Home Safety Features That Save You on Property Insurance

If you own a home, property insurance is an absolute must. While it may be an aggravating expense to add to the seemingly endless list of home expenses, you can take measures to cut the costs.

Home insurance providers like to hear that you’ve taken steps to keep your home as safe as possible from things like fires and burglars. That way, liability claims can effectively be reduced.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, there were 1,240,000 fires reported in the US in 2013. And when it comes to break-and-enters in homes across the US, the FBI estimates that one in every 36 homes will be burglarized this year, resulting in a total of $4.7 billion in property losses.

These losses have caused insurance companies to jack up the price of property insurance on homes that don’t have the necessary precautions to deter fires or break-ins.

Here are some safety features to consider to not only lower your overall home insurance expenses, but also to keep you and your family safe.

Security Alarm Systems

home security_alarm system

A security system can include an alarm, video cameras, and other types of surveillance. Having this security system in place around-the-clock can alert you and the authorities to any potential harm and loss of property. Do yourself a favor and install a security system that is monitored, and is set every time you leave the house or head for bed – it’s not going to do much if it’s not activated.

Investing in an alarm system that’s connected to a central monitoring service will afford you the greatest savings. If you have a service that automatically dispatches the police and fire departments, you stand a better chance of reducing any losses that come from a break-in. And the more points of entry that you monitor in your home, the safer the system. This equates to greater discounts on your insurance policy.


home security_deadbolts

Any time you add a line of defense to your home, you can shave a bit more off your insurance policy. While experienced burglars can pick locks on doors, a deadbolt will just make the break-in more difficult. Add deadbolts to the front, back, and side doors to give you and your insurance provider more peace of mind. Basically, any entry point from the outside to the interior of the home should be dead-bolted.

Shatter-Resistant Windows

home security_shatter proof window

If your budget permits, consider installing shatter-resistant windows around the perimeter of the home. Or else, you can apply a shatter-resistant film on the glass to reinforce the structure of the window. It’s pretty easy and quick to apply, and it’ll definitely make it tougher for someone with bad intentions to break the window and enter your home.

Smoke Detectors on Every Floor

This is a no-brainer, and should be done whether or not it involves any monetary savings. Smoke detectors save lives. Plain and simple. Saving a little cash is also a nice little perk to take advantage of.

home security_smoke detectors

Smoke detectors can alert you about a fire much faster than relying on your own senses, thereby cutting down on injuries, deaths, and property liability claims.

Indoor Sprinkler System

Residential sprinkler systems are gaining in popularity among home owners in an effort to ward off the damage caused by fires. In fact, many builders are increasingly offering retrofit options to install them in existing properties as well.

home security_indoor sprinkler system

There are a bunch of different styles of home sprinkler systems available these days, so you might want to have a chat with your insurance agent and a sprinkler service professional to pick one that works best in your home.

Since all of these features can make your home a safer place, insurance carriers are much more willing to offer discounts as a result if you show them some kind of proof of their existence. While some of these options might cost you a good chunk of change up front, the payoff of long-term savings and your safety will totally be worth the investment.

What You Should Know About Easements Before You Buy

There are literally dozens of real estate terms that you should probably understand before you sign a purchase agreement, and one of the more important ones is “easements.”

You might be alarmed to find out after you’ve bought a home that it’s actually not entirely private – you might actually be legally obligated to share part of your property with the neighbor or let the local utility company waltz onto your yard to erect a telephone pole or bury a pipe.

The term “easement” essentially refers the right of one party to use another party’s property. In return for the right of easement, a fee is paid to the property owner. It’s also referred to as a “right-of-way,” and basically allows other parties to legally come onto your property.

It’s important to know if easements exist on the property you plan on buying, and the impact they have on the purchase or usage of the home. Here are a few common ones you should know about.

Easement in Gross

easement by necessity

This type of easement is actually attached to the owner of the property, rather than the property itself. Easements in gross are usually fixed for the life of the owner, but they may be revoked if the owner sells that particular property. Maybe the homeowner has an easement in gross with a neighbor that allows the homeowner to use a path to go through the neighbor’s yard to reach the property. Once the owner sells that property, however, the easement in gross can’t be passed on to next property owner.

If you’re contemplating buying a house that has an easement which allows the present owner to use the adjacent neighbor’s property to pass through, make sure you identify whether or not it’s an easement in gross. If it is, you won’t be granted the same right to pass through the neighbor’s yard.

Easement By Necessity

When a person has the legal right to cross over another individual’s property in order to get to a landlocked parcel, it’s known as an ‘easement by necessity.’ These easements are described as ‘appurtenant,’ which means that they benefit a particular property, and not an individual.

This type of easement is created only when a landowner divides the property between two or more owners. It basically arises only when such a division of property causes a newly divided piece of land that no longer offers access to a public street.

To claim an easement by necessity, it must be proven that one party has divided his or her land and transferred part of it to the another party. It also needs to be proven that the division of the land causes one party to no longer have legal access to a public street or have any other easement over private property to access a public street.

If someone buys property that didn’t already have access to a public street, that person needs to buy easements as required to get access to a public street — or else wait for the government to construct a public street next to the land.

Easement By Prescription

easement by prescription

If a person has been using a specific part of a property continuously for years without any consent from the owner, and such use has been seen by others during that time period, an easement by prescription has been created.

The prescriptive use of the property needs to be continuous and uninterrupted. This means that the user needs to make use of the easement on a regular basis, and not just occasionally.

Basically, the user gets an easement by openly and continuously using the land for the number of years that is specified by state laws.

Easement By Prior Use

easement by prior use

When a property owner has been using part of his or her land in a way that benefits another part of the property, and then transfers one of these parts to another person, an easement by prior use has been created.

The individual claiming this type of easement must prove that one of the parties has divided the property and transferred part of it to the other. The individual must also prove that one of these land parts has been used to benefit the other part of the property in such a way that would be considered an easement if the parts were owned separately.

Like an easement by prescription, the prior use must have been continuous, and not just sporadic, up until the time that the land is severed. Not only that, but the prior use must have been apparent to the parties when the ownership was severed and transferred to another.

Easement By Estoppel

easement by estoppel

When an owner of land misrepresents the existence of an easement when selling a property, and doesn’t include an express easement over an adjacent property that the seller owns it in the deed, the courts can step in and create an easement. If the court determines that the buyer acted reasonably, and relied on what the seller promised, the court can create an easement by estoppel.

For instance, let’s say the owner of land sells to another on the promise that the buyer can use the seller’s driveway, but such an easement was never included in the deed. The buyer then builds a structure on the seller’s driveway, but the seller then decides to block off the driveway and prevent the buyer from accessing the driveway. In this case, a court can enforce an easement by estoppel.

All these terms might sound like foreign concepts. Your real estate agent is your best friend when it comes to identifying whether or not easements exist a home sale or purchase. Just as much as you should know about any structural issues in a home you plan on buying, so should you know about any existing easements that could have a huge impact on how you enjoy the use of your new home.

Clever Ideas to Make a Home Gym Attractive

Staying in shape is as important as creating an attractive house. The cost of a gym membership can add up over time, with monthly membership fees adding up to hundreds of dollars each year. For the same price, a homeowner can begin purchasing workout equipment, building a home gym that offers the convenience of working out without leaving the house.

home gym

The challenge is creating a home gym that’s attractive. This is especially true if you’re working with limited space, taking away the possibility of dedicating an entire room to your gym. Here are a few things you can do to make a home gym more appealing.

Use Mirrors

home gym_full length mirrors

If you’ve set an entire room aside for your home gym, mirrors can make a big difference. Commercial gyms use full-length mirrors to allow weightlifters to make sure they have the right posture and form as they lift barbells and hand weights. Your full-length mirrors will provide the same motivation, as well as improving the feng shui of the room, especially if you place one opposite a window.

Use Your View

home gym with a view

If you’re lucky enough to have a view, take full advantage of it by positioning your equipment to face it. This is especially true if your view involves scenery like mountains or water. If you have a pool or hot tub, you can place your gym facing in that direction to create a recreational-type flow. This gym is a high-end demonstration of how placement can create a flow that makes a home gym feel more natural.

Hide It Away

If you’re living in a small space or don’t have a room that facilitates a home gym, there are options that will allow you to maintain your décor while still working out at home. Foldaway treadmills and stationary bicycles can be stored safely in a corner, where they’ll be out of the way when guests visit. You can also turn a small room, garage, or basement into a gym and your guests never even have to know about it unless you want them to.

Use the Great Outdoors

home gym_outdoors

If you’re fortunate enough to live in an area with decent weather most of the year, an outside gym may work. This is especially ideal for areas with moderate temperatures or warmer areas where workouts can be done in early morning or evening hours. If you don’t have a covered porch, consider building an overhang that will protect your equipment from the elements. If you work your outdoor gym in with clever landscaping, you can make it enhance your back yard rather than take away from it.

A home gym offers the convenience of working out at home while also saving the cost of a monthly gym membership. If you carefully plan your gym, you can create an area that will provide the workout experience you need while also adding to the charm of your home. Whether you choose your back yard, garage, or a room inside your home, you can create a gym that will fit your own unique style.

10 Amazing Apps That Will Make Your Next House Move a Breeze

Gearing up for a move in the near future? Everyone who’s been in the middle of a real estate transaction knows that the process can be stressful – from the selling and buying process, to the move itself. That’s why any little bit of help in this department is much appreciated and welcomed.

These days, with technology taking over just about every aspect of our lives, we can take advantage of many awesome apps that are popping up all the time to make moving a cinch.

Here are 10 of the best apps to help get you through every step of the moving process.

1. AroundMe

10 apps for real estate_AroundMe

When it comes to real estate, it’s all about location. The AroundMe app takes this very seriously by showing you nearby amenities, including banks, gas stations, schools, supermarkets, and hospitals near a specified location. You’ll get a number of listings in a certain area that are near the amenities you want, which can make the house hunting process a little easier.

2. House Hunter

This handy app available on iTunes was designed to handle some of the emotions that typically come with buying a new house. It allows you to establish a list of your priority features on a scale of 1 to 10 – homes are rated based on this scale to help you narrow down your choices of homes that meet your criteria. Pictures of the property’s interior and exterior can also be added to these ratings.

3. SiteWise

10 apps for real estate_SiteWise

While a little on the pricier side at $9.99, the SiteWise app provides you with detailed information about the demographics of certain areas you’re contemplating moving into. Perhaps you’re looking for a neighborhood with young families, or an area with young working professionals. This app can give you a demographic report that includes population by age, household income, education level, number of children, and so on. It’s one of the best and easiest ways to find the perfect city or community for you, even if you’ve never even been there before.

4. Wikihood

This app is also really handy when it comes finding out what’s really happening in a neighborhood. Simply click on the Wikihood app when you’re looking for a neighborhood, and the app will automatically pull up all the articles found on Wikipedia that are related to the current geographic location of your phone. You’ll get an in-depth look at schools, hospitals, transit options, and even historical data about the area.

5. Homesnap

10 apps for real estate_Homesnap

This MLS app helps you search the local multiple listing service (MLS) to find properties for sale in your area of choice. It also comes with a feature that lets you snap a photo of any home across the US to get instant property details, including the value of homes, when they last sold, the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, property taxes, property boundaries, and many others. If a home catches your eye, you can use the app to contact your real estate agent to schedule a showing.

6. Mortgage Calculator Pro

For less than a dollar, you can have this app handy with you at all times to help you calculate your monthly mortgage payments for various homes you look at. This can help you more realistically compare the final price of various properties. You’ve got the option of including HOA fees, property taxes, and other miscellaneous items that can affect the price. You can save amortization tables on your computer to make it simpler to compare each home’s costs.

7. Dictionary of Real Estate Terms

10 apps for real estate_dictionary of real estate terms

Sometimes it can be tough to understand all the real estate terms that fly around on listings and during negotiations. The Dictionary of Real Estate Terms app features over 3,000 real estate terms that are defined in simple words. For $3.99, you’ll finally be able to find out what certain words and phrases on listings mean, like “encumbrances,” “easements,” and other big words you normally wouldn’t hear every day.

8. PDF Pen Pro

All the documents and contracts that you’ll be signing when buying and selling can be overwhelming. You might even have a tight deadline that you aren’t able to meet for some reason, or aren’t able to get to a certain location to sign the necessary documents in person. Being able to digitally review and sign this paperwork using an app like PDF Pen Pro (for $9.99) can help you keep on top of these documents and prevent you from missing deadlines.

9. Moving Day

10 apps for real estate_moving day

This free app for iPhones features a built-in label-making and bar code scanning capability. To use this app, you can create bar codes on your iPhone, print out your labels, then tape them to the boxes when it’s time to finally start moving. This way, you’ll know exactly which room to put each box in your new home, and be able to easily find exactly what you’re looking for when you’re unpacking. You can scan your boxes and see the items inside without actually opening the box. If the scanner doesn’t work, you also have the ability to manually punch in the bar code.

10. iHandy Level Free

This app can come in really handy when you’ve finally found the home you love, finalized the purchase agreement, and moved in. Now comes time to decorate the interior to your tastes, and the iHandy app can really help. This app basically transforms your mobile phone into a level for exact alignment. Making sure your picture frames are straight has never been easier – no more excessive holes in the walls from improperly placed nails!

Buying, selling, and moving can be lengthy and complicated processes. Luckily, there are tools available at your fingertips to help make the moving process a little bit easier.

Simple Ways to Help Sell Your Home Even with Pets Around

Home buyers who walk into homes that are listed on the market want the experience to be a pleasant one. They want to walk in to a home and feel welcome, and easily see themselves living in the place.

Certain distractions can easily quash this vision, including the presence of pets. While you might love the idea that your home is as much your pet’s as it is yours, most home buyers won’t feel the same way. Having unpleasant signs that a pet lives in the home could cost you the chance to sell your house.

Send Your Pooch or Feline Off to a Temporary Home

selling a home with pets_pet day care

Nobody with a pet likes to hear this, but the best and easiest way to sell your home is to temporarily remove your furry friend while the property is on the market. This way, you don’t have to worry about constantly vacuuming up pet hair or cleaning cat litter.

Before you even list your home for sale and start taking photos of the interior, find a temporary home for your pet first. Maybe you’ve got a pet-friendly neighbor, or a family member who would be happy to babysit your pet in the meantime. This really can be the simplest way to avoid scaring away potential buyers.

Take the Pet Out of the Home During Showings

selling a home with pets_house showing

At the very least, make sure your pet isn’t home when a showing is taking place. This goes for you too – buyers tend to be more comfortable touring a home when the sellers aren’t present. If your cat tends to hiss at strangers or your dog is territorial and barks incessantly when he or she doesn’t recognize someone, it’s best that your pet isn’t home during showings.

Don’t expect real estate agents to handle your pets – they’re not professional trainers and shouldn’t be expected to risk handling an unruly animal when showing your home to buyers.

Get Rid of Any Signs of Pets in the Home

selling a home with pets_cleaning messes

Whether you choose to send your pet off to another home for the time being, or have chosen to let your pet be, one thing is for sure: you’ve got to remove all signs of any animals in the house. Take the steps necessary to eliminate any remnants of pets, such as toys, litter, beds, and so forth.

Find a spot in the home where your pet can sleep and play that’s discreet and out of the way. This will allow home buyers to tour the place without having to be met with signs of pets every which way. You might even want to put away any photos of your pets too (which you should probably do with your own family photos to make the home appear more neutral).

Clean Up Pet Messes

selling a home with pets_eliminating odors

No one wants to walk into a home and see an uncleaned litter box, a sofa full of dog or cat hair, or any remnants of “accidents” on the carpet or floor. Make sure you stay on top of these unsightly messes before any showings are scheduled.

Failure to keep up with cleaning up after your pets will surely turn any buyers off. And if you’ve got a dog, don’t gloss over your yard – the last thing you want is for a home buyer to accidentally step into something gross.

Eliminate Nasty Odors

Nothing is more unappealing and disgusting than the nasty smells of pets and pet excrement. Animals obviously have a certain scent to them, and when they spend so much time indoors, their smells can easily transfer onto the interior walls, window treatments, rugs, and furniture. Make sure that you vacuum as often as possible, and clean out litter boxes as frequently as you can. Deodorize with sprays and powders to mask any unpleasant odors.

Remove Any Stained or Damaged Furniture

selling a home with pets_removing damaged furniture

If your pet is prone to scratching at the footings of your furniture, you might want to camouflage these pieces while your home is on the market. Damaged or stained furniture can quickly tip off buyers that there are pets in the home. Having pieces of furniture that are scuffed, scratched or stained just tells buyers that you don’t care enough about your furnishings and home to take care of them.

When you’re selling your home, keep in mind that the first couple of weeks that it’s on the market are critical. It’s during this time period that you want your house to be in tip-top condition and move-in ready. Don’t let any stains, odors or noise from pets turn your buyers off.

You can easily sell your home faster and for more money by staging your home to make it appear as inviting and attractive as possible. Get your real estate agent to give you suggestions to present your home in the best light possible so that your home doesn’t linger on the market for longer than necessary.

Guide to San Diego’s Hidden Treasures

One of the advantages of living in a city as beautiful and diverse as San Diego is that it provides endless opportunities to explore varying neighborhoods and their local food, culture, and hidden gems. Unwinding after a long week in this city has never been any easier nor as exciting. The following is a guide to the hottest and coolest neighborhoods across the county.

North Park

San Diego_North Park

If the recently re-branded Observatory North Park music venue is any indication, North Park continues its rise up San Diegans’ desired hangout spots. This neighborhood defines that which is cool, with its aforementioned music hotspot and surrounding specialty food stops. Check out Coin Op, a videogame-friendly bar or Polite Provisions for a delicious craft cocktail with a fantastic and unique 1920s inspired decor.

Little Italy

San Diego_Little Italy

Whether you’re spending your lazy Saturday morning strolling through Little Italy’s insanely popular farmer’s market or sampling some of the best Italian fare at night that the city has to offer, you’ll be sure to never go hungry. Little Italy has been the neighborhood to watch over the last few years, with it’s non-Italian additions like Ironside Fish & Oyster, Kettner Exchange, and Craft & Commerce.

East Village

San Diego_Petco Park - East Village

A few years back no one would have ever considered spending time in Downtown’s East Village, as it once was a seedier part of town. However, East Village has taken a 180 degree turn for the better and is the place to be for everything new new new. After a Padres game, consider avoiding overrun Gaslamp and step in to one of the local restaurants or bars. For an exquisite dinner experience go to Bottega Americano. If being outside and enjoying San Diego’s gorgeous year-round weather is more your thing then check out dog-friendly Quartyard, where you can sip on brews while playing corn hole or while eating a gourmet hot dog from S&M. Need another reason to go? Well if you’re a country music fan then Moonshine Flats is your spot. Get there early to learn how to line dance or go late to enjoy the latest country and top 40 tunes and dance your heart out. Bonus tip: on the other side of Moonshine is the Deck, which is a casual place to hang out, drink, and play games.

East County

San Diego_Anza Borrego

Outdoor adventures abound in East County, which stretches from the La Mesa foothills to the mountains of Julian. There are endless trails for hiking, biking, and climbing that will thrill people of all skill levels. Take a relatively easy hike up Cowles Mountain or trek different trails in the largest state park in California – the 600,000 acre Anza Borrego State Park. After a day of hiking there are numerous quaint diners along historic Highway 94 or Highway 80 that will give you that taste of Americana. Speaking of Americana, take the day and go up to Julian to get a real taste of the best apple pie in California and maybe even the country.

Mission Bay to Pacific Beach

San Diego_Belmont Park

Imagine living in a place that feels like a constant vacation, sounds like perfection right? The blue waters and soft sand beaches from Mission to Pacific Beach boast an endless array of activities including kayaking, paddle boarding, jet skiing, wind surfing, sailing, surfing, and sport fishing. All ages can be entertained by SeaWorld San Diego or Belmont Park. Spending time in the shining sun and heat requires a break. Follow the smell of freshly baked cookies and you’ll find a line-up of people pouring out of Baked Bear, the latest obsession for those looking for finely crafted and oh so delicious ice cream sandwiches. For a night out, go to one of PB’s newest restaurant/bars, Backyard, where the decor and atmosphere beats all others on the Garnett strip.

Solana Beach/Leucadia/Encinitas

San Diego_Encinitas beach

Solana Beach is a great beach town with a tight-knit, yet welcoming community. You can enjoy more than its picturesque beaches if you call this place home. Head over to the Cedros District for the best shopping and dining. The music scene at the Belly Up has been a mainstay since the 1970s and is a great place to see local and international talent.

With a slogan like, “keep Leucadia funky,” how could you not fall in love with this artsy North County beach town within Encinitas? There is even a whole annual program of events like Arts Alive, Battle of the Bands, and LeucadiART Walk that cement its arts focused reputation. While there don’t forget to catch a glimpse of the famous Surfing Madonna!

Nearby is Encinitas proper, where an influx of younger residents have brought with them new artisan coffee shops, breweries, bars, and restaurants. For the best cup of joe in town, head to Ironsmith Coffee Roasters, where the craft of coffee has been perfected.

Being a resident of San Diego has never been more exciting! Eclectic neighborhoods, endless outdoor and indoor activities, and chic restaurants and bars that rival those of major metropolitan cities make San Diego the only choice for living the best and highest quality of life.

Creative Landscaping Ideas for Tiny Front Yards

If you’ve got a teeny tiny front yard, you may have already discovered that landscaping can be pretty challenging. Having limited square footage doesn’t mean you should completely ignore this small piece of land – curb appeal is extremely important to the appeal and value of a home, so investing a little time and effort into landscaping the front yard is very important, regardless of its size.

Here are a few creative landscaping ideas for petite front yards to help you come up with a charming landscaping solution for your home.

Plant an Abundance of Flower Patches

creative landscaping_roses

There’s always room for flowers, even in the smallest of spaces. Plant a generous row of roses, hydrangea or other flowers of your choice along the street side of your front yard. Not only will it look lovely to those strolling along the sidewalk in front of your home, but it will also provide your property with a certain degree of privacy. Throw in a mini white picket fence to give the flowers something to hang over for added decor.

Take the Patio to the Front

An easy and low-maintenance solution for a diminutive yard is to pave the space with large flagstone and gravel to create a patio area that will require no watering or grass-cutting. Add a couple of chairs and small table and you’ll have the perfect place to enjoy a cup of tea or coffee with a friend while watching the passersby. If you are absolutely missing the greens, you can always throw in a couple of potted plants on top of the flagstone.

Create a Flower-Lined Pathway

creative landscaping_flagstone walkway

Consider adding a pathway leading up to the front door with interlocking stone, lined with low-growing plants and/or flower beds. This will help to emphasize your front door while creating a visually appealing space. Fill the areas on other side of the pathway with grass or river stone.

Plant Dwarf Trees

Small trees added to an equally small front yard can provide a welcoming addition. To really boost the sense of depth to the space, plant the trees on each side of layered stepping stones leading up to the front door of the home. You can scale the look up or down by varying the size of the trees you plant, according to the exact size of your front yard. 

Build a Stacked Stone Retaining Wall

creative landscaping_stone wall

A classic stone wall can help create a more formal and polished look to the front of your home, especially when paired with finely-manicured hedges and bushes. The majesty of the stone wall, there’s really little else needed to complete the look of your landscaping – the wall should suffice all on its own.

Place Planter Boxes Along the Street Side

creative landscaping_plant boxes

This is a great idea if your front yard is literally a couple of feet away from the curb. In this case, add a row of planter boxes along the street side and fill them with tall grass and plants that can handle minimal maintenance.

Hang Flower Baskets

creative landscaping_hanging plant boxes

Flower baskets that are hung under your front porch add color without taking up valuable ground space in the yard. The great thing about these hanging baskets is that you can change them every year to create a different look each time.

Limited space in the front yard doesn’t mean you need to sacrifice on curb appeal. Follow some of these ideas to create the perfect little oasis in your front yard that’s welcoming and adds extra value to your property.

6 Hacks That Make Your Kitchen Look Bigger

A big, bright kitchen might be a dream come true for the majority of homebuyers these days, but restrictive budgets and limited square footage can be huge obstacles to overcome.

Luckily, there are clever ways you can expand the look and feel of your kitchen without breaking the bank.

1. Knock a Wall Down

take down wall_6 kitchen hacks

If your kitchen is separated from an equally small living room by a wall, consider knocking it down. In fact, knocking down a wall is one of the easiest ways to open up the space in the kitchen, especially for experienced renovators and contractors. Sure, it might be the more expensive suggestion on this list, but for the price, it makes a massive difference.

If the wall is not load-bearing, you can expect to pay anywhere between $2,000 to $4,000 to take it down. However, if the wall is bearing the load of the second story, you could be faced with a much bigger bill considering the fact that structural issues will need to be factored in. But it could well be worth the cost when you see the finished product. Homeowners spend thousands and thousands of dollar on a brand new kitchen, and sometimes tearing a wall down is all it takes to completely transform the space.

2. Replace a Dividing Wall With a Raised Breakfast Bar

glass cabinets_6 kitchen hacks

Instead of completely knocking a wall down, you could just tear down the upper half and leave the lower half intact. But to make it useful, consider turning that half wall into a raised breakfast bar, which can provide the space with some great functionality and practicality for more casual meals. Making the bar counter height is a contemporary way to update  the kitchen while making it feel bigger at the same time.

3. Use Plenty of Layered Lighting

lighting_6 hacks for kitchen

Lots of light is always a good thing when it comes to opening and brightening up a small space. To maximize the effect that lighting has on your kitchen, consider adding layers of different fixtures throughout the room. Add a chandelier over the dinner table; hang pendant lights over the breakfast bar; install under-mounted lighting your cabinets; and brighten the inside of your cabinets with pot lights.

Keep the color of the lighting the same as the wall color and/or cabinets to boost the effect of the lighting in the kitchen. Lighter colors are always best in small spaces, as they reflect light and create a sense of space. When the same light colors are blended throughout various components, the effect of a larger space is even more enhanced.

4. Use Glass-Fronted Cabinets

glass cabinets_6 kitchen hacks

Adding cabinets with glass fronts will draw the eye to the back of the cabinet, which helps expand the look of the space. Not only that, but glass is highly reflective; any light coming through the windows or from all the light fixtures will reflect off the glass surface, making the area look larger than it actually is. Playing with illusions such as these is great when there’s little you can do about the square footage in your kitchen.

5. Consider the Scale of Your Cabinets and Furniture

Having too many cabinets or an oversized dinette set will only make the kitchen look cramped. Instead, you should focus on things like a slim kitchen island, streamlined furniture pieces, and just enough cabinets to house all your utensils without taking up every square inch of the wall space. Everything that’s installed in the kitchen should fit to scale in order to avoid making the space look smaller than it really is.

6. Clear the Clutter

clearn the clutter_6 kitchen hacks

Nothing encloses a space more than clutter. And when it comes to the kitchen, the countertops can be easily crammed with dishes, utensils, bills, and anything else that you didn’t have the time to put away. For a cleaner, more streamlined look, clear off the clutter. It’s easy, fast, and doesn’t cost a cent.

While there are invasive and expensive ways to enlarge your kitchen space – such as physically expanding your home – there are simpler, more affordable ways to do so. Use a little imagination, and play up visual illusions in your space to make your kitchen look and feel more spacious.

Negotiating a Lease Agreement? 4 Things That Are on the Table

Many landlords typically put their tenant prospects through the ringer in attempts to make sure they’re not letting just any delinquent move into their investment property. After the interview process takes place, calls to previous landlords or other references are made, and legal documents are skimmed through and signed, you might think that you’ve got to take the deal as is, or walk.

While in many cases there might not be any room for negotiating, many other times potential renters have a lot more bargaining power than they might think.

Here are a few components of the lease agreement that might give you more wiggle room than you may realize.

The Rent Itself

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Sure, this one’s a biggie. And for the most part, it’s probably the most challenging term on the contract to negotiate successfully. But the landlord wants to fill that space just as badly as you want it. After all, it costs the landlord a lot of money every day that the unit is vacant.

Many times landlords beef up the listing price slightly in anticipation of being wheeled-and-dealed with, just like sellers of properties. If you’ve got a polished history, and have no record of being late paying your rent or disturbing the neighbors or the property, you might have a solid chance of shaving a few bucks off the listed rental price – within reason.

Just make sure that you don’t low-ball the landlord, and be conscious of the position that the landlord is in. He or she has to turn a profit on the place at the end of the day.

Security Deposit

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If the security deposit that the landlord requests seems a bit outrageous, suggest a more reasonable figure that you can both live with, and one that’s fair. Consider the security deposit limits that are set in your specific jurisdiction, or what other landlords of similar units are asking for.

If you can show proof that other landlords are charging much less, or that you have a good track record of being a responsible tenant that has never damaged anything on previous rental units, you may be able to boost your negotiating power.


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Many landlords simply don’t like the idea of having animals living on their properties, for obvious reasons. Many times pet policies are negotiable, especially if your pet is particularly quiet and small, and doesn’t show any signs of aggressive behavior.

If you can provide references to previous landlords who have had you and your pet as tenants, and they back up your claims that your pet was never a bother, your soon-to-be landlord might be willing to reconsider the no-pet clause.

Parking Spot

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If you’ve got a vehicle, but the unit doesn’t come with a parking spot, this could be a bit of an issue, especially if parking spots are slim picking in the building or surrounding area. However, if your landlord has a parking spot or two which he or she was looking to rent separately to make more of a profit, consider asking to have the parking spot thrown in to the mix.

You could negotiate these terms by offering to do certain tasks that you otherwise wouldn’t have to, such as cutting grass or shoveling snow. If these tasks are taken care of by a property management team, ask the landlord if he or she is willing to combine the unit and parking spot rental into one price that will shave a bit off of each cost. That way, you get a parking spot at a deal, and your landlord doesn’t have to go looking around for a separate renter for the spot.

These items can be successfully negotiated on your lease agreement; just make sure to be respectful and understanding of the landlord’s position. Don’t be greedy, and know where to draw the line in what you ask for.

Some things are just not appropriate for discussion, especially if they are things that the local, state or federal laws govern. Use your good judgement and common sense when negotiating items on your lease agreement. Better yet, get a real estate agent to do the negotiating for you to boost the odds of wining at the bargaining table.