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I love being snowed in! I know that some people despise being stuck in the house during a heavy snow fall but I consider it an unplanned vacation! Still, I must admit that after being stuck in the house for a few days with the kiddies we all tend to get a touch of “cabin fever”. So what do you do after you’ve had your fill of sleigh riding and snowball fights? Here are a few ideas to make your unplanned vacation as enjoyable as possible.
Just about everybody owns a video camera these days but if you’re like me it’s probably sitting on a shelf somewhere. Maybe this is a good time to dust it off and put it to good use! If not chances are good that your cell phone will make pretty good vides as well. One way to keep the little ones thawed out and not dying of boredom is to let them make their very own home movie. Using their imagination will keep them entertained for hours and when all’s said and done you just might have a true YouTube original!
Board is better than Bored!
There’s no better time for Monopoly or Parcheesi (my favorite) than a snowy day. It’s a great way to spend some quality family time and a little competition can quickly while away the hours. Card games can also be fun and in the end you just might create some wonderful family memories.
Baking, Eating and More Eating!
What could be more fun than baking your favorite cookies while being stuck in the house? You can spend the entire day baking away and the entire evening eating. If you have a fireplace and some hot cocoa the trilogy is complete and you’ll have a “guilty” treat night that you’ll never forget!
Enjoy an Indoor Picnic
Think that picnics are only fun on a warm spring day? Think again! All you need for a wintery indoor picnic is a blanket and lots of goodies. Staying in your pajamas is a relaxing touch and who doesn’t like to eat in their pajamas? This will be a night that the kids will never forget!
When All Else Fails……
If there’s one thing everybody loves it’s watching their favorite TV programs, right? Make a movie night for the whole family and be sure to pick something that everybody enjoys watching together. Then it’s a simple matter of munchies and relaxation. That’s a good way to spend an evening even if you’re not stranded at home!
Every once in a while something new comes along that really makes sense. In this case it is the modern alternative to the standard hinged door that all of us have in our homes. The interesting thing here is that this “new innovation is nothing new at all, it is a throwback to the old fashioned sliding barn door that many of us have seen as children, even if it was in an old black and white movie.
Space Saving, Attractive and Convenient
I must admit that I rather like these wall mounted sliding doors as an alternative to the standard swinging door. First of all they are great if you need to save a little extra space in a small room or storage closet by adding up to an additional 14 square feet of usable space. With these doors installed you can place furniture very close to the room entrance without the need to allow enough space for the door to be opened; a very useful feature in a very small home or trailer. Secondly, they look great in the right environment and add a unique and stylish flair in the proper décor. The third advantage to having one of these doors installed is that you can easily make it much wider than a standard hinged door making it much easier to move large items in and out of a room and adding a big convenience for anyone that may need the use of a wheelchair.
Commercial buildings can benefit greatly as well from this newest fashion statement, especially retail shops that deal in larger items such as furniture, appliances and the like. I see a possible safety benefit as well because the larger opening made possible by this type of sliding door will allow many more people to evacuate a building much more quickly in the event of some type of emergency. Everything said and done I like this newest home trend and I think if done well it could be a great fashion statement in just about any home.
Strong and Built to Last
Like any investment we make in our home we want something to last. The hardware that enables these doors to slide can hold up to 400 pounds and uses a commercial grade I-beam track with multiple ball-bearing hangars. Although heavy duty in construction the doors open quietly and easily even for a small child and will last for many years to come.
Choices to Fit any Décor
Just the same as their 3 hinged brother the new wall mounted sliding doors are available in a huge variety of designs. Some are as basic as a standard door or highly detailed including some very ornate patterns that incorporate cross buck detailing and can even include some rather fancy metal ornamentation as part of the design. They are available in various sizes and can be as wide as 5 feet and as tall as 9 feet. Now THAT is a truly grand entrance! Homeowners today are using these doors in bedrooms, dining rooms and master baths and are able to create an entire “new look” thanks to these very stylish and unique doors now available on the market. I have a feeling we’re going to see a lot more of these in the future.
Wikipedia defines a home as “a dwelling-place used as a permanent or semi-permanent residence for an individual, family, household or several families in a tribe”. Well, I suppose that is accurate enough but by that very definition a prison, hospital or even a cruise ship would be home to many and I don’t think that’s exactly what a “home” is to me.
A house is certainly not a home unless it is transformed by those persons living in it and that begs the question “What is it that turns a house into a home?” For me the first prerequisite of an abode being referred to as a home is safety. If I feel uncomfortable or insecure in an environment it could never be my home and I don’t just mean physically safe, I mean emotionally safe and peaceful.
I think that comfort is also important. Home is a place where we can relax and enjoy even the smallest of pleasures whether it be our favorite 30 minute show or a long hot shower. No place can be home if you can’t escape from the rest of the world. And what about family and friends?
I know that most people would say that no house is a home if you live alone within its four walls but I don’t think that’s true 100% of the time. I’ve known plenty of elderly people that lived alone and I can assure you that their house was the only home that they had known for a long time. That being said, it became their home because it was the place that they lived with their spouse for so many years. It was the place where the baby took his first steps, where mom and dad would visit on Sundays to see the grandkids and where you bought that
huge Xmas tree that you couldn’t even get through the door!
In the end a true home is not about size, location or financial value, it is about memories. Memories are the most precious gift that we can ever own because no one can take them away. They can’t be stolen, they don’t rust or break and they never change. Memories are what we struggle to accomplish today so that we may look back in time and say to ourselves, “Those were the days”. Where would we be without our memories? I can’t answer that question but I know one thing for sure, we wouldn’t be home.
Obviously buying a home is a very exciting time and can be a lot of fun. Looking for your dream home can also be a nightmare if you allow your emotions to rule the day. Remember, you have to make that house payment every month for many years to come and if you’re not careful you could bite off more than you can chew. Here are the 7 most common mistakes that house hunters make.
Offering More than the Home is Worth
I’ve seen this happen more than once and it’s very easy to understand. After months of searching a couple finally finds the home of their dreams. They’re so excited and worried that it will slip through their hands that they make an offer that is more than what the home is actually worth. Buying a new home should not start with owing the bank more money than the value of the home. My advice to these folks is to slow down, take a breath and make a reasonable offer.
“Settling” for a Home that is not what You Really Want
I often compare house hunting to searching cable TV for something good to watch. Sometimes a great movie is coming on in 10 minutes; other times you can’t find anything you want to watch. If you’re finding that your search is taking longer than you expected don’t give up. The home you want is out there and making an offer on a home that is not what you really want is a big mistake that you will have to live with for a long time. When you find the right home you will know it and the wait will have been worth every second!
Haste Makes Waste
OK, you’ve found the house of your dreams and you want to make an offer immediately, but did you do your homework? Before you make an offer make sure that you investigate the area thoroughly. Does a train pass close by at 3 am every morning? Is the neighborhood safe? Does your street tend to flood in heavy rain? There’s much more to consider when buying a home that just the home itself and a hasty offer just might be a mistake. Remember the old saying, “Be careful what you wish for”.
Love is Blind
The infatuation of finding that new home can cause one to miss the obvious. Make sure to check the important things in the home before plunging in. New paint and shiny wood floors can hide a lot so take the time to make sure that the essentials are there such as all of the electrical outlets are working and there are no plumbing leaks and so on. Don’t let the glitter blind you to the obvious. I remember a buyer years ago that just couldn’t wait to buy that special house. Now they finally had a garage to put their boat in. Too bad it didn’t fit.
Don’t Forget How to Count
No matter how much you love that house on the hill if you can’t afford it, don’t try. Keep your expectations realistic and STAY WITHIN BUDGET. Upgrading to a home that will cause financial hardship is not part of the American dream and when the excitement wears off you will find yourself wishing that you had not overextended yourself. There’s nothing worse than finally getting what you want only to lose it. Yet another old saying comes to mind; “T’is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all”. When it comes to your home this is definitely not the case.
Don’t Let a “Fixer Upper” Become a “Fixer Downer”
Its fine if you’ve made the decision to buy a home that needs some work but you must be realistic. Are you positive that you have the money, time AND ability to do the job right? If you have no experience at this type of work or work a demanding schedule you just might find that getting it done is a bit more than you can handle. I’ve heard a lot of horror stories when it comes to this situation so if you’re not 100% confident that you have the ability (and patience) to fix up your home the way that you envision it you might want to consider a residence that’s move-in ready.
The Tortoise Does Not Always Win the Race
I had mentioned earlier not to rush into making an offer before due diligence. The same can be said of procrastinating. If you really love the home and you have done your homework than it is time to make an offer! Just be sure to make an offer that’s fair to both you and the seller and you’re on your way!
If you can avoid these all too common pitfalls you will soon find yourself in a home that the entire family loves and you’ll know that you made the right decision. Just remember to keep your emotions in check and approach your home search as if it were any other business transaction – be rational and calm.
If you saw yesterday’s blog (The Top 5 Best Renovations to Increase the Value of Your Home) you learned what 5 home improvements would bring the best return on your investment dollars. Today we are going to discover the 5 worst investments to consider if you plan to make improvements. I’m not saying that these projects are wrong or that you should not do them but if your primary goal is to increase the value of your home this is not the way to get it done.
#5 – Buyers Want a Home for Their Vehicle Too
Some homeowners make the decision to convert their garage to an additional living space in the home. I’ve seen everything from a billiard room to a Xmas train garden complete with Santa’s North Pole retreat! While this may be great for the current resident the resale value always suffers when the garage is gone. The bottom line is that the best way to protect the value of the home is to leave the garage as it is.
#4 – Leave the Fancy Chandelier in the Mansion
Everyone wants their home to be well lit but expensive lighting fixtures are more “showy” than sensible. As an example, I have seen more than one home with an expensive chandelier or similar lighting fixture in the dining room but was the buyer impressed? – Usually not. That room might be perfect for the new owner’s spare bedroom or home office and if anything that big chandelier would be in the way. Either way the addition of expensive lighting fixtures may or may not impress a particular house hunter but it rarely increase the actual value of the home.
#3 – Laying Down Hard Earned Cash for Carpet Doesn’t Pay
Times have changed. Buyers simply are no longer interested in wall to wall carpet. Hardwood floors are definitely the way to go and may actually increase the value of your home. The fact is that hardwood floors are easier to maintain than carpet and are much healthier as well. If you think that installing thick lavish carpet in the family room is a wise investment, think again.
#2- Less Bedrooms = Less Cash
Much the same as turning the garage into the perfect “man’s cave”, some homeowners decide to convert an existing bedroom into something different such as a library, home office or hobby room. While this may be great for your needs it does absolutely nothing to improve the resale value of your home. Financially speaking it is always best to leave the bedroom as it was originally intended if you want to maximize your home’s value.
#1- Installing a Pool Will Definitely NOT Make a Big Splash with Buyers
The number 1 mistake that homeowner’s make when investing in their home is to install a pool with the hopes of increasing the worth of their home. While this may have been a good idea at one time it is no longer considered as an asset. The truth is that today many people consider a pool to be little more than a liability as well as a maintenance nightmare. Of course there’s nothing wrong with having a pool if you enjoy it but be forewarned that installing a pool is one of the poorest investments that any homeowner can make.
More and more of today’s realtors are learning the true value of technology in their business. Gone are the days of only networking at social gatherings and handing out business cards. Today it’s all about reaching the largest target audience as possible and real estate has become as much “show” as it is “business”.
Marketing is now Worldwide
Back in the day the most effective advertising tool was as simple as an ad in the real estate section of the local newspaper. A lot has changed and now the internet has become the new frontline in the battle for clients. Thanks to new technology not only can home buyers house search from the comfort of their own home computer but mobile devices including cell phones, laptops and tablets put everything within their reach, even when they’re on the go. Best of all technology has now allowed homes for sale to be viewed from anywhere in the world and that can mean big business in certain areas of the country.
Mobile Technology is the Modern Office
No longer do real estate agents find themselves bound to the office. Now it is possible to access files, upload information, contact clients and more from anywhere and that means more “face time” with clients. Time has always been the #1 enemy of all realtors. Sometimes we get so bogged down in paperwork and other administrative duties that it’s almost impossible to make appointments with the ever important client but those days are long gone. Now we can do most of those tasks from almost anywhere and that is a huge advantage. It’s hard to show a new home from an office chair!
Multiple Listings Services are better than Ever Before
MLS’s have been around a long time but today is different. Now we can use these services in conjunction with the internet to allow perspective buyers to “window shop” at their convenience. The internet has become a 24 hour marketplace for home buyers and who doesn’t like shopping?
Socializing Has Taken on a New Meaning
As I had mentioned earlier the days of only meeting large groups of people at the local county fair have ended. With today’s numerous social networking sites available to all “introducing” ourselves to the minions has become a 24 hour possibility and realtors are taking full advantage of this situation. Pictures and information of homes for sale are available at the click of a mouse and realtors have the opportunity to present themselves as “real people” and not just a business fixture. It’s a great way for home buyers and sellers to find an agent that is well suited for their needs.
Taking Technology to a New Level
There are a lot of software packages geared towards realtors but none more impressive than the new virtual staging software on the market. These nifty little bundles of joy can do plenty and one of my favorite capabilities is to be able to take pictures of an empty house and fill it with furniture and all the extras! What better way to help your client envision their perfect dream home?
I can only imagine what’s next in the ever emerging world of technology but I’m sure that it will continue to make all of our hectic lives just a little bit easier!
Do you like gourmet coffee? I love a good cup of coffee and I can’t imagine working the long day of a realtor without at least one cup of Joe, well, until now that is. I have always thought that the local gourmet coffee shops here in Richmond have some of the best quality coffee around but that was before I heard of “Cat Poop”. Ummmm….. Yeah, cat poop.
I’m not kidding. It has been said that the best coffee in the world comes from Indonesia and it’s called Kopi Luwak. This very rare coffee bean has been described by experts (coffee bean experts?) as possessing a very unique flavor that is mild and very smooth. There is the slightest hint of dark chocolate in its complex flavor and a certain secondary (but ever slight) taste of musk and earth. It is said that this rare blend of coffee is so extraordinary that even those of us that prefer cream and sugar in their morning boost would love this coffee black.
When I first heard of this amazing drink I couldn’t wait to give it a try (if I could find it) but that was before I found out the secret to its unique flavor. The complicated and time consuming process required to “prepare” the rare beans includes the digestive system of an animal known as the Asian palm civet. This furry little creature is the secret to the “unique” flavor of Kopi Luwak beans. In short, the creature swallows the beans whole and they are then “harvested” from its feces. They are then cleaned (I should hope so!), fermented, dried and roasted.
As you can imagine the entire process is incredibly time consuming. And the price? Well, I don’t know where to buy it here in Virginia but I do know that is sells for as much as $80 a cup in Japan and South Korea! If it costs that much in Asia, I wonder what it costs here? I was at a local well known coffee shop here in Richmond some time ago and I remember a few of the customers discussing that they thought the coffee was too expensive. I wonder what they would think if it were $80 a cup!
I am very curious but I don’t think I have the courage (or the intestinal fortitude) to try a cup of Kopi Luwak. Aside from the cost I don’t think I could get past the unique “processing” required to produce this gourmet treat but I say “to each his own”!
You probably already have a peephole in your front door, if you don’t you should. Opening the door to a stranger can be a big mistake and how do you know who is there if you can’t see them? But did you know that there is a better alternative than that tiny peephole that we’ve all been peering through all these years?
The latest and greatest front door viewing device is now known as a, you guessed it, door viewer! What’s the big deal you may ask? Well, for one thing the new security devices are much larger than that tiny peephole that you can barely see through. Today you can see a large and clear view of who is at your door from 6 – 7 feet away. The days of squinting at that tiny person in the peephole are gone. Better yet thanks to modern day optics the person on the outside cannot tell if they are being looked at by someone on the inside and even those of us with “older eyes” or glasses can easily see the big bright image.
The new door viewers are actually pretty sophisticated devices that employ the use of prisms and a lens to provide you with a crystal clear 2” view of whomever has decided to pay you a visit. They are inexpensive and easy to install and most easily found with a simple internet search.
Installation will require nothing more than a drill, a 2 3/8 inch hole bit, a 1/8 inch bit and a screwdriver. It’s easiest to drill the hole where the smaller existing peephole is now (if you have one). This will help to keep the bit from “wandering” as you drill.
Drill from the inside out first until the pilot bit in the center protrudes slightly through the outside of the door. Then drill from the outside in using the hole from the pilot bit as your guide. This will help to prevent splintering. Every door viewer will come with a template and you will use that to drill the two 1/8 inch holes for the 2 screws that will hold everything together when you attach the viewer into the lens prism.
The entire process only takes about 10 minutes and is easy for the average person to do. If you’re not comfortable using a drill you could just ask a friend for a few minutes of their time.
Now you have an excellent view of your visitor without the need to squint and they don’t even know it!
Everybody knows that testing your basement for radon gas is always a good idea but did you know that certain types of granite countertops are also suspected of releasing radon? Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction. Although most types of granite do not emit enough radon to be considered a health risk a low percentage of granite counters have shown positive when tested for this very dangerous element.
Radon gas is odorless, tasteless and colorless and can only be detected by using the proper test kit or lab equipment. EPA studies have shown that radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer second only to cigarette smoking. Two important factors that determine if the level of radon that is released into the air is a health hazard include the size of the room where the counter is located and the amount of ventilation available.
Please keep in mind that the overwhelming majority of granite counters do not contain a harmful level of radon, but the possibility does exist. If you have granite countertops it is highly recommended that you have them tested. You can purchase a do-it-yourself radon testing kit in just about any home improvement store and they are very easy to use.
Be sure to follow the instructions for using the test kit properly. The instructions will tell you where to place the test packet(s) and how long to keep them in place for accurate test results. You will then need to mail them to the appropriate lab for testing. Most kits include return envelopes for easy mailing and you will need to record the size of the room that was tested.
Chances are good that you don’t have a problem but if the results do show positive to the presence of radon don’t panic! At this point I would strongly suggest that you contact a testing laboratory in your area and have a more professional analysis performed.
One last important thought to keep in mind: It is more likely that your basement is leaking radon gas than your countertops. If you plan to test your granite counters it is imperative that you test your basement as well. Although both are possible sources of radiation the basement is still the most likely culprit.
Take the time to protect yourself and your family. The peace of mind alone is worth the price of the testing kits and you owe it to yourself and your loved ones to be confident that your home remains the safe and healthy environment that you deserve.