How to Cool a Room Without AC

Want summer comfort but hate the AC? Follow these tips on how to keep your house cool without frosty air conditioning.

Dog sitting in front of fan keeping cool
Image: Melanie DeFazio/Stocksy

These tips will help you cool a house without AC, which will save energy (and avoid AC wars with your family).

How to Cool a Room Without AC

When sunlight enters your house, it turns into heat. You’ll keep your house cooler if you reduce solar heat gain by keeping sunlight out.

Close the drapes: Line them with light-colored fabric that reflects the sun, and close them during the hottest part of the day. Let them pillow onto the floor to block air movement.

Add awnings: Install them on south- and west-facing windows to reduce solar heat gain by up to 77%, says the U.S. Department of Energy. Make your own by tacking up sheets outside your windows and draping the ends over a railing or lawn chair.

Install shutters: Interior and exterior shutters not only reduce heat gain and loss, but they also add security and protect against bad weather. Interior shutters with adjustable slats let you control how much sun you let in.

Apply high-reflectivity window film: Install energy-saving window films on east- and west-facing windows, which will keep you cool in summer, but let in warming sun in the winter. Mirror-like films are more effective than colored transparent films.

Open Those Windows

Be sure to open windows when the outside temperature is lower than the inside. Cool air helps lower the temps of everything — walls, floors, furniture — that will absorb heat as temps rise, helping inside air say cooler longer.

To create cross-ventilation, open windows on opposite sides of the house. Good ventilation helps reduce VOCs and prevents mold.

Turn Up Fans

Portable fans: At night, place fans in open windows to move cool air. In the day, put fans where you feel their cooling breezes (moving air evaporates perspiration and lowers your body temperature). To get extra cool, place glasses or bowls of ice water in front of fans, which will chill the moving air.

Ceiling fans: For maximum cooling effect, make sure ceiling fans spin in the direction that pushes air down, rather than sucks it up. Be sure to turn off fans when you’re not in the room, because fan motors give off heat, too.

Whole house fans: A whole-house fan ($1,000 to $1,600, including installation) exhausts hot inside air out through roof vents. Make sure your windows are open when you run a whole-house fan.https://html5-player.libsyn.com/embed/episode/id/17234180/height/90/theme/custom/thumbnail/yes/direction/forward/render-playlist/no/custom-color/000000/

Power Down Appliances

You’ll save money and reduce heat output by turning off appliances you’re not using, particularly your computer and television. Powering down multiple appliances is easier if you connect them to the same power strip.

Don’t use heat- and steam-generating appliances — ranges, ovens, washers, dryers — during the hottest part of the day. In fact, take advantage of the heat by drying clothes outside on a line.

Plant Trees and Vines

These green house-coolers shade your home’s exterior and keep sunlight out of windows. Plant them by west-facing walls, where the sun is strongest.

Deciduous trees, which leaf out in spring and drop leaves in fall, are best because they provide shade in summer, then let in sun when temperatures drop in autumn. Select trees that are native to your area, which have a better chance of surviving. When planting, determine the height, canopy width, and root spread of the mature tree and plant accordingly.

Climbing vines, such as ivy and Virginia creeper, also are good outside insulators. To prevent vine rootlets or tendrils from compromising your siding, grow them on trellises or wires about 6 inches away from the house.

Speaking of shade, here are smart, inexpensive ideas for shading your patio.

Want more tips for staying cool this summer? Substitute CFL and LED bulbs for hotter incandescent lights.

Also, try insulating your garage door to prevent heat buildup.

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

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17 Things to Never, Ever, EVER Do to Your House

Keep the vintage wallpaper, but upgrade that time- and money-draining retro thermostat to programmable.

Vintage wallpaper with outdated thermostat in a home
Image: T.S. Berry, photo

What may seem like a good idea, often isn’t. 

Here are 17 common mistakes new homeowners often make.

#1 Get Rid of Your Only Tub

A white cast iron tub in a white bathroom
Image: Realproimages.com

If resale value is important to you, don’t get rid of your only bathtub no matter how dreamy that walk-in shower looks.

It will make it harder to sell when the time comes. You’ll flat-out lose buyers who love a good soak or need a tub to bathe little ones (both human and four-legged).

#2 Leave Cabinet Doors on While Painting

Painting your kitchen cabinets pays off big at resale — it’s a small investment for a big “wow.” But the job’s time-consuming, so it’s tempting leave the doors on.

RESIST. At all costs.

Because no matter how hard you try, it’s not going to look good. Even the pros don’t do it. That should tell you something.

#3 Put Starchy Food Down the Disposal

Today’s garbage disposals can handle more challenging foods than earlier models, but starchy comestibles like potatoes, rice, and oatmeal still stump them.

Fun fact: Every Halloween, plumbers see an increase in calls because people are dumping pumpkin guts into the disposal.

Starchy foods clump when they hit water, clogging disposals and pipes. Instead, put them in the garbage can or, even better, your compost pile.

#4 Plant a Tree Close to Your House

Large tree planted too close to a house
Image: Blend/Offset

That young sapling just a few feet from your door seems so harmless. Until it grows up.

In addition to the risk of falling limbs, tree roots from mature trees can weaken your home’s foundation and clog plumbing and sewer pipes.

Plant medium and large trees at least 30 to 50 feet from the house. Put small trees (30 feet tall or less) at least eight, preferably 10, feet away.

#5 Flush “Flushable” Wipes

Sewer systems are facing a growing menace: flushable wipes. Despite the name, most don’t disintegrate, even after 10 minutes (compared to a few seconds for toilet paper).

Until a truly flushable wipe exists, don’t flush them — or anything non-organic, for that matter. Stick with good ol’ TP instead.

#6 Cover Wallpaper with Water-based Paint

You don’t have to remove that dated wallpaper – simply paint over it. Just don’t do it with water-based paint. It can reactivate wallpaper glue and cause the paper to peel. Instead, use oil-based primer, let it dry completely, and then apply latex paint over it. Oil-based primer has long been the industry standard and works well with oil and latex paints.

#7 Paint Exterior Brick

Painted brick on a home exterior
Image: Vera Lair/Stocksy United

Brick needs to breathe. Paint chokes it.

Paint can destroy the brick and mortar and even cause the foundation to crumble. Talk about a hidden cost!

If you’re itching for a new exterior look, try new shutters, paint the front door, or update your landscaping. Those moves can scratch your itch and boost your curb appeal. If you just can’t live with your brick color, try brick stain, which bonds with the brick, allowing it to breathe.

#8 Skip the Last Mow Before Winter

Tempting as it is to skip that last mow before winter, leaving the lawn too tall in cold months gives mice and other rodents good cover from predators, like hawks. Which means they’ve got safe passage to work their way into your warm and cozy home for the winter. Plus, keeping grass short keeps it healthier.

#9 Let Ceiling Fans Run Forever

Ceiling fans don’t decrease the temperature in a room; they increase how quickly your sweat evaporates, making you feel cooler.

Since it’s only beneficial to run ceiling fans when people are in the rooms to enjoy their breeze, save money by turning them off when you’re out.

#10 Tear Out Original Architectural Features

Historic home with stained glass window
Image: GreenRose Fine Homes, Glen Ridge, NJ

Custom millwork, tin ceiling tiles, and mid-century modern brick give your home its character, so keep them if you’re remodeling (assuming they’re not in awful condition). Buyers appreciate these one-of-a-kind details, and preserving them sets your home apart. They can put your house at the top of house-hunters’ lists when it comes time to sell.

#11 Change Your Mailbox Without Checking with Your HOA

Or make any other change to your home’s exterior, such as replace your front steps, add shutters, etc. Homeowners associations work to keep neighborhood elements maintained and consistent in an effort to protect everyone’s home value.

That often includes seemingly small details, so let your HOA know of your upgrade plans. Otherwise, you could risk a citation or fine. Or worse, be told to undo it.

#12 Leave Hoses Connected in Winter

When you retire your lawnmower each fall, disconnect and store hoses, too. Leaving them attached during cold weather can trap water in the pipes, causing them (and possibly the faucets) to freeze. BTW, it also ruins the hose.

#13 Keep an Old-Fashioned Thermostat

Vintage wallpaper with outdated thermostat in a home
Image: T.S. Berry, photo

Maintaining a cozy home temp while you’re at work or sleeping wastes money and energy. If your house came with a non-programmable thermostat, you’ll have to manually change it multiple times a day to avoid all that waste. (Like you need another task on the way out the door.)

Install a programmable thermostat, stat. One in the $150 range saves a typical household $131-$145 annually, so it’s practically free.

#14 Put a Brick in Your Toilet

To decrease water use and save money, many people put bricks in their older, high-water-use toilets. But bricks crumble in water and can damage or clog pipes.

Replace the toilet ($350 or less) or fill a half-gallon milk jug with sand and drop it in the tank instead (saving about half a gallon per flush).

#15 Water Grass at Night

It may seem smart to water in the evening – especially if you have a sprinkler system, because electrical rates are lower. But without sun to evaporate it, water is more likely to cling to grass at night, promoting fungus. Instead, water in the morning when the air is cool, the sun is arriving, and there’s less wind than midday.

#16 Clean Windows on a Sunny Day

Doesn’t a warm, sunny day seem like the perfect time to wash windows? Counter-intuitively, it’s the worst because the sun dries windows too quickly and causes smears. Instead, save this chore for a cloudy day.

#17 Pour Bleach or Drain Cleaner Down Pipes

Bleach seems like a great agent for keeping pipes unclogged and smelling fresh — and drain cleaner is literally for pipes, right?

Unfortunately, bleach can react with substances in your pipes and cause more clogs than it prevents. Even drain cleaner is rough on pipes — and both are environmentally awful. (Plus, as little as a teaspoon of drain cleaner can destroy a septic field.)

Instead, use a pipe snake (also known as an auger) to keep pipes running smoothly.

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

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Understanding Real Estate Representation

Whether you’re buying or selling, it’s important to choose representation that meets your needs in the transaction.

You have choices when selecting representation in a real estate transaction. Here are five tips for understanding which type of legal relationship with a real estate professional, called an agency relationship, will best protect you when you buy or sell a home.

1. Buyer’s Agency

When you’re buying a home, you can hire an agent who represents only you, called an exclusive buyer’s representative or agent. A buyer’s agent works in your best interest and owes you a fiduciary duty. You can pay your buyer’s agent yourself, or ask the seller, or the seller’s agent, to pay your agent a share of their sales commission.

If you’re selling your home and hiring an agent to list it exclusively, you’ve hired a selling representative–an agent who owes fiduciary duties to you. Typically, you pay a selling agent a commission at closing. Selling agents usually offer or agree to pay a portion of their sales commission to the buyer’s agent. If your seller’s agent brings in a buyer, your agent keeps the entire commission.

2. Subagency

When you purchase a home, the agent you can opt to work with may not be your agent at all, but instead may be a subagent of the seller. In general, a subagent represents and acts in the best interest of the sellers and sellers’ agent.

If your agent is acting as a subagent, you can expect to be treated honestly, but the subagent owes loyalty to the sellers and their agent and can’t put your interests above those of the sellers. In a few states, agents aren’t permitted to act as subagents.

Never tell a subagent anything you don’t want the sellers to know. Maybe you offered $150,000 for a home but are willing to go up to $160,000. That’s the type of information subagents would be required to pass on to their clients, the sellers.

3. Disclosed Dual Agency

In many states, agents and companies can represent both parties in a home sale as long as that relationship is fully disclosed. It’s called disclosed dual agency. Because dual agents represent both parties, they can’t be protective of and loyal to only you. Dual agents don’t owe all the traditional fiduciary duties to clients. Instead, they owe limited fiduciary duties to each party.

Why would you agree to dual agency? Suppose you want to buy a house that’s listed for sale by the same real estate brokerage where your buyer’s agent works. In that case, the real estate brokerage would be representing both you and the seller and you’d both have to agree to that.

Because there’s a potential for conflicts of interest with dual agency, all parties must give their informed consent. In many states, that consent must be in writing.

4. Designated Agency

A form of disclosed dual agency, “designated agency” allows two different agents within a single firm to represent the buyer and seller in the same transaction. To avoid conflicts that can arise with dual agency, some managing brokers designate or appoint agents in their company to represent only sellers, or only buyers. But that isn’t required for designated agency. A designated, or appointed, agent will give you full representation and represent your best interests.

5. Nonagency Relationship

In some states, you can choose not to be represented by an agent. That’s referred to as nonagency or working with a transaction broker or facilitator. In general, in nonagency representation, the real estate professional you work with owes you fewer duties than a traditional agency relationship. And those duties vary from state to state. Ask the person you’re working with to explain what he or she will and won’t do for you.

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

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Why You Probably Won’t Avoid Seller’s Remorse (But That’s Ok!)

Thinking of selling your home and worried you’ll regret it? Here’s how to cope.

Illustration of a women holding binoculars with tears
Image: Henn Kim/Offset

Selling your house can be scary: It’s been your home, where you’ve lived and made memories. Chances are good it’s your most important asset and your biggest investment so far. Wrestling with the emotional heft of putting your home on the market is a difficult byproduct of real estate — but once a closing date has been set, the hard work is done. Right?

Actually, it’s not uncommon for sellers to feel pangs of regret when a buyer gets serious. If you’re feeling remorse for your soon-to-be-former home, don’t panic: You’re far from alone.

“When you’re selling a house, you’re not selling an object,” says Bill Primavera, a REALTOR® in Westchester County, N.Y., and “The Home Guru” blogger. “A house provides shelter and is probably the biggest thing we ever acquire, so it has a bigger impact on our life.”

The Origins of Seller’s Remorse

Moving is one of life’s biggest stressors. According to Daryl Cioffi, a Rhode Island counselor and co-owner of Polaris Counseling & Consulting, it’s one of the biggest instigators for depression.

“There’s a lot of latent stuff that happens when change occurs,” Cioffi says. Are you feeling insecure? Are you wondering if you made the right decision? Those feelings are normal reactions to change — but when they get tangled up with the sale of your biggest investment, they can be downright terrifying.

Do the Emotional Work Beforehand

Doing the emotional work before it’s time to sell is the best way to avoid regret. 

“Look at the flaws of what makes it not the perfect home for you,” Cioffi says. Is it just too small for your family? Does your Great Dane need a bigger backyard? Ask yourself, “How can I close this chapter?”

That doesn’t mean you have to develop negative feelings toward your current home. You’re just trying to remind yourself of why you decided to move on. 

“Begin the detachment process by saying: ‘This works for me now, but it won’t work for me forever,'” Cioffi says. 

Once you’ve processed your reasons for selling the home, give yourself space to grieve the house you’ve loved and the memories you’ve made inside its walls. It’s OK to be sad you’ll never step inside your child’s first bedroom again; conversely, that’s not a reason to stay in a home forever. You can even have fun with your grief. Why not acknowledge your feelings by throwing a goodbye party for your house?

Focus On the Future

Working through your feelings early will make the selling process smoother, but even if you spent time grieving before putting your home on the market, it’s still normal to feel some pangs of sadness during closing. While it’s easy to tell yourself you’re overreacting, getting past remorse isn’t a simple process.

How can you do it? Say goodbye to your old home and prepare yourself for what’s next. If you’re still feeling remorse after the sale has gone through, don’t overthink it: Even if you did make the wrong decision — and chances are good you didn’t — it doesn’t matter. The deed is, quite literally, done. 

The next step is distraction. If you’ve already moved into your new home, throw yourself into fixing it up. Redo the shelving in the kitchen. Start a garden. Primavera recommends taking your mind off of homes completely by picking up a new hobby or exploring your new neighborhood to find fun activities, like yoga or pottery classes. 

“Keep your mind focused on what’s ahead,” says Cioffi. “The fact is, it’s done. Now what? Look forward and focus on how you can make this new place something to be excited about.”

If you’re still having problems adjusting to your new life, your old home might just be a stand-in for bigger problems: Perhaps a depression worsened by moving, or it has triggered anxiety about your life in general. A long-term struggle to resolve your grief indicates you should speak with a professional counselor about your situation.

Cioffi says a good therapist will help you answer the questions, “What’s going on that you can’t let go?” and “What’s keeping you from moving forward?” 

No matter how deep your seller’s remorse may be, uncovering the reasons behind it and focusing on the future are the best ways to let go of the stress of leaving a former home behind. Give yourself time to get used to the change and focus on creating new memories. After all, the happy life you had in the home you sold was the reason you loved it so much. Someday, with a new set of memories made, you’ll love your new home just as deeply.

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

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How to Be Showing Savvy

Getting smart — about what to do, ask, and avoid — can move you ahead of the crowd.

Asking the right questions at open houses
Image: HouseLogic

Editor’s Note: As restrictions related to COVID-19 continue to fluctuate, the National Association of REALTORS® is encouraging virtual home showings, regardless of whether in-person showings are allowed by states or local communities.

If you’re considering holding an open house, your agent will have an honest conversation with you about any concerns, including whether doing so would contradict current government recommendations or mandates. If after discussing these issues, you and your agent mutually agree to an open house, your agent will discuss necessary precautions to minimize exposure to and the spread of COVID-19.

Ah, the house showing — a chance to imagine yourself knocking out walls and doing gut rehabs on other people’s kitchens. That’s the stuff dreams are made of (or at least HGTV episodes).

In all seriousness, going to open houses and scheduled private showings is one of the most exciting parts of the home buying experience. Beyond the voyeuristic thrill, visiting homes allows you to assess aspects that are more difficult to see online.

These days, with virtual showings and tours, any staging or digital changes (such as different flooring) also have to be disclosed. Asking what has been altered will help if you miss a disclosure in small print.

Before you start touring homes, it can be helpful to first discuss your needs and wants with your partner (if you have one), do some online research, and talk with your agent and your lender. That way, you — and your agent — can take a targeted approach, which saves you time and can give you an edge over your buying competition.

So, before you start viewing, follow these tips to prepare. 

Know Which Houses Are “Open”

Health and safety protocols reign supreme these days, so agents may be avoiding open houses for now or conducting them virtually. But if you’re looking for open houses, here are some ways to find them:

  • Ask your agent. They will have details on specific properties and can keep you informed of open houses that fit your criteria.
  • Use listing websites. A number of property sites let you search active listings for upcoming open houses and tours. On realtor.com®, for instance, individual property listings will note an upcoming open house — along with a safety-and-health warning.
  • Scroll social media. On Instagram, for example, you can search the hashtag #openhouse, or similar tags for your city (#openhousedallas, for example), to discover open houses. Many real estate agents and brokerages post open house announcements on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter; find ones from your area and start following.
  • Drive around. Cruise through the neighborhoods you’re interested in. it’s a good way to get a sense of the area amenities — and look for open house signs. 

While you’re searching, jot down the location, time, and date for any open house that strikes your fancy. It will make it that much easier to plan times and routes for hitting as many homes as possible.

Plan Your Time (and Say Hi to the Neighbors)

For visitors’ health and safety, there will likely be limits on how many people can be in the house at one time. Ask your agent in advance about ground rules and timing.

If a house seems like a mach, take a walk around the neighborhood. Strike up conversations with the neighbors who happen to be out to get an insider’s perspective on what life in that community is really like — families, singles, the vibe on the block, and whether the homeowners or condo association (if there is one) is easy to work with.

Ask Lots of Questions, But Avoid TMI

To make the most of your showings, have a list of questions in mind for the listing agent — and take notes while you’re there, so you can keep track of what you learned. Chatting up the host can help you learn information you wouldn’t get from just a tour.

At the same time, remember this: Your interaction with the host could be the beginning of negotiations with them. If you end up making an offer, you’ll use the information you’ve gathered to inform your bid. (They’ll also remember that you were an engaged yet courteous person, which can’t hurt your cause.) 

Equally important: Oversharing could hurt your negotiating power. 

Be careful about what information you share with the agent hosting the event. This person works for the seller — not you. The host can and will use stats they’ve gleaned about you to counter, reject, or accept an offer. 

Keeping that in mind, here are eight questions you can ask a host to help determine whether a house is a good fit for you:

Expect a Seller Disclosure Form

Sellers must disclose known defects. The typical disclosure form will ask them to report on the foundation, appliances, etc. Disclosure requirements vary by state. To find yours, search “[your state] seller disclosure laws” online.

  1. Have you received any offers? If there are already bids on the table, you’ll have to move quickly if you want to make an offer. Keep in mind: Listing agents can’t disclose the amount of any other offers, though — only whether they exist.
  2. When does the seller want to move? Find out the seller’s timeline. If the seller is in a hurry (say, for a new job), they may be willing to accept an offer that’s below list price.
  3. When is the seller looking to close? Price isn’t the only factor for many home sellers. One way to strengthen your offer is to propose a settlement date that’s ideal for them. For example, a 30- to 45-day closing is standard in many markets, but the seller may want more time if they haven’t purchased their next home yet.
  4. Is the seller flexible on price? Most listing agents won’t tip their hand when you ask this question, but there’s always a chance the agent says “yes.” And, in some instances, the seller has authorized their agent to tell interested buyers that the price is negotiable. In any case, you might as well ask. (It’s kind of like googling for a coupon code when you buy something online.)
  5. How many days has the home been on the market? You can find this information on the internet, but the seller’s agent can give you context, especially if the house has been sitting on the market for a while. Maybe the home was under contract but the buyer’s financing fell through, or the seller overshot the listing price and had to make a price reduction? Knowing the backstory can only help you.
  6. Has the price changed? You can see if there’s been a price reduction online, but talking to the listing agent is the only way to find out why the seller dropped the price.
  7. Are there any issues? Have there been any renovations or recent repairs made to the home? Some upgrades, like new kitchen appliances, are easy to spot, but some are harder to identify. Specifically ask about the roof, appliances, and HVAC system because they can be expensive to repair or replace. BTW, repairs like a leaky faucet, aren’t  things that need to be disclosed.
  8. What are the average utility costs? Many buyers don’t factor utility bills into their monthly housing expenses, and these costs can add up — particularly in drafty older homes. Ask the listing agent what a typical monthly utility bill is during the summer and during the winter, since heating and cooling costs can fluctuate seasonally. Be prepared for higher utility bills if you’re moving from an apartment to a single-family home.

Now that you’ve got your answers, there’s one last thing to do: Thank the host before you go. You never know — you could be seeing them again at the negotiating table.

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

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7 Smart Strategies for Kitchen Remodeling

Follow these seven strategies to get the most financial gain on your kitchen remodel.

Gray kitchen counters against colorful floral wallpaper
Image: Leann Fiore

Homeowners spend more money on kitchen remodeling than on any other home improvement project, and with good reason. Kitchens are the hub of home life and a source of pride.

You can recover a significant portion of kitchen remodeling costs through the value the project brings to your home. A complete kitchen renovation with a national median cost of $80,000 recovers about 75% of the initial project cost at the home’s resale, according to the “Remodeling Impact Report” from the National Association of REALTORS®.

The project gets a big thumbs-up from homeowners, too. Those polled in the report gave their new kitchen a “joy score” of 9.8 (out of 10!), a rating based on those who said they were happy or satisfied with their remodeling.

To help ensure you get a good return on your kitchen remodel, follow these seven tips:

#1 Plan, Plan, Plan

Planning your kitchen remodel should take more time than the actual construction. If you plan well, you can minimize the amount of time you’re inconvenienced by construction mayhem. Plus, you’re more likely to stay on budget.

How much time should you spend planning? The National Kitchen and Bath Association recommends at least six months. That way, you won’t be tempted to change your mind during construction and create change orders, which will inflate construction costs and hurt your return on investment. 

Some tips on planning:

Study your existing kitchen: How wide is the doorway into your kitchen? Many homeowners make the mistake of buying an extra-large fridge only to find they can’t get it in the doorway. To avoid mistakes like this, create a drawing of your kitchen with measurements for doorways, walkways, counters, etc. And don’t forget height.

Think about traffic patterns: Work aisles should be a minimum of 42 inches wide and at least 48 inches wide for households with multiple cooks.

Design with ergonomics in mind: Drawers or pull-out shelves in base cabinets, counter heights that can adjust up or down, and a wall oven instead of a range are all features that make a kitchen accessible to everyone — and a pleasure to work in.

Plan for the unforeseeable: Even if you’ve planned down to the number of nails you’ll need in your remodel, expect the unexpected. Build in a little leeway for completing the remodel. Want it done by Thanksgiving? Then plan to be done before Halloween.

Choose all your fixtures and materials before starting: Contractors will be able to make more-accurate bids, and you’ll lessen the risk of delays because of back orders.

Don’t be afraid to seek help: A professional designer can simplify your kitchen remodel. Pros help make style decisions, foresee potential problems, and schedule contractors. Most kitchen designers charge $65 to $250 per hour, or 10% to 20% of your total project cost,

#2 Get Real About Appliances

Stainless steel stove with hood between dark blue cabinets
Image: Cascadia Design Build

It’s easy to get carried away when planning your new kitchen. A six-burner commercial-grade range and luxury-brand refrigerator may make eye-catching centerpieces, but they may not fit your cooking needs or lifestyle.

Appliances are essentially tools used to cook and store food. Your kitchen remodel shouldn’t be about the tools, but the design and functionality of the entire kitchen. So, unless you’re an exceptional cook who cooks a lot, concentrate your dollars on long-term features that add value, such as cabinets and flooring. 

Then choose appliances made by trusted brands that have high marks in online reviews and “Consumer Reports.”

#3 Keep the Same Footprint

Nothing will drive up the cost of a remodel faster than changing the location of plumbing pipes and electrical outlets, and knocking down walls. This is usually where unforeseen problems occur.

So, if possible, keep appliances, water fixtures, and walls in the same location. Not only will you save on demolition and reconstruction costs, you’ll cut the amount of dust and debris your project generates.

#4 Don’t Underestimate the Power of Lighting

Orange tile backsplash in white kitchen with stainless sink
Image: Chateau Kitchens & Home Remodeling

Lighting can make a world of difference in a kitchen. It can make it look larger and brighter. And it will help you work safely and efficiently. You should have two different types of lighting in your kitchen: 

  1. Task lighting: Under-cabinet lighting should be on your must list, since cabinets create such dark work areas. And since you’re remodeling, there won’t be a better time to hard-wire your lights. Plan for at least two fixtures per task area to eliminate shadows. Pendant lights are good for islands and other counters without low cabinets. Recessed lights and track lights work well over sinks and general prep areas with no cabinets overhead.
  2. Ambient lighting: Flush-mounted ceiling fixtures, wall sconces, and track lights create overall lighting in your kitchen. Include dimmer switches to control intensity and mood.

#5 Be Quality-Conscious

Kitchen with multi-color hex tile and modern accents
Image: Acquavella Design

Functionality and durability should be top priorities during kitchen remodeling. Resist low-quality bargains and choose products that combine low maintenance with long warranty periods. Solid-surface countertops, for instance, may cost a little more, but with the proper care, they’ll look great for a long time.

And if you’re planning on moving soon, products with substantial warranties are a selling advantage.

#6 Add Storage, Not Space

Gas-pipe shelving with vintage china in white kitchen
Image: Annette F.

Storage will never go out of style, but if you’re sticking with the same footprint, here are a couple of ideas to add more: 

Install cabinets that reach the ceiling: They may cost more — and you might need a stepladder — but you’ll gain valuable storage space for Christmas platters and other once-a-year items. In addition, you won’t have to dust cabinet tops.

Hang it up: Mount small shelving units on unused wall areas and inside cabinet doors, hang stock pots and large skillets on a ceiling-mounted rack, and add hooks to the backs of closet doors for aprons, brooms, and mops.

#7 Communicate Clearly With Your Remodelers

Establishing a good rapport with your project manager or construction team is essential for staying on budget. To keep the sweetness in your project, make sure to:

Drop by the project during work hours: Your presence broadcasts your commitment to quality.

Establish a communication routine: Hang a message board on site where you and the project manager can leave daily communiqués. Give your email address and cell phone number to subs and team leaders.

Set house rules: Be clear about smoking, boombox noise levels, available bathrooms, and appropriate parking.

Be kind: Offer refreshments (a little hospitality can go a long way), give praise when warranted, and resist pestering them with conversation, jokes, and questions when they’re working. They’ll work better when refreshed and allowed to concentrate on work.

Remodel Tip

Contractors will often set up a temporary kitchen or loan you a two-burner countertop as part of their remodeling services.

And a final tip to help keep your frustration level down while the construction is going on: plan for a temporary kitchen. along with the plans for your new kitchen. You’ll be happier (and less frustrated) if you’ve got a way to have dinner while construction is ongoing.

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

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4 Things Smart Homeowners Always Know to Do in May

Like buying a fridge or mattress when the savings are the biggest.

best-time-to-buy-refrigerator-alarm-clock-illustration
Image: CSA Images/Getty

The lazy days of summer officially kick off Memorial Day weekend.

Giving your home a little extra love this month can save you time and money.

#1 Chill With a New Fridge

Refrigerator alphabet magnets on new fridge
Image: Liz Foreman for HouseLogic

Is yours leaking water, cooling less efficiently, or just too limited on storage space? May is the best month to buy a new refrigerator.

New models hit the sales floor in the summer, and stores need to clear out the old ones to make room. Need a stove instead? Best to wait until fall for other kitchen appliances. That’s when they go on sale.

#2 Punch Up Exterior Paint

Colorful green paint on home
Image: ItchySan/Getty

Winter’s freezing temps and wet weather can be tough on your home’s exterior, making it look a little drab come May. But that’s more of an opportunity than a problem. Because the weather in May (in most regions) offers the optimum temperature range for painting your home’s exterior (50-80 degrees Fahrenheit).

While you’re repainting, also repair damage to trim and siding. You’ll not only have a satisfying sense of accomplishment, you’ll boost your curb appeal.

#3 Get a Deal on a Mattress

Cat lounging on a new mattress
Image: Stephanie Jackson/Offset

The older your mattress is, the more dust and mites you’ve got hiding in there. Eeewww. Ditch that yucky mattress for a new one in May when the industry clears the decks to make room for new merchandise.

You can find high-quality ones at deep discounts, saving hundreds of dollars.

#4 Deal With Overflowing Closets

Overflow clothing storage
Image: Erica Gannett

Experts estimate we wear only 20% of our wardrobe. So why let that useless 80% take up so much storage space in your home?

Right-size your wardrobe now for tidier closets and faster dressing. Put the sentimental clothes you can’t bear to part with (your college sweatshirt that doesn’t fit anymore) and clothes you rarely use but still need (a suit, formalwear) in storage bins. Under-the-bed bins work.

Look for deals on storage items at Memorial Day sales.

“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 Things Perfect Outdoor Entertaining Spaces Do (and Yours Can, Too)

These 5 timeless ideas work because they’re both fun and functional.

Outdoor entertaining spaces aren’t always equal when it comes to home value (think about that house with the falling-down above-ground pool with no curb appeal at all). Homes that get them right, though, have patios and backyards that blur inside and outside spaces.

And the best thing: these outdoor entertaining space ideas have been working for decades — and adapt to most any house today. Here are five reasons why they work (and why you may want to add to your home):

#1 They Function Like Indoor Spaces

Orange striped carpet and wood table in outdoor living area
Image: KM Builders

The more outdoor entertaining spaces mimic their indoor equivalents, the more functional they are. And you’ll get more than sunshine and memories: According to the “Remodeling Impact Report” from the National Association of REALTORS®, you’ll recoup 70% of your costs on resale after building a new patio. An outdoor kitchen gets 71%.

A couple of small ways to get more functionality in your outdoor space:

  • Add built-in benches for seating.
  • Hang a chandelier or pendant lights for functional lighting over a dining space.

#2 They Create Privacy Without Blocking Light

Back yard of ranch home with service window & privacy screen
Image: Jessop Constructions

Precast-concrete geometric blocks protect privacy without blocking light or air in outdoor entertaining spaces. Plus, they’re super affordable and durable.

Use them to screen a patio or carport, fence in your patio, or as a vertical element to make small yards feel larger. It’s a small project with big impact.

#3 They Find Clever Ways to Provide Shade

Outdoor entertaining area with sliding door and kitchen
Image: Jeff Troyer, AIA

Low, sloping roofs help transition from indoors to outdoors by casting shade and protection from the elements.

If extending the roof isn’t an option for your home or budget (fair), you can still make some shade. For example:

  • Try a pergola planted with vines.
  • Or a retractable awning, which keeps the sun off when you want it to, and rolls back into place when you don’t.
  • Tons of affordable, ready-to-hang shades and sails are available, too.

#4 They Use Lots of Windows — and Big Ones

Glass wall with view of courtyard atrium with chairs
Image: Urbanism Designs

Large windows help merge inside and outside living. Even if you don’t have the ultimate in window bling like this atrium, you can increase the natural light in your home. Consider:

  • Trading smaller windows and doors for big accordion, pocket, sliding or swinging doors, or replacing a plain wall with a wall of glass doors.
  • Adding a corner window, to create the effect of an atrium or courtyard.

#5 They Take ‘Entertaining Outdoors’ Seriously

Back yard shuffle board beside fire pit with chairs
Image: Tumbled Bluestone | Stonewood Products

Though a sport court isn’t exactly a high ROI project, being the fun house on the block certainly does a little something to a home’s appeal.

And, after all, an outdoor entertaining space should do just that: entertain. Here’s to a fun summer season!

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

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Is a Calmer Market Coming?

The housing market is showing some early signs of normalizing. Contract signings dropped in March, the fifth consecutive month that pending home sales have fallen, the National Association of REALTORS® reported Wednesday. The Northeast was the only major region of the U.S. that saw a monthly increase in contract signings. All other regions dropped.

“The falling contract signings are implying that multiple offers will soon dissipate and be replaced by much calmer and normalized market conditions,” says Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist. “As it stands, the sudden large gains in mortgage rates have reduced the pool of eligible home buyers, and that has consequently lowered buying activity. The aspiration to purchase a home remains, but the financial capacity has become a major limiting factor.”

NAR’s Pending Home Sales Index, a forward-looking indicator of home sales based on contract signings, dropped 1.2% in March to a reading of 103.7. (An index of 100 is equal to the level of contract activity in 2001.) Overall, contract signings fell 8.2% year over year in March.

The drop comes at a time when inflation is running at a 40-year high and living costs are rising. (Read more: Inflation Edges Higher, Affecting Housing.) Yun expects inflation to average 8.2% in 2022. He predicts that it will start to moderate, however, to 5.5% in the second half of the year.

Home buyers are also facing higher borrowing costs. Yun predicts the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage to average 5.3% by the fourth quarter of this year. He expects rates to average 5.4% by 2023.

Higher mortgage rates and sustained price appreciation has led to a year-over-year increase of 31% in mortgage payments in March, according to NAR’s data.

“Overall existing-home sales this year look to be down 9% from the heated pace of last year,” Yun says. “Home prices are in no danger of decline on a nationwide basis, but the price gains will steadily decelerate such that the median home price in 2022 will likely be up 8% from last year.”

Rental costs are also surging higher. Monthly payments have soared, and Yun predicts more renters will explore homeownership as a result to the higher costs.

“Fast-rising rents will encourage renters to consider buying a home, though higher mortgage rates will present challenges,” Yun says. “Strong rent growth nonetheless will lead to a boom in multifamily housing starts, with more than 20% growth this year.”

A US map chart of pending home sales across the country as of March 2022

“Copyright National Association of REALTORS®. Reprinted with permission.”

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