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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


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

Is Renting Right for Me?

by Amy McLeod Group


If you’re currently renting and have dreams of owning your own home, it may be a good time to think about your next move. With rent costs rising annually and many helpful down payment assistance programs available, homeownership may be closer than you realize.

According to the 2018 Bank of America Homebuyer Insights Report, 74% of renters plan on buying within the next 5 years, and 38% are planning to buy within the next 2 years.

When those same renters were asked why they disliked renting, 52% said rising rental costs were their top reason, and 42% of renters believe their rent will rise every year. The full results of the survey can be seen below:

It’s no wonder rising rental costs came in as the top answer. The median asking rent price has risen steadily over the last 30 years, as you can see below.

There is a long-standing rule that a household should not spend more than 28% of its income on housing expenses. With nearly half of renters (48%) surveyed already spending more than that, and with their rents likely to rise again, it’s never a bad idea to reconsider your family’s plan and ask yourself if renting is your best angle going forward. When asked why they haven’t purchased a home yet, not having enough saved for a down payment (44%) came in as the top response. The report went on to reveal that nearly half of all respondents believe that “a 20% down payment is required to buy a home.”

The reality is, the need to produce a 20% down payment is one of the biggest misconceptions of homeownership, especially for first-time buyers. That means a large number of renters may be able to buy now, and they don’t even know it.

Bottom Line

If you’re one of the many renters who are tired of rising rents but may be confused about what is required to buy in today’s market, let The McLeod Group Network help to determine your path to homeownership. 971.208.5093 or [email protected].

By: KCM Crew

6 Ways to Banish Mildew Smells in the Bathroom

by Amy McLeod Group


Have you ever walked into your bathroom and thought: My God! What is that smell?  Mildew could be to blame for transforming your special oasis into stink central. Don't panic, we're here to help.

Mildew, or mold in its early stage, tends to be found in wet, moisture-prone areas. It looks grayish-white but can turn brown over time. According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, mildew can grow on wood products, ceiling tiles, insulation, wallpaper, carpet, drywall, fabric, plants, and other organic materials that are commonly found in bathrooms. And once the fungus makes its way onto your precious towels and tiles, you need to get serious about eradicating it.

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You can get rid of that mildew misery and restore your bathroom to its former lavender-scented glory in no time.

“Minor mold issues can usually be addressed by most homeowners with a little cleanup,” says Gregory Frazier, with Art Plumbing, AC & Electric, in Coral Springs, FL.

Ready to scrub away that stale stink? Here's how.

1. Wash it

The first step to battling the mildew stench is to wash everything. This means washing those hand-towels that have been hanging in the bathroom forever, the musty bathroom rugs, and the stale window curtains. When laundering, experts suggest adding one cup of white vinegar to wash the load. Frequently wash your nonslip mats, too. And, toss that vinyl shower curtain and replace it with a washable cotton, hemp, or nylon shower curtain.

“Bleach can be used to clean the mildew source and stop it from growing," says Gina Perry, senior merchant of cleaning at The Home Depot in Atlanta.

For items that can withstand bleach, FEMA recommends using a 10% solution or 1.25 to 1.5 cup of bleach to a gallon of water. The bleach/water solution can also be used to wipe down shower doors, cabinets, and walls, and to mop hard floors around bathtubs and toilets.

2. Address any water issues

Water can be the big culprit behind that nasty smell. “You can get a mildew smell if you have a slow drain leak under a sink or around a drain,” says Frazier. He says the same thing can happen with toilets if a wax ring seal, which seals the toilet to the flange, has a slight leak that is allowing small amounts of water to seep out under the toilet.

“The fix is to repair the leak promptly and wipe the area that got wet down with a strong, bleach-based cleaner,” Frazier says.

Bathtubs can also occasionally get a mildew smell if they're not properly sealed and if small amounts of water get between the wall and the tub. A bleaching solution can scrub away mildew on top of caulk, but if it’s underneath, it will need to be completely removed and properly recaulked.

3. Let the bathroom breathe

Dark, damp, warm rooms make for a happy home for mildew to thrive. To remedy this, open the windows and let fresh air in. If you don't have a window in the bathroom, keep the bathroom door cracked open when showering. If you need more privacy and prefer to shower with the door closed (no judgment!), install a ceiling fan or consider running an electric fan to keep air moving. Open your cabinets so they can get fresh air, too.

“I find one of the biggest things homeowners can do to combat mildew smells in bathrooms is to ensure they have a properly functioning, properly sized exhaust fan,” says Frazier.

4. Use an air purifier

Mildew reeks, but it can also make people with allergies or asthma sick or irritate their eyes, nose, throat, and lungs.

Sara Alsén, chief purpose officer for Sweden-based Blueair, a leader in air-cleaning solutions, says placing a high-performing air purifier in the bathroom will have a twofold effect: It will remove the unhealthy mold and bacteria in the air and make the smell disappear.

“An air purifier with a high airflow will also increase the air circulation in the bathroom and as such, help fight the mold growth,” she says.

5. Apply a fresh coat of paint

There’s nothing a new paint job can’t cure, right? Try using mold- and mildew-resistant paint.

Rick Watson, director of product information at Sherwin-Williams, says paints with odor-eliminating technology can help inhibit the growth of mold and mildew and reduce common indoor odors, so rooms stay fresher longer.

But make sure to treat the mildew before painting. Bathrooms are splash-prone areas, so lower parts of the walls and corners and edges near the ceiling are typical breeding areas for mildew.

After cleaning, brush a coat of mildew-resistant primer on ceiling and walls to prevent peeling in high-moisture areas. Let the coat of primer dry, then apply the first coat of mildew-resistant paint and say goodbye to that mildew smell.

6. Try an odor eliminator

Odor-absorbing items can help. Charcoal briquettes, an open box of baking soda, or a small pouch of kitty litter can make the bathroom smell fresher by absorbing the odor and the moisture in the air. However, make sure to replace them every month or so. Natural air fresheners, like essential oils or citrus peels, can also cut the stench.

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

By: Realtor.com, Anayat Durrani 


Planning to remodel your bathroom into the oasis of your dreams? Then you'd better get a handle on your plumbing. Even if you don't see the pipes connected to your sink or shower, understanding how they work is essential if you want your bathroom renovation to turn out all right (and within budget).

That's why, in the latest installment of our "Dream Bathroom Remodeling Guide," we break down everything you need to know about plumbing into bite-size pieces. Read on for some surprises!

1. Bathroom remodel 101: Types of pipes

In the past, most bathroom plumbing pipes were made of cast iron or galvanized metal. However, these pipes won't work with many of the newfangled, water-saving setups like, say, low-flow toilets. Low-flow toilets will save about 17,000 gallons of water yearly. (Note: Flushing a standard toilet uses about 38% of an average household’s water.) The catch is, they require PVC (polyvinyl chloride) or PEX (cross-linked polyethylene) pipes. But updating to these kinds of pipes is both easy and affordable.

"These new types of pipes are flexible—and thus very simple and inexpensive to install," says Cassidy Melhorn, a pipe design engineer and founder of Knoxville's Volhomes.

You also need to figure out if you prefer hidden or exposed plumbing when you're looking to buy your sink, tub, or toilet.

"Exposed plumbing is the more traditional look, while hidden plumbing is much more minimalist and cleaner-looking," says Ryan Holden, director of Progressive Heating & Air, an HVAC and plumbing company in San Diego.

If you have a lot of visible plumbing, you might want to use copper pipes instead of PVC or PEX, because copper is more appealing aesthetically. Just keep in mind that it's more expensive and difficult to work with, since sawing and fitting these pipes into place will take more work than cutting soft, flexible PEX/PVC.

Regardless of the material, consider insulating these pipes, which can help reduce the amount of heat lost as your water travels from the heater to the faucet.

2. Plumbing can affect a bathroom's layout

The existing water and drain lines in your bathroom usually dictate the location of fixtures in your renovation. You can move pipes and drains—although it'll cost you—but some relocations might be impossible.

For example, you may be dreaming about a large tub right next to the bathroom window.

"But if the piping won't allow for this configuration, then you will need to rethink the entire layout," says Holden. This all comes down to drain line access. While it's usually feasible to relocate a large fixture, the supporting joists beneath the bathroom floor usually can't be cut in order to install new drains.

Bottom line: Before you buy any fixture that connects to a pipe, sit down with your contractor (or a plumber) and have a conversation about what's feasible.

3. Watch out for water pressure

The good news is that there's something called the National Pipe Thread, which is a U.S. standard size for a fitting that connects rigid pipes such as shower heads to the shower arm pipe in your shower. That means if you're replacing a shower head, most fixtures out there will fit the existing pipe.

The bad news? That new shower head may not work with your existing water pressure. New shower heads are now required to restrict water flow and deliver less than 2.5 gallons per minute. So if you have low water pressure and add a new water-saving shower head, you may be soaping up under a trickle. To avoid this travesty, have your home's water pressure checked before you buy your accessories.

"Each home will have a different water pressure, but the average is usually around 45 to 80 pounds per square inch," says Holden. "It's the little things like this that people often overlook, and end up buying all their accessories only to find they won't work with existing plumbing."

Also keep in mind that there are things you can do to adjust your water pressure. If your water pressure is too low, it's often due to clogged pipes you can unclog—or if not, you can also buy a water pressure booster. Or if your pressure is too high, you can install a pressure-reducing valve.

4. Take a look at your water heater

A remodel may also call for a water heater replacement—heaters generally last about 10 years—or even an upgrade to a tankless water heater. Also called “demand-type water heaters,” these devices are about the size of a small suitcase and deliver endless warm water only when you need it. Conventional water heaters always have a tank of hot water whether you need it or not, which drives up energy costs. Just note that on-demand heaters cost up to three times more than conventional heaters to buy and install. That works out to about $800 to $3,000 for the unit, and installation can add an additional $1,000 to $3,000.

5. Plumbing for luxe extras

Renovating is a good time to think about heating, as your walls and floors will often need to be opened anyway.

"Consider installing underfloor heating," says Holden. Known as radiant heat, this method uses hot water to carry heat through a network of tubing beneath the floor.

"You may wish to have a hydronic heated towel rack installed, too," he adds.

6. Make sure to shut off your water first!

One last no-brainer for you rookie DIYers out there: Whether you're swapping out your sink, shower, toilet, or some other water-spouting device, you have to shut off your water first—or else!

You can generally just shut off the water at the fixtures you are swapping out. Sink valves are typically under it, and the toilet valve is generally where the plumbing meets the wall. Some bath and showers have an access panel on the reverse side of the wall, which may house shut-off valves. There's also a main shut-off inside the house, usually in the basement.

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

By: Realtor.com, Margaret Heidenry 

The Feeling You Get from Owning Your Home

by Amy McLeod Group


We often talk about the financial reasons why buying a home makes sense. But, more often than not, the emotional reasons are the more powerful and compelling ones.

No matter what shape or size your living space is, the concept and feeling of home can mean different things to different people. Whether it’s a certain scent or a favorite chair, that feeling of safety and security you gain from owning your own home is simultaneously one of the greatest and most difficult to describe.

Frederick Peters, a contributor for Forbesrecently wrote about that feeling, and the pride that comes from owning your own home.

“As homeowners discover, living in an owned home feels different from living in a rented home. It’s not just that an owner can personalize the space; it touches a chord even more fundamental than that.

Homeownership enhances the longing for self-determination at the heart of the American Dream. First-time homeowners, young or old, radiate not only pride but also a sense of arrival, a sense of being where they belong. It cannot be duplicated by owning a 99-year lease.”

Bottom Line

Owning a home brings a sense of accomplishment and confidence that cannot be achieved through renting. If you are debating renewing your lease, let’s get together before you do to answer any questions you may have about what your next steps should be, and what is required in today’s market!

Starting the search for your new home? Let the professionals with The McLeod Group Network help you find your dream home! 971.208.5093 or [email protected]

By: KCM Crew


I don't know about you, but once the thermometer ticks past 70 degrees, a lightbulb goes off in my head: Is this the year, I ask myself, that I can finally build the outdoor space I deserve?

Of course I can! And so can you. With a little work, you'll soon be grilling in your outdoor kitchen or reading in a hammock on your sunny patio.

But don't drop the ball: There are some elements commonly forgotten during an outdoor renovation that can ruin it all. Go through this list before breaking ground, to ensure your backyard space is up to snuff. And get ready to enjoy the summer!

1. Proper lighting


Photo by Native Son Design Studio 

You'd think being able to see at night would be an important patio requirement, but you'd be surprised how often lighting systems are skipped.

"Many homeowners spend time and money creating an outdoor space but forget about this key element," says Joe Raboine, the director of residential hardscapes at Belgard.

Consider first how you intend to use the patio. If you're hoping guests might linger over long conversations, provide low lighting around your seating nooks. And if your backyard BBQ plans involve lots of late-night drinking games (because, why not?), illuminate the entire space with string lights.

2. Electricity

Nothing is worse than planning your perfect patio layout—complete with a keg cooler, botanical garden-worthy lighting, and a show-stopping Christmas display your neighbors will never top—only to realize you forgot one essential element: electricity.

"Be sure to install a few electrical outlets for supplemental holiday lighting or just working on a laptop," says architect and interior designer Leslie Saul.

And no, you can't just add one outlet and be done with it. Will you want speakers? A fridge? A TV? Make sure everything has juice.

3. The position of the sun

Photo by Prime Design Tasmania Pty Ltd 

You can't bask in the sun if there is no sun. Before constructing the patio of your dreams, pay close attention to the trajectory of that big ball in the sky.

"The location of the sun relative to an outdoor area is one of the most important elements to consider when designing an outdoor living space," says Shaun Gotterbarn, an architect with Alisberg Parker. "Understanding the sun’s path throughout the day and studying the shadows cast by trees and neighboring buildings allows you to make sure you have your seating area in the perfect place."

4. Outdoor storage


Photo by Harrison's Landscaping 

Once temperatures dip, it'll be time to store away all the things that made your outdoor space an enviable destination to begin with. But unless you factored in storage space from the jump, you might find yourself shoving patio cushions into your kids' closets and gardening tools into your pantry.

"Lots of water-resistant outdoor storage allows for a beautiful, clean outdoor space," says patio designer and blogger Eric Clark. "You need multiple easily accessible areas to store outdoor cushions and throw pillows and protect them from rain and mildew."

Or, build your storage into your patio design. If you're adding an outdoor kitchen, leave plenty of cabinet space for your outdoor must-haves, or construct custom cabinetry that blends seamlessly with your siding.

5. Drainage

Here's a shocking secret: Your patio is outside. Where it rains. And rain loves to wreak havoc.

"When rainwater pools on your foundation, you’ll find yourself not only dealing with a safety hazard, but also eventually, you’ll need to redo the entire groundwork," says Robert Himmaugh, manager of Acadian Windows & Siding.

Prevent damage by installing a gutter around your patio roof—if it has a roof, of course—and by paying attention to drainage. Your patio should slope away from your home's foundation, and the ground should slope away from your patio base, as well.

6. Privacy and noise


Photo by Wolf Design Studio 

Plan on throwing raucous parties in your new outdoor space? Good for you—unless you've built it right next to your neighbor's backyard.

Alternatively, maybe your neighbor is the one throwing the ultra-loud parties. Consider building your outdoor living space on the opposite side of the property, allowing you to enjoy your evenings quietly reading, not growling about the sixth keg stand (so far).

Of course, in a tiny backyard, you might not have many options. Get clever about your construction to add privacy and reduce sound.

"Vertical gardens can double as fences, and water features can mask noises," Raboine says.

And Saul recommends adding trellises, on which you can grow beautiful climbers, like clematis. That's a two-for-one deal: privacy and style.

7. Utilities

Adding utilities, like gas lines for BBQs and water lines for your wet bar, can be a pain. But installation is significantly easier if done during construction.

"Think about their location before you start construction," Gotterbarn says. Even if you're not building a kitchen now, you might want to later, so make sure all necessary utilities are easily accessible.

8. That winter view

Sure, your patio offers a fantastic summer view. But what will you be staring at come winter?

"For those of us who live in northern climates, our patio may be shut down for half the year, although we will be looking at it all year long," Clark says. "Often we're staring at ugly furniture covers protecting mini-mountains of clustered furniture, half covered with snow."

To save your eyes this sadness, Clark recommends choosing decorative outdoor lighting (weather-resistant, of course), landscape rocks, and colorful all-weather chairs to "focus the eye on more interesting views, as you stare at the patio through the window while cooking dinner."

9. Future plans

Chances are, your gorgeous outdoor space is just a fraction of your eventual dream landscape, Saul says.

"It's always good to create a master plan, even if you don't plan to implement it all at once," she says. "Then you'll know what infrastructure to install early, so you'll be ready to go later, without all the mess."

Do you plan to turn your rocky sideyard into a gorgeous grassy expanse? Consider in-ground sprinklers. And if you're dreaming about a koi pond, water pipes can turn that fantasy into reality. You can design around the empty space, leaving it unimpeded for whatever your future brain cooks up.

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

By: Realtor.com, Jamie Wiebe

5 Hot Hardscaping Trends Homeowners Should Try Right Now

by Amy McLeod Group


Whether you're putting your place on the market or just looking to give your crib some extra curb appeal, your property's exterior design deserves just as much attention as the interior.

But while you might've spent hours contemplating new window shutters, light fixtures, and foliage, there's a good chance one exterior improvement has fallen toward the bottom of your priority list: your hardscaping. After all, how much can you possibly change a pathway or sidewalk?

Well, a lot, apparently.

The truth is, hardscaping is one of the first—if not the first—things to consider when sprucing up your outdoor space. We're talking about the structures or materials that divide sections and provide places to walk and sit.

"Hardscaping should be the first component considered [because] it’s really the structure of the landscaping," explains Frederico Azevedo, founder and CEO of Unlimited Earth Care. "If hardscaping is left as an afterthought to the overall design, it will disrupt the flow of any property."

And, just like the plants you choose to grow in your backyard or the color you use to paint your front door, there are plenty of hardscaping trends that will help your property shine. Below are five expert-approved ways to improve your property’s walkways, sidewalks, and pathways.

1. Grass
Photo by Westover Landscape Design
 

Once upon a time, having grass sprout between your slabs of stone was considered sloppy and distasteful. Today, however, it's actually encouraged to integrate greenery into your hardscaping.

"Grass-jointed paving paths combine structured geometry, lush natural textures, and vibrant color," says landscape architect Janice Parker. "They provide an overlapping of formal and informal elements. Thoughtful stone selection, based on the architectural aesthetic of the home, ensures that the style works equally well for contemporary or traditional landscapes."

While a symmetrical and evenly spaced pathway will pair nicely with a manicured yard, it doesn't have to be perfect. Mixing different-sized and -shaped slabs will create the illusion of a naturally made pathway, which is also trending.

2. Crushed stone
Photo by Matthew Cunningham Landscape Design LLC 

Want to create a beautiful walkway but don't have the time for a big project? Consider using the ever-so-trendy crushed stone.

"It's loose, has lots of texture, and produces great sound when traversing," explains Michael McGown, senior landscape architect at KAA Design Group. "It speaks to casual informality, and lets the plantings define the path."

Not only does crushed stone look nice, it's also easy on your wallet andMother Nature. The total cost will vary based on the pathway, but a 50-pound bag of crushed stones can cost less than $40.

"It's very inexpensive, so replacing existing hardscape is probably within the means of a typical homeowner or home buyer," McGown says.

And it's eco-friendly: Crushed stones are more permeable than, say, a slab of concrete, so the water and grass underneath your pathway will still be watered and nourished, McGowan adds.

3. Reclaimed brick
Photo by The Design Build Co.

As the saying goes, one man's trash is another man's treasure—and the world of hardscaping is no exception. Specifically, McGowan says, reclaimed brick is having a moment.

"Reclaimed brick [has] color and texture," he explains. "It’s got a natural patina and looks authentic and timeless. [Bricks] blur the line between contemporary and traditional."

Don't get us wrong, we love a freshly paved sidewalk as much as the next person; however, there's something cozy and inviting about reclaimed materials.

4. Sustainable sidewalks
Hailshadow/iStock

Installing solar panels and planting trees are two obvious steps toward sustainability, but did you know you can apply the same eco-friendly ethos to your hardscaping?

“I’ve always been engaged in working sustainably, so seeing more options and materials coming forward in the past few years is really exciting,” Azevedo says. “Sustainable hardscaping materials are produced in a way that is least damaging to the environment and allow water to penetrate the ground.”

While Azevedo points to urbanite (aka repurposed concrete) and recycled granite as suitable alternatives, he encourages homeowners to think outside the cinder block.

“Crushed seashells, particularly mollusk shells, which have been a burden on landfills in recent years, make an excellent ground cover for paths, or as acidity-controlling mulch for flower beds,” he says.

5. Luxurious limestone
Photo by Hutker Architects 

All of the architectural greats feature limestone: the Pentagon, the Empire State Building, and, now, your walkway. While crushed stone and brick are suitable materials for your hardscape, they give your property a very specific look and feel. Limestone, on the other hand, is versatile enough to be a blank canvas so you can let your yard's foliage take center stage.

It "can provide elegance to either" contemporary or traditional style, McGowan explains.

And unlike brick, which has a predetermined shape, you can cut limestone any way you'd like. So whether you want a straight sidewalk or something with more curve, this is one material that can get the job done.

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

By: Realtor.com, Kelsey Mulvey


If you're a homeowner who takes pride in staying on top of interior design trends, you've no doubt been busy lately. High-end kitchen island? Check. Living wall in the living room? Sure thing! And you've most certainly got a Chip and Joanna Gaines-inspired farmhouse sink or shiplap lurking somewhere, too.

Sorry to break it to you ... but those trends are très passé. The rest of the world has moved on, and they're decking out their homes with way hipper stuff than that.

Relax, your friends at  realtor.com  are here to help! Just feast your eyes on four of the hottest, hippest home trends we've seen lately.

Kitchen islands with beds

Kitchen island with bed

iStock; realtor.com

Kitchen islands have been getting bigger and more souped up than ever. This so-called "hub of the home" can now incorporate sinks, ovens, breakfast bars, charging stations, and far more. But let's be honest here: All that kitchen multitasking can leave home chefs feeling pooped. And alas, if there's one thing kitchen islands lack, it's a place to lay your head, much less your whole body.

But that's about to change with the kitchen island's newest accoutrement: a sleeping bunk!

That's right, thanks to a stowaway mattress incorporated just underneath the counter, now you can take a power nap as you wait for your pasta water to boil. You can lounge longitudinally while you slice and dice onions. Guests who hover around your island can now really kick back with that glass of merlot, or just crash for the night if they've had one too many.

This may explain why this home feature has popped up in the kitchens of party-hard celebs including David Hasselhoff, who says, "In the past, I had to choose between staving off hangovers with sleep or a bacon cheeseburger. But now, I can do both at once!"

Indoor yards

Fun for the whole family!

iStock; realtor.com

For years, we've all been bringing the indoors outside, with outdoor kitchens and fully decked al fresco living spaces. So get ready to flip the script. Are you wishing you could enjoy the great outdoors from the comfort of your couch? Well, now you can, by rigging up your home with an indoor yard. In-floor irrigation systems now enable homeowners to go beyond a few potted plants and have wall-to-wall grass beneath their feet—all without the hassles of inclement weather, nosy neighbors, mosquitoes, or other outdoor annoyances.

Due to the added privacy, indoor yards have really taken off with celebs, including Angelina Jolie ("It's so natural and earthy") and even Barack Obama, whose Portuguese water dogsSunny and Bo, "were confused at first," he admits. "Although these indoor lawns are rigged with drainage systems so canines can relieve themselves inside, I had to 'house train' them again, only in reverse. They eventually caught on, particularly once I installed a few bushes."

Wall-to-wall wallpaper

Wallpaper wall-to-wall

Getty Images

From florals and metallics to textures, the wallpaper trend is truly taking over. But get ready for the next level.

Although many choose to paper an accent wall, this hot new trend sees paper covering not only the traditional four walls, but also the ceiling, floor, furniture ... sometimes even pets and family members!

Celeb fans include Kim Kardashian West—who might like to bare all when it comes to her wardrobe, but wants her walls completely covered at home. Kicking hubby Kanye’s minimalist style to the curb, the reality star supposedly has designers scrambling to order rolls upon rolls to paper the 15,700-square-foot Los Angeles estate she and Kanye bought for $20 million in 2014. Reportedly, their kids, North, Saint, and Chicago, have pajamas and bedspreads that match the wallpaper in their rooms.

"It can be a bit dizzying sometimes, and it's frankly even hard to find them now," Kardashian West admits. "But it's worth it. Now I never have to ask, 'Does this go with that?' ever again."

Farmhouse furniture straight from the barn

Hay, ya!

iStock; realtor.com

The modern farmhouse style has been all the rage since Chip andJoanna Gaines' show "Fixer Upper" hit the airwaves and developed a devoted following. They have their own home line at Magnolia, Target ... yet some think those aren't quite farmhouse enough.

Enter their newest venture: real farmhouse furniture, straight from the barn to you! Think: hay bale coffee tables. Side table butter churns. Manger beds. Of course, Chip and Jo have incorporated these elements into their own home too. Just ask Chip: "We swapped our regular alarm clocks for a rooster. Since there's no snooze button, he really gets us up!"

So if you love living on the very cutting edge of design, you're probably eager to incorporate these into your home. But before you do that, maybe check the date on this article first.

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

By: Realtor.com, Liz Alterman

Your Tax Refund Is The Key To Homeownership!

by Amy McLeod Group


According to data released by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), Americans can expect an estimated average refund of $3,143 this year when filing their taxes. This is down slightly from the average refund of $3,436 last year.

Tax refunds are often thought of as ‘extra money’ that can be used toward larger goals. For anyone looking to buy a home in 2019, this can be a great jump start toward a down payment!

The map below shows the average tax refund Americans received last year by state.

Many first-time buyers believe that a 20% down payment is required to qualify for a mortgage. Programs from the Federal Housing Authority, Freddie Mac, and Fannie Mae all allow for down payments as low as 3%. Veterans Affairs Loans allow many veterans to purchase a home with 0% down.

If you started your down payment savings with your tax refund check this year, how close would you be to a 3% down payment?

The map below shows what percentage of a 3% down payment is covered by the average tax refund by taking into account the median price of homes sold by state.

The darker the blue, the closer your tax refund gets you to homeownership! For those in Oklahoma looking to purchase their first homes, their tax refund could potentially get them 85% closer to that dream!

Bottom Line

Saving for a down payment can seem like a daunting task. But the more you know about what’s required, the more prepared you can be to make the best decision for you and your family! This tax season, your refund could be your key to homeownership!

Contact The McLeod Group Network to find your new home! 971.208.5093 or [email protected] 

By: KCM Crew

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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.