6 Ways to Slash Moving Costs

Few things are as exciting as a new piece of real estate to call your own; it’s getting there that’s the problem. Moving is hard work, and expensive to boot.

According to the American Moving and Storage Association, an interstate move of 1,220 miles costs $5,630 on average. If you’re staying in state, you’ll pay $1,170 on average.

While we can’t make your moving day completely stress free, we can help you save some money with these budget-conscious tips.

1. Move Yourself

Renting a truck and moving yourself is the cheapest way to go, but if you’re not comfortable with that option, you can still cut costs by doing at least some of the moving yourself. Professional movers generally charge by weight, so you’ll save money if you pack up smaller items like clothes, dishes and home décor pieces and move them yourself in your car or a smaller rental truck and leave the bigger items such as furniture and fragile electronics to the professionals.

Moving.com: Free quotes from self-service movers — You pack, you load, they drive

2. Compare Costs

If you are hiring professional movers, get price quotes from at least three different companies. When you’re requesting quotes be sure to tell the movers the exact number of miles you’re moving, the estimated weight and size of your possessions, and any special needs you might have, such as fragile items. Finally, check websites likeAngie’s ListYelp! or the Better Business Bureau in your area for reviews and complaints on the moving companies you’re considering.

Moving.com: Free quotes from local and national moving companies

3. Move in Off-Peak Times

If your move date is flexible, schedule it during an off-peak time. Many families choose to move during the summer when their children are out of school, and the majority of moves occur at the beginning and end of the month. So if you’re hiring movers, you’ll pay more on the last Saturday of June or the first Saturday of August. Instead, plan your move during less popular times like the fall or early winter, and shoot for midweek. Moving companies won’t have as much work scheduled and you can find better deals.

4. Check Your Insurance

For an added fee, you can get insurance to protect your valuables while they’re being schlepped across town (or across country) by a mover, but you may not need to pay extra. Some homeowner’s and renter’s insurance policies cover your stuff during moving. Check your policy or ask your insurance agent before you end up double-insured.

5. Don’t Pay for Moving Materials

At Home Depot, the price of a moving box ranges from 74 cents for a small, basic one, to $19.97 for a specialty TV box. Instead of paying for new boxes, start early and collect free ones. Friends, co-workers and family members are usually good sources of old boxes. You can also find heaps of boxes by asking grocery stores, big-box stores and gas stations in your area for their leftover shipping boxes. When it comes to packing, go old school and use newspaper or fabric items such as T-shirts to pack your valuables.

Moving.com: Moving.com Packing Calculator: Estimate the amount of boxes and packing materials you will need for your move.

6. Take Advantage of Tax Deductions

If you’re moving for a job, you might be able to deduct some of the expenses on your taxes. According to the Internal Revenue Service, full-time employees can deduct reasonable moving expenses if they’re moving 50 miles farther from their home than their old job. For more information on moving tax breaks, read Publication 521 from the IRS.

This article was originally published by Angella Colley on Realtor.com. To see the original article, click here.

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A Modern Castle Tops Vermont’s Hawk’s Mountain

Behold Grahall Estate, a window-lined modern fortress atop Vermont’s Hawk’s Mountain, once a corporate conference center for a human resources firm and now on the market for $2.7 million.

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Found beside a pair of ponds on 10 acres in Cavendish, the medieval contemporary isn’t quite the magnitude of a Roman fortress or one of the many keeps in Eastern Europe, but it does offer a comfortable 6,500 square feet with six bedrooms and five full baths.

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Royal appointments include a rooftop patio with a barbecue, custom built-ins, and fireplaces on each of the castle’s five floors; while solar panels, batteries and a propane generator allow for a certain degree of off-the-grid operation.

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In a nutshell, it’s the perfect retreat for someone seeking to immerse themselves in their own “Game of Thrones” world, but with all the modern conveniences of the 21st century.

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Besides its place in corporate America, the unique castle property was previously offered as an $11,000-a-month vacation rental. In addition to the home itself, the listing notes that adjacent mountainside acreage and a nearby granite quarry are also available for purchase.

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Patricia Davis of Mary W. Davis Realtor & Assoc., Inc. has the listing.

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

Minimalist Kitchen Design: Clean Look and Lines

“Less is more.” That’s the mantra of minimalists, who are drawn to styles and designs that use the fewest elements to create maximum effect.

Slick and uncluttered countertops and cabinetry create a minimalist look in this kitchen by RI Kitchen & Bath.

Clean lines and clear colors can lend a modern, sophisticated look to bedrooms, living rooms, dining rooms — and even kitchens.

Kitchens? Yes, but if you’re like most homeowners, you’re going to have to adjust your thinking to get there.

Whether you need to chop, mix, steam, warm, broil, roast, blend, core, toast, slice, dehydrate, tenderize or even butter your food — there’s a gadget for that. Architect and author Sarah Susanka fears this obsession with small appliances and assorted doohickeys is more about cluttering countertops than it is about simplifying food preparation. Even worse, she says, is the fact that homeowners often believe they need gargantuan kitchens to accommodate all their culinary contraptions.

What’s the solution? Minimize.

Wide open spaces on countertops make for easy prep and cleanup in this kitchen by Hatfield Builders.

“People may have lots and lots of cookie sheets, but they really only use two,” she told the Green Living Journal. “Our mothers and grandmothers cleared out clutter. (Now), we keep bringing stuff in, but we forget we’ve got to also take stuff out.”

NW Home Designers incorporated this clever hiding spot for utensils into this kitchen’s design.

Scores of minimalism-related blogs espouse the virtues of living without a microwave oven and the need for one good chef’s knife rather than a set of seven.

For those who like the idea of clean-and-clutter-free but who may still want to reheat leftovers, we offer these first steps toward creating a kitchen that’s less encumbered:

  • Start with counters and then work your way through your kitchen, cabinet by cabinet and drawer by drawer. Ask yourself: Do I really use this item? If I use it less than once a month, is it really worth the storage space it’s taking up? If you have duplicates of an item (two sets of measuring cups, for example), do you really need them? Question every canister, every pot and every utensil. Give away items you’re sure you don’t want. If you’re not certain you can live without your stock pot, put it in a box in the basement or garage; if you don’t touch it in six months, chances are you don’t need it.
  • Just because you spent a small fortune on a small appliance doesn’t mean you must keep it. If you haven’t used your hot dog warmer, bread maker or milkshake machine in a year, it’s time to let go. If you wanted a milkshake, could you make one with your blender? Or even some old-fashioned stirring? Sell or donate the single-purpose appliances you’re not using and free up valuable kitchen real estate.
  • Even the most minimalistic of kitchens must be functional. Hide essentials behind cabinet doors to streamline the look.
  • Consider appliances with the clean lines of minimalist design. Plenty of sleek but simple kitchen suites are designed with a nod to the iconic age of American design. You might also look for major appliances that are true multi-taskers. For example, all-in-one ovens offer convection heating, can microwave and steam, and retail for about $1,000.
  • Avoid the cold and uninhabited look that can accompany extreme minimalist design by adding a splash of non-fussy color to your kitchen. Remember, though, that minimalist design generally relies on the use of a single color to unify a space.

This article was originally published by Mary Boone on Zillow Blog. See it here

Pros and Cons of Fences

Fences – wood, wrought iron, vinyl or chain link – can be expensive to build and install. Before you make the investment, it’s wise to take time to consider your specific needs and decide whether a fence is worth the cost and energy.

Advantages of Fences

1. Privacy. It can be hard to enjoy dinner on the patio if everyone on the street has a clear view of your back yard.  A six-foot-tall privacy fence can help create a peaceful get-away in nearly any neighborhood.

2. Containment. A fence can help provide a safe play environment for children and pets, keeping them in the yard where you can keep an eye on them and preventing entry from unwanted strangers or animals.

3. Security. A good fence can help protect your family – and your possessions – from those who would enter your yard for the wrong reasons. If you have a swimming pool or playground equipment, a fence can prevent trespassers from putting themselves in danger.

4. Noise reduction. If your house is near a busy street, you may find yourself screaming to be heard over the traffic noise. An 8-foot-high solid fence can knock 6 to 10 decibels off traffic and other ambient noise. Acoustifence is among a handful of products that have traditionally been used to reduce sound along mass transit rail lines and highways. It’s now available for residential use and reports show noise levels are reduced by 60 percent to 85 percent, depending on fence height, elevations and noise frequencies.

5. Design element. An attractive, well-constructed fence can add to your home’s overall appeal. A waist-high fence, such as a picket fence, can both define your property boundary and attract the eye through thoughtful landscaping.

Disadvantages of Fences

1. Maintenance. No doubt, fences can provide a decorative element to your landscape, but they can detract if they’re not well cared for. Wood fences, specifically, require occasional cleaning, staining, sealing or painting and can warp and rot over time. Is that how you want to spend your time?

2. Lack of Consensus. Boundary fences can be tricky business – especially if you want one and your neighbor doesn’t. You may both have legitimate reasons for digging in your heels (protecting pets, preserving a view, etc.) but nothing should be constructed until you come to an agreement. You may want to hire an attorney to help negotiate a compromise or you may work through a local community mediation center. Not only do you need to agree to build the fence, you need to decide who’s responsible for costs and maintenance. Is a fence worth damaging neighborhood relationships?

3. Expense. The cost of a fence varies greatly depending upon the materials used, the style, height and length of the fence, number of gates, and the market in which labor is hired and materials are purchased. A wooden privacy fence now averages $17.31 to $23.13 per linear foot – that’s $2,596.50 to $3,469.50 for a 150-foot-long fence.

4. Hassle. Mowing or trimming along a fence is laborious and can do damage to the fence – especially a wood fence. No fence? Mow with abandon.

5. Wildlife. Fences may help protect your property but, for those who live on wooded or rural lots, they also can be barriers and traps for wildlife, causing injury and even fatalities. Animal damage to fences is costly and frustrating for landowners. Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks suggests observing wildlife trails and seasonal patterns before building a fence. If you do end up building one, design your fence to allow wildlife to travel through your property to important habitats and to allow easy access to ponds, streams or wetlands.

This article was originally published by Mary Boone on Zillow Blog. To see the original article, click here.

Starbird House by James Schildroth

This shingled starship-looking architectural home, aptly named the Starbird House, is the work of Frank Lloyd Wright disciple James Walter Schildroth. Recently listed in Bar Harbor, Maine, the brutalist construct is described as “unique,” “of-a-kind” and “inverted,” but we think a better description is, simply, pretty darn cool.

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The design started with a request by the owner to exploit the prime vantage point where the Starbird House sits, a sprawling 5.1-acre promontory looking out over the Atlantic Ocean, Frenchman Bay and the forests of Acadia National Park.

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Schildroth’s creation was an expanding design that swells from the bottom to offer four floors with a total of 12 rooms, 5.5 baths and approximately 7,800 square feet of room to move.

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On his personal website, the organic architect offers a proper description of each level of the home:

“The top level is the largest. This floor includes the main living with dining, cove with fireplace and  kitchen with breakfast all in one great space. A private study with full bath doubles as guest suite. Large outside balcony terrace areas complete the top level.”

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“Level Three below contains the Master Suite. Two guest suites are complete with private baths and balconies. A laundry and a bunk room that can sleep four young-at-heart folks, complete this level.”

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“Level Two is the entry point into the central stair which also serves as an art gallery. This level includes a billiard room, painting studio and a third guest suite, as well as the two-car garage and workshop.”

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“Level One is a utility basement and is where the wood for the fireplace is stored.  The necessity for the elevator with four stops is obvious.”

The Starbird House was previously offered as a primo, $9,000-a-week vacation rental, but you can proudly call the architectural property home for a cool $5.3 million.

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Bety Bryer of The Swan Agency Sotheby’s International is the listing agent.

This article was originally published by Neal J. Leitereg on realtor.com.  See more photos and the article source here.  

5 Ways to Organize Your Bedroom

At the end of another long day, doesn’t everyone want — or even need — the bedroom to be a peaceful, relaxing refuge from the rest of the world? Let’s face it: Messes are stresses. If you’ve been too busy lately to organize your boudoir, devote time to DIY bedroom-storage projects this weekend.

No. 1: Cut corners

Corners get a bad rap. People assume they’re good for nothing. But in the case of DIY bedroom storage, corners become very valuable, if only because they are so often left empty. Consider filling yours with a wooden magazine holder, space-saving corner table or floating shelves.

No. 2: Create a walk-by closet

Some grumble over not having a walk-in closet, but others must suffer bedrooms with no closet space whatsoever. For those miserable unfortunates, there’s the option of creating a walk-by closet like the one pictured above. Here, California Closets has designed custom hanging and drawer space that complements a diagonal window.

No. 3: Use unusual storage

Source: Urban Chalet

Like skinning a cat, there is more than one way to store clothing. Consider adding drawers in unexpected places like bunk-bed stairs. Surprisingly, vintage suitcases also lend themselves to DIY bedroom-storage solutions that are at once decorative and effective.

No. 4: Organize wall hangings

Source: Willey Design LLC

Source: Willey Design LLC

Cutting clutter plays a major role in successful DIY bedroom storage, so it’s time to finally hang that poster you bought at the museum gift shop last year. Wood-mounted artwork, clipboard displays, and picture frame collages stand out among countless gallery-wall projects.

No. 5: Install floating shelves

Source: Niche Interiors

Source: Niche Interiors

Especially in small bedrooms, bulky, standalone storage units hog what precious few square feet there are available. A space-saving alternative is to install floating shelves. You can achieve this sophisticated, modern look on Saturday morning, leaving the rest of your weekend free for browsing bookstores!

This article was originally published by Marisa Villarreal on Zillow Blog. See the original article here.

How to Get Maximum Value on Your Home Appraisal

So, you’ve got an offer on your house from a qualified buyer and you’re ready to call the movers. Before you pick up the phone, remember that a few hurdles still have to be overcome before settlement day—in particular, the home appraisal.

How to get maximum value on your appraisal

An appraisal, paid for by the buyer, is required by the buyer’s lender to ensure that the property’s value is equal to or higher than the loan amount. If your buyer has offered $250,000 on your home and intends to borrow $225,000, your home must be worth at least that much or more.

Your buyer pays for the appraisal, which is scheduled by the lender, but that doesn’t mean the appraisal process is entirely out of your hands. There are steps to take before and during the appraisal appointment that can maximize your home’s value, increasing the likelihood your transaction will include a smooth settlement day.

Pre-appraisal Steps

If you’re reading this before you’ve placed your home on the market, consider paying for a pre-listing appraisal. This appraisal can give you a firmer idea of the market value of your home so that you can accurately price it. In addition, you can give a copy of this appraisal to your buyer’s appraiser as a guideline.

If your home is already on the market and has an offer on it, be sure to gather the information your Realtor supplied you about comparable homes that recently sold. If you know about a home that sold without a listing agent, try to get information about that sale as well, to provide to your appraiser. Any information you have about the community or your home in relation to others in the neighborhood, such as the fact that your home has been built on the largest lot, should be given in writing to the appraiser.

Provide the appraiser with a complete list of all upgrades and updates to your home, such as new appliances, a new roof and even smaller items such as extra insulation or a resealed tub.

Appraisal Day Tips

While you don’t need to clean your home as you would if you’re showing it to prospective buyers, you should clean anything permanent in the home such as carpets and walls. A clean home gives the impression that you’ve maintained it.

Take care of the exterior clean-up, too, by pulling weeds, mowing your lawn, trimming your shrubs and putting away any toys or tools that could trip up your appraiser.

The appraiser will need access to your basement and attic and possibly a crawl space, if there is one. Moving items to make the appraiser’s job easier can leave a more positive impression of your home.

Make the appraiser comfortable by turning on the heat or the air conditioning, which also proves that your system works.

Keep your children and pets out of the appraiser’s way. You don’t have to be there to meet the appraiser, but if you are home, let the appraiser do the job without your interference. More importantly, make sure your pets are locked up or taken away during the appraisal, and keep your children from creating a distraction, too.

As a seller, you can’t necessarily change an appraiser’s mind about the value of your home, which is based on extensive research of comparable homes and the condition of your property. However, providing background information on your home and having a visibly well-maintained property will improve the chances of a better appraisal.

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