Latest Event Updates

5 Ways to Design a Luxe Room for Less

Posted on

Adding style to interiors doesn’t necessarily require wads of cash. Whether you prefer to keep money in the bank or desire to incorporate creative solutions, updating your home while saving money can be rewarding. From shopping your own space, to finding amazing lighting or re-purposing found items, consider these tips and tricks to create a luxe room — without breaking the bank.

Let there be light

Drop lights are an upgrade from the standard builder-installed kitchen lights. Source: Kerrie Kelly
Drop lights are an upgrade from the standard builder-installed kitchen lights. Source: Kerrie Kelly

Does that dated, fluorescent light box in your kitchen have you feeling less than chic and savvy? Good news is that you have the electrical junction box already installed to connect a design-driven fixture instead. Whether you use a surface-mounted version or a sparkling chandelier, your kitchen will go from drab to fab in just a few minutes, and for not a ton of money.

Play out of the box

A black door is unexpected and chic in an entry way. Source: ZIllow Digs
A black door is unexpected and chic in an entry way. Source: Zillow Digs

Acquaint yourself with other designer tricks, like painting interior doors black — instead of standard white — and adding architectural molding to less than lively spaces. You will soon be on your way to creating a rich-looking space without spending a lot of dough.

Pump up the details

Over-stuffed pillows are an easy luxe addition. Source: Kerrie Kelly
Over-stuffed pillows are an easy luxe addition. Source: Kerrie Kelly

Sometimes a small detail, like an extra-large overstuffed throw pillow, can make your entire living room feel more luxurious — even if your sofa isn’t top of the line. Simply by adding a down and feather 22-inch insert in a 20-inch pillow cover, you can achieve a plush, luxurious look for little money.

Shop what you got

Change up the furniture to quickly update a space. Source: Zillow Digs
Change up the furniture to quickly update a space. Source: Zillow Digs

“Sourcing” furniture and accessories within your own space is the best — and cheapest — way to decorate on a budget. Shifting old furniture to a different room or using it in a fresh way, like re-purposing a kitchen cart as a side table, can deliver amazing results without spending a dime.

Refresh paint and hardware

Cherry red and chalkboard paint liven up a kitchen. Source: Jason Landeau
Cherry red and chalkboard paint liven up a kitchen. Source: Jason Landeau

Kitchen remodels are infamously expensive — but savvy homeowners can slash those costs with a bit of creativity. Consider working with what you have by painting your cabinets and your updating hardware to give your existing space a lift. Consider painting doors or appliances with chalkboard paint for a truly interactive experience.

This post was originally published by Zillow Digs Contributors on Zillow Blog. See the original post here.

Kerrie Kelly is a Northern California interior designer and the founder of Kerrie Kelly Design Lab (www.kerriekelly.com). She is an award-winning interior designer, multimedia consultant and an author of two books: “Home Décor: A Sunset Design Guide” and “My Interior Design Kit,” with Pearson Professional and Career Education.

Stage Your House in the Right Light

Posted on

If you’re about to put your home on the market, you know about the staging, the paint touch-ups and the fixes you’ve kept putting off until now.

Stage Your House in the Right Light

Let’s add one more to the list—strategic lighting.

The right light can make any room look bigger, airier and more desirable. It can create a dramatic mood, draw attention to focal points in your décor and make a big difference in how you—and potential buyers—feel about your home.

Plus it’s a pretty inexpensive staging boost compared to reflooring your kitchen.

Real estate sales expert and author Robert Irwin says a dark house turns off potential buyers.

“Not only will they keep you from getting a quick sale, but they will also cut down on the amount of money you’ll get in offers,” notes Irwin, who has written more than 50 real estate-related books. “On the other hand, if you lighten up these dark spots, you can very quickly improve the value of your property.”

Types of open house lighting

  • General, lighting your home so you can function
  • Accent, highlighting and drawing special attention to details
  • Task, helping illuminate specific things around your home
  • Ambient, hiding the source of light to wash a room with a glow
  • Aesthetic, emphasizing space through artistic lighting
  • Natural, focusing through sunlight, candlelight and firelight

Lighting can play tricks on the mind and enhance or minimize the physical size of the room.

For example, Rosemary Sadez Friedmann—a member of the American Society of Interior Designers—says that if a room is too tall, lighting placed low won’t reach the ceiling. Thus, it will make the area look smaller than it really is.

For a too-small room, you can visually push one wall open by washing it with light. For a wide room, illuminate the narrow ends. Conversely, if a room is too narrow, illuminate the wide sides of the room.

Chris Casson Madden, an author and host of HGTV’s “Interiors by Design,” offers these room-by-room suggestions:

  • For any room, use high-hats or recessed down-lights installed in ceilings with a dimmer control
  • In the bedrooms, add a floor lamp or table lamp and bedside lights
  • For the bathrooms, angle recessed lighting to bounce light off the walls and ceiling to help reduce glare and shadow
    • Use wall-mounted sconces or over-vanity lights beside the mirror
    • Light your shower’s interior with uniform brightness
  • In the kitchen, focus on task lighting, like grouping down-lights to shed light where it’s needed most

If you’re looking for a quick fix, Irwin suggests replacing all the old fixtures—they typically run about $35 to $50 apiece. Be sure to get fixtures that produce 200 to 300 watts each, however.

“Now, no matter which room a prospective buyer walks into, it will be lit brightly,” he emphasizes. “And the lighting fixture itself will be modern and attractive.”

Irwin also recommends at least one halogen bulb per room.

“Yes, they use a lot of electricity, but the extra light often makes the difference when a buyer is on the fence and can’t decide whether or not to make an offer on the home,” he adds.

This article was originally published by Anne Miller on realtor.com and based on an earlier version by Michele Dawson. See the original here.

Pre-qualification and Pre-approval: Do You Really Need Both?

Posted on Updated on

What kind of mortgage you can afford and what kind you can get are important things to know when you begin the home-buying process. You might have a ballpark price range for your next home, but you run the risk of setting your sights too high—or too low—without some additional legwork. Narrow down your range by getting pre-qualification and then pre-approval.

Pre-qualification and Pre-approval: Do You Really Need Both?

The Difference

Pre-qualification (sometimes abbreviated as ‘prequal’) is a basic overview of a borrower’s ability to get a loan. You provide all the information, without any kind of paperwork to back it up.

Pre-approval is more in-depth. The lender will look at your bank statements, credit score and other information to demonstrate your financial capability. Neither is a guarantee you’ll get the loan, but a pre-approval is more reliable and more favorably viewed by REALTORS® and potential sellers when you start home shopping.

So why get pre-qualified?

  • It’s quick and can be done online or over the phone
  • You’ll know if you can afford a mortgage
  • It can give you a basic idea of what kind of mortgage you can get

A Good Idea, Not the Final Step

While pre-qualification is relatively easy, don’t rely entirely on that information. Mistakes can be made and discrepancies can and will be found during the pre-approval or the final approval process.

Being pre-approved is not a sure-fire way of obtaining a loan, either. For example, if you are pre-approved one month, but then you take out a loan for a new car next month, you can damage your ability to get a mortgage. You do not want to change careers, spend too much money or take out loans during the home-buying process. If you do, you can hurt your loan eligibility.

While being pre-qualified and pre-approved won’t guarantee you a loan, it’s recommended you do both. At the very least, get pre-approved. Many REALTORS® and sellers won’t consider you as a strong home-buying candidate without a pre-approval letter.

So when you’re looking for a new home to buy, it’s in your best interest to do the following:

  • Get pre-qualified
  • Get pre-approved
  • Shop for a home based on your pre-approval amount
  • Apply for the loan

If you follow these steps in order, it can save you a lot of time and aggravation during the mortgage loan and home buying process.

This article was originally published by  on realtor.com. See the original article here.

3 Shipping Container Homes and How They Stack Up

Posted on

Imagine living in a shipping container. Cramped? Claustrophobic? Dark? It doesn’t have to be. Shipping container homes can be more than you ever dreamed.

New construction re-purposing the enormous metal containers into shipping container homes has taken hold across the country. From tiny Elizabethtown, KY, to bustling Seattle, WA, stories of shipping container homes have started stacking up.

To learn more about the movement, we spoke with agent Michael Rastatter. He’s working on a project in Cleveland that uses shipping container materials to create a unique, industrial-looking home. While the home has yet to be built, he has renderings, plans, and a plot of land on which to plop this steel structure.

Rastatter touts the benefits of re-using containers.

“I had an empty lot in Cleveland I had purchased before the bubble burst,” he says. “I did some online research and found people using containers throughout Europe, and I thought it would be a great idea to bring to Cleveland.”

“This city has many unique examples of architecture throughout its neighborhoods dating back to the 1800s,” he adds. “I think a modern take on homes could be the next wave for the city.”

He notes the home will be warm in the winter, be eco-friendly, and use recycled and sustainable materials throughout.

4219 Orchard Ave, Cleveland OH — $385,000.

from realtor.com
from realtor.com

In addition, we found two other shipping container homes on the market. The Michigan example uses a blend of wood, concrete, and shipping container to create an intriguing modern look.

16180 Stones Throw, Union Pier, MI — $795,000.

from realtor.com
from realtor.com
from realtor.com
from realtor.com
from realtor.com
from realtor.com
from realtor.com
from realtor.com
from realtor.com
from realtor.com
from realtor.com
from realtor.com

The New York home is a smaller house based solely on the footprint of the renovated metal box.

4896 Vega Mt Rd, Roxbury, NY — $220,000.

from realtor.com
from realtor.com
from realtor.com
from realtor.com
from realtor.com
from realtor.com

This article was originally published by Erik Gunther on realtor.com. See more photos and the original article here.

Must-Know Financing Options for an REO Property

Posted on

One day you find a house selling below market value and comes free of liens and back taxes. It needs a new roof, but you decide this real estate-owned property, or REO, is a decent investment.

REO property financing

But before you start buying shingles, know that financing REO properties can be different than financing a traditional home.

What’s an REO? 

An REO is a house that has been foreclosed on and was unable to sell at auction. When the lender reclaims the home and wipes out any money due on the mortgage, it offers the property for sale as an REO. The property is usually sold as-is, even if it needs repairs to be live-in ready.

Some people choose to buy an REO as a primary residence, while others might use an REO as an investment vehicle. They repair and update the property, then resell it at a higher price—or rent it out.

Interest-Only Loans

Someone who does not intend to live in an REO—but buys it as an investment—may want to use an interest-only loan. With this option, you only are only required to pay the loan interest each month, usually for a period of five to 10 years before you must begin paying off the principal. There are some pros and cons to using an interest-only loan with an REO.

Pros:

  • Less initial monthly payments, allowing you to invest saved money into the property
  • Flexibility to pay the interest on bad months and the principal plus the interest on good months, if needed depending on tenants

Cons:

  • Without careful planning, you could be stuck with high payments and no savings
  • Your principal won’t go down if you only pay the required installments over the interest-paying period

If you decide to resell the home, then the profit can be used to pay off the loan’s principal, of course.

Possible Difficulties

Those who choose to buy an REO may have a hard time finding financing, since lenders may be reluctant to provide mortgages for homes in very poor conditions—like those without electricity or a needing a kitchen. Keep in mind if your REO requires extensive repairs, the bank will likely require a larger down payment.

Your credit history and your intent can also affect mortgage rates. Some lenders may see REO investors—those who don’t live on the property—as a higher loan risk and adjust their rates accordingly.

Some lenders offer mortgages that include money for repairs. Two examples are Fannie Mae’s HomePath loan and an FHA 203(k) loan. Both are intended to help buyers with fixer-uppers.

This article was originally published by  on realtor.com. See the original article here. It was updated from an earlier version by Gilan Gertz. 

Urban gardens reach new heights

Posted on

At its most basic, a green roof consists of a carpet of hard-to-kill plants in a thin layer of soil. Luxury homeowners, however, are opting for bespoke greenscapes as carefully curated — and sometimes as costly — as art collections. With the right design, these eco-chic gardens also add insulation, absorb storm water runoff and deflect heat from the sun.

© Dorothy Hong for The Wall Street Journal
© Dorothy Hong for The Wall Street Journal

David and Henrie Whitcomb’s vertical garden redeemed a chunk of unusable space on their 2,500-square-foot wraparound terrace in New York’s Greenwich Village. The green wall must be replanted each spring, “based on what plants will survive there, and what plants will hold the soil,” said Emma Decaires, the Whitcombs’ horticulturalist. “I’m guessing that it might have been, by itself, a half-million dollar installation,” said Mr. Whitcomb.

© Dorothy Hong for The Wall Street Journal
© Dorothy Hong for The Wall Street Journal

David and Henrietta Whitcomb are pictured in their master bedroom, which has a direct view of the green wall. Their penthouse, which public records show was purchased for $8.7 million in 2007, came with “a great big 15-foot-high, 15-foot-wide ugly tan brick wall” that ruined the view, said Mr. Whitcomb, who founded Automated Trading Desk, one of the first high-frequency trading firms.

© Dorothy Hong for The Wall Street Journal
© Dorothy Hong for The Wall Street Journal

The Whitcombs, who own a second home in Hawaii, couldn’t tear down the brick wall: It’s the 1928 building’s chimney. So they transformed the eyesore into the centerpiece of their terrace garden, which also features a grove of Japanese maple, gray birch and serviceberry trees, and an evergreen that can be pushed on a built-in track to a prime spot at their living room window at Christmastime.

© Dorothy Hong for The Wall Street Journal
© Dorothy Hong for The Wall Street Journal

A view of the Whitcombs’ grove. During the 26-month remodeling project, the Whitcombs’ architect, John Tinmouth, and landscape architect, Linda Pollak, designed a wall of panels with a water feature and recessed slots for 600 plants which could be bracketed to the chimney. Future Green Studio, a New York-based firm specializing in green roofs and green walls, embedded the panels with ornamental grasses and trailing plants in shades of green, silver and purple—many of which eventually had to be replaced. The plants are watered by a drip irrigation system.

© Dorothy Hong for The Wall Street Journal
© Dorothy Hong for The Wall Street Journal

The CEO of developer DDG Partners, Joe McMillan, is pictured in the garden of his condominium apartment in a DDG building at 41 Bond Street in New York City.

© Dorothy Hong for The Wall Street Journal
© Dorothy Hong for The Wall Street Journal

A view of Mr. McMillan’s garden. “When you look out the window, it’s like a framed picture,” Mr. McMillan said. “There’s a certain sense of calm that you get from having green.”

© Dorothy Hong for The Wall Street Journal
© Dorothy Hong for The Wall Street Journal

The exterior of 41 Bond Street in New York City. Plants and vines creep across the bluestone facade from irrigated window boxes. Although Mr. McMillan’s master and guest bedrooms are at street level, they are shielded from view by the living woodland tableaux planted in the recessed windows: a mossy rock garden overgrown with ferns; witch hazel, yew and cypress trees growing out of thick plantings of grape-holly.

© Dorothy Hong for The Wall Street Journal
© Dorothy Hong for The Wall Street Journal

A view of the green roof at 41 Bond Street. In New York, the impact of a green roof on an apartment’s resale value is a matter of debate. “Every square foot that you sacrifice for landscaping as opposed to usable space is going to make the terrace less valuable,” said Michael Vargas, CEO of Manhattan-based Vanderbilt Appraisal Co.

© Dorothy Hong for The Wall Street Journal
© Dorothy Hong for The Wall Street Journal

Thirty-five stories above Manhattan’s Battery Park, Fred Rich can stroll through his groves of Japanese maple, spruce and pine trees or sit under a pergola hung with grape vines, where wild strawberries and thyme grow between the paving stones. He is pictured in his orchard of apple, plum, peach and nectarine trees.

© Dorothy Hong for The Wall Street Journal
© Dorothy Hong for The Wall Street Journal

With landscape architect Mark Morrison and a team of engineers, fabricators and organic farmers, Mr. Rich has created a 2,000-square-foot garden irrigated by recycled water on the rooftop of his $4.8 million penthouse.

© Dorothy Hong for The Wall Street Journal
© Dorothy Hong for The Wall Street Journal

“There is always something in bloom,” said Mr. Rich, who will be dining on fresh arugula, spinach and radishes from his vegetable beds, shown, this week. “I do my yoga in the morning and the birds sit there and watch.”

© Michal Czerwonka for The Wall Street Journal
© Michal Czerwonka for The Wall Street Journal

Mr. Rich, a 57-year-old partner at Sullivan & Cromwell law firm, declined to say what he spent on his rooftop retreat, which has views of the Statue of Liberty and New York Harbor.

© Michal Czerwonka for The Wall Street Journal
© Michal Czerwonka for The Wall Street Journal

For Ken Hilgendorf, an architect and builder in Los Angeles, a sloped green roof was the solution to a complicated renovation of his home in the city’s Westwood section. Set on a hill 30 feet above street level, “it was the lowest-cost house in the neighborhood, because the hill was so big,” said Mr. Hilgendorf, who paid about $600,000 for it in 1999. Mr. Hilgendorf, Darsi Meyer, and their dog Franky pose for a portrait on top of the garage of their home.

© Michal Czerwonka for The Wall Street Journal
© Michal Czerwonka for The Wall Street Journal

During a four-year renovation, Mr. Hilgendorf built a 75-foot-long garage at the foot of the property, then spent $54,000 on a green roof and landscaping designed by Stephen Billings of Pamela Burton and Co.

© Donald Miralle for The Wall Street Journal
© Donald Miralle for The Wall Street Journal

A massive earthwork sculpted from 150 cubic feet of “fluffy” custom-crafted soil, the garage roof is planted with a sycamore tree, ornamental grasses and a bright green hillock of no-mow grass — a fescue mix that tolerates excessive heat and drought conditions without losing its color.

© Cassandra Giraldo for The Wall Street Journal
© Cassandra Giraldo for The Wall Street Journal

Michael Gerstner created a dense meadow-scape on the roof of his Tribeca penthouse, inspired by New York City’s High Line elevated park. “I like nature and the presence of nature—I don’t like a sterile wood deck,” said Mr. Gerstner, 39, who works in investments. He bought the duplex in a converted 19th-century industrial building in 2011 for $3.1 million, according to city records, and spent two years remodeling it to “bring the outside in,” at a cost he declined to disclose. Here, his dogs Emmett and Archie enjoy the roof garden.

© Cassandra Giraldo for The Wall Street Journal
© Cassandra Giraldo for The Wall Street Journal

Sedum plants that were put in last year sprout from recessed containers in the garden floor. Elsewhere, juniper bushes, lavender, bright yellow yarrow and Scotch broom frame an ipe-wood deck. Although the plants have been selected for their hardiness in excessive sun and wind, they still require tending. A gardener makes regular visits to the 1,000-square-foot space, and a drip-irrigation system delivers measured amounts of water to different plant zones.

© Cassandra Giraldo for The Wall Street Journal
© Cassandra Giraldo for The Wall Street Journal

Once a caviar warehouse cooled by giant blocks of ice, the structure was strong enough to support 15,000 pounds of plant and soil. Instead of using a more bulkhead structure to access the roof, Mike Gerstner and his designer decided to build an atrium with a staircase leading to a retractable skylight. The atrium serves as an elegant entrance to the rooftop, and helps to bring the outside in, drawing natural sunlight into the duplex’s central living area.

© Cassandra Giraldo for The Wall Street Journal
© Cassandra Giraldo for The Wall Street Journal

Among its practical benefits, the meadow cools the duplex in the summer and insulates it during the winter, enabling Mr. Gerstner to leave the building’s original wood beams exposed. It has also saved him the cost of a summer rental in the Hamptons. Pictured, Mr. Gerstner’s dogs Archie and Emmett scurry down the steps from the roof garden into the home’s terrarium-like inner courtyard.

This article was originally published by Amy Gamerman of The Wall Street Journal on MSN Real Estate. To see the original article, click here.

 

 

4 Essential Tips For Staging Your Home

Posted on

Buying a new home is so personal. Yet, to sell yours, you’ll want to remove so many of your homey, personal touches. This is part of staging your home: buyers should be able to picture themselves living in your house—not picture you living in your house.

4 Essential Tips for Staging Your Home

Successful staging will boost your home’s appeal—and your chances of selling. And there are two rooms that often need the most staging: bedrooms and bathrooms.

You might decide your house looks good enough as-is. But even in a strong market, a little staging could boost the offers you receive.

Think like a buyer

Staging lets you see your house with fresh perspective and helps you correct any eyesores you may have become used to over the years. It helps you to view some of your beloved items as clutter and gives you the initiative to clear away unneeded items.

Staging will also help you in the packing process, which inevitably involves streamlining and downsizing.

Bedrooms equal comfort

A bedroom should be a place of serenity. Stage your bedroom to convey a tone of comfort and relaxation. You want it to appear spacious. Here are some tips for presenting your bedroom:

  • Paint it in soft, neutral tones
  • Remove all furniture other than a bed, a dresser and a few knickknacks
  • Remove at least half of your wardrobe from your closet to make the closet seem larger
  • Clear away clutter, shoes, reading material and family photos
  • Invest in new linens and throw pillows
  • Steam clean the carpets, clean the windows and dust the shades

Bathrooms can be beautiful

Purchasers don’t spend a lot of time in bathrooms, so your bathrooms have to make a great first impression. Bathrooms should be impeccably clean and somewhat modern. Here are some bathroom staging tips:

  • Replace old bathroom fixtures, such as towel rods and faucets, with sleek new ones
  • Hang luxurious-looking towels to match the bathroom’s color scheme
  • Layer towels on the rack, smaller towels over larger towels
  • Before an open house, put a bouquet of fresh flowers in the bathroom
  • Ruthlessly clean mold and dirt from tiles and shower doors
  • Add spa-like accessories, such as candles, scented soaps in baskets and glass containers holding cotton balls

Cleanliness is a virtue

Cleanliness trumps all. Buyers have to imagine themselves living in your home, and they will have a hard time picturing themselves living in a dirty house. In fact, the top of your to-do list when you list home to sell should be a deep, thorough clean, like your house probably hasn’t seen since you moved in.

  • Remove mold and mildew
  • Scour away lime stains left by hard water
  • Clean windows inside and out
  • Steam carpets
  • Wash all linens and curtains

If you smoke or have a pet, be especially vigilant about eradicating those odors—because a clean, well-staged home should bring you a quick and profitable sale.

This article was originally published by Anne Miller on realtor.com and based on an earlier version by Gilan Gertz. To see the original article, click here.