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3 Home Improvements Even a Beginner DIYer Can Tackle

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New homeowners rapidly learn an expensive lesson: The handyman costs money — and that running list of home fix-its adds up quickly.

Fortunately for beginner do-it-yourselfers, you don’t have to invest in a trunk full of tools for basic upgrades and fixes; most require minimal investment in time and equipment.

Taking control and transforming your living space into a reflection of your own personal taste can be both simple and rewarding. Try it this weekend with any of these straightforward home projects that even beginning DIYers can master.

Create open storage with floating shelves

Sleek, open shelving is not only fashionable, but functional, too. Wall shelves are some of the trendiest additions in the homes of today’s DIY decorators, holding displays of cherished photos in the living room or bedroom and laden with dishes and bowls in the kitchen.

Courtesy of Fraley and Company.

The first step in installing this wall storage — or anything that hangs, for that matter— is to determine the composition of your walls. If the wall sounds hollow when you tap it with your fist, it’s likely drywall; if it sounds solid, it’s probably plaster.

For either, you’d ideally want to attach the shelf brackets securely to a wall stud, which can be located using a simple stud finder. If you can’t, affix it with anchors: hollow ones for plaster walls, butterfly or toggle varieties for drywall.

Now, measure and mark the spaces on the wall (on both ends) of where you want the shelf to go, and use a level to pencil a line across the wall where your shelf will sit.

Drill pilot holes into the wall for the anchors, and insert them following the manufacturer’s directions on the package. Then align your bracket with the anchor-filled pilot holes and mount using a regular screwdriver.

To finish, top your brackets with a simple shelf — glass, metal, or wood — and put your new storage spot to work.

Enhance energy efficiency and privacy with window film

While bright, sunny spaces can certainly be attractive, too much of a good thing can be bad. A flood of natural light fades rugs and upholstery over time, and causes air conditioning bills to skyrocket in the summer.

Fortunately, a compromise exists, and it’s stocked in the aisles at your home improvement store: window film. Applied directly to the glass, this thin polyester or vinyl layer can help shrink energy bills, enhance privacy, and even strengthen a window — all under the guise of a decorative touch.

Courtesy of Zillow Digs.

To adhere window film, spray both it and the inside surface of the window with a soapy solution. Stick the film to your window glass and then trim around the border, leaving about 1/16 inch between the film and the window frame. This will allow the window glass to expand and contract with changing temperatures.

Smooth out any bubbles in the film with a squeegee, and let it dry completely. After the few days it takes to cure, you can resume cleaning the tinted window once more — just stick to a soft cloth and non-abrasive cleanser to avoid scratching and prolong the film’s effectiveness.

Brighten with new light fixtures

Searching for a surefire way to dress up a room? Look up: Swapping out old, “builder’s special” light fixtures for something more stylish — a funky-modern chandelier or chic pendant lighting — can reinvent a space’s mood, all without the help of an electrician.

Photo by Donna Dotan Photography, courtesy of Claire Paquin.

As with any electrical project, first flip off the lights and cut power to the room via the main breaker panel. Then, climb atop a sturdy ladder to detach the old fixture cover, remove wire connectors, and untwist the light’s wires from the main power wires. Finally, take down the remaining base or trim.

Next, new light fixture in hand, follow the manufacturer’s instructions for matching its wires to the main wires installed in your home. (Hint: Corresponding colors typically connect.)

Use a wire stripper to remove the protective coating from the ends of the light’s wires, then wrap each newly uncovered wire around the metal end of its match, and screw on the connectors. At the same time, attach the fixture’s grounding wire (often green) to the existing grounding screw.

Fold all wiring back into the electrical box, and use the new light’s included hardware to attach the fixture base or canopy over it.

Once you’ve screwed in the recommended bulbs, turn on the circuit at your electrical panel and flip the light switch to the fixture. When you’ve confirmed that it works properly, attach the trim and cover to your new ceiling light, and bask in the glow of your finished project.

See more home design inspiration for your next project.

Posted by on Zillow

Home Values: Where Are They Headed Over The Next 5 Years?

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Today, many real estate conversations center on housing prices and where they may be headed. That is why we like the Home Price Expectation Survey.

Every quarter, Pulsenomics surveys a nationwide panel of over one hundred economists, real estate experts and investment & market strategists about where prices are headed over the next five years. They then average the projections of all 100+ experts into a single number.

The results of their latest survey

  • Home values will appreciate by 4.1% in 2015.
  • The cumulative appreciation will be 18.1% by 2019.
  • That means the average annual appreciation will be 3.4% over the next 5 years.
  • Even the experts making up the most bearish quartile of the survey still are projecting a cumulative appreciation of 10.5% by 2019.

Individual opinions make headlines. We believe the survey is a fairer depiction of future values.

Posted by The KCM Crew

The REAL Reasons Americans Buy a Home

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We often talk about the financial reasons why buying a home makes sense. But often, the emotional reasons are the more powerful, or compelling reasons. The Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University performs a study every year surveying participants for the reasons that American’s feel are most important in regards to homeownership.

The top 4 reasons to own a home cited by respondents were not financial.

1. It means having a good place to raise children & provide them with a good education

From the best neighborhoods to the best school districts, even those without children at the time of purchasing their home, may have this in the back of their mind as a major reason for choosing the location of the home that they purchase.

2. You have a physical structure where you & your family feel safe

It is no surprise that having a place to call home with all that means in comfort and security is the #2 reason.

3. It allows you to have more space for your family

Whether your family is expanding, or an older family member is moving in, having a home that fits your needs is a close third on the list.

4. It gives you control over what you do with your living space, like renovations and updates

Looking to actually try one of those complicated wall treatments that you saw on Pinterest? Want to finally adopt that puppy or kitten you’ve seen online 100 times? Who’s to say that you can’t in your own home?

The 5th reason on the list, is the #1 financial reason to buy a home as seen by respondents:

5. Owning a home is a good way to build up wealth that can be passed along to my family

Either way you are paying a mortgage. Why not lock in your housing expense now with an investment that will build equity that you can borrow against in the future?

Bottom Line

Whether you are a first time homebuyer or a move-up buyer who wants to start a new chapter in their life, now is a great time to reflect on the intangible factors that make a house a home.

Posted by The KCM Crew

Missouri REALTORS® Home Sales Continue to Soar

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Residential properties sold and sales prices are significantly up from July of last year, resulting in a 25.2% increase in dollar volume from July 2014! For a complete summary of statistics on July 2014 and July 2015, watch the video below or download the full report.

Watch the video

Download the full report

America’s Most and Least Expensive College Towns

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For a great place to live, should you go back to school? American college towns are uniquely appealing places to live, and we don’t just mean for the kids. What can you expect from a true university town? Vibrant nightlife. Tons of cultural events. A young, fun, and (usually) progressive vibe. And, thanks to the colleges themselves, plenty of job opportunities. What’s not to love?

Because of all this, buying in a college town could make sense for you as an adult. (We’ve already told you why buying a condo for your college kid could be a smart move.) But where? After all, the college town most people know best is the one where, well, they went to college. So how to rank the rest? By taking a big collegiate dive into the exclusive® data, of course!

Our data team ranked more than 300 college towns by median home price to come up with the top 10 most expensive and 10 least expensive. (Our “college town” criteria: areas where student residents number more than 5,000 and make up more than 20% of the town’s total population.)

Just click on the icons below to see how your school area ranks!

10 most expensive U.S. college towns

University of California Berkeley Campus aerial with the city of Berkeley (in the San Francisco Bay Area) in the background.
University of California Berkeley Campus aerial with the city of Berkeley (in the San Francisco Bay Area) in the background.

1. Berkeley, CA

Just across the bay from San Francisco, Berkeley is home to the first and most renowned campus of the University of California system—as well as Berkeley City College and a variety of theological institutions. Berkeley itself ranks as the most liberal city in California today. Like the rest of the Bay Area, Berkeley’s housing market has soared due to the tech boom. Its current median home price is $849,000.

2. Santa Cruz, CA

Santa Cruz is a classic California beach town, and home to another excellent University of California school. UC-Santa Cruz, just 3 miles from the (beautiful) beach, is also the city’s biggest employer, providing nearly 8,000 jobs. Santa Cruz continues to find itself among the most expensive U.S. real estate markets with a median of nearly $814,000.

3. Boulder, CO

With a gorgeous mountain setting and an outdoorsy lifestyle, Boulder consistently ranks on lists of the best U.S. cities to live. CU-Boulder, the flagship of the University of Colorado system, and local companies IBM Corp. and Ball Corp. provide steady jobs to the locals. One of the hottest housing markets in the country due to limited inventory, Boulder has buyers lining up for homes at a median of $789,000.

4. San Luis Obispo, CA

A charming town on California’s Central Coast and a hub of its wine country, San Luis Obispo is also home to California Polytechnic State University. Cal Poly owns almost 10,000 acres of land and, along with its supporting facilities, provides more than 4,300 jobs. However, the limited supply of homes has pushed up the median price to $690,000.

5. Cambridge, MA

A twin city to Boston, Cambridge boasts two of the best colleges on the planet: Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Universities  provide nearly 20,000 jobs to the city, and the well-diversified economy led by high-tech research institutions offers even more opportunities—unemployment in Cambridge is only 3.5%. The upscale market has a median home price of more than $685,000.

6. Claremont, CA

Claremont, sometimes called “the City of Trees and PhDs,” is home to a loose network of five undergraduate liberal arts colleges, two graduate institutions, and Claremont University Consortium. With a median household income of $87,324, more than 40% higher than the state average, the city sees no shortage of well-paid professionals looking to settle down, driving the median home price to $675,000.

7. Princeton, NJ

Princeton’s namesake university currently sits atop the Best U.S. Universities list and joins with established companies and institutions in the area to create steady, high-salaried jobs. The city’s median household income is $109,865, and the median home price is $650,000.

The UC Davis logo with a soccer game and bike riders in the background. University of California at Davis. Davis, California. Taken February 2, 2015.
The UC Davis logo with a soccer game and bike riders in the background. University of California at Davis. Davis, California. Taken February 2, 2015.

8. Davis, CA

With outstanding programs in agricultural and biological sciences, University of California–Davis also has deep connections with the agribusinesses of nearby Napa Valley, creating a strong interconnected economy. As the university attracts more and more students, the median home price in Davis has shot up to $579,000.

9. Chapel Hill, NC

This picturesque town is home to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, celebrated as the “public Ivy.” The university and its health care system contribute to a booming economy in Chapel Hill. In addition, UNC and nearby Duke University and North Carolina State University form the “Research Triangle,” home to many high-tech companies and enterprises. With a median home price of $450,000, Chapel Hill has become one of the state’s most expensive markets.

Flagstaff main square with pueblo house in Arizona
Flagstaff main square with pueblo house in Arizona

10. Flagstaff, AZ

Flagstaff, the gateway to the Grand Canyon, is also home to Northern Arizona University. NAU has something for everyone: accredited undergraduate research, an art museum, and Division I athletics. Flagstaff’s convenient and picturesque location has driven the median housing price to $431,750, almost double the state median.


10 least expensive U.S. college towns

While home shoppers on the coasts might be reeling from sticker shock, those in the heartland may feel like they are getting a bargain.

1. Muncie, IN

Here’s a fun fact about Muncie: It’s the setting of the classic comic strip “Garfield.” (Who knew?) The entrepreneurship program at Muncie’s Ball State University has been recognized as among the nation’s finest by U.S. News & World Report. BSU also powers the regional economy, bringing 3,000 jobs to local residents. The median home price is $77,900.

2. Charleston, IL

Charleston’s Eastern Illinois University is a state school with seven departments offering 49 undergraduate and 29 graduate degree programs. EIU is also a Division I athletics school that is part of the Ohio Valley Conference. With a friendly vibe, easy access to parks, and a bustling downtown, Charleston provides the best of small-town living with a median home price of just $81,500.

3. Macomb, IL

Most of life in Macomb, which has fewer than 20,000 residents, centers around Western Illinois University. Founded in 1899, WIU is ranked as the 39th best university in the Midwest by U.S. News & World Report. The price tag on a median Macomb home is $100,900.

4. Kirksville, MO

The rural town of Kirksville, about 200 miles northwest of St. Louis, is where you’ll find Truman State University, a public liberal arts and sciences institution that is ranked the ninth best Midwestern university by U.S. News & World Report. Kirksville is surrounded by a 3,000-acre state park and some of the nation’s top hunting grounds. The median home price is $109,900.

5. Big Rapids, MI

Big Rapids is a midsize town with the recreational and cultural activities of a much larger community, thanks to Ferris State University. FSU offers two- and four-year degrees from its eight academic colleges, and graduate degrees from six colleges. The university drives economic development and job opportunities in the town, where the median home price is $114,000.

6. Kalamazoo, MI

Kalamazoo boasts four higher learning institutions, with the most notable being Western Michigan University. Apart from the education sector, Kalamazoo’s economy includes major players in the pharmaceutical and medical sciences, and craft breweries. The city’s median home price stands at $117,900.

7. Cortland, NY

The State University of New York at Cortland offers the largest nationally accredited program on the East Coast. SUNY-Cortland is also the leading employer, followed by Cortland Regional Medical Center and Pall Trinity Micro Corp. A median-price home here is $120,950.

8. Carbondale, IL

Southern Illinois University in Carbondale started out as a state teacher-training school. Today, it is recognized as a national research university with more than 200 academic degree programs as well as professional programs in architecture, business, law, and medicine. The local economy depends on SIU and the university health system, powering a housing market with a median price of $128,500.

9. Carrollton, GA

Carrollton, a small city with just 25,000 residents, sits in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. The University of West Georgia, however, ensures that residents can count on gallery shows, sports events, performances, and seminars. Major local employers include UWG, Tanner Health System, and Southwire Wire & Cable. The median home price is just $133,200.

Foellinger Auditorium from the Quad on the campus of the University of Illinois in Urbana, Illinois on January 9, 2013. This photograph consists of five exposures blended together using HDR Efex Pro2 software to create a high dynamic range (HDR) image.
Foellinger Auditorium from the Quad on the campus of the University of Illinois in Urbana, Illinois on January 9, 2013. This photograph consists of five exposures blended together using HDR Efex Pro2 software to create a high dynamic range (HDR) image.

10. Urbana-Champaign, IL

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the flagship of the state’s public university system, comprises 16 colleges that offer more than 150 programs of study. UIUC draws 22% of its students from foreign countries, giving the area a cosmopolitan feel despite its location amid corn and soybean fields. The twin cities’ residential area, known as Champaign-Urbana, has a median home price that’s a little below $140,000.

Posted by Yuqing Pan on


The Age of Homes in All 50 States

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Roaring ’20s or the Disco era? See which decades are most represented.

Homes back East are older, and houses out West are newer, right? Not quite.

We looked at single-family houses built from 1900 to 2014 to see which decades are most represented by the current housing stock. Turns out, the largest share of homes in the Northeastern states was built in the ’80s, but in California the ’50s remains the dominant decade for homes still standing.

Meanwhile, Washington, DC, is holding strong as the area with the oldest decade – the 1920s – most represented today.

  • 1920-1929: Washington, DC
  • 1950-1959: California, Connecticut, Illinois, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island,  Wisconsin
  • 1970-1979: Hawaii, Mississippi, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma,  Oregon, West Virginia, Wyoming
  • 1980-1989:  Alaska, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland,  Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, Virginia
  • 1990-1999: Delaware, Indiana
  • 2000-2010: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Kentucky, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Washington

Knowing when the largest share of homes was built isn’t just a fun piece of trivia. It also provides a window into the character of real estate in your state. Check out some of the most popular styles through the decades.

Posted by Catherine Sherman on Zillow

3 Home Upgrade Options for a $1,000 Budget

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Looking to update your home without spending a pile of cash? Here are three projects you can complete for just $1,000 each.

Whether you’re hoping to make your home more comfortable to live in or trying to broaden its appeal for a quick sale, small updates can be a win-win. But home improvement projects can be tricky because if you spend too much, you may not get the return on that investment.

To add value to your home, focus on two categories. First, adding function to the home is a given. You will love that update, and so will future buyers. The second is adding charm and character, which will make your home a happier place for you, and can be an advantage when it’s on the market.

For the relatively small renovation budget of $1,000, you can complete any one of the following projects, boosting the appeal and value of your home.

Add a wall of built-in bookshelves

Few things say charm and character like built-ins. Take them floor-to-ceiling on an empty wall in your living space, dining room, or even hallway. To really boost the appeal, add sconces in between or over each shelf.

Not only do built-ins create a beautiful focal point in your home, they also increase function. They’re perfect for book storage, but you could also get a set of pretty woven baskets to store and conceal items. You get more storage without compromising the tidy look of the shelves.

Create faux beams in your cased openings

Wood beams instantly add appeal to your home. While this is purely a cosmetic upgrade, it’s one that will have you, your friends, and future buyers swooning.

On any cased opening in your home, pop off the trim and use stained framing lumber to cover the sides. Run one long piece across the top and you’ve created the look of an actual beam for less cost.

Adding beams increases your home’s charm and makes a real statement. It’s a perfect addition to entry ways or living areas.

Build paired closets

Adding closets to your home has the obvious benefit of providing much-needed storage. The issue, however, is that building a closet usually means taking a corner out of a room. You get the storage, but you’re left with an awkward protrusion into the space.

Paired closets in each corner on a wall solve this issue — and you get double the storage. Paired closets look purposeful in a room, and their symmetry is visually appealing. This configuration creates a charming nook in between to place a table, bench, or even bed.

You’ll love having the extra storage, and any future buyers will, too. After all, you can never have too much closet space.

Regardless of which upgrade you choose, you can’t go wrong with these cosmetic and functional home updates. With a modest investment, you’ll immediately enhanced your home with charm and usability anyone would love.

Posted by Lindsay Jackman on Zillow