Caramel Apple Cheese Ball



2 8-oz. blocks cream cheese, softened 1/4 c. caramel, plus more for topping
1 tbsp.lemon juice
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
kosher salt
1 c. shredded Cheddar
1 c. Granny Smith apple, finely chopped 2 c. pecans, toasted and chopped
RITZ Crackers, for serving


1. In a large bowl using a hand mixer, beat cream cheese with caramel, lemon juice, cinnamon, and a pinch of salt until combined. 2. Fold in cheddar and green apples. Transfer mixture to a sheet of plastic wrap and shape into a ball. Freeze until firm, 30 minutes. 3. To a plate, add pecans. Roll cheese ball in pecans, then transfer to a serving platter. Drizzle with more caramel and sprinkle with more salt. 4. Serve with crackers.

Are You Ready? Natural Disaster Preparedness


No matter where you live or what type of natural disasters are likely to strike your area, having an evacuation plan is essential to keeping your family safe. Do you know what to do or where to go in case of an earthquake, tornado, fire, hurricane, or flood? Some natural disasters may require you to shelter in place initially, but require you to quickly mobilize later. Putting together a plan now and familiarizing everyone in the house with it can help bring you peace of mind in case of emergency.

"Make a plan today. Your family may not be together if a disaster strikes, so it is important to know which types of disasters could affect your area," said, the official website of the Department of Homeland Security. "Know how you'll contact one another and reconnect if separated. Establish a family meeting place that's familiar and easy to find."

Family-specific details matter

Key to a successful evacuation plan is taking in all the tips and then adjusting them to the specific needs of your family. Where will you go, how will you get there, and what basic needs should be considered along the way are just a few questions to ask yourself. "Tailor your plans and supplies to your specific daily living needs and responsibilities," said "Discuss your needs and responsibilities and how people in the network can assist each other with communication, care of children, business, pets, or specific needs like the operation of durable medical equipment. Create your own personal network for specific areas where you need assistance."

FEMA's Family Emergency Communication Plan is a great document to fill out, print, and keep in a safe place, because it gets your plan on paper. Now, it's time to practice the plan as a family. This helps ensure that everyone knows what to do and doesn't have to think about it under stressful conditions.

Pack a "go" bag

Do you have an emergency bag packed for a "just in case" situation? Not many of us do. In case of a hurricane and subsequent flooding, there may be time to put some preparations in place, but natural disasters like fire and earthquakes may strike without any notice. Packing a "go" bag is a smart strategy for anyone who wants to be prepared.

FEMA's recommendations are extensive, including things like: One gallon of water per person per day for at least three days; at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food like granola bars; a battery-powered or hand crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio; extra batteries; a flashlight; and a first aid kit. In addition, you'll want any medications for family members, cash in case electricity fails and ATMs and credit card machines don't work, your important documents in a waterproof bag, and a mobile phone charger.

Zello is another must-have today. This app turns your phone into a walkie-talkie, so even if cell service is spotty, you can still communicate. In the wake of Hurricane Harvey, Zello wss "the most popular free app on both Android and iOS app stores," said USA Today. "Zello was among the key tools used by rescuers to help victims of Hurricane Harvey in Houston." 

Don't forget your animals

Scenes of animals being evacuated during Hurricane Harvey was heartbreaking but also heartwarming, as pet owners refused to leave their beloved dogs and cats behind and rescuers risked their own lives to pulls animals from flooded homes.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has some great tips you can use to make sure your animals stay safe along with the rest of your family in an emergency situation. If your pets don't have updated identification on their collars or have not been microchipped, now is the time to get that taken care of. Practicing getting your pet into a carrier and getting in and out of the car is also helpful. See more tips here.

Gas up ahead of time

If your mom always told you to make sure not to let your gas tank get too low, she was on to something. A Today Show report on safe evacuations noted that during Hurricane Rita in 2005, more than 100 people died while trying to evacuate because they ran out of gas and suffered from heat exhaustion. Even if you have advance warning of a coming natural disaster, like a hurricane, fill up your tank as soon as possible. Gas stations will and do run out of gas, leaving those who are trying to prepare at the last minute out of luck.

Fire preparation

Your escape plan maybe slightly different in the case of fire. The National Fire Protection Association has outlined a series of safety precaution steps including unblocking exits so they're always clear, finding two exits from each room, and checking to make sure street numbers are clearly displayed on the front of your house so that any emergency personnel can find you easily.

"Key to your family's safety is planning and practicing a home fire escape plan twice a year," they said. "Pull together everyone in your household and make a plan. Walk through your home and inspect all possible exits and escape routes. Households with children should consider drawing a floor plan of your home, marking two ways out of each room, including windows and doors. Also, mark the location of each smoke alarm."

Copyright © 2017 Realty Times. All Rights Reserved.

City Or Suburbs: Where Should You Buy A Home?


Getting ready to buy your first home? You're probably caught in that age-old dilemma of whether to buy in the city or move to the suburbs. There are plenty of reports out there that detail how millennials want to stay in the city to be where all the action is. Walkability isn't just a catchword; it's a life goal. And, the reports out there that detail how being within close proximity to a Starbucks, a Trader Joe's, and a Target can raise your home value only strengthen the argument for urban living. Of course, don't discount all those reports that show that millennials are moving to ‘burbs to buy homes.

"A recent report from the National Association of REALTORS® shows that, instead of settling down in urban areas, young homebuyers are increasingly scooping up properties in the suburbs," said smartasset. Conventional wisdom may say that's primarily an affordability issue, and that factor can't be ignored. However, there are several additional reasons why the suburbs are calling out to millennial buyers. And, on the flip side, there are those who can't even conceive of leaving the city for the ‘burbs, affordability notwithstanding.

So how do you know where to go? These are some of the key factors.

Being close to what you need

In a city, you can be close to bars, shops, restaurants, and everything else that makes the area so dynamic. Of course, the density can make it hard to find parking, limit the open space, and make it unappealing for young families who want to live among other young families. Millennials who have kids or who are thinking of having kids in the near future have to weigh the importance of being in what they consider an exciting location against the practicality of being in a more family-friendly area.


The schools may be better in the suburbs. "It should come as no surprise that urban districts tend to have lower graduation rates than suburban ones," said The Hechinger Report. The reason: "They often have more disadvantaged students and fewer resources."

While individual cities and districts continue to tackle this important issue, families move to the suburbs, where they'll likely pay higher taxes on their home to accommodate newer schools and expanded resources. Stay in the city, and you may have to pony up for private schools or seek out a charter to get a comparable education for your present (or future) kids.

Living Space

"The closer you get to a city center, the smaller the living spaces tend to be, even in Texas where things are bigger," said Square Cow Movers. "This could be doable for some single professionals or couples, but for families it can be an issue. The suburbs provide more space to spread out, which is part of the reason they are still so popular today."


"One thing to consider before heading to the suburbs is where you'll work," said smartasset. Do you currently work in the city? How long will your commute be, and are you sure you can live with it?

It's also important to think in terms of a big, unpleasant, "What if?" What if your job situation changes? What will the prospects be like in the area you are considering? Asking yourself how much time you are willing to spend in the car every day and taking a good look at how that translates to options in the area can help you key in on some areas and nix others.

Outdoor space

In some urban areas, parks give residents a respite from all the high rises and commercial spaces. However, living in the city often means having to make tradeoffs, and ample access to nature is one of them.


While crime rates and data vary depending on the specific location, overall, the suburbs have a reputation for being safer. Obviously if this is an issue for you, you'll do your due diligence to ensure the safety of your family. It's important to keep in mind, though, that transitional neighborhoods can provide a great value for money-conscious homebuyers - as long as you're willing to put up with some potentially unpleasant realities while the transition is under way.

This guide from Forbes can help you identify a neighborhood that's about to take a turn for the better and might be a good buy. Or, you can heed these tips from Property Brothers' Drew and Jonathan Scott. "This is when it's really important to work with a real estate agent that knows the area. Proximity to downtown, transit, shopping, amenities, and schools are really important," they said on POPSUGAR. "You can also go to the city planning department and find out any major developments that are going into the different communities. Also, drive through the neighborhoods that you are considering and look to see if there are a lot of recent sales. Trying to invest in emerging communities can be risky, so if you are new to real estate, then we suggest sticking to areas you are comfortable in."

Age of properties

If you want something newer, it may be harder to find in the city. Infill projects tend to be rarer, depending on the location, largely because of their cost. "Real estate is generally more expensive in infill locations than in outlying areas because land is relatively scarce, sites are closer to services and infrastructure, and zoning and the market often support uses that have higher revenue potential," said the EPA. "However, the assembly process itself involves additional costs." And then, of course, the higher cost has to be passed on to the buyer, which ties right back in to that affordability issue.

Copyright © 2017 Realty Times. All Rights Reserved.

DIY Weekend Updates


House giving you a little of the sad face? You don't have to overhaul the whole thing to make it feel fresh. Nor do you have to take out a new loan. With a little effort and a few bucks, you can breathe some new air into your home this weekend.

Redo your floors

Not everyone in every situation will be able to get new floors in a weekend. If you have a large space, have to rip tile up, or do a lot of measuring and cutting (but aren't skilled with math or power tools), it may take a little longer. But in many situations, changing out flooring is a relatively easy task that can totally change and update your space. Think: floating floors. They require no glue, literally snap together to "float" above your existing floors, and can in prefinished wood, laminate, and vinyl. You can get a step-by-step instructions and materials needed on This Old House.

Update your bathroom

Get new faucets, paint your cabinets, install new hardware, swap our your lights - they're all relatively easy tasks and inexpensive fixes that can have a huge effect on the way your bathroom looks. If you're not ready to rip out and replace your vanities or think about a new bath or shower at this point, get in there and do a few easy DIY tasks to give your space a mini overhaul that has maximum impact.

Beautify your backsplash

It is possible to do a backsplash by yourself in a couple of days, although it takes a little bit of diligence and patience to make sure you get everything installed right. Otherwise, you'll be looking at crooked lines and popping tiles for years to come. If you don't want to worry about that, there is a growing array of temporary tiles that go up in a cinch and look like the real thing.

Frame your windows

Hanging drapes is so easy that the most challenging part of the process will probably be choosing between the thousands of options out there. Take a good look at your room before heading out to the store so you have some sense of the color or pattern you're looking for. And don't forget to pre-measure. Nothing kills your redecorating buzz like having to return the drapes you just bought because they're too short.

Modernize your cabinets

Painting your cabinets is a big undertaking, and, as anyone who has tried will tell you, a complete pain in the butt. That doesn't mean you shouldn't try it if you're gung ho, but just know what you're up against. And understand it's also not a one-weekend job. If you just want to bring in a little shine and make older cabinets look fresh, start with new hardware. Get a cabinet hardware jig and installing the knobs and pulls will be a breeze.

Dress up your walls

Patterned walls continue to be popular, but you don't need permanent wallpaper to take advantage of this trend. There is an ever-increasing array of peel-and-stick options that go up easy (and come down just as simply). We also love painting tools like Rollerwall that simulate the look of wallpaper. Per the website, "You can apply a complete faux-wallpaper look in any room in just one hour."

Pretty up your patio

The end of summer is a great time to look at outdoor furniture and accessories because they tend to go on sale at or near the change of seasons. In many climates, you can still hang out in your backyard or on your front porch throughout the year, save for the harshest few winter months, so a new outdoor dining or living set is a great option now if what you currently have has had it. At the very least, bringing some color up to your front door with some new potted flowers (potted so you can protect them when it gets cold) can bring a smile every time you drive past your house.

Copyright © 2017 Realty Times. All Rights Reserved.

Are You Listening To Your House?


Ignore some of these signs and you may end up with major issues. We tell you which are normal and which are cause for concern

Your home is trying to tell you all sorts of things. The way it sounds; the way it smells. And there are plenty of visual cues to tip you off that something isn't right. "Everything is moving all the time, expanding and contracting at different rates, reacting to heat, rain and wind. A house is moving and breathing," says Tapley Dawson, a partner at The Home Doctors in Novato, California. In other words, a house is something you've got to take care of.

Dawson recommends that you do a good walk around the house every fall before the rainy season begins, checking for cracks, clogged gutters or anything that just doesn't look right. That way you can catch problems early.

If you own an older home, you should do a thorough check in the springtime as well, since those homes are prone to more damage. "You can't just live there blindly and assume it's going to be all right," Dawson says. "You have to participate and be active. The whole house needs love." 

The biggest enemy in a house is moisture. You want to keep it out, and nature is constantly trying to force it in. It's the cause of things like rotting wood, termites, cupping floorboards and, of course, mold and mildew, none of which you want in your house.

"If you think about the materials in a home - wood, carpet, tile - they're meant to be inside the building envelope. So most problems have to do with moisture or something getting into that envelope," Dawson says.

You see: Dark spots on the walls, ceiling or edge of carpet.

Cause: Darkness on the carpet around the edge of a room that won't vacuum up, or any dark spots you see on drywall mean too much moisture is getting in and mold or mildew is forming. You could have a leak somewhere, from the roof or from a window. Or you could just have a lot of moisture lingering around.

"We live in a damp world," says Dawson. If you have a north-facing wall without insulation, when warm, moist air from the inside hits that cool wall, moisture will form. "That's why you always want to run your fan when you cook and when you shower," he advises.

Who to call: A home repair specialist can help determine if there's a leak and where's it coming from. He or she can usually then make recommendations to call a roofer if needed, or a general contractor to replace severely damaged wood and other materials.

You see: Bubbling, flaking or cracking paint.

Cause: This means moisture is somewhere in the wall and should be addressed as soon as possible. Some latex-based paint will actually balloon out, says Dawson, which is a big red flag. (During a rainy day in Houston years ago, I had a 5-foot-wide bubble on my ceiling, slowly dripping. When I poked it with a screwdriver, it streamed water into a bucket for half an hour.) 

Trapped moisture can occur on ceilings, on walls, around windows and on trim and molding. "If you see it, it ain't going away," says Ralph Stow, a contractor at the Dallas Renovation Group. "It's there for a reason." Moisture is somehow penetrating from outside or even from a leaky pipe or A/C unit. The paint might be "alligator-ing or checkering below windows in the corners," Dawson says, which means there's a leak and water is getting into your stud bay. This can cause mold and wood rot.

Who to call: A home repair specialist can help determine the source of the leak and how to fix it. A plumber, general contractor, roofer, mold removal specialist or water damage professional may be needed also, depending on the problem.

You see: Dripping from a small pipe outside a main living window.

Cause: In places like Texas, where air conditioners crank almost all year long, a lot of condensation occurs. Most A/C units have a galvanized metal pan to catch condensation should the primary drain line get clogged. Many contractors, including Stow, will run a secondary drain line that comes down from the roof over a main living space window, so homeowners can see the dripping.

Dripping means there's already a clog and the system is using its emergency backup. "If that emergency line gets clogged, the pan will overflow, and you'll have a major problem," says Stow. In fact, if you see a lot of moisture anywhere around a furnace or A/C unit, there's potential for water damage.

Who to call: An HVAC specialist.

You see: A light or popped-out button on your socket, and an appliance has stopped working.

Cause: Oftentimes this is due to a ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI), which helps prevent electric shock from compromised wiring in electrical appliances. Basically, when electricity is going where it's not supposed to go, the fault circuit pops, shutting off electricity through the socket. All you need to do is push the reset button. If it doesn't reset, then there's something wrong with the outlet. Keep in mind that many GFCIs can control multiple outlets. So if an outlet stops working, look for one with a GFCI nearby and hit the reset button.

Who to call: If resetting doesn't bring power back to the socket, call an electrician.

You see: Flickering lights.

Cause: This is not the same as when a light dims while you're vacuuming or using a hair dryer, which is normal. If you see a pronounced dimming and brightening, make sure the bulb is screwed in all the way. If that doesn't work, it can also be a bad socket, which can be a potential fire hazard.

Who to call: An electrician.

You see: A black line opening up on the bottom of an exterior wood door.

Cause: This often occurs on an exterior French-style door where two portions of wood meet near the bottom. Wind and rain can drive moisture under and into the door if it's not properly sealed and installed. The paint should be even on the door, with no spacing anywhere between the pieces. If you see a space opening up, the door is on the road to failure, Dawson says. "Moisture goes in there, and it's a domino effect," he says. "Once moisture starts expanding and contracting, it breaks the joint, and the process starts. Wood doors and wood windows are hell. They require a lot of maintenance." 

Who to call: You may be able to fix this yourself with some caulk. When in doubt, call a home repair specialist.

You see: Wrinkled wood.

Cause: This could be an indicator of dry rot. Wood should look smooth. If you see wrinkled or wavy wood, or if your trim or siding looks different than other parts, it's cause for concern. This mostly affects the exterior.

Who to call: A home repair specialist.

You see: Insect wings on windowsills or in spider webs.

Cause: Don't panic, but this could be a sign of nearby termite swarms. It doesn't mean you've got termites, but if you've already got moisture problems, like a black look on the walls or bubbling paint, you might want to call a termite specialist. Moisture attracts termites. It's hard to tell inside the walls, but if you see any mud tubes coming out of the walls or on any pieces of wood, you've got termites.

Who to call: A termite professional.

You see: Black streaks or black circles around nails on hardwood floors.

Cause: This most often occurs near doors. If you've got an old home with exposed nail flooring and you see blackness around those nails, chances are that you've got moisture getting underneath the door sill, and it's corroding the nails. If the wood is cupping up, the problem is really bad.

Who to call: A home repair specialist to do the preliminary fix, then you'll need a flooring specialist to refinish the area.

You see: A foggy window.

Cause: This happens on older dual-pane windows that have argon gas in the middle. If the seal becomes broken, moisture builds up and fogs. You'll likely need new windows.

Who to call: A window repair specialist or general contractor.

Copyright © 2017 Realty Times. All Rights Reserved.

A Sneak Preview of Chip and Joanna Gaines' New Home Collection With Target


Nine words sent shockwaves through the world of interior design this week: "Chip and Joanna Gaines reveal home collection with Target." If you love the Gaines' style and don't see yourself getting to Waco, TX anytime soon to visit Magnolia, you're going to love this collection, called Hearth & Hand and available in Target stores on November 5. The best part: most of the items offered will be priced less than $30.

"This November, Target will launch Hearth & Hand with Magnolia, an exclusive home and lifestyle brand designed in partnership with Chip and Joanna," said Target in a press release. "It's Magnolia's first time working with a retailer to design and create product, and with over 300 items spanning tabletop, home décor and giftables, it's one you don't want to miss. The best part? It's not a limited time collab - this partnership will last multiple years, and will refresh season after season, bringing Target's guests stylish home goods on an ongoing basis. The first collection arrives on Nov. 5, just in time for holiday gatherings."

Target describes the collection as one that "reflects a modern take on Magnolia's signature aesthetic with modern, classic, industrial and vintage touches." Translation: If you're obsessed with the pair's HGTV show, "Fixer Upper," you won't be disappointed.

More than 300 items are included in the initial collection, including "tabletop dining sets, adorable vases and napkin sets, and other items of home decor," said the Today show, where the couple offered a sneak peek.

Chip Gaines himself weighed in on the Magnolia blog after the announcement, providing a bit more detail about, and insight into, the collection.

"Just as we've never created an exclusive line of product for a retailer before, Target has never done anything like this before either," he said. "Let me try to give you a visual: it's like a little shop inside of Target. Jo keeps calling the look ‘modern farmhouse,' whatever that means. All I know is she's so excited about this collection that she wants to register for our wedding all over again."  

If you can't wait until November, you can always check out Magnolia Market's online store for a range of products designed by the pair, many of which are featured in their Waco shop.

Copyright © 2017 Realty Times. All Rights Reserved.

Make your home ownership goals a reality this season!


Now that we’ve reached back-to-school month and will soon be stepping into fall, it’s time to check the progress made during summer’s radiant selling season.

If you’re considering selling your home, strike while the iron is hot. Home prices are up 5.8% from this time last year, affording sellers a prime position as they eye their next purchase. Buyers take heart, too: new single-family homes priced between $200,000 and $250,000 are currently the fastest-growing division for home builders. That means inventory is being added at a quick clip, and buyers can relish contemporary options at an affordable price.

What’s more? The economy is enjoying robust health in the areas of employment and rising wages. This paves the way for seasoned and first-time home buyers alike to make a sound investment in today’s spirited market. 

It’s hard to part with summer, but there’s still time to make your home ownership goals a reality this season. Get in touch with us today and end this year on a high note. We’ll outline all you need to know when it comes to assessing your real estate options and opportunities in 2017 and beyond.

8 One-Pot Pastas


Here is what you'll need!

One-Pot Swedish Meatball Pasta
Servings: 4


1 pound ground beef
½ cup seasoned bread crumbs
½ finely minced onion
1 egg

½ tablespoon salt (for meatballs)
½ tablespoon pepper (for meatballs)
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 cups beef broth
2 cups milk
½ tablespoon salt (for sauce)
½ tablespoon pepper (for sauce)
1 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
4 cups egg noodles
1 cup shredded parmesan cheese
½ cup chopped parsley

PREPARATION 1. In a large bowl, combine the ground beef, bread crumbs, onion, egg, salt, and pepper, mixing until evenly combined. 2. Heat the canola oil in a pot over medium-high heat. Take about a golf ball-size of the meatball mixture and roll it into balls. Place the meatballs into the pot, cooking for one minute. Flip the meatballs. 3. Add the beef broth, milk, salt, pepper, and Worcestershire sauce and give it a stir. 4. Bring the liquid to a boil, then add the egg noodles. 5. Stir constantly until the pasta is cooked and the liquid has reduced to a sauce that coats the noodles, about seven to eight minutes. 6. Add the parmesan and the parsley, stirring until the cheese is melted. 7. Enjoy!


One-Pot Pasta Primavera



4 cups broth of your choice
10 ounces uncooked linguine
10 ounces broccoli florets
1 pound asparagus, chopped into 1-inch pieces
1 small onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
Salt, to taste Pepper, to taste
1 teaspoon olive oil
4 ounces mushrooms, sliced
¼ cup heavy whipping cream
½ cup parmesan cheese, grated
3 tablespoons fresh parsley, finely chopped


1. In a pot over high heat, combine broth, linguine, broccoli, asparagus, onion, garlic, red pepper flakes, salt, pepper, and olive oil. Stir. 2. Add the mushrooms and bring to a boil. 3. Once at a boil, reduce heat to medium and cook the pasta for 10 minutes, continuously tossing with tongs. 4. Add the heavy cream, parmesan cheese, and parsley, and toss for an additional 3 minutes. 5. If the liquid hasn’t been completely absorbed, let the pasta sit off the heat for an additional few minutes. 6. Enjoy!


One-Pot Cheesy Taco Pasta
Servings: 10-12


1 pound ground beef
1 (15 oz) can diced tomatoes
1 (15 oz) can whole kernel corn
1 (15 oz) can tomato sauce
2 cups water
1 package taco seasoning
Salt, to taste Pepper, to taste
2 cups uncooked elbow macaroni
1 ½ cups colby jack cheese

1. In a large quart pot over medium-high heat brown the ground beef. Drain fat and return beef to the pot. 2. Add taco seasoning, water, diced tomatoes, corn and tomato sauce. Bring to a boil. 3. Add uncooked macaroni and reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer for 10-15 minutes (until pasta is cooked through). Stir occasionally. 4. Remove from heat. Sprinkle cheese on top and cover. 5. Serve once cheese is melted! Enjoy!


One-Pot Chicken Fajita Pasta
Servings: 3-5

3 tablespoons oil
3 chicken breasts, sliced
1 red bell pepper, sliced
1 green bell pepper, sliced
1 yellow bell pepper, sliced
1 onion, sliced
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon cumin
1 tablespoon garlic powder
5 cups milk
4 cups penne pasta
1 cup pepper jack cheese, shredded

1. Heat oil in a large pot over high heat. 2. Add chicken and cook until no pink is visible, then take the chicken out. 3. Add the bell peppers and onion, cooking until the onion is translucent. 4. Add the chicken back to the pot with salt, pepper, chili powder, cumin, and garlic powder, stirring until evenly coated. 5. Add the milk and the penne, stirring constantly to prevent any pasta from sticking. 6. Cook for about 8-10 minutes until pasta is cooked and the milk has reduced to a thick sauce that coats the pasta. 7. Add the cheese and mix until melted. 8. Enjoy! One-Pot Lemon Garlic Shrimp Pasta Servings: 4 INGREDIENTS 8 ounces linguine 2 tablespoons olive oil 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter 4 cloves garlic, minced 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper 1 ¼ pounds large shrimp Salt, to taste Pepper, to taste 1 teaspoon dried oregano 4 cups broth.

Introducing Your New Color Obsession


Is it gray? Blue? Green? It's all of them wrapped up in your new color obsession, and it's going to have you running to Home Depot for a can (or 10!) in 3…2…1. Behr's first-ever Color of the Year, dubbed "In the Moment," isn't just a great option for refreshing your interior or exterior, it's also an invitation to bring a little calm to your place.

"In the Moment" is a "restorative blue-green hue meant to soothe and relax," said Architectural Digest. Intended as an antidote to the stresses of being "plugged in 24/7," said Erika Woelfel, Vice President of Color and Creative Services at Behr, in announcing the color, "In the Moment" allows you to do just that: "Be aware of the moment that you're in. That's why we love the name of this color."

House Beautiful describes the color as, "spruce blue, soft gray and lush green (that) coalesce to evoke a sense of sanctuary and relaxation." Key to what will surely be its widespread appeal is its versatility. The color "crosses multiple design styles, ideal for working with traditional, modern, coastal and global décor," said Behr. And, said Woelfel, it "pairs well with other subdued colors to create harmony for interiors or exteriors." 

To that end, Behr provided a "palette of 20 trend colors for 2018" to help with pairing, alongside the announcement of the Color of the Year. All colors are available exclusively at The Home Depot.

"This ‘neutral blue,' as Woelfel describes it, takes on a very different tone depending on the colors with which you pair it. When used as a bright pop in a mostly dark room, it feels calm and formal," said House Beautiful. However, when paired with white and light natural wood, the color comes off as energetic and vibrant, which makes for a welcoming statement on the exterior of a home."

In this dining room, the color reads blue and green and gray, changing with the light and complementing the mid-century modern décor.

Against the creamy white of the countertops in this kitchen and with the light streaming through the window and French door, the hue goes green.

Ditto for this front door frame, which looks amazing against all that luscious stone.

A subtle pop of color that brings in depth while introducing an overall sense of calm is a perfect choice for a window seat.

Have an ocean (or at least a pool) outside? You'll love how the water affects the wall color, bringing in more of a sea-blue effect.

That's it. We've found the perfect exterior color. We especially love how it deepens against the white trim.

Copyright © 2017 Realty Times. All Rights Reserved.

Is Brass Here To Stay....Again?


If you've been watching HGTV, flipping through interior design magazines, or touring model homes lately, you've probably seen one of today's hottest trends for home: brass. But is this interior design flashback just a blip or should you start ditching all that chrome, nickel, and stainless?

It's true - what was once old is new again, and what started sneaking back into interiors in 2015 has stuck around, becoming more and more prevalent in chic homes and more readily available in a variety of styles and an ever-increasing array of home products.

"Our shop is bursting at the seams with brass - and why? We love its cozy warm glow, its easygoing elegance, and its old-school style," said FOOD52. "Brass is timeless in a different way than, say, gold or marble, because it wasn't widely used until the Industrial Revolution. We love that underneath its warm and glinting beauty, brass is a serious workhorse with a serious history. Sure, it looks pretty, but brass has lived many lives, and its industrious past is a part of its charm."

Huffington Post likens its renewed popularity to "the chilly minimalism of recent decades fading," and "warm and inviting hues... definitely taking over on every level." 

Of course, the fact that today's brass is far more stylish than what we associate with, well, the brassy light fixtures of decades ago, has something to do with it.

"If you wait long enough, everything comes back in style, and that statement really rings true with brass these days," said StyleBlueprint. "However, this is not the brass of the 1980s, nor is it your grandmother's brass. According to designer Lee Robinson, of Lee W. Robinson Company, brass is much more understated and luxurious than it used to be."

Copyright © 2017 Realty Times. All Rights Reserved.

New Technology Makes Going Green A Breeze


Did you know that an automatic dishwasher uses less hot water than doing dishes by hand, which equals an average of six gallons less per cycle, or more than 2,000 gallons per year? Considering that an individual American uses about 2,000 gallons of water per month, that's a pretty significant number.

The idea of "going green" has come a long way in recent decades. In the 1950s, some kinds of energy efficiency weren't really a choice. From drying your clothes on a clothesline, to cutting your grass with a mechanical push mower, people often lived green without ever consciously considering their carbon footprint. These days, the story is a little different; you can't turn a corner or pick something up without seeing some kind of "save the earth" signage or packaging.

Reasons to Go Green

There are a plethora of reasons to go green, most falling into either the money-saving or the earth-saving categories. On one hand, you could seriously put some green back into your wallet with things like energy-efficient appliances, and green building tax credits and rebates. Also, simple things like carpooling, limiting eating out, and starting your own vegetable garden are great ways to save money and help the environment.

On the other hand, eco-friendliness means making your community and the planet a better place to live not only for us, but also for future generations. Examples of things you can do in your home are unplugging unused electronics to prevent "phantom" energy consumption, switching to LED light bulbs, conserving water by taking shorter showers, and using reusable items like Tupperware and canvas shopping bags rather than plastic.

Home Automation Technology

New advances in technology are taking much of the guesswork out of going green. With home automation systems like the Wink Hub and free app, you can control the settings on many of your home devices with the push of a smartphone button or even just with your voice. The Wink ecosystem interconnects all of your smart home devices either first through the Hub, or directly to the app. Wink's simplicity is one of its most attractive features: according to Home Depot technology professional and Wink test user, Ramesh Chaparala, "It's very, very simple and self-explanatory," continuing, "Installing the Hub is a no-brainer; in five steps you're connected."

What Can You Control?

With the Wink home automation ecosystem, you no longer have to "set it and forget it" when it comes to your home devices. You can control many of your smart devices from your couch, bed, work, or anywhere you are in the world. Here are just a handful of devices you can install in your home that will not only bring you into the 21st century, but also make your home a smoothly running, highly efficient machine.

Smart Thermostats

Thermostats are a great way to control your home's energy consumption, and when you apply smart technology, you can control it from anywhere. One Wink App Ready device is the Honeywell Wi-Fi Smart Thermostat, which not only adjusts to your schedule, uses automatic energy-saving settings, and Smart Response technology for precise temps, but also has a full-color, customizable screen to match your decorating scheme. You can be sure your home is aesthetically pleasing and at your exact desired temperature at all times.

Custom Window Shades

Motorized window shades allow for a clean, uncluttered look, are safer for pets and children with cordless technology, and help insulate your home with the setting of a timer or the push of a button. One quality option, Bali Custom Blinds and Shades with Somfy® automation & controls, utilizes a single control, wall switch, remote or programmable timer to operate single or multiple window coverings. Keep the shades drawn during summer to keep your home naturally cool, or leave them open in cooler months to let the sunshine warm your space.

Remote-Access LED Lights

Huge energy and money savings start by simply swapping out incandescent and even compact fluorescent light bulbs in your home for LED bulbs. LED solutions outlast incandescent and halogen bulbs up to 35 to 1, consume 85% less energy than incandescent bulbs, and emit less heat, which altogether drastically reduces replacing costs and landfill waste. Once you've decided to install LEDs, take it to the next level by installing smart light bulbs, like the TCP Connected Smart LED Light Bulb Kit with (2) A19 LED light bulbs. With this kit, you can remotely control lighting, dimming and smart lighting features from anywhere in the world with any computer, tablet, smart phone, or connected remote control. They have an estimated yearly cost of $1.32 and a life expectancy of 22.8 years (both figures based on three hours of use a day.)

Home Automation Technology is an Environmental No-Brainer

When it comes to eco-friendly new gadgets, it's clear that home automation takes the cake. Having nearly complete control of your energy-consuming home devices right at your fingertips is certainly a big step forward for earth-conscious homeowners. In addition to these devices, several other smart green products are energy sensors, HVAC systems, irrigation systems, and outlet controls.

Which environmentally friendly automated devices will you install in your home?

Sarah Kellner is a DIY home-improvement writer for Home Depot in Atlanta. Sarah writes for homeowners on topics ranging from appliances to kitchens to home automation. You can view many of Home Depot's home automation products on the company's website.

Copyright © 2017 Realty Times. All Rights Reserved.

What's Really Driving Millenials To Buy A House?


Is the millennial homebuying surge about finally "growing up" and giving up mom's home-cooked meals and laundry services? Is it about finally having student loans paid off and feeling secure enough to take on the financial burden? Perhaps it's really about getting ready to marry and have kids. Nope. Turns out none of these things could convince millennials to buy homes like their little furry friend could.

Yep, when it comes to millennial homeownership, these are the dog days.

"A third of millennial-aged Americans (ages 18 to 36) who purchased their first home (33%) say the desire to have a better space or yard for a dog influenced their decision to purchase their first home, according to a new survey conducted online by Harris Poll on behalf of SunTrust Mortgage. "Dogs ranked among the top three motivators for first-time home purchasers and were cited by more millennials than marriage/upcoming marriage, 25 percent, or the birth/expected birth of a child, 19 percent."

There were only two factors that rated higher than dog ownership: 66 percent cited a desire for more living space, and 36 percent were interested in building equity through homeownership. Presumably, they want to do so with a pup by their side.

"Millennials have strong bonds with their dogs, so it makes sense that their furry family members are driving home-buying decisions," said Dorinda Smith, SunTrust Mortgage President and CEO of the survey. "For those with dogs, renting can be more expensive and a hassle; home ownership takes some of the stress off by providing a better living situation."

The survey also showed how strongly homebuyers that have not yet jumped into the market feel about this issue. Among millennials who have never purchased a home, "42 percent say that their dog - or the desire to have one - is a key factor in their desire to buy a home in the future, suggesting dogs will also influence purchase decisions of potential first-time homebuyers," they said.

Those statistics could have a real impact on multiple aspects of the real estate industry, from the way sellers stage their home; to the types of homes that builders and developers concentrate on in pockets where millennials may be looking; to pet-related homeowners' association bylaws that may be in need of review and revision. Most attached homes don't offer the kind of outdoor space millennials are looking for, but townhomes sometimes do, and they can be more affordable than single-family options; some communities have breed and size restrictions and also cap the number of dogs you can have - important considerations if you happen to be one of those dog-crazy millennial homebuyer types or are an agent who's representing one.

Looking to sell your home and think you have a millennial target in your sights? Perhaps pointing out a good spot for a doggy door, if you don't already have one, and adding a picture of you and your dog (fake it if you need to!), a dog bed, and a basket with dog toys on the fireplace hearth before showings will help.

Pets before kids

Homeownership isn't the only thing millennials have delayed. Marriage and kids - if they're in the cards at all for millennials - are waiting. Pet ownership is not.

Millennials are in age brackets that are commonly associated with the idea of "settling down," said Pet Business. "But, rather than starting families with children, millennials are instead opting for buying or adopting pets to satisfy their caretaking needs." 

Pet ownership is up overall, led by millennials. The latest American Pet Products Association (APPA) National Pet Owners Survey shows that, "Sixty-eight percent of American households now own a pet, accounting for 84.6 million pet-owning households, up from 79.7 million pet-owning households in 2015," said Pet Food Industry. "Gen Y/millennial pet ownership has officially surpassed baby boomer ownership by three percentage points to now account for 35 percent of all pet owners."

Copyright © 2017 Realty Times. All Rights Reserved.

Will Boomerang Buyers Ignite The Market?


Remember all those people who defaulted on their homes during the last housing crisis? Well, those bankruptcies are about to be discharged, or they already have been, and that means we could soon see an avalanche of homebuyers hitting the market.

Just what constitutes an avalanche? "More than 12.8 million homes entered the foreclosure process - roughly 29 percent of all homes with a mortgage," between 2007 and 2014," said The BIG Picture. "At the peak of foreclosures in 2009, more than 650,000 homes, 1.5 percent of those with a mortgage, entered foreclosure in a single quarter."

According to CoreLogic, this is a key year for boomerang buyers because seven years have passed since the peak of foreclosures in 2010. A whopping "1.9 million homeowners who faced owner-occupied foreclosures between the start of the housing crisis in 2007 through 2010 will have met the seven-year period after which the Fair Credit Reporting Act requires derogatory information to be removed," they said. "By the end of 2020, another 1.2 million homeowners who lost their homes to foreclosure between 2011 and 2013 will become eligible."

A new TransUnion Study Found that, "1.5 million homeowners negatively impacted by the mortgage crisis could re-enter the housing market in the next three years."

But do they want back in?

Many think so.

"The chief attraction is strong motivation, Kent Temple, broker/owner of Keller Williams Realty - The Temple Team in Mooresville, N.C., said on Bankrate. "If you've been through a foreclosure, you've already been a homeowner. "You know what it's about. You know the process. You've been through hell sometime in the last seven years, and if you really want to buy a house, you are so willing to do whatever it takes."

But some aren't so sure.

"As those foreclosures began to clear, many observers speculated that a slew of ‘boomerang buyers' was poised to return to the housing market," said The BIG Picture. "Those buyers have been slow to materialize. So what's hindering their return?"

Oh, little things like: 

  • Rising home prices
  • Rising mortgage rates
  • Low inventory
  • More stringent lending requirements
  • Credit scores that haven't jumped back up to where they need to be because of other delinquency issues 

There may also be the fear factor. Do buyers who lost a home to foreclosure once before want to take the risk again? If they do, they are largely looking to be more careful this time around, said Jami Harich, a real estate agent with Avery-Hess Realtors in Fredericksburg, VA, in the Washington Post. "Most buyers I work with now, especially if they lost a home in the past, don't want to get in over their heads. They start with a monthly payment that they want to stick to, and then I show them what they can find on the market that fits in that budget."

Whatever their reasoning, "History says not all those buyers are likely to come back," said The BIG Picture.

"According to a 2016 study by CoreLogic, fewer than half of those who lost a home in 2000 or later have purchased new homes, even among those 16 years past a foreclosure." The boomerang rate has been especially low so far for people who lost their homes during the crisis. A little over 30 percent of borrowers who lost their homes in 2000 had purchased another home seven years after the event. But only about 15 percent to 20 percent of borrowers who lost a home between 2006 and 2008 had returned to the housing market after seven years." 

Quick or slow

Perhaps it's the rate at which boomerang buyers have been returning (or not) to the market that has surprised industry experts the most. Instead of the rapid return like many had predicted, the boomerang effect has been more tempered, according to CoreLogic.

"While millions of former homeowners reentering the buying market would have a significant impact on home sales, historical data shows a more gradual return rate for these so-called boomerang buyers, with less than half returning to homeownership even 16 years after the foreclosures were completed. Historical return rates show recent incremental volumes of 150,000 boomerang buyers returning per year, or 12,500 per month. Of the 4.4 million owner-occupied foreclosures completed since 2000, 1 million foreclosed homeowners have returned."

Copyright © 2017 Realty Times. All Rights Reserved.

Exciting new trends are taking place in the housing market this August!

While August may be one of the hottest months of the year, fall is just around the corner. It’s time to take stock of how the summer fared for the housing market and consider what’s to come. Busy back to school days, a seasonal shift, and exciting new trends are taking place in the housing market this August.

June and July saw home sales enjoying a bump up from this time last year, signaling mounting consumer confidence and a market that just won’t quit. All major regions of the U.S. have enjoyed significant boosts in the areas of new construction development and existing-home average sales price. This spells good news for buyers and sellers alike—as buyers can eye contemporary homes being added to the market, while sellers can list with confidence.

There’s still plenty of time to enjoy the summer sun, but if you’re considering buying or selling a home in 2017, arm yourself with information and a seasoned agent today. Give us a call to learn more about what you stand to gain from diving into the local housing market this August.

Summer Salmon Dinner For Two

Here's what you'll need!

Servings: 2

1 avocado, diced
1 cup cherry tomatoes, finely chopped
A quarter of a medium, red onion, thinly sliced
Juice of a half a lime
Salt, to taste
2 tablespoons parsley, chopped

1. Combine all ingredients in a bowl and gently stir to combine.
2. Cover, and store in the refrigerator until ready to serve. Enjoy!

Servings: 2

1 whole pineapple
½ cup water
½ cup sugar
2 tablespoons chile flakes
2 teaspoon salt
2 cloves garlic garlic, minced
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 tablespoons water
2 salmon fillets

1. Preheat your oven to 375°F (190°C). 
2. Cut pineapple in half lengthwise, cutting from root through the leaves. 
3. Hollow out the pineapple by slicing around the perimeter, leaving a ½” border. 
4. Slice the pineapple inside the cut border, and scoop out with a spoon. 
5. Repeat with the other half and set aside, as this will be the serving bowl for the salmon. 
6. Add 2 cups of pineapple and water to a blender and blend until smooth. 
7. Pour pineapple purée into a saucepan set over medium heat. 
8. Add sugar, chile flakes, salt, and garlic to the pan and bring to a simmer. 
9. Stir frequently until sauce has become lighter in color and slightly thickened. 
10. In a separate small bowl, combine cornstarch with water to make a slurry. Add the slurry to the sauce, cooking until sauce has thickened, about 4-7 minutes. 
11. Remove the pan from the heat. 
12. Place the salmon on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet and cover each fillet with the sauce. 
13. Bake for 12-15 minutes, depending on your desired doneness. 
14. Serve in the pineapple bowls over rice with extra pineapple sweet chile sauce on the side. Enjoy!

Inspired by:

Servings: 2

1 cup pineapple, chopped
½ cup frozen strawberries
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 tablespoon sugar
½ cup coconut rum  
2 cups ice

1. Using a blender, blend all ingredients until smooth. 
2. Serve immediately. Enjoy!