Home Design Resolutions for 2014


You may have New Year’s resolutions for your health or your finances, but what about resolutions related to your home? We asked a few designers for some suggestions. From big projects — such as revamping your kitchen — to smaller ones, here are some ways to achieve your design dreams in 2014.

Resolution No. 1: Plan it out

No matter which design project you want to tackle, designers say having a plan is the key for success.

“Start with a wishlist of projects to complete over the year,” suggested designer Alissa Pulcrano ofbright designlab in Portland, OR. “Plan, plan, plan first! Then take your concepts to your favorite designer (or two if you don’t have one yet) and ask them to give you a proposal for your wishlist. Take the time to plan it right.”

Designer Melissa Klebanoff, principal of Melissa Klebanoff Interior Design in Seattle, offer similar advice to clients tackling design projects.

“Assign the following steps a timeframe to keep you on track, and before you begin, determine if the project requires a designer,” she said. “Write down everything you want to accomplish with your project, define it, gather photos and do a space plan if needed.”

Resolution No. 2: Find your style and get inspired

Sometimes the most overwhelming part of a project can be determining which direction to go in. Which color? What about textiles and finishes? The goal here is to not necessarily find the most trendy design but the look that will work for you and your household over time.

Before you begin gathering inspiration, determine the purpose of the room. Does it need to be highly functional and kid-friendly? Or is it a stylish retreat?

Once you have narrowed your purpose, gather photos and spend time visiting websites and saving images. Zillow Digs is one such place to collect inspiring designs all in one space.

It also helps to see materials in person, advises Klebanoff.

“Go to home improvement stores and design centers. Collect the finishes you’ll need and love — like carpet samples, stone samples, fabrics, furniture cuts, lighting ideas, appliance specs, paint colors and so on,” she said.

Resolution No. 3: Focus on one room at a time

Whether you’ve been meaning to clean out and organize the clutter accumulating in the hall closet or finally frame family photos for the living room, it’s best to tackle one space at a time.

“If you have a weekend, develop a plan and focus on one room: paint the living room, and buy a few key pieces, knowing that you can add to it over the year,” Pulcrano said. “Start with an overall design and then ‘chip away.’”

Resolution No. 4: Give the kitchen a refresh

Kitchens have become the center of many American homes — the place that sees the most foot traffic and activity. According to the latest Zillow Digs designer survey, kitchens top the list for planned 2014 renovations.

Kitchens in 2014 are trending toward open, “homey” spaces, says designer Vanessa DeLeon.

“More and more people are wanting an ‘open concept’ space and the feeling of comfort,” she explained. “They want to be able to eat, entertain, relax and enjoy the space with the rest of the house.”

Considering a kitchen remodel? Start researching contractors or designers.

“Ask people you trust for referrals for general contractors they’ve successfully worked with,” Klebanoff said. “Set up interviews with them and present your now very clearly defined project to them for bids. Check their references!”

What design resolutions do you have for 2014? Share with us in the comments below. And find more visual inspiration and understand the real cost of remodeling projects on Zillow Digs.


Three Tips for First Time Home Buyers


Did you know that, right now, first time home buyers account for 31% of the U.S. home buying market? The process for purchasing your new home can sometimes be a confusing one. There are many factors to consider; and you need to juggle everything from understanding your finance options to knowing how long the commute will be from each potential location.

Feeling a little stressed? Here are three first time home buyer tips to help you out.

1. What to Look for in Your Home

It can be difficult to sort through all the information that real estate agents are going to be telling you. Does it matter that the appliances are stainless steel? Do you really need to worry about the local schools if you don’t have kids? One thing you want to evaluate is how well your home suits your daily needs and how likely it is to have good return.

If you go to work every day, then the distance to your work and the condition of local traffic are important things to know. Having updated appliances can be important; otherwise, you might have to buy a new one three years down the line.  Nearby schools can affect both property value and how quickly the house will sell once you’re ready to move, so it isn’t something you should necessarily ignore.

2.  Understand First Time Buyer Loans

Most financial experts recommend spending around 28% of your income on your mortgage. This should give you an approximate range of house prices at which to look.  Before you start seriously hunting, make sure you have loan options lined up and ready to go. If you don’t have much money for a down payment, there are several federal mortgage first time home buyer programs that can help you cover the initial costs.

You’ll have the option of several different mortgage types, including adjustable rate mortgages, 10 year mortgages and 30 year mortgages.  Most people want a 30 year mortgage. Beware of adjustable rate mortgages. The low minimum payments might seem tempting, but they often hide an incredibly high payment schedule once the loan resets itself.

3. Buying a New Home Checklist

Once you’ve decided on a home, you should keep a list of things to check up on. Make sure you get a home inspection so there are no unpleasant surprises once you’ve signed on the dotted line. Ask to see utility bills in order to ascertain that the yearly price estimates for energy are accurate. Has your real estate agent told you what the average home selling price is for the local area? If the homeowner is already underselling, you don’t want to lose the house on a low bid. If they’re overshooting it, though, now’s the time to come in with your best number.

Do you have any first time home buyer tips for people planning to buy a new home? Let us know in the comments.

8 Tips to Keep Your Christmas Tree Fresh All Season Long

Whether you traveled to the wilderness to cut one down, or went around the corner to the local tree stand (that gets my vote!), here are a few tips from the National Christmas Tree Association to keep that real Christmas tree fresh all through the holidays:

  1. Make sure your stand fits your tree and can hold enough water for the tree’s size. As a general rule, stands should provide one quart of water per inch of stem diameter.
  2. This is a given, but keep trees away from major sources of heat (fireplaces, heaters, heat vents, direct sunlight). You don’t want a burning bush for a Christmas tree.
  3. Lower the room temperature to slow the drying process. This helps the tree consume less water each day and keep it alive longer.
  4. Ensure the water level in the tree stand doesn’t get too low.
  5. Always turn off the tree lights (and other lit decorations) when leaving the house or before going to bed. This conserves energy and reduces the chances of your tree drying out.
  6. Monitor the tree for freshness. After Santa visits and the holidays are over, remove the tree from your home.
  7. Don’t trash it, though; recycle it! Visit the association’s Tree Recycling page to find a recycling program near you.
  8. Keep your vacuum on standby; you’re going to need it for those needles!


Four Ways to Be More Green At Your Virginia Beach Home

It doesn’t take much effort to run your household in a more eco-friendly way. You might even be surprised by how much money you can save.

“A small change can make a big difference,” says Charles Valinotti, senior vice president of an insurance company which recently implemented a series of small environmental changes and the savings are adding up. “These are changes anyone could make in their own home. We just did it on a larger scale.”

Here are four simple green changes inspired by the company that could benefit any homeowner:

1. Recycle – and not just the obvious stuff.
Chances are, you’re already recycling glass bottles and aluminum cans. But why stop there? Consider recycling before you throw anything away. You might also consider collecting aluminum cans and bringing them to your local recycling facility where you may get some cash for your efforts.

One business recycles electrical wire, cabinets, shelving, scrap metals and light fixtures. In two years, not only did the company collect $4,000 for non-traditional recyclables, it also avoided fees for disposing of them.

2. Switch to high-efficiency lighting.
For years we’ve heard that high-efficiency lighting is the way to go. But did you know the magnitude of difference this one change could make? Experts report that each compact florescent light bulb can save up to $40 in energy costs over its lifetime.

Another  company’s site converted from halogen to fluorescent light fixtures in its parking garage. This one change is saving 378,554 kilowatt hours per year in electrical usage, totaling $26,575 in annual utility expense.

3. When it’s not in use, turn it off.
Moms all over the world can be heard reminding their brood, “Turn the lights off!” While there’s no doubt it makes sense to turn off lights, some may question when and if a computer should be turned off since it takes a bit more energy to power up than to leave it running.

The experts report that for energy savings and convenience, consider turning off your monitor if you aren’t going to use your computer for more than 20 minutes. Turn off your computer if you’re not going to use it in the next two hours.

A lot of people don’t always shut down their computers at the end of the day. Last year, the company began automatic shutdowns at 9 p.m. local time – saving about $55,000 in energy costs each year. The system gives a prompt 60 minutes prior to the automatic shutdown, allowing employees who are actively working to bypass the shut-off.

4. Paper – who needs it?
Valinotti suggests that taking baby steps toward a paperless existence can be natural and painless. For example, many homeowners already do their banking online – so why not also switch to paperless bank statements? Many utilities, credit card companies and municipalities also offer online billing.

By just moving a portion of its monthly reports online, the company saves 2.5 reams of paper and $11 per day, totaling $2,000 in savings last year.

As you can see, just a few small changes can help you go green – and help you build financial strength as well.

Courtesy of BPT

Interior Paint Colors That Help Sell Your Home


Repainting the Kitchen

Going room by room and making the correct decision on colors is vital and Dembsky gives her take on the best approach for each one. In the kitchen it’s good to stay in the orange, red and yellow families. These work well because they’re food related, but it’s important to still make them soft, appealing and neutral, and keep them in the suggested food group colors. “In the kitchen, these colors will fly but keep these tips in mind to make them work well,” she says.

Repainting the Bathroom

In the bathroom paint must be light, because the room tends to be smaller, and a darker color would just make it more so. One way to infuse color into the room is through accessories like soaps or towels. But for the walls, keep it in the light yellows or tans. Perhaps you can pick up colors from the tile floors, but if the floors are hardwood then it’s best to stick with neutral tones.

Repainting the Bedroom

In the bedroom it’s also especially important to stay away from bright colors, since this room is viewed as a sanctuary, so choose something very neutral that will work with the flooring and also flow into the master bathroom. Bed and bath colors do not have to be the same but definitely must flow.

Repainting the Home Office

The only spot where warmer, richer colors are welcomed is in the home office, where cinnamon, dark brown or even dark blue are welcome — these colors make the space an area in which to work and relax.

Repainting Other Areas of the Home

Other paint suggestions to help sell your home include salmon-hued paints – they make people’s skin color look good. A very pale beige with a blue tone is very tranquil while a beige tone with a green tint that gives off energy and both are good choices for the living room.

And don’t forget about the great outdoors and your garage. In the patio area it’s not necessary to paint but do ensure that the decks and patios are pressure washed and fresh looking. For your basement and garage paint is also important. Paint the concrete floor and warm up these otherwise cold spaces with a warm neutral color like gold.

The Color to Avoid

Surprisingly, white is the color to avoid. Both Hernandez and Dembsky agree: When painting to help sell your house, the color white is not your ally. “The biggest mistake people make is painting their house entirely white inside thinking it’s a neutral color. It’s not, it’s a bright color,” Dembsky explains.


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Foreclosure filings plummet in November


U.S. foreclosure filings plummeted 37 percent in November from a year ago and 15 percent from October, according to the latest report from foreclosure data aggregator RealtyTrac.

The 113,454 properties that were served with a default notice, scheduled for auction or repossessed by a bank in November represented the biggest month-over-month drop in foreclosure activity since November 2010, when foreclosure activity dropped 21 percent after the robo-signing scandal broke.

“While some of the decrease in November can be attributed to seasonality, the depth and breadth of the decrease provides strong evidence that we are entering the ninth inning of this foreclosure crisis with the outcome all but guaranteed,” said Daren Blomquist, vice president of RealtyTrac, in a statement.

Only three of the 20 largest U.S. metros posted annual increases in foreclosure activity: Baltimore (up 46 percent), Philadelphia (up 34 percent), and Washington, D.C. (up 6 percent).