Home Improvement's Popular Posts

Monday, August 22, 2011

Stuck Homeowners Spend Big Bucks on Remodels

Stuck Homeowners Spend Big Bucks on Remodels
Doug Magditch

As the housing market struggles, homeowners are staying put. Rather than selling at a loss, many are working with what they've got.

That means big business for home remodelers.

Ralph Stow started a home remodeling business five years ago, and business is booming. He now owns four different remodeling businesses, under the umbrella Dallas Renovation Group, and he doesn't forsee things slowing down.

"I think people are staying in their homes a little bit longer, and by virtue of that, people have a little bit of disposable income. So, they're really looking at ways where they can make their homes more livable, more energy efficient. They're seeing themselves in their homes longer," said Stow.

That includes people like the Ponds, from Grapevine. With retirement right around the corner, they knew they couldn't afford a dream condo on the beach.

"You start looking at what the potential, having to sell one and moving, and relocating away from the family, and the expense of having to find a second home. For us, it was a no-brainer. We just couldn't do it," said Robert Pond.

Instead, they sunk $80,000 into a home over-haul. Robin Pond sacrificed her beach dream for a dream kitchen.

"I'd always wanted a nice kitchen, with spacious cabinets, that was updated. That's what we did," said Pond.

Contractors say, rather then people spluring on media rooms or wine cellars, most remodels these days are kitchens and bathrooms. They're spending their money on updating and upgrading.

"Now we're kind of back to the basics a little bit, doing more kitchens and bathrooms. We're still doing some large remodels, but again, it's people really saying, 'hey, I'm going to stay in this home and I want to upgrade this home,'" said Stow.

Like many owners at the DFW Home Show, when the market was up the Ponds may have considered selling. Now, they're in it for the long haul.

"It benefited us, at our age right now, to spend the money to get things upgraded to a point that it would last us through the rest of our lives," said Robert Pond.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

5 Home Improvement Projects for Under $25

5 Home Improvement Projects for Under $25

HouseMaster Provides Homeowners With Easy Do-It-Yourself Fixes to Keep Repair Costs Down
BOUND BROOK, NJ--(Marketwire - Aug 8, 2011) - Today's cost conscious home owner is focused on two things: reducing costs and protecting the value of their home. Accordingly, HouseMaster, the first and one of the largest home inspection franchisors in North America, provides homeowners with simple tips on how to maintain and update their homes with fixes that they can inexpensively do on their own.
"One of the biggest mistakes homeowners make is letting small problems turn into big ones," said Kathleen Kuhn, President of HouseMaster. "Home maintenance is crucial since a home is typically the largest investment an average person makes in their lifetime. Proper home maintenance can alleviate the need for large and often costly repairs and protect the value of the home."
HouseMaster provides homeowners with the following five tips that can all be completed for under $25 and can save homeowners thousands down the road.
1. Be aware of termite or carpenter ant damage. Homeowners who diligently check their property and foundation can alleviate serious termite or carpenter ant problems. Before selling or purchasing a home look closely for any signs such as "mud tubes" or wood damage. Also, moving wood piles and debris away from the home can eliminate termite or carpenter ant problems.
2. When it rains, it pours. One of the most common places for water damage is in a bathroom. When grout breaks down water can easily get behind the tiles and cause them to come loose. An easy solution to this is to re-grout, caulk and use sealant on bathroom tile and surrounding fixtures. In other cases, where water penetration is affecting the foundation of a house, a splash box is a cost-efficient solution to direct water away from the foundation.
3. Clean the Gutters. Stained siding under a gutter indicates overflowing, which can cause structural damage. In addition, overgrown vegetation on gutters can cause clogging or potential termite issues. Trimming vegetation away from the house and cleaning gutters offers many advantages and minimizes the risk for potential costly repairs in the future.
4. Replace Rusting Roof Flashings. Flashings deteriorate over time and can allow water penetration, resulting in expensive damage to the underlying roof structure. For under $25 replace roof flashings or apply sealant to the problem area.
5. Seal your Deck. If not properly maintained decks are very susceptible to the effects of weather exposure. Once wood becomes rotted it is more likely to be infested by termites, carpenter ants, etc. Purchase deck sealant at an inexpensive price to seal your deck and prevent future damage.
For additional $25 tips for homeowners or more information on HouseMaster, please visit www.housemaster.com or call (800) 526-3930. For more information on HouseMaster franchise opportunities, please email franchise@housemaster.com.
About HouseMaster:Headquartered in Bound Brook, N.J., HouseMaster is the oldest and one of the largest home inspection franchisors in North America. With more than 365 franchised areas throughout the U.S. and Canada, HouseMaster is the most respected name in home inspections. For over 30 years, HouseMaster has built upon a foundation of solid leadership and innovation with a continued focus on delivering the highest quality service experience to their customers and providing HouseMaster franchisees the tools and support necessary to do so. Each HouseMaster franchise is an independently owned and operated business. HouseMaster is a registered trademark of DBR Franchising, LLC.
For more information please visit www.housemaster.com or call 800-526-3939.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Builders catering to couples who start the night together but end separately

That's it honey, I'll be in the snore room
Builders catering to couples who start the night together but end separately
By Jane Hodges

Judy MacDonald faces a near-nightly domestic conflict. When she wakes around 2 a.m. to her husband’s snoring, she has to decide between migrating to another room or toughing it out beside him in bed and watching TV to block out the noise.

If Judy and her husband, Ross, were in the market for a home today, they could snap one up with a feature designed to solve the problem of late-night sleep incompatibility: The snore room.

Builders specializing in communities for “active seniors” over 55, such as PulteGroup’s Del Webb brand and D.R. Horton, are offering new home designs featuring snore rooms near the master bedroom for couples who can’t always catch a good night’s sleep together due to differing schedules, nocturnal habits or medical conditions.

The concept of the snore room isn’t unknown: Celebrities such as Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, and “Judge Judy” Scheindlin and her husband, reportedly have snore rooms in their homes. Crowne Plaza, the international hotel chain, began testing “snore absorption” rooms this year to cut down on noise in 10 hotels in European and Middle Eastern locations.

But for 55-and-up communities, the concept of a snore room is an outgrowth of the realities couples like the McDonalds experience: Many older adults get into bed together but wind up unable to make it through the night together.

Indeed, as many as 23 percent of married couples don’t sleep side-by-side through the night, up from 12 percent in 2001, according to research cited by Del Webb.

“The chat we hear about on the sales floor is often about nocturnal sleeping habits,” says Andy Pfeifer, VP of sales for PulteGroup in Tennessee. “What we’d see happen before we offered our new floor plan option was that one spouse would be relegated to a secondary bedroom.”

McDonald, an Arizona retiree, said she wishes the concept was available when she and her husband bought in 2008. On the one hand, she doesn’t want to leave the master bedroom to make the trek to the sofa or guest room, which is often occupied by visitors anyway. On the other hand, if she stays at her husband’s side counting sheep while infomercials roll, she won’t get a good night’s rest either.

“It’d be nice to have a little room for when my husband wakes me. I’d be much more likely to use that room than to wander out to the sofa,” says McDonald. “Usually I don’t go in the other room. I turn the TV on, and sometimes it’ll wake him up, and sometimes it won’t.”

Del Webb and D.R. Horton don't specifically refer to snoring but market the new areas as optional “dual owner suites” (Del Webb) or “alternate dual master suites” (D.R. Horton). Both builders say these elements don’t typically change the overall size or price of a home. At Del Webb, for instance, a dual owner suite may mean trimming a little garage storage space or slightly reducing the size of a walk-in closet.

Del Webb has begun offering the dual owner suite configuration as a customization option at communities in Houston and Nashville and will be available in Southern California starting this fall, according to a spokeswoman. D.R. Horton, which is building model homes showcasing the designs at sites in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

John and Jaunita Veasy, a couple in Tennessee, were intrigued by the idea of a dual owner’s suite when they learned of its availability. They’re among the first two buyers to choose one at Lake Providence by Del Webb, a 55-and-up community outside Nashville. Their home should be completed in October.

Jaunita says she and her husband chose the home design because they keep such different schedules. She is still working full time and goes to sleep at 8, rising around 3 a.m. He goes to sleep between 10 and 11 p.m., rising between 6 and 7 a.m.

“If I get up and turn on the TV it wakes him up,” she says. “And sometimes he wakes up at 2 in the morning and makes popcorn, and that wakes me up.”

So their home will offer a room linked to the master bedroom via a pass-through bathroom, but also accessible via a hallway. The couple plan to arrange the room with a day bed and television as well as desk space for Jaunita when she gets up and wants to get on her computer or watch TV.

“In today’s active adult and empty nester communities it's about choice and adaptable home designs,” says Jessica Swanson, a spokeswoman for D.R. Horton.

She adds the room designs aren’t just for senior couples but also can serve extended families. “Flexible home designs such as this are perfect for dual-generation active adults that live in the same home.”

“It’s not something for everybody,” says PulteGroup’s Wong. “No one says, ‘I want another bedroom for my spouse.’ But many say they wind up sleeping separately by the end of the night, even though they start out in bed together.”

The Veasy family says simply that the room offers “dual-purpose” functionality.

“I looked at the floor plan when this became available, and I thought, ‘This is pretty wild,’” says John Veasy. “Because of her late-night antics, we took this option to make the space a dual-purpose room.”

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Millions In Disputes With Builders - Survey

Millions In Disputes With Builders - Survey

More than 2.5 million people have had a dispute with a builder or decorator over the last three years, a survey has revealed.

Householders are advised to get written agreements with builders before work starts
A quarter of those cases saw formal action taken, according to the research by consumer group Which?, with quality of work the most common source of disagreement.
Traders failing to turn up at agreed times, delays over completion, and properties being left untidy were also major causes of complaints.
Which? said the figures showed householders should always have a written agreement in place with builders or decorators in case a dispute breaks out.
The survey revealed quarter of people failed to receive a written quote from their builder or decorator before work began.
As many as 4% were asked to pay the full amount for the job upfront.
Being left hundreds of pounds out of pocket after a bad experience can be a huge blow for families already feeling the pinch.
Which? executive director Richard Lloyd
Trader disputes left two in five people out of pocket, with a quarter feeling they were owed at least £500, and one in 10 saying they had lost more than £1,000.
And while most managed to resolve their quarrel, 15% had to seek the help of a professional body and 18% were forced to spend more money by taking the trader to court.
Richard Lloyd, Which? executive director, said: "Being left hundreds of pounds out of pocket after a bad experience with a builder can be a huge blow for families already feeling the pinch."
Which? Legal Service suggests householders find builders through personal recommendations and obtain three detailed quotes before traders begin work.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Mother-in-law suites growing home trend

Mother-in-law suites growing home trend

Betsy McCann and her husband, Jim Forbes, often worried that his mother was growing isolated in her Los Angeles-area home. At 90, Lois Brokus had stopped driving and was sometimes afraid to be alone in her house.

Jane and William Merrill also decided that they didn't want his mother living on her own any more. Then 81, Jane Merrill, who shares her daughter-in-law's name, was still active but in need of companionship.

Both families considered nursing homes, assisted living and retirement communities. In the end, they came to the same conclusion: Their homes were the best place for their mothers. But they needed more home.

So McCann and Forbes added a 400-square-foot bedroom and bathroom to their Escondido, Calif., home; the Merrills converted a two-car garage at their 8-acre spread in Carmel, a suburb of Indianapolis.

Now, both older women live with their adult children, with a large degree of independence and privacy.

Although it isn't for everyone, it is a choice many families are making. Home builders across the country say they are getting an increasing number of requests for such additions, known as mother-in-law suites, granny flats or accessory dwellings.

According to the National Association of Home Builders, 62 percent of builders surveyed were working on a home modification related to aging in 2010. About one in five builders added an entry-level bedroom.

About 3.5 million American households last year included adult children and their parents — a number expected to rise as the country ages and baby boomers move into retirement, said Nancy Thompson, an AARP spokesperson.

To accommodate the growing demand, AARP teamed up with the home builders' association to create a designation for Certified Aging in Place Specialists, who are trained in designing and modifying buildings for the elderly. About 3,000 builders, contractors, remodelers and architects have been certified.

One is Todd Jackson, CEO of San Diego's Jackson Design and Remodeling, which handled the room addition at McCann's home.

"There's both a physical component and a sensitivity side to these projects. The family needs to take that into account," said Jackson, who noted that aging parents may be reluctant to move into their children's homes, and may worry about losing their independence.

"The transition will go over a lot better if you bring the parent into the conversation," said Jackson. "Ask them: 'What do you need?' 'What color do you want?'"

That's what McCann and her husband did when they decided to build an addition in 2008. Brocas, now 93, was part of the planning.

"We didn't want her to feel like a guest intruding on our house," said McCann. "She kept telling all her friends about how she was involved in the design process, and that the paint colors were her choice."

Brokus now proudly calls the addition, which includes a bedroom, wet bar and wheelchair-accessible doorways and bathroom, "her apartment," said McCann. Every month, she writes a rent check covering the cost of utilities — an act that adds to her sense of independence.

The arrangement has given the family more time together and greater peace of mind, and may have averted a tragedy in July when Brokus suffered a heart attack. Had she been alone, McCann said, she might not have called 911. As it was, she just had to walk a few feet for help.

The addition, which was part of a major renovation to other parts of the house, cost the McCanns $250,000. The average price for a bedroom addition can run from $100,000 to $400,000, depending on size and amenities, according to builders.

For the Merrills, who used a company called Next Door Garage Apartments to do their garage conversion, the cost was much lower.

The Indianapolis-based company remodels two-car garages into complete apartments within 10 days for $35,000. (The Merrills, who converted their garage 11 years ago, paid $25,000).

The company's owner, Susan Jennings, came up with the idea when she was managing a trust department at a bank and often worked with widows yearning to live with their adult children.

Jennings worked with a designer to come up with a dwelling attractive to both the adult children and the older parent. For privacy and independence, the apartment has a separate entrance, full kitchen and wheelchair-accessible features.

"The biggest advantage is that my husband can sit down with her every evening. Because of that constant contact, he has learned much more about his parents and their lives," said the younger Jane Merrill. "He would not have had that if she was in assisted living."

However, both Betsy McCann and Jane Merrill caution that this may not work for every family. For one thing, their mothers-in-law are self-sufficient and do not need daily medical care. In both families, they got along well before moving in together.

"If you can't stand one week or one weekend together, this won't work," said McCann. "You need to have realistic expectations about the impact on your life."

Nancy Thompson, of AARP, offered other tips for families considering building a mother-in-law suite for an aging parent:

— Decide what your expectations are well in advance and make sure everyone agrees. Involve the elderly parent in the process.

— Make sure the addition is built following universal design guidelines. Are counters, bathrooms and doorways wheelchair accessible? Is there a walk-in shower with grab bars? Opt for entry-level additions to eliminate stairs. Look for a contractor or builder with experience in universal design or aging in place.

— Check municipal building codes to make sure that accessory dwellings are allowed.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Animal ingredients often found in home improvement products

Animal ingredients often found in home improvement products

To get serious about having a vegan home, you must look beyond the pantry and the wardrobe. A large number of home improvement products contain animal ingredients. Unfortunately, it is hard to identify all these animal byproducts because most home improvement products are not required to list ingredients.

To avoid animal ingredients, consult the Vegan Society's Animal Free Shopper directory or look for the "no animal ingredients" label. However, note that there is no independent verification of the "no animal ingredients" label. It may mean different things to different manufacturers, and it does not guarantee an avoidance of animal testing.

Here is a partial list of products that may contain animal ingredients. In many cases, synthetic ingredients or petroleum products have largely replaced the animal ingredients, but these substitutes may be a greater concern for some eco-conscious homeowners.


Many hammers, axes, knives and other carpentry tools still have real leather handles. Even if every hammer and knife you own has a 100-percent plastic handle, tool belt and tool aprons are most often made of leather. Some people also have secondary environmental concerns about the chemicals used in leather tanning and production, and the resulting pollution.

Rubber tool parts may also contain animal ingredients, including animal fats and casein, a milk protein derivative.


Casein also is a common binder in paint. It is widely used in natural paints as an alternative to synthetic binders. Some paint colors also include animal ingredients. For example, Golden Paints notes that it uses no animal ingredients, with the exception of bone black pigment, which is derived from ground cattle bones.

Also, many paints and paint ingredients are tested on animals. Even Golden and other companies that avoid animal testing say they cannot guarantee all their suppliers avoid animal testing.


Natural paint brushes have animal-hair bristles. Many are pig hair, but some artists' brushes and other specialty products contain hair from more unusual animals such as the Siberian weasel.


Shellac is made from the secretions and bodies of a tropical insect, and it is used in varnish, as a wood and plaster coating and in electrical insulation, among other uses.

A small number of lubricants still use oil from fish and marine mammals, such as porpoises. However, most modern lubricants are derived from petroleum or synthetic oils.

Notably, WD-40 is not believed to contain animal ingredients. The all-purpose lubricant is a petroleum-based product despite a widespread urban legend about fish oil being the main ingredient. The WD-40 formula is a closely guarded secret, but the U.S. Material Safety Data Sheet lists mineral spirits, liquefied petroleum gas and mineral oil as making up more than 90 percent of WD-40.

Many fatty acids and other animal fat derivatives are used in soaps, detergents and household cleaners. The fatty acids may come from cows, sheep and many other animals, including cats and dogs that were euthanized in animal shelters. If ingredients are listed, animal-based fatty acids may be listed as caprylic acid, lauric acid, myristic acid, oleic acid, palmitic acid and stearic acid. Some of these fatty acids also have plant sources, so you may be able to use products containing them if you can verify the source.

Of course, many fertilizers use animal waste products, but a cow is unlikely to miss its manure. However, bone meal is also widely used in garden and lawn fertilizers. The ground animal bones are also used in toothpastes and vitamins, but animal-free alternatives, such as vegetable compost and vegan toothpaste, are widely available.


Laminated wood and interior doors sometimes contain adhesives made with casein glue, which is derived from a milk protein.


Another animal-based adhesive is blood glue, which is a slaughterhouse byproduct. It has traditionally been combined with soybean protein to make an adhesive for soft plywood. However, the formula has largely been replaced with a synthetic adhesive.

This is a partial list of home improvement products with animal ingredients. Keep in mind that not every paint or fertilizer contains animal products, but some do, and the animal content may be worth considering in shopping choices.


Vegan Society's Animal Free Shopper directory: http://www.vegansociety.com/afssearch.aspx

Monday, August 1, 2011

Remodeling broadens food format at Target

Deal of the Week
Remodeling broadens food format at Target

Target has completed remodeling the bulk of its 20 Houston-area stores slated for a new format designed to bring more fresh grocery items to the chain nationwide.
"You'll find fresh items that frequently top weekly shopping lists, like bananas, seasonal fruit, baby carrots, meats and chicken," said Kristin Jahnke of Target. "It's really about added convenience."
Target is adding about 10,000 square feet of grocery space to the typical 135,000-square-foot store. The stores will have 40 percent more food offerings, including prepackaged baked goods such as dinner rolls and pies, fruits, vegetables, packaged meats and dairy goods. SuperTarget stores, by comparison, average 186,000 square feet and offer a full line of groceries.
The concept was first tested in Minneapolis in 2008 and was rolled out on a wide scale last year. By the end of 2010, 450 stores offered the new format and another 380 stores are being remodeled this year. Stores with the new format show an increase of 6 percent in sales and traffic, Jahnke said.
Completed renovations
300 Meyerland Plaza
2580 Shearn
13250 Northwest Freeway
984 Gessner
1100 Lake Woodlands Drive, The Woodlands
4323 San Felipe
25901 U.S. 290, Cypress
4510 Garth Road, Baytown
19955 Katy Freeway
6955 Texas 6 North, Copperfield
21515 Tomball Parkway
23912 Commercial Drive, Rosenberg
6801 FM 1960, Willowbrook
8605 Westheimer
to be completed by October
10801 Westheimer, Westchase
202 Texas 332 West, Lake Jackson
6128 Broadway, Galveston
14302 FM 2920, Tomball
12701 FM 1960, Steeplechase
32858 FM 2978, Magnolia
There are 20 Target and 13 SuperTarget stores in the Houston area.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Corral de Tierra Marketplace opens after long remodel

Corral de Tierra Marketplace opens after long remodel

Written by Robert Walch

Nanci Linares and Lonnie Wigham realized a long-cherished dream when the Corral de Tierra Marketplace opened a week ago. The two women, friends since they were young girls, had always wanted to own their own business and when the opportunity availed itself last year, they seized it.

Noticing that the building at 2 Corral de Tierra Road, a former grocery store on the corner of Highway 68, was empty, Linares approached the property's owner, whom she knew, to see if he'd be interested in opening a new store there. Although he declined, he suggested she consider leasing the site instead.

"It had always been a dream of mine to have a business like this where I could use all my prior experiences," Linares said. Why not open a restaurant closer to her Pacific Grove home rather than a deli/market?

"Location! Location! Location!" she responded, explaining that the site made the decision.

At that point Linares contacted her girlhood friend, Wigham, who was living in Scottsdale, Ariz., and managing a food store.

"When Nanci called me in Arizona to explain this opportunity, I was delighted to join her," Wigham said. "I knew the site and couldn't believe it was available.

"I had always thought that that was the ideal location for a store like ours."

As Linares' business partner, Wigham oversees

"the front of the house" — the groceries — while Linares handles the "business end" or back office part of the venture.

Getting the Corral de Tierra Marketplace off the ground was more complicated than either woman expected. They had hoped to be open by the first of the year but remodeling the interior of the building posed a number of unexpected hurdles.

The plumbing and electrical systems had to be brought up to code and a new bathroom had to be added. At times the process was a bit disheartening, but both Linares and Wigham were willing to tackle all the "surprises" that extended the remodeling process to nearly seven months.

Most frustrating of all was discovering that some people have been using the back of the lot as an impromptu dump site. Just recently, Linares said, they found a whole truckload of yard waste had been unloaded there. They hope the installation of a security camera will put a stop to that problem.

"We really appreciated the support of those in the area who continually encouraged us through the ordeal," said Wigham, now a Corral de Tierra resident. "They stood by us and gave us the strength to keep going."

With about 2,400 square feet to work with, the women have divvied up the space to fit in a deli work area as well as display shelving for grocery items, a fresh produce section, an ample wine display and refrigeration cases.

Using her experience in the grocery sector, Wigham ordered the "staples" that a person would need on a regular basis or on short notice. These items include fresh bread, dairy items, produce, some canned goods and cleaning products.

She stressed that this part of the marketplace is a work in progress. As customers tell her what they need, she'll "tweak" the offerings to reflect their requests.

The store's upscale wine collection will feature local vintages from both the Salinas and Carmel valleys as well as from other sections of the state.

Besides an espresso bar and variety of salads, cold meats and cheese, the deli will offer a daily special plus seven "house" sandwiches. The sandwiches include the Corral de Tierra (a veggie combination), the Toro Park (tuna salad with lettuce, tomato, pepperoni and jack cheese on sourdough) and the Laguna Seca (a combination of roasted turkey, ham and roast beef with cheddar, tomato, lettuce and avocado).

Linares grew up on the Monterey Peninsula, attended school in Carmel and worked in the restaurant and catering business. She was employed by Clint Eastwood at the Hog's Breath Inn for a number of years and then Toots Lagoon, another well-known Carmel watering hole.

Most recently, Linares worked for Sodexo, a large corporation that operates the food service at California State University, Monterey Bay. She was in human resources and then became the sales catering coordinator on campus.

Born and raised in Monterey, Wigham has managed grocery stores, run a café and sold real estate during a multi-faceted career.

Looking ahead to the end of the year, Linares and Wigham hope that by then they will have refined the marketplace's merchandise mix to reflect what local residents want.

Obviously, they want the Corral de Tierra Marketplace to be well on its way to becoming the preferred destination for those who live along the Highway 68 corridor and want a good sandwich, a fresh cup of coffee, or need to pick up a few items for lunch or dinner.

Linares said she's trying to find out more about the history of the building. Constructed in the 1940s and once used as a dance hall, it has been the site of two grocery stores as far as she knows.

"We'd like to learn as much as we can about how the structure was used over the years and perhaps write up a little history to post in the market," she said. "I think it would be fun to share that story."

Thursday, July 28, 2011

What to do when house lingers unsold

What to do when house lingers unsold

By Michele Lerner

The real estate market in the Washington metro area has been luckier than most in maintaining its stability, but it has by no means been immune to the economic downturn.

While homes in some neighborhoods have managed to hold their value and even experience price increases, in others, homes still languish on the market. Sellers have a few options available if their home stays on the market too long, including lowering the price, making some home improvements or renting their home while waiting for the market to improve.

“In the D.C. area, most homes should sell within no more than 60 days if they are properly priced and in good condition,” said Valerie Blake, an associate broker with Prudential Carruthers Realtors in the District. “There are three things that determine whether a home sells and for how much: location, condition and price. You can’t control the location, so you have to look at the condition and price if something is not selling.”

Heather Elias, a Realtor with Century 21 Redwood Realty in Ashburn, Va., said sometimes the lack of an offer is market-dependent and sometimes it is simply about the house itself.

“If a home is getting showings but no offers, you can look at the feedback from other agents and see if the problem is the price or the condition of the property,” Mrs. Elias said. “If there are no showings at all, then the problem is usually the price.”

Mrs. Elias recommended that frustrated sellers visit three other properties on the market in their area that are comparable in size and price to evaluate the differences.

“You have to look at homes like a buyer,” Mrs. Elias said. “For instance, if two houses are similar, but one has granite counters and yours doesn’t, you either need to drop the price or make adjustments to the condition. It depends on what the issue is as to which choice makes more sense.”

Home sellers who are not getting many showings should carefully evaluate the marketing efforts of their real estate agent. Most buyers today first sift through properties online, so if your home does not have enough photos that show the home at its best or does not appear on a variety of websites with property listings, it may be time to push your Realtor to do more marketing.

While all Realtors recommend pricing a property appropriately from the beginning, they also acknowledge there is an art and a science to setting the listing price.

“The hardest part for sellers is to recognize that the real estate market is fluid, with some areas coming back more quickly than others,” saidDebra Swann, a Realtor with Long & Foster Real Estate in Mitchellville. “It is best to get the price right within the first six weeks a home is on the market, because if you have a house on the market too long and you keep dropping the price, you look desperate.”

Mrs. Elias said if houses in your area are selling and yours is not, a price reduction may be required to at least bring your property in line with others on the market.

“Pricing a home is very specific to the owner’s situation and how quickly they want to sell the property,” Mrs. Elias said.

Other options besides lowering the price include staging the home and making improvements.

Mrs. Elias said it may be time to bring in a professional stager if your home is comparable in size and condition to others that are going under contract, but you still are not getting offers.

“A stager can make a house show better,” Mrs. Elias said.

Sellers need to be cautious about overspending on a stager or for home improvements to make sure they do not reduce their potential profits.

“There are plenty of inexpensive ways to give a place pizzazz and to differentiate yourself from other places on the market,” Ms. Blake said. “For example, you can put a stone or glass backsplash in the kitchen for a little bit of money or paint an accent wall to draw attention to the house rather than the furniture. Some of the best things sellers can do are free, such as decluttering. But sometimes it makes sense to spend a few hundred dollars on some improvements that make a home show better.”

Sellers can offer incentives to buyers, such as closing cost assistance, but they also can work with their agent to offer an enticement to buyers’ agents.

“Sometimes people offer a bonus to the buyer’s agent to encourage them to bring their clients to the property,” Ms. Swann said. “It is important, too, to make sure the seller’s agent is holding open houses for other brokers and actively marketing the property to them as well as directly to buyers.”

Mrs. Elias said that while some builders and Realtors offer a buyer’s agent bonus, she said the commission each agent earns should have no bearing on whether they show one house or another.

Some frustrated sellers opt to take their home off the market temporarily, but Ms. Swann said a home must be off the market for six months before it is treated as a newly listed home on the multiple listing service.

“Sometimes sellers want to temporarily stop showing the house in order to have it on the market at a busier time, such as in the spring or fall market,” Ms. Blake said.

Mrs. Elias said agents easily can see whether a home has been on and off the market, so she said it only makes sense to do this if a homeowner wants to sell at a different time of year or wants to stop showings to make improvements to the property.

“Sometimes moving out can help you sell a home, especially if you put in new appliances, fresh paint and carpet and some new landscaping, because that can make a home look new,” Ms. Swann said.

A vacant home can be easier to sell because it is always available for showings, but sometimes, Mrs. Elias said, a home just looks better furnished.

Some sellers opt to rent their home for a year or two, hoping for a market turnaround by the time the lease ends.

“Sellers need to be prepared to spruce up the home in order to attract a renter and then to fix it up again with new carpet, new paint and perhaps new appliances when they put it back on the market,” Ms. Swann said.

Ms. Blake said with rents rising in this area, sellers may have a better chance of the rental income covering their mortgage, but she said they need to consider the difficulty of selling the property with a tenant still on the premises.

Two other options are to sell the home at an auction or to investors who advertise quick sales for cash, but Realtors say both of those scenarios typically result in a relatively low sales price compared to the market.

“You can always try burying a St. Joseph statue in your backyard, which is supposed to bring luck to home sellers,” Mrs. Elias said. “They even make environmentally friendly statues now of clay called ‘EcoJoe.’ “Since thousands of homes sell each month in the Washington area, one of these tactics is likely to result in a sale — with or without a little help from St. Joseph.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Women's Roles in Home Improvement

Women's Roles in Home Improvement

The Do-it-yourself home improvement market used to only occupied by men, but now women are catching up with men when it comes to house projects. According to a study completed by the Home Improvement Research Institute, do-it-yourself projects at home are being completed by more and more women. $70 billion of home improvement purchases are made by women and that's a $16 billion increase in the last 16 years. Also, forty-four percent of do-it-yourself projects are now completed by women and fifty percent of most home improvement purchases are made by women.

Men still are the main buyers of tools. Men are also more eager to hire female construction specialists now as well because women construction specialists are more likely to understand what areas of the home are important to other women (areas often overlooked by males). Home improvement marketing has focused more attention on women as a result of this trend.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Home Improvement: A Roofing Material with Real Mettle

Home Improvement: A Roofing Material with Real Mettle

Because of affordability and ease of installation, asphalt shingles have long been the No. 1 residential roof choice. However, metal roofs have slowly become a closer contender.

Though metal roofs may cost more up front than asphalt shingle roofs, they can be much more durable. Their lifetime is pegged anywhere from 40 to 60 years, versus 15 years for asphalt, says Mike Kowal, president of Custom-Bilt Metals, which manufactures metal roofs. Adds Thomas Black, executive director of the Metal Roofing Alliance, "By choosing a metal roof, it's the last time most homeowners will have to put on a roof."

Besides longevity, metal roofs also can be more energy efficient - a "cool" solution because reflective coatings can be applied to the base metal and reduce how much heat enters a home, Kowal says.

Aesthetics are yet another plus. They come in a variety of configurations, from standing seam to stamped panels and shingles. And with Kynar(r)-based pigments, they can add vibrant color that withstands strong sunlight for decades.

Before proceeding, know a few potential downsides:

• Metal may dent during a major hail storm, but still will maintain its strength and performance ability, says architect Scott Rappe, of Kuklinski + Rappe Architects in Chicago. "If your area is prone to hail, consider a higher weight metal panel," he says.

• Hire an experienced pro to install it since it takes more skill than putting on asphalt shingles, says Kowal.

• If you plan to move within a few years, you may not recoup your full investment, but should see some increased value, says Bob Kulp, director of the National Roofing Contractors Association.

Monday, July 25, 2011

10 Green Tips for Summer Remodeling

10 Green Tips for Summer Remodeling
Save money and make your remodel a little greener.
By Heather Pritchard

Thinking about remodeling your kitchen, bathroom or outdoor area this summer? Lately, I've seen Home Depot and Lowe's hoping with customers and full of discounts, which inspired me to find ways to not only save some money, but make those do-it-yourself remodels a bit greener.

Even if you aren't doing it yourself, you can still make greener choices—although some may not be lighter on the pocketbook. As my husband and I have found out, not every green alternative is a cheaper one, so you have to weigh your conscience with your ability to pay. However, there are always many options to get what you want at a price that's right.

Here are a few options:
Go with sustainable products. Bamboo, cork and other materials are made from sustainable resources that are easy to replace. Bamboo for example, is a grass that grows quickly unlike many hardwoods that come from trees and take years to re-grow. There are many discount dealers for sustainable products, like bamboo.
If you don't want the sustainable products, another option is to go recycled. There are many brands of recycled products for flooring and countertops that use recycled glass and reclaimed wood to give you a unique product that is sturdy and stunning at the same time.

Can't afford the recycled alternatives? Try used! One interesting resource is Orange County's Habitat for Humanity's Restore. They sell items that have been donated to Habitat for Humanity and the proceeds go toward building more homes in Orange County. Another option is Builder's discount centers where you could find products that the previous owner didn't like or it wasn't what they ordered. You can purchase what they didn't want at a bargain price. Better in your home than a landfill! Technically reused to me.

What about all those tools you need to do your work? How about borrowing them if you don't need to own? Someone always has an uncle or friend who owns way too many tools. Maybe they are willing to come and help as well, it never hurts to ask.

Go green with your decorating supplies. When ever possible, go for low VOC paints, organic fabrics and sustainable wallpapers. 

Thinking of redoing the front yard? Go native! Ditch that turf and use drought tolerant alternatives for your front yard. The water savings alone can help pay for this renovation. And it doesn't have to be boring. Does it mean you have to ditch green? No, there are alternatives to the traditional grass. I am going to be trying an alternative myself in my own backyard. I will share how that goes once it is installed. Keep tuned in.

New lighting? Skip the incandescent and the Compact Fluorescents and go LED! They are more expensive initially, but will last longer than your CFL's and will save you just as much money. And if you are really feeling ambitious, you can add daylighting—the use of natural sunlight to augment light in your home. Add a skylight or solar tube (hole in the roof that brings sunlight to a room in your home that doesn't have a window) in your home. 

Reuse anything possible. Maybe you have something that's not quite working where it is now—try moving it. Our most recent project at my house was a bunch of river stones in the backyard. I moved them to the front and used them as mulch to cover bare ground. They serve the same purpose and added a much needed detail that our front yard was missing. They will also come in handy when we finally "go native."

It's not an easy task, but buy American if you can. The more local it is the better. We live in an Ikea world where the most affordable options are most likely things not made in the USA. Overstock.com has "Made in the U.S.A." options as well as manufacturers who advertise proudly that their products are made right here in the U.S.
Do your research. There is so much information that cannot be covered in one article about household hazards. A great resource is the The Green Home Guide. They give you their picks for green options from countertops to flooring.

Not everything you do in your renovation has to be green, not even one thing if that's what you choose. But it is important to know there are many options out there. It doesn't hurt to educate yourself. You never know, you might actually like one of them. And it's not just about being green, there are real health benefits to avoiding some of the products out there. The best thing we can do is educate ourselves and learn as much as we can before we make big changes and choices for our homes.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Designer Lane Offers Painless Home Remodeling

Designer Lane Offers Painless Home Remodeling

For the last few years, DIY (Do It Yourself) has been all the rage, with numerous television shows helping to fuel the rise of Do It Yourselfers. For some individuals, DIY can be a fun and rewarding experience, especially if those individuals have previous construction experience, great connections, a knack for building things, tremendous patience, or all of the above.
There is an experienced and reliable, yet new and innovative organization in the DFW Metroplex that aims to save their clients lots of time, lots of money and the obligatory headaches that usually accompany home remodeling projects. Designer Lane recently opened its beautiful 1,500 sq. ft. showroom in Hurst, and according to CEO Charly Everett, “We hope to change the public’s perception about the way to remodel their home, all the while educating our clients to help them avoid the pitfalls that unfortunately await those who are less experienced. Our vast experience dealing with clients who have experiences fire and flood damage to their homes, and working under the worst situations, really gives us a unique perspective on how to truly be a service provider.”
For the average person, Designer Lane suggests the DDIY (Don’t Do It Yourself) approach. There are many potholes on the road from the beginning of a dream design in one’s head until it is finally complete and everything is functioning properly. Often times, eagerness on the part of the homeowner and the yearning to be self-sufficient works against them, and this is never truer than when it comes to design and remodeling.
The internet has helped people have increasingly grand visions of the type of beautiful kitchen or bath they desire, and this is both good and bad. Many folks will look up some designs online, and from there plan a big Saturday to go out and get their entire remodeling project laid out in a few short hours. In their minds, a morning trip to one of the big box retailers will have them done and home in time to attend their kid’s soccer or baseball game. Once bombarded with an avalanche of design information, reality usually smacks would be designers in the face, which can cause lots of frustration and wasted money.
To get the kind of beautiful kitchen and/or bath you truly desire, and avoid the plentiful potholes along the way, check out the Designer Lane approach. The folks that make up the leadership of Designer Lane have been in the construction business for nearly 40 years, and unlike the big box retailers and most contractors, Designer Lane provides a truly turnkey project from design to installation, utilizing their own people to do so. According to the good folks at Designer Lane, the time, money and headaches you save will be well worth it.
Designer Lane is located at 113 Souder Drive, Hurst, TX. To ask a question or set an appointment, call 817.268.0000.