Prepare now to sell your home this spring

In all of our years in the real estate industry, here’s a truth we’ve learned: it’s the proactive homeowner who ends up having the smoothest home sale and, typically, makes the most money.

If you start now, you’ll have plenty of time to prepare your home (and yourself) for the spring market and be among those success stories.

Will you be buying a home when this one sells?

Let’s get a market analysis done now so that we have at least a rough idea of your home’s current market value. Yes, it’s a bit early, but we just need a ballpark figure for you to take to a lender.

He or she can then present options for buying the next home. The worst thing you can do is sell your home before being pre-approved for a loan for your next home, so speak with the lender about what you need to do, financially, to ensure mortgage approval.

Consider a pre-sale home inspection

Having your home professionally inspected before putting it on the market is proactivity on steroids. After all, one of the most common home sale deal-breakers is the home inspection report.

Or, more specifically, issues in the report that the buyer perceives as insurmountable.

Let’s find out now what an inspector will learn with a thorough home inspection. That way, we can discuss the issues and decide which absolutely must be remedied and which don’t. And, since we’re starting so early, you’ll have time to get the work done before the home hits the MLS in spring.

Do what you can to increase curb appeal

Spring officially arrives on March 20 this year so you have plenty of time to get the home ready for the market.

Now is obviously not the right time of year to get out in the garden, mow the lawn or do any of the other tasks required to get the landscaping in shape for a home sale. There are things you can do, however, that don’t necessarily involve gardening.

  • Dismantle the mailbox, bring it in the garage and slap some fresh paint on it.
  • Shop for a new doormat, larger address numbers and porch light fixture.
  • Draw out a plan for where you’ll plant pops of color when the weather warms.
  • Make a list of early spring chores in the front yard. Clearing debris, trimming hedges and trees, spreading fresh mulch and whatever else you’ll need to make the exterior of the home more appealing to buyers.

Pre-staging

Now is the perfect time to construct a home staging plan. Pre-staging makes the job go easier.

This may include removing personal items, deep cleaning, applying fresh paint and culling excess items from cupboards, drawers, the pantry and closets (to make them appear roomier).

Not all homes require staging but if yours does, it is one of the most important parts of any marketing plan.

Again, don’t wait

A home sale includes a lot of details that you’ll want to pay attention to when the time comes.

In the meantime, it’s a smart move to rid yourself of the little distractions, such as small home repairs and accomplishing cosmetic touch-ups.

The spring real estate market is right around the corner. The time to prepare for a spring home sale is right now.

 

First time buyer? 3 things you need to buy a home

Most homeowners can clearly recall that moment it became clear that they could, and would, buy a home. Ditching the landlord is a dream of many and when you can see that dream – grasp it – it’s intoxicating.

It’s easy to jump right into the process and let the cards fall where they may, but it’s not wise. There’s a system to buying a home, and those that are successful follow the steps.

Before you jump online to look at homes for sale, start with the basics: the 3 basic things you need to buy a home.

You’ll need a mortgage

Unless you are among the 23 percent of homebuyers who will pay cash for a home, you’ll need to borrow the money to pay for it.

The loan you’ll use is called a “mortgage,” a word which traces its origins appropriately to the Old French “death pledge.” Ok, so 30 years may not put you on death’s door, but it will feel as if you’ve been repaying this loan forever.

But, look what you get in return. The freedom to have a pet, or two. The luxury of painting your living room any color you want and the liberation of knowing that a landlord will never be calling you to schedule an inspection of his or her property.

Shopping for a mortgage is something that shouldn’t be entered into lightly. There is a lot more to consider, for instance, than the interest rate. Additional considerations are covered in detail at Investopedia.com, WashingtonPost.com and, if you prefer video, Money Talks News.

You’ll need cash

You most likely know you’ll need cash for a down payment on the home you finally choose. If you’re using a Veterans Administration or U.S. Department of Agriculture loan you may not have to pay anything in down payment funds.

FHA lenders, on the other hand, bases the amount required, at least partially, on your credit score and it could range from 3.5 to 10 percent.

Then, there are the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac programs which require from 3 to 20 percent down. But, that’s not all the cash you’ll need.

While not the big chunk that the down payment represents, the earnest money deposit  will need to be paid when the seller accepts your offer to purchase (or shortly after). The amount of this deposit varies, but it’s typically around 1 to 5 percent of the purchase price. At closing, it will be credited toward what you owe.

Speaking of closing, there is a three-word phrase that few people warn first-time homebuyers about: “cash to close.” You may have heard of this chunk of money referred to as “closing costs.”

This amount includes all the fees and expenses that are related to actually making the loan and the closing process. They might include transfer fees and taxes, attorney and notary fees, title fees and more.

While closing costs vary, expect to pay between 2 and 5 percent of the purchase price, unless the seller has agreed to pay all or a part of your closing costs.

This money, along with your down payment, is due at closing so most homebuyers wire the funds to the title company (or whomever is acting as the closing agent) or bring a cashier’s check to closing.

The lender will let you know the total amount of cash you’ll need to close in advance of the actual closing.

You’ll need a real estate agent

Sure, this sounds like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how cavalierly many first-time homebuyers treat this part of the process.

In fact, studies by the National Association of Realtors finds a significant percentage of real estate consumers enlist the help of the first real estate agent they speak with.

Crazy, isn’t it? Americans spend hours on review sites such as Yelp.com in an effort to protect their dining dollars.

They read reviews at Amazon.com to ensure they’re buying the right dog leash for Fluffy. Yet they spend little, if any, time reviewing the qualifications of someone they’ll entrust to help them make what may just be the largest investment of their lifetime.

Don’t be like these people. Real estate agents are not all alike. Interview at least three. Learn about their experience, their negotiating successes, their availability and exactly what they’ll do to help you find a home.

Now, the fun part begins – looking at homes for sale.

Easy ways to add more color to your home

Home improvement projects are missing from the list of Americans’ top 10 New Year’s resolutions for 2019. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t undertake one or two this year, especially if what you do makes living in the home more relaxing. And changing up the color, even if it’s in small ways, can do just that.

Intimidated?

Intimidation is usually what stops homeowners from experimenting with color in the home. Despite learning the color wheel and all about complementary colors as kids, many of us still clench up when it comes time to choose a color that we’ll live with.

We scoured the internet for advice on how to choose a color you can not only live with but enjoy as well.

A good place to start

Looking at paint chips can be overwhelming if you do it for too long. Some industry professionals say the best way to start your search for a paint color is by doing so in short stretches of time.

Whether you’re standing in front of the paint chip rack at Home Depot or perusing colors on Pinterest or other online sites, don’t dwell on the process.

When you see a color that speaks to you, grab the swatch or save it to a color folder that you create on your computer. Don’t’ overthink the process. The idea is to go with your first reaction.

If it’s “I kind of like that one,” save it. You’ll revisit it later when it’s time to narrow your choices. Then, take it a step further and choose a lighter and a darker shade of that same color.

“Colors look brighter on the walls than they do on a tiny chip. You may be surprised by which you ultimately go for,” color expert Amy Krane tells Houzz contributor Tiffany Carboni

What to do with your new color

The choices are plenty. Consider:

  • Painting an accent wall. Remember, this wall will become the room’s focal point, so choose your wall carefully.
  • Accessorize with it. If you choose to start small with your new color, consider choosing fireplace mantel or coffee table accessories in the hue. Other ideas include sofa pillows, a throw or an area rug. The latter is especially useful in a smaller room because rugs make small spaces appear more inviting.
  • Painting just the trim with your new color. Unexpected pops of color are fun.

Color is the wonder drug for home interiors. It can make a space feel clean, new and energized or it can calm it down. It all depends on which you choose.

Find inspiration online at HGTV.com, BHG.com and, for ideas on how to add color to your home without picking up a paintbrush, head to ApartmentTherapy.com.

Be a smart homebuyer: Attend open houses

The National Association of Realtors tells us that 44 percent of homebuyers visit open houses. While most don’t end up buying the home, it gives them an idea of what homes in their price range offer.

And, that’s a brilliant strategy. Even if you don’t plan on buying the homes you tour, it helps you get acquainted with neighborhoods and homes.

If you’re about to embark on the Great American House Hunt, do yourself a favor and commit to attending an open house (or several) but to be prepared before arriving.

It’s for sale and nobody should be offended if you treat it as such

“Open house etiquette.”

Yes, there are actually articles online dictating to homebuyers how they should and should not act at an open house.

One online advice-giver suggests that potential buyers touring a home for sale should “stay away from their medicine cabinet and don’t open any drawers.”

So, when we shop for a car, should we stay away from the glove box and not open the trunk?

Absolutely not – kick those tires, throw open the trunk and even (dare we say it?) lift the carpeting to check out the spare tire.

The same holds true when attending an open house. This house is for sale and, like any savvy buyer, you need to satisfy your curiosity about all aspects of it.

Besides, a good listing agent will prepare the homeowner for the marketing process. This includes letting the seller know that his or her privacy is a thing of the past.

Especially when storage space is in such high demand, the homeowner should expect that potential buyers will open closets, cupboards and, yes, even drawers.

This isn’t to say there aren’t some common courtesies and etiquette “rules” that we hope open house attendees will offer.

We never want a home seller to come home to doors left unlocked, rumpled bed covers and personal items out of place. Those aren’t part of the unspoken deal. It’s a violation of privacy that potential buyers need to avoid.

What to bring with you

If you haven’t compiled a home-shopping wish list yet, do it before you attend an open house. Even jotting down some quick notes on what you absolutely must have in your new home will help keep you focused.

  • Don’t forget your smartphone or a camera. Photograph the exterior of the home and make note of the address. When you’ve toured a number of homes it will be challenging to recall which home had which features without something to jog your memory.
  • Bring a measuring tape. You may just fall in love with the home but have no idea if the master bedroom will accommodate your California king bed or if the living room wall is of sufficient length for your sectional sofa.
  • Bring a can. It doesn’t matter if it’s a can of deodorant or a can of beans, it will be especially important when looking at older homes. If you suspect a slope in the floor, lay the can down on it. If it rolls, there may be foundation or structural problems.
  • Finally, don’t go to open houses solo. Bring a friend or family member. Two sets of eyes are better than one when shopping for homes.

Someone may be watching

Ah, the age of technology. In London, it’s a given that your every move is being captured on CCTV. While it’s not that bad here, at least not yet, surveillance cameras are becoming more common.

And you should expect there to be at least one in any home you tour.

And they aren’t always evident

Even if you can see the camera, you may not have any way of knowing if it captures audio as well as video and it’s the former you need to be cautious of.

A good rule of thumb is to not say anything in an open house or a home tour that you wouldn’t want the seller to hear. Don’t insult the seller’s decorating taste or lack of housekeeping skills.

More important, if you love the home and will pull out all the stops to become the owner, wait until you’re outside to say so. Don’t say anything that will give the seller leverage during negotiations.

The open house tour

The person who greets you at the open house is the homeowner’s real estate agent – the “listing agent.”

This  agent represents the seller and your agent represents you, as the buyer. This is much like a court case situation, where each party has their own attorney, or representative.

The agent may ask you if you have representation. Even if you don’t, it’s a good idea to fib and say that you do. Using the seller’s agent isn’t typically a wise move.

Since the seller pays both of the agents’ commissions, your agent’s services cost you nothing. It’s worth it to have your own agent who will protect your interests during the purchase process.

The seller’s agent may allow you to tour the home by yourself or he or she may want to accompany you.

If it’s the latter, don’t allow the agent to distract you from viewing the features that are important to you and never allow yourself to be rushed.

Ask any and all questions that come up. This is a huge purchase you’re contemplating, so no question is a stupid question.

Most of today’s home buyers prefer to shop for homes online. Virtual visits, however, are no substitute for the open house experience.

There’s no reason at all that you can’t do both.

Your 2019 home, according to Pinterest

As huge fans of Pinterest, we’re always eager to read the year-end wrap-up and predictions of what will be trending on the platform in the new year ahead.

The beauty of Pinterest is that so many of the projects on display are DIY-able, meaning huge savings over hiring someone to do the work for you.

In fact, searches for DIY projects on Pinterest made up 83 percent of all home searches in 2018. Remodeling and landscaping were popular as well.

So, what are Pinterest’s prognostications for 2019? Read on and find out.

Your walls

Pantone is the undisputed leader when it comes to showing us the Color of the Year. In 2019, it’s “Living Coral,” so don’t be surprised if your neighbor paints her dining room a peachy orange.

Pinteresters, on the other hand, are opting for yellow. And, not just your standard sunny yellow, but “bold mustard yellow walls,” according to the platform’s “Pinterest 100-The Top Trends for 2019.

Searches for “mustard yellow” were up 45 percent.

But new wall covering doesn’t necessarily have to be of the latex variety. “People are wrapping up their walls – and themselves—in fabric for a textured, artsy aesthetic,” according to the report.

They may just be onto something with that. Many designers are predicting the return of wallpaper in 2019. Today’s wallpaper, however, should be one with bold patterns and bright colors.

Consider geometric patterns for the kids’ rooms (searches on Pinterest for geometric décor are up a whopping 1,178 percent).

Once you’ve decided on wall covering, it’s time to turn your attention to what to hang on those walls. Naturally, Pinterest offers their 2019 obsession: textile art. Searches for the term have increased nearly 2,000 percent and you’ll find inspiration here.

Or, if you prefer green, consider a vertical indoor garden. There are lots of ways to approach this trend. Check out some of the ideas at Decoist.com.

Under foot

There’s no need to rip out the old vinyl flooring; just paint right over it. Keep the colors bold (the theme for 2019, apparently) and consider mosaic patterns.

The secret is in the stencil you choose and, thankfully, there are many. Check out what some of Pinterest’s DIYers are doing with stencils and paint on a dated floor.

Succulents have been at the top of the must-have list for a couple of years now, but 2019 sees the trend moving more niche, to cacti. Searches for cactus arrangements have more than doubled at Pinterest and here’s a sample of what they find.

The great outdoors

Outdoor living spaces are popular with homebuyers and homeowners alike. The outdoor fireplace, as long as it’s “modern and sleek” is what they’ll be clamoring after in 2019, according to Pinterest.

This trend is, of course, useless to homeowners whose beloved garden is of the cottage or other less-modern style.

So, turn your attention instead to the aforementioned vertical garden. Whether you intend to cover an entire wall or create a privacy screen, you’ll find gorgeous inspiration on Pinterest.

We’ve saved the best trend (in our opinion) for last. If you’re considering the addition of a swimming pool, forget the chemicals and consider a natural swimming pool.

This trend has been simmering on the back burner for a year or so now and trendwatchers expect it to move front and center this year.

These low-tech alternatives offer not only that luxurious sensation of swimming in the wild but can be tailored to your particular landscaping style and the size of your yard. From huge ponds to plunge pools, we hope the natural swimming pool is a trend that’s here to stay.

Get ideas at AquaMagazine.com, HouseLogic.com and HGTV.com.

 

 

How to buy a house: 5 tips to get the best deal

So, you’ve heard that home prices are falling, the inventory of available homes is beginning to grow and, if you look closely, you’ll see a crack beginning to form in that once-fiery sellers’ market.

Whereas in the recent past, homebuyers were a dime a dozen, you may just be on the precipice of being an in-demand commodity and, with that status, comes power.

It’s already begun in the new-home market, with builders and developers offering buyers (and their real estate agents) attractive incentives. The resale market is expected to catch up, so let’s get you prepared to get the best deal possible when you buy a house.

1. Why are they selling?

There are a number of reasons people sell their homes and a seller’s reason, or motivation as it’s known in the real estate industry, is powerful information in the hands of the buyer.

It’s not easy to learn a seller’s motivation, but it’s not impossible either. The key is to be face-to-face with the seller, a situation often discouraged by real estate agents.

If you or your agent can arrange a meeting, however, (perhaps during a tour of the home), strike up a conversation. “How long have you lived here?” can lead to an opening for the “and why are you moving, if you don’t mind my asking?”

If you can’t meet with the owner in person, try asking the neighbors. Take a weekend walk through the neighborhood, stopping to chat with folks working on their cars, in their yards or playing with their kids.

Let them know you’re thinking of buying the neighbor’s home and ask if they’d mind answering some questions about the neighborhood. During the conversation, ask if they know why their neighbor is selling. You’d be surprised how much neighbors know about one another.

If the homeowner is selling because of a divorce or job relocation they may be in a bit of a hurry to sell. This is information we can use in structuring your offer (offering a quick close, for instance) to soften the blow of a lower price.

2. How long has the home been on the market?

This is information that we can get for you from our MLS. Why is this information important?

Recently listed homes are still in their “honeymoon” phase with buyers and agents. There is a lot of activity surrounding a new-to-the market home so the seller has very little motivation to accept a low offer.

As the home sits on the market with few offers, the seller may become more desperate to sell and, thus, more likely to entertain a lower sales price.

We can also let you know the average number of days homes in the neighborhood remain on the market. If the home you have your eye on has been listed for longer than that, you may be dealing with a very motivated seller, putting you in a strong negotiating position.

3. Study the pricing history

We’re happy to look up the pricing history of homes you’re interested in. From the time the home is first listed, the MLS will show us how many price changes have occurred, whether they were price hikes or reductions.

A seller who has reduced the home’s price more than once is a seller who needs to get the home sold.

4. Soften the blow of a low-ball offer

Ask for everything in the offer to purchase. That’s right, EVERYTHING. Even if you don’t want their furniture and appliances, ask for them.

Ask for the drapes, the barbecue, everything you can think of to put the sellers in overload. You want to divert their attention away from the low price you are offering and toward all their “stuff.”

Once the bartering begins all of their focus will be on trying to hang on to their backyard furniture, not that you’ve offered several thousand dollars less for the home than what they are asking.

Compromise with them; you didn’t really want all those items anyway. Keep your eye on what it is that you really want: your price.

No, it doesn’t always work, but in the end, you might get that price and maybe even a few appliances as well.

One more tip about what to include in the purchase offer: make sure you don’t give the sellers too much time to think about it. A 24-hour acceptance request is quite common and a strategic move in your position as a bargain hunter.

5. Get help with your closing costs

Getting the best deal on a home doesn’t always mean getting the home for a discounted price. If the seller won’t budge on price and you truly want the home, we’ll find ways for you to save money in other parts of the transaction.

One of the easiest is to negotiate closing costs by asking the seller to pay them. Sure, some will balk at this. Others might raise the sales price of the home to absorb the costs.

The danger in the latter scenario is that the new price may exceed market value and not meet the bank’s appraisal amount.

Put yourself in the seller’s shoes. The sale of a home is often an emotional event. The right real estate agent in your corner will be able to negotiate on your behalf while appealing to the sellers’ emotions.

3 of the Best Home Organization Blogs

If you’ve just purchased a home, putting all your “stuff” away is something you’re most likely not looking forward to. Unpacking boxes and then finding a place for everything can take a while.

The good news is that if you make a vow to get organized now, instead of promising to do it later, it will make the unpacking a lot easier.

Home organization isn’t just for new homeowners, however. In fact, the longer you’ve lived in a home, the more you most likely need a little help in getting things sorted.

It wasn’t easy choosing “the best” home organization bloggers but we found two criteria that helped us whittle down the list: the blog must be primarily about organizing (recipes and decorating tips tolerated, but not if they dominate the blog) and the blogger must actually BLOG at least once a week.

With a little input from friends and clients, we give you our list of 3 of the best home organization blogs on the internet.

It apparently takes a village to produce the Unclutterer blog and, judging by the volume of posts every week, we get it.

Canadian Jacki Hollywood Brown is the woman in charge and writes from Winnipeg, Manitoba. The site also has an editor at large, Erin Rooney Doland, in the D.C. area and a staff of writers.

You’ll find advice here from how to organize just about everything in the home, from prescription medication bottles to books, computer data, closets and more.

We love this post, with brilliant advice on speed decluttering (breaking the task down into five, 10 or 15 minute sessions).

Visit Unclutterer online at Unclutterer.com or connect with them on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

Canadian Laura Wittman is a self-professed “organizing junkie,” while many of us can be described as “clutter junkies.” If the latter describes you, this is your new favorite blog.

Laura and staff not only offer up brilliant solutions for decluttering but helps us dig deep into why we hang on to so much stuff and why we’re so disorganized.

You know those nights (at our house it’s almost every night!) when you can’t figure out what to make for dinner and when you finally hit on something, you’ll need to head out to the market for missing ingredients?

Laura fixes that for you by not only advising that you create a weekly menu, but posts sample menus for you as well. It doesn’t get any more no-brainer than that!

Find Laura and her amazing tips online at orgjunkie.com or connect with her on Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram, Youtube

While we’re north of the border, take a look at Laurence MacSween’s storage solutions blog, Storage|Glee. Once you get on the organization bandwagon, you’ll need these solutions and MacSween has plenty of them.

While she doesn’t offer how-to advice, you’ll find no shortage of inspiration. Take a look at the right sidebar to get started. You’ll find storage solutions for everything from salsa to vodka and from utensil to photos.

Prefer room-specific suggestions? You’ll find those as well.

Visit Storage|Glee online at storageandglee.blogspot.com.

Honorable Mentions:

Clutter Bug

If you can stomach the huge push to buy products, you’ll find that Clutterbug offers brilliant organizing tips.

They’re a bit challenging to find, nestled in among the products for sale, but if you scroll down the home page, just under the book for sale you’ll find her tips, organized by room.

A lot of what’s on the site is in video form (who has time for that?). Your mileage may vary. Visit them online at Clutterbug.me

A Slob Comes Clean

Again, lots of podcasts, videos and “please buy my stuff” to wade through, but we love her decluttering and organizing tips. Find them online at ASlobComesClean.com.

Be proactive: head off problems in the home sale before they happen

Too many home sellers feel that their listing agent is responsible for everything that comes after signing the listing agreement. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The homeowner is an active participant in many aspects of the sales process, from settling on the listing price to preparing the home for the market and being flexible when buyers’ agents request a tour.

While the 2019 real estate market will not likely be moving at the warp speed of last year and the year before, it’s still a prime time to sell a home so expect lots of activity when you list your home.

Then is not the time to prepare – that time is right now. Taking certain steps right now ensures smooth sailing through the entire process.

“If you’re proactive, you focus on preparing. If you’re reactive, you end up focusing on repairing,” according to American author John C. Maxwell. And, we agree.

Clear up clouds on the home’s title

When the buyer opens escrow, his or her lender will want a thorough examination of the home’s “title.” It’s a word you’ll hear frequently during that period of the transaction and it refers, simply, to the party or parties who have legal ownership and the right to use a piece of property.

The title examiner may find a problem with the home’s title. For example: Joan passed away, leaving the home to her three children. They put the home up for sale and instantly got an offer.

Then, the title examiner found a lien against the property. Joan had fallen behind in her payments, and the lender had been threatening to foreclose. Her kids had been working with the lender and were granted 90 days to sell the home.

Since the home was under contract to the new buyer, and the escrow company had instructions to pay the lender the past-due amount (plus fees, naturally) the lender agreed to release the lien and the transaction proceeded.

But, all of this took time, as you can imagine. You’ll find a list of other common title defects (also known as “clouds on the title”) online at First American Title.

A brilliant proactive step to take, if you suspect there may be a cloud on the title, is to order a title search before listing the home. We’re happy to help you do this.

Consider a pre-sale home inspection

When we live in a home for some time we naturally assume we know about all of its problems. Wrong.

We often see homeowners who are caught completely by surprise when the home inspector’s report turns up problems.

Depending on the scope of the problems, the deal can end up significantly delayed or even derailed.

Knowing all of the home’s problems prepares you for what is to come. And, should you decide not to make the repairs, it can help you more appropriately price the home for its condition.

Make the repairs that lenders/insurers commonly demand

If your buyer is using an FHA- or VA-backed mortgage, the lender may require certain repairs before agreeing to lend money to the buyer.

Typically, the lender will take issue with any problems dealing with the health and safety of the home’s occupants.

Some problems that don’t meet the FHA’s “minimum property standards” include:

  • Debris in the home’s crawl space
  • Lack of a fire door between the home and the garage
  • Missing handrails on stairways and decks
  • Cracked glass in windows
  • Minor plumbing problems (such as dripping faucets)
  • Ratty floor finishes or coverings (worn flooring, badly soiled carpeting)
  • Evidence of previous termite or other wood-destroying pest damage if there is no evidence of previous repair work
  • Worn countertops

This is only a partial list but it gives you an idea of some of the repairs the lender may require, depending on the buyer’s loan program.

The buyer’s homeowner insurance company may stick its nose into the deal as well, demanding that certain repairs be made or it won’t insure the buyer

Plan on making these repairs before listing the home for sale to avoid holding up the transaction.

Sure, it sounds like a lot of work, but being proactive saves you time and helps you make more money on the sale of your home.

Questions? We are happy to help.

Decorating on a budget with sofa slipcovers

Wouldn’t it be nice to have a new sofa whenever you wanted? Good news: when the seasons change and the urge to update your living room accordingly strikes you, you can have that “new” sofa, or at least one that looks new, with sofa slipcovers.

Couch covers are a wonderful way to update your home’s decor. With the variety of fabrics, colors and styles offered by manufacturers you are sure to find a way to create sizzle in your home redecorating project.

Fabric slipcovers have become so affordable that it would be easy to change your decor with the seasons.

Tips for choosing sofa slipcovers

The folks at Calico Corners caution against choosing linen or linen blend slipcovers because the fabric is wrinkle-prone.

Instead, opt for couch covers in textured fabrics, such as denim, cotton duck and twill – any fabric that is tightly woven. For inspiration, check out some of the fabric choices at Ikea.com, BallardDesigns.com and MyBluPrint.com.

Of course, it’s easy to get excited about a certain fabric or pattern, but keep in mind how heavily the sofa is used.

If it’s used often, choose a slipcover that has stain resistance and is washable. If you have pets and kids, choose a fabric that won’t tear easily. Durable poly blends are ideal.

Avoid slipcovers with a latex backing. “Latex backing causes the fabric to buckle and wrinkle instead of sliding over the fabric beneath it,” according to the pros at Calico Corners.

Then, there is style to consider. Do you want a tight, tailored fit or something looser and more casual?

“A fitted slipcover provides a seamless look where it is nearly impossible to tell that the furniture has been covered,” according to the decorators at Overstock.com.

Measure your sofa accurately to get the proper fit. Huffpost offers a walk-through of how to do it.

If you’re more of a DIYer and handy with a sewing machine, head over to BigDuckCanvas.com for a yardage estimator

 Winter sofa covers

It’s winter and folks tend to spend a lot more time indoors. Our homes become somewhat of a haven from the harsh elements. Therefore, a winter home should provide warmth and an air of coziness.

When deciding the fabric for your slipcovers in your winter redecorating scheme look to the heavier more textured types of fabrics. Corduroy, brushed suede, soft chenille, are all fabrics that provide a feeling of warmth. 

Recover your sofa in spring

Spring is, of course, a time of renewal. If you decide to renew your sofa to match the season, choose from lighter, airier fabrics in floral prints or soft solid colors.

Think “Easter,” and you’ll be on the right track.

 Summertime color

Summertime sofa slipcovers tend to be a bit more casual and your choice of fabric a little broader. Since we spend so much time outdoors in the summer, your slipcovered furniture won’t be getting as much use, and abuse, as in other times of the year.

This affords you the opportunity to go with a lighter-weight fabric such as cotton and cotton blends and silk-like polyester.

Color choices are fun – turquoise, peach, sunny yellow and crisp white. 

Fall ideas

Fall marks the transition from summer into winter. It’s harvest season, offering you a ton of color and print choices. If you opt for a solid colored couch cover, you can get more creative with accessories, such as pillows.

If you imagine colors associated with all of the seasons you can probably come up with more connections to fall than any other season. Brown, auburn, gold, and orange are the predominant colors of the season. Prints can range from botanical to plaids.

Where to shop for sofa slipcovers

Some of your favorite brick-and-mortar stores carry couch covers, including WalMart, JC Penney, Kohl’s, Target, Macy’s, Pottery Barn and Bed, Bath & Beyond.

Shopping online for sofa slipcovers is a snap with lots of retailers from which to choose. These include Overstock.com,  Wayfair.com, SureFit.com, Hayneedle.com and even Amazon.com (check out this gorgeous Micro Fiber slipcover).

With sofa slipcovers you truly can provide a whole new environment in your home each and every season.

What makes a neighborhood “kid-friendly?”

It may seem like an understatement, but life completely changes when you have kids. They’re so tiny, yet so powerful that they impact our lives more than anything that came before.

Years ago, you may have lived in an apartment, never thinking about buying a house. With kids, that changes, doesn’t it? They need room to grow, to play and to build memories.

So, Mom and Dad, today we take a look at what constitutes a “kid-friendly” neighborhood.

Safety is at the top of the list

Parents’ concerns about their child’s safety are reflected in the popularity of the cul-de-sac.

“From the beginning, builders noted that  . . . they prevented strange cars from speeding by on their way to somewhere else. Ads for cul-de-sacs often pictured children riding bikes and tricycles in the street,” claims NPR’s John Nielsen.

He goes on to state the irony in those statements because “cul-de-sac communities turn out to have some of the highest rates of traffic accidents involving young children.”

Rather than a home on a cul-de-sac, consider a home on a street located away from a major thoroughfare and one that lacks an exit that allows drivers to use the area as a shortcut.

But safety from vehicles isn’t the only concern when we have kids; there are human predators to consider as well. We aren’t allowed to address that concern directly, but we can point you to the local police station for crime rates.

And, the FBI’s Sex Offender Registry is online, so you can learn if there is a dangerous predator living in a neighborhood you have your eye on. The U.S. Department of Justice also offers an online database.

Are there opportunities to socialize?

Are there other children living in the neighborhood? Kids need to socialize and use their imagination in play with their peers.

If there are few or no other children in a neighborhood, your child’s opportunities for this critical developmental milestone are curtailed.

Sure, they can socialize and play at school, but, let’s face it, a neighborhood without other kids to play with just isn’t kid-friendly.

You’ll know there are other children in a neighborhood by checking out the other homes. Look for basketball hoops, bikes and other toys that children sometimes leave outdoors.

The best time to tour a neighborhood is on weekends or just when school lets out on a weekday.

Kid-friendly amenities nearby

A neighborhood within walking distance to a park is ideal for children, and their parents.

Parks are handy places for socializing, whether it’s parent-on-parent or kid-on-kid. Barbecues, birthday parties and other get-togethers at the local park are signs of a kid-friendly neighborhood.

What recreation you enjoy as a family? Bike rides? Look for bike paths. Swimming? A community pool nearby will be handy.

Does a kid-friendly neighborhood have to be in the suburbs?

You’ll find fabulous, vibrant neighborhoods in urban centers, many with a surprisingly suburban vibe. In fact, many parents prefer city life for their children.

“I grew up in a small apartment sharing a room with my sister so it never fazed me to live in a small space and not have a backyard—the city is our backyard,” mom of three Amy tells Michelle Cohen at 6sqft.com.

If many of your family’s favorite activities are located downtown, by all means, search for a kid-friendly neighborhood nearby.

No neighborhood offers everything a family wants but when considering whether the one you have your eye on is kid-friendly you can’t go wrong if it’s safe, walkable and has lots of playmates for your children.