Looking to Sell? Don't Make These Six Home Improvement Mistakes

Looking to Sell? Don't Make These Six Home Improvement Mistakes

It might seem obvious that home improvements are a good investment and will increase a property's value. But, that's not always true. Many upgrades don't raise a home's value enough to repay their costs, leaving you out of pocket. Even worse, some projects can lower your home's value.

If you're about to improve your home with an eye on raising its value, make sure you avoid these six mistakes.

Four Tips on How to Stick to Your Budget during the Holidays

The holiday season is a time for reconnecting with family and making lasting memories, but if you're not careful, the rush of holiday sales and last-minute travel plans can put a serious ding in your budget. Here are a few tips for staying frugal this holiday season:

Avoid Last-Minute Travel 
Making travel plans at the last minute is one of the most expensive ways to travel. Airline tickets skyrocket the closer you get to a departure date, particularly around Christmas and New Year's, when overall travel volume spikes.

Instead, make your travel plans early or don't travel at all. Leaving yourself some room can do wonders for your bottom line. Scan travel sites daily to catch the best deal possible, and when you spot a cheap ticket, book it fast before prices rise. 

Don't Splurge on Décor
Whether you're expecting just the kids or hosting a large family gathering, it is tempting to want your house to look like the pretty images on Pinterest, but resist the urge to splurge on too much holiday décor.

A carefully chosen wreath or centerpiece isn't too costly, but going all-out on holiday decorations can be a major strain on your budget. Instead, find one or two items that really pop to get you through this year's festivities, then keep an eye on post-holiday sales to get an additional piece or two at rock-bottom prices for next year.

Accept All Offers for Help
Singlehandedly serving a holiday feast can be satisfying, but only if it doesn't break the bank. Whether it's lunch with your extended family or dinner with your closest loved ones, holiday meals can quickly add up.

Many people hesitate when friends and family offer to bring a dish to share. After all, if you're hosting it's your duty to provide the meal, right? Wrong! Not only will sharing the load help control your food budget it will also give your guests the satisfaction of contributing to the party. Everyone loves to feel useful, and allowing a guest to bring a dish to share is a great way to give that gift to someone while also reining in the cost of hosting.

Cut Entertainment Costs
If you've seen any TV commercials during the holiday season, you'll know just how desperate businesses are to get you out of your house and into their stores. The weeks following Thanksgiving are some of the busiest for retail stores and movie theaters alike. Between special holiday sales and big holiday blockbusters, it is incredibly easy to blow your entertainment budget before you even know what happened.

If you have kids or are hosting friends, think ahead about alternative entertainment that will keep the bill low. Try renting a movie or finding something on Netflix instead of taking the group to the theater. If you've got the itch to shop, be sure you absolutely need whatever you've got your eye on. Don't let the holiday sales ads choose a budget for you. Take control and only look at sales when you already know what you are about to buy.

Décor Trends for Fall and Winter

It’s that time of year again. Pumpkin spice goodies and home makeover trends dominate Pinterest boards and magazine covers. Here are a few key trends for fall and winter:

Woodsy Vibes
Type in DIY wood pallet on Pinterest and watch the firestorm that comes back. This year, it’s all about mixing woods and stains. Whether you prefer the unfinished, rustic look or lean toward deep cherries and intense oaks, this is the year to mix it up and experiment.

Heavy Knits
The financially savvy understand the best way to redecorate is with accessories. Instead of a new couch or table, upgrade a room with throw pillows and blankets or candles and mirrors. Fall 2018 is all about chunky, cozy blankets. Find one in a deep purple or midnight blue and toss it over an armchair, then hibernate with a cup of hot tea and enjoy the laid-back charm of a happy home.

Citizen of the World
Cultural themes are too matchy-matchy. This year, people want to mix patterns from all over the globe. So hit up your favorite boutique and look for paisleys, ornate Indian prints, handmade pottery, and dyed textiles. Imagine tassels, rope, and safari prints on everything, including throw pillows and wall art. Celebrate earthy textures like volcanic stone and amber in rich colors of berry and ebony.

Contemporary Charm
Like seasons past, the neutral minimalism of modern décor never goes out of style. Set a wicker chair on an oatmeal-colored natural-fiber rug and breathe in the effortless charm of the artisan-inspired home. Use natural materials to offset pops of color, like handblown glassware on a silver tray.

Five Sustainable Home Design Trends to Try

Consumer demand for eco-friendly products has grown in recent years. Now, homeowners looking to renovate for sustainability will find elegant and attractive products for kitchens, bathrooms, bedrooms, and more. Here are five of the top sustainable home design trends to know:

1. Low-Flow Showerheads 
Earlier generations of low-flow showerheads offered low water pressure that left many homeowners unsatisfied. Now, low-flow showerheads are not only strong, they're chic. Curb water waste, save money, and upgrade your bathroom with a new showerhead that not only looks great but conserves resources too. 

Search out products that come with the WaterSense label, which certifies that the product has a low environmental impact. 

2. Cork Flooring 
Cork is naturally springy, antimicrobial, and soundproof. It's also a great choice for sustainable flooring. As with hardwood, subtle variations in the material add visual interest and character, but unlike hardwood, the material is comfortable to walk on and supports the feet. Since only the outer layer of the cork tree is harvested, cork flooring is also sustainable. 

3. Recycled-Leather Tiles 
Scrap leather material is put to inventive use in leather tiles that make a rich floor or wall covering. Recycled-leather tiles bring together waste cuttings, used leather belts, and other pieces of scrap leather to create unique patterned tiles that are naturally soundproof and lustrous. Try these instead of carpet or use leather tiles as a wallpaper alternative. 

4. Recycled-Glass Counters
Glass naturally resists staining and remains hygienic because it's nonporous. As such, it's a low-maintenance alternative to natural-stone counters, which require upkeep. To create glass countertops, recycled glass is melted down then poured to create thick slabs ideal for kitchen counters, bathroom vanities, and even stairs. The end product comes in natural-glass hues from white to blue.

5. Composite Decking 
Composite decking offers a long-lasting alternative to wood decking. Wood must be painted or stained periodically for protection from the elements. With composite decking created from waste-wood scraps, wood fiber, and recycled plastic, home owners can end the cycle of deck maintenance with a product that holds up over decades—while reducing material waste. 

To upgrade your home with one of these sustainable materials, look for a contractor who specializes in green home design and renovation. The right contractor will help you select the best material for your home and install the product properly so it adds value and efficiency to your house.

How Hardscapes Can Add Value to Your Home

Outdoor hardscape projects add resale value to a home and bring extra enjoyment to the homeowners who are living there, according to the Remodeling Impact Report: Outdoor Features by the National Association of Realtors (NAR) and the National Association of Landscape Professionals (NALP).

The report confirms that investing in landscaping and hardscaping is a win-win, whether you plan to stay in your home or prepare it for market.

"This report validates that outdoor remodeling and landscaping improvements are a necessity when it comes to improving your home's resale value," says Missy Henriksen, vice president of public affairs for NALP. "Homeowners working with a landscape professional to embark on renovations—whether that means enhancing their turf and growing a lush lawn, overhauling their entire landscape, or incorporating new features like patios or exterior fireplaces—can rest assured that they are making a smart, worthwhile investment."

Here are four ways hardscaping can add value to your home:

Boosts Your Curb Appeal: Real estate agents suggest that a home's first impression is paramount when preparing it for sale. Simple updates such as adding retaining-wall units or paving stone edging around gardens can add value and curb appeal. More ambitious projects like a front-paving stone entrance with a patio and one or two seat walls can add major curb appeal, plus there's the enjoyment factor from adding a beautiful, functional front yard.

Varying hardscape colors and textures in the front outdoor living space creates maximum visual appeal. Hardscapes can also make routine maintenance easier; for example, create a tree ring from retaining-wall units then surround it with pavers to reduce the need for trimming after mowing.

Makes Unusable Space Usable: Retaining-wall systems like the VERSA-LOK Standard system can help retain the soil excavated from creating an outdoor living space.

Prevents Erosion: Damage to your property can devalue a home plus create major headaches. Retaining-wall systems are essential in preventing erosion, controlling grade changes in a yard, and preventing damage to the landscape and, in certain environments, even damage to your home.

Provides Safety and Privacy: Seat walls can add a measure of privacy and protection against the elements, and energy-efficient landscape lighting can be installed along patios, paver walkways, and under retaining-wall caps for nighttime ambiance and functionality. Landscape professionals can suggest how adding these and other hardscape elements can increase value and offer measures of safety and privacy.

In the end, investing in your home's landscape with hardscapes is a long-term win-win, no matter whether you are staying in your home or preparing it for sale. Says Henriksen: "Further, that investment is coupled with the immediate happiness received by beautiful landscaping and the long-term enjoyment of outdoor living spaces, which are priceless."

Easy-Breezy: Six Tips for Controlling Summer Cooling Costs

Easy-Breezy: Six Tips for Controlling Summer Cooling Costs

As Americans gear up for sun, surf, barbecues, and all the other fun activities that represent summer, they're also concerned with how to keep themselves and their homes comfortably cool this season.

Of course, they're also concerned with controlling costs. The average homeowner spends nearly half of their yearly utility bills—an average of $900—on heating and cooling, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency.

Fortunately, we can all take steps to save energy and protect our environment while still maintaining comfortable temperatures this summer. Think about which of the following tips might help in your home.

Home Security Tips to Consider

Home Security Tips to Consider

According to the Federal Bureau of Investigations, over two million residential burglaries occur each year. This is a staggering number that continues to increase as criminals become more desperate for cash, valuable goods, and personal information that can be used to commit crimes like identity theft. Burglaries cost homeowners thousands of dollars in home repairs, replacement of stolen goods, and lost wages due to having to work with the police and insurance companies. Be proactive against victimization and get peace of mind of knowing that your home is secure when you're not there with these simple home security tips:

House Hunting and Credit: What You Need to Know

House Hunting and Credit: What You Need to Know

By now it is something of a cliché to call homeownership the American dream. But even if sitting on your own deck, looking over a picket fence, and sipping lemonade doesn't move you, homeownership is still one of the best ways to build wealth.

For many people, owning a home is cheaper than renting and in the long run the biggest investment they will ever make. It is also a practical financial move thanks to the fact that you're likely building equity.

Five Reasons to Get a Professional's Advice When Selling Your Home

Five Reasons to Get a Professional's Advice When Selling Your Home

If you're thinking of placing your home on the market and selling it yourself to save money, you could be setting yourself up for frustration and financial loss. Here are some compelling reasons why DIY is best left to home improvements when it's time to sell your house:

National Housing Inventory Down; Home Prices Up

National Housing Inventory Down; Home Prices Up

The recent spate of natural disasters has taken its toll on the housing market. The South saw a decline in closings in August due partly to Hurricane Harvey and the destruction it caused in the Houston area. Economists for the National Association of Realtors believe sales will continue to be impacted through 2017 in Houston and Florida, where residents are still dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Irma. But sales in these regions should rebound in 2018.

Buyer Demand Still High, but Supply Running Out

Buyer Demand Still High, but Supply Running Out

Many Americans mistakenly believe that owning a home is beyond their means. Both homeowners and renters have the misconception that buyers need a down payment of at least 20 percent before they can qualify for a mortgage and purchase a home. But this is a home-buying myth, according to William E. Brown, president of the National Association of Realtors (NAR), who said, "Every month this year, roughly 60 percent of buyers who financed their purchase with a mortgage made a down payment that was 6 percent or less." Buyers with steady jobs and reasonable debt loads can find mortgage options that suit their current level of savings.

Six Must-Know Kitchen and Bathroom Design Trends

Six Must-Know Kitchen and Bathroom Design Trends

Many homeowners wonder how they can turn their bathrooms or kitchens into something worthy of making the rounds on Pinterest or Instagram. Because more people want to give their home a personal and stylish touch, home decorating and interior design is hotter than ever, and the possibilities are seemingly limitless.

How to Know If a House Is a Good Investment

How to Know If a House Is a Good Investment

You want to find a house that is not only a comfortable fit for your family, lifestyle, and budget but also, ideally, a solid investment. When you purchase an investment-worthy home, you'll have the option to rent it out, draw on your equity, or sell it for a profit when your family is ready to move on to a different house. Here are some tips for determining if a specific house is a good financial investment:

Strong Home Sales in 2016, but a Lack of Inventory in 2017

Despite affordability issues and low inventory, 2016 had the best existing-home sales in a decade. At 5.45 million sales, existing-home sales haven't set a pace this fast since 2006, when sales reached 6.48 million; in comparison, sales in 2015 topped out at 5.25 million. According to Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the National Association of Realtors (NAR), "Solid job creation throughout 2016 and exceptionally low mortgage rates translated into a good year for the housing market."