8 Home Remodeling Projects With Top-Dollar Returns

Your home is in the perfect location, came at the perfect price, with the perfect lot. (Yay southern exposure!)

But the home itself? Perfect isn’t the adjective you’d use. But you knew that moving in, and now you’re ready to start making it just right.

Where to begin, though? How about with data? Data is that friend who tells you like it really is.

Because while any home improvement that brings you joy is priceless, not all add as much home equity as you might expect.

The “Remodeling Impact Report” from the National Association of REALTORS® has tons of data on how much improvements cost — and how much of those costs you can recoup.

Here are eight of the report’s best home remodeling projects with equity-building might:

#1 New Roof

If you find yourself sprinting for the buckets when it starts to sprinkle, getting a new roof should be your No. 1 to-do. Measuring rainfall from the indoors isn’t cool.

The cost: $7,500

The return: 107% at $8,000

Considering it’s what’s between you and the elements, it’s a no-brainer.

Not sure if you need a new roof? Signs you might include:

Shingles are missing, curling up, or covered in moss.
Gritty bits from the asphalt shingles are coming out the downspout.
The sun’s shining through your attic.
You notice stains on ceilings and walls.
Your energy bill is sky high.

#2 and #3 Refinished or New Hardwood Floors

Flip on the TV to see that your fave home reno-ing duo is it at again, flipping a ranch that’s stuck in the ’80s.

They make it to the living room, pull back the dingy carpet to reveal hardwood floors in great condition. They’re psyched — and for good reason.

Hardwood floors are a timeless classic. Refinishing is a no-brainer. Neither will you regret adding new hardwood floors if you have none.

The cost to refinish: $2,600

The return: 100% at $2,600

The cost to buy new: $4,700

The return: 106% at $5,000

#4 New Garage Door

No surprise that a garage door replacement project made it onto this #winning list — a new garage door provides a big boost for your home’s curb appeal at a relatively modest cost.

The cost: $2,100

The return: 95% at $2,000

There are options galore, too. A host of factory-finish colors, wood-look embossed steel, and glass window insets are just some of the possibilities that’ll give your doors bankable personality.

#5 Better Insulation

Insulation is tucked out of sight, so it’s often out of mind — that is, until you’re forced to wear your parka indoors because it’s sooo darn cold.

The cost: $2,400

The return: 83% at $2,000 (plus the added savings on heating and cooling costs!)

#6 New Siding

In any color! And never paint again.

Those are two of the three benefits of vinyl siding. The third, of course, is your home’s value.

But if long-time homeowners look at you funny when you mention vinyl siding, just tell them that today’s vinyl is way better than what they remember because of fade-resistant finishes and transferable lifetime warranties.

The cost: $15,800

The return: 63% at $10,000

#7 Fiber-Cement Siding

Want fiber-cement siding instead? It also shows a strong payback of 76%. Although it’s the pricier option — you’ll spend about $19,700 with a payback of about $15,000 — it has one thing vinyl still lacks — the perception of quality.

The cost: $19,700

The return: 76% at $15,000

#8 HVAC Replacement

Air quality is top of mind these days, so replacing an HVAC system is a timely project — plus it cuts those pesky utility costs. Of the people surveyed in the NAR report, almost half said the most important benefit of HVAC replacement was better functionality and livability.

The cost: $8,200

The return: 85% at $7,000

Quality matters. In a survey from the National Association of Home Builders, “quality” was the one of the most important traits home buyers focused on when house hunting.

Perceptions of quality can vary, but the majority of both first-time buyers and repeat buyers said they’d rather have a smaller home with high-quality products and services than a bigger home with fewer amenities.

Visit HouseLogic.com for more articles like this. Reprinted from HouseLogic.com with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.

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10 Delightful Ways to Make Your House Brighter in Winter

Fall and winter start cozy — who hasn’t used the colder temperatures as an excuse to binge-watch Netflix while swaddled in a couch blanket?

But come January, staying indoors can feel less like a treat and more like you’re living in a cave.

Here’s how to make your house lighter, brighter, and cheerier with more natural light indoors.

#1 Take the Screens Off Your Windows

You’ll get 30% more sunlight shining indoors without screens on your windows.

Here’s the best part: Sunlight warms your room and saves you money on your heating bill. It’s solar power — for you!

Be sure to store your screens in your garage or basement, where they won’t get damaged. In the spring you’ll want to put them back on so you can keep that 30% of the sun out and run your cooling system less.

#2 Hang Outdoor String Lights Indoors

They don’t give off a lot of light, but they’re cheerful as heck.

Drape them around a window or a mantel, or hang a string of LED glimmer lights in a tall potted plant. They’ll add a layer of soft light to your room and remind you of fireflies, flip-flops, and patio parties.

#3 Steal a Little Swedish Chic

Scandinavians excel at making a home light and airy because they’ve got places where the sun doesn’t rise at all from November to January.

And you thought you had it bad.

To adapt to weeks and weeks of polar night, Swedes keep interiors pale to reflect and amplify light.

Think white walls, light woods for furniture and floors, and light upholstery. To get the look without getting rid of your dark furniture and floors, put white or light gray slipcovers on your sofa and chairs, and put down light-colored rugs.

The fastest way to bring a little Sweden into your room is to paint it. Try creamy white, pale blue, or dove gray.

#4 Change Your Bulbs

Replace those incandescent bulbs and their yellowy light with LEDs, which produce a brighter, whiter light.

But get your bright right:

The higher the K rating on the bulb, the cooler and whiter its light.
For cool, white light, opt for a bulb rated 3,500K to 4,100K.
For blue-white light that’s closest to natural daylight, use a bulb between 5,000K and 6,500K.
Unless you live in Sweden (see above) you may want to leave the uber-high K bulbs for grow rooms and seasonal affective disorder therapy clinics — because they’re as bright as real sunlight on a hot summer day at noon. You’ll need sunglasses to read.

#5 Hang Mirrors

Make the most of that weak winter light by bouncing it around the room with mirrors.

If you don’t want the distraction of seeing your reflection all the time, use a large, convex one — also known as a fish-eye mirror. It will amplify light better than a flat one. Another option: Hang a gallery wall of small mirrors.

#6 Replace Heavy Curtains With Blinds or Roman Shades

Fabric curtains, while quite insulating, block light and make a room feel smaller and more cramped, especially if they’re a dark color or have a large print.

Try Roman shades or a simple valance paired with blinds to let in the maximum amount of natural light.

#7 Clean Your Windows

Dirty windows block a lot of natural light.

Admit it. Yours are kind of cruddy because who remembers to block out an afternoon to clean the windows?

So, get it on your list. Clean the glass inside at least once a month and the glass outside once a year. Your serotonin level will thank you.

#8 Swap Your Solid Front Door for One With Glass Inserts

A solid front door can make your house look and feel as dark as a dungeon.

Get rid of it and install a half-light or full-light door that lets the natural light stream in. For even more natural light, add glass sidelights and a glass transom.

A new entry security front door will cost about $250 in fiberglass and $975 in steel, including parts and installation. A a new door will add curb appeal, which equals higher resale value. And coming home in the evening to the warm glow of light radiating out the glass panels in your front door is an instant mood lifter.

#9 Add a Skylight

It’s the ultimate way to bring more natural light into your house. A window only catches sun for a couple of hours a day, but a skylight lets in the sun all day.

An indoor view of the sky makes deepest January more tolerable. And feeling the warmth of the sun on your skin, light streaming from above, is liberating. A skylight, installed, costs between $1,300 and $3,000. A cheaper alternative is a tubular skylight, which costs $500 to $950 including installation.

If you’re really good with tools, you can install a tubular skylight yourself. Don’t even think about installing a full-blown skylight yourself.

#10 Add Plants

Putting pots of plants around your room will remind you that spring and green will return.

Match plants to the amount of light you have, because dead and dying plants are depressing. Tropicals that thrive in indirect light are usually the best choice. If you have a sunny window you’ve got more plant options.

Bonus points for adding a plant that blooms in the winter, like a kaffir lily or anthurium.

Visit HouseLogic.com for more articles like this. Reprinted from HouseLogic.com with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.

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3 Brilliant Hacks to Make Snow Shoveling Less Miserable

If you’re a homeowner in a snowy climate, chances are good you rue the winter: All that snow has to go somewhere, and it’s not getting there itself.

Cue the snow shovel.

Barring a move to a snow-free state or barricading your family inside all winter, there’s no way to avoid the endless task of shoveling snow. There are, however, ways to make the process much easier. Here are three simple hacks to make the morning after a snowfall much less stressful.

#1 Spray Your Shovel with Cooking Oil
Snow sticking to your shovel makes an already arduous task even more obnoxious. Avoid it with this hack: Lightly coat your shovel with non-stick cooking oil to make snow slide right off. No more time wasted removing snow from your snow remover. (You can substitute a spray lubricant like WD-40, but the downside is it’s toxic.)

#2 Lay Out a Tarp Before the Snow
If you like short cuts, this technique, billed as “the laziest way imaginable” to clear snow, according to a tutorial from “Instructables,” has got your name on it. The day before an expected snowfall, lay a tarp on your walkway. When the snow finishes falling, just pull out the tarp, and voilà: an instantly cleared walkway. (Word to the wise: Make sure pedestrians won’t trip on your tarp; include a sign or use this technique in your backyard walkway if you’re concerned.)

The technique requires a tarp, firewood, and twine as well as some prep work. Pre-storm, use firewood to weigh down your tarp — you don’t want it flying away in the wind! — and tie the twine to both the tarp and to a shovel standing upright in your yard. You’ll use the shovel to pull out the snow-laden tarp.

Although this method might be faster than shoveling, it does require manpower. After all, a cubic foot of snow can weigh between 7 and 20 pounds. So don’t get too ambitious with the size of your tarp or you might not be able to pull it once it’s full of snow.

#3 Make a Homemade De-icing Cocktail
De-icers make snow removal easier by cutting through the tough, icy layers that are a pain to remove with a shovel. But an easy solution should be easy on your property as well. Many commercial de-icers are pretty harsh.

Commercial ice-melting substances — magnesium chloride, calcium chloride, potassium chloride, and sodium chloride (salt) — all cause damage to the environment, according to the University of Maryland’s Home and Garden Information Center. They can also damage concrete sidewalks and driveways, which mean hefty repair costs later.

A better solution: Make your own de-icer using rubbing alcohol or vinegar. You’ll save money, too. Commercial melters typically cost $8 or more. Plus, you’ll avoid the hassle of trekking to the hardware store to stock up.

Use vinegar before a storm to make ice and snow removal easier:

Combine 3 parts vinegar to 1 part water.
Spray or pour gently (you still want to avoid runoff into your landscape) before a storm.
To keep the sidewalks and steps from icing after a storm:

Combine 2 parts rubbing alcohol with 1 part water.
Apply to minimize runoff.

“Visit HouseLogic.com for more articles like this. Reprinted from HouseLogic.com with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.”

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5 Tasks Every Homeowner Should Do in January

Whew. The holidays are done. The new year has rung in.

That’s when smart homeowners know it’s time to do these five things that’ll save time, money, and hassles all year long.

#1 Organize Your Seasonal Storage Space

Packing away holiday decor presents a big opportunity. It’s the best time to sort, declutter, and reorganize that space where you store your seasonal stuff.

So before simply stuffing your holiday things back in there somewhere, take inventory; then sort, filter, donate, trash, and re-home as many of your things as possible.

It’ll help keep you more organized all year long, and make it easier to find all your holiday stuff next year.

#2 Deep-Clean the Kitchen

All of that holiday merriment-making is rough on a kitchen. Give it a good deep cleaning now that the glittery dust has settled.

Purge your pantry and frisk your fridge, passing what you can on to local food banks. Scrub the walls and kickboards, and even pull those appliances right out from the walls for a thorough vacuuming to prevent gunk (and stinks!) from accumulating.

#3 Plan Summertime Projects Now (Especially if You Need a Pro)

Finalize plans for any landscaping, decks, patios, or other outdoor projects that need warm weather. Two good reasons:

1. If you’re DIYing, you’ll be ready to roll at the first hint of nice weather. That way, you’ll be less affected by any supply chain shortages and have your improved yard ready to enjoy by summer.

2. If you’re hiring a contractor or other professional, getting your bids and contracts in place now will save you from competing with the spring rush (wait too long, and you may not be able to book anyone!).

#4 Create a Schedule to Clean ALL Your Home’s Filters

It’s not just your HVAC. The filters in your fridge, your vacuum cleaner, your dryer, your air filter, and other household items need to be changed or cleaned at least once a year to be effective, usually more often — especially your dehumidifier. Yucky mold grows easily there.

Check manufacturer instructions for all the filters in your home, and create a master schedule; then add them to your calendar app to remind you.

#5 Save Some Green at White Sales

Linens and towels go on sale in January. It’s a long-standing retail tradition that started back when linens only came in white (hence the name), and it still has a solid rep as a money-saver — only in more colors today.

Cut your threadbare bath towels into rags and restock your supply, plus fill in any gaps in your bed linens you may have noticed if you had a house full of holiday guests.

“Visit HouseLogic.com for more articles like this. Reprinted from HouseLogic.com with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.”

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5 Tricks to Keep Your Pipes from Exploding This Winter

New homeowners may have heard that winterization is important, but in the hubbub of your first year living in a home you own (finally!), it can be easy to overlook the need to prepare for the cold weather ahead. After all, it’s just not something renters deal with; prepping pipes for winter is often the landlord’s job.

Ideally, you should winterize your pipes in the fall, before winter seriously sets in. But if you’ve forgotten and all of a sudden you’re in the middle of a deep freeze, there’s still time to prevent disaster.

Here are some easy techniques to save your pipes from bursting:

#1 Turn On Your Faucets
If the temperatures have dropped into freezing and intend to stay there, turning on your faucets — both indoors and out — can keep water moving through your system and slow down the freezing process. There’s no need to waste gallons of water: Aim for about five drips per minute.

#2 Open Cabinet Doors

During cold weather, open any cabinet doors covering plumbing in the kitchen and bathroom. This allows the home’s warm air to better circulate, which can help prevent the exposed piping from freezing. While this won’t help much with pipes hidden in walls, ceilings, or under the home, it can keep water moving and limit the dangerous effects of freezing weather.

#3 Wrap Your Pipes
If your pipes are already on their merry way towards freezing, wrapping them with warm towels might do the trick. You can cover them with the towels first and then pour boiling water on top, or use already-wet towels — if your hands can stand the heat (use gloves for this). This should help loosen the ice inside and get your system running again.

#4 Pull Out Your Hairdryer
A hairdryer (or heat gun) can be a godsend when your pipes are freezing. If hot rags aren’t doing the trick, try blowing hot air directly on the pipes. Important note: You don’t want to use a blow torch or anything that produces direct flames, which can damage your pipes and turn a frozen pipe into an even worse disaster. You’re trying to melt the ice — not your pipes.

#5 Shut Off The Water if Pipes Are Frozen
Have your pipes already frozen? Turn off the water immediately. (Hopefully you know where the master shut-off is, but if not, now’s the time to find it!)

Make sure to close off any external water sources, like garden hose hookups. This will prevent more water from filling the system, adding more ice to the pile, and eventually bursting your pipes — the worst-case scenario. This also will help when the water thaws; the last thing you want after finally fixing your frozen pipes is for water to flood the system — and thus, your home.

Visit HouseLogic.com for more articles like this.  Reprinted from HouseLogic.com with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.

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13 Home Trends to Watch for 2022

While buyers are still seeking homes that offer safe, enjoyable shelter, new wish list items are emerging that give houses better design and function.

Home design trends that are expected to loom large in 2022 are an evolution of what started during the pandemic when life was disrupted and more homeowners started reevaluating their surroundings. Cases in point: the rise of the home office and backyard pools.

Some hot trends started years earlier, including energy efficiency, conservation of natural resources (especially in fire- and hurricane-ravaged areas), and affordable housing.

In addition, each cohort has its own wish list—baby boomers want lower maintenance and millennials want strong broadband connectivity.

One caveat: Know that there’s no universal agreement about what’s in and what’s out, even among our pundits who offered these ideas.

1. High-Speed Internet and Broadband:

A home office or workspace remains essential for many home buyers, but if a house doesn’t have a good digital infrastructure, work-from-home buyers may not be interested, says associate broker Lori Hoffman with the Usha Subramaniam Team at Compass in Chappaqua, a suburb of New York. “Young buyers coming from urban areas expect it, yet it’s not always available,” she says. Her advice is to make sure high speed is available for your buyers, and if it’s not, find an alternative before they invest.

2. Quality, Quality, Quality: Location may still be king, but buyers want quality in building materials, systems, and appliances since they know how hard it is to secure materials due to supply chain disruptions and find a contractor who’s available and can get the work done right. “They don’t want inexpensive gray and white vanities with a composition top. They prefer something like a dark navy or sleek modern dark wood with a thick porcelain top, something that echoes Mid-Century style,” Hoffman says. They also want personalized items that suggest quality, such as a kitchen island that resembles a piece of furniture, says J.T. Norman, business development, product, and design innovation specialist at Kitchen Magic in Nazareth, Pa. Buyers also prefer that original brick is left unpainted but given trim that’s accented with a dark color, says architect Eddie Maestri, founder of Maestri Studio in Dallas.

3. An Encore for Home Theaters, and a Welcoming to Yoga Studios and Sophisticated Lounges:

After losing appeal because they took up too much space, home theaters are popular again as homeowners seek more at-home entertainment. Most are constructed on the first floor or lower level, says designer Joe Fava, CEO of Fava Design Group in Miami. A newcomer to the trends list is a yoga studio as homeowners look for ways to unwind and stay fit at home, he says. Maestri also has received more requests for an intimate living space—what he terms a lounge or parlor—that includes club chairs and a bar, but no TV.

4. Purple is the New Gray (or Black):

Once considered the color of royalty, purple has become one of the “reigning” requests in the increasingly colorful world of home design, says Scottsdale, Ariz.–based designer Julia Buckingham of Julia Buckingham Interiors. “It’s a jewel tone that is both rich and neutral as a base for bright or more earthy hues.”

In one project, she mixed it with a lively red and a natural stone chandelier. “It plays well with both vintage and modern, which makes my ‘Modernique’ heart very happy,” she says.

Norman says an earthy khaki green is also a current favorite choice. Color expert Amy Wax of Your Color Source predicts the popular colors in 2022 will relate to nature. She anticipates softer greens, earthy taupes, warm browns, and off-whites. We may also see a nod to happier times and a carefree lifestyle in the form of brighter teals, Kelly greens, peaches, and oranges.

5. More Outdoor Changes:

Having a yard or balcony gained ground during the pandemic and remains a big draw for buyers. As homeowners spent more time outdoors, their wish list for that space evolved. Hoffman finds that buyers want a flat yard that’s more usable than a hilly one. More people want a pool, so much so that many installers are booked into next year. Huntsville, Utah–based landscape architect Laurie Van Zandt of The Ardent Gardener says she usually designs one or two a year, but in 2021 she designed eight. A fire pit is also still high on wish lists, but an elaborate outdoor kitchen with a pizza oven and beer tap has waned in popularity—many found they rarely use these bells and whistles. What’s needed is a good 42-inch grill and cabinetry, says Chicago kitchen designer Mick De Giulio of de Giulio Kitchen Design.

When it comes to furnishings, Van Zandt says several clients have asked for nostalgic items that remind them of their grandparents, such as a porch swing, or have wanted to reflect their heritage through plant choices, colors, or design items. They also favored less-manicured gardens and yards with native grass seed blends.

Greenwich, Conn.–based landscape architect Janice Parker says she has started incorporating lighting that looks like it comes from a natural source, such as candles. In climates where bugs are prevalent or homeowners want to extend their outdoor enjoyment, there’s greater interest in screened porches, says home staging expert Kristie Barnett of Nashville-based The Decorologist. To connect outdoor or quasi-outdoor spaces to indoors, more homeowners are replacing windows with movable glass walls, says Norman.

6. Mid-Century Modern + Contemporary Chic: Design styles vary, but there’s agreement that a house with Mid-Century Modern architectural details and home furnishings stay a favorite, followed closely by contemporary, so long as the latter is warm and inviting rather than cold and spare, says Fava.

7. First-Floor Bedroom: Yes or No?

Some experts say a house without a first-level bedroom is challenged. Not so, says Hoffman, who says it depends on who’s sleeping there. “It’s more important to boomers. My younger buyers considering a two-story home want all the bedrooms to be together on the upper level,” she says.

8. Open Plan Living? Yes, But … While there’s no single plan that appeals universally, Hoffman finds that most of her buyers still want an open concept plan. “A choppy plan with rooms broken up takes longer to sell, and the kitchen has to open to some sort of family room. However, the dining room can be its own room,” she says. When there’s a separate traditional living room, she finds her buyers ask, “What do I do with this room?” Others say the openness between rooms is closing a bit. “Homeowners still want sight lines from a kitchen to family room, but they no longer need rooms in a row and prefer some separation, maybe, with pocket doors or an island,” says Maestri.

9. Maximalism:

The minimalism of the last few years is fading, while maximalism is soaring. What that means is rooms are being filled with comfortable furnishings, rugs, art, and collections with character, according to Laurel Vernazza, home design expert at The Plan Collection, a company that sells house plan designs. The fresh look doesn’t mean crowded, overstuffed spaces. One way to achieve the look is by mixing materials, like stones, metals (lots of bronze and less polished chrome and brushed nickel of recent years), fabrics with a nubby feel, different woods, and trendy matte black hues. “It’s a way to add richness,” says Fava, who finds clients want cocktail tables with several metal finishes or sofas with a metallic base. Another way to inject the look is to use curved elements instead of straight lines, such as arched openings, barrel-vaulted ceilings, and curvy furniture and walkways, says Vernazza. There’s also more architectural detail like fluting, Maestri says.

10. Spotlight on Ceilings:

Periodically, the fifth wall of a room gains prominence. Now is one of those moments. The ceiling is being designed to stand out and be more attractive. Dated ceilings, such as those with the popcorn look, textured Styrofoam, or bumpy stucco are being targeted by homeowners for remodeling. Ted Speers, president of The Patch Boys, a national drywall, ceiling, and plaster repair franchise, suggests owners first test for asbestos, then scrape off the texture, repair the ceiling with drywall compound, and sand.

In upper-level rooms, designers like Buckingham make lighting fixtures the focal point of a ceiling or stairwell to create a modern art display that adds height, volume, and a light play when lit. But the caveat, she says, is that it can be a “beast to navigate the correct proportions and heights.” That’s where an interior designer can help. What’s out, she says, are small, mass-produced, lantern fixtures in an industrial or farmhouse style. Maestri likes to use high-gloss paint for reflectivity or wallpaper.

11. Smaller, But Not Tiny: Ever since author and architect Sarah Susanka published her first book on smaller homes in 1998, The Not So Big House, there’s been interest in how smaller homes can offer comfortable, functional living. Author Sherri Koones’ book, Bigger than Tiny, Smaller than Average, also explores the subject. Smaller houses—2,000 square feet or less—are in high demand but short supply. The reasons for their popularity, Koones says, are that people are getting married later and having fewer children, while boomers are opting for smaller homes. Certain features help spaces look larger and function better, such as integrated outdoor areas, high ceilings, light-colored walls, open floor plans, well-placed windows, and niches and hallways that serve as workspaces.

12. All-Electric Homes:

More homeowners understand the importance of “decarbonizing” everything from products to transportation, and especially their homes, says Chicago- and Boulder, Colo.-based architect Nate Kipnis of Kipnis Architecture + Planning. “The way we can best do this is by eliminating all fossil fuels use from houses and including induction cooktops rather than gas for cooking, which offers safer, faster, and more even cooking,” he says. Kipnis recommends using either an air-source heat pump (mini-split) for the HVAC system or a ground source system (geothermal). The big payoff, he says, is that renewable energy has become the cheapest form of electricity generation.

13. Multifamily Breakout Spaces:

The pandemic taught developers and managers of multifamily buildings the importance of flexible shared spaces for socializing and work, termed breakout rooms by some. All the buildings that Keith Gillan’s Maryland-based firm Murn Management runs include such spaces for shared use, plus smaller conference rooms on each residential level. Another change in his company’s buildings is bigger residential units to facilitate working from home. “It’s not that much more expensive to do so at the beginning of the design process and be sure every apartment has a den,” Gillan says.

Bonus Trend: New Model for Affordable Multifamily Living

In urban centers, affordable housing is in great demand, yet there are often obstacles to developing it. A new zoning rule in New York is giving rise to a new way to bring affordable units to underserved neighborhoods—it’s termed “transgenerational housing.” An early example of this growing trend now occupies the corner of 700 Manida St. in the Bronx’s Hunts Point neighborhood. Designed by RKTB Architects for nonprofits MHANY Management and Nos Quedamos, Phoenix Estates II is one of the first developments to employ the Affordable Independent Residences for Seniors program, a modification of Zoning for Quality and Affordability rules that the city adopted in 2016. “Utilizing the new rule made the project financially feasible by including senior units in the development plan, which increased the amount of developable floor area allowed on the site by 45%,” says RKTB principal Alex Brito, lead architect on the project. Of the 108 studios and 1-, 2-, and 3-bedroom units, 100% are affordable and 48 studios and one 1-bedroom unit are reserved for seniors. The programming for Phoenix Estates II also commingles seniors and families rather than group them separately. The result fosters a sense of community and a more stable and positive living environment for all. The project team’s success in leveraging an obscure zoning rule is inspiring other designers and nonprofit developers to follow.

Copyright National Association of REALTORS®. Reprinted with permission.

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Cleaning your House for Guests

Countdown to a perfectly clean guest-ready home no matter how much — or little — time you have.

It feels great to have a clean, organized, well-functioning home when you’ve got guests coming. Especially around the holidays. It’s like your gift to you.

Here’s how to get that satisfying feeling — no matter how much time you have. Just choose your starting point on this checklist:

Three (or More) Weeks to Go

Think big picture. Get anything that requires a pro or installation out of the way now. No one wants calamity to strike when guests are pulling into the driveway.

– Get your HVAC maintained if it’s overdue.
– If you have a self-cleaning oven, clean it now. An oven is most likely to break down during the cleaning cycle, so don’t save this task for last.
– Replace any appliance on its last legs. You don’t want your hot water to go out or fridge on the fritz with a houseful of guests.
– Steam-clean upholstery. (Or hire a pro. It’s a big job.)
– Hire a handyman for those repairs you’ve been putting off.
– Check outdoor lighting. Replace old bulbs and call an electrician to address any bigger issues.

Two Weeks to Go

It’s not panic time yet. Focus on decluttering and a few deep-cleaning tasks now, and you’ll have a more manageable to-do list when the clock really starts ticking down.

– Do a deep declutter. It’ll make things easier to keep clean.
– Dust ceiling fans, light fixtures, and high-up shelves.
– Wipe down baseboards.
– Clean out and organize the fridge.
– Wash windows to make the entire house feel brighter and cleaner.
– Toss washable shower curtains and drapes in the washing machine and rehang. Easy.

One Week to Go

It’s strategic cleaning time. Here’s what to tackle now — things your family won’t easily undo before your guests arrive.

– Declutter again.
– Vacuum and dust guest rooms. If they’re low-traffic, the cleanliness should hold with just a quick wipe-down right before they arrive.
– Wipe down walls.
– Wipe down kitchen and dining room chairs and tables, including the legs. You’d be surprised at how grimy they get.
– Deep clean the entryway — and make room for your guests’ stuff.

72 Hours to Go

The final cleaning stretch is on the horizon.

– Do another declutter.
– In the kitchen, toss stove burners, drip pans, and knobs into the dishwasher for an easy deep clean.
– Wash kitchen cabinet fronts.
– Scrub the kitchen floor.
– Clean and shine appliances.

48 Hours to Go

Now it’s time to get serious.

– Clean and sanitize garbage cans to banish mystery smells.
– Wipe down doorknobs, faceplates, and light switches. They’re germ magnets.
– Clean the front door.
– Deep clean the bathroom your guests will use and close it off if possible.-
– Wash guest towels and linens.

24 Hours to Go

Your guests’ bags are packed. Time for final touches.

– Do a final declutter. By now it shouldn’t take more than five minutes.
– Give one final wipe-down to toilets, tubs, and bathroom sinks.
– And another final wipe-down in the kitchen.
– Do all the floors: mop, vacuum, sweep, etc.
– Make guest beds and set out clean towels.
– Plug in nightlights in guest baths.
– Put out guest toiletries so they’re easy to find.
– Add a coffee or tea station in the guest room or kitchen.
– Get your favorite smell going, whether it’s a scented candle, spices in water on the stove, or essential oils.
– Use rubber gloves to wipe off pet hair and dust from furniture. It works.
– Do the full red carpet: Sweep or shovel porch, steps, and outdoor walkways.

Visit HouseLogic.com for more articles like this.  Reprinted from HouseLogic.com with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.

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December Home Maintenance

Quick-and-easy tasks that’ll brighten up your interior.


The year’s coming to an end. Time to do four small tasks for a bright (and money-saving) new year.

#1 Clean Light Bulbs and Fixtures

Two great reasons to clean your light bulbs: You want as much light in your house as you can get as the days grow shorter, and, you’ll save money.

Dirty bulbs apparently shed 30% less light than clean ones, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

Wipe bulbs with a cloth dampened by a mix of 1 oz. dish soap, ¼ cup white vinegar, and 3 cups of water. Get to it Dec. 1 so you’re ready for the curtain fall on the shortest day of this year: Dec. 21.

#2 Evaluate Homeowner’s Insurance

The holidays. You love them, but they do seem to eat up more cash than other times of year. Sure, you can scrounge around for change under your couch cushions, but that’s not going to offset much.

Why not get a home insurance checkup? Call your agent to go over the type of coverage you have, how much you really need, and how you can lower your premiums before your next monthly installment.

#3 Pack a Home Emergency Kit

The last thing you want during the holidays is for an emergency to chill your family’s cheer. Prepare for power outages and weather-related emergencies with an easy-to-find emergency kit.

Some items to include are bottled water, a hand-crank radio, a flashlight, batteries, a portable charger for your phone, warm blankets and, of course, a first-aid kit to patch up any boo-boos. Singing carols ’round the flashlight may not be ideal, but it’ll beat trying to celebrate in the dark.

#4 Buy Holiday Lights (After Dec. 25)

It’s tough to think about next Christmas when you’re still stuffed from a holiday dinner with all the trimmings. But think you must if you want to save on next year’s holiday. From Dec. 26 through year’s end, big-box stores try to clear the shelves of all that glitters.

Visit HouseLogic.com for more articles like this. Reprinted from HouseLogic.com with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.

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11 Easy Holiday Décor Ideas

Give or take a Scrooge or two, everybody loves the holidays: Decorating the tree, hanging lights, hanging holly — all those things! But you know what nobody loves? Taking all those things down.

Because, wow, what an unorganized mess.

Before you go all Scrooge, get your jolly back with these simple holiday decorating hacks.

#1 Protect Ornaments With Holiday Recyclables

Trimming the tree should feel like the happy ending of a Lifetime holiday movie, not a game show guessing which box will contain broken memories.

Keep ornaments safe for next year by stowing them in leftover party cups, hot-glued onto a piece of foam board cut to fit inside a storage bin, recommends Lisa Woodruff, a Cincinnati-based professional organizer.

Or pack ornaments away using bubble wrap from holiday packages, or egg cartons from those countless cookies you made.

All of these options make for shock-absorbent padding that’s more durable than paper towels or tissue paper.

#2 Create a Year-Round Focal Point

You dream of decking every hall, every year, but when the holidays roll around, you’ve got a brisket to bake and cocktails to clink.

So focus your festive energy on just one iconic focal point — a wreath on the front door or greenery on the mantel — something that easily changes with the seasons.

Or, create a display that makes you feel merry year-round. (Try repurposing storefront letters to spell out “LOVE” or “JOY” — sentiments that never go out of season.)

#3 Get a Decorating Toolbox

Before you can hang a single strand of lights or sprig of mistletoe, you have to find the gosh-darn zip ties, track down the floral wire, and repurpose a few extension cords.

Just thinking about the prep work makes you ready for a long winter’s nap. But this year’s gonna be your prep for next year and the years to follow.

As you put everything up, keep a running checklist of what you need. Then stock a toolbox that gets replenished every year.

#4 Leave Your Light Hooks and Nails in Place for Next Year
If you like to trim your home’s roof and siding with holiday lights, you know what a hassle it is to find last year’s nail holes while balancing on a ladder with your extremities slowly freezing.

So, this year, use hooks that match your siding (not nails because they fall out easier) or paint them so they are indistinguishable from your siding or trim before you put them up.

Then leave them up when you take down your lights.

Come next year, just rehang your lights and bask in your twinkling success.

#5 Wrap Lights Around Cardboard

There’s nothing like a multicolored knot of lights to put a damper on your bright holiday spirit.

So as you take down this year’s lights, wrap them around empty gift boxes or cardboard. Make a small notch on each side to keep the ends snugly in place.

Next year you’ll spend less time untangling your lights and more time basking in them.

#6 Hang Wreaths on Rods or in Rafters

All year you look forward to hanging that wreath you got for a steal at an after-Christmas sale.

Rather than tossing it in a trash bag, where it can too easily get seriously mushed or even forgotten, hang it on a rod or from nails hammered into the attic rafters or garage walls, Woodruff recommends.

It will be easy to find, and will be in pristine shape for next year.

#7 Store Your Tree With the Decorations on It

No, seriously.

If strategizing the placement of skiing Garfield and his 107 dangly friends is your least favorite part of holiday decorating, skip it after this year.

Ask someone to help you tightly wrap this year’s decorated (artificial) tree — yep, ornaments and all — with heavy-duty stretch plastic wrap (the type that professional movers use, which you can find at home improvement stores).

Next year, just cut the wrap and reshape the branches.

Happy holidays indeed.

#8 Or Give In and Buy a Tree Bag

Every December 26, you begin to dread awkwardly wrestling your artificial tree back into its original packaging.

This year, go ahead and spend the 50 bucks on a tree bag or box, Woodruff says. It will seal out dirt, dust, and bugs, won’t smash the branches, and some styles even allow you to store your tree fully or partially assembled.

Plus, just knowing you can skip the reassembly next time makes for an extra happy New Year.

#9 Trim Those Trimmings

Getting out decorations should be a welcome walk down memory lane — not a guilt trip through items you “should” display but ugh.

So when you take down this year’s decor, follow the old rule for paring down your wardrobe and get rid of anything you didn’t use — you know, that carol-singing mounted fish from your dad or Nana’s crocheted coaster set — and donate them.

“If it’s a sentimental item, take a picture of it,” Woodruff says.

You won’t waste storage space, and come next year, you’ll be greeted only by items you love and use.

#10 Organize By Room
If you’ve got snowmen in every bathroom and a jingle bell on every drawer, you may end up with mountains of half-empty boxes piled everywhere for longer than you spend enjoying the decor.

Get your halls decked more efficiently by sorting your boxes of trimmings by room, Woodruff suggests.

Then, label each light strand by location — mantel, doorway, tree, etc. Decorating is merrier when you can grab a bin and make an evening of it, one room at a time.

#11 Create a ‘Must-Have’ Bin

\Put all your favorite decorations in one “first-up, last-down” bin.

Next year, you’ll spend more time enjoying your cherished menorah or manger and less time rummaging to find it.

Visit HouseLogic.com for more articles like this. Reprinted from HouseLogic.com with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.

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