10 must-have luxury home amenities from 2013

A look back at 2013: what luxury home amenities became the most popular this year?

Marble bath

© L’Antic Colonial

Increase in 2013 listings: 78 percent

*Listings source: Trulia


Roof deck

© Amber Freda Home & Garden Design/Houzz

Increase in 2013 listings: 63 percent


Oversized windows

© Ekman Design Studio/Houzz

© Ekman Design Studio/Houzz

Increase in 2013 listings: 56 percent



© Houzz

© Houzz

Increase in 2013 listings: 42 percent



© Dufner Heighes Inc/Houzz

© Dufner Heighes Inc/Houzz

Increase in 2013 listings: 42 percent


Floor to ceiling windows

© Hufft Projects/Houzz

© Hufft Projects/Houzz

Increase in 2013 listings: 39 percent


Ceiling windows

© Kyle Hunt & Partners, Incorporated/Houzz

© Kyle Hunt & Partners, Incorporated/Houzz

Increase in 2013 listings: 37 percent


Marble floors

© Vanguard Studio Inc./Houzz

© Vanguard Studio Inc./Houzz

Increase in 2013 listings: 30 percent


Wine room

© Fourteen Estates/Houzz

© Fourteen Estates/Houzz

Increase in 2013 listings: 30 percent



© Celebrity Communities/Houzz

© Celebrity Communities/Houzz

Increase in 2013 listings: 24 percent

This article was originally published by Beth Braverman of TheFiscalTimes.com on MSN Real Estate. See the original article here.

5 Resolutions for First-Time Home Buyers

If you’ve promised yourself you’ll become a homeowner for the first time in 2014, we’ve got five, easy-to-accomplish resolutions to help get you there.

5 Resolutions for First Time Home Buyers

1. Boost Your Credit Score

Your credit score will play a key role in your mortgage approval and rates. At the beginning of the year, order your credit reports from AnnualCreditReport.com, a free service authorized by federal law. Go over each report, dispute any errors, and pay off old debts.

In the meantime, avoid big-ticket items such as cars or furniture and don’t apply for new credit. Jon Sterling, a regional sales manager for real estate offices in Northern California, says, “An inquiry itself causes a credit score to temporarily drop, and acquiring more debt by buying something, or the capacity to acquire more debt by opening a new credit account, can have dramatic effects on [your] mortgage situation.”

2. Save Up to Put Down

According to Sterling, you’ll typically need a 20 percent to 30 percent down payment to qualify for the best mortgage rates. At the beginning of the year, try cutting optional expenses to save more. For example, cutting out an $85 cable bill will save you $1,020 in a year. Remember, every little bit helps you avoid higher interest rates or private mortgage insurance.

3. Find the Best Real Estate Agent

Finding a great real estate agent takes time but will pay off in the end. Sterling recommends you find a buyer’s agent who “can give you a few recent testimonials from happy buyer clients. Be sure to check those references to be sure they are legitimate.” To get started, ask friends and family for referrals or search realtor.com®’s Find a REALTOR® database.

4. Get Pre-Approved

Knowing what you can afford, what you qualify for, and what type of loan you want can help you find the best deal when you’re ready to apply for a mortgage. To get started, research the differences between conventional and unconventional loans and use a mortgage term comparison calculator to get an idea of the cost. When you’re ready to shop for mortgages, use realtor.com®’s Get a Mortgage Quote tool to see current rates and get quotes from lenders in your area.

5. Find Your Dream Home

Sterling says potential home buyers should be “reading and researching as much as they can” as soon as they can. Don’t wait until you’re ready to shop to start looking at homes. Start early by researching neighborhoods in your target city and viewing homes online to get an idea of pricing. Once you’re ready to shop, you’ll have a much better idea of what you want and what you can afford.

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

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 of bright 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 time frame 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

Do you prefer a mid-century look, as is shown here in bright designlab’s work?

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

Make time to put together a gallery wall. Design by bright designlab.

Make time to put together a gallery wall. Design by bright designlab.

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

Kitchen by Vanessa DeLeon.

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!”

This article was originally published by Erika Riggs on Zillow Blog. See the original article here.

Top 10 Craziest Places to Live from 2013

Why succumb to four-bedroom suburbia when you can bunker down in a missile silo or reign over your own personal castle? From telescope-topped properties to stunning architectural constructs and luxury relics of the Cold War, these homes drew your attention and earned the title of craziest places to live in 2013.

10. Mermaid’s Chair Mansion

from realtor.com

The mermaid has always been one of the more beguiling creatures found in the pantheon of oceanic mythology, but this mansion perched above the banks of Mermaid’s Chair in St. Thomas proved to be the ultimate enchantress.

The alluring $35 million listing in the Virgin Islands countered a January cold snap with pristine Caribbean views and left us wanderlusting for the blissful feel of warm sand between our toes.

9. Frank Lloyd Wright’s Gerald B. Tonkens House

from realtor.com

Though the Gerald B. Tonkens House in Cincinnati was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, it was actually built by his grandson, Eric Lloyd Wright, in 1955. The cinder Usonian design has had but one owner, who put it on the market in February for $1.788 million.

Said to be built to Wright’s exacting standards, the home features 11 different concrete patterns with 400 inset windows to fashion a dramatic marriage between the dwelling and the outside world.

8. Sugar & Rum Factory Villa

from realtor.com

Butler’s Bay Sugar and Rum Factory hasn’t produced a drop of pirate’s elixir in over 200 years, but this towering structure on St. Croix has survived as a 6,000-square-foot luxury vacation home.

Despite a few modern updates, the $2.75 million home in the Virgin Islands town of Frederiksted holds true to its historical roots by incorporating the old mill itself — a jutting volcano-like tower made of stone — as the structure’s centerpiece.

7. Ai Weiwei’s Only U.S. Design

from realtor.com

This ultra-sleek, ultra-modern luxury box was the talk of the architectural community when it listed in March. Not so much because of its $4.25 million price tag, but because it represents the only U.S. home designed by renowned Chinese artist Ai Weiwei of 2008 Olympics’ Beijing National Stadium fame. The aluminum-clad beauty takes full advantage of the scenic bliss of the Catskill and Berkshire Mountains with towering windows, and employs Weiwei’s eye for minimalism throughout its 2,800 square feet.

6. Harry Gesner’s Raven’s Eye

from realtor.com

When it hit the Malibu, Calif., rental market in March, this striking, Gothic-inspired affair known as the “Raven’s Eye” presented itself as the perfect interim hideaway for a modern-day Don Juan, a super-villain, or perhaps an Ian Fleming-inspired emissary.

Fittingly, the daring domicile was designed by lauded architect Harry Gesner, whose life story reads like a script for a dashing, playboy spy. With its striking, arched-frame windows and prime vantage point overlooking the sea, you deemed this luxury rental more than worthy of its $40,000-a-month cost.

5. Game of Homes

from realtor.com

HBO’s fantasy epic Game of Thrones continued to dominate all walks of life in 2013, including real estate. Proving this point was a roundup of hot, medieval properties designed to have you living in your own version of George R.R. Martin’s vast realm. From feudal fortresses to mountaintop castles, these strongholds were deemed worthy of bearing the Iron Throne.

4. Dansk Lake House by Jens Quistgaard

from realtor.com

Late Danish designer Jens Quistgaard’s eye for attractive wooden bowls, elegant flatware and enameled dishware delivered Scandinavian style to postwar America. However, Quistgaard’s design prowess wasn’t limited to dinnerware, as evidenced by this modern residence he created in 1961.

Hidden away on a forested site in upstate New York, the Dansk Lake House’s locale — 20 acres complete with a private lake, waterfall and manicured gardens — is only outdone by its dramatic outward appearance: a piercing folding-plate roof that bears a resemblance to scales on a dragon’s back.

3. Saucer-Shaped Architecture

from realtor.com

Bucking conventional wisdom and the architectural trends of Texas in June was this contemporary design by Lionel Morrison of Morrison Dilworth + Walls.

Call it an extraterrestrial corral or an ultramodern sports arena,this stunning $9.995 million architectural property in the Preston Hollow neighborhood of Dallas was meticulously planned from the bottom up to create an organic environment in a groovy modern shell.

2. Telescope-Topped Luxury Home

from realtor.com

Many multimillion-dollar listings in California tout ocean views, but few can say they offer a window into the ether. Among a sea of trophy homes in Laguna Niguel, one property dared to ditch coastal scenery for a more cosmic state of living with an out-of-this-world private observatory and telescope installation.

The $3.188 million luxury home was certainly one for the (space) ages, and one of your favorites of 2013.

1. Cold War Missile Silo Home

from realtor.com

Tucked away in the rolling foothills of the Adirondack Mountains, deep beneath the earth’s crust, and only accessible via a set of steel blast doors, was this converted Atlas missile silo — your choice for the craziest place to live in 2013.

Complete with “all tools and toys included,” this truly awesome Cold War-era throwback had you craving a bunkered-down lifestyle thanks to its Strangelovian clocks, gun-metal gray consoles and analog switches. Adding further intrigue to the unworldly home were the living quarters, located in the 185-foot-deep structure’s former Launch Control Center.

This article was originally published by Neal J. Leitereg on realtor.com. To see the original article, click here.

Will You Be Buying Your Next House With Bitcoins?

If you’re not ready to throw down cash for that new house, maybe you can dig deep for some … bitcoins?

BitcoinFor the second time last week, a seller promised to accept the virtual currency as valid payment for a new home, according to The Wall Street Journal.

One seller in the Hamptons is asking nearly $800,000 — or that value in bitcoins — for a four-bedroom, ranch-style home first listed in October. Earlier this week, a former casino owner said he’d be willing to accept bitcoins for his $7.85 million Las Vegas home.

Bitcoin is a digital currency introduced in 2009 that is not backed by a central bank or government.  The currency can be traded online through unregulated Internet exchanges.

Since a bank isn’t involved, using bitcoins can have fewer fees than traditional transactions.

But bitcoin prices fluctuate daily, and likely would be determined by the average exchange rate on the day of closing, The Wall Street Journal reports. The value has fluctuated drastically over the past year, ranging from $13 in January to $1,200 in late November. And some monetary authorities have been cautioning against using bitcoins, saying they’re vulnerable to uses for criminal activity and money laundering.

In fact, The Los Angeles Times reported Wednesday that the bitcoin market has crashed after the Chinese government moved against the currency.

Still, the growing popularity of the digital currency has been raising questions about whether it will become the norm in real estate transactions. Philipp Preuss, the seller of the Hamptons home, says he believes in the longevity of the bitcoin and says accepting the currency will help open up options.

“There might be international buyers, or a younger computer whiz who came into a little bit of coin overnight,” Preuss told The Wall Street Journal. “I’m expanding my buyer base.”

This was originally published by Rachel Stults on realtor.com. To see the original article, click here

Top 10 Home Improvement Projects

If you’re thinking of selling your home in 2014 or just want to ramp up your home value, it’s important to educate yourself on which improvement projects will bring you the most return on your investment.

Top 10 Home Improvement Projects

A great resource for your research is the 2013 Cost vs. Value Report, an annual collaboration between Remodeling magazine and REALTOR® Magazine, which breaks out the estimated cost of various projects and the estimated return on investment for those projects by region and by city, as well as by midrange and upscale projects. In general, this year’s report shows that exterior replacement projects are the most cost-effective. If you plan to sell your home later this year, remember that the first impression your home makes on buyers is their first glimpse of the outside.

Here are 10 home improvement projects you should consider:

1. Replace Your Front Door

You may not even notice your front door anymore, especially if you regularly use another entrance, but a new door makes a great impression on buyers and yields an 86 percent return on your investment. If your front door doesn’t need replacing or you’d rather spend less money, you can paint it and replace the hardware for a similar impact. Replacing your garage door recoups 75 percent of your investment.

2. Add a Deck or Patio

No matter where you live, buyers are looking for outdoor living space. You can recoup 77 percent of your investment on a new wood deck. If you already have outdoor space, consider enhancing it with a water feature, an outdoor fireplace or new landscaping.

3. Add Space

Depending on your budget and your goals for your home, an addition of extra bedrooms and bathrooms, a finished attic or an expanded casual living space can rapidly increase the value of your home. You can recoup 73% of your investment in an attic bedroom.

4. Remodel Your Kitchen

Buyers look most carefully at kitchens and bathrooms, so you should, too. You can recoup 75 percent of a minor kitchen remodel and 60-68 percent of a major kitchen remodel. If you’re selling soon, be careful not to overspend on your kitchen. You may be able to do one or two things, such as replacing the appliances and painting the cabinets, or just replacing the counters with granite to garner a good offer.

5. Replace Your Windows

Buyers are interested in how your windows look and their energy efficiency. Whether you’re replacing vinyl- or wood-frame windows, you can get a 72 percent return on your investment. When you’re ready to market your home, be sure to highlight the new windows as a selling point.

6. Work on Your Lighting

Today’s buyers like bright, light rooms, so look around your home and see if you need to upgrade your lighting fixtures or add more. You can hire a professional to add a few recessed lights to your kitchen and living areas and replace outdated overhead lighting fixtures to match contemporary tastes.

7. Replace Your Window Treatments

Make sure you’re letting as much natural light as possible into your home and that your window treatments don’t hide any oversized windows.

8. Update Your Bathroom

While a full, upscale bathroom remodeling project can cost as much as $50,000 and add only about $29,000 to your home’s resale value, you can make cost-effective minor upgrades. Replace your fixtures and your mirror, repaint the space and jazz it up with some crown molding (depending on your home’s style) and you’ll have a space that looks new. While you’re there, redo the caulk around your tub and shower and replace the grout on your tile flooring. If your tub is in bad shape, you may be able to have it resurfaced rather than replace it.

9. Replace Your Siding

If your home’s exterior needs a major makeover, you can typically recoup 72 percent of your investment by replacing the siding.

10. Organize Your Closets

High on the list of priorities for today’s buyers is adequate storage. If your home lacks big closets or has too few storage spaces, you can increase their efficiency with closet organizers.

No matter which project you choose, be careful not to over-improve your home for the neighborhood. A REALTOR® can offer advice about how to spend your money so that your home sells faster and for the best possible price.

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

Decorating for Winter, Not Just the Holidays

‘Tis the season for Santas, Christmas trees and halls decked with holly — at least until your holiday festivities are over. Before you know it, you’ll be packing up your themed decor and wondering how to warm up your home for the rest of winter.

According to Marc Thee, a Zillow Digs Board of Designers member and design principal at Marc-Michaels Interior Design, it’s possible to decorate your home for the season, not just the three-week period between Thanksgiving and Christmas. The key, he says, is to stay away from store-bought commercial decor and take a more organic approach. Here are a few of his budget-friendly tips.

Use more white, less red

Dyfari Interiors used white to create a crisp, elegant space for winter entertaining.

“Avoid red at all costs,” Thee said. “It ties you to Christmas.” Instead, he suggests having a more subdued palette that feels festive without tying you to a specific day of the year.

“I know stockings are fun, but I’ve seen gorgeous white-fur ones,” he added. “I say keep it neutral.”

White is a great choice because it isn’t overpowering and can last the entire season.

Bring in warm metallics

Once the stockings come down, metallic vases can stay throughout the season. Design by Kerrie Kelly Design Lab

“The holidays personify metallic,” Thee said. “Everyone goes to gold and silver, but more muted and warmer tones such as bronze and platinum will last beyond the holidays.”

For a weekend DIY project, Thee suggests buying glass containers of varying heights and filling them with metallic spray-painted pine cones. “It’s elegant and simple,” he said.

Incorporate fresh greenery

This dining room by Modern Rustic Homes beautifully combines greenery, metallic vases and candles.

Instead of one large Christmas tree, try dispersing natural elements throughout your home.

“The first place you should go [when decorating] is outside,” Thee said. “See what you can find. Boughs of magnolia [for example] last for a very, very long time.”

Once you’ve collected some greenery, Thee suggests filling tall glasses with leaf cuts and metallic accents such as hurricane or votive candles.

“Whether a beautiful tablescape, decorated mantle or a gorgeous cocktail table, these are things that can be mixed and matched,” he said.

If you live in a warmer climate, Thee says not to get hooked on finding Christmas-green boughs that aren’t native to your environment.

“In Florida, we do big tropical leaves set in water that will last for a week and are easy to replenish,” he said.

Embrace faux fur & candlelight

High Camp Home warmed up this rustic bathroom with candles and a faux-fur throw.

High Camp Home warmed up this rustic bathroom with candles and a faux-fur throw.

“Another huge trend is faux fur,” Thee explained. “Creamy-colored fur almost has a snow-like quality.”

Less is more, Thee advises. To incorporate faux fur into your home, try using pillows or a throw blanket on your bed or sofa.

“It’s an easy way to change up your look [for winter],” he said. “And, it will add to all the other items in your space.”

Thee is also a big believer in candlelight to add warmth and a woodsy scent.

“It can smell like a Christmas tree or a crackling fire, but the other candles [in the room] should be unscented,” he said.

In fact, as a rule of thumb, Thee says to never have more than one scented candle going at a time. “It will overwhelm you, especially if you are eating near them,” he said.

Anchor smaller items with a throw or tray

A black tray helps ground smaller candles in this living room by Marc-Michaels Interior Design.

The one downside to decorating with small candles and metallic pieces is that a room can start to feel cluttered. To avoid this, Thee suggests putting a fur throw or decorative tray below smaller items.

“Grounding objects makes them look so much better,” he said.

This article was originally published by Catherine Sherman on Zillow Blog. See the original article here.