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!

AVOCADO AND TOMATO SALAD
Servings: 2

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IPUfp3J1XDQ

INGREDIENTS
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

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


PINEAPPLE SWEET CHILI SALMON
Servings: 2

INGREDIENTS
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

PREPARATION
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:
https://www.theflavorbender.com/spicy...


TROPICAL RUM PUNCH
Servings: 2

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

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

2017 Fall Color Trends

Already thinking about how to jazz up your home with the latest fall trends and newest colors? Even in the dead of summer, it's hard to keep from thinking ahead, especially because autumn décor can be so dreamy. This year, get a head start on the new season with the fall colors you'll be seeing a lot of soon.

"At the International Home + Housewares show, Pantone Executive Director Leatrice Eiseman made a long-anticipated announcement when she shared the upcoming color trends for 2018," said Martha Stewart. "Eight color groups were announced: Verdure, Resourceful, Playful, Discretion, Far-fetched, Intricacy, Intensity and TECH-nique." 

This Elderberry Wine paint from Benjamin Moore falls under "Discretion," and is an unexpected hit of color in a built-in that brings new life to the space.

Blush

Millennial pink isn't gone, and, in fact, it's still going strong with demographics far beyond millennials. But a hot new shade of pink is gaining on it. Benjamin Moore's Tissue Pink is a good place to start to incorporate this hue into your home.

We love the rosy bed in this room from Decoholic, especially with the pink contrasted against the grey and metallic accents.

Brass

Speaking of metallic, it's not going anywhere, according to International Color Expert Leatrice Eiseman. "Metallics we know are classic," she said on Home Accents Today. "But they have really moved over into neutrals." We certainly see no signs of these shiny metals waning. Same goes for the iridescent trend: "The human eye can absolutely not avoid anything iridescent, pearlized or translucent, since being intrigued by shimmering, shiny objects is "intrinsic to human development."

If you're looking to bring metallics into your home for fall, today's finish du jour is brass.

Dark green

Tired of that all-white kitchen? This'll give your place a boost. Show off that marble with a dark contrast by splashing deep, rich green - a top color trend for fall - on the walls and cabinets.

"Dark paint"

"Forget farmhouse white and gray! This season, it's all about drama," said House Beautiful. "PPG Paints, Glidden Paints, and Olympic Paints & Stains all announced cozy shades of black as their 2018 Color of the Year -  Black Flame (PPG1043-7), Deep Onyx (00NN 07/000), and Black Magic (OL116), respectively."

Matte black

Moody black is included under the dark paint umbrella, but when it comes to black, it's not a glossy finish that's being courted. Get ready to go matte.

Not ready to take the plunge on the walls? Black matte home décor is everywhere right now.

Chocolate brown

Chocolate brown is also on the rise, providing a rich alternative to all that grey that's been everywhere over the last several years and "the all-white, minimalistic homes that have taken over Pinterest," said CountryLiving. Their article titled "Brown is the new black" notes that, "trends are cyclical, and now, we're seeing homeowners embracing earthier shades and a more maximalist style—both of which can either cozy up more modern interiors or enhance historic woodwork of older homes. Basically, brown is a win-win-and anything but basic."

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How To Create A Statement Ceiling

Are things looking up in your home? How about people? If there's nothing to draw their eye up, you may be missing out on a great decorating opportunity. Today, the ceiling is being called the "fifth wall," and it's a great place to add color, texture, and interest to a space that is often ignored.

Beams

Who doesn't love a rustic beam (or 10!)? It's the classic way to make a room feel intimate, give it architectural interest, or even hide some structural stuff if you're opening up walls and need reinforcement.

Living in a more modern space? Maybe you want to go a little sleek instead of rustic. Keep in mind that beams today don't have to be pricy. Finding reclaimed beams - inexpensive reclaimed beams, for that matter - you can reuse is the dream of many. But when that's not a reality, or when the size and weight of the beams is a concern, "faux" beams may be the answer. Faux beams look like the real thing but are hollow, allowing them to be much easier to install and, often, more affordable.

Paint it

The right hue up above can take a good space and make it amazing. This dreamy sea blue makes walking down the hall a pleasure, but with so much allure in what could just be a "pass-through," you might actually want to have a seat and stay awhile.

Moldings

In a large space without a lot of architectural detail, moldings on the ceiling can create just the right amount of interest.

Medallions

You don't need a Parisian pied-à-terre to create historic-feeling character in your home. A medallion and some intricate moldings on the ceiling can transform a room. You can find vintage medallions at architectural salvage stores, and a variety of newer versions at Lowe's.

Or, use a stencil and some metallic paint to create a one-of-a-kind ceiling, like this one from Apartment Therapy.

Wallpaper

Wallpaper on the ceiling? It's the perfect accent for this sweet New York nursery.

Art

You may not be up to recreating the Sistine Chapel a la Michelangelo, but you may be able to reference another masterpiece. This ceiling in a London townhouse looks like a Mondrian come to life.

Paint it dark

"To make this dining room comfortable and intimate, the designer painted the ceiling black and added a very low paper lantern," said Build Direct. "Large, open spaces can also benefit from a dark ceiling if you want to make it look a little more defined."

Keeping the ceiling white in this chic kitchen could go a little country (paging Joanna Gaines with that shiplap look!), but painting it black creates contrast and drama, while showcasing the high-end features.

Go graphic

Graphic patterns have invaded pretty much every other surface, and now it's time to look up to them. This office/homework space benefits from the patterned ceiling, which adds even more interest and vibrancy to a space that could be dull or clinical. Who says the "work" space has to be boring?!

Stop just short of mirrors

This glossy finish is a much more sophisticated way of creating a reflective surface on the ceiling that gives the room a touch of class and loads of interest while keeping everything sleek and inviting.

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Curb Appeal Problems, Solved!

Just how important is curb appeal? Real estate industry legend Barbara Corcoran has said, "Buyers decide in the first eight seconds of seeing a home if they're interested in buying it." What are buyers going to see in the first eight seconds after driving up to your place?

If you've walked around the perimeter of your house recently, you've probably seen at least a couple of issues that need to be addressed before you sell. And your plan probably depends on how much time you have available. If you're listing your house today and expect immediate interest, you may have to pick from a few quick tips to get it in the best shape you can. Have a little more time? You can make a real impact in improving the curb appeal so potential buyers will drive up and want to see more.

Everything just looks a little shabby

It may be time to bite the bullet and repaint the house, or, at least, address some peeling trim. If your windows, walkways, and ornamental details are looking drab, a power washer can help transform the area easily and inexpensively. This is a relatively easy DIY task and the rental will only cost you about $40 a day from Home Depot.

Your open house is today and your yard is looking pretty boring

You may not have time to do any new plantings, but that doesn't mean you can't make the yard look tidy and pretty. Fresh flowers in pots placed near your front door will bring the eye up from the street to your entry and give the impression that your home (and your yard) is well cared for. Add a new welcome mat to finish the look.

Your front door is janky

If you're looking at making a few smart updates before listing your home, don't ignore your front door. A new door can return between 75–100 percent of your investment, and it's a relatively low-cost project," said Houselogic, with a "national median cost of around $2,000 installed."

You have a last-minute showing and the landscaper hasn't done his thing in the yard yet

Get in the car, drive to Lowe's, and pack up the trunk with mulch. It's one of the easiest ways to transform your yard and make it look fresh and neat. Lawn and bushes a little overgrown? Nextdoor is a great resource for finding last-minute landscape help or, in a pinch, a neighborhood kid with some developing gardening skills and a need for pocket cash.

Leaves. Everywhere

Get out the hose and spray those suckers away from sidewalks and walkways. Even if the hardscape is wet when the prospective buyers arrive, the area will look nice and clean. Now corral everyone in the house for some fire drill leave-bagging fun. An abundance of leaves in the yard can be a turnoff to those looking to buy as it may make them think the home is unkempt or that the yard is hard to take care of.

Your mailbox is…wow. How did you never notice that?

If it's old, worn, rusty, or has just seen better days, buyers will notice. This seemingly little thing can make them question the quality of your home. Thankfully, it's an easy fix that you can do yourself for almost no money. "It doesn't matter if you have a regular mailbox by the road or if you have a box mounted to your house, adding a new mailbox can add curb appeal. You can find a new mailbox starting around $20," said DIY Network. "When you install your mailbox, make sure that you are following the regulations that are set forth in the city that you live in. If you have a simple mailbox mounted on your house, this home improvement project should take less than an hour to complete. If you have a full-size mailbox at the road, plan for at least two hours or so to complete the project."

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Safety First! Essentials For Buying A Safe Home

In dazzling summer sunshine, everything in a home looks great. But... and it's a big but!

Buyers can be distracted by strategic staging, clever decor, and time pressures. They benefit from stepping back to determine whether the home they're considering will require expensive additions or overhauls to keep everyone safe—not just this summer, but every day of the year.

The more buyers ask from sellers, the greater the need for careful examination!

Seven Safety Essentials for Home Buyers

As well as any safety concerns specific to your family, there are seven main issues that should be top of mind for buyers of houses, townhomes, or condominiums:

1. Contained Pool Fun: Pools come in all shapes, sizes, and types. One safety issue remains important: controlling who enters the pool and when. This involves safety measures for small children and across enerations, as well as for visitors who are non-swimmers or uncomfortable around water.

Pool fencing that complies with local bylaws is essential. Looks matter, but locks are vital. Ask for installation details and check those against local safety requirements.

Life Saver Pool Fence relates its product designs directly to the importance and expense of transforming pools into safe playgrounds. Their pool fences can be "removed and reinstalled by the homeowner as one of the best investments a seller can make, especially with family homes." This US company reports they use "triple-reinforced solid poles, self-latching gates, rounded edges and the strongest UV resistant mesh available in stylish colors." This reality means buyers should not assume the pool fence is included.

2. Backyard Fire Zones: Landscaping and patio designs are usually customized to suit the specific needs of those paying for these expensive features—the homeowners. Buyers are, therefore, buying someone else's decisions about what works, what doesn't, what's safe for family and what's not. The cost of "making over" a backyard, fire-pit area, outdoor kitchen, BBQ corner, or other common cooking, smoking, or outdoor-fire feature can be significant. Changes that are decor- or taste-driven are not the issue. If buyers' will be introducing small children and pets into areas designed for adults-only use, modifications may be essential. Fire and play zones do not mix!

3. Aging Danger Zones: Established gardens, patios, pool areas, decks, fences, and playgrounds look wonderful. Realistically, at some point "established" changes to "worn out." Buyers shouldn't just peek out windows at the yard or view the garden from the patio doors or deck. Get out there and stomp around — gently. Not enough to destroy the yard, just enough to ensure constructed elements are sound. Deck railings and fences rot out from the bottom. This means looking great does not guarantee they are strong, stable, and secure.

4. Landscaping Liabilities: Trees are amazing and valuable. As part of their life cycle, mature trees may need periodic pruning to safely remove dying and dead branches before they become falling hazzards. When considering properties with large trees, buyers benefit from talking to arborists to learn about the approximate costs of maintenance programs they are buying into. The legal issues involving trees are almost as complex and varied as those for fences.

5. Inside and Out: Make sure equipment or structures included in the purchase price have genuine value. Home Inspections may include evaluations of major equipment like owned furnaces, water heaters, and even major appliances. Sometimes, outdoor equipment and structures, even for pools, are overlooked. If buyers don't feel confident about verifying the condition of outdoor equipment or structures themselves, specialists may be required.

When buyers, in their offer, specifically request items such as gas-fueled appliances, caution should be exercised. Buyers should confirm that equipment they ask for is in good condition and, where appropriate, professionally installed to maintain its functionality and safety.

6. Multi-storey Perspectives: London England's shocking high-rise fire shone a bright, terrible spotlight on fire-safety design, maintenance, and unit security around the world. Buyers interested in a high-rise or multi-unit facility should ask their real estate professional to provide documentation concerning these issues for the building or buildings being considered. Local fire authorities can contribute significant fire safety knowledge.

"If you live in a high-rise or work in a high-rise building, be familiar with the occupancy," Houston Texas Fire Samuel Peña stressed. "Be familiar with the life-safety systems [and] know where the means of egress [exit] are. Know what your responsibility is in case of an emergency."

Chief Peña emphasizes "four simple safety tips [which] could mean the difference between life and death in case you're involved in a high-rise fire." Long before fire strikes, Chief Peña strongly advises those living in multi-storey buildings to learn the local Fire Code, how and when to evacuate, where safe places are, and where all the building exits and stairwells are located.

7. Curbing Danger: Even busy or high-accident streets are periodically quiet streets. Buyers do not spend hours or days viewing a home before they buy. During their brief visit, buyers may not experience any traffic or noise concerns. That's why real estate professionals are so valuable—but only if buyers express their personal uneasiness and ask direct questions about safety, noise, and anything and everything that is of concern to them.

For a perspective on local road safety that can also help buyers evaluate danger in an area they are not familiar with, revisit my column Do No Harm' Driving Long Over Due"

These Seven Safety Essentials should be top of mind for buyers determined to find a safe home. How long is your safety list when home shopping?

A Safe, Fun Summer to you all!

Resource: For more from PJ Wade on distraction, good and bad, visit PJ's blog What's Your Point?

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The Psychology of Buying/Selling A Home

Resistance to change is common for buyers and sellers. This may seem surprising since both buying and selling mean seeking out a move with many related changes, but resistance is common none the less.

Buying and selling real estate involve many complex decisions packed full of real estate terminology, all of which are new territory for most buyers and sellers.

Add the pressure of time-sensitive decisions and the stress of dealing with huge amounts of money (much of it borrowed) and most buyers and sellers are way out of their comfort zones.

Does resistance in buyers and sellers make more sense now?

Too often, making no decision or a "no" decision may seem less stressful for buyers or sellers than agreeing to the significant changes related to entering into a real estate transaction. Fear of making the wrong decision can result in resistance and indecision which could cost thousands:

  • Sellers who receive their first offer — especially very soon after the house is listed — may worry they are selling too cheaply. Resistance can lead to the seller wanting "to wait and see" if a higher offer will appear. Sellers may second guess their decision to sell. Resulting stubbornness can materialize as illogical resistance to offer price, move-in date, or to giving up light fixtures or other items a buyer includes in their offer to purchase.
  • Buyers who have seen a property which meets their wish list must-haves, may still be resistant to making an offer, especially if it's their first offer or one of the first houses they view. Resistance leads to wanting "to see more houses" as if there's a magic number of viewings before a dream house appears. Resistance may also materialize as stubborn refusal to increase their offered purchase price for a seemingly-ideal property a few hundred or a few thousand dollars to meet the sellers half way. Buyers have been know to walk away from deals if the appliances, lighting fixtures, or other "must haves" they ask for in the offer are denied them by the seller. Ask your real estate professional about their experience with deal-breaking battles over furnishings and details.

Resistance is common under stress, even the best stress.

Real estate professionals will do their best to help buyers and sellers face their fears and overcome their resistance. Closing or decision-making techniques can help buyers or sellers realize where true value lies for them. In the hands of trained, ethical professionals, closing techniques can be communication and decision-making aids. (Caution: Unscrupulous individuals can use these simple exercises to manipulate or mislead — care is essential!)

For instance, one closing technique involves reducing a small disputed difference in purchase price like $1500 to its cost per day over a year. In this case, $1500 is $4.11 a day. Compare that amount to common purchases like a cup of coffee to put the financial decision in perspective. Or, relating that dollar difference to the cost per month on the mortgage payment, rather than cash out of hand, may also help.

Resistance leads individuals to "I'd like to sleep on it" reactions. It's not that they expect to win the Lottery overnight. This stress-related stall provides mental breathing room but unless issues are addressed, clear thinking does not automatically result. The problem is usually lack of confidence in decision making, not in the property.

Unfortunately, in real estate, delays can cost buyers a "dream" property or sellers a dream offer. Decisive buyers and sellers will snap up opportunities while others hesitate.

When experiencing resistance, ask yourself why you're having this reaction to put these feelings in perspective. Often the bigger the decision or resulting change, the greater the resistance:

  • What are you being asked to let go of or to release?
  • What must you face in its place?
  • How real are related fears?
  • How real are perceived benefits of proceeding with the transaction?

Enlist the expertise of your real estate professional in assessing the true benefits and weaknesses of the decision to buy or sell a specific property. Question their responses. Ask for market statistics and analysis of area trends.

  • Spend equal time and energy analyzing what is gained by not buying or selling the real estate in question. How special is this property anyway?
  • How much of the hesitation is related to uncertainty in your personal life or relationship? Is this really the best time to buy or sell? Don't just ask these questions. Get to work and decisively tease out answers.

Usually, this deep, clear thinking reveals the true value of benefits and gains in taking the plunge to buy or sell.

More than one experienced real estate professional has suggested the 51% rule can make sense when homes are involved. That is, "more sure" than "not sure," with slight but exhilarating uncertainty regarding the adventure ahead. That's real estate ownership.

For more on overcoming resistance to change — in yourself and others — check out "Overcome Mediocrity & Resistance" on PJ Wade's blog: http://whatsyourpoint.mobi

Copyright © 2017 Realty Times. All Rights Reserved.

4 Healthier Desserts

Here is what you'll need!

4 Healthier Desserts

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SQ683CrS_mg

Peanut Butter Banana Ice Cream
Servings: 2-4

INGREDIENTS
3 bananas, peeled and frozen
1 tablespoon natural peanut butter
1½ tablespoons mini chocolate chips

PREPARATION
Blend frozen bananas in a food processor until smooth. 
Transfer to a freezer-safe container and swirl with peanut butter and mini chocolate chips. 
Re-freeze until solid. 
Enjoy!


Watermelon Pizza
Servings 4-6

INGREDIENTS
1 watermelon
2 cups whole milk plain yogurt
½ cup blueberries
1 kiwi, peeled and sliced
5 strawberries, sliced
1-2 tablespoons honey

PREPARATION
Slice watermelon into 1-inch thick slices, discarding the ends.
Spread a layer of yogurt on top of each slice and top with fruit. Drizzle the tops with honey. 
Slice into pieces and enjoy!


Strawberry-Kiwi Yogurt Pops
Servings: 6

INGREDIENTS
1 cup strawberries
2 cups plain whole milk yogurt
2 tablespoons honey
½ cup strawberries, sliced
⅓ cup kiwi, peeled and sliced

PREPARATION
Combine 1 cup strawberries, yogurt, and honey in a blender. 
Blend until smooth. 
Pour evenly into popsicle molds. Stir sliced strawberries and kiwis into each popsicle and insert handle. 
Freeze until solid. 
Enjoy!


Chocolate Banana Lollipops
Servings: 16-18 pieces

INGREDIENTS
2 bananas
½ cup semisweet chocolate, melted
2 tablespoons sliced almonds
16-18 thin popsicle sticks

PREPARATION
Slice the bananas into ½-inch pieces. 
Push a popsicle stick into each piece like a lollipop.
Drizzle chocolate over the tops of each piece of banana to coat, then sprinkle sliced almonds on top. 
Place on parchment paper and freeze until chocolate has solidified. 
Enjoy!

 

Small Yard? Design Tips For Big Impact

Long to be a land baron, with acres of lush grounds to create the ultimate outdoor paradise? That may be a dream for another time. For now, a smaller space is your reality, but that doesn't mean it can't be amazing. These 7 tricks will help your small yard live large.

 

Don't be scared of trees

While a towering live oak may not be the right choice for your smaller yard, you don't have to give up on trees altogether just because you don't have acreage. Japanese maple and ornamental crabapple are just a few great options that will bring some color to your outdoor space. Our favorite: the crape myrtle, which maintains a manageable size and, "It's hard to beat the showy summer flowers, beautiful bark, and brilliant fall color," said Sunset.

Consider the scale

That patio set at Costco might be great deal, but how are that huge glass-topped table and eight rocker chairs going to look on your mini deck? There are plenty of options for small-space patio sets, and if you're looking to create an outdoor living room, building in the seating in this yard creates a welcoming seating area and keeps the rest of the space open.

Go diagonal

Finding the right hardscape material is only the beginning. How you lay it can make a big difference in the overall impact in your yard. "Creating a view along the diagonal of the property creates the illusion that the space is bigger than it looks," said HGTV. "Here, the diagonal path with steps traces a zigzag line through the garden, providing areas to linger and enjoy the wide beds and colorful plantings."

Go vertical

Vertical gardens have been one of the top trends for outdoor spaces for a few years and are perfect for smaller spaces or yards where the floor space is limited. There are all kinds of fun planters you can use for a mix of greenery and flowers, or choose a climbing variety. "Liven up a plain patio wall with a sun-seeking climber, like bougainvillea," said Good Housekeeping. "A simple stake in the dirt is all the trellis you'll need."

Divide it up

You may think that the less you place in the yard, the larger it will seem. But think about how a house looks with no furniture; that emptiness doesn't always translate to roominess. Placing things randomly throughout the yard might not create the feel you want, so think strategically. "It may seem counterintuitive, but by dividing your yard into zones using garden beds and landscaping, you actually give the illusion of space," said Aussie Green Thumb. "Consider creating areas that are essentially a series of rooms, such as an outdoor paved area, a lawn section and then gardens of varying heights. This means when you look at the yard from any angle, you don't know what is around the corner and it could go on forever. It's about creating mystery and allure."

Play with varying heights throughout

The gardens are a great place to start, but you don't have to stop there. This multi-level deck creates so much interest that the size of the space becomes an afterthought.

Create a container garden

Container gardening makes even the smallest outdoor space game for some greenery. "No space? No problem! You can grow flowers, herbs, and even vegetables in pots," said Rodale's Organic Life. "Container gardening is ideal for those with little or no garden space. In addition to growing flowers, gardeners limited to a balcony, small yard, or only a patch of sun on their driveway can produce a wide variety of vegetable crops in containers containers. Basil, chives, thyme, and other herbs also are quite happy growing in pots, which can be set in a convenient spot right outside the kitchen door."

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Design Advice For First-Time Homebuyers

You just bought your first home. Congratulations: You're an adult! Now it's time to fill it up. But if you were planning to pack up those ratty old beanbag chairs and the bed that awakens you with a morning backache and move them to your new place, we have a few suggestions. It's time for a grown-up upgrade. Here's where to start.

Invest in the important staples

You can scrimp on your mattress because it's not something that guests will see, right? Not so fast. A good mattress should be at the top of your list because it affects something more important than the opinions of friends and family: Your health.

"You wouldn't run a marathon or hike a mountain without the right gear. And yet, despite spending a third of our lives sleeping, many of us haven't adequately prepared in the bedroom - when it comes to mattresses, that is," said Huffington Post. "You might be tempted to blame your budget for continuing to doze on a less-than-ideal mattress, but considering just a little bit more shut-eye can help you lose weight, improve your memory and live longer, can you really put a price tag on good sleep? But the wrong mattress - or the mattress that's simply too old - can be the cause of more than that crick in your neck or your lower back pain. Here are five sneakier ways your mattress affects your sleep - and your health.

If you just can't bring yourself to spring for that kind of big-ticket item right now, look for opportunities to spread out payments with a zero percent interest deal, which more and more retailers are offering. Go to a place like Rooms to Go and you might be able to get your mattress and a living room set with monthly payments that are right around what you and your honey would pay for a nice lunch.

Measure, measure, measure

Having furniture that's too small or too large for a room can make it function poorly and look "off." Measure ahead of time so you know what to look for. Stores like HomeGoods have stacks of paper measuring sticks laying arouond, but you won't always be that lucky. Measure your space and input everything in your phone, stash a measuring tape in your bag, and you won't have to guess if something will work when you're out shopping.

Dress up the bed

One of the best ways to make a bedroom look pulled together is with a headboard. But many people don't even take a look at options because they assume they will be too expensive. You can get a super chic headboard for a minimal spend if you know where to go. This tufted headboard from Overstock looks like it would cost you about as much as a monthly mortgage payment, but it's just $137.

Buy a decent couch

The couch falls squarely under that "investment pieces" category. It will probably be among your most-used pieces of furniture, so it needs to be able to stand up to a lot of butts, a few feet, an assortment of overnight guests, and maybe a spill here and there. Comfort is key, and so is durability.

You'll hate yourself - and your couch - if you buy super cheap just to get something in the room. And we're speaking from experience. Our first cheapie couch (purchased online, BTW) started falling apart after about a month. Contrast that against what Sotheby's-trained home shopping expert Jennifer Litwin, author of Best Furniture Buying Tips Ever, says should be the lifespan of the couch: "The general prognosis is about 10 to 15 years, she told The Nest. You can scrimp on other, easily replaceable items like side tables and chairs that won't be used often, but when it comes to that couch: Go ahead and splurge a little.

Like and follow influential sites

Speaking of chairs…

Just today we learned about this great-looking $43 chair on Amazon that we never would have known about if we weren't fans of MyDomaine. And, by fans, we mean we follow them on Facebook. "The midcentury-modern chairs feature velvet upholstering, steel legs, and are available in dusty rose, moss green, gray-green, and teal, to name a few," they said. They're sold in a set of two, starting at $85."

Sites like Apartment Therapy and Design Sponge are great places to get interior design ideas, and liking and following a few favorite stores like World Market and HomeGoods and online sites like Wayfair and One Kings Lane is a great way to keep up to date on sales and trends.

Be careful about buying online

When comfort and quality are key, you want to be careful about buying without being able to see, touch, and sit. If you just have to have it, at least you can read what others have to say before producing your credit card. Back to that $43 chair from Amazon: "How do you know if chairs sold on Amazon look and feel as luxe in real life," asked MyDomaine. "Members of the Facebook group purchased the chairs and posted images of the items IRL, confirming that they live up to the hype. Yes, if the long chain of comments, likes, and photos are any indication, this might be one of Amazon's best-kept secrets."

Buy some art

Real art, from real actual artists. You can find some surprisingly affordable pieces that will give your home a personal touch. "Collecting art can be an expensive habit, but these days there are plenty of places to get amazing original art for a great price," said POPSUGAR. Like Minted, one of our favorite spots for original art that "discovers talent through ongoing design competitions. Designers submit, the Minted community votes to tell them what to sell, and we end up with seemingly limitless options at super affordable prices," they said.

That doesn't mean you need to give up all your posters (although, we adults call them "art prints.") Just get them framed nicely. "Luckily, framing has never been easier, now that there are online services like Framebridge," said Refinery29. "And when all else fails, you can't go wrong with the basic Ikea RIBBA frames (just make sure the art fits and doesn't slip and slide around when it's hanging on the wall)."

Don't be afraid to go to IKEA

IKEA is good for more than frames, even though you probably equate grown-up furniture with stuff you don't have to put together yourself. But not everything has to be a permanent fixture when you're just starting out. Concentrating on the big-ticket items may leave limited funds available to fill in the rest of your place. Many a new homeowner has hit the big blue-and-yellow warehouse and headed straight for the MALM dresser. It's cheap (starting at $54 for a two-drawer version), it's functional, and if you have a little bit of creativity—or the ability to do some basic research and follow directions—you can turn it into something that looks far more expensive.

We're also loving this South Shore Cookie 6-Drawer Double Dresser in gray and white from Walmart, which could give you the function in you need in an extra bedroom or guest room with a sleek, modern look. We guarantee your guests will never know where it came from…unless they were savvy enough to purchase on for their own home.

Get a few key housewares

Living like an adult isn't just about what you put stuff on. It's also about the stuff you put on you. Still using the same stiff sheets you bought for your first apartment or ratty towels you'd be embarrassed for company to see? "You'll feel more grown-up the second you stop drying off your body with a towel that has a fish in sunglasses on it," said Refinery29."

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The End Of The All-White Kitchen?

A funny thing happened while everyone was obsessing over white kitchens: Natural wood snuck back in, creating some of the chicest spaces around.

For many, natural wood evokes a country feel. Or perhaps something ultra-traditional. But today's natural wood kitchens are modern showplaces that mimic the newest trends we've been seeing in wood floors.

"We predicted that natural materials and warmer finishes would rule the kitchen in 2017. One way we're seeing this natural-material trend play out, thanks in part to the popularity of minimalism, is with unpainted, unfinished wooden cabinets," said Apartment Therapy. "The casual look combines the sleek style we expect in contemporary kitchens with the natural warmth of wood - just another reason we're adding ‘kitchen renovation' to our home wish lists."

Sound hard to pull off and still get the sleek look you desire? You might be surprised...

You know when you're watching House Hunters Renovations and the couple looking for a home to buy and redo always has diametrically opposed styles? "I prefer a Craftsman home with lots of architectural detail like molding and built-ins," says the husband. "I really love the idea of a clean, modern space that's totally open, almost like a loft, but without the ducting," says the wife. We could see this stunning kitchen on the show as a beautiful compromise for a couple who wanted some traditional details like the vertical shiplap look on the island and the handles on the drawers, and another who was insistent on commercial appliances (stainless rage and hood), and luxe materials (marble slab counters and backsplash). The wood cabinetry brings it all together.

Is that... pine? With the right design, any type of natural wood cabinetry can look fresh and new.

With the stone walls, this kitchen could go full Tuscan, or full country French. But, the use of materials, with the natural wood, quartz, and stainless steel, and the clean lines everywhere else, keeps the kitchen looking fresh.

For a minimalist, modern look, why not run the wood right up the backsplash?

Like the integrated look but want a splash of natural materials? The color palette and materials here look amazing with the indoor-outdoor appeal of this space, and wrapping the island with a waterfall edge provides some contrast so the kitchen doesn't read "all wood."

The mismatched look has been hot for some time, and this kitchen shows you how to do it with natural wood. The texture on the bottom cabinets is the perfect way to show them off.

Natural wood in a mid-tone brown is also a great counterpoint to an all-white kitchen if you're not ready to take the plunge all over. Notice how the island has more traditional lines, juxtaposed against the modern white cabinetry.

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Best (and Worst) Ways To Use Home Equity

If you bought a home recently, it may already have increased in value. Equity growth goes hand-in-hand with pride of ownership (and fun stuff like tax breaks) when it comes to homebuyer goals, so say a big, "Yay!" 

"Nearly 91,000 homeowners regained equity in the first quarter of 2017, according to real estate data firm CoreLogic's latest housing report, said Realtor.com. "Since the end of the most recent housing crisis, 9 million owners in total have regained equity, the report notes. About 63 percent of all homeowners have seen their equity increase since the first quarter of 2016, with the average owner gaining about $13,400 between then and the first quarter of 2017." According to Frank Martell, president and CEO of CoreLogic, that's the "largest increase since mid-2014."

But, before you go making plans for all that equity, either by doing a cash-out refinance (if possible and prudent) or getting a home equity loan, take a pause. That money may be best left right where it is. If you still want to tap that equity, here are some of best - and worst - ways to use it.

Home renovations

When your home has equity, it can be tempting to use it for home renovations, which, presumably, will further raise your home value - or at least make your home prettier or more functional. Knowing which renovations pay you back is key to making smart choices. Review Remodeling magazine's Cost vs. Value Report, which "compares average cost for 29 popular remodeling projects with the value those projects retain at resale in 99 U.S. markets." You can then take your research further, viewing data for your regional area. This will help you decide if that $50,000 kitchen is a good investment, or if that attic renovation you were considering will be a bust from an ROI standpoint.

A new car

That fancy new car is calling your name, right? Does it make sense to use some of your home equity to finance or buy it outright? Ask yourself this: Is this a car you can't afford without using your home equity? Can you afford to pay the difference in your current monthly payment and what will be your new payment - plus the monthly cost of the car?

"During the housing bubble, consumers used home equity borrowing to pay for everything from boats and gambling junkets (clearly bad) to cars and kitchen renovations (not so bad), said Interest.com. "The problems these homeowners experienced during the financial crisis and recession taught us that even some ‘not so bad' spending should be scratched from our list of acceptable uses. So, while we used to say that financing a car with a HELOC was OK, we no longer believe that. Besides, auto loans are now one of the few types of consumer loans that are cheaper than home equity loans or lines of credit."

Additions

Adding on to a home can be a great way to make it more livable, especially if the space is inadequate for your family. The Cost vs. Value Report can be useful here, too. You might be surprised to learn that a midrange bathroom addition typically only pays back an average of 53.9%. But, if you bought an older home that only has one bathroom, adding another could have a much higher ROI that makes the addition worth it.

When it comes to larger undertakings, "Studies show that nearly all of the cost of a mid-range two-story addition may be recovered at the time of sale," said The Spruce. "The key here is ‘may be recovered,' as there is no predicting the real estate market years in advance. While this might seem like a ‘no-brainer,' it needs to be mentioned. More space means higher heating and cooling costs, more windows to wash and gutters to clean, increased property taxes, and more house to clean. Even though additions offer the potential for higher cost-value ratios than other renovation projects, you still may not recover the full cost of the addition when you actually sell."

Vacation

That European cruise or trip to Machu Picchu sounds like a great idea, especially because you've got some cash to pay for it with the rising equity in your home. But consider this: You may be paying back the money you spend on that vacation long after you return home.

"The first mistake is using your home equity line of credit to live above your means," said Fidelity. "That can be paying for a vacation, using it to support going out to eat, buying luxury goods, or more generally, spending what you don't have. This risk is very similar to the risk of running up too much credit card debt, except that making this mistake with your home equity line of credit affects more than just your credit rating: It puts your home at risk."

More real estate

Leveraging one property for another is a tricky proposition. Whether you're thinking about flipping a house for the first time or already have some experience under your belt, you'll want to weigh the pros and cons - and costs - involved in buying and owning two properties.

"Unlocking some of your home's value to pay for a second home has its advantages - but it has some big drawbacks too," Greg McBride, a senior financial analyst for Bankrate.com, told CNN Money. "Lenders tend to give more favorable terms to those who tap their home's equity to pay for a second home because they have more skin in the game. Buyers who take out a separate mortgage on a second home are more likely to stop making payments if they run into financial trouble and default. To offset the increased risk, banks charge higher rates and require larger down payments of these borrowers. The costs of borrowing, especially on home equity loans, can be lower as well, since these loans don't involve paying for title searches or insurance and other transactional costs of new mortgages."

Now for the negatives: "By tapping your home's equity you'll be increasing your monthly mortgage payments and increasing the risk of losing your primary home to foreclosure.

Also, by buying another home you're tying up a lot of your money into one type of asset. You're putting a lot of eggs in the real estate basket."

College

With the cost of college continuing to rise and mortgage rates reaming near historic lows, homeowners are increasingly looking to their home equity to offset some of the costs of education. Here's why it may be a good idea: "With a home equity loan or a home equity line of credit, the two biggest positives are that home equity loans may be cheaper than other loans, plus the interest paid on a home equity loan is tax deductible," said HSH.com. The most important downside: You're using your home as collateral. And then there's this: "These loans don't typically offer flexibility during periods of financial hardship," they said. "But those who borrow with federal student loans can readily obtain loan deferments, forbearance, and sometimes even loan forgiveness."

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Your Summer Maintenance Checklist

New season. New tasks. As summer approaches, make sure your home is set with this home maintenance checklist.

Inspect Your Air Conditioner

As temperatures warm, you’ll want to stay cool. And in order to enjoy the benefits of cooled-air you’ll need to make sure that your air conditioner is running properly. Throughout the winter and spring months it is common for your air conditioner’s condensing coils to get filled up with dust, lint, grass clippings and other debris. This can impair the units function. If you have debris, it’s an easy fix. In most cases the debris can be cleared with a high-pressure spray down from a water house. It’s also important to clear the area around your air conditioner unit. This means no overgrowing vines or shrubbery that can hamper its ability to operate.

Clean Up Your Grill

Thinking about hosting a few cookouts this season? Not before you clean the grill. If you don’t already have a grill cover, invest in one to keep it protected from the elements throughout the other seasons. Your first task includes scrubbing your grill grate with a wire brush. This should also be done every time you grill, but let’s face it, sometimes it’s overlooked. Next, remove and wash your burner protectors. These can be removed easily. Toss them in a soap-filled five-gallon bucket and get to scrubbing. After that, wipe up the grime from your burners and clean the plates underneath with a wire brush. The plates are also removable. Finally, remove the bottom tray that serves as a collect-all, give it a wash and put all of your pieces back in order. Then, you’ll be ready to throw some steaks on the fire.

Check for Pests

Many types of pests thrive in the summer months. Due to summer temperatures, which affects behavior and development of common pests, ample food sources and increased daylight, many house and yard pests thrive throughout these months. But homeowners can prevent pests. First, check moist areas around your home and yard, like the gutters, for example, as these moist areas are hotspots for pest activity. Take a hard look at your home and inspect the outside of your house for cracks, crevices and holes, as these can be used as access points for unwanted pests, large and small. While you may be able to treat and prevent a number of pests, some pests, including wildlife, require special removal. If you suspect an infestation it is wise to contact a specialist or professional, as these trained experts have the skills necessary to properly remove wildlife nuisances.

Wash Your Windows

Take advantage of the warm weather, get outside and wash the windows. Ideally, your home’s windows should be washed twice per year. This task can be simplified and expedited with a squeegee. Instead of rubbing the dust and dirt around in a circular motion, opt for a strip applicator and use a solution of warm water and dishwashing soap. Next, wipe the window clean with a squeegee and clean up your window corners with a dry rag. For multi-pane windows you can customize a squeegee to fit the area by trimming it down with a hacksaw. It’s a simple solution for clean, streak-free windows.

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Stake Your Claim in Home Ownership This July!

This month marks the 241st birthday of the United States, and this year there’s plenty to celebrate. From low mortgage rates to mounting homeowner confidence, the early summer market held strong through June, but what’s on the horizon for July?

Just last month, mortgage applications rose 9% over this time last year, a true testament to the market’s steady gains. For those still unsure about taking the leap to buy, polls show that current homeowners are overwhelmingly confident in their purchase, with 80% deeming now a good time to buy. On the sellers’ side, 71% also advise to strike while the iron is hot and list today. In either case, the market is primed for action and there’s no better time to jumpstart your prospects than July’s mid-summer rush.

Homeownership has long been considered a cornerstone of the American Dream, so why not stake your claim in it this 2017? Give me a call today to review your real estate options while the summer selling season is hotter than ever. And from our office to your home, have a safe and happy Independence Day!

Consider all the opportunities that await in June!

Now that we’re in the midst of a sunny summer—the liveliest season for buyers and sellers—we’ve also reached the halfway point of 2017. With that in mind, it’s time to find some shade, kick back, and consider all the opportunities that await in June.

Last month, mortgage interest rates dropped to their lowest level since November, a promising financial incentive for buyers on the house-hunt. In May, homebuyers leapt at the chance to lock in rates at historic lows, amounting to a 4.4% volume spike in applications. Meanwhile, sellers are still basking in the market’s red-hot demand, as the average sale reaches or exceeds asking price. All in all, investment in real estate is as wise as ever, with buyers eager to claim a home of their own, and sellers enjoying big returns.

While summer is a prime time to unwind, don’t let this market pass you by. Give us a call today to see where you stand when it comes to buying or selling in the year ahead. The summer selling season is the perfect time to launch your next chapter.