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Home Improvement

February
17

If you're planning to sell this year, you're probably thinking about what you'll need to do to get your house ready to appeal to the most buyers. It's crucial to work with a trusted real estate professional who knows your local market to get your home ready to sell. But there are a few things you should consider when deciding what to renovate and update before listing this season. Here are three things to keep top of mind as you're making your list of projects to tackle this year.

1. The Number of Homes for Sale Is Very Low

Housing inventory sits far below what is normally considered a balanced market. In fact, according to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), the latest data indicates inventory is hitting an all-time low. Because there's such a limited supply of homes available for sale, you're in a unique position when you sell your house to benefit from multiple offers and a quick process.

But you want to do so while buyers are still scooping homes up as fast as they're being listed. Spending time and money on renovations before you sell could mean you'll miss your key window of opportunity. Of course, certain repairs may be important or even necessary. The best way to determine where to spend your time – and your money – is to work with a real estate advisor to confirm which improvements are truly needed and which ones aren't likely to be deal-breakers for buyers.

2. Buyers May Be Willing To Take on Projects When They Purchase Your House

Today, many buyers are more willing to take on home improvement projects themselves to get the house they're after, even if it means putting in a little extra work. A recent survey from Freddie Mac finds that:

". . . nearly two-in-five potential homebuyers would consider purchasing a home requiring renovations."

If more buyers are willing to tackle repairs on their own, it may be wise to let the future homeowners remodel the bathroom or the kitchen to make design decisions that are best for their specific taste and lifestyle. Depending on the structural condition of your house, your efforts may be better spent working on small cosmetic updates, like refreshing some paint and power washing the exterior to make sure the home stands out. Instead of over-investing in upgrades, the buyer may change anyway, work with a real estate professional to determine the key projects to tackle that will give you the greatest return on your investment.

3. Your Agent Will Help You Spotlight the Upgrades You've Made

Over the past year, many people made a significant number of updates to their homes. The most recent State of Home Spending report finds:

"Home improvement spending rose 25% year-over-year to $10,341. Homeowners who invested in home improvement did an average of 3.7 projects, up from 2.7 in 2020, . . ."

With more homeowners taking on more projects in the past 12 months, there's a good chance you've already made updates to your home that could appeal to buyers. If that's the case, your real estate advisor will find ways to highlight those upgrades in your listing.

The same is true for any projects you invest in moving forward. No matter what, before you renovate, contact a local real estate professional for expert advice on what work needs to be done and how to make it as appealing as possible to future buyers. Every home is different, so a conversation with your agent is mission-critical to make sure you make the right moves when selling this season.

Bottom Line

In a sellers' market like today's, it's important to spend your time and money wisely when you're getting ready to move. Let's connect today so you can find out where to target your efforts before you list

November
7

Mom doing yoga with childToday we're going to talk about making your home a calm, peaceful retreat from the world. I Googled "Everything Zen" and enjoyed reminiscing about seeing Bush at Woodstock '99. Holy cow, they were loud! What a great band. My time living in Portsmouth, washing dishes at some restaurant, is truly the flash-back I have when I listen to that album. I honestly have no idea if that song has anything to do with being calm. From the guitar riffs, one would think not. Trip down memory lane aside (Go check out Bush if you have never heard them before!) let's dig in and discuss a few ways to "peace-out" your home and soothe the senses. After this scary weekend, it's time.

We visited some friends who have two small children. I think they're around 6 or 7 years old. Overall, I really don't like kids. This visit was no exception. When we walked out the front door the following morning, all I could think about was how silent the neighborhood was and how peaceful the car was. It was truly exhausting being there. I'm sure the kids (who were objectively pretty good kids) were excited about company, but they really have no volume knob. The house was the furthest thing from "zen" that I could imagine. Moving on.

One of the best ways to make your home more peaceful is to green it up. Studies have shown that plants help make your home feel calmer and ease anxiety. Some plants have specific "healing" qualities. Jasmine and English ivy improve sleep, lavender and rosemary help lower stress and many plants simply improve the air quality. "Even beyond the science-y stuff, having living plants in the home just feels good," notes Badger Peabody & Smith Realty (formerly Badger Realty) agent, David Cianciolo. "I know whenever I walk into a home that has an abundance of greenery, the air feels better and the home feels more alive," he continued.

You know by now that clutter makes my eye twitch. I think I was a cat in a previous life because I hate clutter so much I have a burning desire to start wacking things off the counters! As someone who has done some research on anxiety and stress, a cluttered home (or area) almost always increases those feelings. Because of the messy (cluttered) look and feel of the area, it creates feelings of helplessness and loss of control. I know that sounds pretty serious, but think about how you feel when you watch one of those hoarding shows. Clean up the home and it'll help ease up your mind.

This next one may seem obvious, but hide the electronics. We can't escape them. Electronics are deeply integrated into our daily lives wether we like it or not. We're almost to the point where we won't be able to make simple purchases without electronics. In your home, you do have far more control. And I'm not suggesting that you need to throw out your TV, computer, phone, tablet, laptop or electronic rolodex (are those still a thing?). The goal here is to minimize their visibility.

I've moved my desk more times than I want to remember in the last couple years. I finally got one of those fancy electronic standing desks this time. Every time I move it, I spend the extra 10 minutes using zip-ties to tidy up all the wires. With 3 monitors, a keyboard and phone chargers, things get messy pretty quick. The benefit is I can walk into the office and just see my work devices. All the wires are tucked away. I encourage you to follow suit and see if there are other areas you can tidy up. If you have phone chargers in the kitchen, tie up the cords. The less electronic noise you see, the less your home will feel like an office!

De-busy your walls and floors. I mostly wanted to say "de-busy" because it sounded fun. Hopefully there are no English majors out there! Solid patterns are (seemingly obviously) more calm and soothing than busy ones. Small, sparse dots or herringbone patterns are understated and tolerable. Once you start getting into fancy, traditional Eastern rug patterns, you're starting to lose the zen. I think it goes without saying that if you are still rocking your grandmother's wallpaper, it's time for a change.

The last, but coolest and fairly surprising, idea for creating a more serene home that I found was getting a pet. Obviously if you have ever raised a dog from a puppy, you know this is a far cry from "peaceful". That said, pets have been shown over and over again to lower stress and even lower blood pressure. I have always been a cat guy, mostly because I am not around enough to want to deal with a dog. Everytime I sit on the couch, my cats have been quick to find my lap and curl up. I can't think of anything more peaceful than that. My last cat was named "Remy" after the former Red Sox announcer Jerry Remy. He grew my love for the game through his insightful announcing with Don Orsillo and almost always made us laugh during the game. Both Remys are now passed and both are greatly missed.

Creating a peaceful home should be a goal for us all. While I'm not what would be considered a "homebody", I really do appreciate coming home to a clutter-free, calm home. I encourage you to take a cruise around your home today and see if there are small ways you can "zen" up your home (or would that be zen "out"?). Either way, happy peacefulness!

April
18

We talked a bit about making the most of your outdoor space last week and I wanted to continue that thread this week. We're back home now and enjoying the seasons changing and the temperatures (slowly) rising. I took the time to scrub the deck, wash the grill and fire-table and power wash the table and chairs last weekend. It felt good to get the deck ready for summer. We have not put the cushions out on the couch yet. We all know there's still a chance of ice or snow yet. We're almost out of the woods.

When you are considering putting some time and effort into your backyard, there are some generally accepted "rules" that most of us tend to follow. Today I want to encourage you to break away from those norms and strike out on your own. It is YOUR backyard after all. Why not make it a little more distinct and perhaps entice those buyers a little more. Of course all of these suggestions also make the area more attractive and usable for you as well. Let's dig in.

The first norm we're going to buck today is the lawn. Unless you are hosting the Masters at your house, spending time and money on your lawn is truly silly. We spend money, time, and effort to make this thing grow only to turn around and cut it all down every week (or more) and then spend more money, time, and effort to get rid of the clippings. Seriously, what is wrong with us?

I recommend converting that wasted space into something truly useful. You could rip out (at least) half of it and put in a garden. Now you're growing your own food. And don't forget there are people who don't have the space for a garden that would love to use that space for their own. If you have (or are going to have) kids, you could convert another whole area to sand or bark mulch and put in a play area for them. We are currently researching the feasibility of running water and power to a corner if our backyard in order to put in a tiny home. It will either be an office space or a rental. Either way, it's another big chunk that we don't have to maintain.

While we're on the topic of yard maintenance and manicuring let's bump up one level to the shrubs and trees. The "norm" police would have you trimming those shrubs into perfect orbs and squares (or whatever you're supposed to do with them). For my rule breakers out there put down the shears. While you are smartly ripping out chunks of lawn, sprinkle in a few shrubs and trees throughout the area. Stay away from straight lines and unnatural shapes. Let them grow out and create that same (or at least similar) sense of wonder you get while on a hike in the Whites. Imagine a backyard that reminds you of your favorite hike!

We mentioned entertaining last week and your backyard is no different. Putting in horseshoe pits or a bocce ball court makes the area infinitely more useful and removes yet another chunk of maintenance hassle. We always have the cornhole boards out (we do keep the bags indoors!) which always lends itself to folks coming off the deck to play. "The backyard is intended for your enjoyment, not just for you to look at," notes Badger Peabody & Smith Realty (formerly Badger Realty) agent, Daren Levitt. "Add some features that encourage your family and friends to want to spend time out there. You'll be glad you did," he continued.

As far as the flora is concerned, I strongly recommend you stay local. The trend in past years has been to incorporate more exotic plants into the landscaping. This can have negative effects on the local ecological system and tends to require more maintenance. Talk to your local nursery and see how you can incorporate local, native plants, shrubs, and flowers into your yard. Not only do they look amazing it is yet another way to remove more of that silly lawn and eliminate those wasted weekends on yard maintenance.

Lastly for today is the battle against the waning sunlight. Your backyard is not just for daytime enjoyment. Mosquitos notwithstanding, your backyard can be a fantastic place to entertain in the evenings. The trick is lighting. We boarded the LED train long ago and have incorporated those wonderful little lights all over the house. They use almost no energy. They can be programmed by your phone. And they can be super fancy with countless shades of color and tone. Tiki torches are great and always make me want to grab the nearest margarita. That aside, consider some more consistent (and less smelly) lights for your yard and make that space usable and comfortable deep into the night. Happy entertaining.

December
14

As the days are getting shorter and the mornings are getting colder, it seems like the perfect time to talk about landscaping! What!? OK, bear with me. We are having a little work done on the house. The updates include a new front door, re-patched hole in the ceiling where the house fan was, new door to the garage, and last month we had some landscaping done. That's what got me thinking. In a time where xeriscaping and hardscaping are becoming a trend, what about those of us who still love green grass and gardens? Well fear not, fellow floral fiend. Today we're going to explore some of the landscaping trends sweeping the nation.

As we're all being directly or indirectly affected by this virus, our priorities have shifted towards getting OUT of the house and away from our family. No. Wait. That can't be right. The goal is simply to enjoy the outdoors. Yeah, that sounds better. So as we're tucked away in our cozy homes this winter, we can be creating strategies and plans for our outdoor spaces. You could even take it as far as starting to save up some money for whatever awesome project you dream up this winter. Let's dig in and help you start dreaming.

Before we totally give up on the winter season, let's consider the outdoor space that we already have. We have a deck with a fairly comfy couch (although I did move the cushions into the garage last month). If you have a space like this consider those outdoor heaters or a fire pit. Anything you can do to make the space a little more cozy will go a long way to encouraging those in your household to get the heck out of the house, err, I mean, enjoy the outdoor space. My roommate also splurged last year and bought a "previously loved" hot tub. All installed and operational for under $5,000. My only comment here is: Do it if you can! They are heavenly. Nothing like a hot soak after a day in the snow!

Moving away from Old Man Winter, let's dig back into the back yard, literally. Vegetable gardens saw a huge surge in popularity this past summer for obvious reasons. I don't know about you, but I detest going to the grocery store in these times. So many hands touching so many things. Instacart has become my best friend. For those with a little more gumption than myself, the garden has become the next best thing to food delivery. My honey carved out an entire third of her backyard for a garden and it was amazing to see the bounty that was produced (pun intended!). As long as you've got some decent sunlight, I can't encourage this project enough! You won't be disappointed.

On the more playful side of backyard projects are things like monkey bars, jungle gyms, zip lines and even swimming pools. If you grew up in Maine and New Hampshire like I did, swimming pools always seemed like a luxury and a bit of a fool's errand. That mentality has changed a bit and they are soaring in popularity. You also don't need to blow your life savings for any of these projects. The jungle gyms are certainly budget friendly and if you are handy with these kinds of projects (or have some good friends and a couple pizza coupons) you can do many of them yourself. Even inflatable pools, makeshift ninja warrior courses and even a small half-pipe (yes, I'm reverting back to my BMX glory days) can make your backyard a place where you and your kids want to be.

On the other side of the house, our front yards are becoming much more social. While we may not be sipping iced tea on the front porch like in Ray Bradbury's Dandelion Wine (read it if you haven't!), we are working to create safe, social spaces so we CAN visit with our friends and neighbors. I have been to a handful of "happy hours" this summer where we brought our own chairs and sat around the front yard, driveway and even (because it was raining) the garage. It's wonderful to be able to visit with friends and even chat up those folks walking by. It brought a sense of normalcy and community back to our lives that had gone missing.

One of the more interesting trends coming about is the focus on the exterior from the interior. Not just because it's cold and we're nestled inside our homes, but also because we are spending far more time inside overall. Some of the focus is being placed on how the landscaping (or flower gardens or shrubs) appear from inside the home. "Not only do homeowners want an attractive exterior for those passing by and for themselves to come home to, they are also interested in flower boxes and attractive 'framed' landscaping that looks great from inside the home," notes Badger Peabody & Smith Realty (formerly Badger Realty) agent, Bernadette Donohue. This trend fascinates me and I'm interested to see how it progresses through next summer. Only time will tell.

Working on our yards, wherever that may be and however you define it, has always been a project that some love, some do out of a sense of duty, and some simply detest. As winter comes along and coats us in her white blanket, most of us can forget about the yard for the next few months. That said, I'd still encourage you to give it some thought and see if you can come up with a strategy to make the most of your yard and get your kids out of the house. No, wait. I mean: give your kids an awesome place to play (out of the house!). Happy planning.

November
20

Looking back, I have lived with around 14 different people in my life. That includes family, friends, girlfriends, and roommates (who became friends). Recently my current roomie and I were having a conversation about the layout of the house (as well as other houses we have lived in) and came up with an interesting conclusion. Bigger is not always better and "open" is not always the best option. Today I'm going to ramble on a bit about the ideas (pros and cons) of the open-concept floor plan. Perhaps it will give you some points to ponder if you're considering knocking down that wall.

In the 80's and before, homes tended to have lots of separation throughout the floor plan. I recall growing up in our standard "cape" home and was always (slightly) annoyed that there was this big "thing" right in the middle of the house (the stairs). It seemed to make the home feel much smaller and more difficult to chase my brother around without bumping into things! At the turn of the century, the open floor plan became much more popular. Let's see if it's the right thing for you.

If you have (or are going to have) kids, the open floor plan might just be the best option. It certainly creates a sense of togetherness and "community". It's also nice to be able to maintain a line of sight with those little buggers. If you are working your magic in the kitchen or binge-watching your favorite adventure show, you can still hear and (mostly) see what they are up to. This option is also great for making use of those rooms that are now (nearly) useless like the formal dining room. Except for the upcoming feast in a couple weeks (Covid notwithstanding) that room likely sits unused for most of the year. With an open concept, you can clear it out and utilize it for part of the racetrack around the home or (I'm sure) there are more reasonable uses as well.

We tend to have company over to the house quite often (Again, just pretend we can still visit with each other!). The open concept, that we enjoy in the upstairs area of the house, is simply perfect. There's a bar around the whole kitchen and that opens up into a sitting room and what has become the dining area. People can be in the kitchen, on the couch, or at the dinner table (even on the deck!) and still be part of the conversation.

Lastly, knocking down walls (besides being super fun!) will also allow for more natural light to spread throughout the home. As we're cruising into winter, daylight becomes more and more precious. The lack of extra (unnecessary) walls helps fill the home with light and may even stave off those winter blues. "Removing extraneous walls, especially in smaller homes, is a fantastic way to allow more light into the home and creates a sense of space," notes Badger Peabody & Smith Realty (formerly Badger Realty) agent, Karla Badger.

The open-concept isn't for everyone though. I distinctly remember living in a fairly large home (around 4,000 square feet) and still feeling like I had no space to go and be alone. If someone was watching TV in that house, there was literally no place to go where you could not still hear the show. It was awesome for entertaining and provided a great sense of size and space, but privacy flew right out the window the day we moved in. This worked fine for me working from home, but only if my partner did not have a day off during the week. Then I fell into the same situation many of you are facing. Working from home while surrounded by other people that are not sharing your same sense of focus and concentration.

Swinging back around to kids, while it may be nice to keep an eye on them it might also be super handy to contain their tornado of toys and chaos to a single room. We had an easel when we were young and mom and dad set it up in the (unfinished) attic of our house. It was the perfect place to paint and make a big huge mess without messing up our own room or some other functional room of the house. We also skateboarded in the basement when the weather was not cooperating. Both great uses of closed off spaces for kids.

Lastly, in our current global environment, the "Zoom room" has become an almost required element of any home for buyers. If you go too far down the open concept plan, it becomes nearly impossible to close yourself off with some privacy for a video call. As noted above, noise travels really well when there are no walls for it to bounce off. If privacy is of any concern, the open-concept is likely not the best option.

The open floor plan creates a nice sense of space and community and lets in some awesome natural light. It also allows all the noise to travel and removes many options for privacy. Depending on your lifestyle, it might just be the right choice. Give these ideas some thought before you decide to play human bull-dozer on that non load-bearing wall! Happy Smashing!

October
13

OK, "locality" is a bit of a stretch. "Location" seemed too broad but you know how much I love alliteration. The idea is to love your home and keep loving it through the impending winter chill. This week I attacked my bedroom/office. Honestly there was no real reason for it. I was pretty happy with the layout. It was pure boredom. It was time for a new look and I just purchased a shiny new laptop. I figured I should go ahead and change things up in the office while I was at it. Not to mention I really didn't feel like working on a Monday morning.

Change is a funny thing. I really like my "routine" most days. Grind the coffee beans. Do some yoga. Have some breakfast. And take my coffee down to the office and get started. Going on vacation obviously throws that pattern out the window and I love it. A little hiccup in the process is a good time to reflect on the routine and see if there's something that needs changing. Our homes are much the same and how we relate to them can become stale. Today we're going to run through a few suggestions of how to keep your "relationship" with your home fresh and keep things fun and interesting all winter long.

The first thing you can do, just like your friendly author did, is rearrange your furniture. If there are others living with you, I encourage you to do this in the middle of the night while they are sleeping. You score points for every stubbed toe you "hear" the following morning. The beauty of this option is it costs nothing. Some rooms, like your TV room for example, are going to be tough to mix up. The TV is likely attached to the wall or at least located where the cable comes into the house (unless you're fortunate enough to only use the Interwebs like us). That said, you could still swap out the couch and chairs. See how creative you can be in there.

If you have an office or study, moving the furniture around in there is a breeze. Even in my tiny bedroom/office I have at least 2 other spots I can put my desk without having the sun behind me. For bedrooms, just move all of the smaller stuff out into the hallway so you can get a more clear picture of the bed's position. The last time I did this I took off my mattress and just moved the bed frame around the room. It was MUCH easier and wasn't so cumbersome so as to make me not want to try all the options. This is also a fantastic time to vacuum all those spots you never get to! Once you find the new location for the bed, you can start (selectively) re-adding the other pieces. I encourage you to eliminate the stuff you really don't need. Less is certainly more when we're spending more time indoors. (Insert decluttering rant here!)

As much as I don't really want to encourage my readers to spend more time in front of the television, consider upgrading your TV. The reality is we're going to be spending much more time indoors than we normally would during winter. Binge watching your favorite shows and catching all of this season's Tampa Bay games (I just miss TB12!) is going to be more enjoyable if you're watching on a nice big screen. I'm also a fan of video games (I'm cheap and still use an XBox 360) and they are much more fun to play on a life-sized screen.

Consider the small items as well. "Nobody is encouraging you to rush out and buy all new furniture," notes Badger Peabody & Smith Realty (formerly Badger Realty) agent, Linda Walker. "Making small changes with area/throw rugs and window coverings can breathe new life into a room and make you smile each time you walk in," she continued. This can be done on the cheap as well. Chances are good that your windows are all similar sizes. You could simply swap curtains between rooms. The same goes for the area rugs as well. Unless the colors of that room prohibit this sort of creativity, you don't have to spend a dime to have fresh styles in all of your rooms.

I'm not a big art guy at all. Partially, I'm guessing, because I can't afford most of it! But if you have art strewn about your home, consider swapping those around and adding some new stuff. My dear friends Jeff and Elaine have clear light switches throughout their home. Every one of them has pictures of their friends and family so they can enjoy them and smile every time they touch a light switch. Consider the thousands of pictures you have taken over the years and get a few of them printed (gasp!). Putting up pictures of friends and family (in small, inexpensive frames) brings a level of love to your home that is second to none. And your peeps will appreciate it when they come visit (you know.. in about 2 years!).

I'm starting to believe the predictions that this virus is going to get a bit worse before it gets better. First and foremost, we should all spend as much time outdoors as possible before it gets too cold to do so. Beyond that, making your home more lovable and fresher will do wonders for your cabin fever. Spend a little time this weekend and make a list of the things you will do to make your house more homey. Happy nesting!

July
7

I feel very fortunate to have a home with more than enough space for my roommate and I. During this pandemic, we are both working from home, but can honestly go almost the full day without seeing or hearing each other. Throw in the garage and backyard and we each have our own little escapes. All that said, the one area where we both end up connecting is the back deck. We just added one of those tables with the propane fire pit in the middle and we have a pretty comfy couch. Last year we added an umbrella to make the morning sun a little more bearable, as well as a cafe table for two. It's wonderful to get "outside" without having to go out where all the scary people are!

Regardless of the size of your home, you are likely still itching to get outside. Today I'd like to talk about a few neat ideas you can utilize to make your very own backyard oasis. The best part about most of these ideas is they won't break the bank. The primary objective is to create a space where you can "escape" within the privacy of your own home. It's like a man-cave, but for all genders!

One of the more crucial parts of your oasis is greens! If we assume we are working with a deck or patio, find a way to get plants and flowers sprinkled throughout. Our deck is not particularly big so we opted for hanging plants to maintain what floor space we have. There's nothing more frustrating than having to walk around planters in an already confined space. You'll have to pay attention to the needs of your plants as well. How much sunlight do they want? How often do they need water/food? We made that mistake last summer and "cooked" our hanging flowers by accident. They just got too much afternoon sun. Live and learn.

We also opted for the fire route. We added a table with those clear, ice-looking rocks in the middle where the flame comes out. It's incredibly simple to use. There is no clean-up, soot, wood, etc. And it just looks (and feels) amazing. Another path instead of fire is water. There are tons of options out there that can simply and inexpensively add a water feature to your backyard. A simple bowl with colored rocks and a small water pump is all you need. One of our neighbors is putting in a water feature that covers half of their entire front yard. You can keep it simple or go nuts! The result is the same. A soothing, babbling water piece that adds to your relaxation.

One of my favorite books of all time is Ray Bradbury's Dandelion Wine. He is such an amazing, visual writer that you are transported back to 1928 in a much simpler time. The time of enjoying ice cold glasses of lemonade while sitting on the porch swing. You could transport yourself back there by adding a swing to your own porch. Even simplifying that to just a hammock will get the job done. "Relaxing on a covered porch, especially during a rainstorm, while finishing the day's crossword puzzle is one of life's simple pleasures," notes Badger Peabody & Smith Realty (formerly Badger Realty) Vice President of Sales, Brendan Battenfelder.

I almost never wear shoes. I work from home and (even more-so now) never leave the house. One of the best feelings is taking off my socks and wandering around the backyard and deck. You can work this pleasure into your backyard oasis as well. While walking in grass barefoot is great, I think we all know how nice beach sand feels under our feet. You could add a sand feature or even simple bamboo rugs around your deck. The idea of this whole area is to make you smile. Walking on grass, sand, bamboo or nicely finished wood can be sublime. It really is the simple things!

Lastly, I encourage you to keep the area looking clean and fresh. Our stain was getting a little tired last summer so I re-finished the deck. You really don't realize how "tired" your deck is looking until it gets a new coat of stain! It is also a great idea to make the colors of this area fun. We opted for a nice, deep red for the deck and it makes us smile every time we go out there. Keep it clean. Keep the area clutter free. And work on making the area fun and relaxing. You'll appreciate your home even more!

March
10

Last week we focused on some design ideas inside the house. This week we're moving up and out! I was fortunate enough to design and build my house (with a contractor!) with a pretty blank slate. Aside from budgetary concerns, which of course there were, I had the flexibility to move walls around, raise or lower window heights and configure the bathroom (100 different times!). The experience of walking around the flooring deck once it had been added to the foundation was great. I then started measuring, laying down dividers, trying to imagine being in the "space", and then measuring some more. It was awesome. Today let's talk about a few of the lessons I learned along the way and maybe you'll be able to use some of these when you start laying out your new home.

Design for the buyers. If you've been reading along for a while you have heard me waffle on this topic countless times. For what it's worth, and unlike the waffling of essentially every single horrible politician in history, my waffling is based on the intent of the homeowner. (And now I just want some waffles!) If you are building this home to sell (like I did) it is imperative that you keep the future buyers at the forefront of your decision making. If you are building it for your "forever" home, you can ignore me!

One of the primary mistakes I made (and regretted most days) was making the area above the living room a cathedral ceiling. For whatever reason, I had my heart set on a cathedral ceiling (with knotty pine wood) and stuck to my guns throughout the building process. I DID love it. It was beautiful and (although a bear to sand and stain) the exposed beams running across the room were almost exactly what I envisioned. Practically, however, it was a poor decision. It was simply terrible for heat disbursement throughout the home (it all went up to the master bedroom).

Secondly, it was just a poor use of space. Upstairs was a lovely, large master bedroom with a walk-in closet. The other half of the floor was a small alcove space where I put my desk. That whole half of the upstairs could have been (at least) another bedroom if not two small ones. Considering resale and usage as a ski home, it was shortsighted and it won't happen again. To reiterate: Keep the future buyers in mind if you're going to sell.

During construction I had the immense (cannot be overstated) fortune of befriending Ed, my electrician. I would make the trip to the home supply store in Littleton and load up on outlets, wires and whatever else he added to my shopping list. Then he and I would work together pulling the wires and getting everything setup for outlets, fixtures and appliances. He never once sent me a bill. I just kept him fueled with Dunkin! One of the best parts about this process was his encouragement to add extra outlets throughout the home.

If you have ever lived in an older home (most of us have) you have struggled with needing power at some location in the house and ending up with extension cords strewn about. We added outlets wherever we could think of as well as light switches over by the bed and lights inside each of the closets (one of the best ideas ever!). If you are heading down this road yourself, do yourself (and your future buyers) a favor and add extra outlets. You won't be sorry.

Speaking of convenience (and lighted closets) don't scrimp on closet/storage space. Since this was your basic cape with a finished second floor, we had that crawl space on either side of the upstairs. Rather than let that go to waste, I had the builder throw in doors on both sides for access. "Anywhere you can carve out space for storage (and not waste that vacant area) is very smart during construction," notes Badger Peabody & Smith Realty  (formerly Badger Realty) agent Bernadette Donohue. "Simply having a spot for holiday decorations or even lawn furniture is priceless as your home starts to fill up with other stuff," she continued.

The last thing I will mention today is flexibility. And while I do stretches and yoga every morning, that's not what I'm referring to. Flexibility with, well, just about everything during construction will help this whole process go easier for you. I had to be flexible with the builder's timelines, the design of the windows on the gable end (that faces Franconia Ridge), the location of the garage door, the position of the home itself and a myriad of other items that cropped up during construction. Keep an open mind and let go of that timeline rigidity that you use during your "normal" life. Construction has a million variables and a million things that can and will arise to throw off your plan and timeline. Try and go with the flow to maintain your sanity.

Building a new home is one of the more satisfying and challenging things I have done in my life. I had a boat-load of time during the design and planning stage which helped me sort things out and prepare for when the hammer first hit the nail. Have fun with the design and keep in mind your enjoyment of the home as well as the future buyers. You won't get everything right the first time, but it will be fun trying! Happy hammering!

February
8

The one thing I know for sure about relationships is I don't know much about relationships. Sitting on the precipice of a half-century, I'm still single. If I'm being completely honest, I'm pretty happy with that. I have had some good relationships and I'm still working on that magic formula that leads to one that stands the test of time. Sure it has a lot to do with the people IN the relationship, but as I get older (and hopefully a smidge wiser) I'm learning that you really do need to give it some attention. Like so many plants that have passed through my life, if you ignore them and neglect feeding/nurturing them, they will wither and die.

If you have been reading along for a few weeks, months or even years (wow!) you know that this little article is intended to be focused on real estate. So while I am excited about what I am currently learning about relationships, it also occurred to me this morning, while making some yummy eggs, that there is a bit of cross-over with the relationship you have with your home and the one you have with your partner. Both need time and attention less they begin to wither and fade. Let's take a dive in and see what we can learn.

One invaluable lesson I learned in the last year is about sweeping "problems" under the rug. In a relationship, this leads to (what a therapist would refer to as) "resentments". The more you placate each other and don't talk about the inevitable issues that arise, the more those resentments grow. Then one day something as innocuous as leaving the milk out on the counter, blows up into a full-on argument. Regrettable things are said and feelings get hurt over something so silly and so easily avoidable.

With a home, ignoring those small signs that trouble is afoot is equally dangerous. This is the case both during a home inspection as well as during your daily life in the home. Large over-hanging icicles in front of the windows are a great example. While they do make for an impressive photo or painting, the trouble lurking underneath can be devastating. "Those icicles are not only a sign of terrible insulation, they are wreaking havoc on your roof, gutters and shingles," notes Badger Peabody & Smith Realty (formerly Badger Realty) agent, Karla Badger.

Essentially what is happening is the heat is escaping your home and melting the snow on the roof. That snowmelt then slides down the roof into the gutter and freezes. Then as that cycle continues, the icicle grows (and looks neato!) while at the same time creeping its way up under the shingles and rotting the wood beneath. So while you have a lovely Thomas Kinkade painting as you drive up the driveway, the impending damage and costs are going to be anything but picturesque.

Another thing I'm learning about relating to one's partner is the story we tell or the "narrative". This is the filter through which we talk to ourselves about our partner. If we take the same incident from above (which I should clarify is wholly fictional), we can "talk" to ourselves in two different ways. After a while, it becomes easier to slip into the negative "tone" and look at the incident with those resentments in place. "He left the milk out because he is lazy and doesn't care", is clearly looking at the glass half empty. If we flip that script and lean into the positive; "she left the milk out because she's working a ton of hours and is simply exhausted", we tend to view our partner's behavior with more compassion and love. (Yes, we're getting all squishy today!)

Sliding back over to our house analogy, we can also become more negative with the tone with which we talk about our house. As you may recall, I lived in a 300 square foot cabin for about 3 years. It was very easy to be negative about the lack of space, storage, privacy (with guests) and general living area. But it was also true that it was incredibly inexpensive, right next to a water park, 3 minutes from downtown Lincoln and my landlord was awesome. I loved that little cabin and it was my home for a long time. Rather than focus on all that it didn't have, I tried to focus on the positives. I'm convinced that I would not have lasted as long as I did had I always just focused on what it lacked.

While I recognize we are approaching Valentine's day, that single day is really not what this article is about. The reality is, those couples that are happiest and (most likely) still together have found a way to focus on the positive and give their partner the benefit of the doubt. They know it is very easy to be negative, but they make the effort to choose compassion and love. They also are smart (aware) enough to recognize that there WILL be issues and challenges. The trick is to address them and work through them. Don't ignore the big icicles hanging off the front of your home. Make your relationships and your home a priority. Give them both the attention and love they deserve.

January
17

Now that we've all smashed our way into a new decade (and I celebrated my birthday by getting my avalanche safety certification) it is time to take a look at what buyers are going to be itching for in the coming year. There are certainly features that always stand the test of time. Like a roof that doesn't leak and windows that go up and down. But I digress. What we're focused on today are those features that (for the most part) you can add to or upgrade in your own home in order to make it more enticing for buyers. And as with all of these options, they simply make your home more pleasurable for YOU while you are still living there. Let's jump in. (And Happy New Year!)

The survey was done by Porch.com and they picked the brains of 980 recent home shoppers. One of the more interesting notes I found was that these buyers were willing to pay between $2,500 and $4,500 more for a home that has the features noted below. That's amazing news for those of us itching to do some projects this winter! It basically means that if you are planning to sell in the coming months, you should feel pretty confident that tackling any of these projects will likely pay off (if you watch your budget!).

The one feature that scored at the top of the list for Baby Boomers, Generation Xers and Millennials was the back porch or deck. Just last night while watching a skateboarding movie (Yes, I still skate at 49. Go Me!) I heard myself saying "Wow, check out that back deck!". I think at that point I realized I am fully an adult now. Other experts have chimed in noting that homeowners are increasingly willing to sacrifice the actual size of their home if the trade-off means they get more usable outdoor space. I couldn't agree more. We have noted in the past about the value of outdoor living spaces and this reaffirms those comments.

The next item on the list, with 30.8% of respondents in agreement, is a newly renovated kitchen. For this one women were twice as likely to score this one at the top of the list. For me, I "need" a large kitchen with room to move around. I also want soft-close drawers, a fridge with the freezer on the bottom and a gas burner stovetop. Perhaps I buck the trend a bit, but a nice kitchen is pretty high on my list of "must haves". And just like the note in the second paragraph, I am more than happy to pay a little extra to not have to deal with that remodeling project after I move in. I'll happily pay a bit more to have it ready to bake cookies when I sign the papers!

Hardwood flooring was next on the list and this was no real surprise. I'm telling you right now, if you are thinking of selling anytime soon, stop what you are doing (well, finish this awesome article first.) and start planning how you are going to rip up that carpet or (gasp!) linoleum and put down some quality flooring. It is essentially the first thing the buyers will notice once they walk in your home and it will have a big impact on their overall impression of the home. The one downside to this is depending on the size of the area you have to replace, this can get a bit costly.

I'm not a flooring expert by any means so talk to a smarty-pants that can give you some good advice. The one thing I will note is do not try and get away with the cheap "fake-wood" flooring materials that are out there. At the very least go with (what I believe is called) "engineered flooring" which has a layer of real wood at the surface. This provides a far superior look and feel as well as giving you the option of sanding and refinishing any damaged spots that occur. I put this in my house across the entire first floor (and installed it myself with some help from a friend). It is just as easy to put down as the cheap stuff, but will last longer, look better and make the buyers love your home even more.

Some of the other top features were an open floor plan, finished basement, renovated bathrooms and a certain level of energy efficiency. It seems that some things truly never go out of style. "Trends certainly seem to come and go, but high quality work and products as well as functional upgrades have stood the test of time," notes Badger Peabody & Smith Realty (formerly Badger Realty) agent, Linda Walker. "If you stick to the basics and don't over-personalize your renovations, you will almost always come out on top," she continued.

I've always liked the winter months for renovations and upgrades. Sure, it can be a little messy (and smelly) since you can't easily open up and air out. But the ability to work indoors on a project and not sacrifice a perfect, summer, weekend day for bike riding is a win-win in my book. You can always call in sick to work if we get a powder day! I'll see you at the home improvement store!

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