Limited Budget? Clever Tips for Redesigning Your Home Office

If you work from home even part of the time, you’ve likely discovered the importance of having a workable space that keeps distractions at bay. When you first started working from home, you probably chose the best place for your desk and set up camp there. But over time, it’s important to make the space your own.

Unfortunately, for many people budget restrictions don’t allow for a major redecorating project. But even on a small budget, you can make changes to your office that will make it not only more visually pleasing but more functional, as well.

DIY Office Supplies

home office supplies

You don’t have to spend a fortune in office supplies. Empty out and clean old jelly jars to hold all of your pens and pencils. You can also repurpose an old coffee mug or drink glass for the same purpose. If you want to refresh the look, you could cover your makeshift cup holder in a colorful fabric that matches your taste.

Creative Furniture

home office desk design

Do you need a desk but you don’t have thousands of dollars to spend? You can make a desk out of a variety of furniture types, which you can often find at yard sales or thrift shops. This article demonstrates different do-it-yourself desk projects that you can easily do with the inexpensive used furniture you find.

Add Shelves

home office shelving

You can free up storage without spending a fortune by adding shelves on one wall of your office. Here you can store photos, boxes and binders with work files, and reference books related to your profession. You can even add a few decorative items to show off your own flair for fashion, making your office more visually appealing.

Use a Room Divider

If you don’t have an extra room in your house to devote solely to your office, you’ll probably have to share space with another room. Whether it’s an office/guest bedroom combination or you’re setting up in a corner of one of your more highly-trafficked rooms, you can use a room divider to mark off your office space. Even though this option isn’t soundproof, you’ll still have a small amount of privacy while you work.

Add a Pegboard

peg board

Bulletin boards are great for tacking reminders and photos within your view, but they limit you. A pegboard, usually reserved for tools in workshops, can be used to organize items like scissors, tape, and items you need on hand throughout the day. Best of all, you can often find pegboards in a wide range of colors and sizes, making them perfect if you need to match them to the existing colors in your office.

If you work from home, you likely want to make your office as enjoyable and comfortable as possible. Feel free to occasionally improve the design with little changes. By using creativity and repurposing furniture and household items, you can create an office that rivals what you’d find in a business complex. All you’ll need is a way to keep distractions at bay so you can get work done.

Upcoming Neighborhood Events in San Diego

“Which city is the best city in America, and why is it San Diego?”

That’s probably something you’ve heard before, and if you didn’t, then we’re doing it for you. There aren’t enough reasons to list why San Diego is the best city in America, but one is the sheer variety of local happenings in the city’s vastly different neighborhoods. We’ve cobbled together a quick overview of some highlights happening in our favorite parts of town in the next couple of weeks for the different types of crowds out there.

Option 1 (For the Adults Only): Craft n’ Draft Maker’s Market 

coronado island

If you haven’t heard it from your own mouth or your beer-hip friends at some point, one of the main draws to living in San Diego are the wide selection of quality craft beers.

Expect to see your fellow beer snobs show out in full back-of-the-school-bus levels of coolness to taste San Diego’s finest at this free event at the Coronado Brewing Company Tasting Room, (located at 1205 Knoxville St, San Diego, CA. 92110). Coronado Brewing Company is presenting a showcase of over 15 local beer artists and craftsmen for you to sample. With 25 craft beers on tap, and available treats from Nomad Donuts (of North Park) and food trucks, this two-day gathering is a perfect foray onto San Diego’s most picturesque mini-island.

This two day event lasts from 12:00 to 5:00 pm on August 1 and from 11:00 to 3:00 pm on August 2. Get there early!

Option 2 (For the Families): Shark Summer 2015

shark summer

Just in case Shark Week isn’t putting enough shark in your week — and if so, we’d like to see if your peg leg is real again — you can bring the whole family down to the Birch Aquarium in La Jolla. Be sure to explore one of San Diego’s cleanest and most historic neighborhoods while you’re down there. Any place that has wayward UCSD students mingling with millionaires and seasoned fisherman is a place worth visiting.

Besides being an incredibly underrated date spot, Birch Aquarium boasts as many aquatic attractions as it does options for the entire family to enjoy. Shark Summer 2015 pledges that you’ll learn the latest in shark research, discover more about SD’s local shark habitats, and even get some hands-on contact with shark teeth, skin, and other artifacts. Shark Summer only lasts until August 15 at normal aquarium hours, so hurry!

Option 3 (For the Art Connoisseur Couple): Anything From The San Diego Fringe Festival

san diego fringe festival

San Diego Fringe Festival has been taking the arts community by storm since early May, and if you haven’t gotten wise to the incredible talent in this city yet, a quick perusal of the schedule and an additional Fringe Tag (only $5) will set you straight.

There’s literally too much to write about on any given day, but Fringe Festival takes place all over the city, and in every format imaginable. A quick perusal of the event page nets you live theater, art shows, and more. It ends August 2nd, so get a move on the final push of shows!

Theater companies are showing out like few industries can show out. The lineup for July 29 alone includes the incredibly titled “Les Midge: An Unexpected Journey of Hobbit Proportions” at Lyceum Theater, and “Breaking Bange” — no, it’s not a Breaking Bad parody, but it seems awesome anyway. We know it’s impossible for you to attend all of these, but if you’ve ever been saving your ability to time travel for a rainy day, then now’s that day.

Option 4 (For the Dog Lovers): Unleashed Surf Dog Competition

dog surfing

Remember when we talked about beer being a prime reason for buying a place in SD? Well, turns out there’s beaches here too. A lot of beaches. More importantly, a lot of dog beaches. Which means, yes, a lot of dogs.

Thanks to the Petco Surf Dog Competition, “Unleashed” provides fans of dog surfing with all they can handle. Dogs, somehow, will “jump on their boards and hit the surf,” according to the event description. Even if the end result is not quite as clean-cut, it should be a riot for all involved.

To entertain the few humans incapable of joy at seeing dogs do what they were not born to do, there will be a food truck/beer garden, a kids’ zone, dog adoption centers, and extra vendor booths.

The competition takes place at Imperial Beach Pier Plaza, 10 Evergreen Ave, Imperial Beach CA 91932 on August 1st. Heats begin at 9:00 am, and will end with an award ceremony at 2:15 pm.

There Is More

There are so many parts of San Diego that deserve their own guidebooks — from the new art house film screenings in Kensington to the coffee shops and record stores of Encinitas and Cardiff, and everything in between. This town has rings upon rings of different neighborhoods and attractions to choose from, meaning there are endless entertainment options for you, your friends, and your family.

How to Create an Art Gallery Wall in Your Home

Art lovers no longer have to leave home to appreciate fine art. Thanks to a growing trend, they can create the same experience on one of their own walls. Art gallery walls have become a great way to create a point of interest in your home while also showing off your great taste in art.

But putting together an art gallery wall is an art in itself. You can browse examples of other art gallery walls to get ideas and inspiration but in the end, you’ll want to make it your own. Here are some tips to help you create an art gallery wall in your own living space.

Go for Diversity

how to creat an art gallery in your home

To make it clear your wall is designed to showcase a variety of artwork types, you should try to make your selections as diverse and eclectic as possible. This could be a combination of paintings you have in your collection already and items you source specifically for the wall. Do an inventory of the pieces you already have and begin a search for the perfect items to add to it. If you’re on a budget, there are choices you can make that won’t break the bank. Scour the Internet, as well as antique shops, flea markets, and thrift stores. You’ll be surprised at the great finds you’ll discover at these bargain-shopping opportunities. This budget-conscious decorator used pictures from a book for her gallery wall and was thrilled with the results.

Match Framing

match framing

Your art selections may be eclectic, but you can bring it all together by using consistent framing. Choose frames and mattes in identical colors and styles and match the surrounding décor. If your gallery wall is in a dedicated area of the house, this might not be as much of a challenge than if it lines a stairwell or hangs above your sofa. This will free you up to pick paintings in a wide variety of colors without worrying about adding to the noise with multiple frame colors and types.

Diagram It Out

art wall_diagram it out

One of the toughest parts of a gallery wall is laying it out so that it looks neat and orderly without appearing too uniform. As you add items to your collection, diagram out your plan for the wall. This will help you determine whether you need more landscape or portrait paintings, as well as whether you need artwork in a certain size. Once you have all of your artwork ready to go, set it all on the floor and move items around until you have the perfect placement. Measure the group and make sure it fits before you hammer in the first nail. This careful planning will save you the extra work of having to redo an entire section of paintings because you ran out of room.

With an art gallery wall, you no longer have to limit yourself to just a few pieces of artwork per room. You can display your personal taste while also creating a great talking point for your next party. Additionally, you’ll have the fun of shopping for the perfect item to complement your collection.

Own a Historic Home? These Regulations Could Affect Your Remodeling Plans

There’s something unique and charming about a historic home. The features in these century-old properties are rarely found in new construction, and the location of these homes typically feature mature trees and greenery – something that you don’t always see in new developments.

When it comes time to make a few changes or updates to these types of homes, you might have to cut through some red tape first. Remodeling a historic home isn’t as easy as drafting up a blueprint, ordering the materials and making changes. There are regulations that need to be adhered to prior to starting your remodeling project in order to avoid getting slapped with fines.

What Makes a Home Historic?

historic home

Designation as to what is deemed historic will vary from one town to the next. Many historic properties in the US that are at least 50 years old are listed on the National Register of Historic Places, a list of historic buildings that’s maintained on a federal level.

If your home is found on this list, it could qualify your property for loans, grants, and tax incentives for renovation work if you agree to have the work comply with the authentic standards of the historic and original craftsmanship and design of the home. But even properties that are younger than 50 years old can still be considered historically significant by local commissions.

Regardless of the age of the home, a number of factors play a key role in influencing a commission’s decision to deem a home historic, including:

          • Architectural quality and significance

          • Association to a historically important individual event

          • Site of archeological findings

State Regulations of Remodeling Historic Properties

home regulations

Before remodeling an existing historic property, you might have to abide by the specific regulations in your state. Many states require that any permits or funding for remodeling work be reviewed by a state commission to determine if there will be any impact to a historically relevant property.

Just because your property isn’t listed on the National Register of Historic Places doesn’t mean that it doesn’t require any review on a state level. The state reserves the right to impose restrictions on the type of work you want to do on your home after review.

Local Regulations of Remodeling Historic Properties

Not only are there certain restrictions and regulations imposed on a state level, local authorities also place regulations on remodeling work to historic properties. These regulations tend to be a part of the local zoning bylaw or a historical property preservation bylaw. In this case, the local commission will review the renovations that you plan on undertaking, and will issue permits for the work if approved.

Is Your Home Considered Historic?

historic home features

There are certain areas that are considered to be historic. Under these circumstances, any property in the area is considered historic. If that’s the case, every home will have to be reviewed by local authorities before any remodeling can take place. Other localities rely on the national or state register when considering a home historically significant, which can make the home subject to local regulations.

To find out if your home is considered officially historic – and therefore subject to review – you can check out your town or city hall. You’ll then be directed to the zoning regulations that would apply to the work you intend on doing on your home.

If your home is in fact historically relevant, you’ll then need to find out what kind of restrictions you’ll have to abide by before you start taking hammer to nail. You’ll need to learn what types of designs are allowed or recommended.

To make this easier on you, there are plenty of architects and contractors who are well-versed in remodeling historic homes who you can be referred to at your town or city hall. These experts have experience appearing before the commission, and understand what they tend to approve, and what they don’t.

If you plan on swapping old elements for newer materials, this could raise commission concern. The rule of thumb in this department is whether or not the new materials resemble the material being replaced. It’s also got to be just as durable – if not more – than the material being replaced.

Thinking of Tearing Down Your Historic Home? Before You Do…

remodeling historic home

You’ll be subject to certain regulations if you plan on completely ripping your home down, regardless of whether or not it’s got any historic value. While this method will allow you to avoid sticking to regulations about remodeling the existing building, it’ll set off different forms of regulations.

Usually, you’ll have to give notice to the local historic commission that you intend to tear the home down and build a new modern home in its place. There’s typically a lengthy waiting period before a decision is communicated – usually between 6 to 12 months after you’ve provided written notice.

During this time, the commission will have a chance to review the work being proposed, and any other pertinent parties have the opportunity to react and communicate their opinions or concerns about this work.

Understanding the rules of preservation on historic homes will streamline the path for your renovation project. Regardless of the work being done, it’s up to you and your contractor to start communicating with the commissioners as soon as possible before any plans are finalized. Building inspectors might be willing to compromise within reason, but the chances of coming to an agreement are boosted if these conversations start before you even whip out your crowbar and sledge hammer.

How Technology is Changing the Face of the Mortgage Lending Process

Try and think of an area of your life where technology hasn’t taken over. Pretty tough, right? Everywhere you turn, people are buried in their tablets and smartphones. Work places are filled with the latest in software and computer programs. Even classrooms are filled with technological devices to help educators teach students more effectively.

Technology really has affected just about every aspect of our lives, including how you apply and get approved for a mortgage.

From beginning to the end, innovative technologies are revamping every step of the mortgage lending process for you, your lender, the real estate agent, and anyone else involved in the process. There are plenty of benefits that technology offers within the mortgage realm.

Streamlining the Mortgage Process

tech_mortgage 2

Many home buyer hopefuls dread the mortgage application process. The application itself tends to be lengthy and cumbersome. You’ve got to gather up all sorts of financial documents, and fill out and sign pages and pages of documents.

Then waiting around to find out whether or not you’re approved can have you biting your nails. When you finally get the stamp of approval, there’s the closing to deal with and wait for.

This doesn’t sound like the most enjoyable task in the world. In fact, it isn’t. It can be a real labor-intensive hassle. But thanks to advances in technology, the process is much simpler and more streamlined. In fact, you can even apply for a mortgage online without ever even having to leave the comfort of your home.

Benefits That Technology Has Brought to the Face of Mortgage Lending

With the right tools at your fingertips, you can significantly cut the application and approval times by more than half. It’s not unheard of to be approved for a mortgage within a few short days. Digital tools also help you stay in closer contact with your lender to ensure that all necessary information is properly and accurately communicated.


Aside from the online application process, one of the biggest ways that technology has positively affected the mortgage loan process is though the advent of electronic signatures – or ‘e-signatures.’ Thanks to the arrival of e-signatures, it’s no longer necessary to have to hand-deliver documents in person.

Simply signing your name on a document electronically and emailing it to the necessary parties has shaved a serious amount of time off the process, and made things so much more convenient for everyone involved. This is especially helpful when there’s a lot of back-and-forth document exchanges that tends to be pretty common.

As long as you’ve got a computer, laptop, tablet or smartphone, you can check the status of your loan application at any time, and from anywhere. There are even smartphone apps that serve as an entire loan processing management system. These apps connect all parties involved in the mortgage process so everyone can stay in constant communication. Just installing the app on your smartphone can instantly offer total transparency to you, the lender, the underwriter, and your agent, in the loan process from start to finish. Anyone involved can check the status of a loan application at any time.


Has the underwriter received your application? Is approval conditional? Has an appraisal been ordered? Has title been ordered and received? These are just some of the questions that can be answered thanks to the inclusion of technology in the mortgage lending process. Everything is updated in real time, giving you up-to-the-minute information as needed.

Rather than a paper-based system, processes can be automated and dealt with electronically to speed up any steps that were once done manually. Digital workflow processes can be used for signatures, accessing information on file, approvals, and more. For instance, during the mortgage process, all of the borrower’s data can be gathered electronically and automatically pushed through to the underwriter. If the underwriter feels that more information is needed, it can be sent back to the loan processor with this request.

digital workflow

The costs associated with the mortgage process can also be significantly reduced. Rather than shuffling through paper copies between the loan officer, loan processor and underwriter, everyone involved in the lending process can access such information remotely and fire it off to the necessary parties quickly and easily. Not only does this cut costs, it also minimizes the odds of documents getting misplaced or lost.

New advancements in technology come up all the time, and as such, lenders and borrowers can expect the lending process to be a lot easier and more cost-effective. While you can use technology yourself, make sure that the mortgage broker you work with keeps up with such technology too, and uses it to help save a ton of time and avoid a lot of potential frustration.

5 of the Most Over-the-Top Amenities in Luxury Homes Across the U.S.

When you think of a massive mansion with all the bells and whistles, you probably think of home theaters, fitness facilities, massive walk-in closets, and outdoor kitchens equipped with wood-burning pizza ovens.

But these are pretty much considered standard. These days, the most outlandish homes across the U.S. are boasting some of the most over-the-top amenities you could possibly imagine.

1. Sports Facilities

sports facility

You’ve heard of homes with swimming pools, tennis courts and basketball courts. However, today’s luxury homes are taking things a bit further. Take McLain Flats in Aspen, Colorado, for instance. The $28 million mansion boasts a 13,000-square-foot standalone fitness facility with a regulation NBA basketball court, racquetball court, tennis court, and a second-story indoor running track wrapping around the facility’s perimeter. 

An $11 million equestrian estate in Argyle, Texas comes equipped with stables and riding rinks, as well as a professional zip-line and a jungle-themed tree house.

Some of the wealthiest home owners in the U.S. continue to incorporate colossal sports complexes into their chateaus. Hockey rinks, golf putting greens, baseball diamonds, and even archery fields can be found in homes across the country, many of which are (of course) owned by celebrity pro-athletes.

2. Showcase Garages

showcase garage

A 3 or 4-car garage? That’s old school. These days, the filthy rich don’t just park their cars – they put them on display. Now a garage needs to be a showcase for a host of prized automobiles, put on a carousel of sorts so viewers can get a good glimpse of every angle of the cars.

These garages are being used for more than just parking vehicles – they’re becoming coveted ‘man caves’ where men can retreat and be entertained. In Chicago, a $3.4 million condo in Lake Point Tower boasts a separate 2,714-square-foot, 12-vehicle showroom that’s decked out in Ferrari-inspired red and yellow hues. And in Fairfield, California, an $18 million Suisun Valley Road mansion comes with a giant garage filled with goodies such as a maintenance bay, antique gas station, and even an off-road-inspired diner fully equipped with a kitchen, 50’s decor and bar stools.

3. At-Home Resort

home spa

An at-home spa room is one thing, but a full-out resort is quite another. Home builders are increasingly being asked to incorporate Himalayan pink salt spa rooms in luxury estates, which are said to put out negative ions and have restorative properties.

As more and more people are experiencing various cultural lifestyles in resorts abroad, they are bringing these ideas back home with them and infusing them into their homes. Not only do they want saunas and whirlpools, they also want massage rooms, mani-pedi stations, and hairdressing booths, to name a few.

One Bel Air Country Club mansion in L.A. is the epitome of such notions. The $29.9 million, 20,000-square-foot expanse features a whole floor reserved specifically for a resort-like extravagance. In addition to a gym, there’s also a yoga studio, Jacuzzi tub, steam room, and beauty salon with a hair-cutting area and a station reserved strictly for manicures and pedicures. Rather than a regular pool, the facility features an exercise pool which the homeowners can use as a water-powered treadmill.

4. Playground for Kids and Adults

bowling alley

Who needs Dave & Buster’s when one can enjoy such fun and excitement within the confines of their own home? That’s precisely what the owners of a 24,500-square-foot St. George, Utah mansion had in mind. The expanse features two home theaters (a “main” theater and one specifically for kids), an arcade, a two-lane bowling alley illuminated by neon and black lights, and even a sports pub.

The homeowners don’t have to take the stairs or even an elevator to get to these rooms, either. Instead, they can quickly access these spaces via a wooden slide spiraling from the main living area directly down to them.

5. Alcohol Tasting Rooms

alcohol tasting room

Wine cellars are nothing new, as are wine tasting rooms. Instead, the going trend these days are bars and tasting rooms for certain types of alcohol and liqueurs. Minecraft founder, Marcus Persson, owns a $70 million bachelor pad that boasts a vodka- and tequila-tasting bar, as well as a candy bar where over $200,000 worth of candy can be dispensed.

When money is no object, the sky’s the limit. And with a team of creative and imaginative architects and designers, even the wildest dreams of the wealthy can come to fruition.

How "Inside Out" Can Get You Ready For A Move

Inside Out, the latest film from Pixar Animation Studios and Disney, is a masterpiece of a film. It’s perhaps the most adult-oriented film in the studio’s catalogue, which is made up entirely of family-friendly works like Finding Nemo, Monsters Inc. and the Toy Story series. For our money, it’s one of the best films they’ve ever done; a touching, extremely perceptive and especially poignant film about the emotions that a little girl feels as she moves away from her home town.

What can we learn from the 11 year-old Riley, and her inner manifestations of Joy, Sadness, Anger, Disgust and Fear about the real estate market? Quite a lot, actually. Beyond the (fantastic) San Francisco and Minnesota jokes, Inside Out deals with many of the problems that new homeowners face as they trek across the country, families or no. Let’s take a look and see what this film can teach us about the moving process.

Massive spoilers ensue — and watching Inside Out is obviously recommended before reading.

Where’s Our Stuff?


Even though Inside Out delves into a fantastical reimagining of the human psyche, certain plot devices ground it in reality. Few situations in the film are as real and unfortunate as the moving van fiasco: the family arrives at their disappointing San Francisco townhouse, only to discover that their rented moving van will be almost a week late.

They’re not alone. The Department of Transportation cites nearly 4,000 move-related scam reports a year. According to a study from MoveRescue, shady movers use a number of different techniques to get more money, but the most common is illegally holding their loads “hostage” from their clients. Your goods might not be returned until you pay more than you intended. In order to make sure your stuff doesn’t go the way of Bing Bong (R.I.P.), MoveRescue recommends heavy research into your prospective company. That means using the web, looking at places that have been in existence longer than ten years, and checking to see if they’re AMSA-certified (America Moving and Storage Association). Don’t be swayed by a seemingly too-good-to-be-true cheap offer. Your service will definitely suffer, and you’ll have your own Sadness grabbing your happy memory globes far more quickly than otherwise.

Getting to Know Your Local School Districts and Hot Spots


Even if you’re not raising a family, getting to know the local school districts is a great way to gauge where your new community holds everything from block parties to Fourth of July fireworks shows, and more. It’s also worth noting that if you’re near a school itself, you’ll get a firsthand traffic report almost every single school day.

But if you are moving to support a growing family, take a page out of Riley & Co.’s approach to school. It’s within a quick walk of her home, and close enough to hot spots like pizza places — disgusting broccoli toppings aside. Regardless of your transportation capabilities, you’re going to at least want to establish your quickest route to the community center, so you can get involved in something called…

Community Efforts


That’s right, other people are there too!

One of Riley’s “personality islands” is Hockey Island, created via happy memories of her hometown hockey team in Minnesota. Riley’s mother, in a show of amazing parenting for the ages, somehow finds a suitable hockey league in roughly .005 seconds of moving into their new California home.

Even if you’re not the kind of mother that Riley has (and let’s face it, no one is), there’s plenty you can do to ease the anxiety after the move is over. A huge part of the post-move lifestyle change is that “regaining” process. Work hours aside, your leisure-time obligations are hard to organize. Those weekly meetings for everything from book clubs to bowling nights are impossible to replicate, too. That’s something that Inside Out knows all too well. As Anger says, sometimes you want to go back to the place that gave you so many memories, no matter the cost.

But a quick survey of available community groups might be the thing that gets you back on your feet. Check your local bookstores and coffee shops for meet ups. Ask around during big holidays or weekends. Chances are, your community has a big event like a farmer’s market or cookout at least once a month. The internet and other publications can be a great place to check in as well — most cities in America have a local subreddit on, or at least have a local newspaper to get you information about things to do, and people to meet!

The goal here isn’t to make sure you’re exhausted each and every day, but to stay busy after the move and help you transition into your new community the best. If all goes well, you’ll fit right in sooner than you thought.

Greener Grass (And Final Thoughts)


The last point about real estate that Inside Out can teach us is a bit more basic than the others. Bear with us.

Real estate transactions are complicated, and long and stressful moves are part of life, but they’re the result of that innate desire within people to find a home. Sure, we need Realtors to help us choose where we want to stay, what kinds of costs to anticipate, and how to make the process function with our jobs, families, and lifestyles. But we’re doing it to find a new place to live — to grow, learn and keep our lives going.

Moving uproots those memories, good or bad, happy or sad, that make us who we are. But just like those memories will always be there, there’s always going to be new people to meet, new schools to go to, new pizza places to try, and new families to be created. It’s an adventure, just like going back to school.

Infographic: Home Builder Confidence Hits Nine-Month High After Sluggish Winter

Lull in the housing market? What lull?

Judging by the level of confidence among home builders in the US, the sluggish real estate market we’ve been witnessing up until now seems like a distant memory. 

The National Association of Home Builders’ confidence index clocked in at 59 in June, the highest it’s been in nine months. Anything over 50 means the majority of home builders are optimistic about the market for new residential construction. And the sales expectations over the next six months reached 69, according to the report based on a survey of builders.

houseing market

Couple these numbers with the fact that spring has shown strong signs of continued momentum in new housing sales into the summer. New homes sales were up 6.8 percent in April, with construction spending spiking to its highest level since 2008. New home builders are reporting more committed and serious buyers, reflecting government data of a strengthened momentum in new home sales and single-family home construction.

Consistent progress in the labor market should help pick up economic activity, as employers added 280,000 jobs during the month of May, the most since December 2014. According to the US Labor Department, growth in wages has also been seen, with the average pay for civilian employees rising 4.2 percent over the first quarter of 2015 from the same time frame in 2014.

labor marketThe continued low interest rates are also encouraging Americans to buy. The average rate on a 30-year fixed mortgage was 4.08 percent as of July 2, according to mortgage giant Freddie Mac. That’s still under the five-year average of 6.06 percent since the economic expansion ended in December 2007.

The draw-down of available inventory has helped push home prices up. Part of this is because of the cheaper cost to buy, as well as a big reduction in builder production from the financial crisis up to today. During this time frame, home builders only developed about half of the number of houses needed to keep up with buyer demand.

According to Fannie Mae, an estimated 1.15 million units will be built this year, but the US economy needs 1.3 million units to keep pace with population growth and housing turnover rates. The current number of forecasted building permits that will be applied for shows that 1.275 million housing units will start construction in 2015 – the first time that new home builders almost meet long-term demand needs since the 2008 financial crisis.

home construction‘Boomerang buyers’ – those who owned a home before the financial crisis hit, then went into foreclosure – are expected to come back to the housing market. Since a foreclosure stays on a consumer’s record for seven years, those who foreclosed in 2008 will soon be able to qualify for a mortgage. And even more of these boomerang buyers are expected to return to the market next year as well.

If new home builders step up construction activity and meet the perceived demand of buyers, new jobs would be created, more material would be purchased, and the economy would inevitably experience a much-needed boost following a rather slow start to the year.

home builder infographic_wide

What To Expect From The Screen: Fictional Homes v. Actual Homes

It happens all the time. A 20-something character in a fictional New York, is allegedly broke but still manages to afford a two-bedroom basement apartment in Manhattan with close proximity to the subway. A gang of teenagers head up to their parent’s rented mountain ranch only to get murdered by a crazy guy who mistakenly thought the property was worth millions.

Too often, there’s a discrepancy in what the properties we see on TV and in movies look like, and how they would actually look in their given location, price, etc. We’re going to investigate this phenomena and narrow it down to four major categories: New York, Beachfront, the Midwest, and the Mountains.

Category 1: The New York Apartment

NYC apartment

Sorry to burst your bubble, twenty-somethings. Despite what Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt tells you, even the shabbiest basement apartments in Manhattan carry a rent check that will make your student loans look like the penny in the mall fountain.

A typical Brooklyn rent along the L might set you and your roommates back $1000+ a month not including utilities in 2015, and that might be a bargain depending on your location. We recommend turning to neighborhoods like Queens and The Bronx, which offer plenty of styles to choose from, including townhouses that are doable with the right roommates. But good luck trying to find even a space like that in Midtown on the salary of Robert de Niro in Taxi. The key to renting or purchasing is to know what you can and can’t afford. Take Jim Gordon’s “Gotham” family pad  in The Dark Knight. Sure, he’s a police captain, but is it enough for the multiple-story, two-bedroom property that Batman visits occasionally? Probably not. In real life, that’d set the Gordons back around a cool million on initial cost alone. He’d be in a better place if he and his family looked to a longer commute, maybe a Queens townhouse. Heck, if they’re willing to commute, pick up a space in Beacon, NY, an extremely pretty small town with transportation to the city and ample opportunities for hiking. Don’t let Hollywood fool you even more than it already has.

Category 2: The Beachfront Property

beach home

If your youth was spent in any way like those teenagers from beach-town classic TV shows like The O.C. or 90210, then bless you. But could those teenagers and their families have actually afforded them through gossip, murder, or cliffhangers?  No, Dylan, don’t shoot! You might hit the Mona Lisa behind you, and you have no idea how it got there.

Similarly to a New York startup, affordable beach bungalows are still extremely hard to come by. Even if we give the criminals of NCIS: LA a pass and say that their hideouts are actually rentals, the fact is that the average income of a Newport Beach resident is $106,333 in 2015. Around 40 percent of Newport’s 95,000 people lived in rental units last year, so it’s not that big of a stretch to guess that that’s mostly what’s going on here. If you’re looking for a teenage beach soap opera or movie with some sense, find the one that acknowledges the summer rental culture and take its advice.

That’s right, we’re talking about Point Break. A refresher: Keanu Reeves and Gary Busey are two FBI agents pursuing a gang of bank robbers who surf on the side. (Still with us?) However, in order to catch the gang, they have to act before the surf season ends, and the gang’s summer rental property changes again for the next season to an unknown property along the beach. This is about the only thing from Point Break that you can call accurate and sensible. Even with their ridiculous bank robbing stunts, the gang (known as the Ex-Presidents) doesn’t have the sort of stable income that creditors will appreciate. But they can probably satisfy the landlord looking for $750 — $850 rental for their two-story (estimated), five-bedroom hideout with that bank money. The summer beach season sees many of the same customers, who may want to renew their same agreement or experiment with a new property. Point is, there is flexibility if you keep in mind that — unlike the Ex-Presidents — you’re looking to come back alive again next year.

Category 3: The Midwestern Home

midwest home

From the suburbs of New Mexico in Breaking Bad to the high school kingdom of Friday Night Lights, Middle America seems to have almost the opposite problem as fictional New York or Malibu. In markets like Oklahoma City, the financial shift from New York feels like letting a dumbbell off your shoulders. For the price of that same Brooklyn apartment, you could start making payments on a one-story house, and be done before your student loans are even formed (that might be an exaggeration, but so is everything in Smallville, so we’ll leave it at that). However, this vast difference in property cost almost never reaches the mass media, and we’re left with an entire generation ignorant of the affordable, great properties in the Midwest. As such, we’d like to congratulate HBO’s Girls for making light of this situation in season four’s “Triggering.” Main character Hannah’s shock at renting a full house for $800 a month was a brief reprieve from the insistence that everything is too expensive for prospective homeowners.

Category 4: Any Mountain Residence, Ever

mountain home

You know what the most unrealistic part of the horror-movie classic “Friday the 13th” is? No, it’s not that a masked murderer has survived for god-only-knows-how-many number of years at the same lake just to murder every teenager in his path (nor is it that he can apparently breathe underwater and will live forever). It’s that a camp with such little business can hold such enviable property for that long without any other potential suitors. The out-of-the-way mountain sanctuary is the most misunderstood property in film and television, bar none. To be sure, there’s plenty of variety. We can get vistas as incredible and scenic as Friday the 13th‘s Camp Crystal Lake, or we can get the claustrophobic cabins of the incredibly underrated Wrong Turn series, and everything in between. Simple, 3-bedroom properties along the Rockies in Fort Collins, CO can be as low as $250,000, but drive a short hour and a half outside of Denver and that figure can skyrocket to $2 million. The mountains are where vacation cabins at $50 a night freely coexist with open-air mansions.

The main real estate angle that filmmakers forget in their ever-present search for that perfect cabin: rentals. Sure, we have films like Joss Whedon’s horror-satire Cabin in the Woods that touch on this, but the rental market for faraway cabins is thriving, even if it’s seasonal. Many cabins and other rental properties surrounding a U.S. National Park can have the benefit of unbeatable natural beauty, consistent opportunities for adventure, and the chance to meet new and exciting people. But if you’re not near there, consider a tip from Citizen Kane and become a newspaper tycoon. Maybe you can build your own Xanadu someday without fear of paying rent checks every month.

Surprise Moving Company Add-On Fees that Could Jack Up the Price of Your Move

For most families, hiring a moving service is a must. But don’t just assume that the number you see on your initial contract is the final price you’ll be paying when all is said and done. Most moving companies offer a bunch of accessorial services (for an extra fee), and many times these services aren’t included in the moving estimate. Not only that, but many of these extra services aren’t always your choice.

Here are some extra fees you could be stuck with when the movers have finished the job.

Disassembling and Reassembling Furniture

moving expenses_disassembling furniture

Furniture such as beds and shelving units typically need to be taken apart before removing them from the house and transporting them to your new residence. If you want the movers to do this for you, you’ll probably have to pay extra for this service. The same goes for assembling the parts once your final destination is reached. While it’s not fun to dish out extra cash, this service can prove to be valuable, as it’ll save you a lot of time and hassle.

Packing and Unpacking

moving expenses_packing

The packing process is probably the most time-consuming and annoying part of moving. Not only do items need to be boxed according to where they belong, many items – such as vases, dishes and glasses – need to be individually wrapped in order to protect them from damage during the move. And once you get to your new home, these things will most likely have to be washed after you’ve unboxed and unwrapped them.

If you don’t have the time to do this yourself (or simply don’t want to deal with this pesky task), the movers can do it for you – for a fee, of course. And if you want the movers to collect the packing materials and discard them, you’ll pay an additional fee for that too.

Climbing Many Flights of Stairs

moving expenses_staricase

Many moving companies will charge you extra if they have to go up more sets of stairs than they initially were aware of. Since this requires extra manpower and effort, they’ll charge either by the extra step or per flight of stairs. If you live in a two- or three-story house with a bunch of bedroom furniture to bring to the top floor, you can bank on having extra fees tacked onto your final bill. 

If you’ve got access to an elevator (such as would be the case in an apartment or condominium building), this can partially resolve the issue. Just be wary that movers might even charge for the time needed to wait for the elevator. That’s why you should always reserve a time slot for a specific elevator with the building’s property manager before the scheduled date of the move.

Handling Delicate Items

moving expenses_delicate items

Movers are not liable for any items that might get damaged during the move. They’re also not responsible for handling extra heavy or bulky items, such as hot tubs, pool tables and grand pianos, which require special packaging and handling. They’re also not responsible for disconnecting and connecting appliances. If you expect the movers to handle these items and make these connections, you’ll probably be looking at extra fees for this service.

Rigging Furniture

moving expenses_rope and pully

If the furniture you’re moving out of your soon-to-be old home doesn’t fit through the doorways or narrow staircases, the movers will have to come up with another way to get it out – many times through the windows. If that’s the case, a special rope-and-pulley system will be required to take the furniture out of the house, or even into your new home if necessary. This service will undoubtedly come at an additional price, and will only be offered if the movers even have this specific equipment and the skill needed to perform the job safely.

Long Hauls

moving expenses_long driveway

If the movers have to park their truck a number of feet away from your home’s entrance, they might charge you extra for these long hauls down the driveway. If your front yard has a driveway that’s at east 75 feet long, you’ll want to make sure the contract has a stipulation in there that the movers will make the trek at a previously agreed-upon price. If you live in a multi-dwelling complex, do yourself a favor and reserve a parking spot for the movers’ truck right in front of the entrance to your new home.

Moving fees and additional services and their rates will vary among companies. Do some homework on all your options before you make a decision and make sure all the specific services requested and their associated fees are clearly specified in the mover’s contract.