Green-Home Trends for Real Estate Agents

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By the Experts at McKissock Learning

In design and home life, green continues to gain momentum, and it can be a lucrative niche for real estate agents. Beyond the benefits of making homes more sustainable and reducing our footprints on the world, new designs and increasing demand is making green technology, in some cases, cheaper than traditional methods. Now green is a benefit on even more levels than before. This, combined with other benefits, is making “green” more attractive than ever.

Here’s a look at what’s new and what’s improving in the way of green.

Smart Homes
Smart homes are becoming the norm both in home renovations and new construction. Voice activated and app directed commands allow you to schedule indoor and outdoor lighting as well as heating, cooling, watering and washing—allowing you to take advantage of non-peak hours and control electrical usage while out of town. Even items such as automatic closing drapes and sunshades work to keep our lives more comfortable and profitable in the long run.

Deconstructed Design
Not to be confused with Deconstructivism (asymmetrical architecture and design), deconstruction is a concept that utilizes recycled raw materials. This new trend is toward more authentic, natural materials such as exposed wood, metal and brick. It’s an exposed style of un-building reminiscent of Frank Gehry in the ’90s, but with a more refined and green edge to it through its emphasis on reuse, salvaged and donated materials. And by mixing in more green materials such as quick-growing bamboo, you can even add “newer” natural materials to the mix.

Better Energy Generation and Storage
Smart tech is making life easier, cleaner and cheaper. More efficient batteries are making electrical storage more effective, while microgrids allow you to use and buy electricity from off-grid sources, making it easier to take advantage of more clean energy than ever before. Additionally, solar technology, and the selling benefits they provide, make electricity increasingly cheaper for you as a homeowner. Though it requires an initial investment, the continued trend in solar technology is making it equal and even cheaper than traditional energy, ensuring it pays for itself and then some.

Prefab Home Designs
The focus on prefab, modular style homes continues, providing many benefits. Prefab homes are produced in closed settings, away from the elements that keep production times reliable and materials from getting damaged by weather. And increased focus on computerized cutting and standardized sizing allows for maximum usage of materials, resulting in less waste. Since the designs are made to ship, there is special attention placed in durable construction. And with an increased focus on shipping cargo containers in design, there is less container waste in the environment along with the added durability these containers provide.

Tiny Home Additions
These homes have benefits such as fewer materials, less energy and less waste than traditional homes, making it easy for you to create zero environmental impact. They function in ways beyond daily living working great as vacation cabins, guest quarters, pool houses and home offices. And one of the attractions of tiny homes is their ability to avoid permanent footings that allow them to retain a portability designation for financial savings.

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4 Luxurious Upgrades to Make to Your Pool Area

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A picturesque swimming pool is a favorite feature for today’s luxury homeowners. If you want to create a true backyard oasis, however, chances are the pool is just one part of the equation. For those who are looking to upgrade their backyard swimming area, here are several ideas that can take it to new heights.

Add a Cabana
For a truly resort-like experience, nothing beats having a cabana where you can lounge in the shade while hanging out by the pool. You’ll have the perfect spot to spend long summer days, whether reading a good book or drinking your morning coffee, while giving your pool area an exciting addition that transforms the whole aesthetic.

Bring in the Fire Pit
Anyone who enjoys sitting outside on a warm summer evening can appreciate a fire pit, but this feature has extra visual appeal when positioned nearby your swimming pool. Just imagine the enchanting ambience as you watch the flames reflect off the water after the sun goes down each night.

Pool House
If you’re looking to make a big addition in the backyard, then a pool house might be the way to go. This can provide serious convenience with changing rooms, bathrooms and a kitchenette that’s easily accessed from your pool area. As an added bonus, you could even add an extra bedroom with poolside vistas that guests are sure to love.

Outdoor Kitchen
Hanging out by the pool during the warmer months is about much more than simply splashing around in the water. It’s about grilling your favorite foods, sipping on refreshing beverages and eating al fresco meals while making memories with the family, and an outdoor kitchen is the perfect feature to make that all possible. After all, no one wants to get stuck inside cooking when everyone else is enjoying a beautiful summer day around the pool!


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How to Get a Little Magic Out of Your Vacuum

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Running the vacuum cleaner around your house seems like a pretty straightforward task, no?

Not according to cleaning experts. To really get a deep clean and an all-around fresher home, make sure you’re vacuuming the right way with the following hacks:

Freshen up. Carpets tend to trap odors, which may be a frequent occurrence if you have pets and/or small children. Let your vacuum do double duty as a deodorizer by first sprinkling the carpet with baking soda, then letting it sit for several hours (keep kids and pets away). This will allow the baking soda to absorb any odors. Then simply vacuum it up!

Use aromatherapy. Dip a cotton ball in your favorite essential oil, then pop it into your vacuum’s canister. This will diffuse the scent throughout your house as you vacuum.

Remove dents. If you want to rearrange your furniture, you’ll be left with dents in the carpet to contend with, left behind by the legs of the table or chair you’re moving. To undo a carpet dent, place an ice cube in the spot and let it melt. Soak up the water left behind, which will help the smushed carpet fibers expand, then vacuum the spot to lift the dent out.

Rescue jewelry. If you’ve dropped an earring back or ring on the floor—especially on a carpet—your vacuum can save the day. Simply place an old stocking over the nozzle of your vacuum, then secure it with a rubber band. Vacuum the area where you dropped your jewelry and it will cling to the stocking without getting sucked into the canister.

6 Ways to Make a Room Look Bigger

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Maybe you rent a small apartment in the city. Or maybe your forever home features smaller rooms. Instead of spending more money on a larger space or knocking down a wall, you can make a room feel larger with a mix of design and creativity. Maximize every inch of your space with these beginner and budget-friendly decorating tips.

Hang Curtains High
Instead of mounting your curtain rods just above the top of your windows, move up about five to six inches higher. This will create length to the wall, giving off the impression that the ceiling is higher than it actually is. Be sure to use curtains that reach the floor to highlight this illusion.

Bring in the Light
Darkness can be uninviting and create the sense of a small space. In regards to your curtains, letting in a lot of natural light is a great way to make a room feel larger. Use sheer panels instead of opaque or light blocking curtains. Choosing warming LED light bulbs for lamps and overhead lighting create the look of natural and comfortable light without being too bright or too dark.

Utilize Built-In Storage
Built-in bookshelves or cabinets allow for maximum storage space and minimal clutter. If your home doesn’t already have this, you can build it yourself. Or, utilize furniture with hidden storage, such as ottomans, benches and coffee tables to help clear up clutter and add more space.

Put Up Mirrors
Similar to windows, mirrors give the illusion of a larger space. Hanging a few, or even one, on your wall essentially doubles the space of the room in the reflection, adding dimension and depth. If your room has limited light, hang the mirror across from the window, projecting more natural light throughout the space from a new angle.

Choose the Right Rug
Rugs provide not only comfort, but design and style, to a room. Size your rugs to each respective room to optimize the space. To create depth in a room, go for one large rug, leaving about six to 12 inches of space from the wall. For a room heavy in furniture, such as a bedroom or living room, utilizing smaller rugs to break up the space, creating separate sections and areas.

Paint with Light Colors 
The color of a room plays a large part in the illusion of size. When rooms are painted with darker colors, or even a patterned wallpaper, it can feel overwhelming and give off the feel of a smaller space. To maximize the size, painting with lighter colors, like white, grey, light blue, beige projects a spacious feel. To bring in some color, play with an accent wall, throw pillows and blankets and artwork without losing depth.

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Financial Moves to Make After Closing

By John Voket

For first-time homebuyers, the lead up to and through move-in day demands the level of energy one might expend training for a marathon—or scaling Mount Everest! So it’s not unusual or uncommon for new homeowners to lose sight of the necessary steps they need to take to ensure their financial foundation is as solid and long-lasting as the one under their new home.

Rebecca Lake at reminds new homeowners that financial planning doesn’t stop once you sign off at the closing table—homeowners must protect their investment.

Check out the following information from this panel of experts aimed at helping new homeowners survive and thrive in their new residence:

Maintenance Cushion
A Bankrate survey estimates the average homeowner will spend an extra $2,000 per year on maintenance, including landscaping, housekeeping and minor repairs, so that’s a good financial cushion to plan for. That amount, however, doesn’t cover larger expenses you may encounter, like having to replace an HVAC system or roof, both of which can easily surpass $5,000.

Homeownership Savings
Freedom Financial Group Founder Tad Hill recommends first-time buyers should set up a separate homeownership savings fund to cover bigger repairs that amount to at least $5,000 to $10,000 in cash so it’s available when something breaks.

Needs vs. Wants says good money management involves separating needs from wants. If a homeowner isn’t sure if an item is a need or a want, try doing without it for a period of time. If after that time you truly can’t live without it, it may be a need.

Prioritize Your Debt blogger Elizabeth Renter affirms that your mortgage is likely your biggest debt, but that doesn’t mean it should be the biggest priority when it comes to paying off your debt. Renter says, before homeowners consider aggressively paying down their mortgage, they should consider eliminating higher interest debts like:

  • Credit cards
  • Payday loans
  • Title loans
  • High-interest personal loans

Extra Payment Plan
Renter adds that homeowners should only start thinking of making extra payments on a mortgage after all toxic debt is eliminated, your retirement is on track, and an emergency fund, like the one Hill mentioned, has ample cash.

John Voket is a contributing editor to RISMedia.

Want to See a Return on Your Home Improvement Investment? Prioritize These Projects

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In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, homeowners have turned their focus toward the home, embarking on renovations and remodels at an unprecedented rate. But not all projects are created equal. According to the Appraisal Institute, homeowners should prioritize cost-efficient improvement projects that improve their property’s value.

According to Remodeling magazine’s most recent Cost vs. Value Report, the projects with the highest expected return on investment (ROI) are:

Garage door replacement – 93.8% of cost recouped
Manufactured stone veneer – 92.1% of cost recouped
Minor kitchen remodel – 72.2% of cost recouped
Siding replacement – 68.3% of cost recouped

Other projects with potential payoffs, according to the report, are window replacements, a deck addition and a steel entry door replacement.

The Appraisal Institute advises homeowners to consider holding off on big renovations if they’re unsure how long they will be in their property. The longer a homeowner stays, the greater the opportunity to maximize the potential ROI.

Cost and ROI aside, home improvement projects are usually worth it if they improve the homeowner’s quality of life. For example, with the pandemic sparking an increase in work-from-home situations for many, now could be a great time to create or update home-office space, outdoor entertainment areas or at-home exercise studios.

The Appraisal Institute also encourages owners to upgrade elements of the home that will help ensure that the property meets community standards, reflects neighborhood norms and complies with local housing codes.

In addition to stimulating the building and construction sectors of the economy, which were significantly impacted by the recent economic downturn, home improvement projects can give you an important competitive edge in today’s low-inventory market should you decide to sell. Talk to a real estate professional about the types of improvements that will add the most value in your neighborhood.

5 Old-Fashioned Cleaning Tips That Won’t Go Out of Style

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These five old-fashioned cleaning tips are useful even in the modern world and won’t go out of style anytime soon.

Remove Water Rings on Furniture
Water rings on wood furniture have been the bane of homeowners through the ages. Thankfully, this decades-old trick is effective. Simply cover the ring with a layer of mayonnaise, let it sit for a few minutes and scrub the surface.

Use Newspaper to Keep Windows Sparkling
For a streak-free shine, don’t opt for paper towels that will leave lint behind. Instead, take a page from Grandma’s book and use a newspaper. With a similar streak-free shine to modern microfiber cloths, reuse Sunday’s paper to get your windows sparkling.

Get Stains Out With Sunshine
Don’t want to use a chemical bleach to get a stain out of your white clothing or sheets? Use the sunshine to naturally bleach your items. For particularly stubborn stains, add a bit of lemon juice to heighten the effect.

Reduce Wood Scratches With a Walnut
Whether your offending item is wood furniture or a wood floor, you can reduce the visibility of surface scratches with a walnut. Simply crack open your nut and rub on the scratch to make it disappear.

Remove Mineral Buildup With Vinegar
If your shower head has seen better days, you may only need a little vinegar to make it look new again. Mineral buildup from hard water can cause your shower head to look grimy. Remove mineral deposits by covering your shower head with a plastic bag full of white vinegar and secure it with a rubber band. Let your cleaning solution sit for a few hours and scrub with a toothbrush to complete the effect.

3 Tips to Protect Your Home for the Long Haul

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By Brentnie Daggett

Your home is likely the largest investment you’ll ever make, and the cardinal rule of investing is to protect and preserve. Preventative home maintenance will not only protect your home and preserve its value, but it will also help you save money in the long run.

Beyond the financial aspect, you want to ensure that your home is a safe and comfortable place for you and your family to live for as long as you desire. Here are three tips to protect and maintain your home for years to come:

Invest in Upkeep and Preventative Maintenance
Your home requires regular upkeep and care to prevent any issues from getting out of hand, which may be a new process to you if you’re a first-time homebuyer. A good first step is to create a property maintenance checklist where you break down all of the tasks and projects that need to be completed throughout the year (for example, complete HVAC maintenance before the winter months). Decide which tasks you can complete on your own and which tasks you’ll need to hire a professional to help with, such as roof inspection.

Items related to the roof, structure, HVAC systems and plumbing should be top priorities, no matter what time of the year, as these are critical to the infrastructure of your home. Preventative maintenance is key to avoid causing bigger problems down the road, so it’s wise to schedule things like HVAC maintenance and roof inspections to reduce your risk of breakdown. The 1% rule suggests that your budget should be at least 1% of your home’s purchase price for month-to-month maintenance. Be sure to consider factors like home age and climate when budgeting.

Build an Emergency Fund
Regardless of age, location or condition, all homes will inevitably need some form of unexpected or emergency repair—it comes with the territory of being a homeowner. It’s better to set up a savings account now that you can contribute to over time and pull from as needed.

Depending on the scope of the issue, you could be looking at thousands of dollars in repairs or equipment replacement costs. Some tasks can wait, like a busted washer and dryer or damage to flooring, but problems with the roof, foundation, plumbing, electrical or HVAC systems generally need to be assessed immediately. Being a homeowner isn’t cheap, but you can set yourself up for sustained success with a little foresight.

Don’t Ignore the Small Stuff
Don’t let a small issue snowball into a big problem—when you notice something is wrong, deal with it right away to save yourself time and money down the road. Something like a small faucet drip can quickly turn into a major water problem if ignored for too long. A leak in the water heater may not seem like an immediate problem, but this can often be a warning sign of tank failure. Be wary of seemingly small problems and look into them right away to avoid having to dip into your emergency fund.

Home maintenance is a vital part of being a homeowner to protect both your investment and the place you live. Whether you handle maintenance issues and repairs on your own or bring in a professional, promptly addressing and evaluating potential issues will make it far less likely that you will have to deal with disasters.

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5 Feng Shui Mistakes to Avoid

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Feng shui, the ancient Chinese philosophy that looks to improve the energy flow in our homes, can help us create living spaces that promote positivity and harmony.

According to the experts at Real Simple, however, there are five common mistakes many homeowners make that go against the grain of feng shui principles. Take a look around and see if you have any of these offending situations in your home.

1. Blocked doors. In feng shui, doors are the means by which energy flows in and throughout your home. If you have a door that is unable to open a full 90 degrees due to clutter hanging behind it or a piece of furniture, remove the blockage so that your door can open fully.

2. Misdirected beds. One of the key principles of feng shui is placing your bed in a “commanding” position, one which lets us see opportunities coming toward us. With this in mind, make sure you’re able to see your bedroom door while lying in bed, without being directly in line with it—in other words, make sure your feet aren’t pointed out the door. If you can’t move your bed accordingly, strategically place a mirror from which you can see your door.

3. Beds against a wall. Make sure your headboard is against a wall, but that you have left space on either side of the bed. If you have one side of your bed entirely against a wall, this creates an imbalance of yin and yang. Just 18 inches of space will alleviate the problem.

4. Desk facing a window. While it certainly seems appealing to be able to gaze out your window as you move through your work day, in feng shui practice, facing a window while working pulls your energy toward it and away from your work. In other words, that amazing view might be more of a distraction than a benefit.

5. Desk in a bedroom. If you place your primary desk in your bedroom, you’re putting your work/life balance at risk. Seeing your desk while you’re heading to bed puts work top of mind when you should be focused on relaxing. Conversely, gazing at your bed while you’re trying to work can lure you toward sleep when you need to be plugged in and productive. If space restrictions necessitate a desk in your bedroom, put it behind a divider, like a screen or bookcase. Be sure to turn off your computer screen at night and cover it as well. This creates important visual and energetic boundaries.

7 Ways to Save Money Like Grandma Did

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While dealing with food rationing, supply shortages and tight budgets, many of our grandmas found ways to make money stretch while keeping their families happily fed and clothed.

Home economists suggest seven ways to make your money go further by following grandma’s example.

•  Buy From the Farmer – Cut out the middleman and buy fresh produce directly from the farmer at one of the thousands of farmer’s markets that pop up every week in towns and cities everywhere.

•  Learn Basic Sewing – No need to pay the tailor to repair a torn seam or take up a hem. Check out YouTube tutorials or take a basic sewing class at a local crafts store and think of the money you’ll save over the years by doing those simple chores yourself.

•  Swap Talents – If you can mow your neighbor’s lawn, and she loves to bake, trade your lawn care skills for her cinnamon rolls and you both make out like bandits without reaching into your pockets.

•  Eat In – Our grandparents didn’t rely on restaurant dining or take-out. Eating in is cheaper and  you don’t need to be a gourmet cook. Schedule taco night, pasta night, pizza night, soup night, even an occasional breakfast or salad night and, if possible, share the chef’s hat with your spouse or kids and let them add their ideas.

•  Pay With Cash – Grandma didn’t have a credit card, and paying with cash helps you control how much you spend. It also removes temptation to put too much on the credit card and wind up paying double the cost of your purchase because of the interest accrued.

•  Pack a Lunch – It’s okay to go out to lunch now and then, but packing your lunch on most work days will help you control portions, cut down on calories and save dollars every week.

•  Give More DIY Gifts – Who doesn’t love a plate of homemade brownies? Or a cozy-warm hand-knit afghan? Instead of buying gifts for family and friends, give an album of curated family photos or a coupon for a weekend of pet-sitting.

•  Save a Little – Grandma fed a piggy bank and saved a dollar a week in a Christmas Club account. You can, too, and/or set up a direct-deposit to automatically save.