Wednesday, May 23, 2007

How to Prepare Your Outdoor Living Space for Summer

(ARA) - Memorial Day and Labor Day are traditionally viewed as the unofficial beginning and end of summer. Between holidays, life shifts outdoors as many homeowners make the most of the season. To enjoy as much time outside as possible, homeowners are increasingly taking advantage of their decks and patios to create true outdoor living spaces.

Now more than ever, homeowners view their outdoor living areas as extensions of the home rather than as separate, rarely-used spaces. As the outdoor living trend continues to grow, homeowners are expanding the look and feel of their home’s interior, including the design, furnishings and entertainment features, outside.

The evolving outdoor living trend also enables homeowners to enhance one of the most valuable investments they have -- their homes. By creating yard space, and adding or upgrading deck and patio spaces, many are seeing a return on their remodeling and renovation investments.

No matter how you choose to embrace the outdoor living lifestyle, there are a few things you can do to prepare for and make the most of your summer. For those who already have an outdoor living space, like a deck, it’s time to prepare for the season.

Beyond cleaning, organizing and sprucing up, you should also evaluate your deck or patio’s overall condition and determine whether or not you need a replacement -- or even an upgrade. A few things to consider are: the condition of the current material, the size of your space and if it meets your needs, the amount of maintenance your current deck or patio requires and whether or not you have the time it takes. If you decide that you need a new deck or an upgrade, start planning now.

If you’re already planning to build a new deck, first decide what material you prefer -- composite decking, wood or other materials. Many homeowners are opting for composite decks because high-quality composites offer the look of real wood, but don’t require a lot of maintenance. Because it doesn’t require sanding, painting or staining, composite decking enables homeowners to spend more time actually enjoying their decks instead of caring for them. In fact, according to a recent consumer survey conducted by national research firm Synovate for TAMKO Building Products, four out of five homeowners prefer decking materials that: don’t need to be painted, stained or sanded; don’t cause splinters; have a warranty of 25 years or more and are slip-resistant. Composite decking materials, like EverGrain and Elements from TAMKO, have all of these features as well as a true-to-life grain. For additional information about composite decking materials, a deck building checklist and more decking ideas, visit

If you’re starting from scratch to prepare your outdoor living space, begin by determining desired uses for the space. For example, do you want it to be functional for entertaining often or more for relaxation? Once you determine desired uses, you can begin to create a space that suits your lifestyle. For ideas, check out magazines, home and garden TV shows, home décor catalogues and friends’ projects. Keep an ideas folder of designs, fabrics and looks that you like and then take your time finding just the right combination for your outdoor living space.

So you can enjoy your outdoor living space as much as possible this summer, make sure your chosen materials and features suit your lifestyle and tastes. And as with many things, a little up-front planning and care will ensure that your outdoor living space will be an increasingly important and enjoyable part of your home for many years.

Courtesy of ARAcontent

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Look inside your bathroom

Your bathroom is probably your first stop in the morning and your last stop at night before bed. For as much time as we spend in the bathroom, many of us don't spend the time decorating or personalizing it - unless it's with clutter.

Whether you have a lot or a little to spend on brightening your bathroom, these tips will help you kiss boring bathrooms goodbye!

.Go simple. Use soft, subtle colors that are calming. Bold colors may be a shock to your system in the morning.

.Clear off your countertop. Only display what is needed with minimal decoration. .Lay down a comfortable rug in front of your sink. Your toes will thank you.

.Hide the trashcan under the sink along with extra toilet paper.

.If you have a small bathroom, stay away from the medicine cabinet-mirror combo. A simple mirror on the wall above the sink will make the room seem larger.

.An over-the-door rack can dry towels. Use the bars for decorative towels.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Renting Versus Buying: A Guide to Help You Decide

(ARA) - Buying a home is one of the most important decisions a person can make. After years of living with parents, with college classmates in dorms, or alone in an apartment, the time may come that buying a house or condominium will improve one’s financial stability and sense of personal security.

“There are advantages and disadvantages to both purchasing a home for a primary residence and renting temporary living quarters,“ says Peter Palko, adjunct instructor at Brown Mackie College -- Findlay. “I recommend that buyers take a broader, more flexible approach to buying property by maintaining alignment with their short and long term personal and financial goals. Spend as much time and effort shopping for a mortgage as you do shopping for a house.”

While renting does have its benefits -- for example, fixed costs for the lease term, generally less work in property maintenance, and smaller upfront investment -- Palko believes that the advantages for buying outweigh the disadvantages.

“The bottom line is, a person will own something with equity growth potential, tax advantages and opportunity to build a respectable credit history,” says Palko. For the first-time buyer, Palko advises the following: “Educate yourself on the types of homes, market conditions and tax implications. Is it a ‘buyers’ or ‘sellers’ market? And finally, secure the help of a professional real estate agent -- a realtor who is a buyer’s agent who represents the interest of you, the buyer.”

Once you decide it is indeed time to buy a home, the next step is to decide where to live, and start saving. “Before deciding to buy a home, you need to take time to reflect and plan,” says Dan McClish, Director of the Business and Accounting Technology programs at Brown Mackie College -- Akron. “Make a list of the things in a house that are important to you.” These items can include the quality of school districts, proximity to stores, hospitals and access to public transportation.

Taking a detailed look at the overall market in the area is important. “If the market area is developing and showing signs of becoming a major commerce area in the near future, then it may be the best time to invest in a home,” says McClish. “However, if the real estate market has remained stable over time, or has decreased, then you may want to consider renting for now.”

Regarding finance, a first-time home buyer should start saving today by setting aside at least 10 percent of his or her income towards the down payment on a future home, according to McClish. “This will give you a purpose and a goal toward home ownership. Even if you are currently renting, chances are, you will eventually want to buy a home. As you aim toward saving for the down payment, start looking at areas in which you would like to live.”

One final piece of advice: “Do not make purchasing a home a last-minute decision,” says McClish. “Do some investigation, and it will pay off in the future.”

Courtesy of ARAcontent

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Selling Your Home in a Buyer's Market
Tips from the Pros on Getting the Price You Want in the Shortest Time

(ARA) - By now you’ve read the headlines announcing the current housing rut. Too many homes are on the market, causing slow sales and falling asking prices. While it’s the perfect time to buy a home, it is certainly more challenging to sell your home. But don’t despair. With tips from the pros you can sell your home in the shortest time and get the best return on your investment. Here’s how.

Do a Drive By

Drive down your street and view the front of your home. Does it look inviting? Well cared for? If not, do something to make your home more enticing from the curb.

According to Mary Lou McHenry, one of Howard Hanna Smythe Cramer’s Best of the Best and one of the top 5 percent of all realtors nationally, “Most sales are made or broken the second a prospective buyer pulls in front of your home.”

Make sure the outside is as attractive as the inside. Weed, cut the grass, edge the beds, trim the hedges and plant flowers. Next, paint or power-wash your siding to give it a fresh appearance. Home improvement expert Leslie Segrete, who has tackled thousands of projects on home-makeover shows such as “While You Were Out” and “Trading Spaces,” recommends adding exterior lighting on pathways and architectural features such as a trellis or archway to the landscaping. “This will add depth and dimension to the home,” she says.

One Foot in the Door

Once they open the door, how will the prospective buyer feel? In this business, appearances are everything, so McHenry advises sellers to make sure the entryway is impeccable. She says, “You’ll want to create a sense of excitement so they can envision themselves coming home and walking through that same door.”

There should be no shoes and no clutter. The front hall closet should have minimal hanging coats and jackets. All sports equipment and miscellaneous items should be removed or stored on shelves in attractive baskets. Segrete recommends purchasing an attractive rug or floor runner to draw the eye into the home.

She adds, “Walls should be freshly painted or at a minimum, the trim should be touched up and clean. Chipped and peeling paint, scratches and dings on the walls can make the home seem old and not well cared for.”

Realtor McHenry agrees, “Those are definite red flags for buyers who may not want to spend the time fixing the home up after they buy it.”

Touching Allowed

Once in the home, potential buyers will touch, turn and open everything. So ensure it is all in working order, especially when it comes to faucets and fixtures.

In the bathroom, look at the sink, faucets, bathtub and accessories. Do they look clean and up to date? Rust and water stains and leaks or drips will be a definite turn-off signaling the age of the home and potential problems to come in the future.

“Switch out or replace the faucet and accessories for a quick upgrade in your bathroom,” advises Segrete. “Go with a faucet that has sleek styling, like the single-handle Icon faucet from Moen.” The transitional style faucet blends with most bath décor and the matching accessories such as a towel ring, robe hooks and glass shelf will pull the room together for a coordinated look.

For the kitchen, you may want to update the faucet as well. If appliances will be included, be sure they are clean inside and out.

Nothing Personal

“While you may love your family photo wall, or your collection of antiques, the goal is for the prospective buyers to envision themselves in your home -- not see you still living there,” says McHenry. She recommends removing as many personal items as you can from your walls and shelves.

In the kitchen, clear the refrigerator of pictures, drawings and magnets. Then clean and organize your cabinets, drawers and closets, because the prospective buyers will look in there too. Even if it looks sparse, it will appear more spacious and open, which are key selling points.

“Be prepared to do the work on your home, before listing it,” says McHenry. A critical eye is your best tool. Walk through each room to be sure it appears clean and uncluttered. With these tips, you’ll beat the odds -- selling your home in the shortest amount of time without having to lower the asking price.

For more information on Moen’s Icon faucet visit For more information and helpful home improvement tips from Leslie Segrete visit or her radio show Web site,

Courtesy of ARAcontent

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Staged to Sell In a Soft Real Estate Market

(ARA) - Selling your home can be a challenge that may seem especially daunting in a softer real estate market. If you decide now is the time to sell, there are several aspects that can make your home more attractive to potential buyers. Following this advice may help justify your asking price and attract buyers.

Setting the stage:

There is a science to selling your home and in tight economic times, you want the exact elements to combine for successful selling opportunities. Dozens of online resources help guide you in staging your home to appeal to potential buyers. One of the more popular sites, Home and Garden Television (HGTV) offers these ideas:

1. What an entrance! The outside of your home is the all-important first impression. And like it or not, it speaks volumes about what’s inside -- and about its owner. Glossy paint in a bold, cheerful color for the front door, new hardware, a doormat and seasonal potted plants on the porch will dramatically brighten and refresh your home’s entry and make a welcoming statement.

2. Create spaces Part of what stagers do is create fantasy spaces: an exercise room, a meditation space, an art studio or a family game room. If a room currently only gathers junk, repurpose it into something that will add to the value -- and enjoyment -- of the home. Adding an armchair, a small table, and a lamp in a stairwell nook will transform an area into a cozy reading spot.

3. Brilliant natural light Take off old, heavy drapery and put up something light and airy. This allows natural light and makes a previously closed-in space seem larger. Simple sheers on a tension rod are great for screening an unattractive view and providing some privacy while letting in light and visually enlarging a room. If privacy is paramount, top-down, bottom-up shades will block the neighbors’ view of your bathtub but still let you gaze at the sky while you soak in the tub.

Pella Designer Series windows and doors feature top-down or bottom-up shade options tucked neatly between panes of glass, so there’s no clutter of traditional room-side blinds and no need for dusting. The beauty of this product is since the window treatments are included in the window, their purchase price can be built into the mortgage.

Brand name windows

In today’s competitive market, buyers look for brand names everywhere in a home. While a name brand range or a countertop are influencers in the kitchen, so are quality name brand windows and entry doors throughout the home. Many sellers list Pella windows and doors by name in ads, adding a mark of distinction about a home offered for sale. More than just a quality name, Pella offers quality products in its wood, vinyl and fiberglass composite window collections. Plus, Pella has long been a leader in creating energy-saving products. The company was recently named a 2007 ENERGY STAR partner of the year winner among window manufacturers.

With Pella, homeowners can expect excellent performance, energy efficiency and peace of mind, knowing their investment in quality windows and doors will bring years of performance and satisfaction.

Only Pella offers its Rolscreen insect screen for windows and patio doors, which rolls out of sight when not in use. Another eye-catching option is the virtually transparent Vivid View insect screen which allows in more natural light and ventilation offering great views from inside or out.

Women as influencers and buyers

Knowing your audience is especially important when selling your home. Women directly purchase or influence the purchase of 91 percent of all new homes, according to the Business Women’s Network.

In today’s market, single women homebuyers are an especially powerful consumer segment -- 51 percent of American women live without a spouse according to the New York Times.

According to trend researcher Iconoculture, single women homeowners as a segment is “on the verge of a virtual marketplace takeover as women delay marriage until later in life and enjoy greater financial, intellectual and emotional independence than ever before.” According to the National Association of Realtors, single women purchased 1.76 million homes from July 2005 to July 2006 -- 22 percent of the housing market and more than double the 9 percent of homes bought by their single male counterparts.

Make sure your home is designed to sell and direct your efforts to the highly influential female market as buyers, decision-makers and passionate decorators.

For more information on home improvement featuring windows and doors, contact a local Pella Window & Door Showroom expert by calling (888) 84-PELLA or logging on to

Courtesy of ARAcontent

Updated Yards

Concrete patios and rock gardens are things of the past - today's consumers want large, open yards where they can envision children throwing the ball around and dogs playing fetch! Contact me today for all of your real estate and home improvement needs!

Thursday, May 10, 2007

How to Choose the Perfect Bouquet for Mother’s Day

(ARA) - Whether it’s your grandmother, mother, wife or friend, flowers continue to remain one of the most popular gifts to give on Mother’s Day. Make this her most memorable Mother’s Day yet by giving her something that reflects her unique personality and style. From contemporary to casual, Laura Milder, ProFlowers designer and floral expert, offers tips on how to make sure your bouquet selection will be the perfect fit for the personality and style of that special mom in your life.

Modern mom – She’s hipper than you, always has the latest editions of “Vogue” and “Vanity Fair,” and knows what’s “hot” before everyone else. For mothers that are always keeping up with the latest in fashion and design, shopping for flowers online is a surefire way to match the right bouquet to her contemporary style. This Mother’s Day, trends point towards simplicity and taking a break from the hectic pace of life. Monochromatic bouquets such as french tulips and dendrobium orchids or potted orchids have a very modern look. Short arrangements have a very hip appearance when placed in small round or square vases.

A “cause” for celebration – She is a nurse, chef, therapist and best friend all rolled into one. If you recognize this “super” mom, choose a flower arrangement that also makes a difference. Select a bouquet that gives back to a charity of your mom’s choice, such as one from the ProFlowers Pink Ribbon Collection, which raises money and awareness for breast cancer. For mom’s who are a little more eco-friendly, chose an organic arrangement or go for a beautiful flowering plant or bulb garden that will be admired long after Mother’s Day.

A mother like no other – A free-spirited mom lives in the moment and never misses a beat; she loves to get creative and always has a paintbrush or camera close by. A great way to mirror your mom’s unique personality is to add some personal touches to your gift. Collect old pieces of broken china and porcelain to create a unique mosaic vase or let your inner artist out by painting a flower clay pot with a personal message or design. Any “original” mom will love this unique work of art, whether it's outside in the garden or inside on the windowsill.

A twist on the traditional – Dinner at six, coffee at seven and bedtime at ten. For moms and grandmothers who tend to stick to their everyday routine, there are many time-honored, traditional floral arrangements to choose from. Graceful bouquets of pale pink roses, purple butterfly asters or white lilies are ideal for Mother’s Day. Presentation is everything, so add a little twist by wrapping a cylindrical or hourglass vase in a sheer fabric or cloth and securing it with a pretty ribbon.

Whether her style is traditional, modern or just plain over the top, has an arrangement that is sure to suit any mom this Mother’s Day.

Courtesy of ARAcontent

Updated Basements

Finished basements will make any home more attractive. Today, 9-foot ceilings and large windows are in high demand - the high ceilings make room for the home theater systems that are hot on the market! Contact me today for all of your real estate and home improvement needs!