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Small Kitchens Can Be Chic! 5 Ideas to Try Based on Your Design Style

by Amy McLeod Group


Small kitchens
 may not cater to the taste of every homeowner, but they certainly have their benefits. In a compact kitchen, there are fewer surfaces to clean, and everything you need—from olive oil to an extra hand towel—is within arm's reach.

And while living with a small kitchen means that you have less space to play with the decor, you can still make your mark. The trick, according to Karen Gray-Plaisted of Design Solutions KGP, is to keep it simple.

"Don't overdo the finishes and surfaces," she says, "otherwise it'll look too cluttered. For example, if you have a stainless fridge, install the hardware around it in a similar-looking finish. And keep cabinetry and counters in the same color family, so your kitchen feels more spacious."

To get you started, we've come up with five fun styles for a small kitchen, with recommendations on how to achieve these looks. The result? Easy upgrades that'll make your small kitchen a space where you love to spend time.

Modern farmhouse


Photo by G.W. Smith Lumber Co. 

Yes, you can channel Joanna Gaines and her wildly popular decor of choice, modern farmhouse, in a small kitchen. Jamie Novak, an organizing whiz and author of "Keep This Toss That," recommends a white color palette and opening shelving. "This type of shelf actually makes a small kitchen appear larger," she says. Incorporate wood tones into a modern farmhouse kitchen by installing rough planks as shelves, or try an industrial-style rolling cart made from wood, says Julie Coraccio of Reawaken Your Brilliance.

Stick to a simple palette of grays, taupes, and charcoal paint on the walls, and complete the look with a subway tile backsplash, a farmhouse sink, Shaker-style cabinets, and vintage accoutrements such as a clock or a worn wooden sign.

Feminine


Photo by The ABL Group 

Contrary to popular belief, you don't have to include a single pink element to achieve a feminine-style kitchen. For this look, choose elegant metallic fixtures for the sink, drawer and cabinet pulls, and lighting.

Novak says your window treatments and dish towels are great ways to incorporate delicate touches like ruffles or floral prints. "But steer clear of small prints, as they'll make the space feel cramped and cluttered," she says.

Coraccio recommends artwork to bring a feminine style to the fore. Or consider a dramatic chandelier over the kitchen island and fresh flowers or potted herbs to brighten up the room.

Rustic


Photo by Laura Medicus Interiors

A rustic kitchen is characterized by lots of wood (on floors, cabinets, the table, and countertops), but beware: It could look heavy in a small space. To lighten up this look, Novak suggests choosing paler versions of these materials. For example, if you have wooden countertops, consider painting your cabinets white.

Chunky drawer pulls and wrought-iron brackets to prop up shelves are two smart additions.

And don't forget texture in a rustic space. Leather door pulls, woven wicker baskets for fruit and veggies, and touches of metal and stone (a copper faucet or earthenware dishes) will enhance this design. "A butcher block or live-edge counter, black or rubbed-bronze fixtures, and farmhouse sinks are also common components in this kitchen style," says Gray-Plaisted.

Modern


Photo by Vertebrae Architecture 

Minimalism is the name of the game when it comes to designing a modern small kitchen. Shoot for a monochromatic color scheme, contrasted with pops of an edgy shade like orange, turquoise, or lime green. "Sleek hardware and flat panel cabinet doors are also appropriate," says Novak.

Forgo anything that could be misconstrued as clutter. Excess decor and too many countertop items are a definite no-no when going modern. Instead, invest in shiny finishes, frosted glass on cabinet fronts, and industrial light fixtures and bulbs to channel a modern vibe. Gray-Plaisted says matte black finishes, as well as cement flooring and countertops, are trending in modern kitchens.

Shabby chic


Photo by Big Chill 

Shabby chic style is all about showcasing timeworn treasures that look as if they were sourced from an antique shop. The color palette is always light and bright, so when painting your walls or cabinets, choose cream, off-whites, or pastels like robin's-egg blue, soft pink, or buttery yellow.

Don't be afraid to use mismatched dishes, mugs, and serving ware. "Vintage hand-me-downs and rescued items that you refinish yourself help with this eclectic, mismatched look," says Novak. Hit up a flea market for hand towels covered in Battenberg lace, delicate embroidery, or a floral pattern. A vintage metal sign is also a quintessential shabby chic accessory. Extra points for sourcing a retro stove or refrigerator! Just make sure it's fully functional.

Get tips on remodeling and design inspiration by contacting The McLeod Group Network at 971.208.5093 or [email protected]

By: Realtor.com, Jennifer Kelly Geddes 

Help, We Have a Leaky Roof! What to Do If This Happens to You

by Amy McLeod Group


I’ve known we needed to replace the roof above our front porch for some time now. It’s flat (water doesn’t drain well from it); we live in Florida (there are downpours nearly every day); and I can see the spreading stains on the stucco from my office window. It’s been on my expensive-things-we-should-do list for a while.

As we started to gather estimates on the repair job, however, we began wondering if we should replace the roof on our entire house instead. It’s already 20 years old, and even though it’s largely in good shape now, we know it has to be done sooner or later. Since roofers would be up there anyway, maybe it was the right move, even though the idea of spending money on something so boring—yes essential, but boring—wasn’t on my things-I-want-to-spend-money-on list.

How much does it cost to replace a roof, anyway?

If you had asked me what a new roof might cost a month ago, I would have given you an estimate so laughably short of the mark that Bob Barker would have forever banned me from the “Price Is Right." The initial quotes we got for a new roof were jaw-dropping—upward of $50,000 jaw-dropping.

Of course, there are many variables when it comes to cost, including the type of roof, where you live, and the size of your house.

We happen to have a concrete tile roof, and our home is over 3,000 square feet. So, we’re on the high end when it comes to roof replacements, but it's a big expense any way you look at it.

On average, the cost of a new roof ranges from about $22,636 for asphalt shingles to $38,600 for a metal roof nationwide, according to Remodeling magazine.

With these figures burning my eyes, my next question was: Do we really need to replace the whole roof? Or could we do just the necessary repairs?

How long does a roof last?

Complicating this decision, we’d like to sell this house in the near future so we can move closer to a new job. So, can we just wait it out and hope for the best?

Experts say most roofs last between 15 and 40 years, while some, such as those made of tile shingle, are meant to last hundreds of years. However, how long a roof is meant to last and how long it actually lasts are often two very different things.

For example, Connor Sullivan, a storm restoration specialist with American Roofing, says a three-tab shingle roof is supposed to last 20 to 25 years, but most last only 12 to 15 years due to weather, improper installation, and lack of ventilation. An architectural shingle roof is designed to last up to 40 years, but he says most usually last only 25 to 30 years.

That means we could have 10-plus more years with this roof—or not.

To reroof or repair?

It all seems like an expensive gamble, but industry experts say there are some important factors to consider.

“If you're only going to be living there for a couple more years and then selling, it may make sense to make minor repairs and move on, assuming the roof is in generally good shape,” says Corey Crossman, a real estate agent and broker in Raleigh, NC.

“If you plan on staying for the long haul and your roof is giving you trouble, it's better to replace it right away and enjoy years of a good roof rather than put it off and battle roof leaks and other problems.”

He says what you don’t want to do is continue repairing a roof that has outlived its life expectancy.

“Many homeowners would rather spend a few hundred dollars here and there to make repairs than take the big hit and spend several thousand for a new roof," he says. "But in most cases, they'd be better off investing in a roof replacement, enjoying the best years of the roof, and then reaping the rewards if and when they sell the home.”

If your roof has been damaged due to weather, don’t forget to contact your insurance company, as some repairs or replacements may be covered under your homeowners policy.

“Going through insurance should always be your first option to save you from spending an arm and a leg on something your insurance should be helping you with,” Sullivan says.

We did indeed contact our insurance company, and it deemed a small portion of our porch roof damage to be weather-related. We got a small check to help cover the cost of repairs.

What's the ROI on a new roof?

The question of a new roof’s return on investment,or ROI, is a big variable to consider as well. Of course, there are no guarantees, and experts have varying opinions on the ROI of a new roof. Most say it’s not 100%, but it can make a significant difference when it comes to selling a home.

“If your house needs a new roof and the roof costs $10,000, it probably doesn't mean you'll be able to sell the home for $10,000 more than your competition,” Crossman says.

“However, where you can really cash in is the speed at which your house will sell. A home with an old or failing roof just begs for lowball offers and will likely be sitting on the market for quite some time before a buyer is willing to step in and pay market price for it," Crossman continues. "If you don't want to sell your home at a discount and you want to sell fast, opt for the new roof.”

Demetrius Gray, former roofing company owner and CEO of WeatherCheck, a technology startup that monitors properties for hail damage, offered this insight. “The ROI can vary a lot because a bad roof can be a deal breaker when it’s time to sell because they cause appraisals to fail,” he says. “A new roof should be about a 5% increase in value, and more if the workmanship and material warranties are transferable.”

Repair or replace: What we did with our roof

In the end, we decided to repair our roof where necessary and focus our funds on other home improvement projects. We’re painting the exterior, replacing the outdoor lights and fixtures, getting a new front door, and doing some other cosmetic changes to make the house look more modern. We’re hoping this adds some value and curb appeal and will allow us to enjoy the house more for the remaining time we spend in it.

We don’t assume the ROI on these improvements will be as high as that for a new roof, and we realize we may end up having to replace our entire roof down the line. In the meantime, we’re excited about our home makeover, crossing our fingers we made the right decision and hoping the hurricane seasons are mild.

Contact The McLeod Group Network at 971.208.5093 or [email protected] for ALL your Real Estate needs!

By: Realtor.com, Julie Ryan Evans

Home Sales Expected to Continue Increasing In 2020

by Amy McLeod Group


Freddie Mac
Fannie Maeand the Mortgage Bankers Association are all projecting home sales will increase nicely in 2020.

Below is a chart depicting the projections of each entity for 2019, as well as for 2020.

As we can see, Freddie MacFannie Mae, and the Mortgage Bankers Association all believe homes sales will increase steadily over the next year. If you’re a homeowner who has considered selling your house recently, now may be the best time to put it on the market.

 

Contact The McLeod Group Network at 971.208.5093 or [email protected] for ALL your Real Estate needs!

 
By: KCM Crew

10 Secrets No One Tells You That'll Help Your House Fetch Top Dollar

by Amy McLeod Group


Maybe you’ve bought and sold a home before, or maybe this is the first time. Regardless, now you need to get top dollar for it. Yes, you can tidy up, bake some cookies so the house smells nice, and place fresh flowers (research says roses, lavender, and fuchsia most sway buyers) around the house. But these are the typical techniques most sellers deploy. Really want to get the best price possible—or even spark a bidding war?

Here are 10 tips that are seldom mentioned in listing houses that just might put your property over the edge.

 
 
 

1. Make sure your mailbox looks amazing

First impressions matter, which is why you should check out your curb appeal. Is the driveway cracked? Is the mailbox old and leaning? The best sales rest on keeping these details in mind.

“Replace the mailbox—literally the first thing people see,” says Teris Pantazes, CEO and co-founder of SettleRite, a pre-sale home improvement company in Baltimore.

2. Make the right use of your rooms

If you use the dining room for a kid's playroom, or if the loft is empty because you don't have a use for it, restage your rooms so they reflect their original purpose. Buyers want to see the space used in a traditional way—with a dining table in the dining room, a desk and chair in the office—to envision themselves living there.

3. Reglaze the bathroom


Bathrooms and kitchens sell houses, and any small improvement that makes those rooms more modern makes a huge difference.“The best tip I use to get top dollar for some of our houses is to reglaze an old bathroom that has a terrible color of tile—like pink or green,” says Michael Pinter, a house flipper in Long Island, NY, with LMPK Properties. "We reglaze the bathroom white for a few hundred dollars, and a dated bathroom will look 30 years younger."

4. Get buyers to fall in love

Russell Volk, a real estate agent with Re/Max Elite serving Bucks County, PA, worked with a home-selling couple who decided to hand-write a one-page letter about their life in the house.

“Their story of how they raised their family and what kind of experiences they had in the home was very personal and emotional,” says Volk. The letter was framed on the kitchen counter for potential buyers to read. One buyer who liked the home absolutely loved the sellers' story—and paid full asking price.

“If sellers can connect with buyers on an emotional level, chances of buyers paying top dollar for the house drastically increase," says Volk.

5. List under value

"Data shows that if you list a home 10% under market value, you will attract 75% of the buyer pool, versus only 30% if you were to list 10% over market value,” says Melissa Colabella, at Sotheby's International Realty. “Yet sellers fear that not leaving room to negotiate leaves money on the table, which is not true.”

In fact, buyers are often motivated to bid by seeing other bids on a property, a dynamic that typically pushes bids above market value.

6. Provide insider information

Make sure to include tidbits in the listing that buyers will appreciate and that they can only get from you: the mention of a popular neighborhood coffee shop, the best Mexican restaurant nearby, or the free library box around the corner. No one knows these details better than you, the homeowner.

7. Describe the neighborhood culture

Think of everything interesting you can about your neighborhood—its proximity to a community pool, street basketball games in the cul-de-sac, the number of dog walkers who gather to chat—and mention them in your listing. The smallest detail can attract a buyer with a teenager, a dog, and kids with swimsuits.

8. Don't forget to list the house extras

The motion-sensitive outdoor lighting, an automatic garage door timer that closes the door before dark, a phone-activated security system, or camera door bell... These bells and whistles may seem banal to you, but they can make sellers feel that everything’s been taken care of for them—and inspire a top-dollar offer.

9. Create a video tour

Most people get great photos and fantastic descriptions. But filming a video tour of the property is inexpensive, can be done by an amateur, and is a novelty that will draw in buyers, says Bryan Stoddard, owner of Homewares Insider, a site exploring all things related to the home.

“If the video is well made, it will showcase exactly the same things that an open house would," he says.

10. Get a home pre-inspection

Yes, the buyers will want their own home inspection, but getting a pre-inspection so that prospective buyers have a general idea of the property's condition before making an offer is a win/win, says Antonio Picillo III, a broker at Exceptional Home Team in Fort Wayne, IN.

Home buyers will be impressed you took the time and effort to get your home pre-inspected to make sure everything is tip-top. It shows a level of integrity and commitment that can be hard to find.

Thinking about selling your home? Contact The McLeod Group Network at 971.208.5093 or [email protected] to find out how much it is worth! 

By: Realtor.com, Jennifer Nelson

10 Home Upgrades That Attract Millennial Buyers

by Amy McLeod Group


Think millennials aren't in the market to buy a home? On the contrary, by early 2019, millennials represented 42% of all new home loans. What does this mean for home sellers? It means it's time to start revamping your house to attract these buyers!

Luckily, there are plenty of simple and relatively affordable upgrades homeowners can make that appeal to millennial buyers. We asked the experts to share some of their top tips for attracting these young buyers, so your home can sell in a jiffy.

1. A home office space

Photo by Elms Interior Design 
 

The remote work trend is on the rise for all groups, but especially among millennials. As a result, Kerron Stokes, a real estate agent with Re/Max Leaders in Colorado, suggests showcasing a home's live-work versatility by carving out space for a home office.
 

"More than 13 million Americans work from home, according to the most current U.S. Census data. And all signs point to that trend continuing," Stokes explains. "It doesn’t have to be big, but millennial buyers are looking for somewhere to go for a last-minute conference call or to get additional work done during the day."

Luckily, this is an easy fix for sellers. If you're looking to make your property more attractive to millennial buyers, consider staging one of the smaller bedrooms (or even a bonus space like a nook or alcove) as a home office. It's a small touch, but it will help your potential millennial buyers picture the space working with their lifestyle.

2. Smart tech

Yes, this one seems obvious: Of course millennials are drawn to smart home tech—but what type?

"Appliances such as smart thermostats, smart doorbells, and more that can be controlled from an app are all the rage," Stokes explains. "Connectivity is king when putting a house on the market these days."

Yuri Blanco, owner of Re/Max Executives in Idaho, adds that millennials also crave low-cost tech.

"They crave smart security systems that don’t require a monthly subscription," says Blanco. "Any new technology that comes at a low cost is a major bonus to this age group."

3. Energy-efficient appliances

Energy-efficient products are also hugely important (and a huge selling point) for millennial buyers.

"Millennials are choosing eco-friendly materials such as nontoxic paint, Energy Star appliances in and around the home," Blanco says.

4. A game room/gathering space

When it comes to staging, Blanco suggests highlighting how a space could be used as a gathering place for friends—something millennials actively consider when viewing homes.

"Millennials think about friends' needs, so they want big areas where everyone can gather for entertainment, whether this be a TV or a game room," Blanco explains.

5. USB outlets


 

According to Stokes, it's particularly important to install USB outlets in bedrooms, living rooms, and kitchens if you want to catch millennial buyers' eyes. Smartphones are a fact of life today, and showing that your home is ready to make life easier with accessible charging ports will impress younger buyers.

"I recommend sellers swap out standard outlets for the outlets that include USBs for charging," Stokes says. "Constantly being on a smartphone drains a lot of power. When your home offers a charging hub or outlet for people, especially in unconventional rooms like the kitchen, they are more likely to stop and take a second look."

6. Neutral colors

When it comes time to paint a property, opt for soft, light neutrals to appeal to millennials.

"Millennials favor neutral colors," Blanco says. "Particularly grays have gained wide appeal, along with more whitewashed gray variations, soft neutrals, and creams."

7. Modern design

When it comes to upgrading cabinets and other built-in features, experts say to opt for modern design elements if you're hoping to woo millennial shoppers.

"In recent years, we are seeing millennials prefer modern, sleek designs with clean lines and minimalist aesthetics," Blanco says. "To them, less is more. Homes that have new, stainless-steel kitchens, and simple cabinetry draw millennials in."

8. Outdoor living space

In addition to upgrades inside the home, Stokes recommends making sure that the backyard feels like an extension of the living space—something that's proving important to millennial buyers.

"Millennials have demonstrated a desire to personalize their homes, and large yards provide that opportunity," Stokes says. "Spaces designed to spend time with friends around fire pits, room for a garden, and room for pets to roam is desired. However, sellers should keep in mind that these areas shouldn’t require a lot of time and maintenance, as this is something that repels millennial buyers."

Amy Bonitatibus, chief marketing officer with Chase Home Lending, reiterates this point and adds that it's important to not forget the front yard as well.

"According to the recent Chase Housing Confidence Index, a survey which used data from the U.S. Housing Confidence Survey, millennial homeowners ranked landscaping first on their renovation wish list, ahead of bathroom and kitchen remodels," she says. "Everyone wants that Instagram-worthy curb appeal. Over 40% of young homeowners are looking to install new landscaping in the next few years."

9. Garage outlets

Millennials are also more likely than older buyers to extend that smart tech to the garage and try electric vehicles, which makes power outlets in the garage increasingly important to them.

"Having the option to power, from smart cars to toy batteries to an outdoor fridge, will instantly up your home’s appeal to millennials," Stokes says.

10. Storage space

Photo by Closets by Design Louisville 
 

Millennials aren't all about fashion over function, despite what some may (wrongly) assume. Blanco says that millennials are drawn to homes that have a lot of practical storage space.

"Millennials have a desire for storage," Blanco says. "If a home contains a multifunctional piece of furniture with storage options, even better. A home with plenty of built-in closets and drawers is more likely to be sold to buyers in this age group. Garages are also a notable place for increased storage."

Thinking about selling your home? Contact The McLeod Group Network at 971.208.5093 or [email protected].

By: Realtor.com, Kayleigh Roberts 

Should You Prepay Your Mortgage? The Pros and Cons

by Amy McLeod Group


Should you prepay your mortgage? For some homeowners it’s a financially savvy move—but for others, beefing up their loan payments just doesn’t make sense. To help you figure out whether prepayment is right for you, here are the pros and cons cited by financial experts.

Pro: You'll cut down on the interest you owe

Interest is the extra fee you pay your lender for loaning you the cash you needed to buy a home. After all, lenders don’t just hand out dough for free—they’re in the business to make money.

By increasing your monthly mortgage payments—also called “prepaying” your mortgage—you’ll effectively save money in interest charges. Those savings can add up big-time.

For example, let’s say you take out a $200,000 mortgage with a 4% fixed interest rate and a 30-year term. If you continue to make your minimum monthly payments, you’d be forking over $143,739 in interest over 30 years until the debt is paid off. But, by paying an extra $100 per month, you’d pay only $116,702 in interest over a 25-year time span—a savings of $27,037.

Pro: You’ll get your mortgage paid off sooner

By accelerating your mortgage payments, you’ll also be shortening how long it takes to pay off the loan, which would increase your cash flow in the future. That’s a huge incentive for some borrowers.

“For families with young children, where the parents are concerned about paying for their children’s college tuition, sometimes we will recommend they increase mortgage payments so that when their kids head off to college their mortgage obligation is gone,” says Joe Pitzl, a certified financial planner for Pitzl Financial, in Arden Hills, MN.

Paying more money each month toward your mortgage’s principal can also give you peace of mind, says Marguerita Cheng, a certified financial planner at Blue Ocean Global Wealth in Gaithersburg, MD.

“Emotionally, it’s gratifying knowing that you’re paying your mortgage sooner than you originally planned to do,” Cheng says.

Pro: You’ll build equity faster

No matter how much money you put down on your mortgage, your home equity is the current market value of your home minus the amount you owe on your loan. So say your home is worth $250,000 and your mortgage balance is $200,000. In this case, you’d have $50,000, or 20%, in home equity.

Making larger mortgage payments toward your loan's principal would enable you to build equity faster. Having more home equity can be a tremendous boon if you’re looking to get a home equity loan or home equity line of credit, such as to pay for home improvements, says Tendayi Kapfidze, chief economist at Lending Tree.

Pro: It helps your credit score

Showing that you have less debt—and that you manage your debts responsibly, by paying your mortgage off early—can raise your credit score. That can help if you’re planning to apply for a car loan or a second mortgage on a vacation home, since your credit score would affect the interest rate you qualify for.

Con: Prepaying reduces mortgage interest, which is tax-deductible

Because prepaying your mortgage reduces your mortgage interest, it may not make sense from a tax-savings perspective. Mortgages are structured so that you start off paying more interest than principal.

For example, in the first year of a $300,000, 30-year loan at a fixed 4% interest rate, you'd be deducting $10,920. (To find out how much you paid in mortgage interest last year, punch your numbers into our online mortgage calculator.)

Nonetheless, taking a mortgage interest deduction under the new tax law requires itemizing deductions—and itemizing may no longer make sense for many homeowners, since the standard deduction jumped under the new tax plan to $12,200 for individuals, $18,350 for heads of household, and $24,400 for married couples filing jointly.

Another thing to consider: In the past, you could deduct the interest from up to $1 million in mortgage debt (or $500,000 if you filed singly). However, for loans taken out from December 15, 2017, onward, only the interest on the first $750,000 of mortgage debt is deductible, says William L. Hughes, a certified public accountant in Stuart, FL.

Con: You could miss out on more lucrative investment opportunities

Every dollar you put toward your mortgage principal is a dollar you can’t invest in higher-yield ventures, such as stocks, high-yield bonds, or real estate investment trusts, Pitzl says.

That being said, “you’d be assuming more risk by investing your money in, say, the stock market instead of putting the money toward your mortgage,” Pitzl points out.

“You have to consider your risk tolerance before you decide where to put your extra cash,” says Cheng.

Con: You may miss paying off higher-interest debts

For many homeowners, paying off higher-interest debt—such as from a credit card or private student loan—is more important than prepaying their mortgage, Cheng says.

Think about it: If you’re carrying a $400 debt on a credit card from month to month with a 20% interest rate, the amount of money you’re paying in credit card interest is $80 per month—that would be leaps and bounds higher than what you’d be paying in mortgage interest on a home loan with a 4% interest rate.

Con: Prepaying a mortgage could hamper achieving other financial goals

Building your retirement savings is crucial, of course. However, some people make the mistake of prepaying their mortgage instead of maxing out their retirement contributions, Cheng laments.

“At the bare minimum, I recommend my clients do a full 401(k) match with their employer,” she says.

Moreover, Pitzl encourages people to build a sufficient emergency fund—typically, a fund large enough to cover three to six months of their essential expenses—before they focus on prepaying their mortgage.

“If you get into a bind, you can’t sell off windows and doors to make ends meet,” Pitzl says.

Con: There may penalties for prepaying your mortgage

Some lenders charge a fee if a client’s mortgage is paid in full before the loan term ends. That’s why it’s important to check with your mortgage lender—or look for the term “prepayment disclosure” in your mortgage agreement—to see if there’s a penalty and, if so, how much it is.

The bottom line: If you don't have enough money to pad your savings before you begin paying off your mortgage early, prepaying your home loan may put you in a financial hole if an emergency crops up.

Still not sure what direction to go in? Consider sitting down with a financial planner to discuss your options based on your personal finances.

Contact The McLeod Group Network for all your Real Estate needs! 971.208.5093 or [email protected].

By: Realtor.com, Daniel Bortz 


The empty-nest drill used to go something like this: As your kids move up the rungs of the educational system, you and your partner wonder whether to move to a condo in Boca, a bungalow in the Carolinas, or another relaxed-living locale. (Let’s overlook the fact that most of us can’t afford to retire.)

But times are changing. More and more 50-plus Americans are going the urban route. Stats from the National Association of Realtors® indicate that the percentage of 50-something home buyers purchasing property in cities is edging upward. And another study found that boomers are seeing a massive uptick in renting versus owning—which makes sense if they're moving to a big city.

About those renters of over age 50: I’m one of them! When we were in our 30s, my husband and I fled the city and bought a house in the suburbs. The main reason was that our two sons had hit school age in an overcrowded public school system, and were quickly outgrowing the small bedroom they shared. So we headed to a tree-shaded town in a well-regarded school district, where our kids could enjoy separate bedrooms and a yard where they could get their ya-yas out (Stones fans, am I using that correctly?).

And so it went—and went well—until the kids grew up and skedaddled, leaving me and my husband alone in a lovely house with shriveled social connections (the days of blabbing with neighbors about that overly tough AP History teacher were over) and feeling way isolated. We both worked in the city, and without the school system anchoring us, why were we commuting, we wondered? And why were we paying that hefty school tax bill now that our kids had flown the coop?

So we decided to sell our family home (sorry, boys!) and move. For us, it was a great decision. Here’s why:

1. Boosting our bank account

At least for the moment, my husband and I are happy not to have money tied up in real estate. As you may know, the current tax laws don’t incentivize having a mortgage the way they used to. We don’t feel the imperative to own a home in order to get that deduction come April 15, so why not feel a little unencumbered and mobile for a while?

2. Getting off the train schedule grid

Now that we are not running home after work to make dinner and supervise algebra homework (as if I could be of any use on that), my husband and I can reclaim our evenings, which feels a lot more fun in the city. We can take a walk by the river, try a new rooftop bar, or stop by a gallery opening without doing commuter math, which goes something like, “If the train is at 10:30 p.m., that means I need to leave here by 10. … Then, let’s see, I should get to the station at home at 11:30, drive for 15 minutes, and be in bed by midnight.” For a couple trying to reinvent our life after two decades of kid focus, freedom from the commuting schedule is a very good thing.

3. Jettisoning all that home maintenance

Praise the Lord, I no longer need a contact list full of electricians, roofers, masons, tree-stump grinders, landscapers, the highway department (responsible for pickup of garbage over a certain size), pest-control specialists (wasp nests, gah!), HVAC folk, etc. All of the homeownership stuff, so long! And the winter drama of nor’easters, tree limbs flying down, power going out, and frantic efforts to find somewhere—anywhere—to do a load of laundry are over.

4. Enforced downsizing

City life is apartment life, and it’s forcing me to go minimalist. There’s no basement, attic, or other place to hide the accumulated stuff of life, so I need to get rid of it. Or at least I’m trying to. I have a storage unit holding the contents of my former attic, having been unable to Marie Kondo my way to lean-and-mean status pre-move. But our lack of storage is making us think twice about accumulating any more crap.

5. Urban adventuring

In the city, quirk and culture abound. While I miss the sound of the wind whispering through the pine trees and the squirrels and birds darting around my yard, the city has a seductive pulse of discovery. There’s an aura of possibility that makes life feel more exciting, even if I just sit on my butt at home. Knowing that a midnight cheese-tasting event or a mermaid parade are just a quick subway ride away brightens my day in a big way. Yes, I’ve forsaken space, fresh air, peace and quiet. But I feel as if I’m sharing an amazing and varied human experience with fellow urban explorers.

Contact The McLeod Group Network for all your Real Estate needs! 971.208.5093 or [email protected].

By: Realtor.com, Janet Siroto

Don't Screw Up! 7 Mistakes to Avoid When Building a Deck

by Amy McLeod Group


A deck is high on the list of must-haves for homeowners who enjoy the great outdoors. It expands your usable living space and provides a great place to relax or entertain. It's little wonder that so many folks opt to extend their decks or build a new one from scratch.

But if you decide to take on this big-time home improvement project alone, you need to do it right. Any mistakes can be a waste of time and money, especially if you end up needing to calling in someone to fix your errors.

What can you do to prevent a major building misstep? Avoid the following flubs.

1. Ignoring codes and permits

Your home is your castle, and you have the right to build any type of deckyou want, right? Sort of.

“You need to have a copy of your local codes for decking and railing, and build your deck plan accordingly,” says Geoff Case, senior merchant for pressure-treated wood products at the Home Depot.

The building code is often derived from the International Residential Code, and amendments are made at the local level.

"While you need to be aware of IRC requirements, it's often the local changes that do-it-yourself builders forget about,” Case explains.

Fortunately, it’s not hard to find the information you need to stay in compliance—you can find many of the municipality-specific requirements on your city or county website.

But the deck will likely be in your backyard, hidden from the public, so do you need a building permit?

Doug Fritsch, director of web and package sales at 84 Lumber, warns against taking the chance.

“If your project is flagged by a building inspector, you may have to rebuild significant portions, or maybe even tear the deck down,” he says.

2. Choosing the wrong materials

There are a variety of woods and treatments to choose from, so you’ll need to know which one is best for your project.

“A popular treated deck board is 5/4-by-6 inches, which has a rounded edge and a great finished look,” Fritsch says. However, composite decking is also popular because it’s mostly maintenance-free.

The type of treatment you use is also important.

“Using the incorrect treatment type for your decking can cause it to deteriorate at a faster rate,” Case warns. “Make sure deck joists, beams, and ledgers are installed using wood treated for ground contact use.”

3. Waiting too long to make changes

It’s understandable to change your mind when building a new deck, but try to make any modifications as early in the process as possible.

“Make your mistakes and changes in the design phase, not when construction has started,” says Fritsch. He recommends using the free design service offered by most lumberyards.

“This will help you visualize your deck in 3D and collaborate efficiently with everyone involved in the construction,” he says.

4. Forgetting to seal the deck

To extend the life of the wood, you must seal the deck.

"Wood that is unsealed can get weathered and deteriorate much faster than sealed decks,” says Case.

5. Using the wrong type of hardware and fasteners

Your deck’s strength depends on more than just the decking boards.

“Homeowners should buy and use products like joist hangers, railing mounting brackets, post-to-beam hardware, and correct-length deck screws that are approved specifically for deck building,” says Case. “Usually, these are stainless-steel, polymer-coated, or hot-dipped galvanized materials.”

Why can't you just use the nails and screws you have on hand? They might not stay in place.

“When wood expands and contracts, nails have a tendency to pop out above the surface,” says J.B. Sassano, president of Mr. Handyman. He recommends exterior-grade screws instead, since they’re less likely to come loose in the future, but can be taken out if you need to replace a board.

6. Skimping on handrails

For specific types of decks, handrails are required, so make sure you don't forget them.

“Any stairs over four steps in length must have a continuous handrail on at least one side, and it must be graspable for the full run of the stairs,” Case says.

7. Ignoring aesthetic details

Don't get so obsessed with sturdiness that you lose sight of making the deck look good, too. Don’t make the mistake of neglecting aesthetic details.

“I recommend adding a band detail around the edge to conceal the end of the joists,” says Patti Wynkoop, vice president of product development and purchasing at Miller & Smith, a home building company in McLean, VA.

She also recommends wrapping the structural posts and trimming the cap and bases. “This gives a sense of proportion and finish,” she says.

Contact The McLeod Group Network for all your Real Estate needs! 971.208.5093 or [email protected].

By: Realtor.com, Teri Williams

The One Thing That Can Make or Break How People Feel About Your House

by Amy McLeod Group


Considering the time and energy homeowners put toward making their house look great (particularly if they're trying to sell), many make the critical mistake of neglecting another one of our senses that can be far more powerful: smell.

Even if you’ve decorated or staged your home perfectly, if potential buyers walk in and detect an unpleasant odor, they could skedaddle fast. Good scents, on the other hand, entice them to linger.

“One of the easiest ways to evoke pleasant feelings about a space is to enhance the way it smells,” says Ben Creamer, a managing broker in Chicago. “It’s often the first thing a person will notice upon entering a space—and it’s one of the things that, when done poorly, can kill a sale, no matter how beautiful the home.”

Before considering what options you have for making your home smell amazing, you want to be sure you’re starting fresh.

“The first step to a good-smelling home is to get rid of any odor,” says Barb Boehler, a real estate agent in Madison, WI. “Make sure to scrub all surfaces, wash all rugs, and have the carpets cleaned. Until this is done, you'll only be masking smells.”

In addition, be mindful in creating a home scent that will be as universally appealing as possible.

“The definition of ‘pleasant’ when it comes to the olfactory senses can vary widely from person to person, so it’s best to keep the scent subtle and clean throughout, with a special emphasis on the kitchen and bath,” says Creamer.

With that in mind, here are 11 tips for making your home smell amazing before guests or home buyers arrive.

Scrub down the bathroom

It goes without saying that scummy showers and grubby toilets are major buyer turnoffs. Use Fabuloso liquid cleaner for bathroom surfaces, including tubs and showers, for a lovely lavender scent, recommends Lisa Jacobs, an organizing professional and founder of Imagine It Done.

Freshen the fridge

Yes, there’s a good chance people will open your refrigerator and take a peek inside. Toss any smelly leftovers or expired condiments, then leave a fresh box of baking soda on a shelf to take care of any lingering odors, says Jacobs.

Take out the trash

Obviously, get rid of any and all garbage before you welcome guests. If your trash cans still carry an odor, sprinkle baking soda in the bottom to absorb it, advises Lisa Molinari, a real estate agent in Morristown, NJ.

Get underfoot

Carpets and rugs can trap a ton of bad smells, especially if you wear shoes in your home or have pets—and warm weather can make them even worse.

An easy fix: Get them shampooed or steam-cleaned regularly, and especially before an open house, says Jennifer Snyder, owner of Neat as a Pin Organizing & Cleaning.

Don an apron

You know all of those hours you’ve spent watching bake-offs on reality TV? Put them to good use by whipping up something sweet that will do double duty making your home smell enticing and providing a snack for potential buyers.

Cedric Stewart, a residential sales consultant in Washington, DC, loves pulling a batch of pumpkin bread or banana bread out of the oven right before the open house begins.

“This provides a great smell, and treats seem to stick in the buyers' mind after they leave,” he says. (It’s also not a bad idea to brew a fresh pot of coffee to go with the baked treat.)

Just add soap

Round up all of those unused bars of fancy soap you’ve been gifted over the years, and place them in a pretty bowl on a bathroom counter. Dove brand soap also works great for this.

“It can fill a room with a remarkably clean, fresh scent for weeks,” says Creamer. “You can even hide a bar or two in a walk-in closet to freshen the space.”

Play with matches

Tried-and-true candles can make a room feel peaceful, as well as fill it with a pleasant scent—provided the scent isn't overpowering.

Jacobs loves Apotheke’s bamboo three-wick candle, while Los Angeles–based real estate agent Melissa Okabe always turns to Diptyque’s baies candle, which smells fresh and fruity.

Light the candle 10 to 15 minutes before the open house begins and, of course, keep it in a well-ventilated area away from anything flammable.

Focus on essentials

Oils, that is. If you’d rather stay away from open flames, you can opt for essential oil diffusers for a similar effect.

Okabe recommends fresh, neutral scents such as lemon or lavender, to add to a high-quality diffuser such as this one from West Elm. (It will be a gadget you use long after you sell your home, too.)

If you don’t want to invest in a diffuser, you can use essential oils in a few other ways.

Tangela Walker-Craft, a home and family blogger, recommends dabbing a drop of oil on cold lightbulbs before turning them on—it’ll give off a subtle fragrance as the bulb warms up. You can also add a few drops to cotton balls and hide them strategically around your home, then simply toss them after the open house concludes.

Raid your laundry room

Face it: Potential buyers are likely going to be peeping through your drawers and cabinets, so you'll need to consider how they smell, as well. An easy way to freshen up confined spaces like these is to add dryer sheets a few days before the open house, says Ben Mizes, a real estate agent in St. Louis.

“These places don’t see a lot of light, so they can have some funky smells—but dryer sheets make them smell like fresh laundry,” he adds.

Simmer down

If you don’t have time to bake, you can create a similarly appealing sweet scent by simmering vanilla extract diluted in water on the stove.

Molinari makes a natural potpourri by adding five cinnamon sticks, 1 teaspoon vanilla, 2 tablespoons cloves, three bay leaves, and an orange rind to a pot of simmering water.

Catch air

High-efficiency particulate air, or HEPA, purifiers can be a little expensive, but they’re extremely effective in removing any lingering strong, strange odors from the air, says Mizes. Combining an air purifier with another method, such as baking cookies, can make a big difference in how your home smells.

At the end of the day, remember to not overdo it. Avoid having multiple scents competing with one another in various rooms.

Instead, “find one neutral, mild scent and let it breathe,” says Molinari. “A scent throughout helps give your home flow and connectivity—so allow it to become the background of the experience.”

 

Contact The McLeod Group Network to find out how much your home is worth in today's market! 971.208.5093 or [email protected].

By: Realtor.com, Kelsey Ogletree 


Owning your home feels great—that is, until the roof leaks. Or a pipe breaks. Or the HVAC just dies—in the middle of a summer heat wave, no less. Which begs the question: How much should homeowners set aside to take care of regular home maintenance and repairs?

If this question catches you off guard, don't feel bad—you have plenty of company.

Xavier Epps, finance expert and CEO of XNE Financial Advising, in Washington, DC, has prepared hundreds of financial plans for new and current homeowners.

"You'd be surprised at the number of clients I've prepared financial plans for that didn't want to consider budgeting for the repairs and maintenance of any sort," he says.

Epps finds that almost 70% of the time, clients actually reject the idea of adding such a line item in their budget. But here's why you should—and how much you should allot to this important fund.

Emergency fund vs. home maintenance fund: What's the difference?

First things first: Budgeting for predictable maintenance and repairs is not the same as saving up for the emergency fund every household should have. An emergency fund, equal to living expenses for a minimum of one to three months, is often recommended as a buffer for unexpected expenses and loss of income.

For example, if you get sick and can't work for two months, your car breaks down (beyond normal maintenance), or you have to travel on short notice to a funeral—those are all emergencies.

If you've already used your emergency fund to perform routine home maintenance and repairs, you won't have any cash reserves left when a true emergency strikes. You should have an amount in your monthly budget allocated specifically for home maintenance and repairs, both planned and unforeseen, so you can afford to keep your house in tiptop shape without jeopardizing your important emergency fund or going into debt.

How much should I budget for home maintenance and repairs?

"Budget between 1% and 4% of the purchase price of your home for annual preventative maintenance and repair costs," says John Bodrozic of Sacramento, CA, who's co-founder of HomeZada, a digital home management platform.

Where your actual costs fall in that range depends largely on the age and condition of your home.

If your home is newer, or if it has been recently and thoroughly renovated, you might be able to budget less for maintenance and repairs, at least for the first few years.

"If your home is less than 5 years old, then use the lower percentage of 1%, as most of your home's equipment, appliances, building materials, fixtures, finishes, etc. are still relatively new, thus probably in good working condition," says Bodrozic.

If you bought your place new from a builder, you may even have warranties on individual items in your home, or an overall warranty. That could substantially reduce the amount you have to spend on repairs while the warranties are in effect.

Don't assume that living in a new home is maintenance-free, however, or that you won't need to make changes and improvements to it. A home that hasn't been lived in before may not have all of the features you need. And homebuilders often do a cursory job of landscaping. When you discover how little topsoil they used in your yard, you may need to budget for outside improvements, too.

If your home is more than 25 years old, on the other hand, plan on budgeting closer to 4%.

"Nothing lasts forever. The natural life span of the collection of materials your home is made of is getting older, therefore you will have more fix-it and repair costs," Bodrozic says.

Another way to predict expenses for home upkeep is to look at how many square feet you have, both in the house and outside. Home prices vary widely throughout the country, but as a general rule, the bigger the house and lot, the higher your maintenance costs. A home on significant acreage generally requires more maintenance than a tract house on a postage stamp–size lot, regardless of how much the house is worth. Or when you need a new roof, you'll pay a lot more on a larger house.

Reasons to keep track of past home maintenance expenses

If you've lived in your home for a number of years and you've kept the place up, one way to budget for maintenance and repairs is to look at what you spent last year. Repairs and replacements, especially, can seem like one-time expenditures. However, over time they tend to average out. The refrigerator may have been replaced last year, but in a 20-year-old house, that's not the only thing that's wearing out. This year, it may be the dishwasher or water heater. Get ready for it.

If you haven't lived in your house for long or if you don't have records of how much you spent last year, consider tracking your home maintenance and repair costs. At least mark them on your credit card bills, or keep the receipts in a marked file.

How can I save money on home maintenance?

Follow these tips to keep your annual home maintenance and repair expenses as low as possible, and still keep your house in tiptop shape:

  • Know your home. If you're about to buy a home, be sure to have it inspected, and try to determine how old each appliance and major home component is. "Remember, every piece of the home has a useful life attached to it, so it's best to get a feel for how old the items are as soon as you can," says Epps. "If you buy a home with 10-year-old hardwood floors, there's a great chance you'll need to budget for replacement or refinishing." Likewise, wall paint usually needs to be redone in five to 10 years, and an HVAC system may last 10 to 15 years, according to Epps. Consider creating a schedule of when you may need to replace major items.
  • Be proactive in your home maintenance. You'll save money in the long run by proactively maintaining your home, rather than waiting for something to quit working. This includes obvious upkeep such as mowing and pruning your yard, plus the jobs that are more easily forgotten—like changing the air filters, cleaning your dryer ducts, and checking your fire extinguishers, according to Bodrozic. "It's important to keep a recurring schedule of these tasks, because if you don't do them, you are more likely to have larger, more expensive repair costs when things break," he explains. You might even want to use an organization app such as HomeZada to create a recurring list of maintenance tasks for you.
  • Don't delay when you discover signs of trouble. If the dryer isn't getting the clothes dry, clean out the vents now. Don't wait until it is impossibly clogged or starts a fire. Any dripping sounds or signs of water intrusion? Fix it or call for professional help, before structural damage and mold occur. Pests and wildlife intruders also need to be dealt with promptly—termites cause over $5 billion in property damage every year, which is rarely covered by homeowners insurance, according to Tommy Giardino, senior vice president of operations at Arrow Exterminators in Atlanta. If you hear noises from rodents and squirrels, take action immediately. "Rodents and squirrels are known for using insulation for building nests and gnawing on wires, which can lead to electrical fires," he says.
  • Learn the basics of home maintenance. You can save a lot of money by learning home maintenance basics. Know your limits, however. It's more cost-effective to hire a pro than it is to take on more than you can handle, or worse yet, to get hurt trying.

Dreaming of homeownership? Let The McLeod Group Network find your find your new home !971.208.5093 or [email protected].

By: Realtor.com, Sally Herigstad

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The McLeod Group Network
Keller Williams Capital City
1900 Hines St SE #220
Salem OR 97302
971-208-5093
Fax: 971-599-5229

**Disclaimer: Amy McLeod, and her team, do not initiate, process, or service mortgages.  And provide this information only as a service.  You should confirm information here with your Licensed Mortgage Lender.