5 Fringe Benefits for First-Time Homebuyers

Whether you’re moving out of your parents’ basement, just got hitched, or are getting back into the real estate market after years of being out of it, being a first-time homebuyer definitely has its financial perks.

But first things first. Who exactly qualifies as a “first-time homebuyer?”

According to the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, a first-time homebuyer is someone who meets these criteria:

first time home buyer_criteria1

1. You can deduct your mortgage interest

One of the biggest and most popular tax benefits for home owners is the fact that interest can be deducted from the mortgage. That’s huge. Alas, there are a few exceptions to the rule, including these biggies:

first time home buyer_exceptions 1

When it comes to this tax deduction, the home can be either owned by you, your partner, or jointly.

Keeping track of these numbers is super easy thanks to the form 1098 that your lender will issue to you at the end of the year, which outlines how much interest you paid over the past year.

2. You can tap into your IRA without paying a penalty

First-time homebuyers are eligible to take out $10,000 from their traditional or Roth IRA without having to pay the 10% penalty for early withdrawal. You can use these funds to put towards a down payment, closing costs, and so on.

first time home buyer_IRA

Keep in mind that you’ll still have to pay income tax on the cash you withdraw from a traditional IRA. Roth IRA accounts, on the other hand, won’t be subject to additional taxes because they’re funded with money that’s been taxed already.

Since each individual has a $10,000 lifetime amount that they can withdraw without paying a penalty, a husband and wife can withdraw a maximum of $20,000 in total to pay for their first home. Just make sure that you use these funds within 120 days, or it’ll be subject to the 10% penalty (which defeats the purpose).

3. You can deduct your property taxes

Tax deductions on your property are based on the value of your home, and are available at the local and state level. The amount that is deducted is the amount that the home owner pays.

You should report how much you paid in property taxes for the year that’s stipulated on your property tax bill. Your mortgage provider can also provide you with this info on your form 1098 if your property taxes are paid through your mortgage company.

first time home buyer_deductions

4. You can deduct your Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI)

Private mortgage insurance was designed to protect the lender – not you – in case you default on your loan payments. It’s arranged by the lender, and is provided by insurance carriers.

In December of 2014, the Tax Increase Prevention Act was passed that allows PMI tax breaks for qualified borrowers, including first-time homebuyers. A tax deduction can be claimed for the cost of PMI for both a primary home and any second vacation property.

5. You can take advantage of capital gains in the future

If you just bought your first home, odds are you’re not exactly thinking about selling it just yet. But you never know what the future holds, and if you do decide to sell some time in the future, you can get a break in the tax department in the way of capital gains.

Homeowners have a capital gain when they sell their property, or are considered to have sold what the IRS deems “capital property” for more than what was initially paid for it (minus any expenses associated with the sale).

first time home buyer_capital gains

Under US law, you can avoid paying taxes on up to $250,000 of capital gains – or $500,000 for married couples who file their taxes jointly – as long as you have both owned and lived in the house for two of the past five years. That’s a lot of cash that can be saved in the long run, especially if the value of your home skyrockets during the time you owned it.

Having these financial perks makes entering the real estate scene a lot more affordable for those who are just getting their feet wet with home ownership. But despite these savings, it’s still critical to make sure you can realistically and comfortably afford to buy a house, and how much you can actually pay for one. There are other costs associated with home ownership aside from the purchase price.

Be sure to speak with a real estate agent and mortgage specialist who will be able to fill you in on all the other costs that come along with having your name on title, such as closing costs, insurance, property taxes, and so on. That way you’ll be able to realistically and accurately budget for a home that you can enjoy for the long haul.

10 Ways Your Home Looks Outdated – and How to Fix Them

If you can’t even remember the last time you made a change to the decor in your home, most likely there is something in there that could use a facelift. What may have been the cool thing back in the 70s, 80s, and 90s is probably an eye sore today.

Here are 10 features that are definitely making your home look dated, along with simple solutions on how to update them.

1. Bad Wall Colors

One of the first things that people will notice the second they enter a home is the color on the walls. If your walls are still covered in mauve, dusty rose, or burnt umber, it’s time for a change. Luckily, this is an easy fix, and just requires a few cans of paint and a little elbow grease.

features to fix_old paint

Consider painting your walls a more neutral color that will appease to everyone’s tastes and stand the test of time. Or else, if you want to try something that’s on-trend these days – such as steel blue or plum – go for it. You can always change it next year.

2. Wood Paneling

You might be stuck in the 1970s if you’ve still got crappy wood paneling plastered on your walls. Your best bet here is to completely remove the paneling and replace it with drywall that you can paint.

features to fix_panelled wood

Or else, if time and budget are a concern, you can always paint over the paneling, though this is definitely the less attractive option. You’ll first have to prep the wood paneling make sure that the paint sticks to it and completely covers all the grooves.

3. Outdated Window Treatments

Remember the good ol’ days when grandma had those pink-and-green floral window treatments and valances all over her house? While that may bring back some fond memories, however these window treatments have no business being featured in the modern home. If you’re guilty of having this type of fabric on your windows, take it down – especially if they come with fringed trim and tassels.

features to fix_outdated curtains

If there’s no issue with privacy, then leave the windows be and let the light shine in while enjoying the view. Or else, consider something more contemporary and timeless, such as sliding drapery across a rod in a more subdued and neutral fabric and print.

4. Tacky Wall Borders

features to fix_wallpaper

This is another highly outdated feature, despite the fact that it was all the rage three decades ago. Wallpaper borders are a perfect example of 1980s overdecorating. They look particularly dated when they sit directly on top of wallpaper. If your walls are still lined with flowers, stars, vines, or other tacky patterns in the form of wall bordering, it’s high time that they be scraped off in favor of a more uniform look.

5. Tarnished Brass

features to fix_brass

Whether it’s in the form of light fixtures, cabinet hardware, or even bed posts, tarnished brass is simply gaudy. You’d be amazed at what a difference can be made when these pieces are removed and replaced with other finishes, such as brushed nickel or chrome. Just head on over to your local home improvement store and you’ll have your pick of the litter when it comes to the latest trends.

6. Raggedy Carpeting

Homeowners are increasingly forgoing their wall-to-wall carpeting in favor of more modern flooring, such as hardwood planks or ceramic. Carpeting can be OK in many circumstances, but if it’s stained, shaggy, or features an uncomfortably bold color, you may want to reconsider.

In this case, you might just want to rip out the old carpeting and replace it with something more modern and attractive. Luckily, there are so many affordable wood floor options these days thanks to engineered hardwood. With this material, you can achieve durable, esthetically pleasing floors that look exactly like wood.

7. Massive Entertainment Center

You know what we’re talking about here. Those gargantuan entertainment centers that were big enough to house your huge tube TV, a VCR, stereo system, and CD player. There was probably enough space to store VHS videos and books too.

features to fix_old entertainment system

These days, televisions are as flat as can be, and don’t need these oversized and outdated entertainment units. They’re typically mounted on walls or over fireplaces, which don’t warrant the use of these old furnishings. Replace that old, obsolete entertainment center with floating shelves or something else that’s more delicate and not so in-your-face and overwhelming.

8. Outdated Furniture

Sleigh beds. Overly-bulky sofas. You get the idea. These archaic furniture pieces can really make your home look out-of-date. While replacing furniture with more modern pieces can be an expensive endeavor, it’s one that’s well worth the effort and the cash.

Interior of bedroom with bed and wood floor

Interior of bedroom with bed and wood floor

If you aren’t keen on making a huge dent in your bank account, you can always look into refurbishing what you already have. For instance, consider repainting wood furniture pieces in a dark, rich color, or cover up any loud patterned sofas and chairs with a solid-colored slip cover for a more contemporary look.

9. Sheet Laminate Countertops

Countertops that are lined in cheap sheet laminate are a sure-fire way to date your kitchen – especially if it’s peeling off. Sure, these materials are pretty inexpensive, but it’s not worth sacrificing style just to save a couple of bucks.

There are plenty of more modern options out there that are affordable. Granite, for instance, is a contemporary and attractive choice, and is becoming more cost-effective by the day. Other options to consider for your kitchen countertops include quartz, soapstone, and even wooden butcher blocks.

10. Short, Muted Backsplashes

Backsplashes – which are the walls behind kitchen countertops near the sink and stove – are installed to protect the walls from splashing food and liquid. While they have a functional purpose, they are also a key source of decor in a kitchen. Older kitchens usually came with very short backsplashes – typically no more than 4 inches tall. They were also made of laminate or a material that’s identical to the counters.

features to fix_backsplash

Nowadays, this look is highly outdated. To update the look of the backsplash in your kitchen, consider replacing it with one that extends from the counters to the cabinets, and replace the material with something like glass or ceramic tile walls in a variety of shapes and sizes.

Whether you’re looking to revamp your home to make it more sellable, or simply want a refreshed look in your home for your own visual appeal, replacing these outdated features can make a huge difference on the look and feel of your home from top to bottom.

14 Home Design Accounts You Need to Follow On Instagram

Whether you occasionally enjoy the odd design blog or are literally obsessed with making your space look as chic and stylish as possible at every waking moment, following certain Instagram accounts can provide you with the inspiration and ideas you need.

Check out the following home decor-inspired Instagram accounts that will set you on the right path to creating the perfect style in your home.

1. Apartment Therapy

Siire’s Eclectic, Happy Apartment in Paris — House Tour (Click link above in our profile to read the post on Apartment Therapy!)

A photo posted by Apartment Therapy (@apartmenttherapy) on

They’re motto is “saving the world, one room at a time,” and they mean it. Launched in 2004 by Maxwell and Oliver Ryan, Apartment Therapy boasts easy and affordable ways to help homeowners make their spaces as beautiful and organized as possible. Those who follow this account will get a regular dose of resources and ideas to copy and be inspired by.   

2. One Kings Lane  

This is a fantastic online marketplace that offers homeowners amazing little decorating secrets from the experts in interior decor. One Kings Lane is an interior decor retailer that can be somewhat compared to places like Pottery Barn and Ikea – but their prices fall somewhere in between. Whether you buy from them or not, their Instagram account is a great place to discover awesome ideas at no charge.

3. Emily Henderson

She’s a stylist, interior designer, TV personality, and writer of a daily style blog. And when it comes to interior decor, she’s sheer genius. Emily Henderson’s Instagram account offers home lovers visually appealing and out-of-the-box concepts and ideas that will make you want it all. She’s all about going outside of the norm to achieve an amazing look.

4. Domino Mag

The Domino Mag Instagram account was set up by Domino Magazine, and provides sources for online shopping, tips, and photo galleries that showcase the latest styles and trends in the world of interior decor. The account covers a wide array of decorating details, from subtle decor to much more elaborate and embellished spaces.

5. House Beautiful

Two words: Weekend. Goals. #vacation #escape ✌? (Photo by Don Freeman) A photo posted by housebeautiful (@housebeautiful) on

Not only do homeowners take pointers from House Beautiful, even expert interior designers have been known to peruse this account to get some ideas for decor projects. As the official feed of House Beautiful magazine, this account will drive you to want to covet every design idea that’s posted. The color palettes that are used are so inviting that you’ll want to jump right into the pages.

6. DIY Playbook

Bridget and Casey are the design geniuses that are behind this account, which features homemade DIY ideas that any crafty homeowner can employ to transform their interiors in a jiffy, and on a tight budget. As thrift-store enthusiasts themselves, these two are the perfect sources to get some affordable DIY inspiration from.

7. Mat Sanders

What are you reading this weekend?

A photo posted by Mat Sanders (@thematfinish) on

Mat has a unique and bold design talent that has even attracted the attention of Hollywood heavyweights like actress Jessica Alba and fashion blogger Chiara Ferragni, who have employed him to update their own pads. Sanders’ Instagram account is chalk full of off-the-wall style that you simply can’t look away from.

8. Jonathan Adler

Life’s too short for beige. Give your friends something to squawk about. #interiordesign A photo posted by Jonathan Adler (@jonathanadler) on

Jonathan Adler’s design philosophy is simple: develop a classically chic foundation upon which to build from, then accessorize with reckless abandon. His Instagram feed offers an inside look into his diverse and far-reaching design world where you’ll discover how to mix patterns and textures, put art on display in unexpected ways, and style your furniture pieces like the experts.

9. Grace Bonney

Design*Sponge founder Grace Bonney offers followers simple and fun DIY project ideas that just about any homeowner on any budget can handle. From hanging prints to choosing wallpaper patterns, Grace Bonney’s got some fun and creative ideas for any home.

10. Jason Grant

This Australian interior stylist and author offers some insight into a professional interior stylist’s adventures. Grant is quickly becoming increasingly well known in the world of interior design, and for good reason. He absolutely adores color and develops the most awe-inspiring spaces without even changing the wall paint color. Among his most adoring fans are college students who want an interesting space, but don’t have the budget nor the power to make major changes in their dorm rooms.

11. From the Right Bank

As featured in InStyle and Huffington Post, From the Right Ban’s developer travels all across the globe to draw inspiration from various cultures and infuses them into spaces. Following the motto “living the good life with global modern style,” the founder shares her travels with all of her followers.

12. The Gathered Home

DIY blogger and home decor lover Brynne Delerson has so far posted over 800 photos that highlight vintage furniture collections that are married with everyday contemporary decor to create truly unique spaces. The Gathered Home features regular blog posts from the designer, and is home of the weekly #thriftscorethursday hashtag.

13. Pennies Into Pearls

Who wants the recipe! It’s up on the blog today! www.penniesintopearls.com SO good! #yum #sweet #baking #lemonblueberry A photo posted by Brittany @ Pennies into Pearls (@penniesintopearls) on

Those who are seeking to create a space for entertaining on a budget will find Pennies Into Pearls quite helpful and inspiring. This Instagram account was founded by lifestyle blogger Brittany, who focuses on living in glorious spaces without having to blow the bank account. Her awesome ideas include everything from discovering amazing finds in thrift stores, to creating items made out of recyclables, and everything in between.

14. Victoria Smith

Inspired by bohemian-chic decor and items, Victoria Smith’s Instagram account is loaded with a collection of images that will convince even the naysayers that color should always be used, no matter how subtle or extravagant.

Whether you’re just looking for a few home decor tips, or are completely transforming the look and feel of your home, these fabulous Instagram feeds are the ideal sources for interior design inspiration.

Stylish & Affordable Furniture for First-Time Homeowners

Going from a renter to a homeowner is a big step, especially if it means going from a tiny, cramped space to a multi-bedroom house. In addition to having an endless expanse of empty wall space to fill, a new homeowner also must deal with filling all of those rooms with chairs, couches, tables, and beds.

Since many first-time homebuyers are on a tight budget, finding furniture means not only filling space but also meeting budget restrictions. Fortunately, there are many affordable options that will fill those rooms without costing a fortune.

Keep It Simple

furniture for new homeowners_bed

The first thing to realize is that nobody expects you to have a house full of furniture right away. Take the time to shop around and find the best look for each room. Make a list of priorities, meeting your basic needs to eat, sleep, and shower first. You can save money on a bed by skipping the expensive headboard and footboard until you have the budget for an upgrade. For guest rooms, get a headboard less bed in place before worrying about other furniture items.

Be Thrifty

furniture for new homeowners_garage sale

With the enduring shabby chic trend, thrift store shopping is more popular than ever. You can find great pieces at thrift stores and garage sales, including tables, dressers, nightstands, and accent items. Homeowners also often list furniture for sale on Craigslist as they downsize or upgrade to new furnishings. As you shop, you’ll likely be inspired by what you find, leading you to decorate rooms around the unique furniture you find.


furniture for new homeowners_coffee table

Even if you have plenty of space, you can benefit from furniture that serves dual purposes. You’ll get more for your money if you invest in a bed that doubles as a desk or a dining room table that turns into a poker table for game night. You can even get a coffee table that makes it easier to eat while watching TV. You’ll get two pieces of furniture, usually at only a slightly higher price than what you’d pay for one.

Make Budget Choices

Understand that the choices you make today don’t have to be with you for your lifetime in your new house. Items like accent tables can be purchased on the cheap and used temporarily, until you can choose something better. You may even find an inexpensive piece you like that you can paint to fit the look you want for your rooms.

Get Dorm Inspiration

furniture for new homeowners_dorm style

Seating can be expensive, but if you’re truly strapped for cash, furniture traditionally used in dorm rooms could be an option. If you’d like to go a little more upscale, there are affordable seating options that are more attractive. For true comfort, however, you’ll likely need to spring for a higher-end sofa or recliner. Scour Craigslist and yard sales for used furniture at great prices.

Furnishing a new home can be tough, especially for first-time homebuyers who are strapped for cash. By taking it slowly and searching carefully for the best prices on furniture, you’ll be able to fill your new home with furniture while still staying close to your budget.

5 Common Code Violations Made When Renovating. Number 4 Will Surprise You!

It happens all the time – homeowners who are looking to save a couple of bucks attempt to tackle their home renovation jobs on their own.

While that might be fine and dandy for smaller jobs, it could very well end up in disaster for more complicated tasks. Not only do DIYers need to be experienced with these jobs, they need to be up-to-speed with building codes too.

Failure to comply with these codes could wind up costing you more in the long run, not to mention putting you and your family in harm’s way.

Here are some of the most common code violations homeowners make when renovating their homes solo.

1. Not Getting a Building Permit

One of the biggest and most common mistakes homeowners make when renovating their homes is failure to apply for a permit. Why? Well, they cost money, and they require a trip to city hall. Many homeowners simply want to bypass these little annoyances. They think, who’s going to know?

home code violation_building permit

Sure, there’s a good chance that no one will find out that you worked without a permit. However, if you ever sell in the future, you’ll probably be asked if you got one when you remodeled. If not, it could affect the salability of your home.

You might be asked to fix any issues (that will cost you extra cash) before buyers are willing to put in an offer on your home. And if the buyers finds out about the lack of permit after they move into your home without being notified up front, you could be slapped with a lawsuit.

Besides that, a permit is important because it’ll help ensure that any improvements you make on your home are safe. Permits also help you remain compliant with the most up-to-date regulations like energy-saving measures.

Do yourself a favor and check with your local building authority to find out if a permit is needed for the job you plan on doing in your home.

2. Adding a Basement Apartment Without Necessary Egress Windows

Whether the in-laws are moving in, your kids want their own space, or you want to rent out the basement for extra income, revamping the basement into a self-sufficient quarters is a great idea. How you finish it, is what’s important.

Creating a basement apartment isn’t just about throwing up a couple of walls, adding a bathroom and kitchen, and finishing the flooring. There’s also the issue of egress windows that must be addressed.

home code violation_basement egress window

According to code, any room that’s considered a bedroom needs to have an egress window that’s a minimum of 20 inches wide by 24 inches high. The opening needs to be at least 5.7 square feet so that it’s large enough to allow an adult to climb out of should a fire or other emergency occur where it’s impossible to escape from any other exit.

Not only that, but you’ll need to take steps to make sure that water isn’t able to seep into the basement through the window, which is why you’ll need a water well on the outside of the window.

Without an adequate egress window, you can’t call the room a bedroom, which could throw a wrench into your plans to market your home as one with a “separate basement apartment.”

3. Not Venting Bathroom Fans to the Outside

If you’re planning on renovating your bathroom – or adding a new one – adding a vent fan is a must, considering all the moisture that can quickly and easily build up in these small spaces. Although, a lot of homeowners fall short by venting directly into the attic, and stopping there.

home code violation_bathroom ventilation

If you don’t vent the fan all the way to the outside of the home, all you’re doing is transferring the moisture from your bathroom into the attic, causing rot and mold to develop. To avoid this ugly scenario, you’ll need to vent the air to the outdoors via a vent pipe that’s 4 inches in diameter.

4. Placing Smoke Alarms in the Wrong Places

Just about every homeowner understands how critical it is to have smoke alarms installed in the home. But did you know that there are exact spots that they need to be placed in according to code?

home code violation_fire alarm

That’s right. You can’t just randomly plop a smoke alarm wherever you feel like. Considering their lifesaving roles, smoke alarms need to be given enough space, and should be placed far enough away from air ducts so they’re not affected by any circulating air. If not, they might not be triggered in time should a fire ensue.

Smoke alarms also need to be placed on each floor of the home; and in newer homes, they must be hard-wired with a back-up battery.

5. Shoddy Electrical Work

Electrical wiring that’s not installed properly can really pose a hazard. That’s why you might be better off calling in a licensed electrician to do the job for you if you haven’t got a ton of experience in this department.

One of the more common wiring mistakes is not using the correct size circuits. According to code, 15-amp circuits are needed for light fixtures, and 20-amp circuits are needed for receptacles.

home code violation_electrical wiring

Splicing wires without the presence of a junction box is another common faux pas. You can’t just splice wires together with some wire nuts and electrical tape – every wire connection needs to be inside a proper junction box, which should be visible and accessible.

The lack of ground-fault circuit interrupters (GFCI) is another no-no. GFCIs are necessary for any circuit that serves a space where there’s water, like the bathroom, kitchen and laundry room.

Code violations typically happen when homeowners are trying to save a buck. While this might be OK for smaller jobs, tasks that are much bigger and in-depth definitely need to follow proper code regulations. If not, you could wind up spending a lot more down the road to rectify the scenario if things go awry.

Snoring Rooms Grow in Popularity

It’s the middle of the night and the person next to you in bed is snoring. The sound is so loud, nothing you do seems to be able to drown it out. The only option is to take a pillow and blanket and move to a different room, where you might be able to escape the wall-rattling noise.

Snoring Rooms Grow in Popularity

This is the life of the spouse of a snorer. When one person in a relationship snores, it can lead to numerous sleepless nights. Over time, it can even rupture a romantic relationship, leaving one person feeling as though there is no way to escape the noise and get some sleep.

Separate Bedrooms

snoring room_spouse room 2

A new idea coming out of the United Kingdom may give sleepers some relief. Frustrated by the nocturnal habits of their sleep mates, wealthy homebuyers are now commissioning “snoring rooms” to separate significant others at night. Instead of relying on smaller secondary bedrooms for getting some rest, well-to-do customers can set up his and hers master bedrooms that accommodate those incompatible sleeping habits.

snoring room_spouse room

The trend has already taken off in England, where one in six couples do not share a bed. The ratio is even greater in America, with one study revealing that 23 percent of American couples sleep apart, whether that means spending the night in a recliner or guest bed. Some couples even credit sleeping apart for their happy marriages. With snoring rooms, both members of a couple can enjoy the amenities that come with a master bedroom rather than one person having to settle for a guest bedroom or the living room sofa.

The Need for Snoring Rooms

snoring room_reading room

Despite the name, snoring is only one of many reasons a couple might opt for separate master bedrooms in a home. One person may prefer to sleep with the TV on, for instance, while the other can’t sleep at all while the TV is on in the room. A couple may find that a snoring room helps resolve temporary disruptions, such as a mother’s need to breastfeed during the early months of a baby’s life. It also can help resolve those many instances where one person prefers to stay up late reading or working, while the other turns in early.

Many couples find that as they age, the need for separate bedrooms increases. Snoring tends to increase in frequency as a person ages, especially in those who suffer from sleep apnea. Age can also contribute to insomnia, with 39 percent of people reporting that they wake up frequently throughout the night. When one person sharing a bed tosses and turns, it can disrupt the other person’s sleep. Separate bedrooms give insomniacs the freedom to watch TV or read when restlessness occurs without worrying about waking up someone else.

If you’re thinking about dual master bedrooms in your next home, consider creative ways to place them close together, perhaps so that they share access to a master bedroom. By splitting your master bedrooms, you’ll be able to create a comfortable sleeping space for both of the primary homeowners while also ensuring a restful night’s sleep on a regular basis.

These Features Will Help Your Home Sell Faster

If you’re planning on selling your home and moving some time in the near future, you should think about the features in your house, and whether or not buyers want what you’ve got. Yet a lot of home buyers might be hesitant to blow money on upgrades if they don’t plan on taking advantage of them for long.

Think about it, the cost you incur to make these upgrades might be a lot less compared to the loss you’ll take upon the sale of your home if you don’t include certain features that buyers in your area desire. It really can mean the difference between getting the price you want, and letting the listing go stale.

Here are a few popular features that will most likely help you sell your home faster.

Gourmet Kitchen

home features_updated kitchen

The kitchen is always a huge selling point for homes. Buyers love it when they walk into a home and see a kitchen masterfully outfitted with updated features and appliances. Kitchen makeovers are always at the top of the list when it comes to the biggest ROI.

What exactly sets a typical kitchen update apart from a gourmet kitchen?

Three features are a part of this equation:

1) Cutting-edge appliances

2) Gorgeous surfaces

3) Tons of storage

You can’t call a kitchen ‘gourmet’ if it’s not equipped with a top-of-the-line gas range and deep refrigerator. Don’t forget the convection double oven, warming oven, and microwave drawer – gourmet cooks appreciate having these features in their kitchens. At the very least, consider installing stainless steel appliances, which are always sharp-looking and make a statement.

When it comes to the surface that cooks like to work on, consider stainless steel or stone counters. If these aren’t in the budget, you can mimic the look with a laminate. People who watch all those home improvement or cooking shows expect kitchen to look like the ones on TV.

Potential buyers will definitely be going through all the drawers and cabinets in the kitchen. Those with ample space will always score big points.

Energy Efficient Appliances, Windows and HVAC Systems

home features_windows

Buyers are savvy these days, and they are increasingly expecting homes to feature energy-efficient windows and appliances to help shave the cost off their monthly utility bills.

Energy Star windows come with an invisible glass coating, vacuum-sealed gaps with inert gaps, durable weather stripping, and high quality framing materials – all of which can help to cut down energy costs by as much as 15%.

‘Green’ HVAC systems can cut 20% off your annual utility bills, and can provide efficiency even in extreme hot or cold weather conditions. The cutting-edge technology used to adjust heating or cooling can manage the air temperature in the home for the ultimate in comfort, while using the least amount of energy possible.

Refrigerators, stoves, washers and dryers are all energy-suckers, which is why making the switch to energy-efficient models makes sense. You can save a few hundred bucks at the end of the year by opting for appliances that use less energy to complete the same tasks as their non-energy-efficient counterparts. And the government might even pitch in with incentives if you choose to make the switch.

Knowing that your home is easy on the environment and affordable to operate is a huge feature that buyers look for.

Backyard Deck

home features_backyard porch

After checking out all the rooms in the home, buyers love ending off their tour by walking out to an expansive and well maintained deck in the backyard. Millennials in particular have come to expect this feature, so give them what they want and build one if you haven’t already got one.

Even if you’ve got a teeny tiny yard, that doesn’t mean you can’t install one. A deck that fits a couple of chairs and a little table is just enough to provide an outdoor living space. Aside from pressure-treated pine (which is a common material used in building home decks), there are other materials you can consider using, including concrete or composite materials that require less maintenance than wood.

Throw in a few built-in pot lights and you’ll thoroughly impress buyers.

Open Concept

home features_open floor plan

Plenty of homeowners with a separate formal dining room rarely use the space. Actually, scratch that. It is used, but more often for storing junk than for actual sit-down dinners.

These days, millennials prefer an open floor plan with minimal walls that cut off the space. Instead of a separate dining room, living room and kitchen, consider knocking down a few walls to open up the space and bring in more light.

Not only is an open floor plan brighter and more functional, it’s also more conducive to interaction among everyone in the home. Parents can keep tabs on their kids better, and guests can socialize amongst each other regardless if one is in the kitchen and the other is in the living room.

Storage Space in the Garage

Garages aren’t just for storing vehicles – they’re also hugely depended on by homeowners to store things. This is especially true for young couples with growing families. In addition to the basement, the garage tends to be depended on to store all those big items, like strollers, bikes, patio chairs, boxes of old toys, and other things that you’d rather not lug up the stairs from the basement.

Additional storage in the garage allows homeowners to ensure that the inside of their homes is not cluttered and much more organized. After all, the less stuff you have in the house, the less organizing and tidying up is necessary.

Adding this extra storage is easy, and you don’t need a massive garage to make it happen either. All you need is some cabinetry, a peg wallboard to hang your tools, and some lighting to make finding your items a cinch.

Not only should you eliminate features in your home that are considered outdated and unattractive (popcorn ceilings and peeling vinyl floor tiles, that means you!), you should seriously consider incorporating some of the above features to attract the masses of buyers. In addition to these features, there are plenty others that can do the trick to bring in the offers. Consult with your real estate agent for more tips and ideas to get your home sold quickly.

How to Create a Sustainable Home Garden

It’s nearly impossible not to be bombarded with news and information about how much safer and healthier organic food is for our bodies. Although, we also know how much more expensive organic produce can be.

So why not grow it in your own yard?

Contrary to what some may believe, growing a home garden doesn’t require extensive farming experience or the latest tools of the trade. It’s actually a lot simpler than that, and can help make your home a more sustainable one for you, your family, and even the environment.

What Are Some of the Advantages of Having a Garden at Home?

advantages of home gardening

First of all, let’s go over the benefits of having a home garden:

Quick access to fruits and veggies – Instead of having to run to the grocery store every time you run out of salad or fresh basil, you can just stroll on over to your backyard to fetch some. Save yourself time and gasoline by foregoing the daily trip to the supermarket and visit your home garden instead.

Gain control over the food you eat – Even when food products are labeled “organic,” not knowing exactly who’s growing the food and how they’re handling it can be bit unsettling. Instead, by growing your own fruits, vegetables, and herbs, you gain control over exactly what chemicals are being used, or avoided altogether. That way, you truly know just what you’re putting in your mouth.

organic vegetables

Reduce your carbon footprint on the environment – Having a home garden allows you to make a positive environmental impact. You can start a compost pile where you can recycle certain yard and kitchen waste products to produce a nutrient-rich additive for the soil in your garden. Not only does this create a natural fertilizer for your plants, it also minimizes the waste that you produce. And if you decide to avoid the use of chemicals, you can even reduce pollution and groundwater contamination.

Enjoyment and satisfaction – For many homeowners, watching their gardens go from seeds to fruit- and vegetable-bearing plants can be a real source of accomplishment and enjoyment. Seeing your hard work come to fruition can be really rewarding.

How to Get Your Own Home Garden Started – and Flourishing

garden soil

Follow these tips to ensure you garden grows healthy, abundant plants, and trees to feed your family, and maybe even give you enough leftovers for the neighbors!

Test the soil – One of the first things you should do is make sure that the soil you plan on planting your seeds in is fertile enough to produce healthy plants. It’s pretty easy to do this – all you need is a cheap soil test kit that you can find at your local nursery.

By doing so, you’ll be able to identify whether or not the soil has too high of an alkaline or acid content. Once you’re armed with this info, you can add fertilizer and compost accordingly. While many plants will do well with balanced pH levels, others might prefer soil that’s a little more on the acidic side, and would therefore benefit more from plant-based fertilizers. Other plants do better with manure – it all depends on what you’re planting.

Find out which plants are ideal companions – Not every plant necessarily does well when placed beside specific plants. Find out which types of plants do well when they’re planted side by side. For instance, tomatoes and basil plants do well when planted beside each other; the basil boost the flavor of the tomatoes, and this combination also repels mosquitos. On the flip side, onions and asparagus aren’t the best of companions, and should be planted away from each other.

Make your own compost – Not only is this easy, it’ll also cut down on your household waste. A bunch of things can be added to your compost, such as leaf clippings, food scraps, and other organic items. Keep a compost both indoors and outdoors to make it easy and convenient to continue adding to it.

Add flowers to the vegetable garden – Even though your goal is to grow vegetables and fruit, consider adding some flowers to the garden. Not only will they enhance the beauty of the garden, but they’ll also attract the good bugs that eat plant-destroying aphids, and encourage cross-pollinating. 

flower garden

Add mulch – Adding mulch to the garden will help keep the weeds at bay, help the soil retain moisture, and protect the roots of the plants.

Grow fruit trees that fit your space – Depending on how much space you have to work with, you’ll need to figure out which fruits trees will be suitable in the space you have. A full-sized fruit tree will need an area that’s approximately 25×25 feet big. If you live in an urban area where space is limited, consider dwarf fruit trees; these little trees can thrive in as little as 3×3 feet of space (though they prefer 4×4 feet).

You may also choose to grow semi-dwarf fruit trees against walls to save some space. Dwarf fruit trees bear fruit sooner, so you can start enjoying your peaches or apples with less waiting time. Just be aware that the majority of fruit trees need two of the same type of fruit to cross-pollinate and produce fruit.

Don’t forget to water! – Depending on how much precipitation you get and what you’ve got growing, your garden will need to be watered at least 2 or 3 times per week. Do your homework on the plants you’re growing so you know exactly how much water they require.

As a general rule of thumb, it’s ideal to water either first thing in the morning, or later on in the evening, as watering during the afternoon when it’s particularly sunny and hot can actually burn the plants.

The freshest, safest, tastiest, and most economical fruits and vegetables that you’ll ever eat can easily be grown in your own backyard. Within a few short weeks, you can be bringing your own produce to the dinner table!