Cornbread Stuffing

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uiPmx6sjRQA

Here is what you'll need!

Cornbread Stuffing
Serves 10

INGREDIENTS

¼ cup unsalted butter, melted
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 tablespoon sugar
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup buttermilk
½ cup corn kernels
¼ cup honey
2 large eggs
-OR-
1 box cornbread mix, prepared according to box instructions, cut into cubes

Cornbread Stuffing
4 cups cubed white bread (we used an Italian loaf)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 stalks celery, diced
½ head fennel, diced
Salt, to taste
2 green apples, peeled & diced
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 pound italian sausage, casing removed
¼ cup parsley, minced
2 tablespoons sage
3 cups chicken broth (or stock)

PREPARATION

1. At least one day before serving the stuffing, make the cornbread.
2. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Generously grease a 9-inch baking pan with 1 tablespoon of butter.
3. In a small bowl, mix the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, sugar and salt. In another bowl, whisk together the melted butter, buttermilk, corn, honey and eggs. Using a rubber spatula, add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix just until combined. Do not overmix.
4. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 20 to 22 minutes. Let cool for at least 1 hour, then cut into 1-inch cubes for the stuffing.

For the Stuffing
1. Spread 4 cups of white bread cubes and 4 cups of the cornbread cubes in a single layer on a baking sheet and leave out overnight to dry out.
2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Grease a 13-by-9-by-2-inch baking dish with butter and set aside.
3. Transfer the bread cubes to a large bowl.
4. In a large sauté pan set over medium-high heat, melt 2 tablespoons butter. Add the onion, garlic, celery, fennel and sprinkle with the salt and cook until the vegetables are translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the mixture to the bowl of bread and mix.
5. In the same sauté pan, add the remaining 2 tablespoons butter and let brown for 30 seconds. Add the apples and nutmeg and sauté until the apples are tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the apples to the bread bowl and mix.
6. Add the sausage to the pan and cook, breaking it up as it browns, 8 to 10 minutes; transfer the sausage to the bread bowl and mix.
7. Mix in the parsley and sage.
8. Transfer the bread mixture to the buttered baking dish.
9. Pour the chicken stock around the edges of the baking dish.
10. Put the baking dish on the middle oven rack and bake, uncovered for 40 minutes, until golden brown.
11. Enjoy!

Why Buyers Won't Buy Your Home

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There's no list of reasons — no top ten or even top three reasons — why buyers won't buy a specific listed property like your home.

There's just one reason.

When buyers won't buy listed real estate, or even put in an offer close to asking price, there's just one reason why — it's the list price!

List price must communicate value and opportunity to buyers for whom the listed real estate represents what they want and need. Individual buyers have individual home-buying wants, needs, and goals which range from solid financial investment to discovering their dream home, or both.

  • When the list price on a specific property communicates value and opportunity to buyers who are ideally suited to recognize high value and great opportunity, these buyers want to act. They are compelled to put in an offer before someone else snaps up their dream home/ideal investment.
  • When list price does not accurately communicate value and opportunity — usually because it is unrealistically high for the current real estate market, location, ownership benefits, and property condition — buyers not only won't make an offer, they may not even want to view the property.

The list which is vital for sellers to consider is the list of reasons why listing price can be a barrier to the successful sale of their real estate. Here's four of many reasons why list price can turn buyers off and leave the unsold real estate sitting on the market:

#1. Listing "Home" Not Real Estate: Sellers may start out intent on selling their home. However, they will find the selling process challenging until they realize exactly what they are actually selling. Not their home, but real estate — bricks and mortar, land, and related rights — that must attract buyers searching for their new home. Removing the seller's personal veneer from a house or condominium unit to reveal the true value of the real estate is just as important as sellers removing their personal attachment — pride of ownership — from their thinking and decision making. List price should reflect value from buyers' perspectives — that's the real estate market value and the value evident after comparing competing listings — and seller's investment value based on the current market.

#2. Value vs Cost: Seller improvements do not hold equivalent dollar-value for buyers. For example, a seller who recently paid thousands to modernize windows and replace the roof, may expect list price to reflect this out-of-pocket cost. Some buyers may attribute move-in-ready value to these property improvements, but the actual dollars attached to these seller expenditures may fall short of seller costs.

#3. The Market Now: Economics can change quickly. The current real estate market is the one buyers are shopping in. For instance, the higher priced market last year, last month, or even last week means nothing to buyers once economic conditions change. Sellers who hang on to a now-historic selling price that they missed out on and who refuse to adjust to market-dictated price down-grades, can create a listing barrier by sticking with the out-dated higher list price. The listing message may be interpreted as "stubborn seller here," which does not attract buyers. Letting go of missed opportunity can be a challenge for sellers, but this does not help the property "shout" opportunity to buyers.

#4. Selling: Only Half The Winning Real Estate Strategy Sellers who expect their real estate win to come exclusively from the sale of their real estate, miss the point of real estate as an investment. The full return from real estate ownership — on top of the benefits gained by living in the property or renting it out — comes from selling the property and putting the earned profit to work either to purchase more real estate or to invest the funds in other ways. Sellers who only spend time and effort on selling, may miss out on even greater returns from putting their sales profits to work. Selling or cashing-in real estate is only half the winning strategy! More on this topic in my next column.

Real estate professionals are trained to understand the economic and financial complexities of establishing market value and list price for the real estate held by their clients. Ideally, list price is established by the seller based on information, selling strategy, and market data provided by the listing professional and on seller goals. Select the right professional for the correct expertise to get the list price right.

List price is based on market value which is more accurately represented by a range than an absolute figure. Depending on the marketing strategy that matches seller needs and wants — including seller time constraints and moving criteria — the list price may be set on the optimistic side or with a practical slant.

What value and opportunity will your list price communicate to buyers?

This is the third in our Savvy Seller Series:

  • Five Key Questions For Home Sellers
  • Are You Prepared For Disaster?

To understand more about how buyers view the sales process, read our 

Savvy Buyer Series:

  • Buying: From Whose Perspective?
  • Savvy Buyers Search Out 'Visual Disasters'
  • Home Buyer Regrets Are A Reality

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Which Kind of Hardwood Flooring Should You Choose?

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As a house flipper, ensuring my renovated properties look great is very important to me. I love walking into homes with hardwood floors. From bamboo to cork to parquet, oak, pine, and mahogany, wood floors give an immediate feeling of quality and luxury. There are seemingly endless varieties, styles and textures of hardwood flooring to complement your home and the region where you live.

If you're thinking of selling your home in the next few years or simply want to love where your feet fall, hardwood flooring can add value and give your home the design boost it needs.

Solid Wood vs. Engineered Hardwoods

With so many options available nowadays, making the right decision can be difficult. Consider these key differences when evaluating flooring for your home.

Solid Wood Flooring is milled from trees, and each plank is composed of natural wood. Within the realm of solid wood, there are varying degrees of hardness. The Janka Hardness Scale rates the hardness of wood and can help you choose the right flooring for your home.

Engineered Wood is made up of pieces of wood and composite materials that are layered to create each plank.

There are pros and cons to each option. Solid wood flooring can swell and retract based on humidity and climate, requiring proper installation to limit the chances of these occurrences. In most instances, hardwood flooring means paying a premium in the cost. On the other hand, engineered wood flooring doesn't react like solid wood to humidity, but it can't be refinished multiple times if it gets deep scratches.

Installation and Other Considerations

Engineered floors come prefinished, which saves a step or two in the process of completing your flooring project. They can be installed quickly, in as little as one day, and are ready for immediate move-in. Hardwood requires several additional steps in the process: installation and cleaning, and staining (often several times) prior to adding a final coat of varnish.

Weather conditions matter as well. High humidity requires a longer drying time between coats, and stepping on floors that have not cured properly is out of the question. Those with sensitivity to strong odors will want to wait until the smell disappears before returning home.

Color and Pattern Choices

Style can be imparted not only through your choice of a particular wood but also through the color of stain you apply. Light floors appear breezy and beachy, while dark floors feel sophisticated and urban. The direction you lay the flooring - vertical, horizontal or in a pattern - also influences how formal or informal the space appears.

Durable, Practical and Stylish

Installing hardwood flooring is one of those rare instances in life where the practical choice doesn't leave you feeling like you've made a series of compromises to arrive at a responsible decision. Hardwood is beauty and brains wrapped in one tough package. The main choice to be made, really, is whether to install natural or engineered hardwoods.

Because each type has different properties, where you plan to put the flooring could supply you with the quickest answer to the type of hardwood you should select. Due to the expansion and retraction qualities of solid hardwood, it's best to keep it out of spaces that have a lot of moisture, like the bathroom or kitchen, or in spaces where the flooring would be laid directly on top of a concrete slab. For this reason, basements and bathrooms are great places to use engineered wood flooring instead.

Rental Property Considerations

If your home is an investment property for rent, you may want to opt for solid hardwood over engineered. Solid hardwood floors can be refinished up to 10 times before they need to be replaced. This will allow you to refinish the floors between tenants. Conversely, engineered hardwood, while very durable, has a useful life that does not extend beyond one or two sandings.

Pet-Friendly Flooring

Hardwood flooring is a practical choice for pet owners as it's relatively easy to clean and doesn't trap dust and other allergens the way carpeted floors do. Although engineered wood can be more scratch resistant, its thin layer of wood can't be refinished multiple times like hardwood can. So if you have active dogs, you may want to opt for solid hardwood floors that can be refinished multiple times.

Noise Reduction

If you prefer that the pitter patter of little feet - or big feet, for that matter - be muffled, cork flooring has sound-absorbing properties to keep your home quiet. Its leathery look and comfort underfoot make it an attractive option. Cork is also an eco-friendly product because it's derived from the bark of the cork tree and doesn't require constant replanting.

Whether you're a DIYer or need a little help, there is a flooring selection for every style and budget that will bring you value and pride of ownership.

As an avid DIYer, Jaqueline Falla  is constantly flipping houses. She writes for The Home Depot about the projects that provide the biggest return on investment. She loves adding hardwood floors - or refinishing existing ones - for a quick visual lift to get a house ready for sale.Visit The Home Depot to see a selection of hardwood flooring options to update your home.

This article is editorial content that has been contributed to our site at our request, and is published for the benefit of our readers. We have not been compensated for its placement.

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Design Tips For Kitchen Cabinets

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Make your kitchen cabinets a joy to use with these ideas for depth, height and door style - or no door at all.

Those of you building or renovating a kitchen face countless decisions. Just for the cabinetry you have to select the material, frame type, door style, hardware and more.

I hate to add to your list of selections to make, but there are a few details to think about when it comes to ergonomics, too; how you configure your cabinetry can make your kitchen a comfortable and efficient workspace for you and your family.

1. Minimize uppers. Wall cabinets can be a stretch for many to access - or altogether out of reach for some - so consider removing wall cabinets and putting in a bank of windows instead. This is an especially smart move if doing this will give you a nice view.

2. Be shallow. Instead of wall cabinets, I like to install shallow floor-to-ceiling pantries. They're an efficient use of an interior wall, where you can't have a window anyway. By limiting the depth to just 6 to 9 inches, you are forced to line up your dry goods in a single row, making everything easier to find.

3. Go for open shelves. If you really need wall-mounted storage, try installing a few open shelves. They're a more efficient way to store items, because you (and your guests) can see where everything is, and you don't have to open and close cabinet doors to access things. Limit the stored items to those you use often so they are less likely to collect dust.

4. Lift up, not out. For those who want closed wall cabinet storage, take a look at horizontal cabinets. There's only one door you need to open to see everything in the cabinet, and you don't have to step out of the way as you open and close it.

5. Install drawers. When it comes to base cabinets, I can't recommend drawers over doors strongly enough. Deep drawers can hold almost anything you need to store in a base cabinet. Plus, it's much more efficient to just pull the drawer out and have all the contents on view right in front of you than having to open two doors and root around for what you need.

6. Avoid corners. If you can design your kitchen to not have corner cabinets, do so. Corners tend to cause traffic jams in kitchens, and corner cabinets can be awkward to use.

7. Or make the best of your corners. If you can't avoid corner cabinets, then at least make them as functional and easy to use as possible with fully rotating lazy Susans or clever corner drawers.

8. Upgrade cabinetry. Soft-close door hinges and drawer glides are more must-haves. It is totally worth the small extra charge for these features, which allow you to shut doors and drawers with one efficient push and no slamming.

9. Vary countertop heights. While the standard kitchen countertop height is 36 inches, there are many tasks that are more comfortably performed on a lower or higher surface. This is especially true for those who are taller or shorter than average.

Typically you want your forearms to be at or near level when you're working at the countertop. But for us tall folks, that'd require a surface height of 42 inches or more — a difficult height for kids or shorter members of the household to use.

The solution is to set up areas with differing countertop heights to accommodate the various statures of the users and their tasks. Extra storage room in the cabinet underneath is an additional upside to taller work surfaces.

Also See:

  • Ergonomic Cabinet Hardware for Sale
  • Pick the Right-Size Kitchen Storage Solution for You
  • Trend Alert: White Kitchen Designs and How to Get the Look

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Benefits Of Buying Or Selling Your Home In The Fall

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Seeing fewer for-sale signs now that summer is over? That can be great news for buyers who are looking to score a new home and buyers who want to get rid of their place and buy a new one. If you think you missed the boat on making your move this year, we're here to tell you why buying and selling in the fall can work for you.

Less competition

Yes, there may be fewer homes on the market, but there are also fewer buyers out there competing for the same home you want. That gives buyers an important edge. "Families on a mission to move into a new home before school starts are out of the picture," said Forbes. "Competition for houses drops off in the fall, a time many people consider to be off-season in real estate. But there are still homes for sale - and in some cases, there's just as much inventory as there was during the spring and summer."

The benefit to sellers is that those buyers who are out there tend to be more serious, which means your REALTOR® can key in on the real buyers without having to sift through the riffraff.

Tax breaks

If you're a buyer who closes escrow before December 31, and you may get a nice write off on your taxes. "Property tax and mortgage interest are both deductions you can take for your whole year's worth of income, even if you closed on your home in December," David Hryck, a New York, NY tax adviser, lawyer, and personal finance expert told Realtor.com. "Any payments that are made prior to the closing of the loan are tax-deductible. This can make a serious difference in the amount you owe the government at the end of the year."

There are also potential tax breaks for home sellers. "You can include all sorts of selling expenses in the cost basis of your house," said The Balance. "Increasing your adjusted cost basis decreases your capital gain because this is what's subtracted from the sales price to determine how much of a gain - or loss in some cases - you've realized. If you have less of a gain, you're more likely to fall within the exclusion limit, and if you're gain isn't excluded, you'll pay taxes on less." And that's just the beginning. Closing costs and home improvements may also be write offs for sellers. Check out the full list here.

Home for the holidays

Buy or sell early in the fall and you could be nicely situated in your new home in time for the holidays and before winter weather hits. Moving during a calmer time of year also means you may have better access to movers and other necessary resources than during the busier spring and summer seasons.

The right price

Did you list in the spring or summer with an exorbitant number that you thought you'd have no trouble getting because it was a hot market? That's pretty common these days. Whether you've had a revelation about the price you should be asking or have made updates to your home to justify a higher price, you're probably in better shape to get your (realistic) asking price in the fall. If you're a seller and you establish a smart pricing strategy, you could find your home standing out in the crowd and selling while others sit on the market under a blanket of snow.

Buyers also may have a better time getting a home that's within their budget because when there is less competition for homes, there is less chance of bidding wars and over-asking-price sales.

Fall may be safer for buyers and sellers

Here's something you may not have thought of. "Did you know that burglars have peak seasons? They do, Sarah Brown, a home safety expert for SafeWise.com, told Forbes. "July and August are prime months for burglaries to take place. Waiting until the fall [to buy] gives you an advantage when learning about a home and the neighborhood. You'll be settled in your home and can take precautions—like setting up that new alarm system—before the next burglary season rolls around.

For sellers, less competition for your home can be a good thing if it means your home is safer from theft.

Great deals on stuff to fix up your home

Coordinate the timing right, and those items you need to fix up your home for sale in the fall or update and upgrade after a purchase might be priced to your advantage. Check Consumer Reports for a full list of the best times of year to buy everything, and keep in mind holiday and Black Friday sales. You could score some great deals at this time of year.

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Benjamin Moore 2018 Color of the Year

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Neutrals, be gone! If Benjamin Moore has its way, interiors will be going from soft and soothing to red hot next year. The paint company's Color of the Year for 2018 is Caliente, and the name is appropriate. The fiery red is "hot, passionate, and sexy," said Benjamin Moore. With a hint of orange, caliente has lots of personality and is the perfect hue for you if you are drawn to the warmer tones of red.

The company's Director of Strategic Design Intelligence, Ellen O'Neill, weighed in by adding, "Strong, radiant and full of energy, Caliente AF-290 is total confidence. It is pleasing, passionate and makes people feel special, like 'red carpet treatment. "Whether used as one note or on four walls, the spirited personality of red turns heads signaling surprise and adventure. The eye can't help but follow its bold strokes."

Indeed. Architectural Digest believes that, "This year's choice will stop you in your tracks." Whether or not you're a fan of red, you're bound to notice it. Red can be a polarizing color, with some loving the energy it brings and others finding it a tad too bold for their space. The key to making it sing in your home is knowing where to use it, and how much.

Feng Shui

If the principles of feng shui are important to you, consider that red conjures fire and, "Fire represents the energy of sun and life," said The Spruce. "A balanced feng shui fire element in your home will bring joy, excitement, and strong sexual desire. An imbalance of the same element will bring either fiery arguments, restlessness and even aggression (too much Fire) or a lack of energy and enthusiasm for life (too little Fire)."

When it comes to the home, red "signifies richness, luck and luxury," they said. "If used too much, though, it can bring bursts of anger and over stimulation." That means a cautious hand may be best. Covering the walls in every room and oversaturating the spaces with furniture and décor pieces could just be a bit too caliente.

Color Theory

We know from the study of color theory that different colors can affect moods. If you apply that to the home, it makes sense that some spaces would be a better fit than others for a color called caliente.

"Red raises a room's energy level. The most intense color, it pumps the adrenaline like no other hue," said Freshome. "It is a good choice when you want to stir up excitement, particularly at night. In the living room or dining room, red draws people together and stimulates conversation. In an entryway, it creates a strong first impression."

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If buying a home in 2018 is on your radar, there’s no better time to game plan than in the winter months!

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The holidays will soon be upon us—filled with good food, family, and cheer. As 2017 comes to a close, November is an excellent month for reflection. Did you achieve your real estate goals in 2017? What are your plans for the year to come?

If buying a home in 2018 is on your radar, there’s no better time to game plan than in the winter months. Mortgage interest rates remain well below the historic average, and builders are adding new inventory to the market every day. Interested in selling your home in the New Year? Consult with us now to strategize property updates that can help you boost your home’s list price. 

Before the whirlwind of the holiday season sweeps through, give us a call to see where you stand. Whether your goal is to buy or sell in the months to come, arm yourself with answers now and you’ll rest easy during the year-end rush.

It's time to get your plans in order before the year-end rush!

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October is the ultimate month for partaking in the autumn spirit. With the holidays just around the corner, it’s also time to get your plans in order before the year-end rush. Let’s take a look at how the market is faring as we move closer and closer to 2018.

According to the census data, building permits were way up at the tail end of summer—a solid indicator that more and more contemporary inventory will be added to the market as the year progresses. Another bit of good news for buyers? Mortgage rates remain low compared to the yearly average. As for sellers, demand continues at a fever pitch. This puts current homeowners in an excellent position to sell high and move on to their next property in style.

Not sure where you stand when it comes to real estate options? October provides the perfect downtime to reach out and learn more about planning your next chapter. Give me a call today and get the ball rolling.

Caramel Apple Cheese Ball

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VYR3dP4kQR4

INGREDIENTS

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

DIRECTIONS


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

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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 Ready.gov, 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 Ready.gov. "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."

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City Or Suburbs: Where Should You Buy A Home?

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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.

Schools

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."

Jobs

"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.

Safety

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.

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DIY Weekend Updates

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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.

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Are You Listening To Your House?

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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.

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

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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.

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Make your home ownership goals a reality this season!

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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.