Renter Rescue: The $100 Bathroom Makeover


Ready to spruce up your bathroom on the cheap? Try a few of these fixes.

Although you may not want to admit it, you probably spend a good amount of time in your bathroom. And when you’re on a budget and looking for an apartment for rent in Philadelphia, PA, bathrooms tend to be one of those features that are often … overlooked in the “recently updated” department. (And also? Grimy.) But renting is all about working with what you have. Luckily, the bathroom is such a small room that little changes can have a big impact — and they don’t have to cost a bundle.

Most of the 12 bathroom makeovers below can each be achieved for around $100 (or less!). Depending on what your rental bathroom needs (and your DIY level of confidence), pick a few and get to work!

1. Hang a new shower curtain and liner

There are lots of pretty, affordable shower curtains out there (Urban Outfitters and Target are both great sources). If you decide on a curtain with a design (like the one shown above at the AVA Ballard Apartments in Seattle, WA), treat it like a wall tapestry, and play with colors from the design in the rest of your bathroom decor. Consider buying a new one and washing the liner you have: Even plastic liners can be washed in cold water in the washing machine, along with some towels. (The towels help scrub mold and mildew from the liner.)

To create even more drama, hang an extra-tall shower curtain; use a tension curtain rod to avoid adding holes to the wall. Elongated shower curtains will make the room look taller, not to mention hide any less-than-fashionable tiling you’ve got in the shower.

Total estimated cost: $10 to $20

2. Swap a standard showerhead for a raincan

A raincan showerhead is the ultimate quick fix when it comes to adding a little luxury to a ho-hum shower. It can transform your everyday lather into a lavish experience, which is why you’ll almost always find them at spas and in luxury hotel rooms. Find an affordable one on sites like Amazon, install it yourself, and make sure to take it with you once you move out. (Read: Don’t toss the one you’re replacing, or be prepared to give up a chunk of your security deposit.)

Total estimated cost: $20 to $60; prices vary online

3. Get creative with temporary tile

Depending on the size of your bath, purchasing enough peel-and-stick vinyl tile to cover an entire bathroom floor could go over your $100 budget — but contact paper tile can be a quick (and temporary) way to make a design statement. Hate the border of pink tiles circling your bathroom? Cover it, and other low-traffic surfaces, with contact paper! Just be sure to thoroughly clean before you stick (and wait until the bathroom is all dry); otherwise, it may start to peel.

Total estimated cost: $20 to $30

4. Add shelving

The wall space over your toilet is prime real estate to hang shelves. But once you hang said shelves, don’t just throw your gigantic bottle of mouthwash up there. Artfully style them with bathroom canisters, soaps, rolled towels, and even extra toilet paper. Just remember: Always group items in odd numbers. Even TP looks chic when three rolls are stacked in a tiny pyramid. You can buy an over-the-toilet rack, or DIY some shelves with scrap wood for no cost at all.

Total estimated cost: up to $30

5. Update the vanity

Stuck with an orange-y oak vanity with brass hardware from the ’90s? Paint it. This one requires landlord permission, of course, but if you pick a neutral color like white or gray, you might stand a good chance of gaining approval. You can also ask to spray-paint the hardware for a quick fix, or skip the request altogether and swap the old hardware for adorable knobs or pulls from places like Anthropologie, Wayfair, and World Market.

Total estimated cost: paint, $3 to $5 (get the sample-sized paint can!), $2 to $10 for each knob or pull

6. Get a new rug

Bathroom rugs can start looking dingy pretty quickly. Make sure to replace them every year or so, and machine-wash once a month to keep them fresh. If you have a large bathroom (lucky you!), opt for a 3-by-5 area rug instead of a bath mat. And, renters with narrow bathrooms like the one shown above at Seven Apartments in Austin, TX, may benefit by searching for runners or hallway rugs. You’ll have a larger selection when it comes to pattern and color — just avoid rugs made of wool, jute, and polypropylene, which can be rough on bare feet and are harder to clean.

Total estimated cost: $10 to $20 (for deals, check stores like T.J. Maxx or Marshalls)

7. Paint your grout

Even in the most beautiful bathroom, dingy grout makes a bathroom look unkempt. The fact is, white grout can age over time; even if it’s freshly cleaned, the grout may be permanently stained. Enter grout paint. This handy invention costs less than $15 at home improvement stores, and for just a few dollars and hours of your time, you can totally transform your grout. If you have white grout, you can choose just to freshen it up with white paint. Or, with your landlord’s permission, you can paint your grout a new color — gray grout with white tile is having a moment.

Total estimated cost: $13

8. Install a new faucet

Why would you upgrade your landlord’s digs with your own money? Well, if you’re planning to stay awhile (and that ugly hardware offends your design sensibilities), the real question is why wouldn’t you? Faucets are shockingly easy to install (you just need a basin wrench and a YouTube tutorial). But if your landlord is just as particular as you are (or you’ve gotten attached to your pretty sink jewelry), hang on to the old faucet and reinstall it when you move out, so you can take your spiffy new one with you.

Total estimated cost: $10 to $40

9. Hang a (budget-friendly) masterpiece

Just because it’s a bathroom doesn’t mean it isn’t worthy of wall art. Print out and frame a colorful illustration like the one shown above at NEMA Apartments in San Francisco, CA, print a free space travel poster from NASA, or opt for an original from the National Gallery of Art or The Met, both of which provide free access to thousands of digital downloads from their galleries. Pick your favorite (we vote French impressionists for a bathroom), print out an 8-by-10 or 11-by-14 photo at your local pharmacy, grab a frame, and voilà! Your reflection won’t be the only masterpiece to gaze at while you brush your teeth.

Total estimated cost: $0 (the art is free!), $3–$10 to professionally print depending on size desired, $10 for a frame

10. Match your fixtures

Many bathrooms have a hodgepodge of fixtures installed over the years: a brass toilet paper holder, white ceramic towel bar, and chrome faucet, for instance. Fixtures, unite! Pick one metal (satin nickel or oil-rubbed bronze are safe bets) and either spray-paint your current fixtures (again, seek landlord approval first) or, for a higher price point, install new ones to be removed when you leave (that is, if you can’t persuade your landlord to give you a little discount on your rent to compensate for your work). It’s oddly satisfying to have all the metals in your bathroom match.

Total estimated cost: $4 for spray paint

11. Update your lighting

First, consider updating the metal base of your light fixture to match the finish of your aforementioned newly coordinated fixtures. Once that’s complete, you can pick up new glass globes at home improvement stores for $5 to $10 each. Or, if you’re stuck with the ever-popular Hollywood-style light fixture, buy some vintage-style filament bulbs for an instant industrial-chic upgrade.

Total estimated cost: $5 to $10 each for globes, $6 per filament bulb

12. Frame your mirror

Stuck with a builder-basic mirror in your rental? Fear not. Get some crown molding (or better yet, use some free scrap wood from another project or from a crafty friend) and cut it down to the dimensions of your mirror. Paint it to match your vanity or in a fun color to add a pop to the room. Attach with some heavy-duty Velcro, so you can remove it when you leave. Instant update!

Total estimated cost: up to $20, depending on the type of wood and how much you need

Posted by Liz Olech on Trulia

Prepare Your Home Now If You Plan to Sell It This Spring

Put these four tasks on your to-do list for a quick and painless sale.

Shutterstock ID 2562697

Shutterstock ID 2562697

Selling a home doesn’t happen overnight. To maximize your sale price, stand out from the competition and sell quickly, your home needs to go on the market in tip-top condition.

You only get one chance to make a good first impression in real estate. Once your home’s listing goes live, the days on market start ticking. In the Internet age, with access to so much information, buyers will punish a seller whose home has been on the market for many months.  If you can’t make the effort to get your home in it’s best condition, hold off on listing it.

Prepping the home rarely happens in one weekend. It takes time and thoughtful planning. If you intend to sell your home this spring, here are a few steps you need to take now.

Inspect

It may seem counterintuitive to spend money on a property inspection, but you need to know about your home’s condition. If there are issues — big or small — you need to address, it is better to know about them early so you can either remedy them prior to going to market or account for them with a lower listing price.

The last thing you want is for the buyer to uncover flaws once they are under contract. You will get stuck paying more under those circumstances than it would cost you to address the issues now.

Stash

As you prepare to sell, think of your home as an investment and start to see it through the eyes of potential buyers and the market. When you’re trying to sell your home, the less-is-more approach applies.

Put away big furniture and personal items. Store or put away all the things you won’t be using until you move into your new home. In the kitchen, make space in the cabinets for items you will need to use daily, but will want to put away for showings.

Improve

It’s common for sellers to make cosmetic improvements before they list. Kitchens and bathrooms sell your home. Plan to have the bathroom grout cleaned and have some parts of the house painted to give it a fresh look.

Consider cleaning rugs, refinishing hardwood floors or painting kitchen cabinets. If you plan to list in the spring, you likely have a good local real estate agent on your side by now. Get their advice and ask for referrals to do the work. There are lots of inexpensive contractors who can help spruce up your home quickly.

Research

Today’s buyers have research in their DNA and will investigate all they can. Check with your local building department and ensure there are no outstanding issues with your home.

Verify that property records reflect your home accurately, and prepare to remedy any discrepancy. Make sure your title report is clean, and talk about potential disclosure items with your agent. Banks won’t lend if there are outstanding issues, and you don’t want to jump through hoops at the eleventh hour. Researching now will keep you one step ahead of the buyers.

The sale of your home is likely one of your biggest financial transactions. Get a real estate agent on your team early, and make a list of all the tasks you need to complete before listing this spring. Now is the time to have those discussions. Smart planning and a good strategy will ensure a quick, painless and profitable home sale.

Posted by Brendon Desimone on Zillow

Brighten Up: Banishing Gloom From Your Rooms

Fight the winter blahs with design tips for keeping your home cheerful.

Most people naturally gravitate toward sunny spots — curling up on the couch near a window, sitting at a desk in a sun-soaked office, or lounging near a table lamp to read a good book.

If your home isn’t naturally well-lit, a few design tricks can help you maneuver around your lack of light. Whether you want to drench your home in sun or add a few task-lighting fixtures, you can transform your space with these simple tips. 

Nordic know-how

There’s a reason the Scandinavian interior design trend is so prominent. The all-white style has become increasingly popular thanks to a growing desire for light and bright spaces that are equal parts clutter-free and totally cozy.

Sprinkle in some Scandinavian elements with a single piece of bright white furniture, like a sofa or arm chair, and complement it with gray, navy, or black throw pillows.

Another great way to add Nordic design to your home is with white shelving against a bright white wall. The white-on-white look is inviting, and visually expands your home for a little extra breathing room.

Mirror, mirror on the wall

If you have a smaller space to work with, mirrors are a terrific solution. Because they reflect light so perfectly, mirrors are ideal for rooms that only have a small window, or little to no natural lighting.

Place one directly across from a window to bounce light all over the room. Hang a few small ones on the wall perpendicular to the window to reflect light in a more subtle way.

Add visual effects by hanging mirrors that have interesting frames, placing a cluster of mirrors together to form a design, or simply propping a tall framed mirror against the wall for extra impact.

 Layered lighting

In rooms with fewer windows, like kitchens, the key to creating a bright ambiance is layering lighting. This key design concept applies to every room, but is especially effective in rooms that lack natural light.

Start by making sure you have appropriate ceiling lights with bright bulbs. Ceiling light will create the foundation for your layered lighting effect.

Next, choose accent lighting, like mini pendants or a table or floor lamp. Pendants in groups of three create beautiful flow, and table lights in pairs beside couches or beds add symmetry for a balanced aesthetic.

Finally, use task lighting. Task lighting is very important in areas like the bathroom and kitchen, because it’s the light you will use to get ready in the morning and to chop food — two tasks that require expert lighting.

Task lighting can be sconces on the sides of a mirror, or recessed lighting perched underneath cabinetry.

Fabric swap

Last but certainly not least, swap out your dark, heavy fabrics for light and airy styles instead. If you normally have heavy insulated curtains, change up your look with a few panels of sheer drapes for an instantly ethereal space.

If you have a dark or heavily patterned duvet, try out a light scallop design in white or French gray to freshen up your bedroom. Other items that can be swapped are lamp shades, pillows, throw blankets, area rugs, and upholstery covers.

What are some of your favorite ways to banish gloom from your rooms?

Posted by Kerrie Kelly on Zillow

Treat Your Valentine to a Romantic Indoor Picnic

Transform your everyday space with textiles and accessories to set the scene for lounging, sipping a cocktail, and enjoying an intimate meal with someone special.

Creating a fantasy escape at home is an excellent way to surprise your significant other or a treasured friend. An inexpensive solution to date night, this at-home indoor picnic is a recipe for romance and a chance to just relax.

It’s all about comfort, ordering in from your favorite restaurant (Thai is a great choice), and setting up a movie night or romantic playlist.

Leave those work-week vibes at the door, and spread out with popcorn, a spiked Thai iced tea, and some mood-setting accents. The floor pillows, layered blankets, and picnic side crates all transport you to another place. This great setup delivers much needed hang-time, with no commute and no stress.

Re-plating takeout means one less trip to the grocery store, and no mad dash to make a reservation in time. Pair your meal with a lovely cocktail or special libation. If you’ll be ordering sushi, grab a bottle of sake, and if Southern comfort food is on the menu, just grab some seasonal brews.

Cheers to a lovely night in. Hope you made it a special one!

Spiked Thai iced tea

For each serving, pour 1-½ cup brewed and chilled Thai tea, such as Pantai Thai Tea Mix. Stir in one teaspoon of honey simple syrup (one part honey, one part water, heated until the honey dissolves, and then cooled). Add one ounce of whiskey, then top with a splash of coconut milk (not to be confused with coconut water).

Design resource guide

  • Lucite tray, CB2, $40
  • Gold cutlery, Target, $20 for 5-piece set
  • Graphic linens, Minted, $24/pair
  • Blank canvas white plate, Crate & Barrel, $5

Production sponsors: Patina Rentals

Posted by Douglas Calhoun on Zillow

Do You Know How Much Equity You Have In Your Home? You May Be Surprised!

Home-Equity-KCM

CoreLogic’s latest Equity Report revealed that 256,000 properties regained equity in the third quarter of 2015. This is great news for the country, as 92% of all mortgaged properties are now in a positive equity situation.

Price Appreciation = Good News For Homeowners

Frank Nothaft, CoreLogic’s Chief Economist, explains:

“Home price growth continued to lift borrower equity positions and increase the number of borrowers with sufficient equity to participate in the mortgage market. In the last three years, borrowers with at least 20 percent equity have increased by 11 million, a substantial uptick that is driving rapid growth in home equity originations.” 

Anand Nallathambi, President and CEO of CoreLogic, believes this is a great sign for the market in 2016 as well, as he had this to say:

“Homeowner equity is the largest source of wealth for many Americans. The rise in home prices, expected to be at least 5% in 2016, will continue to build wealth and confidence across America. As this process continues, it will provide support for the housing market and the broader economy throughout [the] year.”

This is great news for homeowners! But, do they realize that their equity position has changed?

study by Fannie Mae suggests that many homeowners are not aware that they have regained equity in their home as their investment has increased in value. For example, their study showed that 23% of Americans still believe their home is in a negative equity position when, in actuality, CoreLogic’s report shows that only 8% of homes are in that position (down from 9% in Q2).

The study also revealed that only 37% of Americans believe that they have “significant equity” (greater than 20%), when in actuality, 74% do!

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This means that 37% of Americans with a mortgage fail to realize the opportune situation they are in. With a sizeable equity position, many homeowners could easily move into a housing situation that better meets their current needs (moving to a larger home or downsizing).

Fannie Mae spoke out on this issue in their report:

“Homeowners who underestimate their homes’ values not only underestimate their home equity, they also likely underestimate 1) how large a down payment they could make with their home equity, 2) their chances of qualifying for mortgages, and, therefore, 3) their opportunities for selling their current homes and for buying different homes.”

Bottom Line

If you are one of the many Americans who are unsure how much equity you have built in your home, don’t let that be the reason you fail to move on to your dream home in 2016! Meet with a local real estate professional today, who can help you evaluate your situation and assist you along the way!

Posted by The KCM Crew

15 Words That Could Add Value to Your Listing

When it comes to writing an effective listing description, don’t hold back. If you’ve got it, flaunt it!

Why do some homes sell for a premium? Timing, for starters. An analysis of 24,000 home sales in “Zillow Talk: Rewriting the Rules of Real Estate” also reveals listings with certain keywords tend to sell for more than expected.

“Bottom-tier homes described as luxurious tend to beat their expected sale price by a whopping 8.2 percent,” write co-authors Spencer Rascoff and Stan Humphries. “Top-tier homes described as captivating tend to beat theirs by 6.5 percent. That means, if your home’s estimated home value is $110,000, but your listing includes the key word ‘luxurious,’ you could pocket an extra $8,965.”

If one of the following words accurately describes your home, you might want to consider adding it to your listing.

1. Luxurious

As mentioned above, lower-priced listings with the word “luxurious” sold for 8.2 percent more on average than expected. “Luxurious” signals that a home’s finishes and amenities are high-end. This is a huge selling point, particularly in this price range.

2. Captivating

Top-tier listings described as “captivating” sold for 6.5 percent more on average than expected. Unlike the word “nice,” “captivating” provides a richer, more enticing description for buyers. Plus, it’s less open to interpretation. Anything can be seen as “nice,” but “captivating” sets a high bar.

3. Impeccable

On average, listings in the bottom tier with the word “impeccable” sold for 5.9 percent more than expected. Like “captivating,” “impeccable” is a rich adjective. It also implies something about the quality of a home: The features are desirable and the home is move-in ready.

4. Stainless

“Stainless” is typically used to describe kitchens with “stainless steel appliances.” It’s in your favor to talk up these features in your listing — especially if your home is in the bottom price tier. In our analysis, lower-priced homes with the word “stainless” sold for 5 percent more on average than expected.

5. Basketball

On average, lower-priced homes with the word “basketball” sold for 4.5 percent more than expected. This may seem like an odd word to include in this list, but when you consider the context it makes sense. Among lower-priced homes, a basketball court — or even better, an indoor basketball court — is a huge selling point. While it may not stand out as much among higher-priced homes, it’s definitely worth mentioning in this price range.

6. Landscaped

It’s just as valuable to describe your yard as your house. In all price tiers, listings with the word “landscaped” sold for more than expected on average. The biggest premium was seen among lower-priced listings, which on average sold for 4.2 percent more than expected.

7. Granite

In the same vein as “stainless,” “granite” is typically used to describe countertops or another high-end home feature. Listings with the word “granite” sold, on average, for 1 to 4 percent more than expected across all price tiers.

8. Pergola

Not only should you include high-end home features in your listing description, you should also mention features not found in every home. They’ll help your listing stand out, especially if buyers are searching for homes online by keyword. The data shows mid-priced listings with the word “pergola” sold for 4 percent more on average than expected.

9. Remodel

Was your home recently remodeled? It may be worth mentioning. On average, bottom-tier listings with the word “remodel” sold for 2.9 percent more, middle-tier homes for 1.8 percent more and top-tier homes for 1.7 percent more than expected.

10. Beautiful

While beauty is in the eye of the beholder, a beautiful feature like a view may be worth noting. Lower-priced listings with the word “beautiful” sold for 2.3 percent more on average than expected.

11. Gentle

“Gentle” may seem like a weird adjective to have in a listing description. It’s typically used to describe “gentle rolling hills” or something about a home’s location. Top-tier listings with the word “gentle” sold for 2.3 percent more, on average, than expected.

12. Spotless

You may think all homes are spotless when a buyer moves in, so it’s not worth mentioning in a listing. But when it comes to lower-priced homes, cleanliness isn’t always a given. In this price range, listings described as “spotless” sold for 2 percent more on average than expected.

13. Tile

Much like “stainless” and “granite,” “tile” is a great word when it comes to describing the features of your home. A newly tiled backsplash or updated bathroom tile not only indicates a home’s aesthetic value but also sends a message to buyers that the home’s been well cared for by the current owners. Bottom-tier homes with the word “tile” in the listing sold for 2 percent more on average than expected.

14. Upgraded

On average, lower-priced listings with the word “upgraded” sold for 1.8 percent more than expected. Most buyers will agree that upgrades are a selling point. They indicate a home not only looks nice but also functions well. Spelling out which features have been updated is a good approach, so buyers have the right expectations when they see your home.

15. Updated

“Updated” sends a similar message to “upgraded.” But in addition to speaking to the quality of a home, it signals that something old has been replaced with something new. This is a great fact to communicate to potential buyers, as evidenced by the data. Mid-priced homes with “updated” in the listing sold for 0.8 percent more on average than expected.

Posted by Catherine Sherman on Zillow

What to Unpack First in Your New Home

Where are the towels? Which box holds the can opener? Who packed the cat food? When you’re surrounded by boxes, what you need is a strategy.

Once all the moving preparations have been made, all the arduous moving tasks have been taken care of, and everything has gone more or less according to plan on moving day, you finally find yourself in your new home, surrounded by piles of boxes, tired and glad that your relocation is about to end.

To fully complete your moving adventure, however, you need to unpack your belongings and make your new place feel like home. But how to even begin unpacking?

First things first

No matter how much you want to get it over with as soon as possible, there are several important things to do before you can actually start unpacking.

  1. Clean and prepare your new home. It’s easier to wipe down shelves, clean windows, and mop floors before your belongings have been put in place. Make sure your home-to-be is spotless when your items arrive. If you can’t get to your new place early enough to do a thorough cleaning, consider hiring professional cleaners to do the job for you.
  2. Inspect and organize your belongings. Check all the delivered boxes and household items against your inventory sheet to make sure nothing is damaged or missing. Then have each of your possessions taken to the room where it belongs. If everything was properly marked and labeled, sorting out your items will be a piece of cake.
  3. Open your box of essentials. There should be tools, toiletries, clothes, medicines, packed food, basic kitchenware, and other “lifesavers” in it that will allow you to refresh yourself, open the sealed boxes, reassemble your furniture, and so on.
  4. Set major furniture and appliances. Position your large furniture pieces and bulky household appliances first. Then you can put any smaller items you unpack later directly in their rightful places. Plan your interior design well in advance so you don’t end up moving heavy pieces around several times.

Tackle the necessities

What matters most when unpacking your items after a move is ensuring that your essentials are immediately accessible. So prioritize your belongings, and unpack only the necessities first.

Bedding

You may not be able to unpack the entire bedroom right away, but you will definitely have to set up the bed the day you move into your new home. Reassemble it (if necessary), lay down the sheets, unpack the pillows, and spread the blankets so you can get a good night’s rest — you’re going to need it!

Provided that you have a change of clothes and some comfortable indoor shoes (as well as curtains on the windows to ensure your privacy), the rest of your bedroom items can wait until you find the time and the energy to deal with them.

Bathroom items

Without a doubt, your personal care items, toiletries, and medicines should top the list of the most important items to unpack after your move. Put out toilet paper and soap, find your toothbrush and toothpaste, hang the towels and the shower curtains, and unpack any other bathroom essentials you’re going to need in order to refresh yourself and wash away the weariness and stress of moving.

Also, fill in the medicine cabinet with the medications you have brought, and don’t forget to take your prescription drugs on time.

Kitchen necessities

You may have brought some food with you, or you may rely on delivery for the first day or two after the relocation, but you’re going to need a fully operational kitchen as soon as possible in order to prepare healthy, homemade meals for yourself and your family.

Kitchens tend to take a very long time to unpack and organize properly due to the large number of items that need to be sorted out and carefully arranged.

As soon as you’ve hooked up the large appliances, such as the fridge and the stove, move on to your smaller kitchenware. Plates, silverware and glasses should be the first to find their places in cupboards and kitchen cabinets, closely followed by cooking utensils, pots and pans, and pantry items.

Kids’ and pets’ items

If you have young children, you should unpack some of their favorite toys, books, games, blankets and such during the very first hours in your new home. Keeping your young ones happy and occupied will let you concentrate on your work and finish it faster.

Of course, you should also take care of your pets’ needs immediately upon arrival. It’s a good idea to pack adequate pet food, water and food dishes, and some of your animal friends’ favorite toys in your open-first box.

Finishing up

When you’ve unpacked the three most essential rooms in your home (bedroom, bathroom and kitchen), everything else can wait a bit. There are no deadlines to meet, so you can set your own pace when unpacking and decorating your new place — just unpack in order of priority and without procrastination.

If you stay organized, set reasonable mini goals and complete them promptly, clean after every unpacking phase, and dispose of the packing materials in a safe and eco-friendly manner, your new surroundings will soon stop looking like a warehouse full of boxes and start feeling like home.

If you have some fun in the process — listen to your favorite music, play “unpacking games” with your kids, and invite friends over to give you a helping hand — the exhausting unpacking endeavor may turn out to be much easier and faster than you expected.

Posted by Moving.Tips on Zillow