Almost every day, someone calls The Dave Ramsey Show to ask Dave if he thinks they're ready to buy a home. But there's another side of homeownership that doesn't get as much attention: When are you ready to sell your house?

It's an important question to answer since selling at the wrong time can cause trouble for years to come.

1. You've got equity on your side.

For most homeowners, being financially ready to sell your house comes down to one factor: equity. During the housing meltdown of 2008–09, millions of homeowners found themselves with negative equity, which meant they owed more on their homes than they were worth.

Clearly, selling your home when you have negative equity is a bad deal. That's called a short sale. Breaking even on your home sale is better, but it's still not ideal. If you're in either situation, don't sell unless you have to in order to avoid bankruptcy or foreclosure.

For the last several years, home values have been on the rise—by leaps and bounds in many cases—and that means most homeowners are building equity. Their homes are now worth more than they owe on them, and that trend will persist as they pay down their mortgages and home values continue to increase.

Figuring out how much equity you have may sound complicated, but the math is actually simple. Here's how it works:

First, grab your latest mortgage statement and find your current mortgage balance.

Next, you'll need to know your home value. While it's tempting to use figures from online valuation sites to determine how much your home is worth, they're not always accurate. Ask an experienced real estate agent to run a free comparative market analysis (CMA) for the best estimate.

Once you have those two numbers in hand, simply subtract your current mortgage balance from your home's estimated market value. The difference will give you a good idea of how much equity you have to work with.

So how much equity is enough?  At the very least you want to have enough equity to pay off your current mortgage with enough left over to provide a 20% down payment. But if your sale can also cover your closing costs, moving expenses and an even larger down payment—that's even better.  Additionally, putting 20% or more down on a home keeps private mortgage insurance (PMI) at bay. That could save you hundreds of dollars each year!

2. You're out of debt with cash in the bank.

If you didn't have all your financial ducks in a row your first time around the home-buying block, you probably learned a few things the hard way. Like the fact that Murphy can smell "broke" from miles away. If it can go wrong, it will! Put those lessons to good use and be a money-smart home buyer the next go-round!

Start by taking a hard look at your finances. If you've paid off all your nonmortgage debt and have three to six months of expenses in your emergency fund, that's a good sign you're financially mature enough to purchase a home again.

3. You can afford to buy a home that fits your lifestyle better.

Another factor to consider is how well your home meets your everyday needs. Perhaps you could use another bedroom (or even two) to accommodate your growing family. Or maybe your kids have all moved out and you're ready to downsize.  Empty nesters can really benefit from selling while rates are low. It's freeing to sell a large home, pay cash for a smaller one, and invest the rest for your retirement.

Whether you're sizing up or down, make sure your mortgage fits your budget. Dave recommends keeping your monthly payment to 25% or less of your take-home pay on a 15-year fixed-rate mortgage.

4. You can cash-flow the move.

Don't get so carried away by the excitement of your next home that you forget to account for the cost of leaving your current one. Hiring professional movers? Save up cash to cover the cost of packing up and hauling your stuff away.

You should also invest a little to get your current place ready for prime time. Focus your home improvement dollars on paint, curb appeal, plus kitchen and bath upgrades.  A little bit of fresh paint and elbow grease can go a long way into making a great impression—and getting your home sold fast!

Want a bonus tip that doesn't cost a dime? Clear out the clutter. Neat closets and tidy shelves make your home look larger!

5. You're emotionally ready to sell.

If the numbers show you're financially ready to make a move, great! But don't forget—selling your home is an emotional issue, too. Before you plant the "For Sale" sign in the front yard, take a minute to answer just a few more questions:

  • Are you ready to put in the work to get your house ready for house hunters?
  • Are you committed to keeping it ready to show for weeks or months?
  • Are you ready to hear the reasons why potential buyers believe your home is not perfect?
  • Are you ready for honest—and sometimes hardball—negotiations over what buyers are willing to pay for your home?
  • Are you really ready to move out and leave the place where your family has made memories?

Don't get us wrong; we're not trying to talk you out of selling your home! We just want you to be completely ready when you do decide to move on to the next stage of your family's life.

A qualified real estate agent will give you a clear picture of what it's like to sell your house, and also help you discern if now is the right time for you, both financially and emotionally.

6. You Understand the Market (a Little Bit)

No one can predict how the housing market will perform. But the National Association of Realtors expects modest growth for existing homes in 2018. Despite the possibility of rising mortgage rates, home sales in 2018 are forecasted to grow around 7% percent, with the median price increasing 5%.

Home Values Are Riding High

With rents up and mortgage rates down, many renters are looking to buy their first home. There's just one problem: They're having trouble finding homes for sale within their price range.

According to Trulia, there are 20% fewer entry-level homes on the market today than there were this time last year. A lot of investors snatched up bargains on entry-level homes when the market was down and turned them into rental properties. 

If you took economics in school, you learned all about supply and demand. When supply is down and demand goes up, prices trend upwards as well. That means your home might be worth more than you think. Consider the numbers:

  • According to the National Realtors Association, U.S. homes are on the market an average of only 34 days, that's four less than last year.
  • Recent listings of starter homes are 8% less than searches, which means there are more house hunters than homes available for sale.

In other words, the market's hot for just about any home seller—but especially if you've got a starter home to sell.

7. You Have a Real Estate Agent

The reasons already mentioned are essential to consider before selling your home this year. But remember, your real estate market is unique—and so is your financial situation. Consult an experienced real estate agent to find out how the 2018 housing market is shaping up in your area so you can decide if a sale makes financial sense for your family.

Partner with a pro you can trust to provide honest advice so you can do what's best for you and your budget. A good agent puts service before sales—but knows how to get things done when it's time to sell.

Selling your home is a big deal.  A real estate agent does more than just schedule showings of your home.  They bring experience and confidence to the table when they handle their many job duties, which include:

  • Giving you advice about updates or repairs that will make your home more attractive
  • Helping you set a price for your home
  • Marketing your home so it receives as much exposure to potential buyers as possible
  • Scheduling showings with potential buyers
  • Advising you as you negotiate offers
  • Handling all the required paperwork

We can put you in touch with several agents in your area who have earned Dave's recommendation as a real estate Endorsed Local Provider (ELP).

When it comes to selling homes, our ELPs rise to the top. According to a six-month survey of home buyers and sellers who used an ELP versus those who used other real estate agents, our ELPs are twice as fast at selling homes and twice as likely to sell your home above asking price.

Don't trust an amateur with one of your biggest financial investments. Work with a high-octane agent who knows your market

An experienced real estate agent can help you navigate the search for your next home, too.  Be sure to have some backup options ready in case your home sells quickly and you can't find a new place you love right away. You don't want to rush into a home you can't afford or don't really like just because it's available. 

Source: Dave Ramsey 

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Real estate agents estimate that at least 20% of their sales results from an open house. If your property is presentable—that is, spotless from top to bottom—priced correctly, and located in a high-traffic area, you're well on your way to a successful showing. Attention to additional details in preparation and execution will increase the odds of a good offer—perhaps, even on the spot.


Advertise the Open House

Let people know the party's on. Post internet listings everywhere: Write colorful, descriptive ads and place them in web classifieds or open house directories at least a week before the showing. Don't forget personal social media, like your Facebook page or Twitter account. Although advertising online is key, remember old-fashioned methods, too, like an ad in a community newspaper or newsletter, or even postings on a popular store or coffee shop bulletin board.


On the day of the open house (traditionally a Sunday), set up strategically mapped signs around the neighborhood, placing one every few blocks on the way to your house from major streets. Find the busiest intersection closest to your home and put an open house sign at that corner, too. Attach strings of balloons to each open house sign, and include big arrows pointing in the right direction.


Prepare the Premises for the Open House

In addition to cleaning and decluttering your house and making it camera-ready before you even put it on the market, you can make some special preparations for the open house itself:

  • Remove all vehicles from the driveway. Ask your neighbors to help out by not parking in front of your house.
  • Let in the light: Open all the drapes, blinds, and window coverings. Turn on every lamp and overhead fixture, too.
  • Serve refreshments and snacks or, if budget permits, even a catered lunch.
  • Do not, under any circumstances, use an air freshener: Many people are allergic to synthetic odors.
  • Play soft music throughout the house.
  • Create a bulletin board of seasonal house photographs so that buyers can see what the home would look like during another time of the year. This step is especially helpful for showcasing gardens or extensive grounds during the winter.

Put Out the Paperwork

A good open house is not just about ambiance. It gets down to business as well.

  • Display four-color flyers filled with quality photos and the key points and unique features of your home—a cheat sheet people can take home.
  • Have brochures and pamphlets available that contain financing options so that buyers can readily determine their monthly mortgage payment. Banks and lenders will often supply you with these.
  • Set out all documents pertaining to the house: inspection reports, appraisal or comps, evidence of major repairs and warranties, blueprints for additions, or proposals for future improvements.

Interact With Visitors

Be upbeat and cheery as you greet each person who enters the home. Find out what they're looking for and, if possible, show them why your home fits those requirements.


And absolutely, get feedback. Ask buyers what they think of your home and if they would consider buying it. Many folks will demur or be noncommittal, but sometimes they might decide to sit at the kitchen table and write an offer. It happens more often than you would think.


At the very least, you might pick up some useful info about the impression your property is making, as well as quick fixes to address problems.


Furthermore, if you don't receive an offer at or directly after the open house, that doesn't mean your event was unsuccessful. The buyers might be obtaining a pre-approval letter on Monday and sending you an offer a day or two later.


When Not to Hold an Open House

Some properties just aren't suited for an open house. Some common reasons include:

  • There's too much inventory to pull in buyers driving through the area.
  • All the homes in the neighborhood look the same.
  • Inclement weather discourages venturing outside.
  • The home is a fixer-upper or doesn't show well because it's either too messy, smelly, or cramped.
  • The property is too far off the beaten path, or perhaps in the center of a complex, that is hard to find (like a condominium).
  • The real estate agent isn't into it.

While it may seem odd that an agent would want to restrict market exposure for a listing, not to mention the chance to get buyer leads, many agents are categorically opposed to open houses. They may be too busy with other listings, or they may just find such showings a waste of time and effort. You and your agents should be on the same page about marketing your property. If you feel strongly about an open house—and you're unconvinced by your agent's reasons against it—consider switching your representation.

Source: The Balance

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Home Improvements: Under $100

Tip 1: Spend an hour with a pro.
Invite a realtor or interior designer over to check out your home. Many realtors will do this as a courtesy, but you will probably have to pay a consultation fee to a designer. Check with several designers in your area; a standard hourly fee is normally less than $100, and in an hour they can give you lots of ideas for needed improvements. Even small suggested improvements, such as paint colors or furniture placement, can go a long way toward improving the look and feel of your home.

Tip 2: Inspect it.
Not every home improvement is cosmetic. Deteriorating roofs, termite infestation or outdated electrical systems — you can't fix it if you don't know it's broken. Hire an inspector to check out the areas of your home that you don't normally see. They may discover hidden problems that could negatively impact your home's value. Small problems (such as a hidden water leak) can become big, expensive problems quickly; the longer you put off repairs, the more expensive those repairs will be.

Tip 3: Paint, paint, paint.
One of the simplest, most cost-effective improvements of all is paint! Freshly painted rooms look clean and updated — and that spells value. When selecting paint colors, keep in mind that neutrals appeal to the greatest number of people, therefore making your home more desirable. On average, a gallon of paint costs around $25, leaving you plenty of money to buy rollers, painter's tape, drop cloths and brushes. So buy a few gallons and get busy!

Tip 4: Find inspiration.
An alternative to hiring a designer is to search for remodeling and decorating inspiration in design-oriented magazines, books, TV shows and websites. Simply tear out or print off the ideas you want to try and start your to-do list. Keep it simple — when remodeling on a tight budget, do-it-yourself projects are best.

Tip 5: Cut energy costs.
The amount of money you spend each month on energy costs may seem like a fixed amount, but many local utility companies provide free energy audits of their customers' homes. They can show you how to maximize the energy efficiency of your home. An energy-efficient home will save you money now, which can be applied to other updates, and is a more valuable and marketable asset in the long run.

Home Improvements: $100-$200

Tip 1: Plant a tree.
If you aren't planning to sell your house today, plan for the future with a landscaping improvement that will mature over time. Plant shade trees — not only will mature trees make your home more desirable but a fully grown, properly placed tree can cut your cooling costs by as much as 40 percent. Mature landscaping is also good for the environment, providing a necessary habitat for wildlife while adding valuable curb appeal to your home.

Tip 2: Low-maintenance landscaping saves you money now, adds value when you sell.
No question that shrubs and colorful plants will add curb appeal to any home, but when shopping at your local garden center, make sure that you "think green." Purchase plants that are native to your region or plants that are drought-tolerant; these require less water and maintenance, which means more savings to you and more green in your wallet.

Tip 3: Add a money-saving luxury.
Speaking of water, here's another way to tap into extra savings; install a water filtration system in your kitchen. Not only do these systems purify your water, they will also lower your grocery bills — no more bottled water. A water filtration system is an inexpensive addition, but it's the sort of small luxury that homebuyers love.

Tip 4: Improve the air quality inside your home.
Air quality isn't just about the conditions outdoors. If you have older carpets in your home, they might be hiding contaminants and allergens. The first step to determine if these need replacing is to hire a professional company to test your indoor air quality. If the results prove that your carpets should be replaced, choose environmentally friendly natural products like tile or laminate floors. Hard-surface floors are much easier to keep clean, don't hold odors, give your home an updated look and, in general, are more appealing to buyers.

Tip 5: Save the popcorn for the movies.

Finally, what's on your ceiling? Few structural elements date a house more than popcorn ceilings. So dedicate a weekend to ditching the dated look and adding dollar signs to the value of your home. This is a project you can tackle yourself. First, visit your local hardware store for a solution to soften the texture, then simply scrape the popcorn away. Removing a popcorn ceiling may not seem like a big change but one of the keys for adding value to your home is to repair, replace or remove anything that could turn buyers away.

Home Improvements: $200-$400

Tip 1: A messy lawn creates a bad first impression.
Overgrown or patchy lawns and outsized bushes will cause your home to stand out — in a bad way. The good news is that taming your jungle is an easy fix. For a few hundred dollars, hire a lawn service company to trim your lawn and shape your hedges. Your curb appeal will go from messy to maintained without blowing your budget.

Tip 2: Cleanliness counts.
The old adage that you only get one shot at a first impression is true. So, make the interior of you home shine from the moment someone walks through the door. For less than $400, hire a cleaning service for a thorough top-to-bottom scrubbing. Even if you clean your home regularly, there are nooks and crannies that you may miss or overlook. Let a cleaning service do the dirty work to really make your home sparkle.

Tip 3: Visually increase your home's square footage.
The size of your home dramatically affects the value, but square footage isn't the only space that counts. Visual space or how large a home feels also counts. The key is to make each room in your house feel larger. Replace heavy closed draperies with vertical blinds or shutters to let light in — a sunny room feels larger and more open. Also, try adding a single large mirror to a room to visually double the space. Finally, clear the clutter. The more clutter, furniture and plain old stuff you have in a room, the more cramped it will feel. For less than $400, add an attractive shelving unit to an underused space and store your clutter out of sight.

Tip 4: Small bathroom updates equal a big return.
Bathroom updates are always a smart move. Even if you can't afford a full remodel, small changes such as replacing dated wallpaper with a faux or textured finish and replacing old lighting will update the room without denting your wallet.

Tip 5: Add new energy-efficient fixtures.
A functional, decorative ceiling fan is a beautiful thing. It provides necessary light and, in warm months, creates a soft breeze reducing the need for expensive air conditioning. But, an outdated, wobbly, loud or broken ceiling fan is a useless eyesore. Replace old fixtures with new ones to make your home more enjoyable for you now and to increase the bottom line should you decide to sell.

Home Improvements: $400-$750

Tip 1: Even small changes in the bathroom equal a big return.
A great room to update for less than $750 is the bathroom. The two rooms that benefit most from even small renovations are the kitchen and bathroom. One cost-effective change — like replacing an outdated vanity, old plumbing and lighting fixtures or adding a new tile floor — will guarantee a lot of bang for your buck and give your bath an updated, modern look.

Tip 2: Any kitchen update equals added value.
The same rule applies in the kitchen. You don't have to start from scratch to create a winning recipe. For maximizing your home's value, kitchen updates are key. Start by swapping out just one item, such as a stained sink or ancient microwave for shiny new stainless models. Even small kitchen updates will add big value to your home.

Tip 3: Replace any worn carpets or area rugs.
Take a look at your home's soft flooring. Are your carpets and area rugs stained or worn? Nothing turns buyers off more than the thought that they will immediately need to replace all of the flooring in a home. Ideally, you may want to replace them all, but if a limited budget puts a snag in that plan, start by replacing the carpet in the room that shows the most wear and tear and replace the others as your finances allow.

Tip 4: Keep up with regular maintenance and repairs.
Walk around your home and make a list of all the little things that are broken or in need of repair. Individually, small repairs might not seem important, but if every room has just one thing wrong, those small things will add up to create the impression that your home has been neglected. If you don't feel comfortable tackling the repairs yourself, hire a handyman for a day and watch your "to do" list disappear. Staying on top of maintenance today eliminates problems down the road should you decide to sell.

Tip 5: Get help with getting organized.
Hire a professional organizer for a day. They will show you how to organize various rooms in your home and teach you tricks for keeping it organized. How does this increase your home's value? Simple — a clutter-free home appears cleaner and larger, which is more attractive to homebuyers and therefore more valuable.

Home Improvements: $750-$1,000

Tip 1: Go tankless.
Upgrade your standard water heater for a tankless model. Most old-fashioned water heaters keep 50 or so gallons of water hot, seven days a week, 24 hours a day, whether you use the water or not. Tankless water heaters heat only the water you need as you need it. Not only will they save you money now, but they're an eco-friendly and cost-effective update that today's homebuyers are looking for.

Tip 2: Upgrade your appliances.
Eighty-six the old-school appliances for sleek new energy-efficient ones. An appliance with an Energy Star label has been certified by the government to use 10-50 percent less energy and water than conventional appliances. Matching stainless appliances will not only look great now, but will make your home shine brighter than the competition should you decide to sell.

Tip 3: Go for the green.
Everyone loves a yard with thick, green grass. For less than $1000, in a weekend's time, you can replace your existing patchy mix of weeds and grass with fresh new sod. You'll be amazed at the difference this one change will make in your home's curb appeal and value.

Home Improvements: $1,000-$1,500

Tip 1: Spruce up your ceilings.
One of a room's most neglected spaces, the ceiling, makes up one-sixth of a room's total area. Updating your home's ceilings will net a lot of bang for the buck while adding architectural interest. First, if you still have popcorn ceilings, hire a contractor to scrape them smooth. To add a sophisticated custom look to a smooth ceiling, install crown molding or box beams for a coffered look. Ceiling millwork, an attractive feature prevalent in older homes, is rarely found in newer construction. Adding small touches like these will help your home stand out from the pack.

Tip 2: Update your home's entrance.
The look of your front door and entrance play heavily into the overall curb appeal of your home. As visitors enter, the front door serves as the transition into your home and is part of their first impression. Entry doors are architectural components that should complement your home's overall design, not detract from it. If your existing front door isn't up to par, head down to your local home improvement store for a more energy-efficient and attractive replacement. Whether you choose a solid wood door or one with decorative stained or cut glass panels, a welcoming entrance will definitely increase your home's bottom line.

Tip 3: Consult a design pro.
If you're unsure of which design style or paint color to use, hire a designer. They'll use discriminating taste and a trained eye to help with making the big decisions. Also, remodeling your home with a cohesive plan in mind makes all of your choices easier and ensures a pulled-together finished look. So, when you get the right mix of time or money, you'll know exactly which project to take on next.

Home Improvements: $1,500-$2,000

Tip 1: Save on air conditioning costs.
Consider installing a whole-house fan. They're a great alternative to air conditioning because they use only one-tenth the electricity of air conditioners, saving you money. Whole-house fans are considered a "green" home improvement, which is a popular selling feature with today's homebuyers. As the cost of electricity continues to skyrocket, green energy alternatives will only gain in popularity.

Tip 2: Brighten up.
A "bright" way to increase the value of your home is to lighten up. Adequate lighting in a home makes a big difference. Not only does a bright, well-lit room feel more cheerful but it also makes spaces feel larger and cleaner. A well-lit room also shows that you have nothing to hide, so should you decide to sell, prospective buyers will feel at ease when touring your home. Hire an electrician to add recessed lights to a dim kitchen or family room or to brighten up a formal dining or living room with elegant sconces. You'll enjoy the bright effect now and your home will feel warmer and more welcoming to homebuyers.

Tip 3: Add the right landscaping and watch your home's value grow.
For less than $2,000, hire a landscape designer to create a plan that will make your home's exterior really shine. For maximum impact, plant mature trees or fast growing varieties; these can be pricy but they will instantly make your home feel more established. As your landscaping grows, so will your home's curb appeal and value.

Home Improvements: $2,000-$3,000

Tip 1: Kitchen or bath remodels are always a safe bet.
Improving your home is a solid investment at any level — but if you have up to three thousand dollars to spend, a great place to start is by upgrading either the kitchen or bath. Either room is a good choice and you don't have to do a complete floor-to-ceiling remodel to reap financial benefits. In fact, modest kitchen or bath updates can be your best bet for a big return, netting, on average, an 80-85 percent return.

Tip 2: Protect your investment.
For most people, their home is their single largest investment, so treat it that way. Hire a financial planner to work out a strategy for protecting your investment by analyzing all of the financing options that are available. A financial whiz can tell you if you should refinance to lower your monthly payments or pull out some equity to pay for value-adding improvements.

Tip 3: Bring the outdoors in.
Consider turning two standard windows into an opening for beautiful French or sliding glass doors. Full-view glass doors really brighten up the space and a light and airy room is always more attractive. Also, with a view of the outdoors, the room will feel much larger. Another bonus is that modern doors are energy-efficient, cutting down on heating and cooling costs. That means more cash in your pocket now and a financial bonus should you decide to sell.

Home Improvements: $3,000-$5,000

Tip 1: Add closet or garage storage.
Realtors agree that top on most homeownes' list of wants is ample storage space. For less than $5,000, consider upgrading your home's storage by adding custom shelving systems to a closet or garage. The first step to really getting organized is de-cluttering. Start by sorting your belongings, then stash them away in your new organized closet or garage to really maximize your home's value.

Tip 2: Green flooring choices equal more green in your wallet.
Worn, tired carpet will not only turn off homebuyers, but it can make you feel worn and tired too. Replace it with the hottest trend in flooring: renewable, environmentally friendly bamboo. Solid-surface floors are easy to keep clean and give your home an upscale look and feel. Green flooring choices, like bamboo, minimally impact the environment and are a big selling point to today's environmentally conscious homebuyers.

Tip 3: Resurface concrete.
Replacing the cracked concrete surfaces around your home can cost a small fortune. But for a fraction of that cost, concrete can be resurfaced in a multitude of colors and finishes. Consider adding a cobblestone finish to your driveway, a brick look to an old walkway or a slate finish around the pool or patio. Whichever texture you choose, it will be a huge improvement over standard concrete and potential homebuyers will really take notice.

Home Improvements: $5,000 and up

Tip 1: Refresh the exterior paint.
The condition of your home's exterior is key to the overall curb appeal, so refresh that facade with a coat of paint. Fresh exterior paint will not only preserve and protect your home's exterior siding — the right paint color can make a dull home dazzling. By the same token, a house painted with an overly bright or overly bland color will make a house less appealing and hurt the value, so choose your colors wisely. Should you decide to put your house on the market and the exterior paint looks bad, a buyer will assume that the interior of the home has been neglected too and drive right past.

Tip 2: Go solar to save some green.
Save energy bill greenbacks by going green with a solar water heater. The installed price can cost up to $5,000, but these systems can slash your hot water bills by as much as 80 percent and attract energy-conscious homebuyers should you decide to sell. Install a solar water heater where there's unobstructed southern exposure and you'll have savings made in the shade.

Tip 3: Kitchen remodels are king.
Hands down, one of the biggest returns on investment comes from a kitchen remodel. Most experts agree that if you plan on updating only one room in your home, it should be the kitchen. Large, open kitchens have become the social hub of the modern home. High-end touches like granite countertops, richly stained custom cabinets and energy-efficient stainless appliances are the gold standard in modern kitchens. Experts agree that kitchen remodels return an average of 80 to 85 percent of every dollar spent. You can expect an even higher return if you are remodeling a really outdated kitchen.

Source: DIY Network

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Whether you're setting up a home for the first time or you're replacing lost items, this checklist of house essentials can help ensure you're covered for the basics. It can also come in handy when you need ideas for wedding, anniversary, and shower gifts.


Major Appliances

Some major appliances may already be in place in your home, especially if you're renting. New homes usually have no appliances other than heating/cooling equipment and a hot water heater.

  • Refrigerator with freezer
  • Range or cooktop and oven
  • Microwave oven
  • Freezer, chest or upright (optional)
  • Dishwasher (optional)
  • Clothes washer and dryer

Countertop Appliances & Accessories

Most countertop appliances have "manual," or non-electric counterparts. For example, you can opt for a stovetop coffee maker instead of a standard plug-in drip coffee machine.

  • Toaster or toaster oven
  • Mixer (handheld or stand)
  • Blender (standard or stick)
  • Coffeemaker
  • Electric kettle

Cooking Implements

Active home cooks tend to acquire specific and specialty cooking tools over time, based on the type of cooking they do. But a basic set of implements will suffice for most recipes and dishes.

  • 6-, 8-, and 12-inch frying pans
  • 1-, 2-, and 4-quart saucepans with lids
  • Dutch oven or large pot with lid
  • Stockpot (optional)
  • Steamer pot or steamer basket
  • Casserole dish
  • Roasting Pan


Baking tends to be more precise than everyday cooking, so it helps to have the most standard tools, such as a classic 9-inch pie pan, to follow baking recipes without having to make modifications.

  • Heavy baking sheets
  • Cookie sheets
  • 9-inch pie pan
  • Rectangular bakers or baking dishes
  • Rolling pin
  • Metal cooling racks
  • Ramekins or custard cups

Kitchen Utensils & Tools

A well-equipped kitchen feels more like a home kitchen and less like a rental property. Think about the items you most often reach for as well as some cook's favorites that you may not have tried, like a spider strainer.

  • Large- and medium-size mixing bowls
  • Measuring cups and spoons
  • Canister set (for storing grains, flour, and other dry staples)
  • Kitchen tool holder
  • Spice rack or holder
  • Colander or set of strainers
  • Silicone spatulas
  • Metal spatula or flipper
  • Wooden spoons
  • Spider skimmer
  • Can opener
  • Wisk
  • Kitchen scissors
  • Cheese and vegetable grater
  • Plastic and/or metal serving and cooking utensils, such as large slotted and regular spoons, soup ladle, potato masher, large meat fork, and stirring paddles
  • Knife set, including paring, chef, and serrated knives
  • Steak knives
  • Cutting boards
  • Vegetable cleaning brush
  • Potholders, hot pads, and oven mitts
  • Dishcloths and tea towels
  • Trivets

Tableware & Serving

Dishes and silverware go quickly whether you're cooking a family meal or hosting a dinner party. It's best to have extra settings for the most common items.

  • Flatware settings (dinner fork, salad fork, teaspoon, soup spoon, knife) for eight to 12 people
  • Everyday dish setting (dinner plate, salad plate, soup bowl) for six, or as needed
  • Fruit or dessert dishes
  • Glassware assortment, including 4-, 6-, and 8-ounce glasses
  • Small bowls, such as cereal bowls, if not included in dish set
  • Coffee mugs and teacups
  • Salt and pepper set
  • Cream and sugar bowl
  • Napkin holder
  • Set of serving bowls
  • Teapot (if you don't have an electric kettle)
  • Serving platter

Floor Care & Cleaning Items

There are an endless array cleaning supplies you can buy, but a basic collection will get you through most everyday chores. Even professional house cleaners rely on relatively few supplies.

  • Vacuum cleaner
  • Broom and dustpan
  • Floor mop, scrub pail, scrub brush, and cleaning rags
  • Long bottlebrush
  • Scouring or pot cleaning pads, or brushes
  • Dust Rag
  • Microfiber cleaning cloths (optional)

Linens & Towels

As with dishes, having more sets of towels and bed linens means you won't have to wash items in a hurry because you've run out. It's also nice to have plenty of good linens for house guests.

  • Bath towels
  • Hand towels
  • Washcloths
  • Bed sheets
  • Blankets and bed covers
  • Pillows and pillow covers (include extra for guests)
  • Tablecloths
  • Cloth napkins
  • Placemats

Source: The Spruce

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Lovely Lanterns

Fireplace decor reaches beyond the mantel. Decorating the space around the flames is a great way to add dimension to your display. If you're looking for a festive alternative to your flames, try putting these pretty picks inside for a unique look. 

Richly Red

Why settle for a traditional green garland? Make your mantel pop with this rich red accent.  


A New Necessity

Just like a tablescape, a mantel display needs a focal point. This trendy hand-lettered print outlined by matte paper in a rustic frame will be a staple year after year.

A Holiday Gathering

Talk about a good-looking holiday gathering! This berry and pinecone arrangement pulls together your holiday decorations. We imagine placing one at either end of the mantel. Where will you place yours?


The Search Is Over

The hunt for the perfect stockings may seem never-ending, that's why we did the searching for you. We love this modern-meets-traditional find of soft velvet and cozy flannel.

A Year-Round Affair


Finally, holiday decor that can last all year! This decorative mirror bursts with joy for the festive season.

A Hint of Tin


A well-put-together display is all about the tiny details. This glowing accent will illuminate your mantel with a cheery Christmas tree cutout. 

A Holiday Staple

Bows are everywhere during the holiday season, so why not spread them around your home! From presents to tree tops and more, this pretty pair is sure to bring the holiday spirit wherever they go. 

We Have a Winner

You can't call it a holiday display without a wreath. We love this one's subdued green hues with a scattering of red berries for a vintage-inspired finish.

Source:Better Homes and Gardens

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Two Months Before

  • Sort and purge.Go through every room of your house and decide what you’d like to keep and what you can get rid of. Think about whether any items will require special packing or extra insurance coverage.
  • Research.Start investigating moving company options. Do not rely on a quote over the phone; request an on-site estimate. Get an estimate in writing from each company, and make sure it has a USDOT (U.S. Department of Transportation) number on it.
  • Create a moving binder.Use this binder to keep track of everything—all your estimates, your receipts, and an inventory of all the items you’re moving.
  • Organize school records.Go to your children’s school and arrange for their records to be transferred to their new school district.

Six Weeks Before

  • Order supplies.Order boxes and other supplies such as tape, Bubble Wrap, and permanent markers. Don’t forget to order specialty containers, such as dish barrels or wardrobe boxes.
  • Use it or lose it.Start using up things that you don’t want to move, like frozen or perishable foods and cleaning supplies.
  • Take measurements.Check room dimensions at your new home, if possible, and make sure larger pieces of furniture will fit through the door.

One Month Before

  • Choose your mover and confirm the arrangements.Select a company and get written confirmation of your moving date, costs, and other details.
  • Begin packing.Start packing the things that you use most infrequently, such as the waffle iron and croquet set. While packing, note items of special value that might require additional insurance from your moving company. Make sure to declare, in writing, any items valued over $100 per pound, such as a computer.
  • Label.Clearly label and number each box with its contents and the room it’s destined for. This will help you to keep an inventory of your belongings. Pack and label “essentials” boxes of items you’ll need right away.
  • Separate valuables.Add items such as jewelry and important files to a safe box that you’ll personally transport to your new home. Make sure to put the mover’s estimate in this box. You’ll need it for reference on moving day.
  • Do a change of address.Go to your local post office and fill out a change-of-address form, or do it online at But in case there are stragglers, it’s always wise to ask a close neighbor to look out for mail after you’ve moved. Check in with him or her two weeks after the move, and again two weeks after that.
  • Notify important parties.Alert the following of your move: banks, brokerage firms, your employer’s human resources department, magazine and newspapers you subscribe to, and credit card, insurance, and utility companies.
  • Forward medical records.Arrange for medical records to be sent to any new health-care providers or obtain copies of them yourself. Ask for referrals.

Two Weeks Before

  • Arrange to be off from work on moving day.Notify your office that you plan to supervise the move and therefore need the day off.
  • Tune up.Take your car to a garage, and ask the mechanic to consider what services might be needed if you’re moving to a new climate.
  • Clean out your safe-deposit box.If you’ll be changing banks, remove the contents of your safe-deposit box and put them in the safe box that you’ll take with you on moving day.
  • Contact the moving company.Reconfirm the arrangements. 

One Week Before

  • Refill prescriptions.Stock up on prescriptions you’ll need during the next couple of weeks.
  • Pack your suitcases.Aim to finish your general packing a few days before your moving date. Then pack suitcases for everyone in the family with enough clothes to wear for a few days.

A Few Days Before

  • Defrost the freezer.If your refrigerator is moving with you, make sure to empty, clean, and defrost it at least 24 hours before moving day.
  • Double-check the details.Reconfirm the moving company’s arrival time and other specifics and make sure you have prepared exact, written directions to your new home for the staff. Include contact information, such as your cell phone number.
  • Plan for the payment.If you haven’t already arranged to pay your mover with a credit card, get a money order, cashier’s check, or cash for payment and tip. If the staff has done a good job, 10 to 15 percent of the total fee is a good tip. If your move was especially difficult, you might tip each mover up to $100. Don’t forget that refreshments are always appreciated.

Moving Day

Source: Real Simple
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No matter how long your house is on the market before being sold, it can be tremendously difficult to keep a home clean and orderly during the showing period, however short.

Aside from correct pricing, the most important steps you can take involve decluttering and making sure your house is kept clean during the showing period, says Eric Tyson, a personal finance expert and coauthor of ''House Selling For Dummies.''

Here are a few pointers for sellers:

Do as much preliminary pre packing as possible.

Vicki Norris, a professional organizer and former real estate agent, knows how hard it can be to keep a house in prime showing shape. It's especially difficult when people are selling against their will — for instance, in the wake of a job loss.

''Sometimes life takes people off track and they get unusually disorganized,'' says Norris, who runs her own consulting firm, Restoring Order.

To limit upkeep demands during the showing period, Norris recommends that sellers clear their clutter in advance of putting their place on the market. Throw away or give away any items you don't intend to keep, and place the remainder in neatly stacked boxes in your garage or other storage area.

''You don't have to remove everything, but reduce the quantity. For example, if you can winnow down an overpacked bookshelf from 200 to 30 books, that would be great,'' Norris says.

Seek to keep your house in good condition every day.

Most people who have their homes up for sale for a lengthy period can't count on hired help to do the daily work necessary to keep their place in tip-top showing condition. Still, they must always be ready for visitors.


Ashley Richardson, a real estate agent affiliated with the Council of Residential Specialists, advises clients to set aside 15 minutes each morning before work to straighten the home.

''At the very minimum, every day you'll need to sweep the kitchen, put the breakfast dishes in the dishwasher and hang up any clothes lying around,'' she says.

Ponder the use of a cleaning service.

Are you sloppier than the average homeowner? If so, it might be wise to pay for what real estate agents call a ''super-duper cleaning.''

''If you start with a professional cleaning at the beginning, you'll have an easier time keeping your house tidy all the way through to your sale,'' says Sid Davis, a real estate broker and author of ''A Survival Guide to Selling a Home.''


Though it's likely to cost over $100, he says a single in-depth cleaning could hold you for more than a month before another in-depth cleaning job would be necessary.

Unfortunately, hiring a cleaning crew won't spare you the need for routine upkeep. ''This will be no substitute for keeping your dishes washed and your bathroom toiletries put away. But it's still a big step going forward,'' Davis says.

Try to get everyone in your household to cooperate.

After a home has sat unsold for more than a month, those who live there can easily lose focus and slip back into their bad habits.

"The problem is that keeping your house in show condition is not a relaxed way of living, so people get tired of it,'' Davis says.


According to Richardson, it can be especially tough to ensure that children's rooms are kept orderly and that their toys are put away.

''Often, the kids are protesting the move. So the parents may need to clean their rooms for them. Alternatively, to get the kids to do it themselves, you might need to bribe them with pizza or a dinner out,'' she says.

Realize that the ordeal is temporary.

Donna Goings, a veteran real estate agent, says homeowners who earnestly want to sell should ''keep their houses looking good enough to appear in a magazine.'' But she cautions that even picture-perfect properties that are fairly priced can languish unsold for a lengthy period through no fault of their owners.

''Sometimes, there's no rhyme or reason why a particular house won't sell for a long time. Even if you make the house beautiful and set the price right, it could stay on the market for months,'' Goings says.


Richardson advises her clients to avoid dwelling on critiques of their property.

''Buyers are more candid than they were in the past, and sometimes can be quite blunt in their feedback after a showing,'' Richardson says.

To limit the amount of unfiltered and discouraging negativity that can flow to you about your home, she suggests you tell your listing agent to filter out all pointlessly critical comments about your place.

Source: Chicago Tribune 

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Spring is generally the most popular time of year to sell a house, with hordes of buyers looking to move into a new place before the school year begins. But if you decide to sell your home during the winter, experts say you could reap a reward in cold, hard cash.

“I have personally had my best months in real estate during the holiday season, so the idea that the markets are very tough to sell in the winter might be a myth,” says Emil Hartoonian, managing partner of The Agency in Beverly Hills, CA.

He's not the only one who believes selling in the winter can make you a real estate winner. Read on for the top reasons why you should consider unloading when the temperatures drop.

1. Low inventory = less competition

Since spring is the most popular home-selling season, the housing market is ultracrowded with options at that time of year. And if you paid attention during Econ 101, you understand the law of supply and demand.

“Most sellers still think they need to sell in the spring, but that means there is more competition for buyers' attention,” says Matt Van Winkle, founder of Re/Max Northwest in Seattle.

But in the winter, there are fewer homes for sale. That competition over low inventory can make winter an ideal time to sell your home.

“In the Atlanta market, January is one of the strongest months for homes to go under contract,” says Ally May of Atlanta Fine Homes Sotheby's.

2. You get to show your home’s winter-readiness

Selling in the winter also gives you the opportunity to show that a home is designed to handle the harsh elements.

“Sellers in places like Lake Tahoe can show off features like a south-facing driveway to speed up snow melting, how snow will fall off of a roof, a short driveway that will minimize shoveling or plowing, heat tape on the north side of the roof to avoid snow accumulation, and how recently the roof and furnace have been replaced," says Sandy Soli, regional manager at Engel & Völkers in Lake Tahoe, NV.

Plus, during winter months, homes with features like fireplaces and hot tubs are certainly more appealing.

3. New parents may be looking to upgrade

The baby boom in September may lead to more buyers later in the year. According to data from the Center for Health Statistics and the Social Security Administration, there are more birthdays in the month of September than any other time of the year. Therefore, there's likely to be a crop of growing families looking to buy a larger house.

"Once baby is home and settled, these parents may want to start the year in a new, and more spacious, family home,” according to Melissa Temple, real estate adviser and partner at Engel & Völkers in Aspen, CO.

4. Winter brings out the serious buyers

News flash: Not everyone looking at houses intends to make a purchase. Some people are contemplating moving and may just want to see what's on the market. Since more homes tend to go on the market in spring and fall, this is also when window shoppers are likely to be out looking.

However, these looky-loos tend to be scarce during winter months, according to Jennifer Baldinger, licensed associate real estate broker at Julia B. Fee Sotheby’s International Realty in Scarsdale, NY.

"When I have buyers looking for homes in January and February, they’re real buyers looking to make a purchase—especially if it’s a great house. They don't want to take the chance of waiting until spring and losing out on the home,” Baldinger says.

“There may be less people at these open houses, but I would rather have 10 real buyers come through than 20 people who are just curious,” she says.

5. Year-end financial bonuses and payouts

As a seller, year-end performance reviews could mean that more people have money to spend on a home.

“End-of-year financial bonuses or workers retiring with large payouts could mean opportunities for these buyers to upgrade their living situations or for first-time buyers to enter the housing market,” according to Temple.

6. Corporate relocation

You could also encounter buyers who are relocating for a job.

“One of the biggest months for corporate relocation is January/February, so those buyers, who need to move quickly, are out in full force looking for new homes,” Baldinger says.

Relocators typically have a limited amount of time to uproot their families and, as a result, don't have the luxury of spending a lot of time looking at properties. The kids need to get settled into school, and dealing with selling their old home can add another level of urgency and stress. So it's likely that once they find a home that meets their requirements, these buyers will be ready to sign on the dotted line.


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Just because the snow is falling and the days are dark and gray, that doesn’t mean you can’t dress up your home a bit. It doesn’t matter if you’re selling your home or you just want your home to look great for the holidays, here are 13 ways to spruce up the outside of your home this winter.

Add a Small Tree

This holiday season, buy an extra small Christmas tree (or two!) to place near the front door. You can wrap the bottom of the tree with some burlap or place it in a basket. If you have and electrical outlet nearby, add a string of lights.

Create a Warm Glow

Exterior lighting not only makes your home safer, it also makes your home look cozy and inviting. Take a walk around the outside of your home to make sure all lights are working properly and check for any bulbs that need to be replaced. Also, check to make sure bulbs are clear of ice and snow. 

Clear the Snow

Nothing makes a home look unkempt in the winter faster than snow that hasn’t been cleared. Take the time to shovel the front walkway and shovel or use the snowblower on the driveway to keep paths clear and safe.

Add Some Plants

Look for some cold-weather plants to add to your front entryway. Think evergreens or plants with colorful berries to add some interest to an otherwise drab space.

Clear Clutter

Make sure all toys, shovels and lawn equipment are put away after use. Leaving items like this laying around is a quick way to give your yard a sloppy look.

Try a Lantern

Hang a lantern on a post near your entryway or set one or two on the steps for a charming, welcoming look. Lanterns can be either hard-wired or battery-operated.

Add Some Color and Shine

Winter can be dark and gloomy so add some shine to up your curb appeal. Pick out some shiny, colorful garden ornaments to add around the front of your home.

Use String Lights

String lights aren’t just for the holidays. Try using them in a clear glass bowl or lantern on your porch for a soft glow or suspend them from a tree for an enchanting look.

Hang a Wreath

Wreaths don’t have to be super-fancy or really large. Think beyond evergreen and choose a wreath with understated elegance.

Attract the Birds

Add a colorful bird feeder in your front yard. A well-placed feeder adds color and life to an otherwise gray landscape.

Get Painting

Break from the expected and go for a bold color on your front door. The pop of color may be just what your home needs during the depths of winter.

Update Your Mailbox

If your mailbox is boring black, brown or white, give it a winter makeover. Try some brightly colored paint to help boost your curb appeal. Just bring it inside to warm up since paint has a hard time adhering to cold surfaces.

Replace House Numbers

Up your home’s curb appeal with some striking new house numbers. Go for a design that makes a statement. Or, find a style that speaks to your home’s character. Just make sure they can easily be spotted from the street. 

Source: Family Handyman 

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Many home buyers feel slightly uncomfortable looking at bathrooms while touring homes. Buyers will spend more time in the kitchen, living room and bedrooms than they will in a bathroom. Perhaps they don't want to think about what usually goes on in the bathroom. Bathrooms are not generally a place where strangers share communal experiences.


So, they poke their heads in the door - often without stepping foot in the room, like if they don't actually step into the bathroom, they're not really in the bathroom - glance left to right, and leave. That takes all of three seconds. So, that's what you've got to impress a buyer - three seconds. Sellers can spend hours staging a bathroom for that three-second reaction.


Getting the Bathroom Ready for Staging

Get out the bleach and start scrubbing. If you prefer not to use bleach, find an organic substitute, but bleach works best. Your goal is to clean the bathroom from top to bottom. It should sparkle and radiate cleanliness.

  • Get rid of mold. Almost every bathroom contains some form of mold, especially in corners.
  • Remove the covers from light fixtures and exhaust fan, wash, dry and replace.
  • If your light fixtures are rated for 100-watt, replace the bulbs with 100-watt.
  • Remove prescriptions from the medicine cabinet, and any other personal items you don't want a buyer to find and store this stuff in a safe place.
  • Throw out worn, frayed, or outdated rugs and towels.
  • If wallpaper is peeling, steam it off the walls and paint the walls with a light-colored semi-gloss.
  • Use Lime-A-Way or a similar product to remove soap grime and calcium residue from shower doors.
  • Fix leaky or dripping faucets.
  • If cabinet hardware is weathered, replace knobs and pulls.

Shop for Bathroom Staging Supplies

When staging your bathroom, the effect you're going for is to create a spa-like experience. Spa accessories are related to water and nature. Think Asian influence and choose items in tranquil, soft colors. Don't be afraid to incorporate contrasting textures by combining smooth surfaces with rough material such as polished pebbles nestled at the base of an aloe vera plant.


You don't have to spend a fortune to create the illusion of a spa. Check out discount stores such as Target, Wal-Mart, Costco or Tuesday Morning for inexpensive supplies. Here are types of spa accessories for you to pick and choose among:

  • Towels, rugs, washcloths
  • Bamboo or wooden trays
  • Candles in various sizes
  • Green plants
  • Small water fountains
  • Scented soaps
  • Glass containers filled with cotton balls or Q-tips
  • Ribbon and rough twine
  • Twigs and berries
  • Seashells
  • Fluffy white robe
  • Padded satin hanger
  • Creams, lotions, shampoos or bath salts with unusual or antique packaging
  • Sea sponges and bath brushes

Staging the Bathroom

Now that you've bought all this stuff, what do you do with it? You don't want to clutter the vanity or make the room feel overcrowded. Less is better. Think simplicity.

  • Start by layering a few towels on the rack by artfully folding in thirds a larger towel for the bottom and place a smaller towel on top. Tie the center loosely with ribbon or twine. You can also glue twigs and berries to the ribbon.
  • Create displays by grouping items together in odd numbers such as 1, 3 or 5. Vary the height of candles and jars.
  • Slip a white robe on a padded hanger and hang it on the door or from the shower door.
  • Put a stack of folded towels on a bamboo tray and arrange a few unwrapped bars of scented soap next to the towels.
  • Consider a placing a new rug next to the bathtub or shower.
  • Use greenery sparingly to add life and color.
  • Arrange bath products, drop a few flower petals around them. Be creative.
  • If you have space and so desire, fire up the water fountain.

Source: The Balance 

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Sadly for all homeowners, prepping your house for the winter is just one of those things you can't skip out on. Though I wish I meant hanging holiday lights everywhere, decorating your mantel, and watching last year's Hallmark Christmas movies on repeat until the new ones come out, there's much more to it.

Unfortunately, this is not the fun list you'll want to check twice, but you simply must—despite how tedious the tasks may be. Between the money saved on electricity and future repairs, your wallet will thank you later. Here's exactly what you need to do in order to get ready for the cold weather ahead:

Weatherproof your doors and windows.

It's important to get ahead of the winter weather and make sure your home is ready to handle the cold to come. Check your doors and windows closely for gaps and areas that may cause a draft. Use weatherstripping or caulk to seal them up, or consider replacing the windows or doors if the problem is severe enough.

Reverse your fans.

Stephen Fanuka, host of Million Dollar Contractor, says turning your fans clockwise is a secret to saving money on heat in the winter since it will stop the warm air from rising, AKA keep it down where you want it to be. But how do you do this? Most ceiling fans have a switch that you can simply flip to reverse it—if the switch is not easily accessible on the outside of the fan, it may be somewhere inside.

Check for cracks in your water tank.

Another Fanuka tip is to make sure your hot water tank is crack-free. Chances are if you haven't installed one in 10-15 years, you'll need to replace it.

Clean your dryer hose.

Clogged dryer hoses pose huge fire hazards, in fact, according to the National Fire Protection Association, U.S. firefighters respond to approximately 14,630 house fires annually that were caused by dryers. Consumer Reports shares that you can prevent these house fires by cleaning your lint filter, emptying or replacing your dryer hose, and regularly checking the vent and exhaust.

Get an annual fireplace inspection and chimney sweep.

Similar to dryer hoses, clogged chimneys lead to house fires, but they can also cause carbon monoxide poisoning. Having a yearly inspection and chimney sweep may cost you money, but it could also save your life—so, make it happen. Additionally, make sure the flue on your chimney is fully functional so when the fireplace is not in use, you don't experience drafts.

Prevent pipes from freezing.

Two of Stephen's tips for the prevention of frozen pipes this winter include: (1) keep the heat on always and (2) let your faucets drip to keep the water flowing and make it harder for the water to freeze.

Bring the outdoors inside.

In case you didn't already do this before fall came around, be sure to move all outdoor furniture and appliances (grills, lawn mowers, et cetera) into your garage or shed as well as any planters you'd like to save through the season. Also, don't forget to turn off all sprinkle systems and unplug garden hoses.

Clean out your gutters.

Yes, this is a post-autumn activity as well, unfortunately, since it's best to avoid having any unnecessary weight from frozen leaves—in case the icicles weren't heavy enough as is. Emptying the leaves, dirt, and debris will decrease the risk of damage to your gutters.

Keep the heat on.

Keep the heat on always, Stephen urges. Even when you go away. By doing so you can keep your pipes warm and prevent them from freezing, while also saving money on having your heating system work extra hard when you return to bring the house back up to room temperature. Lowe's suggests updating your thermostat (if you haven't already) to a programmable version so you can set the house for one temp when you're home, and another for when you're away.

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There are many views on the pros and cons of buying vs. renting your winter vacation home, and people are persuaded one way or the other for a myriad of reasons.

When it comes to buying, some people plunge right in and buy the first time they visit a destination on holiday. Others take a more cautious approach, renting for a few years so they can get to know a particular destination – and maybe even check out a few other destinations – eventually buying something when they decide on a place they want to return to year after year. Still others invest in a vacation home while they are in their 50s and still working, rent it out in the short term and look forward to using it for their own winters once they retire.

When deciding whether to buy or rent, make sure you consider all of the following benefits and drawbacks to help you make the best decision based on your needs and situation.

Renting a winter vacation home

If you're recently retired and just starting your search for a winter vacation destination that’s right for you, renting is definitely the way to go at first. Many snowbirds prefer the flexibility that renting allows and others don’t want the costs and responsibility of a second home.

The Pros of Renting

  • You’re not committed to the same building, area or destination, giving you the freedom to move around from year to year.
  • You can move around within a single winter season, trying out different destinations for a month at a time
  • If anything needs fixing at the property, it’s not your problem!
  • You don’t have the stress and headaches that come with managing a vacation property year-round
  • You’re not responsible for the many costs associate with owning a vacation property such as taxes, maintenance, condo fees, utilities and more
  • You won't have to consider the possible tax issues faced by Canadians who own and decide to sell their foreign real estate
  • You don’t have top worry about estate planning and what will happen to your property after you’re gone

The Cons of Renting

  • It is becoming increasingly difficult to find vacation rentals as demand increases due to so many people reaching retirement age
  • Competition for rental units is fierce, so if you want to rent for a shorter period than someone else, you will lose out
  • Rental rates are going up.  High season rents (Jan-March) are going up each year as demand increases. You can expect to pay anywhere from $1,500 U.S. to $7,500 U.S. and up per month. Beachfront and ocean view can be even higher.
  • Rental units are rarely well equipped in the kitchen in particular, so you often have to bring a lot of your own gadgets and equipment or you have to buy locally
  • Rentals offer very little date flexibility – they’re normally available for a minimum of one month, starting on 1st of the month and requiring you to vacate on the last day of the month.
  • Rental units can often be “tired” in appearance and not freshly decorated or furnished.
  • You’re usually stuck with basic cable and old tube TVs
  • Many rental units often don’t allow pets

Buying a winter home

If you find yourself renting for 4 months or more in the same destination year after year, then experts agree you’d usually be better off economically by buying. Of course, to achieve this you either have to have the necessary capital or the means to borrow. 

While prices are generally on the rise, there are still a lot of bargains in both established and up and coming snowbird destinations across the U.S. Sunbelt and internationally. 

To fund the purchase of a U.S. winter vacation home, some snowbirds will use a line of credit on a Canadian property, some will use available cash or investments and some will work with their Canadian banks to arrange a U.S. mortgage or arrange a mortgage with a U.S. bank directly.   Remember, using a Canadian line of credit guarantees your payments are not subject to currency fluctuations, while U.S. mortgages can be tricky for Canadians and have exposure to currency fluctuations.

Regardless of how you fund the purchase of a winter vacation property, with prices rising there’s a good case to be made that an investment in U.S. real estate is a sound one.  However, before you buy there are many things to consider, not the least of which are ongoing costs, tax implications and estate planning.

The Pros of Buying

  • It may even be cheaper to own, if you were a long time renter (4 months or more)
  • When you own, you can come and go as you please
  • You can choose a design you like and decorate to meet your taste
  • You don’t have to worry about availability from year to year or stress about finding a rental
  • You can leave your belongings there so you don’t have to bring or shop for them every year
  • You can get specialty TV channels, Netflix and other services you like
  • If you want, you can rent your unit out when you are not using it to bring in income
  • You can take your pets (within the rules of your condominium or club guidelines)

The Cons of Buying

  • You’ll be going to the same place every winter - a great comfort for many, but not for those with itchy feet!
  • The dollar.  Currency fluctuations can play havoc with your budget for ongoing expenses and your U.S. mortgage (if you have one)
  • If you want to rent out your unit, there could be tax implications. Be sure to get professional advice.
  • If you sell your property, there will be U.S. capital gains tax consequences. Ask a lawyer for details.
  • Dying can bring complications. You need to thoroughly understand U.S. estate law and what would happen if you or your spouse were to die while owning property in the U.S. Consult a legal expert on this.
  • Costs! Depending on the type of property you buy, you will be responsible for maintenance costs, property taxes, utilities and homeowners insurance. Depending on the type of property you buy, you may also have condo fees and club membership fees.  Be sure to look at the Reserve Fund status of any condominium purchase and find out how financially viable the project is.
  • You’ll need to hire a person or company to look after your property when you are not there

Source: Snowbird Advisor

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Do you have a spare room in your home? Turn it into the ultimate kids playroom! Whether your little ones love to dress up, play with toys, or work on crafts, there are tons of playroom design ideas for you try!

Paint with Bright Colors

Color is key when designing a creative space that kids will love. Paint the walls with their favorite colors, an underwater theme, or a hand-drawn design for an eye-catching accent wall. Neutral colors are also great idea for those looking to style a modern playroom or who aren’t completely ready to take the plunge with bold colors. Just add some flair with a bright rug or pillows for that wow-factor.

Install Easy-to-Clean Flooring

Opting for floors that are wood or linoleum is a smart idea for spare room playrooms that might be prone to stains. If you’re looking for playroom flooring ideas that won’t break the bank or require much renovation, try foam flooring. It’s easy to clean, and it’s a fun way to add color and comfort to the room.

Decorate with Wall Decals

Interests, activities, and styles usually change as kids discover new things and get older. Stick-on wall decals are the perfect playroom decor solution for parents who want to create a cool space without having to commit to a specific wall color or theme.

Create a Chalkboard Wall

You won’t be afraid of your kids coloring on the wall with a playroom chalkboard wall! Kids and parents alike love this easy and fun DIY decor idea because it allows little ones to freely decorate the walls while giving parents peace of mind knowing that cleanup is easy and not permanent.

Add Toy Cubbies

Utilize vertical wall space in a new playroom by putting in a toy cubby! This is one of the best playroom storage ideas because it allows your kids to display their favorite toys and easily access any books, games, or play sets without having to dig through boxes in a closet.

Incorporate Cute Storage Bins

Kids room decorating ideas don’t need to be complex. With cute wicker baskets or patterned totes, you can get both fun designs and playroom storage. And if labeling isn’t quite your thing, color coordinate the toy storage bins to ensure your little ones can find exactly what they’re looking for!

Build Decorative Shelves

Floating shelves, free-standing shelves, and bookcases are all great playroom decorating ideas for changing up that spare room. Use them for toy and book storage, or display cute decorations like a framed picture, wooden trinkets, or vase of fake flowers to jazz up the room.

Set Up Cabinets

This playroom furniture idea lets you hide even the most disastrous of messes. You’ll have a home for items that don’t necessarily fit in storage boxes while keeping a clean and safe area. Use playroom cabinets to store board games, cards, construction paper, and any other craft supplies that need organizing.

Include Tables for Crafts

Whether you’re working with a large or small spare room, tables are a staple for any playroom. Kids can use them for craft projects, assembling racetracks, and putting together puzzles. Not to mention a playroom table is nice for having a place to enjoy an afternoon snack and juicebox!

Add Comfy Seating

No matter what playroom design you go with, seating that’s comfortable and easy to lounge on is essential. Keep it simple with a few small bean bag chairs and a fur rug, or incorporate a variety of fun pieces like floor cushions, a couch, and large stuffed animals.

Integrate Furniture with Storage

Functional and fun are necessary components when it comes to picking out kids playroom furniture. Ottomans with storage, hollowed-out benches, or benches with enough space underneath for baskets provide ample seating and help with playroom organization.

Create a “Nap Time” Space

A kids playroom doesn’t just have to be for playing games and pretending to be astronauts. Creating a designated nap space in a playroom allows your child to recharge and jump right back into their day of fun! Simply add a small daybed or large pillow with some blankets, and nestle it in a corner for a cozy space.

Display Kids Artwork

Putting your little one’s art projects on the wall is both a fantastic playroom wall decor idea and terrific way to show off their masterpieces. All you need is a few frames to keep the pictures in place and some hooks or nails to fasten them on the wall. For a more budget-friendly alternative, hang a wire clothes line or wooden hangers on thumbtacks to showcase new pictures frequently!

Create a Mini Stage

This children’s playroom idea is an easy project. The experienced carpenter will love this low-cost DIY playroom stage that requires some lumber, drywall anchors, and drapery panels. But if you’re looking for a simpler option, buy some cute curtains and a shower rod to install in a corner of the room.

Put Together a Dress-Up Corner

Let your kids transform from a wizard to a princess in a flash with a dress-up corner! Just add a metal hanging rack, some hooks, wicker baskets, and a mirror to any corner of a spare room, and let your little one’s imagination run wild!

Suspend a Swing

Looking for fun decor that will allow your kids to stay active even indoors? A swing should be at the top of your list! This unique feature is the perfect idea for an attic playroom, and it’s easy to install yourself. All you need is some industrial hooks, rope, and a sturdy board. (Make sure everything is properly supported!)

Toss in a Ball Pit

A mini ball pit is an ideal playroom addition that will turn any spare room into the cutest indoor attraction. Kids of all ages love this safe playroom idea, and it’s easy create your own with a baby pool and some plastic balls. You can even upgrade the size as the children grow!

Add a Cozy Fort

Having a fort that goes beyond blankets and pillows is a fun decor must-have for a playroom. Get creative with themed forts like an indoor treehouse, pirate ship, or castle. A teepee fort is an excellent alternative if you’re looking for playroom ideas on a budget.

Build a Playhouse Under Stairs

If you’re designing a basement playroom with your spare room, amp up the space with a custom a playhouse. Often, the space under the stairs goes unused, but you can utilize that vacant area by turning it into a custom playhouse kids will love!

Give Your Kids a Reading Nook

No kids playroom is complete without a reading nook. Add some floating shelves, fluffy pillows, a few blankets, and your tot’s favorite stories, and they can unwind with a good book after a long day of playing!

Invest in a Slide

An indoor slide is on every kids dream playroom list! Install a playground-style slide for endless thrills, or incorporate a miniature-size slide that’s cheaper and easy to store for more playroom space.

Source: SpaceWise

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Selling Secret #10: Pricing it right

Find out what your home is worth, then shave 15 to 20 percent off the price. You’ll be stampeded by buyers with multiple bids — even in the worst markets — and they’ll bid up the price over what it’s worth. It takes real courage and most sellers just don’t want to risk it, but it’s the single best strategy to sell a home in today’s market.


Selling Secret #9: Half-empty closets

Storage is something every buyer is looking for and can never have enough of. Take half the stuff out of your closets then neatly organize what’s left in there. Buyers will snoop, so be sure to keep all your closets and cabinets clean and tidy.

Selling Secret #8: Light it up

Maximize the light in your home. After location, good light is the one thing that every buyer cites that they want in a home. Take down the drapes, clean the windows, change the lampshades, increase the wattage of your light bulbs and cut the bushes outside to let in sunshine. Do what you have to do make your house bright and cheery – it will make it more sellable.

Selling Secret #7: Play the agent field

A secret sale killer is hiring the wrong broker. Make sure you have a broker who is totally informed. They must constantly monitor the multiple listing service (MLS), know what properties are going on the market and know the comps in your neighborhood. Find a broker who embraces technology – a tech-savvy one has many tools to get your house sold.

Selling Secret #6: Conceal the critters

You might think a cuddly dog would warm the hearts of potential buyers, but you’d be wrong. Not everybody is a dog- or cat-lover. Buyers don’t want to walk in your home and see a bowl full of dog food, smell the kitty litter box or have tufts of pet hair stuck to their clothes. It will give buyers the impression that your house is not clean. If you’re planning an open house, send the critters to a pet hotel for the day.

Selling Secret #5: Don’t over-upgrade

Quick fixes before selling always pay off. Mammoth makeovers, not so much. You probably won’t get your money back if you do a huge improvement project before you put your house on the market. Instead, do updates that will pay off and get you top dollar. Get a new fresh coat of paint on the walls. Clean the curtains or go buy some inexpensive new ones. Replace door handles, cabinet hardware, make sure closet doors are on track, fix leaky faucets and clean the grout.

Selling Secret #4: Take the home out of your house

One of the most important things to do when selling your house is to de-personalize it. The more personal stuff in your house, the less potential buyers can imagine themselves living there. Get rid of a third of your stuff – put it in storage. This includes family photos, memorabilia collections and personal keepsakes. Consider hiring a home stager to maximize the full potential of your home. Staging simply means arranging your furniture to best showcase the floor plan and maximize the use of space.Selling

Secret #3: The kitchen comes first

You’re not actually selling your house, you’re selling your kitchen – that’s how important it is. The benefits of remodeling your kitchen are endless, and the best part of it is that you’ll probably get 85% of your money back. It may be a few thousand dollars to replace countertops where a buyer may knock $10,000 off the asking price if your kitchen looks dated. The fastest, most inexpensive kitchen updates include painting and new cabinet hardware. Use a neutral-color paint so you can present buyers with a blank canvas where they can start envisioning their own style. If you have a little money to spend, buy one fancy stainless steel appliance. Why one? Because when people see one high-end appliance they think all the rest are expensive too and it updates the kitchen.

Selling Secret #2: Always be ready to show

Your house needs to be "show-ready" at all times – you never know when your buyer is going to walk through the door. You have to be available whenever they want to come see the place and it has to be in tip-top shape. Don’t leave dishes in the sink, keep the dishwasher cleaned out, the bathrooms sparkling and make sure there are no dust bunnies in the corners. It’s a little inconvenient, but it will get your house sold.

Selling Secret #1: The first impression is the only impression

No matter how good the interior of your home looks, buyers have already judged your home before they walk through the door. You never have a second chance to make a first impression. It’s important to make people feel warm, welcome and safe as they approach the house. Spruce up your home’s exterior with inexpensive shrubs and brightly colored flowers. You can typically get a 100-percent return on the money you put into your home’s curb appeal. Entryways are also important. You use it as a utility space for your coat and keys. But, when you’re selling, make it welcoming by putting in a small bench, a vase of fresh-cut flowers or even some cookies.

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If you're thinking about buying a home, this list can help get your search off on the right foot. While the number of rooms, the condition of the kitchen, and the size of the yard are important, there are other things to think over before you make an offer. Consider these factors.


The Location

They say that the three most important things to think about when buying are home are location, location, location. You can live with almost any imperfection in a home if you love the neighborhood and your neighbors. You can change almost everything else. But, once bought, you cannot change your home's location. When you go house hunting, consider any potential home's proximity to your work, the charm of the neighborhood, how the home is situated on the lot, ease of access, noise from neighbors, traffic, and pets, as well as access to parks, shopping, schools, and public transportation.


The Site

Beyond location, look at the site of the home. If the home is on a hill, does it have a view, a walkout basement, or lots of stairs to climb? Do neighbors' windows look directly into the home? Is the yard suitable for kids, pets, gardening, or other uses? Is access to the property safe regarding driveway elevation or stairs to the front door?


The Neighborhood

Be sure the neighborhood, and not just the house, meets your expectations. They say that you should own the smallest home in the nicest neighborhood that you can afford. You'll have a great view! Drive around on weekdays and weekends, during the day and in the evening. Are homes in the neighborhood consistent in size and features? Do the neighbors keep the yards clean and tidy, or are there old cars and trash around? Is the neighborhood safe enough for people to walk, run, or bike, and are there children playing in the yards?


The Home's Curb Appeal

Your home should reflect your lifestyle. Do you live a laid-back life? Then you might not want a formal Victorian or Tudor-style home. Something simpler and more contemporary might be in order. Look at the exterior features. A brick home is easier to maintain, unless, of course, you live in an earthquake-prone area. Ask yourself whether the roof in good condition. Is the landscaping attractive and are the sidewalks leading to the home safe?


The Size and the Floor Plan

You may be thinking about buying your dream home. But is your dream home impractical? Do you need four bedrooms and four baths when you live alone? A large home can give you the extra space you've always wanted for a home office or crafts or art projects. But you'll pay higher heating bills and have higher taxes. It will take more furniture to fill it and money to decorate. Think about how the new home space will be used and whether it will fit your lifestyle now and in the future.


The Bedrooms and Bathrooms

Decide how many bedrooms and bathrooms you need, and only look at homes that meet your criteria. It would be a shame to fall in love with a cozy, charming cottage that isn't big enough. An extra bedroom is always a plus, as it can be used for a home office, craft studio, or guest room. If you think you'll be adding more room later, be sure to consult an architect who can advise you on space planning, lot usage, and city regulations.


The Kitchen

If the kitchen is the heart of your home, don't settle for a home with a kitchen that won't work. You can always remodel, but it's very costly. Can you replace cabinet faces and countertops? Will an inexpensive makeover be sufficient? Don't worry about appliances, as they can usually be easily replaced.


The Closets and Storage

Older homes tend to have little closets and not a lot of storage space. If you have lots of sports equipment, craft supplies, out-of-season clothes, and holiday decorations, be sure you know where all this will go in your new home. Newer homes tend to have big closets and lots of storage. You can always add storage space, but you might have to sacrifice living space in your rooms.


The Windows and Lighting

Do you love a bright sunny room or do you love privacy? Look at home with light and sunshine in mind. Look at the locations of electrical outlets and fixtures. Will they accommodate your lighting needs? Is there recessed lighting in the kitchen, cove lighting in the family room and a lovely chandelier in the dining room? If not, you can add them later, but it's nice to have it in place when you move in.


The Finishing Touches

Sometimes the simplest home looks spectacular thanks to the installed moldings, hardware, and fireplace. If these elements are important to you, look for them while house hunting or be ready to add them after you move in.


If you keep these specific elements of a home in mind, your house hunting will be more successful, and you'll likely end up with the home of your dreams.

Source: The Spruce 

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A home improvement project should upgrade your house with features that add convenience and extra functionality to your living space.

Too many homeowners, however, make the mistake of not adding home features buyers want the most when it comes time to sell their house.

It’s natural for anyone to look more to a home improvement project’s impact on their family’s life over the next 5, 10, or 15 years.

While you’ll get plenty of use out of the home upgrades over that period, casting an eye towards the future should also be a factor in your renovation decisions as well.

Choose home features buyers want and need

Certain renovation projects have a poor return on investment that can significantly affect the back-end value of your expenditure. Experts agree that for potential buyers, these renovations don’t add value to a home:

  • removing closets
  • converting the garage into a living space
  • adding a sunroom
  • turning a spare room into a home theatre
  • adding a pool

These remodelling projects are considered too niche or just not practical for the average homebuyer.

And the first two examples completely go against the second-most important factor that goes into a homebuyer’s decision – available storage space. Not surprisingly, a home’s location was the most important factor.

Do your research to find out which home improvement projects provide a good balance of fulfilling an everyday need and will also be desirable in the eyes of anyone home shopping years from now.

7 of the home features buyers want the most

Certain home features buyers want the most virtually never change.

At the top of that list is storage space. Garage parking space and updates to kitchens and bathrooms also consistently rank highly with buyers.

We’ve looked at numerous studies, surveys, polls, and expert opinions to come up with a list of seven of the home features buyers want the most when they’re searching for a house.

1. Walk-in closet

A recent extensive Canadian Home Builders Association study found that a walk-in closet was the most valued asset of the 3,000 homebuyers surveyed.

A Braun Research survey of 500 realtors found that 97% of them said their clients valued closet storage space more than attic and basement storage space. And a 2013 National Association of Realtors survey shows that a walk-in closet in the master bedroom was the second-most important feature to homebuyers.

For many buyers, a large walk-in closet (also known as a dressing room) is an absolute essential. The absence of one may very well prove to be a dealbreaker for them.

A spacious walk-in closet doesn’t just provide a lot more space to store your clothes (although that’s one of its best benefits). They also:

  • provide a private, relaxing space for getting prepared or unwinding after a long day
  • make it easier to manage your wardrobe and keep it organized (saving you time)
  • provide a stylish and elegant space to showcase your wardrobe and accessories

A walk-in closet (also known as a dressing room) is considered one of the most essential features for homebuyers.

2. Energy efficiency

The 2017 Canadian Homebuyer Preference National Study shows that better energy efficiency is another of the top home features buyers want and will pay more for.

That Canadian Home Builders Association study also cited energy efficiency as one of the most desired home features for buyers.

This can include everything from a home having energy efficient appliances, energy efficient lighting, and modern windows and doors that will keep hydro bills lower. More energy efficient heating and air conditioning systems are also valued by homebuyers.

Buyers also place a higher priority nowadays on how well-insulated a home is. Are the attic, garage, and the rest of the home outfitted with high-efficiency insulation that’s actually been properly installed to deliver the best energy efficiency?

3. Master bathroom

Whether or not a home has a master bathroom is another important factor for many buyers. A master bathroom is defined as a bathroom with a sink, bathtub, and shower that is accessible from the largest bedroom (also known as a “master bedroom”).

The terminology for this room can vary. Some people may refer to it as an “ensuite master bathroom” or simply “ensuite”. It can also be written as “en-suite” (just to make things even more confusing).

When referring to bathrooms and bedrooms, you can expect to hear less usage of the word “master” in the coming years, however. Homebuilders and realtors are phasing it out due to the word’s negative gender and racial connotations.

Bathroom features buyers are looking for most are a custom bathroom vanity/makeup area, two sinks, and a separate shower enclosure. Forward-thinking buyers in their forties and fifties want the latter, in part because they’re considering its ease of use a couple of decades down the line.

Surprisingly, linen closets topped the list of the most desirable bathroom features for new home buyers surveyed in 2013 by the National Association of Home Builders.

4. Two-car garage

For both older homes and newly constructed homes, two-car garages are another feature buyers consider essential. 80% of buyers factor in the garage when making their decision, according to an Impulse Research survey.

And while that Braun Research survey found that 97% of buyers valued closet space more than attic and basement storage space, the garage ranked a close second. Realtors surveyed said that 96% of buyers valued the garage over the attic and basement as a home storage space.

Garages provide valuable storage space not just for tools and items there’s no room for elsewhere in your home, they also allow you to park vehicles indoors. That protects your sizeable investment in your vehicles.

There’s also the convenience of parking indoors. That’s why 55% homeowners use the garage as their house’s main entryway, according to a Chamberlain Group study.

Garage makeovers are also a hot home improvement trend. As Garage Living’s Linda Fiore Ceolin explains it, “There is so much potential in every garage space, large or small. More homeowners have realized the importance of upgrading their garage to make it a beautiful, functional extension of their living space.”

96% of homebuyers view the garage as a more valuable storage space in a house than the attic and basement.

5. Hardwood floors

The National Association of Realtors survey shows that just over half of homebuyers are willing to pay more for wood floors. The main reasons are its contemporary look, durability, and how much easier wood floors are to clean than carpeting. 

Hardwood is most preferred, especially original hardwood flooring found in older houses, which can be a real home seller. Authentic hardwood flooring is easier to refinish compared to engineered wood flooring. It should also theoretically last a lifetime. 

Engineered wood flooring is less expensive and not as durable as original wood flooring. However, it does nicely replicate the look of hardwood with a hardwood veneer over layered fibreboard and structural plywood.

A higher percentage of homebuyers under the age of 54 look for a house with wood floors than older buyers. This is attributed to the fact that older generations tend to find carpeting a little cozier and warmer than wood floors.

6. Laundry room

Look at a variety of studies and surveys on the home features buyers want most and a dedicated laundry room will assuredly rank highly on most of them.

In fact, last year’s report from the National Association of Home Builders on the home features buyers desire most had “a separate laundry room” at number one.

92% of buyers surveyed considered a laundry room essential. An increasing number of homebuilders agree and are incorporating laundry rooms into their building designs.  

Those in the aged 35 to 54 demographic placed a high priority on having a laundry room. Millennials especially favour owning a laundry room, preferably upstairs close to a bedroom or on the main floor, off the kitchen. Space-saving stacked washers and dryers are also popular with younger generations.

Laundry rooms are considered a must-have feature for many buyers because of the convenience and high functionality they add to homes. A dedicated space to take care of all of the ironing, sorting, folding and other tasks that go along with laundry duty helps to simplify and speed up the process.

7. Modern/open concept kitchen

Concluding our list of the home features buyers want most is the open concept kitchen. Once again, younger buyers favour open concept kitchen designs more than baby boomers.

The Canadian Home Builders Association reports that 85-90% of consumers in Ontario and the Toronto area prefer this more modern type of kitchen design.

An open concept kitchen that includes a kitchen island and inclusive eating area is also considered an attractive selling feature, particularly to buyers with kids. 

Realtors and designers widely agree that modern kitchen updates yield better returns come resale time than a bathroom remodel.

Additional modern kitchen upgrades that appeal to homebuyers include:

  • double kitchen sinks
  • high quality stainless steel appliances
  • walk-in pantry
  • granite, marble, or quartz countertops
  • stylish cabinetry with modern hardware

Do you have the home features buyers want most?

Is your home keeping up with the modern design trends that can make your life more comfortable and pay off when you sell your home?

Organized Interiors specializes in bespoke home organization and storage solutions for the entire home. We can improve your living space with many of the home features buyers want and need the most

Source: Organized Interiors 

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Lately I’ve been quite impressed with the house prices in our area but at the same time know that if we sell the cost to renovate and buy weigh heavily on our minds.

Not only that but the real estate market in Canada might be hot right now but if you have renovating to complete that might set you back with missed money opportunities.

The top 3 questions next to time-frame that you need to answer before putting your house up for sale are;

  1. Should we renovate our home to get better return?
  2. How much will our renovation budget be?
  3. Do we want to upgrade or downsize buying a new house?


Most of the home buyers that have moved in are in their late 30’s and up with and without children. It’s near impossible for the Millennial generation to buy a house in Toronto most of which start in and around the million dollar mark. Most of these houses could do with upgrades and renovations which means more work and more money.

With University and College loans and a war of an employment market finances can become a struggle. If it’s hard to pay for rent you’ll never make it through a mortgage. This is why more and more younger adults are opting to rent instead of buy. They can’t afford it.

Everywhere we look house prices have skyrocketed especially in our area. In our net worth update you will see we have our house set at $365,000 but a comparable home just sold for $575,000 on our street.

That number would certainly boost our net worth over one million dollars however we know that we still have to live somewhere. Owning a home is like sitting on an egg and when it hatches you’ll either make a mint or cry all the way to the bank.

Even moving to smaller neighbouring cities might not get us much more than what we’ve already got unless we’re prepared to pay more. Living in a small village appeals to me more than the city but these days even the country properties are into the millions. Pair all of this with increased commute time and stress level waiting in traffic longer than needed every single day.

A fan wrote to me looking for some advice about renovating his house before selling it or just sell it as is? Let’s see what he had to say first.


Dear Mr.CBB,

My wife and I have lived in our house for 10 years now and have done minimal renovations. We bought the 4 bedroom 1500 square foot bungalow for near one million dollars knowing that it needed some work doing to it. We have 2 bathrooms in the house both with shower and a tub, single garage and parking for 2.

At the time the price was right and we needed somewhere to live close to work and renting was not something we wanted to. Sadly we know that was a silly mindset to cling to as it could have ended terribly had we not had a budget.

I’m the type of guy that fixes stuff as it’s needed or hires someone to do it. The other day my wife and I got talking about types of renovations we should complete before we put the house up for sale. We’re just not sure if we should bother with renovating the house or just sell it and move on. We’re in no hurry but the real estate market seems to be HOT in our area.

Ideally we’d like to move somewhere close to where we are now in a Toronto Suburb but somewhere cheaper. This means that getting the most out of our house when we sell it is important to us. What we’re not sure about is whether it would be worth it to renovate or let the new owners do this?

Do you or any of your readers have any personal experiences they want to share with us?



Hi Craig,

First off, talk to you’re real estate agent and see what he/she has to say about renovating a house in the area you live in.

If your house has potential then I’d certainly invest in making sure that the key rooms in your home get a face-lift including a fresh coat of paint. Whichever rooms you want to renovate depend on your renovation budget plus your motivation.

Buying from big box renovation stores such as Rona, Lowes or Home Depot will yield you the more affordable kitchen and accessories. However, remember that what ever you spend on a kitchen, you’ll only see a certain percentage back from your initial investment.

Most people will shop at those stores when renovating their home. Don’t go to high-end stores to frost your renovations but keep the budget reasonable so that the new owner isn’t dealing with a crap job and paying for it.

Most of the houses around here have had minimal renovations and yet still yield sale prices higher than the original asking price. A hot market can pretty much sell any house.


In other words, Is It Worth It? Will you make any money back from it if not more is up to you and the real estate market at the time of selling.

Not one person I know wants to spend the time and money to renovate a house they want to sell unless they are trying to hook more money from the buyers. There are plenty of buyers who fancy a house renovated top to bottom.

Return on investment doesn’t just include the financial aspect of the deal either but also the physical investment. Renovating a house is not a small undertaking unless it’s a quick fix. When renovating the name of the game is to “Do it right the first time” however trusting someone else’s work is another story.

Not all home inspectors catch things that are wrong with a house during inspection nor do they check everything. There’s always that risk of buying a renovated lemon which has to be torn down and the renovating process to start over.

Personally, I’d like our dream home to be a dream project that I can get finished. If we had the money I’d rather go for a custom-built home from the get-go although I do like older homes but they come with greater financial risk depending on age and how well it was taken care of.

What does this mean for you?

This means that if you want to renovate your house before selling you have to face living through it not just once but potentially twice if the new home you buy is in need of repair. The main goal of renovating is to make money. How long are you willing to live through renovating and possible renovations of your new home?

There are many questions that must be answered BEFORE you sell and BEFORE you buy a house.


When you’re already living in the dwelling that you will be renovating there are inconveniences that you and the family would have to endure. This might force speed on renovating which causes mistakes to happen. They might not fail for you but the new home owner. If your renovation does fall apart you will end up paying for it twice.

  • Noise
  • Mess
  • Dust

With contractors in and out of your house that turns into a mess zone with dusty air can become an environment you might not want to keep your family in. Some people move into their basements while the main level of the home is having renovations done. This is a great option but you’re still not free from the above inconveniences.

Opting to move into a temporary accommodation such as a hotel or short-term rental lease may be the ideal option. Keep these expenses in mind when deciding on your renovation budget. Don’t be in a mad rush to move in with family unless you’re prepared to deal with potential for arguments. It happens to the best of us although if rent is free or inexpensive that might be the best option for you.


Home improvements such as a garage addition, stamped concrete driveway, pool or even a metal roof might not bring you the return you were hoping for when you sell your house. What will sell your house is how big your property is and the size of your house.

You can easily add more money to your real estate investment by making the right moves when upgrading or renovating your home for sale. Not all renovating projects will give you a 100% return if any but there are certain ones that score bonus points with buyers.

Fix the obvious stuff if you really want to make an impact when the For Sale sign goes up.

What you want to avoid is overbuilding for your neighbourhood. Right now we have a friend who is struggling to sell a gorgeous home in an area with older homes. It’s clear the house is different because it’s still a young house and it looks out-of-place as it’s modern looking and bigger than every other home. This will be a home they will struggle to sell for that reason.

Now that we’ve seen what’s inside some of the homes on our street we know that the renovations we want for our home might be a bit much right now. We aim to keep it simple and save our money for renovating that appeals to us.


Enhance your home renovations by sticking to the main rooms that cause the most fuss for potential buyers. Almost every buyer gravitates to the kitchen and bathrooms. The flooring and tile work is another renovation that will not only bring the house to life but call on the buyers to bid.

The worst thing you can do is renovate a house to sell without keeping the renovations neutral or current. Any buyer will see that they will have to renovate again to update the house and honestly people don’t have the time nor money to do so. Don’t imagine living in the house dream about selling it and the green in your pocket.

Now that I’m a dad I’m struggling to get any renovating done around our house. Our son keeps me busy as does both my jobs. I could do some rush renovation to add more sex appeal to our house if we had to drop everything and sell it tomorrow.

Where the money is at:

  • Kitchen
  • Bathrooms
  • Flooring

You will almost always recoup your money for the above 3 renovations for the competitive housing market in your area. If you over-renovate you risk recouping less money because your house compared to Joe’s house across the street where he renovated for half the price and selling for a high price-tag.

Catch my drift? Don’t emotionally invest in your renovations if you plan to move.

This is one of the main reasons your neighbours scout through open houses. They want to see what you did to your home and how much they need to renovate their own to see similar return if not more. Be mindful of the home renovation products used as well.

There’s no point buying hardwood to renovate the floors if the entire neighbourhood is laminate or carpet. Yes, you may get a bit more money but odds are you’ll get what everyone else is getting and that’s a comparable of the houses with laminate or carpet. Then again the right buyer might pay the extra for the luxury of hardwood. Will you risk it? Choice is yours.

Keep your dream home renovations for your final home and keep your nose out of fancy renovation magazines unless you’re prepared with a healthy renovation budget. What looks nice might not fit what everyone else has.

Quality home renovations don’t come cheap and if you do get an unusually low renovation estimate I’d put the brakes on and investigate further. If you have a carpenter, plumber or electrician in the family call on them maybe they can help you out for a discounted price or you could help them in return for free renovating.


If you don’t plan to stay in your house stay away from invisible renovations and those that are custom to your home that will narrow your selling potential.

All those little fixes you do around the house likely won’t matter much. I won’t walk into your house and say oh look there’s a new furnace. These are more home maintenance types of renovation projects you will see limited return if any.

Blowing more insulation into your attic, installing new plumbing, duct work or other bits and bobs will likely go undetected when you go to sell your  home. Fix what everyone can see unless of course you must repair what you can’t.

Even then a massive landscaping project might sell a home but it won’t yield returns like other areas of the home. Spend your money wisely. I’m not saying to cover up repairs I’m simply suggesting that you to put your budget into areas that will make money for you.

Source: Canadian Budget Binder

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Moving—like getting a tooth pulled or driving a very long distance through uninteresting landscapes—is one of those trials almost everyone must face. It’s sometimes unpleasant, it’s never exactly fun, but it usually leads to a positive outcome. Of course, particularly with moving, the success of the endeavor really depends on avoiding moving mistakes and planning ahead to make the process as smooth as possible.

Fortunately, and likely because almost everyone does end up moving at some point, there are plenty of tried-and-true moving tips out there to make the whole process easier. Following a moving checklist can help you make sure everything’s in order before, during, and after the move; another good moving tip is to commit to having a good attitude about all the change to come. Some moving tips focus on packing advice, while others offer reminders to cancel various services or arrange for things to be prepared at the new house; still more focus on smaller details, such as how to care for pets during a move or what to do when the movers are late. The most important moving tips, though, may relate to the physical move itself.


A lot can go wrong during a move. (A lot can go right, too.) With all the details and moving parts, there’s no one-size-fits-all guide with moving tips for every single scenario that could come up during the moving process. Different people will have specific needs or concerns—an antique china collection, valuable wood furniture, delicate heirlooms—that may require special accommodations, but for most cases, this general list of moving tips and tricks will help.

For more moving tips or advice for particularly stressful moving scenarios, turn to dedicated moving resources, such as The Art of Happy Moving by Ali Wenzke ($13; For now, take a look at these tips, and prepare for a smoother, quicker, easier move.

Moving tips, tricks, and advice

1. Get rid of everything

Packing all your possessions into boxes, bags, and more can be overwhelming. Make it a little bit easier on yourself by cutting back on excess and clutter as much as possible. Before you pack a single box, do a merciless purge of unused or unnecessary items. You’ll have less to pack, less to move, and less to unpack—and you’ll start life in your new space with a clean slate.


2. Make a moving folder

Start collecting new addresses, rental or purchase papers, moving contracts, and more in one folder. (Consider a hard copy, rather than a digital one, in case the computer or phone batteries die during the move.) If any questions come up during the planning process or the move itself, you’ll have the answer (and records of agreements, payments, and more) on hand.

3. Pack as far in advance as possible

Ideally, you’ll know about a move (even if you’re not sure of the final destination) weeks or even months in advance. Start by packing off-season items and the items you won’t miss. When it’s time to pack everything up, many items will already be ready to go. In the stressful final weeks and days just before the move, you won’t be worried about not getting everything packed in time.

4. Book early

If you’re hiring moving services, renting supplies, or having services such as painters or cleaners work on the house, book early. Waiting to do so could mean paying a higher price or not being able to get a truck or movers at all, particularly if it’s peak moving season.

5. Schedule utilities for your new place

Once the dates are finalized, contact your utility providers to schedule service at your new home. You don’t want to arrive there, tired from the move, to find that the electricity, water, or heat is off. Schedule it ahead of time, and keep records of your requests in your moving folder. At the same time, request service stops for your move-out date at your current home.

6. Keep the essentials with you

On the night before the move, tuck everyday essentials—a change of clothes, a toothbrush, must-have stuffed animals or toys for the kids, medications, paperwork, etc.—into a suitcase or bag you’ll keep with you in the car, the truck cab, or on the plane. If catastrophe strikes and the moving truck gets lost, at least you’ll have some essentials with you.

7. Invest in Equipment

A few days before the big move, stock up on supplies. The last thing you want is to have to make a run to the store while loading boxes or making sure everything is out of the house. Order or purchase box cutters, adhesive bandages, permanent markers, packing tape, paper towels, and garbage bags. If they aren’t all used during the move, they’ll still be useful afterward, especially during unpacking.

For larger moving equipment, considering renting moving tools from a moving company. (If you hire a moving service, they’ll likely have their own.) If you move very frequently, you may be better off purchasing these tools. Either by buying, renting, or borrowing, make sure you have a furniture dolly, furniture pads or covers, and tie-down straps or rope at your disposal during the move.

8. Get a truck with a loading ramp

If you’re a DIY mover, you absolutely need a truck with a ramp. It may be cheaper to rent a truck without one, but the hassle (and struggle) of lifting every box and piece of furniture high enough to get it into the truck will add hours—plus sore muscles—to your move.

Packing tips for moving

1. Use the right size boxes

Put heavy items, like books, in small boxes; light items, like linens and pillows, in bigger ones. (Large boxes packed with heavy items are a common complaint of professional movers. They not only make the job harder but also have a better chance of breaking.)

2. Put heavier items on the bottoms of boxes, lighter items on top

And if you’re loading the truck yourself, pack heavier boxes first, toward the front of the truck, for balance.

3. Don’t leave empty spaces in the boxes

Fill in gaps with clothing, towels, or packing paper. Movers often won’t move boxes that feel loosely packed or unbalanced.

4. Avoid mixing items from different rooms in the same box.

It will make your packing quicker and your unpacking a lot easier, too.

5. Label each box with the room it’s destined for and a description of its contents

This will help you and your movers know where every box belongs in your new place. Numbering each box and keeping an inventory list in a small notebook is a good way to keep track of what you’ve

packed―and to make sure you still have everything when you unpack.

6. Tape boxes well

Use a couple of pieces of tape to close the bottom and top seams, then use one of the movers’ techniques―making a couple of wraps all the way around the box’s top and bottom edges, where stress is concentrated.

7. If you’re moving expensive art, ask your mover about special crating

Never wrap oil paintings in regular paper; it will stick. For pictures framed behind glass, make an X with masking tape across the glass to strengthen it and to hold it together if it shatters. Then wrap the pictures in paper or bubble wrap and put them in a frame box, with a piece of cardboard between each framed piece for protection.

8. Bundle breakables

As you pack your dishes, put packing paper around each one, then wrap bundles of five or six together with more paper. Pack dishes on their sides, never flat. And use plenty of bunched-up paper as padding above and below. Cups and bowls can be placed inside one another, with paper in between, and wrapped three or four in a bundle. Pack them all in dish-barrel boxes.

9. Consider other items that will need special treatment

Some movers treat TVs like any other piece of furniture, wrapping them in quilted furniture pads. Plasma TVs, though, require special wooden crates for shipping if you don’t have the original box and can be ruined if you lay them flat. If you’re packing yourself, double-box your TV, setting the box containing the TV into another box that you’ve padded with packing paper.

Source: Real Simple
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You finally did it! You found a great home in what seems like a nice neighborhood at, as far as you know, a reasonable price. Your offer beat out the competition, and now you’re under contract!

With the wheels in motion, you’re set to close on your new home purchase in just a few weeks. A lot will happen between now and then—some good, some not so good. The not-so-good can range from normal bumps in the road to homeownership while others are deal-breakers you can’t and shouldn’t ignore.

Here are four of the potential problems you could encounter—as well as your options if they crop up—plus some tips on how to avoid them.

Your Lender Has to Get “Creative” With Your Loan

If you made your offer on your new home before you were pre-approved for a mortgage, your bank will now begin digging into your finances to determine how much they’re willing to lend you. This could go really well, or it could go terribly wrong.

If you made your offer on an affordable home with a down payment of 10% or more, you’re probably in good shape to get approved for a 15-year, fixed-rate mortgage with a payment of no more than 25% of your take-home pay. Any other loan option is a no-go.

Too many buyers fall in love with homes they can’t afford. And lenders will do their best to “make your homeownership dreams come true” with rotten financing options like adjustable-rate mortgages or piggyback loans. Even a simple 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage is a rip-off that will cost you tens of thousands more in interest and keep you in debt for decades!

Ideally, you need to be pre-approved for a mortgage (not just prequalified) before you begin shopping for homes. That way you know your exact price range, and you won’t make offers on homes you can’t afford.

Your Home Inspection Reveals Extensive (and Expensive) Problems

Even if you’re already approved for a loan, the bank now has to be sure the home is a sound investment as well. That means a thorough home inspection by a licensed professional. Nearly every home inspection—even those on new homes—will turn up some issues. Most are minor and can either be ignored or resolved by further negotiating the terms of the purchase contract.

However, some issues like insect infestations or water damage are warning signs you can’t ignore. According to, termites , for example, cause more than $5 billion in property damage each year, and the cost to repair that damage is not usually covered by homeowners insurance. In addition to any repair expenses, you’ll also need to pay an exterminator to eliminate the infestation. Chemical extermination can cost up to $3,000 for a 2,500-square-foot home on a slab foundation plus an ongoing $200 a year for annual maintenance services.

Costs to repair water damage can range from $100 to patch a small roof leak up to $70,000 for a burst water pipe, according to data from If the leak has been around long enough, you may have a mold problem on your hands too. Additionally, reports the cost for a typical mold remediation project can cost between $2,000 and $6,000. For widespread damage, you could be looking at $30,000 or more.

Foundation problems and major electrical or plumbing problems are also expensive to repair and indicate the potential for ongoing problems with the home. As much as you love the home or the location, it’s usually better to walk away than to walk into a home with costly complications.

Your New Neighborhood Is Past Its Prime

Sometimes the first time you saw your home was also the first time you ever visited that neighborhood. Maybe you’re moving from out of town and you don’t know which areas are up-and-coming and which are on the decline.

Whatever the case may be, take steps between now and closing to make sure you’re buying a home in a quality neighborhood. Drive through on different days and at various times of day. Do people seem comfortable visiting together outside their homes? Are there kids running around? Is there construction going on nearby?

New shopping areas and expanding neighborhoods are signs of a healthy community. Go online and research the nearby schools and make sure this is a place you’ll want to stay long term. A great deal on a home isn’t worth it if the neighborhood’s in decline. But before you back out of the purchase, consult your real estate agent for their insight.

Your Appraisal Shows the Home Isn’t Worth the Price

There are many reasons why an appraisal might be low. In some areas, home prices are rising fast—so fast that the comparable home sales appraisers use to calculate a home’s value haven’t caught up. You may also end up with a low appraisal if the home you’re buying has features that aren’t typical for the neighborhood, like a basement or view.

But more often than not, a low appraisal is a warning sign you may be paying more than the home is worth. As a buyer, your lender cannot approve a loan amount for more than the appraised value of your home. If you do end up with a low appraisal, you have a few options:

  • The seller can lower their asking price (hint: this is the least likely to work).
  • You can challenge the appraisal or request a new one if it contains incorrect information.
  • You can cancel the contract.
  • You and the seller can meet in the middle with cash out-of-pocket.

If you decide on the last option, proceed with caution. You’re already making a down payment of at least 10% of the home’s price. Adding cash to make up for a low appraisal increases your risk since you’ll have to stay in the home longer for its value to recover. If you can’t negotiate a better deal with the seller, your best bet may be to let the home go.

Whenever problems like these come up, it’s best to have an experienced real estate professional on your side. Working with a real estate agent won’t guarantee a problem-free home purchase, but it will keep you from having to navigate those rough waters on your own.


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While most home buyers spend their time at an open house passively observing the layout of the rooms and the name brands on the kitchen appliances, smart buyers know the things that are really important to look for when buying a home.

In competitive markets, you'll often walk into an open house that has been deep cleaned, upgraded, and staged with stylish furniture, so you shouldn't be overly impressed by a house that looks and smells nice. (You can, however, be rightly appalled by a home that looks and smells atrocious.)

Think of the open house as a first date: It’s an opportunity to look beyond the pictures you saw online and figure out if the property is worth seeing again—or if you should move on and never look back.

Don’t let those freshly baked cookies or potpourri simmering on the stove fool you. The more aggressive the scent, the greater the likelihood the seller is taking precautions to mask a more offensive odor, says Denise Supplee, a real estate agent with Long and Foster Real Estate in Doylestown, PA.

"When there’s too much going on in the scent department—plug-ins, wax warmers, and candles, for example—I wonder what that overkill is hiding."

Take a deep whiff in every room you enter, and look closely at walls, ceilings, and flooring for signs of pet accidents, mildew, or smoke.

Red flag No. 2: Poor tiling

Inspect the tile in kitchens and bathrooms, suggests Eugene Gamble, a real estate investor and owner of WeFundYourFlips in Tampa, FL.

"If the gaps or tiles are slightly uneven, it may indicate a DIY job, which will make me think twice, especially if I know this house was flipped," he says. Lazy tiling could indicate that multiple fixes might have been done on the fly, which can add up to big bucks in potential repair costs.

Red flag No. 3: Foundation issues

Most houses have hairline cracks, which just indicate the house is settling into its position, but large gaps signal a bigger issue with the foundation, says Gamble. Other tipoffs: sticking doors or windows, visible cracks above window frames, and uneven floors. How do you know if the floors are uneven? Roll a marble from one side to the other. (This might be more subtle if you have kids with you.)

Red flag No. 4: Signs of deferred maintenance

"When I walk through a home, I look for signs that the owner might have neglected routine home maintenance,” says real estate agent Malcolm Lawson, with Keller Williams Select Realtors in Annapolis, MD. He cites issues such as burned-out lightbulbs, long grass, leaky faucets, or faded paint. “These signs indicate the seller may have ignored other ongoing home maintenance tasks that can cause real problems down the road.”

An attentive homeowner is going to flush the water heater annually, change air filters monthly, clean the chimney, inspect the roof for leaks, and regularly recaulk around windows and doors, for example, which will keep all those systems in good working order.

Red flag No. 5: Nearby water

That creek might look picturesque now, but it won’t when it comes cascading through your back door.

“The increasing unpredictability of weather means that it’s vital to consider the possibility of flooding,” Gamble notes. He’s seen people unable to insure their house against flood risk, which can create giant damage bills on a regular basis.

Red flag No. 6: Wonky windows

Take a second to pull back the curtains to check for lopsided frames, and then give the windows a tug to make sure they slide easily. If they stick, it could be a sign of foundation issues, as noted above, or just poor installation.

The only fix for that—and it’s an expensive one—is new windows, says Supplee, who knows from personal experience: “A home I purchased boasted ‘new windows,’ and it was only after living in the home for several months that I realized many had been installed wrong, and I had to replace them."

Red flag No. 7: Mold

To detect possible signs of mold while wandering through an open house, discreetly open bathroom and sink cabinets to take a look around water pipes or drains, suggests Frank Kirschner, a real estate broker in Fort Lauderdale, FL. Even small black or gray spots indicate that more serious issues may be lurking. You can also check the caulking around faucets and tubs for black spots, and look for patches on the ceiling.

Red flag No. 8: Water damage

A musty odor can indicate water damage, even if you don’t see standing water, says Supplee. Check walls and ceilings for water lines; they likely indicate flooding from a leak or a burst pipe that may have caused internal damage. Also, take a peek at exposed piping in basements or laundry rooms, and check for rust, water stains, or leaking, she suggests.

Red flag No. 9: Cosmetic enhancements

That one freshly painted wall could be an accent wall, or it could be hiding something like a patch of mold, Gamble cautions.

Supplee lifts up area rugs to check hardwood flooring, making sure they’re not stained or damaged by pets.

Red flag No. 10: Improper ventilation

Without adequate interior ventilation, moisture sticks around, which can create mold and increase allergies. The tipoff: Look for condensation on windows or slightly bubbled or peeling paint around windows, doors, or vents, says Kirschner. This can indicate moisture in the walls and ceiling drywall.

The bottom line: Don’t walk through an open house the way you walk through a museum, says Gamble. Even though your home inspectoris likely to detect many of these problems down the line, being attentive to these red flags in an open house ensures that you’re not wasting your time on a home that isn’t the one for you.


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