13 Ways To Spend Your Tax Refund On Home Improvements

Enjoy that hard-earned tax return money on summer evenings by adding a privacy fence or outdoor kitchen.

Your tax refund feels like found money, doesn’t it? Here’s how to use it to spruce up your living space.

April brings many lovely things: warmer temperatures, flowers beginning to bloom, and hopefully a check from Uncle Sam once you’ve filed your taxes. It’s enough to make you giddy with possibilities — no matter the size of your refund. “While it’s typically not sufficient to fund major home improvement projects such as a new addition or a kitchen renovation, it can often provide enough cash to accomplish a wide range of home up-fits and improvements,” says Leigh McAlpin, principal of Dwelling Interiors & Design in Charleston, SC. Here’s how to use your refund to refurbish or enhance your home.

$500 refund: It’s all in the details

Hire a professional organizer. “Since tax refunds often come during the springtime, you can tie this to spring cleaning,” says Sarah Roussos-Karakaian, co-owner of Nestrs, a construction, design, and organizing company in New York, NY. Most organizers charge a day rate, and if you work efficiently, a day or two might be all you need to banish clutter. Before you hire one, be sure to ask if they’re certified by the National Association of Professional Organizers, says Roussos-Karakaian. “It’s a good way to gauge how serious they are about their career.”

Recaulk and repaint your baseboards. “The top of the baseboard where the molding meets the wall gets really dirty over time,” says Roussos-Karakaian. “Caulking and giving it a fresh coat of paint can bring your walls back to life.” Contractors and painters typically charge anywhere from $2.50 to $6 per linear foot depending on the size of your baseboards, so if you don’t DIY it, this project may cost closer to $1,000.

Buy a new rug. The right rug finishes a room, and purchasing one is an excellent way to spend a smaller return. “A general rule for area rugs is that the outer edges of the rug should be between 6 and 18 inches off each wall, closer to 6 inches from the walls in smaller rooms, and up to 18 inches from the walls in larger areas,” says McAlpin. While it may be tempting to buy a small rug to save a few dollars, doing so will make your entire room look out of scale, she advises. “If it’s an open-concept floor plan, use area rugs to frame seating and dining areas, which will help to define the different uses of the space.”

Add curb appeal. Adding or updating some of the essentials, like a new mailbox, some flower boxes, new house numbers, outdoor lighting, and shrubs, can give your home a face-lift. Take your exterior upgrades to the next level by painting your front door. Want an even bigger payoff? Repaint the trim around windows and other features while you’re at it.

$1,000 refund: Think upgrades

Upgrade your water heater. It’s not a fun or sexy purchase, but swapping a standard water heater for a tankless model will save energy — and money — because it heats the water only as needed, says J.B. Sassano, president of Mr. Handyman, a network of home improvement professionals.

Give your ceiling a lift. Ceilings are easy to overlook, but revamping yours is an inexpensive way to add interest to a room, says Sassano. “If you still have popcorn ceilings, hire a professional to scrape them smooth,” he says. “Then look for DIY projects like installing crown molding or box beams for a fresh look.” A simple coat of fresh paint can do wonders too.

$2,000 refund: Add style

Upgrade your home’s lighting. If your entryway or dining room has flush-mount fixtures, swap them out for chandeliers, suggests Roussos-Karakaian. “It brings the light down, which makes it more purposeful, and aesthetically dresses up the room,” she says. But in any room, like with this semi-flush mount bedroom fixture at 629 Ames Way, Dover, ID 83825, swapping in new lights for those builder-grade finishes will give your home a customized look. And while you’re at it, swap out your incandescent bulbs for LEDs. “LEDs are really affordable right now. They come in warm and cool colors and all sorts of wattages,” says Roussos-Karakaian. Bonus: You’ll save energy too.

Treat yourself to wood flooring. You can expect to pay anywhere from $7 to $12 per square foot for quality hardwood flooring — potentially more if you choose professional installation. But this favorite home upgrade can return 1.5 to two times its cost when you sell, so it’s a worthy investment.

Build a deck or enhance the one you have. Of course, the cost of your deck will vary based on size and details, but a small deck typically costs about $2,000. And it’s a favorite feature for homebuyers — by far the most common amenity mentioned in Trulia listings across the U.S., with 22 states claiming it. It’s not a huge surprise that decks are so popular, though, considering they bring in an 80% to 120% return on your investment.

$3,000 refund: Add features with ROI in mind

Add a backsplash to your kitchen.Kitchen upgrades often have some of the highest returns on investment when it comes to home improvements. If you have neutral cabinets and floors, opt for tiles with big, bold prints, like the backsplash of the kitchen at 5769 Adair Lane, Plano, TX 75024, says Roussos-Karakaian. Or go super-DIY and buy peel-and-stick backsplash tiles, which are inexpensive and removable, but look luxe.

Splurge on French doors. “Consider turning two [adjacent] windows into an opening for beautiful French or sliding glass doors,” says Sassano. “Full-view glass doors can brighten up any space and help bring the outside in. And modern doors are energy-efficient, which cuts down on heating and cooling costs.”

$5,000 refund: Go big with projects you’ll enjoy

Put up a privacy fence or replace an old one. While cost will vary depending on the size of your yard and what materials you use, a sure way to keep costs down is to avoid common mistakes. If you have an in-ground sprinkler system, make sure you get the pipes marked beforehand to avoid damaging them. It’s also a good idea to have your property surveyed before you begin. Some fence installers won’t put in your fence without one! The reason? Installing your fence on what turns out to be your neighbor’s land can be an expensive error to fix. The privacy fence pictured above, at 12021 36th Avenue NE, Seattle, WA 98125, connects with the privacy fence of the home next door — another way to save costs.

 Create a simple outdoor kitchen. With warmer weather on the horizon for most of the nation, now’s the time to enhance your barbecue area. Keeping the essentials in one place, an outdoor kitchen gives you party access while you cook — no running back and forth from kitchen to grill. To create one, purchase a premade grill island or structure that has countertops and storage space (you can even get one with a built-in grill). Add a mini refrigerator and some outdoor furniture, and let the party begin.

 

Posted by Michelle Hainer on Trulia

Homes Under $200K With Great Curb Appeal

Stylish, affordable, and well-kept. These homes may tempt you to write a down-payment check before even stepping inside!

Whether you seek a craftsman home or your taste is more contemporary, these homes have the style you want at a price you’ll love.

Curb appeal might not be at the tiptop of your home-buying wish list, but maybe it should be. Attractive landscaping and a welcoming exterior can draw in buyers like you — but also increase your resale value when you’re ready to move on. The good news is that great curb appeal is available at every price point. We’ve found homes for sale under $200K across the country, from Pittsburgh, PA, to Sahuarita, AZ. And they all have plenty of presence at an affordable price.

Cute and vintage: $142,900, 2715 N. 68th St., Milwaukee, WI 53210

Boutiques, eclectic coffee shops, restaurants, and yoga studios occupy West North Avenue, a short walk from this adorable ranch home. The sweet two-bedroom, one-bathroom home has a gorgeous front yard. Visitors will be drawn in by the manicured boxwoods that line the sidewalk, archway, and climbing vine. Inside, hardwood floors, French doors, and crown molding add to the home’s cottagelike feel. But the most notable feature is in the backyard. There, you’ll find a private, fenced lawn with a patio that’s made for spring entertaining.

Desert beauty: $163,900, 116 W. Camino Rancho Vecino, Sahuarita, AZ 85629

Sahuarita has it all: great restaurants, an easy commute to Tucson, AZ, mountain views, and tons of golf courses. This home adds to the town’s charm. A stucco exterior complements the desert landscaping. The low-maintenance front yard adds a bit of Zen, with a few pops of color from flowering plants. No mowing needed! The neutral color scheme continues inside, making the 1,780-square-foot floor plan feel bigger. The three-bedroom home includes a large master suite and new appliances in the laundry room.

Peaceful and parklike: $174,900, 142 Jacks Run Road, Pittsburgh, PA 15214

It’s only a short drive from I-279, which brings you right to the center of Pittsburgh. But this charming three-bedroom brick home feels as if it’s tucked in the woods. The home has a tidy landscape on a parklike lot that exudes country comfort, and it’s close to five gorgeous parks. But don’t overlook the home’s remodeled interior, with crown molding and a designer-inspired paint scheme. The neighborhood offers public transportation within walking distance and easy access to Pittsburgh’s hospitals, shopping, and schools.

Big style, small price: $191,345, 1910 Macondray Drive, Humble, TX 77396

It may have a modest name, but Humble has a lot going on. There’s plenty of shopping and restaurants, and it’s close to Houston, TX, and George Bush Intercontinental Airport. In the peaceful Woodland Pines subdivision, this four-bedroom home’s contemporary exterior and landscaped front lawn make a great first impression. The neat grounds underscore the home’s well-cared-for appeal, and with plants in pots and in the shade, there’s no intimidation factor. The backyard offers plenty of recreation space, with a large covered patio. And the neighborhood pool and playground are steps away.

Desert deluxe: $199,000, 138 E. Juniper St., Mesa, AZ 85201

This upgraded home in Arizona’s third-largest city is big on personality. But it’s not just the fabulous palm tree in the front yard that will pull you in. Low-maintenance landscaping, lined with river rocks, makes a charming (and easy-to-care-for) front yard. And the home’s color scheme, drawing inspiration from its desert surroundings, sets off those always-sunny skies. Interior updates include fresh paint, new kitchen countertops and appliances, and new flooring. Mesa’s relaxed, suburban feel pairs well with its year-round festivals, plentiful parks and green space, and thriving cultural district. This three-bedroom home puts you right in the middle of it all.

Southern stunner: $199,900, 3608 High Battery Bluff NW, Acworth, GA 30101

Filled with historic buildings and surrounded by gorgeous natural features, Acworth is the kind of town where visitors flock for weekends. Walking trails, Lake Allatoona, and Lake Acworth are close by. This home in the town’s quaint Charleston Park neighborhood lets you take full advantage. The craftsman-style home’s front door — complete with transom window — hints at the charm and comfort within. A welcoming front porch and colorful landscaping beckon from the sidewalk, and the home’s color scheme is a soothing backdrop to all that greenery. The interior boasts a spacious living room, three bedrooms, and three bathrooms.

Blond brick charmer: $200,000, 11422 Sky Way St., Cypress, TX 77429

Right in the middle of suburban Cypress, this four-bedroom home sits on a quiet cul-de-sac. The two-story home has fresh exterior paint, a new front door, and a large, flat lot with refreshing shade trees. With blond brick, a fresh coat of paint, and well-manicured shrubs, this charmer is ready for buyers. Thoughtful updates continue inside, with a granite backsplash, a huge master suite, new flooring, and new appliances. Best of all, the restaurants, nightlife, and shopping on Jones Road are nearby.

Posted by Brie Dyas on Trulia

 

10 Fabulous (And Real) Front Doors

Who wouldn’t feel welcomed by this cherry red front door?

Ornately carved, brightly painted, or gleaming in glass, each of these stunning doors makes a bold design statement.

A front door is a home’s first chance to make a good impression. And if you’ve ever asked your real estate agent to skip past a showing appointment because of a house’s unwelcoming exterior, you’ve noticed firsthand just how important curb appeal really is. These 10 homes for sale on Trulia all boast pretty portals — the perfect inspiration for your personal home search.

Cowabunga(low): $414,999, 3009 Elizabeth St., Bellingham, WA 98225

A tangle of grapevines on twin trellises adds curb appeal to this craftsman bungalow in Bellingham, WA. The two-bedroom, one-bathroom home is already as cute as a button, with its cranberry-red front door and a location along one of the city’s lesser-trafficked roads. Built in 1926, the charmer has been modernized with a keyless entry, hardwood and tile floors, a subway-tiled kitchen with recessed lighting, and an open floor plan that makes the most of the bungalow’s 1,150 square feet. The master bedroom opens to the large, private fenced yard.

Making waves in Carolina: $539,000, 1031 Bennet Lane, Carolina Beach, NC 28428

Just a seashell’s throw from the coast, this contemporary on a cul-de-sac welcomes guests with a front door painted a happy shade of sunshine. The door’s skinny windows provide a peek at who’s outside, but a fuller view is offered by the high-tech doorbell, which is loaded with a camera and an intercom. After guests identify themselves, they’ll cross a threshold into a 3,071-square-foot space that’s flooded with natural light, from the quartz-bedecked modern kitchen to the ground-floor home gym. But if you ever choose to venture out for a workout, you’ll have easy access to the Carolina Beach Fitness Loop.

Smooth around the edges: $765,000, 3019 E. Bonanza Road, Gilbert, AZ 85297

This 3,637-square-foot residence in Gilbert, AZ, sits about 20 miles southeast of Phoenix. The home welcomes guests with a circular brick driveway that’s echoed in a colossal arched front door. The wood- and stone-adorned interior features more curved lines. Arched doorways create a sense of grandeur within the already-stately residence, while an arched portico shades the poolside patio. Fun fact: The ceiling of the home takes inspiration from a villa in southern Mexico and contains 234 Saltillo tiles between the wooden beams.

A pivot(al) moment in the desert: $825,000, 24 W. Linger Lane, Phoenix, AZ 85021

Ever heard of a pivot door? Here’s a crash course: A pivot door is mounted using a set of pins in lieu of a traditional hinge. The pins are set in the top and bottom of the door frame, not the side, which allows for a better weight distribution and enables the (generally larger-than-usual) door to swing both in and out. With its clean lines and architectural flair, a pivot door lends itself to modern design. That’s probably why one was custom-built for this contemporary home in north-central Phoenix, just a few miles from downtown. The frosted glass-and-metal door hints at the 3,168-square-foot stunner’s airy feel. The fully remodeled home is heavy on glass and organic materials like wood and marble.

Verona by way of South Jersey: $849,000, 283 E. Kings Highway, Audubon, NJ 08106

Supported by a quartet of columns, this home sits just across the Delaware River from Philadelphia, PA. A Juliet balcony offers views of a tree-lined, residential street in South Jersey. Underneath, a pendant light illuminates two leaded-glass doors that hint at what’s to come: a center-hall Colonial with a decidedly traditional aesthetic. The foyer greets guests with a curved staircase and a glimpse at the four-bedroom home’s double-height living room, complete with a black marble fireplace and a 20-foot-high coffered ceiling. Custom moldings and trim can be found throughout the home’s 3,704 square feet.

A modern-day Hobbit house: $925,000, 3395 SE Hidden Valley Way, Olalla, WA 98359

The front walkway might lead you to believe you’re entering another time and place, but be assured that this modern-day Hobbit house is in Olalla, WA — about 20 minutes southwest of Seattle. Built in 1982, the home welcomes you inside through handmade wooden doors with extensive ironwork. With four bedrooms and 2,800 square feet, the charming cottage lures buyers in with a rarely encountered selling feature: a complete lack of right angles. Those rounded corners contribute to the home’s quirky charm, which borrows a page from the storybooks with stained-glass windows, stone fireplaces, hand-carved wood beams, and rounded doorways. Frodo, are you in there?

Ahead of the carve: $3.1 million, 44 Beech Hill Road, Scarsdale, NY 10583

Standing guard in a display of glass and ornately carved wood, twin front doors mark the entrance to this 6,500-square-foot residence in the posh Beech Hill neighborhood of Scarsdale, NY. Loving the doors’ medieval vibe? You’re in luck: This place is full of it, thanks to the previous owner’s penchant for woodwork. You’ll see it in the home’s coffered ceilings, tigerwood floors, decorative mantels, and mahogany elevator. Besides four bedrooms, a heated garage, and a showstopping garden, this home features a top-notch chef’s kitchen and a Mediterranean-inspired wine cellar.

Sliding in from the slopes: $3.9 million, 14235 Mountainside Way #6, Truckee, CA 96161

Whether you enter from the road through an all-wood door or kick off your skis and head in through the glass slope-side door, you’ll be entranced by this home’s mountain-modern design. You can’t get much closer to the mountains than this 3,450-square-foot modern marvel. With direct access to the Northstar California ski resort, it’s cantilevered over a ski run. Inside, the alpine abode boasts four bedrooms and three-and-a-half bathrooms. Plus, those floor-to-ceiling windows offer uncompromised views of the surrounding mountain peaks. Once the skis come off, you can thaw out in the home’s private hot tub or beside the fire pit, or head to the community lodge for a dip in the pool.

Champagne taste in the Sunshine State: $3.95 million, 7035 Greentree Drive, Naples, FL 34108

The owners of this 3,032-square-foot home, steps from the white-sand beaches of Naples, FL, took a no-expenses-spared approach during its 2016 remodel. The white-hot interior was outfitted with custom cabinetry and top-notch Wolf appliances in the gourmet kitchen and Italian porcelain plank floors throughout. Out back, a brand-new saltwater pool and outdoor kitchen offer a private oasis. The arched front door follows suit: Its ornate design was custom-made using luxurious mahogany. The surrounding community offers plenty of options for further relaxation, including a 570-acre nature preserve, exclusive-access beaches, a fitness center and wellness studio, and a cultural center.

Calm, cool, and collected: $7.145 million, 1900 Sabal Palm Drive, Boca Raton, FL 33432

You’ll be the first to live in this new, 9,650-square-foot estate in Boca Raton, FL. Its futuristic facade is marked by massive, marine-grade steel double doors. Enter and find an open floor plan with all the markings of modern design: clean lines, abundant glass and metal, and a so-cold-it’s-hot neutral color scheme. The huge retracting windows in the living room help redirect some of the focus from the 12-foot-long linear fire feature to the view. (This six-bedroom home sits just beyond the first fairway of the world-class Royal Palm golf course.) Fore!

Posted by Julie Davis on Trulia

7 Homes That Bring The Curb Appeal

These homes with outstanding curb appeal could be yours — or they can inspire your next landscaping project.

You won’t need a second chance to make a first impression when you live in one of these homes for sale on Trulia.

Everyone hopes for love at first sight — though your first-look jaw dropper may come in the form of an early-1900s Colonial home in Richmond, VA. From a home’s landscaping to its color palette, even the smallest details can help set the look and feel of the rest of the home. You get only one chance to win the curb appeal game, and these picks from Trulia with stunning front yards are really bringing the heat.

Pomp and circumstance: $398,500, 701 Sugar Mill Road, Greer, SC 29650

The wide, brick stoop of this imposing Georgian-style beauty beckons, with lovely details like dormer windows and mature, tailored landscaping. The four-bedroom brick home’s charm isn’t limited to the front: A two-story back deck and screened-in porch overlook a parklike backyard.

Charmer in Chattanooga: $605,000, 704 Westwood Ave., Chattanooga, TN 37405

Flowers and greenery adorn the curb of this four-bedroom Chattanooga, TN, home, set back from the street. An inviting porch leads into a spacious great room that offers high ceilings and a spiral staircase. Rooms flow easily from living to dining spaces and into each impressive bed and bath — all the way out to the screened-in porch off the master suite.

California casual: $975,000, 4462 Pleasant Valley Court S, Oakland, CA 94611

A cozy front porch or a spacious back deck? It’s hard to choose where to spend your time in this 1916 craftsman-style home. A flowering vine creeps up the side of this three-bedroom, two-bath storybook-sweet home, while the large picture windows provide an inviting glow in the updated kitchen, modernized with white granite and stainless steel appliances.

Solar-powered in Phoenix: $999,900, 13208 S. 34th Way, Phoenix, AZ 85044

The stark desert landscape surrounding this Santa Fe, NM–style home fades into the background, letting the home really shine. The imposing adobe home, with solar power and more than 5,000 square feet, also includes a pool and Jacuzzi. Inside, an industrial-grade kitchen and high ceilings add to this six-bedroom home’s charm.

Old World meets New: $1,089,000, 501 NW A St., Bentonville, AR 72712 

Enjoy vintage charm and modern amenities in this Arkansas home. The 1891 Victorian design is still intact, with original stained glass, a detailed porch railing, and crown molding — but upgrades like commercial-grade appliances and custom built-ins make it feel as though you’re living in this century. Outdoor entertaining is a breeze with an old-school tree swing out front, plus a spacious yard and detached guesthouse — complete with a second kitchen. Toss in the updated bathrooms, refinished original wood floors, and a wood-burning fireplace, and just like that, you’ve found yourself a dream home.

Texas modern: $1,249,000, 6527 Anita St., Dallas, TX 75214

A unique twist on the traditional Texan landscape, a spacious rock bed holds a planter of succulents, making it the front-yard focal point of this custom home. The home blends a cottage feel with a modern aesthetic, with quirky light fixtures and finishes and an open floor plan in 4,216 square feet. Drop your clutter from the day in the home’s mudroom and relax on the fenced-in back patio, complete with a fireplace and grill (it’s even wired for a TV and sound). The fresh hardwoods glow from the natural light beaming into each room. Custom built-ins — from the closets and hallway shelving to the kitchen cabinets — give each room a unique and functional piece.

Miami vibes: $1,500,000, 555 NE 57th St., Miami, FL 33137

Miniature shrubs line the walkway of this bright and beachy Miami, FL, home. Let the palm trees greet you along with the roof’s Spanish tile and bright orange stucco, which all give the house a fresh, Floridian feel. The 3,500-square-foot smart home has a completely renovated interior, including high-end appliances in the kitchen and bath — even a steam room in the master suite! If four bedrooms aren’t enough, there’s also a guest cottage, just past the gated driveway and adjacent to the pool and grilling patio.

Posted by Catherine Currin on Trulia

 

9 Porch Makeovers For Less Than $1,000

Fresh paint, a stylish new door, and welcoming seating can all help make your porch a more inviting place.

Save the big cash for major projects. Update your porch — and curb appeal — with these inexpensive tips.

When you’re hoping to add curb appeal to your home, look no further than the part that’s closest to the curb: your porch. A porch makeover can help you make a great first impression on visitors, and it provides you with a pleasant place to spend some time, whether you’re living in Nashville, TN, or San Diego, CA. Here are a few ways you can update your porch’s look without spending more than $1,000.

Determine priorities

Before you start any porch upgrade, walk across the street to get a feel for how your home looks from afar. “Decide if the shrubs, furnishings, shutters, door numbers are proportional and in good condition,” says Kim Trouten, a Charlotte, NC–based real estate agent and interior designer. You might find that your porch has lost its luster, or that the landscape bed beside it is too shallow, or your columns are too narrow. It’s a good starting point.

Clean up

There’s rain, heat, and possibly snow, plus foot traffic and other wear and tear — your porch can look dull over time, and a simple cleaning can help. “Paint and power wash go a long way,” Trouten says. Use an outdoor bleach solution that’s available at a home improvement store. It attaches to your hose and works fast. After you clean, you can better evaluate what needs painting and updating. Here’s a tip when painting outdoor columns and shutters: Avoid semigloss paint that reflects sunlight, Trouten says, and opt for satin for trim.

Update your entrance

Perhaps nothing can make a front porch pop more than a freshly painted door. “Doors are where you should let your personality shine,” Trouten says. Keep in mind that paint shows up more intensely outside than on the swatch. Light colors, for example, tend to wash out and appear pale. “Get samples and try them,” she suggests. “Once you find one you like, live with it for a week before making a decision. The shock of a new color on a door can take time to adjust to, but with the right accessories, can be a fabulous statement.”

Replace your door

If paint’s not the problem (your door maybe just has no style), buy a new one. If you don’t need a custom size, you can usually get one for under $1,000 with installation. “It can make a huge difference to the look and feel of your house,” Trouten says. She suggests a three-quarter glass or transom style for the most up-to-date look (half-glass can look too traditional). If you have a storm door, evaluate how well it’s working and whether it adds to or detracts from the style of your home.

Mind the little things

Add appeal with hardware. “Unique and substantial door handles, door knockers, vintage mailboxes, doorbells — they all add new interest,” Trouten says. Just be sure to look for quality solid metal, nothing too kitschy. “An old 1940s screen door can look wonderful, but a 1970s one? Not so much,” she says. Make certain the house numbers on your porch can be clearly seen from the street.

Add seating

A welcoming sitting area or porch swing can add warmth. Be advised, though, that a porch swing needs plenty of space. No room? Pair a couple of small chairs with bright seasonal throw pillows that can be changed to add interest year-round. “These are all ways you can make your porch beautiful and functional,” Trouten says.

Increase style and substance

Using cedar or paintable wood to beef up columns can make a huge difference, especially on a newer “production house,” Trouten says. “Remove the manufactured shutters and have rustic painted cottage-style shutters added for a custom look,” she adds. Also, trim windows and add larger trim around your door; it will make your home feel more substantial. “Try adding a flagstone step or a stone veneer to your foundation front. This can also add style and substance,” she says.

Perfect the path

Guests will know whether they’re welcome and whether you take pride in your home based on their walk to the front porch. For starters, ensure your pathway is wide enough. If it seems too narrow, line it with bricks or pavers on each side to give it a bit of character. “[The path to your porch] should have a gentle curve to the house, an introduction,” Trouten says. “Your walkway should be well-groomed, clean, and inviting to your porch, which is really an extension of your home.”

Minimize decor

Very few porches are large enough to hold lots of stuff. So you love roosters? It’s fine to show your personality, just don’t go overboard. If your porch is big enough to sit on, be sure you choose the right-size furniture. If your porch is small, add accents like a console table, rug, or bench. Make sure you choose complementary colors and use them carefully in throw pillows, large pots, and maybe one or two other accents like lanterns, Trouten says. It’s best to use less on your porch than you think. “The point is to make it inviting to sit on, not a display area for your favorite decorating ideas,” Trouten says. “If you keep it simple, it’s a fun spot to create a little peek into your home and life.”

Posted by Virginia Brown on Trulia

How to Prepare Your Home for an Appraisal

What you need to know about the process, from a veteran certified appraiser.

Getting your home appraised can often be a nerve-wracking experience. Your home and your handy work will be on display to be judged and valued so that you can move forward with selling your home.

But it doesn’t have to be a stressful experience. With the right tools, tricks and savvy, the appraisal process can not only go smoothly, it can also help you make a giant financial leap toward a future in a new home.

Do your homework

“Just like anything else — for example, if you’re going to select a doctor, dentist, or lawyer — you do your homework to find out the appraiser’s market knowledge of the area,” says Rick Singh, a property appraiser in Orange County, FL.

Ideally, your appraiser will be a local who knows the area well and who has been around long enough to see changes in the market. It’s also crucial to hire an appraiser who is state certified.

Check your maintenance

Whether it’s a loose shingle, chipped paint or dirty carpet, be sure to take care of it before the appraiser comes. Anything obvious that needs work could potentially eat away at your home’s value.

Also, keep a list of maintenance work that has been done on the home. Have a running list of what you have fixed and upgraded in your home as well as the amount of money you have spent.

Maximize curb appeal

When you’re getting your home appraised, remember that your house should look like the nicest one on the block.

“Landscaping plays so much into making a good first impression,” Singh says. “And remember that a first impression is a lasting impression. Make sure [your yard] is tidy and up-to-date. Trim or replace dead plants, and make sure it’s nice and green.”

Ensure appliances work

Do you have a dishwasher that only works when you give it a little kick, or a refrigerator that doesn’t keep your food as cool as it used to? These malfunctioning big-ticket items in a home could be a huge disadvantage to your home’s appraisal value.

Show pride in ownership

Although your home isn’t necessarily valued on the interior decor, it doesn’t hurt to show that it’s well cared for.

This doesn’t necessarily mean you have to trade in your T.J.Maxx finds for a pricey interior makeover, but make sure your home is neat, tidy, and exhibits that you generally have an interest in keeping your home looking its best.

Know your neighborhood

Before you get your home appraised, be sure you know what comparable nearby homes are going for, because that can be a huge predictor of your home’s value.

Also, inform your appraiser of any extraordinary circumstances, like if someone in your neighborhood had to sell their home quickly. Sellers may have to lower the price of their home to get out in a timely fashion in the event of death or job relocation in another state.

It’s extremely important that both you and your appraiser are knowledgeable about your neighborhood to get as accurate a value as possible.

Understand that cost does not equal value

When you make improvements to your home, you hope that everything you’re upgrading will increase your property value — but this isn’t always the case.

“Sellers may think, ‘I spent $60,000 on my home and $20,000 on the pool, so the home should be worth $80,000 more.’ However, the market may say it’s only worth $5,000 more. Find out what the economic investment is, because the rate of return is so important,” Singh says.

If you’re not satisfied, reach out

If you’re dissatisfied with the appraisal value, Singh advises contacting the appraiser about your concerns. Make sure you have data to back up your claims when you call to voice your opinion.

“You can always get a second appraisal,” Singh notes. “If you really think something was done incorrectly, voice your concern to the appraisal board as a last resort. All appraisers are licensed, and they don’t want to jeopardize their license. However, I often recommend going back to the appraiser and showing [him or her] the facts.”

Posted by Jamie Birdwell-Branson on Zillow

The Most Popular Exterior Paint Colors

Here’s a breakdown of the most popular colors for your house’s siding, trim, and architectural accents.

Changing the color scheme of your home’s exterior is one of the quickest ways to give your house a face-lift, whether you’re preparing to list it for sale or just want to increase curb appeal (or both!). You might be surprised at the number of outside elements at play that you should consider before you choose a color scheme. Things like the hue of your brick chimney (is your brick more orange or brown?), the color your neighbor chose for their house, and your area of the country can all influence a color scheme. Plus, you’ll probably have to coordinate at least three colors — for the siding, trim, and accents. And this is a big investment, so it’s not very easy to change if you don’t love the end result, making what seems like a simple decision trickier than you might have expected.

We talked to paint companies to get information on their bestselling exterior paint colors, then consulted with color specialists on what to consider when planning your own home’s color palette.

Choosing a color for the siding

When it comes to sheer square footage, a home’s siding takes up a lot of visual real estate and is usually the most difficult (and most expensive) area to paint. Consequently, you should decide on a paint color for your siding first and then match your trim and accents to it. To start your color selection, realize your home actually isn’t a blank canvas. You have a lot of fixed elements to consider when establishing your color palette.

1. The roof

If you have a brown roof, steer toward a warm siding color, like Sherwin-Williams’ Avenue Tan. If you have a gray or black roof, you can go cooler — Olympic’s Coast of Maine is a popular choice. Take a step back and observe any other fixed, unpaintable elements on your home’s exterior, like copper awnings, stone chimneys, and brick features.

2. Consider your neighbors

If one house next door to yours is navy-blue and another is white, you shouldn’t veer into warm-color territory or paint your house navy-blue or white (no one likes a copycat). Instead, match their home’s color intensity. Something like Benjamin Moore’s Wedgewood Gray would pair well: It stays in the cool spectrum and doesn’t duplicate their selections. You want to have personality but not stand out in a bad way.

3. Don’t ignore local cues

Beyond the colors on your block, do some research (you can probably just drive around your town!) to make sure your color scheme is historically and regionally appropriate. “Imagine the colors you see on homes in Key West,” says Amy Krane, an architectural color consultant. “Pink and turquoise feel natural in a tropical region but would be wholly out of place in the Midwest.”

4. Keep scale and depth in mind

The color of your home can trick the eye. For instance, painting your home a light color like Benjamin Moore’s November Rain can make it seem larger than it is and visually brings it forward to the curb. Conversely, dark colors can make a home look smaller but more substantial and set back — Benjamin Moore’s Boston Brick has this effect.

5. Test before you commit

Always paint a test patch and observe it at different times of day to see how the sunlight affects it. Keep in mind that all colors will always appear lighter on the exterior of your house than on a paint chip in the store. “Natural lighting makes everything appear lighter and brighter,” says paint color specialist Kristie Barnett. “Always go darker than you think you’d want.”

The best colors for trim

A house’s trim color is easy to overlook if it marries well with the rest of the house but impossible to ignore if the color is even slightly off. Trim that’s matched exactly to the siding color can feel flat; dark trim, especially around windows, can make them appear small or oddly framed.

1. Keep it in the family

For this reason, a safe bet is to select a trim color two shades lighter or darker from the siding color or to keep it simple with a fresh white or cream shade. Sherwin-Williams’ Panda White and PPG Paints’ Oatmeal are popular selections for warm-tone homes; Benjamin Moore’s Frostine is an option for cool-hued homes.

2. Use trim to blend

Keep in mind that less-attractive elements of your home, like gutters, garage doors, or vents, should be painted the same color as your trim so they blend in. Picking a trim color can be tough, so this is an opportunity to talk to a pro — see if the paint company you’re working with has preselected color palettes based on architectural style or color range. These can be incredibly helpful when matching your trim to your siding.

Now for the fun part: accent colors

After you’ve chosen the foundation for your palette — the siding and trim colors — it’s time to have some fun playing up the accents, like the front door, shutters, and other architectural details. Accent colors present an opportunity to make a statement and differentiate your home from your neighbors’ houses.

1. Keep it classic

When it comes to front doors, some colors will never go out of style: Behr’s Black Lacquer, for instance, or a red door like Glidden’s Rusty Red. Or pick a color that gives a nod to a classic: Something like Sherwin-Williams’ Indigo Batik is similar to navy-blue, but the gray undertone is slightly more modern and fresh.

2. Look inside

Besides coordinating your front door with your siding and trim, when picking a color, consider the interior of your house, says color consultant Barbara Jacobs. “For one of my clients, as soon as you opened the front door, they had a beautiful oriental rug and piece of art,” says Jacobs. “We pulled a lilac color from these elements to use on the front door, and it created a stunning impact as you entered their home.” Colors like Benjamin Moore’s Super Nova and Breath of Fresh Air are unexpected hues that can ooze this effect.

3. Add more color

Other architectural details can match the front door, but they offer another opportunity to introduce a new hue. Barnett says it’s wise to pull other accent colors from fixed elements on the home. “If you have orangey brick on the base of your house, you could do a copper-color shutter,” she says. Or, a shade like Behr’s Cinnabark would work well with dark brick. “If you have a black roof, you could do black shutters and a pop of color on your front door. Whatever you choose, by syncing these details, it looks like you had a plan!”

Posted by Liz Olech on Trulia