How to Create the Perfect Porch

Turn your frumpy, forgotten porch full of cobwebs and a sagging sofa into a cozy refuge, a space to watch the world go by or escape from it.
How to Create the Perfect PorchYou’re not quite sure how it happened, but your formerly pretty porch with its shiny, clean walls and peppy pillows has turned into a cobweb-filled storage space for bikes, bugs and your old family room couch. Time for a facelift? Absolutely, says Valerie Blood, ASID, president of interior design firm Jamison Kay Ltd. in Denver. “Street appeal is so important. Sometimes people don’t even make it into your house, and their first impression might be their last.”

A clean, fresh, well-kept porch sets the tone for the entire house, Blood believes, even if you don’t have the latest furniture and accessories. “Start with the bones of the space and clean it top to bottom,” she says. “Wash the walls, de-bug the ceiling and put a fresh coat of paint on the trim, rails and floor.”

Joe Ruggiero, a furniture and fabric designer and TV host/producer, loves to add an accent color to the porch floor or rails with an exterior wood or concrete stain. A good stain “will last longer than paint and add color in a surprising space.”

Once you’ve scrubbed, stained and otherwise prepped the framework of the porch, bring out furniture and accessories that will turn the space into an alluring, cozy sanctuary. With outdoor fabrics now made in formerly delicate materials like velvet and chenille, comfort is easy to achieve outside. “We’re seeing a trend that blows the line between indoor and outdoor materials,” Ruggiero says.

Start with a cozy outdoor rug, which visually designates a seating area dedicated to conversation. Next, add furniture. If you’re buying new or painting old furniture, stick to neutral base colors like black, white or beige and incorporate punches of color with cushions and pillows. Blood likes to change the color of the cushions to accommodate the seasons — for example, bright yellow in summer, a rust color in the fall, deep green or crimson for winter and pastels in spring. In Ruggiero’s designs for Sunbrella, a brand of outdoor fabric, he includes a hidden zipper in all his outdoor pillows. “You can trade out color schemes so easily, or just take the covers off to pop them in the washer,” he says.

Hanging porch swings are the ultimate in front porch charm, hearkening back to the good old days, but once you install one, there’s no rearranging, Ruggiero says. He prefers furniture following the new “indoor/outdoor” trend: deep seating comfort furniture, like all-weather wicker with comfy cushions. But most porches aren’t swimming in square footage, so watch the scale of your furniture, Blood warns. “You might have to limit seating to two chairs, a small table and an ottoman, which can double as seating and storage.”

One fix for a space shortage: a wheeled cart that can come out when you’re entertaining. “Roll it outside to serve as a drinks or dessert table, and tuck it away in the hall closet afterwards,” Blood says.

Take a seat in every chair and consider privacy and comfort. “Are the neighbors too close, or does the sun beat down on one side?” Blood asks. That’s an easy fix: Hang an all-weather fabric curtain on a rod, install a painted piece of lattice board and plant vines to crawl up the side, or use topiaries or evergreens in pots to create a visual and sound barrier. Maximize comfort with an outdoor ceiling fan, which keeps the breeze stirring on a still afternoon.

Now to plants. “Greenery is the icing on the cake,” Blood says. She likes to start with big pots of spiral topiaries, and add small pots at the base. If your porch gets a lot of sun, plant flowering annuals in the smaller pots; if not, ivy and impatiens are good choices.

As you started with curb appeal, end with it as well. “A beautiful front door, freshly painted with a clean kick plate on the bottom and a really nice doormat, reflects both the inside and outside of the house,” Blood says. “When people visit, you’ve created a beautiful stage presence.”

This article was originally published by Gretchen Roberts on To see the original article, click here.

The 400-square-foot dream home

Teeny-tiny houses are the next big thing on the horizon. Those who’ve downsized say you can save a ton of money and time — if you can handle the challenges of living small.
400 Square Ft Dream Home
Could you live in a home that’s 400 square feet? How about less than 200 square feet?

Greg Johnson does. His house in Iowa City, Iowa, is 140 square feet — a mere 7 feet by 10 feet.  It’s just large enough for a little kitchen on one side, across from a desk where Johnson can work and eat. Upstairs is a loft that fits a queen-sized bed and is “just big enough to crawl upstairs and go to sleep. It’s cozy,” says Johnson, co-founder and coordinator of the Small House Society, which encourages people to get interested in living small — and he means really small.

“I think it’s the ideal size, at least for me,” he says of his domicile.

Tiny is getting big
Anecdotal evidence suggests that a growing number of Americans are intrigued by so-called “micro-homes.” Call it a fringe offshoot of the anti-McMansion trend. Johnson says his monthly e-newsletter has grown to 477 recipients from just a handful since the Small House Society began in 2002.

A variety of companies, sensing the growing interest — and potential future need — for compact housing offer interesting tiny homes. For example:

  • Central Virginia’s Tiny House Co. sells a 400-square-foot, one-bedroom log cabin with a covered porch that starts at $36,900, and offers plans for the Weekender, a 12-by-24-foot gabled-roof cabin with a kitchen, bath and storage loft.
  • Phoenix’s v2world goes a different route, using stackable, welded, steel-frame modules to create living spaces. Its 448-square-foot v2flat model is a 16-by-16-foot box connected to a 16-by-20-foot box. The v2flat is a high-design, customizable space — and includes all furniture and high-end shrunken fixtures that maximize space. The steel-frame design means that floor-to-ceiling windows can be added on multiple sides to make the space feel larger without losing strength.
  • For its, ahem, small size, Jay Shafer’s Tumbleweed Tiny House Co., with some 15 different models and variations of mini-homes, is a big source of inspiration and homes for tiny home lovers. Shafer helped Johnson design his Iowa City home and now sells plans, consultations and homes on his site.
  • Perhaps the most mainstream person to bring attention to the tiny-house trend is nationally lauded Pacific Northwest architect Ross Chapin, who has made a reputation for building smaller homes around community-fostering spaces. In the Backyard Neighborhood he designed in Langley, Wash., Chapin built two smaller homes on each lot — a 1,200-square-foot home and a 425-square-foot backyard cottage — and placed them on a shared alley. Though the latter is often used as a studio by its owner, Chapin calls it a “relatively fully livable cottage” that could be used by, say, a mother-in-law or a return-to-the-nest child.

Prices of tiny homes can vary wildly, with some going for as little as $20,000 or $30,000. But architect Dennis Fukai points out that even a tiny home still keeps the spaces that are most expensive on a per-square-foot basis in a home — bathrooms and kitchens. He estimates that even a tiny house might cost $75 a square foot in an inexpensive area, “and you could double that, easily, for a custom home” with lots of nice touches and amenities, from space-saving built-in cabinets to a Murphy bed to granite countertops. (Johnson’s home is an exception here in that it omits the restroom altogether; it’s designed to rely on the facilities of an adjacent home.)

The advantages
Tiny houses are hardly a new idea. Henry David Thoreau lived in one on the banks of Walden Pond. And Thomas Jefferson lived in an 18-foot-by-18-foot, two-story, 648-square-foot box with his new wife while building his grand Monticello. Today’s tiny-house advocates extol their virtues, including:

  • Time for what you love. Johnson says he started the Small House Society after seeing that if people bought and lived in smaller, less expensive spaces, they’d have more time to get out in their communities and do the things they love to help affect society. “I’m looking at ways to empower activists,” he explains. A smaller home “saves incredible amounts of time. It saves incredible dollars.”
  • Less of … everything. Fukai, a former Fulbright scholar with a Ph.D. in architecture and author of “Living Small: The Life of Small Houses” focuses on smaller building with his firm,Insitebuilders. “Almost all consumption becomes reduced” when you move to a very small house, Fukai explains — even that extra pair of shoes gets tossed out. Fukai and his wife traded in a 3,000-square-foot home for an 800-square-foot house in Florida about 18 months ago — and haven’t looked back.

Besides paring down your own belongings, you can feel good about consuming less in other ways. In a small home, “automatically everything becomes less energy-demanding,” Fukai says. Even pets and appliances such as computers suddenly heat the small spaces in winter. And since walls must be well insulated by general code today, heat doesn’t penetrate the house in summer, Fukai has found. What’s more, the rooms cool very quickly with just an open window.

  • Little cleaning. A tiny space with less junk in it translates into less time spent cleaning and maintaining it, say owners.
  • The rewards of intimacy. Humans gravitate toward small spaces if they’re cozy and well-considered, says architect Chapin: “Benjamin Franklin used to say that the conversation around the table is much livelier when knees are touching, than at a formal dinner with proper distance.”

The many challenges of living really small
So, small may be beautiful. But it also may not work for everyone, and it poses some unique challenges.

Johnson, of the Small House Society, says micro-homes seem best suited to “people under 25 and over 45” — that is, people who haven’t yet had children, and those whose children have left the nest. Patricia Foreman and Andy Lee, in their book “A Tiny Home to Call Your Own,” suggest others, too: adult children returning to the nest; retirees; grandparents returning to live with the family; newlyweds who don’t mind the very cozy quarters; people in transition; even “couples who make better neighbors than housemates.”

Among the considerations:

  • Accumulators, be wary. “They’re not for people who really want to have a lot of stuff,” says Foreman, president of Tiny House Co. (Foreman lives in a home with a footprint the size of a two-car garage and boasts that she can vacuum it without changing plugs.)
  • Ditto party-throwers. Johnson, of the Small Home Society, finds that some owners of tiny homes get frustrated by the lack of room for socializing. In his house, for example, two is crowded, and “if it’s three people, it’s standing-room only,” he says. That’s why decks are often crucial on tiny homes.
  • Land rich, house poor. Often, land simply costs too much for it to make sense to build a $15,000 home. “If you have a lot that’s $30,000, or in Seattle it might be $300,000, you don’t put a 300-square-foot house on it,” says Fukai. “People who pay $300,000 for a lot don’t live in that kind of house.”
  • Zoning rules. Sometimes, building codes and local zoning rules expressly prohibit homes under a certain size (often 600 square feet or 700 square feet), perhaps under the notion that larger homes will keep the neighborhoods looking nice.
  • Financing. If financing is necessary, it can be tricky. Simply put, banks are wary of tiny homes, says Foreman, of Tiny House Co. Banks want to see something bigger than a one-bedroom house, she says, adding “they’re concerned about resale value.” For example, in Buena Vista, Va., where her company is located, you could build the company’s log cabin, but you couldn’t leave it on wheels because then the home would be classified as a single-wide trailer. Nor could you even leave it on the metal frame because then it would not be considered a standard home, which would create financing problems. “They treat it more or less like a car,” Foreman says. As a result, many of the very small homes the Tiny House Co. has built have been financed with home-equity loans from the owner’s existing home.

Good design is a must
If nothing else, the mini-house trend is cause to re-evaluate just how much space we really need. Architect Chapin thinks that 500 square feet is a minimum for one person. (Chapin’s firm is starting on a new development of homes in Port Townsend, Wash., that will be 10 houses and cottages around a common area, starting at about 600 square feet.) Foreman says that about 700 square feet is optimal, for one person. That allows for an office, an open living area with kitchen and one or two bedrooms. A home needn’t double in size to comfortably accommodate two people, or triple for three, however. Space efficiencies increase with the number of residents, so that three people could comfortably live in as little as 1,200-1,400 square feet.

But whatever the bare minimum, good design is crucial, says Tim Russell, CEO of v2world. If you ask people whether they could ever live in 400 square feet they “categorically” say “no way,” he says. Yet visitors to the company’s 384-square-foot model often think it’s 700 square feet or 800 square feet, Russell says, thanks to floor-to-ceiling windows and smaller appliances that are unobtrusive.

This article was originally published by Christopher Solomon on MSN Real Estate. To see the original article, click here

Selling Your Home “As-Is”

Bev Curtis & Associates | House of Brokers Realty
Selling your home as isThinking about selling your home but not sure you want to make needed repairs before listing it for sale? You’re in luck! These days, many homes are being sold “as-is” due to an ever-increasing lack of inventory.

An “as-is” home sale proposition releases home sellers from liabilities and repairs stemming from the home’s condition post-sale. That doesn’t mean a prospective buyer can’t request an inspection. It just means that the seller is not responsible for whatever the buyer discovers in that inspection. So if the inspection reveals issues, you can still sell your home.

If the home in question is a foreclosure, home buyers may be able to negotiate repairs a little more easily with a bank, particularly as they relate to safety hazards.

However regular home sales or short sales are often a different story. Time is generally a motivating factor and multiple offers may speed the process. Home sellers offering a good price are not going to want to do needed repairs if they can sell the property “as-is” to an anxious buyer.

Check local statutes and discuss them with an established real estate expert in your area to determine what you must disclose about your home, before deciding to sell. If you question the integrity of some area of your home, an “as-is” sale may be just the thing!


Single Women Are Buying Homes At Twice The Rate Of Men

A few decades ago, a single woman buying real estate on her own was a rarity.

Single Women Are Buying Homes At Twice The Rate Of Men

Before the Fair Housing Act of 1968, few women could get approved for a credit card, much less a mortgage, without a husband’s or father’s signature.

Now that’s all changed. In fact, the National Association of Realtors reports that since the mid-1990s, single women have purchased homes at nearly twice the rate of single men.

Last year, single female homeowners made up 18 percent of household composition in the association’s Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers, compared to 10 percent for single men.

Julie Cook, a public relations professional in Michigan, recently closed on her first home, a three-bedroom ranch outside Detroit. After living in New York City and paying sky-high rent for a few years, the Detroit native recently moved back to the area and decided to take advantage of more affordable home prices.

“At this point, it was a better way to spend my money than putting it into rent,” she says. “I might as well get equity.” She lived with her parents for three months while she saved money for a down payment and browsed properties with her real estate agent. She secured an FHA loan earlier this year and moved into her new house last month.

[See: A Step-by-Step Guide to Homebuying in Today’s Market.]

Interest rates have begun inching back up in recent weeks, so Cook considers herself lucky to have locked in a low rate even as the closing process dragged on. “The hardest part was the wait,” she says. “FHA takes a little bit longer because of the additional layer of policy and law.”

Although she originally pictured living in a loft with a convenient downtown location that requires little maintenance, Cook says her real estate agent encouraged her to consider other types of properties. She says she’s happy to have found a house with a small, manageable yard in a safe neighborhood. “I’m half a mile from restaurants and culture, and I’m able to ride my bike,” she says. “Location was a big part of it.”

According to Jessica Lautz, a manager of member survey research at NAR, neighborhood safety is a top consideration for single female homebuyers. “Their second most important factor is convenience to friends and family,” she says.

“Location, location, location” may be a common refrain in real estate circles, but clearly it’s not the only factor. “[Single women] are a very discriminating buyer,” says Karen Krupsaw, vice president of real estate operations at Redfin, a technology-powered real estate company. “I don’t think they’re unrealistic. They can see beyond the way [a house] may show as well as how they can fix it up and how it can be a dream home.”

Recent data from Redfin found that 46 percent of women buying alone said they first evaluate a home based on whether they love it, compared to 24 percent of men buying alone. The remaining 54 percent of women and 76 percent of men evaluate a home based on value and cost.

[Read: 3 Costly Mistakes of First-Time Homebuyers.]

Cost was a key factor for Cailin Heinze, a veterinary nutritionist and professor at Tufts University who closed on a home in Northborough, Mass., in May. “My rent was already ridiculous for a two-bedroom, and it was going to go up another $200,” she says. “I thought, if I buy now, this is probably the lowest interest rate that is probably going to be around for the foreseeable future.”

Still, Heinze says she was a bit anxious about putting in an offer and closing on the property because other than her educational costs, this was the most she’s ever spent. “It’s intimidating to think I will pay this much a month for the next 30 years,” she says, “but that’s how much I would pay in rent.”

Because the average salary for a woman still lags behind men’s (the American Association of University Women says women earn 82 cents for every dollar a man makes one year after graduation) and lenders favor two-income households over single earners, Lautz says women are “making the most sacrifices to get into a home, but they’re still placing a high value on owning a home of their own.”

Despite lower pay, women handle credit more responsibly than men, on average, according to Experian, which reports that men have a 7 percent higher incidence of late mortgage payments and 4.3 percent more debt than women.

[See: 10 Ways Your Home Can Pay You Money.]

Heinze plans to stay in her house for the foreseeable future, but Cook considers her home part of a long-term investment strategy. Cook has a 30-year mortgage with the option to pay it off early with no penalty, so she says she plans to live in the house and pay it off in four to five years before renting it out and moving into “more of a permanent long-term place with ideally a husband, or a boyfriend or whatever happens.”

For Heinze, solo homeownership carries a sense of pride. “[I’m] able to have a place that would be truly my own that I could decorate the way I wanted to,” she says, “and have some sort of stability.”

This story was originally published by Susan Johnston on U.S. News & World Report. See the original article here.

Helpful Selling Advice from one of our Realtors

Andy Boyles | House of Brokers Realty

We are still experiencing somewhat of a seller’s market, but not in a way that has caused prices to drastically increase. Prices have remained fairly stable, however due to a shortage of homes offered for sale, we are seeing more competing buyers, multiple offers, and even close to (if not) full price offers.

With that said, if you are considering selling your home, it’s best to be as realistic as possible when it comes to pricing your home. Know your area comparables for recent sold properties and stay competitive within the market. Contact a knowledgeable Realtor to assist in properly preparing your home for the market, and also make educated decisions on pricing to sell.

As the saying still goes- “It’s a beauty contest and a price war to the door!”.

7 factors I go by to help my clients determine how fast a property will sell are:

1. Timing- When during the year the property goes on the market?

2. Location- Is the home located in a desirable location?

3. Condition- Is the house in good condition, or is there deferred maintenance ?

4. Marketing- What the Realtor does to get qualified buyers in the door.

5. Financing- Are mortgage terms going to help or hinder interested buyers?

6. Competition- How many other properties, like yours, are on the market?

7. Price- Will the price encourage interest or be a ‘turn off’?

The One Thing Successful People Never Do

Success comes in all shapes and colours. You can be successful in your job and career but you can equally be successful in your marriage, at sports or a hobby. Whatever success you are after there is one thing all radically successful people have in common: Their ferocious drive and hunger for success makes them never give up.

Success winner woman

Successful people (or the people talking or writing about them) often paint a picture of the perfect ascent to success. In fact, some of the most successful people in business, entertainment and sport have failed. Many have failed numerous times but they have never given up. Successful people are able to pick themselves up, dust themselves off and carry on trying.

I have collected some examples that should be an inspiration to anyone who aspires to be successful. They show that if you want to succeed you should expect failure along the way. I actually believe that failure can spur you on and make you try even harder. You could argue that every experience of failure increases the hunger for success. The truly successful won’t be beaten, they take responsibility for failure, learn from it and start all over from a stronger position.

Let’s look at some examples, including some of my fellow LinkedIn influencers:

Henry Ford – the pioneer of modern business entrepreneurs and the founder of the Ford Motor Company failed a number of times on his route to success. His first venture to build a motor car got dissolved a year and a half after it was started because the stockholders lost confidence in Henry Ford. Ford was able to gather enough capital to start again but a year later pressure from the financiers forced him out of the company again. Despite the fact that the entire motor industry had lost faith in him he managed to find another investor to start the Ford Motor Company – and the rest is history.

Walt Disney – one of the greatest business leaders who created the global Disney empire of film studios, theme parks and consumer products didn’t start off successful. Before the great success came a number of failures. Believe it or not, Walt was fired from an early job at the Kansas City Star Newspaper because he was not creative enough! In 1922 he started his first company called Laugh-O-Gram. The Kansas based business would produce cartoons and short advertising films. In 1923, the business went bankrupt. Walt didn’t give up, he packed up, went to Hollywood and started The Walt Disney Company.

Richard Branson – He is undoubtedly a successful entrepreneur with many successful ventures to his name including Virgin Atlantic, Virgin Music and Virgin Active. However, when he was 16 he dropped out of school to start a student magazine that didn’t do as well as he hoped. He then set up a mail-order record business which did so well that he opened his own record shop called Virgin. Along the way to success came many other failed ventures including Virgin Cola, Virgin Vodka, Virgin Clothes, Virgin Vie, Virgin cards, etc.

Oprah Winfrey – who ranks No 1 in the Forbes celebrity list and is recognised as the queen of entertainment based on an amazing career as iconic talk show host, media proprietor, actress and producer. In her earlier career she had numerous set-backs, which included getting fired from her job as a reporter because she was ‘unfit for television’, getting fired as co-anchor for the 6 O’clock weekday news on WJZ-TV and being demoted to morning TV.

J.K. Rowling – who wrote the Harry Potter books selling over 400 million copies and making it one of the most successful and lucrative book and film series ever. However, like so many writers she received endless rejections from publishers. Many rejected her manuscript outright for reasons like ‘it was far too long for a children’s book’ or because ‘children books never make any money’. J.K. Rowling’s story is even more inspiring because when she started she was a divorced single mum on welfare.

Bill Gates -co-founder and chairman of Microsoft dropped out of Harvard and set up a business called Traf-O-Data. The partnership between him, Paul Allen and Paul Gilbert was based on a good idea (to read data from roadway traffic counters and create automated reports on traffic flows) but a flawed business model that left the company with few customers. The company ran up losses between 1974 and 1980 before it was closed. However, Bill Gates and Paul Allen took what they learned and avoided those mistakes when they created the Microsoft empire.

History is littered with many more similar examples:

  • Milton Hershey failed in his first two attempts to set up a confectionary business.
  • H.J. Heinz set up a company that produced horseradish, which went bankrupt shortly after.
  • Steve Jobs got fired from Apple, the company he founded. Only to return a few years later to turn it into one of the most successful companies ever.

So, the one thing successful people never do is: Give up! I hope that this is inspiration and motivation for everyone who aspires to be successful in whatever way they chose. Do you agree or disagree with me? Are there other things you would add to the list of things successful people never do? Please share your thoughts…

This article was originally published by Bernard Marr, best-selling business author and enterprise performance expert, on Linked In. See the original article here