhance your living space and lifestyle, but also increase the value of your home.

According to Remodeling magazine’s 2019 Cost vs. Value Report, the five projects with the greatest return on investment (ROI) in the mid-range cost category are:

Manufactured Stone Veneer –  94.9 percent ROI
Minor Kitchen Remodel – 80.5 percent ROI
Deck Addition (Wood) – 75.6 percent ROI
Siding Replacement – 75.6 percent ROI
Entry Door Replacement (Steel) – 74.9 percent ROI

If your refund isn’t sizeable enough to fund this type of large-scale remodel, a smaller improvement can go a long way in terms of adding value to your home. Consider:

  • An exterior paint job. Not only will this protect your home from the elements, it will also work wonders in terms of modernizing your home and adding curb appeal.
  • A landscaping update. Need a couple of trees removed—or added—or a manicured garden bed? Put your refund toward planting season, and watch your dollars grow.
  • A smart upgrade. Smart home technology—like thermostats, cameras, lighting, and more—is a great way to instantly upgrade your home’s value
  • A kitchen or bath enhancement. If you can’t afford to remodel the entire kitchen or bathroom, tackle one key component instead. Replace the countertops, add new cabinets or invest in new fixtures or appliances. Upgrading one feature will add value to the entire room.

Treating yourself with your tax refund is tempting, but treating your home to an upgrade will pay dividends long term.

Call Pilmer Real Estate, Inc. at 630-897-3211 for referrals to contractors or vendors who can help with your home project(s).

Show Your House Some Love This Month

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By John Voket

February is here, and along with the feeling of love that’s currently permeating the air, it’s important to remember that just because it’s the middle of winter doesn’t mean you can’t give your home a little love, as well.

Let’s start inside with projects that can be done right now.

The folks at lunchboxarchitect.com suggest sprucing up your bathroom vanity with a glossy granite vanity top that will cost you as little as $150. Or, spend less than $50 installing lamp dimmers to give you full control of the brightness in any room.

Moving along to the laundry room and kitchen, a recent Maytag survey found that 44 percent of millennials and 41 percent of parent homeowners plan to remodel these spaces this winter (compared to 29 percent of all homeowners).

So what are a few practical laundry room spruce-ups you can easily knock out this February?

The experts at constructionresourcesusa.com say that if you have front loading appliances, adding a countertop above them will help create the illusion of a larger space, while at the same time providing a smooth, flat surface for doing your folding. .

Not sure where to start? Miranda Benson at dolly.com offers up these tips:

– Avoid shelving that can make an already cramped laundry room feel claustrophobic. Instead, try hooks to hang your ironing board, or a pegboard if you need space to hang clothes.

– Save even more space by mounting a fold-out ironing board with an upper shelf to store your iron higher up on the wall. Just make sure it has room to cool down.

– Further expand your drying space by attaching drying racks to your walls that fold out when needed.

– Get even more space by installing a tension rod just like you would use to hang a curtain. Leave your hangers on the rod while your clothes wash, and when they’re dry, you can easily hang them and transfer them back to your closet.

– Eliminate wasted space by installing pedestal drawers directly underneath your washer and dryer for cleaning supplies, extra towels, or anything that can get a little warm from the dryer.

Finally, how about adding some tile? The team at fireclaytile.com says that not only is tile durable and easy to clean, it will also give your laundry area a clean and fresh look when it’s incorporated on almost any surface, including walls, backsplashes, floors and countertops.

Yes, You Can Sell Your Home in Winter

No doubt, you’ve heard that the best time to put your home on the market is spring. And while there is certainly a lot to be said for selling your house in the springtime, there are, in fact, many benefits to selling your home right now. That’s right—in winter! Here are some tips for putting your market on the home this season.

Pay attention to holiday décor. While a few tasteful and neutral holiday decorations such as glowing white lights, fragrant evergreens and elegant metallic touches can really make your home glow and sparkle, remember that less is always more. And be sure to pack up those decorations as soon as the holidays have passed. Marketing your home with holiday lights on Feb. 1 will not play in your favor.

Price it right. While there might be a smaller pool of prospective buyers in winter than spring, you will most likely be dealing with more motivated buyers. If they are looking for a home during the holidays or in the dead of winter, there is a compelling reason for doing so, which makes your pricing strategy critical. Talk to your agent about arriving at a price that factors in fewer (but more serious) buyers.

Make accessibility a priority. If snow and ice is a factor for you in winter, you will need to be fastidious about removal. Make sure driveways and walkways are clear at all times. Invest in a plow service and stay stocked up on salt.

Keep things warm. Nothing will turn buyers off faster in winter than walking into a cold house, so make sure your heating system is operating at full capacity. And make sure that’s the case for every room in the house. If there’s one bedroom that tends to be drafty, now’s the time to find out the cause and resolve the issue.

Provide visuals of your home in summer. One thing buyers might not be able to get an accurate picture of in winter is your outdoor space, so make a poster board with photos of your backyard, patio, porch, pool, garden beds…whatever you feel is worth highlighting. Or prepare a slideshow for your agent to display on his/her iPad. This could really seal the deal for winter-time buyers.

Following these strategies will help you take advantage of the market right now and beat the competition to the punch come spring.

Decking the Halls? 10 Safety Tips

Decorating your holiday tree is a time for festive family fun. However, according to the National Fire Protection Association, holiday trees, lights and candles increase the risk of home fires during the holidays, and Christmas, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day being the top three days for home candle fires. To help, the American Red Cross offers the following 10 tips.

– Check all holiday light cords to make sure they aren’t frayed or broken. Don’t string too many strands of lights together—no more than three per extension cord.

If you are buying an artificial tree, look for the fire-resistant label. When putting it up, keep it away from fireplaces, radiators and other sources of heat.

– If getting a live tree, make sure it’s fresh and water it to keep it fresh. Bend the needles up and down to make sure no needles fall off.

– If using older decorations, check their labels. Some older tinsel is lead-based. If using angel hair, wear gloves to avoid irritation. Avoid breathing in artificial snow.

– When decorating outside, make sure decorations are for outdoor use and fasten lights securely to your home or trees. If using hooks or nails outside, make sure they are insulated to avoid an electrocution or fire hazard.

– If using a ladder, be extra careful. Make sure to have good, stable placement and wear shoes that allow for good traction.

– Don’t use electric lights on metallic trees.

– Don’t forget to turn off all holiday lights when going to bed or leaving the house.

– Keep children, pets and decorations away from candles.

– If hanging stockings on the fireplace mantel, don’t light the fireplace.

Source: The American Red Cross

Four Tips for Making Your Home Company-Ready This Holiday Season

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By Haley Kieser

Having company over during the holiday season is a time-honored tradition among friends and family. Whether this will be the first time a guest steps into your home or the hundredth time you welcome them through your doors, it’s important to always strive to leave a good impression on your visitors.

Making your home ready to host company for one night or for many nights doesn’t have to be a complicated and drawn-out task. By simply cleaning up a little, organizing your rooms, and making a few accommodations for guests, you’ll have a home dressed to impress and a comfortable space to spend a few hours with your friends and family.

1.     Clean and then clean again

It might seem obvious, but you should make sure your home is as clean as possible. Clean the areas that your guests will spend most of their time in and then walk slowly back through the house looking at your space through the eyes of a guest.

Consider how you react when you are a guest at someone’s home and they haven’t cleaned properly. Putting your best foot forward and leaving a good impression means breaking out the deep cleaning supplies and dedicating a few hours to making the place spotless. The great thing about cleaning is that it can be done well in advance to the party.

2.     Organize the home

A simple reorganization of the furniture in your rooms can help accommodate guests and make the space feel more welcoming. Start by assessing where you think guests will be spending the most time – usually the living room, kitchen, dining room, and bathrooms. Think about how many guests you will be having over for the holiday season celebrations and if your space will comfortably seat them for at least a few hours.

For example, if your dining room has a small table with four chairs and you are expecting much more, consider having food and drinks outside in the garden or pull up some extra chairs from around the house. If people will be bringing food and drinks to the party, make sure you reorganize the kitchen and fridge to hold them. As for the living room, rearrange the TV and entertainment setup so all guests can enjoy watching movies and listening to music equally.

3.     Consider special accommodations

Be sure to make your home as accommodating for guests as you can. Coat racks are essential in the winter time for people’s heavy clothing. That being said, consider moving your own belongings from your coat rack or closet so guests have as much space to store their coats and jackets as possible.

If your guests are from out of town, they may need a ride to the gathering. Or a ride home for some! If you’ve offered to pick up your guests from the airport, make sure you clean out your vehicle beforehand. You don’t need a fancy vehicle to impress your guests, instead make a statement by making room for their luggage and a water to enjoy on the ride home. For those needing a cab afterwards, Uber or Lyft are both great options. Otherwise, drive them yourself to squeeze out a couple extra minutes together.

4. Prepare food ahead of time

It’s often recommended to freshen up your home by lighting candles, incense, or infuse fragrance into the air some other way. Instead of making the house smell artificially comforting, why not have the food do the job for you? A holiday roast, a tray of stuffing, or a slow-cooked broth will thicken the air with their delectable juices and water your guests’ mouths before they’re able to take their coat off. Regardless, you should begin preparing your food long before anybody arrives.

The purpose of a gathering is to have a good time with those in your life that you love most, so clean your vehicle, organize your kitchen, and serve up a delectable meal to ensure a warm and inviting holiday season!

Your Fall Home-Care Checklist

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By John Voket

While a good ‘spring clean’ is important, the coming of autumn also harkens in the need to do some important chores around the home and yard. Below are three seasonal suggestions from a wealth of experts.

Sweep Your Chimney. Robby Martin at southernliving.com says it’s the time of year to start shopping for a chimney cleaner, ahead of the winter rush. Martin says unless you are well versed in chimney construction, contact a reputable chimney sweep service.

Items such as bird or animal nests built during the summer, as well as excessive soot deposits from the previous winter, can easily obstruct flues and dampers, increasing the chances of chimney fires. Regular maintenance can save you from possible misfortune for a relatively small price.

Clean and Purge. Kit Arbuckle – a source at care.com suggests that before you start your fall and holiday entertaining, deep clean your fridge, freezer, and pantry. Arbuckle says it’s a perfect opportunity to throw out expired items and scrub everything.

And if you have soon-to-expire items or food you bought for a specific recipe and never used, pack up a box and drop it at your local food pantry. Arbuckle says while you’re at it, rent or break out the carpet cleaner and run it on all your rugs; wherever possible, start by cleaning the floor under your rugs.

Tend Your Landscape. Colonel Landscaping (colonellandscaping.com) along the shoreline in Connecticut tells clients fall is the most opportune time to tend their landscapes so they thrive the following year.

Colonel explains that a late season application of lawn fertilizer, particularly in areas where cold weather grasses dominate, can nourish the root system and prepare it for the spring growing season; a soil test will help ensure proper amounts of nutrients are being applied.

Fall is also a great time to reseed lawn that is exhibiting signs of distress. Homeowners from southern New England to the central Atlantic coastal states will want to sow before the end of September for optimal results — applying a quarter inch of topsoil will help ensure germination.

Quartz vs. Granite: Consumer Reports Rates Kitchen Countertops

Is there a kitchen renovation in your future? If so, one of the most crucial and difficult decisions ahead of you is what kind of countertop to choose. Consumer Reports takes a look at two of the most popular options—quartz and granite—to determine which one is the better option.

First and foremost, it’s important to note that Consumer Reports (CR) describes both quartz and granite as “superior materials” that perform equally well in many tests, such as surviving a steak-knife slicing machine, withstanding a 400-degree Fahrenheit saucepan full of heated shortening, and several rounds of scrubbing with 100-grit sandpaper.

However, while both materials earn ratings of “excellent” for cutting, abrasion and heat resistance, neither is indestructible. When it comes to impact testing, both can chip.

So, what’s the differentiator among the two? Stain resistance and appearance.

For stain resistance testing, CR used half-inch splotches of several common substances, such as coffee, chocolate syrup, vegetable oil and grape juice, and recorded the effects after 20 hours. Quartz scored better with certain substances, like beet juice and food coloring, earning a rating that was 2.3 points higher than granite.

Quartz also comes out ahead in the appearance category, due to its ability to achieve the seamless, clean lines most people prefer. Since each slab of granite is unique—whereas quartz is manufactured—it’s more difficult for installers to cut and line up multiple slabs precisely. Quartz also offers more color choices and options for popular marble veining.

While quartz and granite cost about the same, quartz is the current material of choice. According to a National Kitchen & Bath Association survey, the vast majority of folks installing counters these days choose quartz, while granite is a distant second.

Ultimately, as with any renovation decision, the choice is a personal one, so go with what suits your taste and lifestyle.

5 Reasons Aurora, IL is a Great Place to Move

By Haley Kieser

 

Whatever your reason for moving–a growing family, a need for a change in scenery–Aurora, Illinois has something everyone will love. As the second the largest city in Illinois and a stone throw away from Chicago, here lives a rich history, beautiful architecture, and a thriving job market.

Fun fact: this city is also known as the “City of Lights” because it was the first place to illuminate its streets with electric lights in the U.S.

 

You’ll find this, plus many more charming reasons are what makes this city the perfect place to call home. Here are just five to note.

1. Exploding with culture

Located just 40 miles west of the greater Chicago metropolitan area, Aurora is overflowing with cultural significance and fun things to do. The city is known for notable architectural landmarks and historical sites, such as The Keystone Building, Healy Chapel, and the Old Second National Bank, all designed by architect Frank Lloyd Wright. The Paramount Theater, located in downtown Aurora, was even recently added to the National Register of Historic Places. In addition to great architecture and history, there are plenty of family-friendly places to enjoy like the Phillips Park and Zoo and the Aurora Regional Fire Museum. Downtown Aurora is bustling with delicious restaurants and bars, as well as an annual festival called Downtown Alive, which features live music and food booths. Blues on the Fox and the AuroraArtWalk are other festivals that happen throughout the year, providing a place for local musicians and artists alike to showcase their work, and for the residents to enjoy.

2. Above average household income

The cost of living in Aurora is considered on par with the rest of Illinois and the rest of the country’s average. Housing is the biggest factor in the cost of living difference, as the median income for a household is $63,967, according to Data USA, which is more than the median annual income in the U.S. This being said, majority of Aurora’s residents are considered middle class with only 14% falling below the poverty line.

3. Great neighborhoods

The city of Aurora is divided into three main sections–the West Side, the East Side, and Fox Valley, also known as the Far East Side. The Fox River naturally divides these areas, and despite its name, Fox Valley is actually located the farthest from the river. The West Side is considered more upper-class, while the East Side is more blue-collar. Fox Valley is considered more undeveloped compared to the other two areas, so you’ll want to keep this in mind when picking out a new home.

4. Plenty of employment opportunities

Aurora has a long manufacturing history, home to companies such as the Aurora Brewing Company, Caterpillar Inc., National Metalwares, the Chicago Corset Company, plus many more. The Hollywood Casino also drives much of the job market, providing tourism for the city and features memorabilia from several famous movies. The most common employment sectors include administration, support, and waste management services, manufacturing, and wholesale trade. Over the last year, the job market has increased by 1.5% and is expected to grow to be 37.4% over the next ten years. Meaning, there are jobs to be taken by newcomers moving in!

5. Residents are highly educated

Aurora is home to great schools at all levels. And even better, the education level of the city’s residents are substantially higher than a typical U.S. community–over 30% of adults in Aurora have at least a bachelor’s degree. At the highest level of education, there is the Aurora University, and the Regency Beauty Institute-Aurora. The DuPage County and Kane County school systems serve as the school district and contain a total of 46 public schools. These counties are split by the Fox River, so your child’s education depends on if you live in the East or West. Both sides are solid options, however, the city also has 22 private schools. For students wishing to specialize in math and science, there is the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy for students in grades 10 through 12.

Before you move, know the rules

It’s important to note that Aurora is very strict about enforcing various rules and regulations in regard to all moving services. It’s required that all moving companies present a certificate of liability insurance to the building management before they start unloading. This is to ensure that if any property damage occurs, the building manager can be sure the moving company will cover it. This certificate is free and easy to obtain from the moving company you use. Also, if you plan to move into an apartment, be sure to book the elevator well in advance. Moving into the downtown area will also involve parking permits so your truck won’t get a ticket.

Still looking for a house?

If you haven’t found a place to call home just yet and need some guidance, we’d love to partake in your home search. Relocating from out of state? Let us work together to identify where you best fit in Aurora – we can’t wait to welcome you!

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