Combating Pollen in Your Home

Pollen and other allergens are unavoidable outdoors, but if you’re having trouble with your allergies inside your home, it’s time to do some interior detoxing. Allergy season has started and The Mather Company wants to make sure you are prepared and able to breathe easy despite the seemingly increased presence of allergens.

Wash your bedding. This might seem a no-brainer, but you should be washing your bedding at least once a week. Wash sheets, pillows and covers in hot water at least once a week. If you are allergic to dust mites, encase your pillows and mattress in dust mite proof covers.

Clean your curtains. Heavy drapes and window dressings can harbor loads of dust, dirt and allergens. Vacuum them with the hose attachment and hand wash them in cold water.

Love your feather duster? It’s time to pitch it! Dusting should be done with moist cloths to catch dust, where feather dusters simply spread dust particles around the room.

Keep shoes by the door. Tracking in dirt and other outdoor particles is an easy way to irritate your allergies. There could even be pollen on your shoes! According to the EPA, the bottom of your shoes can have pollen grains, mold spores, grass, ragweed, pet dander, and more—all of which are germs and allergens. Place a shoe rack next to the door and ensure anyone who comes in places their shoes there.

Unclutter your home. Magazines, mail, paper and collectibles are all dust harboring items. Clean these out of your home regularly. Less stuff means less places for dust to cling to!

Vacuum your home with a HEPA filter once a week. A HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filter traps very fine dust particles that other vacuum filters only re-circulate these particles back into the air of your home. Yuck!

On the subject of filters, your air conditioning filters should be cleaned at least once per month, more frequently if you notice dust building up. These are all allergens and dust particles pumping into your home—get rid of them. Your air ducts should be inspected as well. Clean ductwork equals better air quality and less allergens floating around.

To read the article as published on allmysons.com, please click here.

Are Reverse Mortgages Really Worth It?

Faced with rising medical expenses and longer life expectancies, many seniors are turning to their single largest asset as a source of supplemental income: their home.

Indeed, reverse mortgages enable seniors who are 62 and older to convert a portion of the equity in their home into cash without having to sell.

As the name implies, such loans are structured as the mirror image of a regular mortgage. The lender makes payments to you in either a lump-sum amount or in monthly installments based on a percentage of your home’s appraised value. Eligible homeowners can also set up a reverse mortgage as a line of credit, providing access to emergency funds on an as-needed basis.

The money received can be used to pay off your existing mortgage loan and halt your monthly payment, supplement your retirement income, finance a home-improvement project or pay for health-care costs.

And the balance, including interest and financed closing costs, need not be repaid until you sell your home, no longer use it as your primary residence or pass away. Another perk? Proceeds are generally tax-free.

Yet such loans, while potentially solving a host of problems for retirees who are house-rich but cash-poor, also come with some pretty significant risks.

“Reverse mortgages are a useful tool for some people,” said Lori Trawinski, senior strategic policy advisor with the AARP Public Policy Institute. “They can enable retirees to age in place, but we always emphasize that these are loans, and as such, borrowers have obligations.”

Among those obligations, borrowers must stay current on their property taxes, homeowners insurance and any homeowner’s association dues and assessments. They must also keep their home well maintained. Failure to comply can send the loan into default and result in a foreclosure, according to Trawinski.

The amount you owe on a reverse mortgage also grows over time.

Interest is charged on the outstanding balance and added to the amount owed every month. Thus, your total debt increases as the loan funds are advanced to you and interest on the loan accrues.

That means fewer assets left in your estate to pass along to your heirs, which may not matter if you don’t intend to preserve your assets for future generations, said Marla Mason, a certified financial planner and vice president of Presidential Brokerage.

While Realtors blame rough winter weather on flat home sales in many part of the U.S., that theory doesn’t support the sharp drop in the West. CNBC’s Diana Olick digs deeper into the data.

“If you plan to live out your life in your house and you don’t care about leaving a legacy behind, the reverse mortgage is a very valid option,” she said.

However, Mason explained, these loans come with a lot of fees.

The maximum origination fee allowed for a federally insured reverse mortgage, formerly called a Home Equity Conversion Mortgage, or HECM, is 2 percent of the initial $200,000 of the home’s value and 1 percent of the remaining value, with a cap of $6,000, according to the National Reverse Mortgage Lenders Association.

You will also owe a mortgage insurance premium fee based on the amount of funds withdrawn during the initial year. That fee is 0.50 percent of the appraised value of the home if you take no more than 60 percent of the amount available in the first year, and 2.5 percent if you take more than 60 percent of the available amount. On a $200,000 home, 2.5 percent amounts to $5,000, and 0.50 percent is $1,000.

You will also owe a mortgage insurance premium annually, which accrues over time when the balance comes due. The annual premium is equal to 1.25 percent of the outstanding loan balance.

There are also appraisal fees, which vary by region but average around $450. If the appraiser determines that your house requires repairs, you will be required to complete the repairs as a condition of approval, as well.

Finally, there are closing costs, which are comparable to those of any mortgage loan and often amount to about $1,000. Some lenders will also charge a $35 monthly service fee for the life of the loan, but most have dropped that fee, according to Trawinski.

“These loans can be expensive,” she said, noting it all depends upon how much you borrow initially. “If you take out a lot of money upfront and exit the home in a very short period of time, it can be a very expensive way to borrow money.

“But if you borrow less and stay longer, the costs amortize over time, so it’s comparatively less costly,” she added.

Reverse mortgage loans come in three flavors: single-purpose reverse mortgages, which are offered by some states, local government agencies and nonprofit organizations; federally-insured reverse mortgages (HECMs); and proprietary reverse mortgages, which are private loans backed by the companies that develop them.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, single-purpose reverse mortgages are the least expensive option, but they’re not available everywhere and can be used for only one purpose, which is specified by the lender. The lender might indicate, for example, that the money can only be used to pay for home repairs, improvements or property taxes.

HECMs and proprietary reverse mortgages can be more expensive than traditional home loans, and the upfront costs can be high.

The amount of equity you can borrow in a reverse mortgage depends on your age; the type of reverse mortgage you select, such as lump sum, monthly payments or line of credit; and current interest rates. In general, the older you are, the more equity you have in your home and the less you owe on it, the more money you can take out, according to the FTC.

Other sources of cash
Before taking out a reverse mortgage, homeowners should consider alternatives, said Sean Keating, a certified financial planner and principal and founder at Patriot Financial Advisors. (All borrowers, in fact, must complete government-approved counseling before they can qualify for a HECM loan.)

For those with the means to pay off a home-improvement project or pricey dream vacation over the course of a few years, it’s generally less expensive to take out a home-equity loan, which involves only an appraisal fee and closing costs and does not deplete the value of your estate. The interest you pay is also generally tax deductible.

Seniors who assume a regular home-equity loan, however, must be prepared to make monthly payments until the loan is repaid.They should also be aware that failure to meet their home-equity loan obligations could result in the loss of their home.

Cash-strapped homeowners who are using a reverse mortgage as a last-ditch effort to hang on to their home should also think twice, Keating said.

“When an older couple cannot afford to live in the home anymore, getting a reverse mortgage will only delay the loss of the house and will leave them with no assets.”-Sean Keating, certified financial planner and principal and founder, Patriot Financial Advisors

Better to sell the house and downsize, move in with a family member, take on a roommate or explore whether one of your adult children might be willing to purchase the family house through an installment sale, Keating added.

“The kids may not have a lump-sum payment to buy the house outright, but by making monthly installment payments, their parents get to stay in the home, collect a monthly income and the kids eventually own the house so it preserves that asset for the next generation,” he said.

Well-heeled homeowners with a highly appreciated home may benefit the most from a reverse mortgage, according to Keating.

Rather than using bond ladders to create consistent income—a strategy in which bonds’ maturity dates are evenly spaced to enhance liquidity—they can instead keep more of their money in higher-growth equities and use a reverse mortgage line of credit for living expenses during the months or years when the market is down. A more aggressive equity allocation also protects against longevity risk or the chance of outliving your savings.

“That way, you’re not pressured to sell in a down market,” said Keating, noting such strategy only works for homeowners with enough equity to cover one or two years’ worth of living expenses if necessary. “When the market rebounds, you can take out the amount of money you were expected to withdraw from your stock portfolio and pay back the reverse mortgage loan.”

Many state and local governments also offer low-interest and low-cost deferred-payment loans for improving or repairing your home that function like a reverse mortgage.

When mining your home for money, be aware of the fees you’ll pay, the impact on your estate and any alternatives that might be a better bet. At the end of the day, the math must make sense.

“For people who have a need for cash, reverse mortgages can be a useful way to access funds without having to sell their home,” Trawinski said. “But you are also spending down your equity, and the balance of your loan continues to grow, so it’s a good idea to think about alternative programs and sources of cash.”

To read the article as published on CNBC.com, please click here.

Common Landscaping Disasters & How to Fix Them

Avoid disaster and make your yard look this beautiful. HGTV has brought together some of the best gardening experts to share their insider tips on how to avoid common landscaping disasters and what to do to fix them if it does happen.

Excessive Lawn Ornamentation
People often make the mistake of putting too many decorative items in their front yard, which can be a distraction from the beauty of the natural landscape. Before setting out that lawn ornament, ask yourself why are you putting it there and how it fits in to the context of your overall design and plant materials. Stick with one crisp choice, even if it is a little silly. One little whimsical statement goes a lot further than 10.

Planting in the Wrong Place
Improper plant placement is another common mistake. People often do not take into consideration the proper sunlight and exposure for their plants. Be sure to pay attention to the little tag that you get when you buy the plant. When it comes to planting trees, you need to remember how big they could get and how much space they are going to need. Also think about focal points — choose something that’s going to look good year-round.

Cutting Grass Too Short
It’s a common myth that cutting the grass shorter means you have to mow it less. That’s actually not the case, and you can do more harm than good. If you scalp the lawn, it could result in a bare patch, which could make it too inviting for insects and/or susceptible to disease. The key is to cut the lawn different lengths throughout the year. During the summer, the lawn needs a little more shade, so let the blades grow just a little bit more. That way the water doesn’t evaporate so quickly. During the winter, cut it a little bit shorter so that the sunlight can actually get into the soil.

Failing to Fertilize Properly
There are two ways that fertilizing can be a mistake. The first one is not doing it at all. The other is fertilizing too much or fertilizing improperly. Ask someone at your garden center to recommend a proper fertilizer for your yard. It’s a good idea to do it at least twice a year, once in the spring and again in the fall. You should never do so in the bright sun, and watering always needs to follow. It’s also a good idea to mix in fertilizer when planting new plants. Make sure that, when I dig the hole, I mix in new soil and I also mix in fertilizer. So the plant, over the period of a year, is going to have a nice time release of fertilizer.

Picking the Wrong Plants
Just because a plant looks pretty doesn’t mean it actually belongs in your yard. You have to take into consideration your particular backyard, with filtered light or shade, and what’s going to work best for you. If it’s a really hot, sunny spot, maybe you want to go with a succulent. Get a great landscaping book for your area to help you figure out what to plant and when, as well as how and when to fertilize.

Not Accounting for Wildlife
Before you decide what to plant in your garden, think about what pests you have in relation to what you’d like to plant. For example, pretty flowering plants can attract deer, so you might want to throw in some bitter-tasting ones among them. Once they taste the wrong one, they are likely to stop coming around. If there are wild rabbits around, you may need to shelter your garden bed by building a small fence. Chicken wire is another option.

Being Shortsighted
Being shortsighted is a common problem because many people don’t know what the eventual growth of their plants will be. You need to find out how they spread, how they reproduce and what type of maintenance they require. There are actually software programs available where you can design a landscape and then click a button, and it will show you the growth rate of those plants over a year or two years and so on.

Improper Pruning
Pruning can be just as much of an art form as it is a technique, but when pruning is improperly done, you can do more harm than good. In fact, in some cases, it’s better not to prune at all than to do it improperly. Every plant has a different pruning process. The fall is usually the best time of year to prune, but be sure to find out for sure. There are great books and manuals as well as websites that offer tips and explain proper pruning techniques.

Irrational Irrigation
Use the correct amount of water for your plants and lawn. A lot of homeowners make the mistake of over-watering. Most lawns just need about an inch of a water per week. The best time of day to water the lawn (and usually any plant) is early morning so that way it has all day to dry. You can buy a sprinkler with an automatic timer to reduce water waste, or even put in an irrigation system in.

Overlooking Maintenance
Part of planning a garden is also planning time to maintain it. Make up a maintenance schedule and abide by it. Garden beds need to be weeded at least once or twice a month, minimum. If you don’t have the time to take care of your garden, make sure you have enough money to pay somebody to do it.

Underestimating the Cost
There is a lot of sticker shock in the world of plants. People often think “it’s just a couple of plants, how expensive could it be?” Landscaping is actually 30 percent more expensive than any other type of home improvement project. Another area that gets underestimated is the budget, and one of the biggest factors in a budget is the labor involved. It always costs more, and people cost the most. When you’re starting a landscape project, make sure you have enough budget, because you want to do the job one time, and you want to do it right.

Not Having a Plan
Don’t start a landscaping project without a plan. Decide on a specific theme or look and then draw it out on paper. Figure out where you want to put your plants and shrubs in relation to the shape and style of your house. Examine ways to bring the inside out so that when you are finished, you have a nice, harmonious design. Don’t forget to factor in your budget, and when you hit the nursery, stick to it. If you follow the plan, you (and your landscape) will reap the rewards.

To read the complete article as published on shine.yahoo.com, please click here.

Get Yourself Organized with Style

If you resolve to unclutter your workspace this year and tackle the piles of paper, let us help by showing you the tools to get the job done.

Pack It Up

Corral everything you can’t part with into one of these vintage-inspired suitcases. No one will ever know what’s inside — the’ll be too busy complimenting your retro-looking desk organizers

Rank and File

It’s the bland manila folder that makes you procrastinate, right? Not anymore. With file folders as pretty as these, you won’t be able to resist working through what’s inside. This decorative filing set includes a linen covered file holder with six coordinating folders.

Contact Points

Say good-bye to the purely functional Rolodex and hello to an index with both form and function in mind. Case in point, keep your contacts in tip-top shape inside this sleek index. This little chrome number will launch a revival of the old-school desk accessory.

Stick It

You’ll ask, “Why didn’t I think of this?” Incredibly simple, incredibly smart, incredibly versatile, this arcitects strap is made out of silicone and hangs outstretched on a wall just waiting to store anything from towels to shoes to magazines.

Filed Under Fabulous

“The only way to avoid piles of paper accumulating around your home is to have a home for your papers,” says organizing expert Jodie Watson.

And what a better way to house your papers than in a flashy filing cabinet? Just slide this under your desk, and keep all your important documents in one safe place.

Hidden Bookshelf

If the traditional bookcase seems a bit boring, look to these wall-mounted brackets to hold and display your collection. When filled with books (up to 15 pounds) the metal brackets virtually disappear and leave only the book spines visible.

Label Maker

A set of these bronze-finish label holders will help tame any unruly bins or baskets. Use them for the home office, front entry, or anywhere you need to distinguish the bills to be paid from the permission slips to be signed.

To read the complete article as published on myhomeideas.com, please click here.

Homeowners, Don’t Miss Out on this Year’s Tax Breaks

U.S. tax season officially runs from Jan. 31 to April 15. While several energy-efficient home improvement tax credits recently expired, there are still many tax breaks available to homeowners.

Whether you own a single-family home, condo, co-op apartment or mobile home, you may qualify — just be aware that, in most cases, you’ll need to itemize your taxes in order to take advantage of these deductions and credits. Here are a few of the tax breaks you’ll want to check out.

Mortgage interest deduction

In most cases, you can deduct all of your home mortgage interest. How much you can deduct depends on when you took out the mortgage, the amount of the mortgage and how you use mortgage proceeds. You can deduct your home mortgage interest only if your mortgage is a secured debt. Your mortgage is a secured debt if you put your home up as collateral to protect the interests of the lender. You may qualify for a mortgage interest deduction on a loan secured for your primary and second home, even if your second home is a boat or RV with cooking, sleeping and bathroom facilities.

The interest you pay on a mortgage for a third, fourth or fifth home may be deductible if the proceeds of the loan were used for business, investment or other deductible purposes; check with a tax accountant for details.

Deduction of points

If you bought a home in 2013 and paid points in order to obtain your home mortgage, these fees are included on the income tax deductions list and can be deducted. If you refinanced your home, these points are still deductible, but it must be done over the life of the mortgage.

Exclusion on sales gains

If you sold a home in 2013, you may qualify for an exclusion on the net sales gain (selling price minus purchase price plus improvements) of up to $250,000 for an individual or $500,000 for a couple. This exclusion requires that the home was used as your personal residence for two of the past five years. Things become more complicated if you lived in the house, moved out and then moved back in; be sure to consult a tax professional to see if you qualify for a partial exclusion.

Deduction of property taxes

You can deduct your state and local property taxes, as long as they are based on the assessed value of the real property. If you pay your property taxes out-of-pocket, you need to locate your bills to determine how much you paid.

If your money is being held in escrow for the purpose of paying property taxes, you cannot claim this deduction until the money is actually taken out of escrow and paid. If you receive a partial refund of your property tax, the amount of the deduction you can claim will be reduced.

Mortgage insurance deduction

Mortgage insurance provided by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is commonly known as a funding fee; if provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development, it’s referred to as a guarantee fee. The funding fee or guarantee fee can be included in the amount of your home loan or paid in full at the time of closing. These fees can be deducted fully in tax year 2013 if the mortgage insurance contract was issued in 2013.

If you pay private mortgage insurance (PMI), that’s a cost you probably won’t be able to deduct — unless you meet the requirements of a special PMI law that allows deductions of PMI payments on loans originated or refinanced between Jan. 1, 2007, and Dec. 31, 2013, and that meet certain loan amount limits.

Home office deduction

Beginning in tax year 2013, taxpayers may use a simplified option when figuring the deduction for business use of their home. Both homeowners and renters can take advantage of this deduction, as long as the space serves as your principal place of business and is regularly and exclusively used for business purposes. You’re entitled to a deduction of $5 per square foot of the home used for business, up to 300 square feet.

If the simplified option doesn’t appeal to you, you may still use the regular method (required for tax years 2012 and prior) and determine the actual expenses of your home office: mortgage interest, insurance, utilities, repairs and depreciation. If you use the regular method, deductions for a home office are based on the percentage of your home devoted to business use.

Energy-savings deductions

If you installed a geothermal heat pump, small wind turbine or solar energy system in your home in 2013, you may be able to claim a tax credit for up to 30 percent of the cost of installation. The credit has no upper limit and applies to both existing homes and new construction, but not to rental properties. This credit runs through the end of 2016.

You can also get a credit of up to 30 percent of the cost of residential fuel cells, up to $500 per 0.5 kilowatt of power capacity. This credit also expires Dec. 31, 2016.

Clergy, military housing allowance

Ministers and members of the U.S. armed services who receive a housing allowance that is not taxable can deduct their real estate taxes and home mortgage. Even better news? You don’t have to reduce your deductions by your nontaxable allowance.

To read the article as published on zillow.com, please click here.

The Cost of Building a Deck

Putting up a new deck can improve both the function and look of your home and its future resale value. The costs of new decks can vary significantly, however, depending on square footage, the type of materials used and whether you choose to hire a contractor or do it yourself. So, what can you expect to pay for a deck?

Deck type and size

The most important cost consideration is the size and type of deck you want. The bigger the square footage, the more you can expect to pay. The type of deck boards you use will also factor into your overall cost. For example, using the least expensive type of lumber available, you can build an 8-by-10 foot deck for approximately $500 in materials. A raised, 10-by-16 foot deck will cost around $1,500. Expect these costs to double or triple if you use a contractor. Multilevel or wrap-around decks will add an extra cost.

Where you’re putting your deck also matters. If it’s low enough to the ground, you may be able to place the joists on four-way deck blocks ($10 to $20), rather than digging post holes. It’s possible to level the soil and place these directly on the ground, but most homeowners choose to add gravel or a large paving stone to help keep the structure from shifting. Higher decks mean you need to pour concrete pilings for support pillars. (Your city or town will have rules about how high a deck can be before it requires certain supports.) Post holes will have to be augured and the posts set in place before any construction can begin.

Materials matter

Treated lumber is the most common type of deck material, but your options vary. Redwood, for example, is a high-quality wood choice, or you may choose tongue-and-groove pine decking ($300 to $600) to help keep bugs and plants from rooting through. PVC “boards” are also a popular option because they are weather resistant, won’t crack or splinter and don’t require painting. They are available both in designs that mimic wood grain and more vibrant colors as desired.

If you don’t want a raised deck, consider a flagstone or poured concrete option. Both require digging, leveling and tamping of large ground sections, but they don’t require painting or staining once complete. Hiring a pro is recommended for any stone or concrete work.

Pros versus DIY

If you hire a pro, expect to pay between $8 and $10 per square foot if you use standard lumber. Redwood will run you $27 and $35 per square foot. A large, multilevel deck off of a second story with staircases, for example, could run up to $15,000 if you hire a contractor, but you could do the same work yourself for half that cost.

There are several benefits to bringing in a pro, especially if you have a complex deck project. The first is experience: A contractor will know what works and what doesn’t and can advise you if a particular idea is too costly or simply won’t work with your house. In addition, contractors come with a crew and all the necessary tools, and they’ll bring or order all the materials, meaning you don’t need to worry about logistics. Make sure to get a guarantee in writing about the deck’s workmanship: typically, this will cover any structural issues over a certain number of years. You’ll want to make sure that the contractor you hire will take care of any permits that are required. Also ask about how your contractor will assemble your deck. Lag bolts will last longer than carriage bolts, for example.

Extras to consider

You can also improve your new deck with extras: for example, gas lines for a barbecue ($300), built-in speakers ($250) or a pergola ($300). Remember, too, that if you have an old deck, it needs to be removed. This can add up between $1,000 and $3,000 to a contractor’s cost, depending on how much he charges to have your old decking hauled away. Some may include this free of charge if your project is large enough. Other extra costs may include fixes to your home if proper flashing wasn’t previously used or if you have significant water damage.

To read the article as published on angieslist.com, please click here.

Caring for Your Laminate Flooring

Laminate floors are tough and resilient, easy to care for, long lasting, and beautiful. If you treat laminate floors right, they will reward you with many years of utility and pleasure. Here are 10 tips for protecting and maintaining laminate floors.

1. Lift don’t drag. Laminate floors are scratch resistant, but not scratch proof, so never drag or push heavy furniture or appliances across laminate floors. Instead, use a dolly or hand truck to move heavy items or lift and carry them.

2. Help floors and furniture coexist in peace. Use rubber casters or soft pads (stick-on felt pads are a good option) to protect laminate floors from furniture damage. Also, slightly reposition furniture occasionally.

3. Humidify, if necessary. Excessive expansion and contraction of laminate flooring as a result of wide swings in temperature or humidity can cause gaps in the joints between floor boards or even buckling. Therefore, if you live in an area with wide variations in humidity, you may want to use a humidifier to maintain a consistent level of humidity year round.

4. Keep laminate floors dry. If liquid of any kind spills on your laminate floor, clean it up immediately, since moisture can seep into the joints and cause long-term damage.

5. Remove stains with care. Always use a soft cloth when removing stains and, if you are scraping up hard-set material like dried food or candle wax, use a rubber spatula. Check with your laminate floor manufacturer for the proper way to remove tough stains like paint, nail polish and ink.

6. Clean regularly. Keep laminate floors clean by sweeping, dust mopping or vacuuming daily or every other day. For more thorough cleaning, follow the manufacturer’s instructions and be sure to check your manufacturer’s warranty for any maintenance requirement or limitations. For example, you may have to follow a specified maintenance schedule or use certain cleaning products to comply with the terms of the warranty. You may be able to buy a laminate floor cleaning kit from the manufacturer, but there also are effective general-purpose laminate floor cleaning products on the market. Never use soap or abrasive materials on laminate floors.

7. Don’t wax. If properly cleaned, laminate floors should retain their shine without waxing. In fact, waxing laminate floors can be counterproductive, since it will dull their luster.

8. Use door mats and consider a no-shoes policy. Dirt, gravel and other abrasive materials on the soles of shoes can take a toll on laminate floors over time. Therefore, be sure you have heavy-duty mats at all entrance doors so that shoes can be cleaned thoroughly whenever anyone enters your home. You also might consider a no-shoes policy indoors, especially for family members.

9. Keep pets nails trimmed. If you have dogs and/or cats, keep their nails trimmed to avoid scratches to the surface of laminate floors.

10. Repair with care. Damage to laminate floors usually can be repaired. Whether you can do it yourself or need the help of a professional will depend on your do-it-yourself skills and the magnitude of the damage. Surface scratches can be touched up easily using repair kits containing silicon filler and colored wax sticks. Repair kits are sold by laminate floor manufacturers. More extensive damage may require replacing boards. If you plan to tackle board replacement yourself, first check with the manufacturer for instructions and tips on how to complete the process.

To read the article as published on voices.yahoo.com, please click here.

Interior Design & Remodeling Trends for 2014

The end of the year brought many things. Special time spent with family and loved ones. Presents from Santa. The promise of a fresh start. And, if you’re like us, an insatiable desire to change up your environment by updating it with the latest trends.

If you are feeling the pull toward renovating, redecorating, or revising your home for 2014, there are some exciting trends you may want to incorporate. We break it down for you below.

Color Trends

Radiant orchid is the Pantone color of the year, but color trends for 2014 are also feeling blue. Blues across the color wheel are predicted to be hot hues for 2014.

Navy, in particular, has captured the fancy of design experts. “Navy blue will be a big trend for 2014. I’m seeing a lot of the shade on the runways, on the streets, in editorials, in chic interiors… I actually think everyone will get it in 2014,” said designer Mark D. Sikes in House Beautiful’s Top Decorating Trends for 2014.

Glamming It Up

Another way to change up your space: inject a glam feel as a nod to art décor or the Great Gatsby. This is another hot 2014 trend showing up in wallpaper, textiles, furniture, and accessories.

“Move over white walls, in 2014 we’ll be seeing rooms with a lot more drama and glamour. Dark, moody walls in black will be the perfect backdrop to the metallic accessories that we’re all loving right now,” said Jeanine Hays of aphrochic.com in House Beautiful.

In the Kitchen

When it comes to renovating, kitchens are going glam too. “The kitchen has long since become the heart of the home, and now designers are dressing it up accordingly,” said Elle Décor, “with elaborate custom cabinetry painted in rich gemstone colors, and accented with gleaming brass or chrome, all lit by unusual lighting fixtures. Kitchens are becoming downright glamorous.”

Floating shelves are also a hot 2014 design trend according to remodeling firm the Neil Kelly Company.

Bathroom Beauties

A recent Hanley Wood survey revealed that 58 percent of those planning to renovate in 2014 are planning bathroom updates.

The trend toward creating a spa-like environment in the bathroom continues, with “clean lines, fluidity and futuristic bath fixtures. Bring a spa-like feel to your master bath by indulging in floating sinks and softer, contoured shapes that bring a serene feel to the bathroom and give a feeling of spaciousness. Add depth to the bathroom by incorporating textures in the bathroom with mosaic tiles that feel luxurious and modern. Blend in futuristic trends like a waterfall shower, modern touch faucets, and heated floors to add interest and visual splendor,” said Scott Yancey from Flipping Las Vegas.

Kelly agrees, emphasizing oversized walk-in showers and elegant standalone tubs as strong bathroom trends for 2014.

The Tech Touch

For those who are remodeling, Kelly also points out the No. 1 trend for 2014 that brings some much-needed tech help to the home. U-Socket is a wall plug that “has two built-in USB ports to power devices including iPhones, gaming devices, digital cameras, Kindles and iPads… and features a smart sensor that allows it to shut off when the device is fully charged.”

To read the original article as published on realtytimes.com, please click here.

Could this be the home of the future?

At The University of Southern California, Professor Behrokh Khoshnevis has built a colossal 3D printer that can build a house in 24 hours. Khoshnevis’s robot comes equipped with a nozzle that spews out concrete and can build a home based on a set computer pattern.

We first saw this on MSN.com. The technology, known as Contour Crafting, could completely revolutionize the construction industry. Discover Magazine’s Brad Lemley explains that workers would lay down two rails for the robot to operate on.

From there, the Contour Crafting system would glide along the rails and lay down cement. Once that part of the process is finished, humans would do the rest of essential tasks like hanging doors and installing windows.

Contour Crafting could also reduce the total cost of owning a home. It could also make it easier to repair homes damaged by devastating weather events.

While this project is still being tested, Khoshnevis asserts that this won’t eliminate jobs in this sector, but actually create more.

To read the original article as published on businessinsider.com or to view a video on how this works, please click here.

Why Not to “For Sale By Owner”

Some homeowners consider trying to sell their home on their own, known in the industry as a For Sale by Owner (FSBO). We think there are several reasons this might not be a good idea for the vast majority of sellers.

Here are five of our reasons:

1. There Are Too Many People to Negotiate With

Here is a list of some of the people with whom you must be prepared to negotiate if you decide to FSBO.

•The buyer who wants the best deal possible
•The buyer’s agent who solely represents the best interest of the buyer
•The buyer’s attorney (in some parts of the country)
•The home inspection companies which work for the buyer and will almost always find some problems with the house
•The appraiser if there is a question of value
•Your bank in the case of a short sale

2. Exposure to Prospective Purchasers

Recent studies have shown that 92% of buyers search online for a home. That is in comparison to only 28% looking at print newspaper ads. Most real estate agents have an internet strategy to promote the sale of your home. Do you?

3. Results Come from the Internet

Where do buyers find the home they actually purchased?
•43% on the internet
•9% from a yard sign
•1% from newspapers

The days of selling your house by just putting up a sign and putting it in the paper are long gone. Having a strong internet strategy is crucial.

4. FSBOing has Become More and More Difficult

The paperwork involved in selling and buying a home has increased dramatically as industry disclosures and regulations have become mandatory. This is one of the reasons that the percentage of people FSBOing has dropped from 19% to 9% over the last 20+ years.

5. You Net More Money when Using an Agent

Many homeowners believe that they will save the real estate commission by selling on their own. Realize that the main reason buyers look at FSBOs is because they also believe they can save the real commission. The seller and buyer can’t both save the commission.

Studies have shown that the typical house sold by the homeowner sells for $184,000 while the typical house sold by an agent sells for $230,000. This doesn’t mean that an agent can get $46,000 more for your home as studies have shown that people are more likely to FSBO in markets with lower price points. However, it does show that selling on your own might not make sense.

Bottom Line

Before you decide to take on the challenges of selling your house on your own, sit with a real estate professional in your marketplace and see what they have to offer.

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