According to most sources, the housing market has still not fully rebounded from the 2008 recession although there are some positive trends (prices rising, low interest rates) as well as some negative ones (sales growth flat). That said, spring is traditionally a big season for real estate sales and the season is just revving up. Increasing the value of your home is always an advantage and thanks to a recent article by ConsumerReports.org, we discovered five ways to efficiently boost that value by 10%.
Consumer Reports conducted an online survey of 303 professionals across the country (from all areas and market sizes) and gathered some very eye-opening insights. Asking questions such as "What are the costliest mistakes sellers make?", Consumer Reports found that maximizing the value of your home is simpler than most people thought.
Get Thee to the Dump According to the experts, nothing drives away potential buyers like clutter. The potential return on clearing out and cleaning up ranges from 3% to 5% and can cost you nothing if you do it yourself. Home buyers apparently have a difficult time imagining themselves in your home if it is filled with personal effects and piled high with junk - even if the junk is valuable. If the task is too daunting to go at it alone, think about hiring a professional organizer. It may cost upwards to $2000.00 to get the job done, but selling items online or at a swap meet can help offset that cost. Opening the blinds and permanently getting rid of any odors that may be lingering from years of cooking or pet ownership is also essential.
A Mini-Makeover in the Kitchen The kitchen has always been reported to be the single most important room in the house when it comes to selling - even for folks who aren't particularly interested in cooking or entertaining extensively. Whether meals are painstakingly prepared or nuked on the way out the door, the kitchen is a convening place - a place that needs to appear efficient, comfortable and, of course, good looking. If the kitchen is painfully outdated, it is probably a good idea to do some major renovations, but simple solutions can often reap returns ranging from 3% to 7%. A fresh coat of paint, new hardware on cabinets, an interesting light fixture and even just a fancy new faucet can draw the buyer toward the good points and diminish the not-so-good.
Give your Bathroom a Day at the Spa If we consider how most if us think of bathrooms, we see them at once as spaces of cleansing, renewal and relaxation - but also as veritable Petri dishes of every germ imaginable. When showing and selling a home, this is a paradox, however, that is very easily overcome. An excellent tip from the folks at Consumer Reports, is to apply fresh caulk around all of the relevant places. People don't want to just know that the bathroom is clean on the day of their visit, they want to know that it has been well-maintained all along. Maintenance is vital throughout the entire home, but sometimes folks can be more forgiving of a leaky roof than they can a leaky faucet. The way a property is kept over the years is a personal reflection of the previous homeowner, but there is a difference between not having the money to fix certain things - and just not having the desire. If a home is perceived to have been impeccably maintained, they feel more confident in the integrity of the seller and this goes a long way in increasing the value of your home. New fixtures on the bath and sink are pretty much a no-brainer, but creating a relaxing feel is also of vital importance. For many people - especially those with children - the bathroom is elevated to the level of sanctuary and achieving this effect couldn't be easier. Removing as much cloth-clutter as possible - especially layers of brightly-colored towels - is a great way to lighten the space . Rolling white towels in a yard-sale basket lends to the look of a spa and hanging one clean, white or neutral towel on each bar screams tidy, clean and best of all - sanitary. Bamboo accessories finish the spa-effect and these can now be purchased a places like TJ Maxx, Marshalls and Home Goods for very little money.
Selective Painting When it comes to interior painting, the Consumer Reports survey indicates that re-painting the entire home is not always necessary. Kitchens and baths are the priority second only to brightly-colored walls. Colors are extremely influential on people's moods and are very much a matter of taste. Not everyone will think that your burnt-orange phase was charming, nor will many find the custom periwinkle in the nursery as pleasing as you do. Let the buyer's imagination run wild by painting with clean neutrals - and for rooms that are already quite neutral - leave them be. Leave artwork to a minimum and as universally pleasing as possible. And, for all of the holes left by taking down the clutter - a little spackle and touch-up paint should do the trick. If you do not have back-up of matching paint, most hardware stores have sample sizes for just a few bucks. Selective painting does not yield the highest in terms of resale value (between 1%-3%) but in relation to cost, it is very much worth it.
How Does Your House Say Hello? It goes without saying the exterior of your home is the ultimate first impression. Over the years, many of us begin to take the exterior for granted as we busily live our lives inside. We also tend to overlook certain things like dirt build-up because it is something that develops almost imperceptibly. A good power wash is almost always in order and never, ever show a home with dirty windows. A great bit of advice from Consumer Reports is a fresh coating of mulch around the trees to make the landscape pop and with all of the new colors now available, you can really coordinate the look with the rest of your exterior. Many real estate professionals advocate a new front door to heighten the curb appeal and to further instill confidence that the home has been well-maintained. The great news about all of the above suggestions, is that the entire cost - when taking a middle-of-the-road approach - can be implemented for less than $2500.00. And, who knows, perhaps once you give your home this easy min-makeover, you won't mind waiting until it sells!
Treehugger.com issued some timely advice on storing those spring and summer vegetables. Harvesting tips from Ecology Center, the secondary benefit from following the tips is a reduction in plastic bags and containers often used for storage.
Readers may be surprised by some of the suggestions, which include washing berries and cherries only when ready to eat (to prevent mold growth), storing basil in an airtight container and putting carrots in a closed container with plenty of water.
Although Cauliflower will last for a while, did you know it's best eaten immediately to get the best taste out of it?
Check out the whole post, which includes some cool hanging sand storage boxes for carrots and asparagus that would look cool in any kitchen.
What are some tricks you use when storing vegetables?
GE recently announced the recall of their Monogram Pro Rangetop with Grill due to an explosion hazard. The burners on the rangetop operating on liquified petroleum can fail to ignite or light if the gas control knob is left in a position between OFF and LITE, which can pose a risk of delayed ignition or explosion.
There have been six reports involving explosions in units that are operating on LP gas. Fortunately no fires or injuries have yet been reported.
Consumers who own one of the recalled units should stop using it immediately, turn off gas supply to the unit and contact GE to schedule a free repair.
Our good friends over at the Eco News Network are going to be reporting while in Toronto at Greenbuild 2011, the yearly gathering of green-minded manufacturers, builders and consumers.
To prep for Greenbuild, Eco News has been pointing their blog spotlight on some of the exhibitors they'll be visiting at the show. In this post they feature Curava, a countertop option that is made from 70 percent recycled glass. The surface contains glass, cement, sustainable seashells and pottery fragments from kiln waste.
The manufacturing process of Curava saves 180 tons of waste a year from going to landfill and results in a pretty vibrant product, if you ask me. I'm in the market for a new countertop, and this one just made my list of top options.
As a New Englander I'm not exactly living in a seismic hotspot. Sure, we felt a slight tremor from a distant earthquake earlier in the summer, but I feel heavier vibrations when the garbage truck rumbles by.
Californians, on the other hand, live each day with the possibility of The Big One hitting without warning. And so it is no surprise that it was a Californian who came up with the Seismolatch, a device designed to keep cabinets closed during -- and only during -- an earthquake, preventing dishwater from cascading onto unprotected heads.
Unlike other cabinet safety latches -- which must be engaged and disengaged with every entry into the cabinet -- the Seismolatch only engages in the event of an earthquake. Otherwise it stays out of the way and keeps access to the kitchen cabinets as easy as it should be.
I have no personal use for the Seismolatch…for now. Who knows, though? I did read a piece about a strange fault line on the East Coast that runs from New York to Alabama and has many geologists scratching their heads. Could be some Seismolatches are in my future after all.
It's nice to see some companies taking a stance against the single cup (AKA K-Cup) brewing craze that is sweeping the nation. I lived in a house with a single cup brewing machine for two years, and never have I felt more wasteful.
Jura is hoping to tap into that guilt with their new IMPRESSA C5, a higher end single serve brewer system that does away with the disposable plastic cup. Rather, the Jura uses fresh whole coffee beans and grinds, tamps, brews and discards the used coffee grounds within the machine, all in about 60 seconds per cup.
No plastic. No guilt.
And if that doesn't do it for you, Jura was kind enough to do some math on our behalf, finding that use of a single cup pod or capsule system costs about $.52 per cup, which adds up to $760 a year for those who do two cups a day. Using the Jura system would set the same drinker back $.19 per cup or $138.70. Just think of what you might do with that $600 saved! Oh, but wait. The C5 sells (on Amazon) for about $900. So you'd have to use it for a year and a half before you realized true savings over a k cup brewing machine.
Still, coffee just tastes better without the guilt. Or the plastic aftertaste.
No one needs to sell me on induction cooking. I currently use an induction cooktop and there's no question it heats a pot of water faster than you can say "al dente." I've done the gas thing before and I do like it, but it takes a little getting used to and there's always something disconcerting about having a semi-open flame flickering away. I'm the forgetful type, you see…
So Jenn-Air has just introduced a new induction cooktop with the "most powerful induction element available." Sounds serious.
The 36" model has five induction elements, including the industry's most powerful 12"/9" Dual Zone Induction Element with a maximum output of 5,000 Watts. That probably doesn't mean a whole heck of a lot to the average homeowner. But this might: it also has a Sensor Boil feature which can automatically bring water to a boil with the touch of a button. It also lets you know when the water reaches boiling (probably through a chime of some sort, I'm guessing) and will automatically adjust the power to prevent boil-overs. That is what I need more than anything. I'm constantly guilty of multi-tasking while cooking and the water stains on the cooktop are proof.