6 Amazingly Easy Ways to Save on Painting Projects

6 Amazingly Easy Ways to Save on Painting Projects

Your guide to saving time and money on your next painting project from HomeAdvisor.

Guest Post by Andrea Davis

Applying a fresh coat of paint is the easiest way to revitalize the look and feel of your home. But the price and labor of a painting update can be intimidating for some homeowners. Here are six ways you can you save time and money on your next painting project.

Tip #1: Check Local Recycling Centers

US News & World Report notes that recycling and hazardous waste centers take in old, unused cans of paint from local residents and businesses. Paint has a long shelf life, so it’s not uncommon to find usable paint at these centers. Best of all, paint from recycling centers is usually free.

Tip #2: Illuminate the Walls

Professional painters often bring their own spotlights and clamp lights to jobs. A clamp light or similar illumination tool will help spot mistakes before the job is done. Addressing mistakes as you go will save you time and money later.

Tip #3: Use a Primer

A primer as your base layer will help your paint adhere to untreated surfaces like raw wood or unfinished drywall. The use of primer is also good if you’re dealing with stained or rough surfaces that might require multiple coats of paint to gain an even finish.

Tip #4: Buy Better Paint

Professional painting services rarely opt for cheap paint, unless specifically directed to do so by the customer. Most cheap paints won’t shine as brightly or look as smooth as higher-quality alternatives. Using lower quality paints will also require multiple coats of paint to achieve a finished look, which can increase costs. Most high-quality paints, including those which feature a primer in the mixture, go on in one coat. They will cost more per can, but completing your job will require less paint.

Tip #5: Don’t Rush to Select a Color

Consider how your color will work with your space before making a purchase. Being sure about your color choice will save you time and money. Rushing into a color selection can result in a touch up or repainting altogether.

Tip #6: Know Your Finishes

Lastly, make sure you pick the right finish for the room. Here are the four major finishes:

  • Flat: Great for interior walls and ceilings.
  • Eggshell: Ideal for living rooms, bedrooms and dining room walls as it is easy to wash and touch up.
  • Satin: The easy-to-clean nature of satin finishes makes it perfect for high-traffic areas of the home.
  • Semi-Gloss/Gloss: Reserve this finish for trim, molding, cabinets, kitchens and bathrooms due to its great coverage and washable, durable nature.

Follow these simple tips and you’ll not only find yourself saving money at the hardware store or with your professional painters, but you’ll also save time by not having to repaint or frequently touch up your newly painted surfaces.

Andrea Davis is the editor at HomeAdvisor, which connects homeowners with home improvement professionals in their area for free. Connect with Andrea on Google+

Staged for Success: The Case for Hiring a Home Stager

Staged for Success: The Case for Hiring a Home Stager

Before listing your home, tap into the talents of a home stager. You may sell your home faster and at a bigger profit.

Home staging has become an increasingly formidable force in helping people sell their homes more quickly and for more money. Its overall goal is to help prospective home buyers emotionally connect with a space, hopefully leading to an offer to buy. Home staging isn’t limited to just high-end properties. It has become a norm for homes at all price points. While staging may seem like an additional hassle and expense, the investment can pay off. Here’s a guide to home staging, including the benefits, process and reasons to stage your home if you’re considering a move.

Scandinavian Modern Platform Bed, Mid Century Modern Slat Bench and Cave Chair

Who Hires Home Stagers?

Anyone selling or buying property may benefit from home staging. Homeowners selling single-family homes, condos and townhouses make up the greatest percentage of those hiring home stagers. However, property developers selling new construction, and real estate agents, also are in the mix.

While home staging was created primarily to benefit the seller, seeing prospective properties in their best light also can be advantageous to buyers because it can cut down on their search time.

Siegal Residence

Benefits of Staging a Home

Most people have trouble visualizing a space’s potential, whether that’s figuring out how to lay out an empty room or trying to ignore oddly arranged furniture, clutter or decor that’s not their style. The majority of home buyers can’t easily look past what’s in front of them to appreciate a room’s potential. Staging helps eliminate the buyer’s guesswork.

“The key is to set the stage for potential buyers to imagine themselves living there,” says home stager Robin DeCapua of Madison Modern Home. A 2015 study by the National Association of Realtors confirmed that more than 81 percent of home buyers find it easier to visualize the property as their future home when it’s staged.

Had the staged living room seen here been empty, many people might have found the large space intimidating and possibly off-putting. Instead, Audrey Gourguechon of Staging North Shore in Chicago created multiple seating zones to highlight it as an inviting living and entertaining space to potential buyers.

Mid Century Modern Dresser with Glass Vase Display

Prelisted staged homes spend 90 percent less time on the market than their nonstaged competition, according to a 2016 report by the Real Estate Staging Association. Considering the monthly carrying costs — mortgage, taxes and utilities — that translates into a lot of saved cash if the home spends less time on the market.

Transitional Style Bellevue Home

Shopping for many things these days is done online, and real estate is no exception. “Today, buyers look at the online photos before deciding to come in and view the homes in person,” says Shirin Sarikhani of Seattle Staged to Sell and Design. Web surfing is the first step in the buying process, and if your home doesn’t grab their attention, it will likely be passed by.

“If you want to get ahead of your competitors, be proactive, Gourguechon says. “Chances are your next-door neighbor has their home staged.”

Buyers decide whether they like the home or not in the first few minutes after entering. There’s only one opportunity to make a first impression, so you don’t want to be the seller who skipped out on staging, especially if there are several houses on the market in your area. Even if without staging you manage to get potential home buyers through the door for one viewing, they may not return for another look if nearby properties appear more enticing.

Contemporary Condo

Most homes have characteristics that are selling points, like architectural details or a great view, like the one shown here. But if these highlights aren’t actively showcased, they could go unnoticed. Or worse, a positive attribute could instead be perceived as a negative.

Let’s use this room as a hypothetical example. Slim, modern-style seating accentuates the city view by not blocking the window. On the other hand, an oversized roll-arm sofa with its back against the window could have send a message to prospective buyers that the living room is too small for a full-size sofa without obstructing the sought-after view. Boiling it down to a mere sofa location, the buyer might have moved on and considered a different property.

Living Room Before and After

Let’s be honest: You’re too attached to your home to see it clearly. Homeowners have too many memories and attachments to belongings that can cloud seeing the whole picture. A home stager is a pair of fresh eyes with no emotional ties to the house or its contents. He or she is in a position to suggest packing up Grandma’s afghan or shifting a beloved painting from the hallway to the fireplace mantel. For the staged living room seen here, a bulky cabinet angled in a corner was swapped out for a more useful and attractive reading area.

It’s not personal. “When selling your home, it’s not about you anymore,” Sarikhani says. “It’s about the buyers, so being detached is the most important aspect of selling the home.” Home stagers emphasize to their clients that their feedback shouldn’t be taken personally, but rather should be seen as a means of helping prospective buyers envision their own belongings in the home. Most often, clients are happy with the changes and remark that they should have made changes earlier. Sarikhani has even had clients love their newly staged home so much that they take it off the market.

Lehman Renovation

While the architectural style and age of the home play a role in the look of a staged room, other factors come into play with staging. The style is dependent on market trends, the likely buyer pool and demographic information. DeCapua says stagers glean this information from real estate agents or from prior stagings in the area. Her Los Angeles market is made up of thousands of different cities, neighborhoods and districts — and each one is unique. “Each home receives an appropriate style of staging,” she says. “For instance, an urban downtown loft gets a trendy look, while a San Fernando Valley home will be more family-friendly.”

Another plus is the vast inventory of stylish furniture and accessories home stagers have at their fingertips, something a homeowner selling a home is unlikely to spring for. For example DeCapua says she recently put a blush-pink sofa in a luxury condo, and indigo lounge chairs paired with an orange midcentury modern sofa in a more contemporary space. “All-neutral staging is a thing of the past,” she says. “When we started in this industry eight years ago, we saw a lot of blandness. But that has really changed. Now staging is hip, at times brightly colored and often full of personality, but it has to be tempered with good taste and an assemblage of furniture, decor and art that speaks to potential buyers in a powerful way.”

MOVERS WHO CARE®

While some staging projects require only a few accessories and moving furniture from one room to another, the average staging project requires one-third to one-half of the home’s contents to be removed and stored off-site. Too much furniture and pieces that are too large are common culprits. Also, home staging expert Barb Schwarz suggests that closets be half-full rather than bursting at the seams. Overstuffed closets convey that the home has inadequate storage space.

“We remind clients that once their home sells, they’re moving anyway, so why not get a head start on the packing process?” DeCapua says.

Bookcase Styling

When to Hire a Home Stager

The best time to hire a home stager is prior to listing your property. Waiting until your property has been lagging on the market is usually too late. “I often meet clients that call me when their home has been on the market for 30 to 60 or more days,” Gourguechon says. “It’s good that they realize that other properties are more appealing, but they have already lost a big part of their audience. Most of them won’t come back.”

While stagers recommend clearing away pieces from the home that won’t be making the move, many recommend not doing anything else, like painting or decluttering, until they visit your home. You could pick an unsavory new paint color that has to be painted over or, as Sarikhani has experienced, remove too many items that then have to be replaced with staged pieces, which can add to the cost.

Dining Room

Cost

Home staging costs vary widely and tend to fluctuate with location, scope of work and ease of access. Some home stagers charge based on square footage. The National Association of Realtors’ 2015 Profile on Home Staging cites $675 as the median spent on home staging, but projects can range from a couple hundred to thousands of dollars.

Staged projects tend not only to recoup the initial investment but to generate more profit. DeCapua says for 2015, Madison Modern Home’s data show that their clients received more than $6 for every $1 spent on staging — and more than half the homes they staged that year sold for more than their initial asking price. On average, staged homes sell for an average of 17 percent more than nonstaged homes, according to a survey by the International Association of Home Staging Professionals and StagedHomes.com.

Gourguechon makes a persuasive argument: The cost of staging will always be less than the cost of your first price reduction on your asking price.

Insurance

Professional home stagers should have comprehensive insurance to guard against any damages made to your home during the staging and destaging processes. Likewise, the client would be responsible, either personally or through homeowner’s insurance, for any damages made to the staged furnishings. It’s a good idea to check the coverage of your homeowner’s insurance policy and discuss with the home stager his or her insurance coverage. Also, it’s wise to verify a stager’s insurance and business licenses before you hire anyone.

Lombardy Lane, Laguna Beach

Which Rooms Are Most Important to Stage?

While it’s ideal to stage all the rooms in your house, your budget might not stretch that far. If you can do only a room or two, rooms should be staged in this order of priority, according to the NAR 2015 Profile of Home Staging: living room, kitchen, master bedroom, dining room, bathrooms, children’s rooms, guest bedrooms.

Sarikhani also advises that homeowners not dismiss “forgotten” spaces. She recently turned a large furnace room into a fetching little home office.

Process and What to Expect

Process. An initial in-home appointment with a professional stager usually lasts between one and three hours. The stager will likely take photos and may draw a simple floor plan. He or she will determine what should stay, what should go into storage and what items might be moved to different locations, and will assess the property’s general readiness to be staged. The home stager will also discuss timing and availability, and supply an estimate and options, usually after a couple of days.

If the proposal is approved, a contract will be drawn up and a staging day scheduled. Staging typically takes one day, but large properties can require more time. The home will be destaged after it has been sold or as per the contract.

It’s a good idea to interview more than one home staging company, look at all of their portfolios and ask for references from previous clients.

Find home stagers

Relaxing Kirkland Townhouse

What Items Typically Are Not Included in Staging?

This can vary with different home stagers and based on whether the property is occupied, but most do not supply window treatments, bedding, towels or live plants.

Any suggested updates, like painting and new flooring, are typically paid for and arranged by the homeowner. However, the staging professional may recommend paint colors or other products.

Homeowners are responsible for cleaning the home prior to staging as well as for the duration of the contract. The tasks of packing, moving and securing a storage facility for belongings that will not remain in the home during the staging period are the homeowner’s obligation as well.

Bedroom

What About Staging a Home With Pets?

Most professional stagers won’t stage in homes with cats for fear of scratched furniture, and some do not work in homes with any pets. Others will stage a home with animals only if they are kept out of the staged rooms. The issue of pets is an important point to discuss with your home staging professional.

North London Apartment

What to Do Before a Stager Arrives

  • Give your home a thorough, “white glove” deep cleaning.
  • Fix anything broken or easily improved — oil squeaky hinges, for instance.
    Replace lightbulbs or at least make sure all of your fixtures have working bulbs and the illumination is consistent.
  • Weed and mulch your flower beds, especially in front of the home, for curb appeal. You’ll make a good impression before potential buyers even reach the front door.
  • Pack away superfluous family photos on display. Keeping a few out is OK, but too many pictures dampens the “I could see myself living here” reaction of potential buyers.

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Weather Proof Your Roof: Five Must Ask Questions for Your Contractor

Weather Proof Your Roof: Five Must Ask Questions for Your Contractor

It may still be early in the fall but it’s never too early to start preparing your home for the winter months.

Guest Post by David Baur, Product Manager, GCP Applied Technologies

It may still be early in the fall but it’s never too early to start preparing your home for the winter months. While you may not be ready for the arrival of snow and ice, the bigger concern is your roof prepared? With the recent uptick in severe weather, it is important to know how to keep a home protected from Mother Nature. The good news is that with the right contractor and the right products your home will stand up against winter’s extreme weather.

Here in the United States and beyond, extreme weather is the new normal, so the usual repairs are no longer an option. Every home must be constructed to withstand wind-driven rain, snow, ice and everything else that Mother Nature brings. Therefore, it is critical to make sure your home is waterproofed properly to prevent future damage and costly repairs. Selecting an educated contractor and the proper construction materials now will make a big difference in the future of your home and bring you peace of mind.

So, how do you ensure you have hired the right pro and that your roof will stand up to this winter? Ask your contractor these five questions about snow and ice dam protection before they tackle your roof repairs:

1. If they are re-roofing, will they be using roofing underlayments?

The complete roof system consists of multiple layers – not just the shingles. Shingles are the exterior layer and they are not enough to keep the water out. What makes the difference and protects your roof from water damage caused by ice dams is the roofing underlayment, which is installed underneath the shingles. Roofing underlayments perform many functions in a roofing assembly, but first and foremost, they serve as the last line of defense between homeowners and the damaging effects of water infiltration. Be sure your contractor uses quality waterproofing underlayments.  While use of an underlayment is required by building code, there are multiple product types that can be used.

2. What type of underlayment will they use?

The answer you want to hear is that your contractor is using self-adhered underlayments, especially at the eaves and at all critical detail areas. Self-adhered membranes come in a roll form and consist of a layer of adhesive and a surface material, usually either a non-skid film or a granular surface. Not all self-adhered underlayments are the same. There is a wide variation in quality and performance. Premium performance self-adhered underlayments, such as Grace Ice & Water Shield®, seal around the fasteners used to attach the shingles, which helps prevent the water behind an ice dam from leaking into your house. These high-quality self-adhered underlayments stick to the roof deck so that water may not travel under the underlayment and enter the house via a vulnerable roof deck joint. Lastly, best in class self-adhered underlayments seal at overlap areas. Water cannot flow or be blown under un-adhered laps. As a result, self-adhered underlayments provide real waterproofing protection that mechanically-attached alternatives cannot match.

3. What type of self-adhered underlayment will be used on your roof: Granular or Film-Surfaced?

While granular-surfaced membranes usually cost less, the film-surfaced varieties are considered the higher performing product. In addition to forming better laps, shingles installed over a film-surfaced underlayment will not adhere to the underlayment surface.  This means future roofing projects can be completed more easily and less costly.

4. On what parts of the roof are they planning to use the self-adhered membrane?

In cold weather regions they should certainly apply the membrane along the eaves and in all valleys on the roof.  This is a basic requirement of the building code. Additionally, you can help your roofer protect other potential trouble spots by pointing out areas, where leaks have occurred in the past and where snow and ice loads were especially high this past winter.  Roof wall intersections, chimneys, and skylights are frequently problem spots.

5. Can I install a self-adhered underlayment over the entire roof to avoid future leaks?

If the attic space is well ventilated, it is possible to cover the entire roof with self-adhered membrane. Your contractor will be able to advise if a full coverage with self-adhered membrane is a good choice for your home.

With these answers you will ensure your roofer is using the best materials at the right places to prevent leaks from future ice dams. Most of us re-roof one to two times in our lives, so if you do it right the first time, you will have guaranteed protection.

David Baur is Product Manager at GCP Applied Technologies, formerly known as Grace Construction Products. He has step-by-step tips for homeowners, contractors and builders on building homes for extreme weather. For more tips and information please visit: www.gcpat.com.

Moving? Pack Up Your Garage in 5 Easy Steps

Moving? Pack Up Your Garage in 5 Easy Steps

While the garage is often the last room packed in a home, there are many reasons to make it your first.

Guest Post by NorthStar Moving Co-Founder Laura McHolm

When it comes to packing up your home for a move, the garage is often the last room packed. Let’s face it, we put it off due to the sheer number of things piled up and the items in the garage are the most awkward things to pack. Garages are full of tools, landscaping equipment and things you don’t want to look at. Often, our garages have become the dumping ground of junk we don’t want in the house. But…there are so many advantages to making the garage the first room packed. With a little planning, packing up your garage will ease your mind and possibly fill your wallet! So, how do you tackle packing a garage?

#1 Sort & Have a Garage Sale

Moving is the time when the garage finally gets cleaned out. Hurray! It doesn’t make much sense to move belongings you really have no intention of ever using at the new place. Now is the time to get rid of what you  really don’t need: the stroller for your now 10 year-old; the growing collection of sport teams t-shirts; tools never used; etc. But, don’t just toss them out. Sell them or donate them. If you have the time, a garage sale is a great way to de-clutter and get some extra cash in your pocket.

First, sort items by creating two sections in your garage: one section for the things you are taking with you and one for the stuff you don’t want or need anymore. Then price and tag the unwanted items for your garage sale. The items that don’t sell can be donated. Donate clothing and household items to your local favorite charity such as Goodwill for someone else to enjoy. You can even donate your unwanted furniture to the Habitat for Humanity Restore. Getting rid of items will cut down on your moving expenses and keep your new garage space nice and a great place to get the rest of your house organized!

#2 Get the Right Supplies

Get the right stuff for your stuff: the right boxes and supplies paired with the right packing methods are crucial in the success of your entire move. In the garage, most items are heavy and oddly shaped. Be sure to have the following on hand:

  • Boxes: Sturdy, recyclable cardboard boxes (various sizes)
  • Eco-bubble wrap: Use Biodegradable wrap to protect items
  • Packing Tape: Every box needs to be taped, top and bottom, with 2 – 2 1/2 inch gummed or masking tape to give it additional strength and prevent opening, so you’ll need approximately one roll of tape for every 15 to 20 boxes. Run multiple strips of tape along the bottom of the box in both directions to make sure the box stays secure.
  • Packing Paper: While ordinary newspaper works fine for some purposes, be aware that the paper’s print will run giving you an extra cleaning task at your new home.
  • Blankets: Your mover can provide you with moving blankets for large items.

TIP: Before you start placing your garage belongings into the moving boxes make sure you have secured the boxes bottoms with several layers of packing tape for added protection. Correctly packed boxes paired with the correct moving supplies keep your items safe during storage and transport.

#3 What Not to Pack

Most garages have hazardous materials that can’t be moved due to safety reasons. Common sense and the law forbids moving companies from moving flammable items such as aerosol cans, paints, gasoline, paint and paint thinners, charcoal, propane tanks, fertilizers, pesticides, chemicals, cleaning supplies, etc. Be sure to properly dispose of these items before your move.

#4 How to Pack Garage Items

Leave smaller hand tools such as screwdrivers, wrenches, pliers, hammers, etc. in your toolbox and close securely.

Wrap any items with sharp blades with a few layers of eco-bubble.

Bundle large garden tools such shovels and rakes together with tape or rope and wrap them with a large moving blanket.

If possible, pack power tools in their original container. Remove any detachable parts a tool may have, including the batteries, and pack them in the same box.

Gas operated machinery such as lawn mowers and chain saws must be emptied of their fuel before they are moved.

Stack outdoor chairs and disassemble other outdoor furniture when possible. Remove cushions and pack them in boxes.

Wrap fragile flowerpots in eco-bubble. However, keep in mind moving companies cannot move plants across state lines. And your plants won’t survive in  storage.

Clean, defrost and dry: refrigerators and freezers. Wrap them with moving blankets for protection.

Dissemble bikes as much as you can before the movers get there, remove the handlebars and wheels. If you can, it is best to go to a local bike store and look for an original bike box and use it to pack the bike.

If a grill is equipped with a propane tank it cannot be moved even if it is empty. And, you cannot move charcoal either. Best to give them away to neighbors. Remove the entire propane tank and the charcoal before you move just the grill.

#5 Label EVERYTHING!

Remember that memory card game? It’s hard to find those two matching elephants in rows and rows of cards. Label each box with what contents are on the inside and write the location where this box is going: “Habitat for Humanity Restore” or “GARAGE” and  remember to write “FRAGILE” when needed.

While the garage is often the last room packed in a home, make it your first. It takes a lot of time; from sorting, dealing with odd shaped  tricky items to packing and donating. So start early and ask for help!  You can also use that empty garage space for moving items out of each room and sorting. Repeat the above steps for each room. Wishing you a stress free move!

Laura McHolm is an organizational, moving & storage expert and co-founder of NorthStar Moving Company. NorthStar Moving Company is an award winning, “A+” rated company, which specializes in providing eco-luxury moving and storage services.   www.northstarmoving.com

What Agents Want You to Know About Smart Homes

What Agents Want You to Know About Smart Homes

At last week’s Gen Blue conference, Coldwell Banker agents Danny Hertzberg and Angel Piontek took the mainstage to tell us what we need to know about buying and selling smart homes.

Americans are already riding the smart home wave – in fact, 44 percent of buyers who want move-in ready homes say smart home tech is a must. To help make getting a smart home easier Coldwell Banker introduced a Smart Home Staging Kit.

As with any new technology, there is an adoption curve when it comes to smart home. “We’re only in its infancy,” said Angel Piontek, an avid smart home fan and Realtor Associate with Coldwell Banker Elite in Fredericksburg, VA. “Demand for smart homes will only increase, and it’s important that buyers educate themselves on the technology and what they want as they begin touring smart homes.”

“Buyers now are willing to pay more and lean towards buying a smart home, while sellers are seeing smart home technology as an easy investment which will give their home a competitive advantage in a saturated market,” said Danny Hertzberg, a Sales Associate with Coldwell Banker Residential Real Estate in Miami Beach, FL. “Selling a smart home allows your property to stand out– it will likely sell sooner and sell for more money.”

And the numbers back this up – our 2016 Smart Home Marketplace survey found that over half of American homeowners would purchase or install smart home products if they were selling their home and knew that doing so would make it sell faster.

Both agents agree – money and energy savings are the two components of smart technology that their clients ask about most frequently.

“If stuck between two homes that are very similar, it comes down to the true cost of homeownership. If the seller is able to tell the buyer how much he or she saved on heating or cooling because of the pre-installed smart devices, the buyer will see something that sets the home apart and enhances their lifestyle in the long run,” says Angel.

So, what are the questions you should be asking your agent when buying a smart home?

  1. Is the smart home tech I see in the house going to stay installed after closing?
  2. Are there any service agreements or costs I’ll need to factor in?
  3. Can I test the smart home tech during my tour? If not, can the agent demo it for me?

And for those who are selling smart homes, here are some pro tips:

  1. Demo the products with your agent if they are unfamiliar with them. If the agent is able to show prospective buyers how to use the devices during the tour, the buyer will see its value and may be more likely to put in an offer quickly.
  2. Think about setting up a guest Wi-Fi account so that people touring your home can play with the smart home technology with their phones and get a feel for it. Seeing it in action will make them more likely to see its value.
  3. Of course, safety first! At closing, make sure you check in with your agent and the manufacturer to make sure all smart tech is reset to the factory defaults. This will keep all of your devices secure and make sure the new owners can customize as they’d like!
  4. If a home doesn’t have smart home technology consider these quick upgrades to make it a Coldwell Banker certified smart home.

Milton, Melrose Ranked Among Best Small Cities in America

Via Boston Magazine…

Milton and Melrose were ranked among the best small cities in America, according to a new list by personal finance social network WalletHub.

The alliterative exurbs scored the highest of all Massachusetts municipalities on the list. Milton—birthplace of both former President George H.W. Bush and Dropkick Murphys cofounder Ken Casey—was ranked eighth best, while Melrose, population 27,509, placed 26th. Notably, both towns scored higher than Portland, Maine, that hipster foodie mecca drenched in charm and duck grease.

Wellesley, Northampton, and Lexington all scored within the 97th percentile, on par with Flower Mound, Texas and Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin.

To compile its ranking, WalletHub compared 1,268 small cities using 30 metrics across five categories: affordability (housing costs, cost of living, median household income), economic health (unemployment rate, population growth), education and health (school system quality, high school graduation rate, low birthweight, adult obesity), quality of life (average commute time, number of restaurants, coffeeshops, bars, and department stores), and safety (violent crime rate, property crime rate).

Wellesley and Brookline had the second and third-highest percentage of residents with a bachelor’s degree or higher, behind only Bethesda, Maryland. The top six small cities with the highest percentage of those with health insurance coverage were all in Massachusetts: Needham, Brookline, Lexington, Arlington, Wellesley, and Milton. Somerville, meanwhile, had the fifth-highest percentage of Millennial newcomers.

You can check out WalletHub’s full report here.

How to Clean Rain Gutters

How to Clean Rain Gutters

Clean gutters to protect your siding and landscape plantings, and prevent thousands of dollars of damage to your foundation.

Clean gutters of leaves and debris to help prevent damage to your landscaping and siding, and to head off expensive water damage repairs to your foundation that may cost $10,000 or more.

Related: How to Prevent Water Damage

How Often Should You Clean Gutters?

Clean gutters at least once a year — twice a year if you have overhanging trees. Also, clean clogged gutters after big storms. Clogs often occur where downspouts join the gutter system — check these areas closely.

How to Clean Gutters

  • Wear a shirt with long sleeves. Wear rubber gloves.
  • Have a good extendable ladder available. Standoff stabilizers (ladder “horns”) are ideal to keep the ladder from damaging the gutter.
  • Use a small plastic scoop to remove gunk. Buy a gutter scoop from the hardware store ($25) or try a child’s sand shovel.
  • Spare your lawn by dumping the stuff onto a plastic tarp.
  • After you’ve cleared the muck, flush the gutters and downspouts with a garden hose — also a great way to spot any leaks.

How Much Does it Cost to Pay Someone to Clean Gutters?

If climbing ladders is not your cup of tea, you can hire someone to do the job for you for $50-$250, depending on the size and height of your house.

Should You Try Gutter Covers?

Interested in an ounce of prevention? You can slow clogging by installing gutter covers in the form of mesh screens, clip-on grates, or porous foam. However, the cost can be more than the gutters themselves, and covers need regular maintenance to keep them clear. Expect to pay $6-$8/running foot for gutter covers, installed.

Genius Tricks That Make Your Home Look Bigger

Genius Tricks That Make Your Home Look Bigger

While the go-to trick might be to cover your walls with mirrors, try these lesser-known designer ideas to leave your space feeling wide open.

 

Perhaps your minimal lifestyle has led you to a small living space, or you’re on a tight, I-can-only-afford-a-studio budget. Maybe you just have that one cramped room you don’t know what to do with. In any case, there are a multitude of ways to create the illusion of spaciousness through decor. While the go-to trick might be to cover your walls with mirrors, try these lesser-known designer ideas to leave your space feeling wide open.

Adopt a Monochromatic Color Scheme

Painting your walls, molding and window trim in the same neutral shade will allow for a smooth line of vision from floor to ceiling, eliminating any choppiness. Similarly, using multiple shades of one color for your furniture, throw pillows and other decorative pieces will create cohesion throughout the room and give the illusion of space.

Get Furniture That Does Twice the Work

To get rid of superfluous furniture and clutter, incorporate extra storage in every possible aspect of the room. Invest in a coffee table that opens up to store blankets and magazines. Side tables with drawers or cabinets are a good place to stick remotes and media. When it comes to furniture in a small space, functionality is key—and this includes larger pieces, too.

Bring the Eye Up

Don’t sell your space short by ending the room at the top of your furniture. Take advantage of that wall space! This might mean installing floor to ceiling bookshelves, hanging artwork vertically or placing curtain rods all the way up to the crown molding. Much like in fashion, anything vertical is elongating. Use that philosophy for your home decor.

Open the Space with Tile Flooring

Laying large tile flooring with narrow grout lines tricks the brain into seeing a larger space, adding to the illusion of an open and airy room. Also, consider the placement and pattern during install. Square tiles set at a 45-degree angle or rectangular tiles installed perpendicular to you as you enter the room force the widest part to get noticed first, thus allowing the eye to follow to the back of the room. Go for a light shade if your style is modern and sleek, or explore a simple, dark pattern that will add contrast to a neutral wall.

Create Seamless Room Transitions

Avoid choppy sightlines between rooms in your home by considering all the ways you can blend the spaces together. Sticking with the same color story on the walls and continuing the same flooring instantly connects rooms, giving the impression of one large space rather than two or three smaller ones. Laying down a rug between rooms serves a similar purpose without the commitment of a total flooring change.

Give Up Your Window Treatments

While hanging floor-to-ceiling curtains adds to the appearance of vertical lines, skipping out on window coverings completely can dramatically lighten a room by removing excess fabric weighing down the space and allowing for more natural light. You’d be surprised how much bigger your windows and walls will feel.

Give Each Piece Breathing Room

An old standby rule is to use small furniture in a small space, but you don’t need to throw out your favorite statement piece just to please the design gods. Oversized furniture can still work as long as it doesn’t have to compete with other bulky items. Try placing furniture at an angle and using pieces that have exposed arms and legs. Both options help to create a sense of air around each piece, making the room feel more spacious.

Focus On Streamlining

Even if you want to break every design rule in the book, the key to faking a bigger room in a smaller space is to give in to decluttering—at least where the eye is concerned. Whether you accomplish this by grouping like items together using a single color scheme or actually removing items altogether, each trick is designed to help the eye see the space as a whole and not the tiny details that break it apart.

Sarah Fogle of UglyDucklingHouse.com is a self-professed power tool addict with a passion for all things do-it-yourself and decor. If you are researching some new projects for your own home, and are considering floor tiles in the planning, you can find a wide selection of tiles on the Home Depot website.

Choosing the Right Window Treatments for your Living Room

An Expert Guide to Choosing the Right Window Treatments for your Living Room

Here’s a bright idea! Find style, privacy & function with these 5 beautiful window treatments.

Guest post by Bali Blinds & Somfy Systems

Installing new window treatments is a quick home improvement project that immediately adds style and personality to bedrooms, living rooms, and beyond. Whether you’re excited about adding color, texture, and volume to a space, or simply rejuvenating a room by playing with the light, the 5 beautiful window treatments below provide plenty of inspiration.

Roman Shades

roman shades

Above: Flat Roman Shades with 6″ Valance and 1″ Teardrop Crystal Bead Trim in Light Gold 202 and Motorized Lift: Damask, Warm Amber 3264, Square Pillows: Dover, Rainy Afternoon 3721

Want to transform your space with the touch of a button? Pair the relaxed folds of a Roman shade with motorized lift. Motorization allows you to use a handheld remote control, wall switch or programmable timer to adjust out-of-the-way window coverings, lower an entire room full of shades to enjoy the last rays of the sunset, or dim the light (and reduce glare) to sharpen the picture of your favorite TV show.

Natural Shades

natural

Above: Standard Bali Roman Natural Shades with Cordless Lift: Highpoint, Brook 35113 with 2″ Edge Banding: Taupe 1007, Room Darkening Liner, and 6″ Standard Valance.

Natural shades bring a rustic look to your windows, playing off of this season’s popular rough hewn wood furniture and accents, as well as other natural fabrics. Taking elements of the landscape inside, natural shades are hand woven with bamboo, jute, grasses, and other sustainable materials, adding an earth-friendly vibe your space.

Solar and Roller Dual Shades

solar shades

Above: Dual Shades with Motorized Lift and Cassette Valance: Roller Shade (Back): Rowland, Slate 20004; Solar Shade (Front): Terrace, Sterling 40233.

Two great shades that go even better together: Sheer solar shades protect your furnishings and rugs from harmful UV rays, while softening natural light. Room darkening or blackout roller shades can block out the sun like you’re flipping a switch.
Put them together in a dual shade and you have ultimate flexibility: either shade can be lowered or raised to match your mood, your activities, or even the time of day.

Wood Blinds with Drapery

wood and drapery

Above: 2″ Wood Blinds with Cord Lift/Wand Tilt and 4-1/2″ Eloquence Valance: Fig 1851, Cloth Tape: Willow Dark Taupe G696 and Bali Custom Drapery: Dresden, Olde Town 3443

Wood blinds offer great light control—adjust the slats just so, to let in as much sunshine as you need. When lowered and tilted closed, these blinds also let you enjoy total privacy. Add drapery panels to accentuate (or create!) long lines, cool contrasts in texture, or to make wall colors pop. Full folds of fabric can both brighten and soften the space.

Sun Up/Sun Down Cellular Shades 

sun up

Above: Cordless Sun Up/Sun Down Cellular Shade in 3/8″ Single Cell Sheer Bliss, Butter Cream 0161 (top) and 3/8″ Double Cell Storm, Lemon Drop 3938 (bottom)

With the Sun Up/Sun Down cellular option, it’s a snap to pair fabrics of different styles, colors, and privacy levels to create the perfect combination shade. The split makes all the difference when you mix sheer and blackout fabrics to let in light through the day and have absolute privacy when you need it.

How to Clean Your Blinds and Curtains

How to Clean Your Blinds and Curtains

Maintain your blinds & curtains to keep them looking like new with these tips from blinds.com!

Your blinds and curtains can be sneaky. They can collect dirt, dust and grime without you ever noticing, because, well, you probably don’t examine your blinds and curtains when you get home every day.

Like any accessory in your home, your blinds and curtains need attention from time to time. It’s important to clean them regularly—dusting once a month and deep-cleaning twice a year is a good rule of thumb—to avoid any lasting damage from dirt and dust buildup. The more you keep the buildup off, the longer your window treatments will last. Cover all your bases with these simple steps.

#1 Bust Out the Vacuum

Have you ever raised your blinds, only to be met with a shower of dust? It’s time to get the vacuum cleaner out of the closet and use an attachment to suck up loose dirt and dust. If you go right into cleaning extra dusty window treatments with any sort of spray or wet cleaner without using a vacuum, you’re going to make an even bigger mess. You can also try a feather duster or microfiber cloth in place of a vacuum, but you’ll likely have to vacuum the dust you knock onto the floor either way.

In many cases it’s a good idea to approach your curtains the same way, but be careful that the vacuum doesn’t tear up any thin or delicate fabrics. If you’re worried about that happening, simply take the curtains down and shake them out outside.

#2 Wash Away the Grime

Even with regular dusting, it’s important to do a more thorough cleaning of your treatments a couple of times a year. There are several ways to tackle deep cleaning curtain and blinds. A damp sponge with some soapy water typically does the trick with dirty blinds, but be careful if you have real or faux wood blinds. Too much moisture can cause them to warp or split. For faux wood blinds, a mixture of water and vinegar or dusting spray can also be used to clean away dirt and grime.

When it comes to your curtains, check the washing instructions on the tag. Some curtains can be machine washed and ironed. If there are no instructions, take them to the dry cleaner.

#3 Block Out the Sun

Keeping your window treatments clean is a great way to ensure that they live long and prosper. But the biggest issue when it comes to protecting your window treatments for the long run is the sun. The sun can cause some major fading and discoloration in your treatments, and of course, there’s no real way to turn that off. But there are a few things you can do to protect your treatments.

You can put shutters on the outside of your home to open and close on occasion, but that’s a big undertaking. The best thing to do is look into window tinting. There are dozens of options when it comes to window film: Some will darken the look of the window, others will remain translucent but block harmful UV rays. This a good option if you want to keep the look and feel of your windows and their treatments, and you won’t have to replace them in a couple of years due to fading or yellowing.