9 Must-Haves for Low-Maintenance Kitchen Cabinets

9 Must-Haves for Low-Maintenance Kitchen Cabinets

Save valuable elbow grease and time with these ideas for easy-to-maintain cabinets.

The heart of the home may also be the toughest room to keep clean. Every surface in your kitchen is susceptible to crumbs, dirt, stains and splatters. This is especially true of cabinets. Fortunately, there are practical ways to keep your cabinet maintenance on the lighter side. With ideas like choosing fewer decorative details and picking the right color, these nine tips will make your cabinets easier to maintain.

1. Choose a door style with minimal detail. Raised-panel door styles have nooks and crannies that are magnets for dust and dirt. Shaker-style and slab door fronts don’t, so you won’t have to spend time scrubbing every recess of your door fronts.

If you’re designing a traditional kitchen and want a more decorative door style, select a stain or paint that has a glaze. The glaze will fill the doors’ cracks and corners and better hide the dust and dirt that your cabinet doors will collect.

2. Opt for flush cabinet ends. You normally have two options for finishing the ends of your cabinets: flush ends or matching ends. Flush ends (above) are plywood ends that match the color of your cabinets. They are smooth and sleek, which means you can run a cloth over it with a few swipes. They can certainly speed up cleaning.

Matching ends feature a panel with the same style as the door fronts, and while they can bring elegance and character to your kitchen, you face the same maintenance issues with matching ends as you do with raised-panel doors. There’s simply more to scrub.

3. Cut the trimmings. Designer details like crown molding, corbels, decorative legs and light rail molding add more to love but also more to clean, especially ornate styles.

There are other designer touches you can use that require less maintenance. Try a colorful cabinet paint, eccentric lighting or colored bar stools, like in this modern kitchen.

4. Pick a stain instead of a paint. Stains and paints have pros and cons. They can both show crumbs and fingerprints, and paint definitely shows food stains and splatters.

That said, a stain is easier to touch up than paint. You can give a scratched cabinet stain a quick spruce-up with a matching permanent marker. It’s often harder with paint for two reasons. First, it’s hard to find a marker that closely matches a specific paint. Often a touch-up kit from the cabinet manufacturer is needed. Second, paint doesn’t take touch-ups the same way that stains do. You’re more likely to notice a touch-up on paint.

5. Go for a grain with a dark stain. If you’re set on a dark cabinet stain, select a wood species that features the grain, such as oak or hickory. Grains don’t show scratches, stains and crumbs as much as a clean wood species like maple does. It’s also harder to tell that a cabinet stain has been touched up when the surface has grains.

6. Invest in hardware. If you want fewer fingerprints and less wear and tear on your door fronts, purchase door pulls and knobs for all of your cabinets. They help preserve the integrity of your cabinets’ surfaces.

Steer clear of stainless steel and chrome hardware. They show fingerprints and water spots and are harder to clean. Oil-rubbed bronze, satin bronze, polished nickel, brushed nickel and white hardware are the cream of the crop as far as easy maintenance goes. Choose the look that best suits the style of your kitchen.

7. Avoid glass door fronts. They may be windows to your kitchen’s soul, but they’re also extra surfaces to clean. They manage to attract their fair share of dust, dirt and smudges. Dirt can build up easily on glass door fronts that feature mullions. You also have to keep whatever is behind those glass doors tidy.

One benefit to glass door fronts is how inviting they can make your kitchen space feel. Luckily, there’s more than one way to design a warm and welcoming kitchen. If you want a low-maintenance alternative to glass door fronts, stick with lighter cabinet stains like golden browns. They can make your guests feel just as cozy as glass door fronts do.

8. Reduce open shelving. Open shelving is a great canvas for displaying your favorite decor and cookware, whether it’s on a wall, on an island or at the end of cabinets. But it takes more time and effort to ensure that these spaces are dusted and organized. The upkeep can become overwhelming along with your daily tasks.

To shorten your to-do list, place your decor on necessary surfaces like dining tables and countertops instead of unnecessary cabinet shelves. You can also use pillows, chairs, bar stools and lighting as decorative touches.

9. Protect your sink cabinet from moisture. This is more of a preventative measure — it will help you avoid issues down the road. There are a couple of ways to help protect your sink cabinet from moisture. You can order the cabinet with an all-plywood construction (most semicustom and prefabricated cabinets are constructed of a mixture of pressed wood and plywood). An all-plywood construction makes the cabinet less penetrable. You can also purchase a cabinet mat, which looks like a tray and is placed at the base of the sink cabinet. It will serve as a moisture barrier and catch any liquid leaks or spills.

Advertisements

Your Guide to Eco-Friendly Lawn Care

Your Guide to Eco-Friendly Lawn Care

Here’s how the environmentally-minded keep their lawns trim and lush—while sparing the Earth at the same time!

This is the time of year when you look outside at your dry husk of a lawn and think, “I should really do something about that.” But before you go running out to set up a sprinkler system the size of Niagara Falls, you should really consider your lawn’s eco footprint. Thirsty lawns suck down somewhere between 30 to 60 percent of the world’s urban freshwater, amounting to hundreds of thousands of gallons a day.

Even unwatered lawns take their toll. Lawn mowers, trimmers, and other outdoor equipment dump out a staggering 242 million tons of pollutants each year, amounting to about 4 percent of the world’s annual CO2 emissions. And enterprising homeowners who manage their own lawn care wind up spilling about 17 million gallons of gasoline a year, which is about 6 million more gallons than spilled by Exxon Valdez.

As if that’s not enough shake your environmental heart to the core, lawns also damage natural ecosystems, as well. Synthetic pesticides and fertilizers used in the backyard wind up in streams and waterways as runoff. The nitrogen in such pollution in turn causes algae to proliferate, choking rivers and streams and creating so-called “dead zones,” places so clogged with excess oxygen from decaying algae, no marine life can survive there. There are now 405 identified dead zones on the planet—a huge increase from the 49 recorded zones in the 1960s.

In short, conventional lawn care is pretty bad for the Earth. However, here at Modernize, we know that having a well-kept lawn isn’t just a matter of keeping with the status quo, it’s the rule of the land. Homeowners associations and neighbors aren’t exactly thrilled about the prospect of an a maintenance-free yard—but luckily for you, there are ways to keep your next-door neighbors happy without pouring chemicals into your lawn or pumping a bunch of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Here’s how the environmentally-minded keep their lawns trim and lush—while sparing the Earth at the same time.


Plan Your Lawn to Be Waterwise
Nothing makes you more aware of our world’s water footprint than a dry summer. While you may not like the idea of a shriveled up, crunchy lawn, there are certainly ways to get around it and reduce your home’s water consumption. One idea is to simply shrink your turf area: install a patio or beds planted with native grasses and flowers, leaving less plant space requiring intensive watering. In the areas where you do have grass, make sure it’s the right kind for your lawn: warm-season grasses like Bermuda, St. Augustine and Zoysia are far less thirsty than their cool-season counterparts and more tolerant of hot, dry weather as well.


Get Your Sprinkler System in Check
Your average sprinkler head puts out one to six gallons of water per minute, so it adds up fast, especially if you’re watering too frequently or at the wrong time. Experts indicate that most lawns don’t need daily watering; about three days a week is typically fine. Always water in the morning or evening, rather than the middle of the day—that way, your water won’t evaporate before it can soak into the ground. And lastly, you may want to think about switching to an automated sprinkler system as well. These devices sync with local weather forecasts and adjust your watering schedule on the fly when there’s rain, keeping your irrigation as efficient as possible.


Mow the Energy-Efficient Way
For most of us, lawn mowing is that dreaded household chore that gets put off until the last minute. Well, good news! The longer you wait, the better off your lawn will be. Grass that’s buzzed to its roots is vulnerable to pests and drought, so it needs more frequent watering and babying to survive. Leave those grass blades long and lush and your lawn will be better off for it. And when you do mow, don’t bother raking up the clippings afterward. The cut grass feeds nitrogen right back into the soil, which means less chance of fertilizer runoff. Finally, laziness is working in your favor for once!

Elect for Electric
If you’re not fond of the gas-guzzlers, you do have other mower options. Energy-efficient mowers have come a long way from the antique push mowers of the past: you now have your option of dozens of different corded and battery-powered cordless electric mowers as well. Electric mowers work best for small, flat turf areas—and beyond reducing your lawn’s carbon footprint, they also save you money on gas, oil changes, and tune-ups. Mower batteries can handle about a third of an acre without a recharge, so if you have a larger lawn, look for a model that lets you switch out the battery with a backup so you don’t have to wait on the charger all day.

Listen to Your Weeds
A strong, robust lawn is the most energy-efficient one around, since it will naturally require less fertilizer, pesticides, and irrigation. Soil composition plays a big part in turf health, so it’s worth having your topsoil tested in order to get an idea of what may be lacking. Many local university cooperative extensions will do this for free; usually it’s a matter of completing a form and sending in a soil sample. The results will tell you the level of extractable nutrients in your yard, like phosphorous, potassium, and calcium, as well as listing the nitrogen levels and testing for potentially harmful substances, such as soluble salts and lead. But a simpler way to get a readout is to listen to what the weeds are trying to tell you. For instance, dandelions often pop up when soil acidity levels are too high, and plantains when the area has poor drainage or where there is clay soil. Learn what weeds are trying to tell you and you’ll become a turf whisperer.

Fertilize the Organic Way
To root out problems with runoff for good, you’ll need to make the switch from synthetic fertilizers to 100% organic compost. Topdressing with compost comes with a number of benefits: it helps the soil retain water and adds organic matter to your topsoil, replenishing its supply of beneficial micro-organisms. To spread all that nutrient-dense goodness to your lawn, drop shovelfuls of organic compost in small piles, eventually raking them out until they cover the entire turf area to about a quarter of an inch. As a bonus, you can even use your own kitchen scraps to make homemade compost. Not too shabby for some old coffee grinds and eggshells!

How to Organize and Beautify Your Entry Hall in 7 Days

How to Organize and Beautify Your Entry Hall in 7 Days

Take your entry from scuffed up to spiffed up, restoring total cleanliness and order in just a week.

Houzz Contributor, Laura Gaskill

A neat, chic entryway gives visitors a positive first impression and makes coming home a pleasure. But between the daily influx of mail and a household’s worth of coats, shoes and bags, this space is often one of the most challenging to keep clean and clutter free. Give your entryway a fresh start with this weeklong plan to clean and declutter from top to bottom — and learn to maintain a serene space long-term.

Day 1: Address the outside.

Cleaning tasks: The entrance to your home really begins outside your front door, so let’s start here. Sweep your porch or stoop, including the siding, and wash the exterior windows at the front of your home. Using a soft cloth, wipe down your mailbox, doorbell, porch lights and front door.

Decluttering tasks: Remove everything that doesn’t belong on the porch and find another home for it. Toss dead plants and store empty pots elsewhere.

Day 2: Clear the decks.

Decluttering tasks: Think of your entryway as a busy but temporary holding area — like a train station, not a permanent storage area. Scoop up all of the mail, shoes, coats, scarves, cell phone chargers, tote bags and so on, and move them away where you can deal with them more easily.

Find a permanent home for the items you remove from the entry — you should be able to do this for nearly everything, except perhaps your keys. Even if you think you can’t find another place to store that jacket or bag, challenge yourself to find a place … anywhere but the entry!

Cleaning tasks: Once all of the stuff has been removed, cleaning will be much easier. Vacuum and mop the floors, vacuum cobwebs from the corners, clean mirrors and wipe scuff marks off the walls.

Day 3: Bring back the essentials.

Decluttering tasks: Rather than keep all your shoes and coats by the door, try keeping only the one or two you use most often. Store the rest elsewhere.

The same goes for bags, sunglasses and other accessories — if you find this difficult, try taking a picture of your entryway looking fresh and clean with only the absolute minimum amount of stuff in it, and use it as a reminder of why it’s worth the effort.

If your entry has room, your essentials may include a rug, a boot tray or bin to corral shoes, a surface for mail and keys, hooks for coats and bags, a place to sit while putting on and taking off shoes, and adequate lighting.

Day 4: Tackle a problem zone.

Decluttering tasks: If you have a large household, consider adding extra closed storage — piles of coats out in the open look messy, even when the coats are neatly hung on hooks. If you have children, make sure the storage is easily accessible and clearly marked.

Cleaning tasks: The biggest cleaning challenge in the entry is dirt tracked in from outdoors. Rugs are your first line of defense against street dirt, so make sure yours are in good shape. If your area rugs are dirty, launder them; if they are getting worn out, consider buying new ones. Instead of choosing a typical doormat-size rug by default, consider if a larger rug or runner would better suit your space — a larger rug has more dirt-trapping power.

Day 5: Improve the flow.

Decluttering tasks: Step outside your home for a moment and come back in through the front door, taking the time to really notice how you naturally move into the space. Is your furniture arranged in a way that is convenient, or do you nearly bump into something on the way in?

Would it be easier to toss your keys on a floating shelf by the door instead of taking four steps to a bigger table down the hall? Today is the day to try something new.

Day 6: Beautify.

Cleaning tasks: Wipe down surfaces; polish wood furniture.

Decluttering tasks: Pay attention to what is kept out in the open in your entryway and what is behind closed doors. You can choose to keep your cutest rain boots and cheery umbrellas on display, and hide the less attractive gear. Add something fresh and pretty, like a bouquet of flowers, to bring your space to life.

If you don’t have a closet or cupboard for hiding utilitarian items, use baskets. But beware of going overboard and providing too much storage — it will only get filled up and then overfilled.

Sometimes a minimalist setup actually helps reduce clutter, because it forces you to put things away where they actually go instead of plunking them down in the entry. Strike a balance that feels right to you.

Day 7: Master a daily routine.

Cleaning tasks: A quick daily sweep will help keep dirt from accumulating in the entry. Storing a broom and dustpan or a small stick vacuum in the closet nearest the door will make things easier.

Decluttering tasks: Get in the habit of opening your mail as soon as you walk in the door, while standing over the recycling bin. At the end of each day, put away anything sitting around in the entry that doesn’t belong.

5 Ways to Boost Your Curb Appeal for the Fall Selling Season

5 Ways to Boost Your Curb Appeal for the Fall Selling Season

Sellers looking to get the best price know that curb appeal plays a huge role in making the sale, even in the fall when the leaves begin to fade. Here are five simple ways to make the most of what fall has to offer and boost your curb appeal.

Sellers looking to get the best price know that curb appeal plays a huge role in getting buyers through the door. Once the flowers fade and the temperature drops, however, it can be easy to overlook your outdoor space altogether. Here are five simple ways to make the most of what fall has to offer and give your home the edge it needs for a quick sale.

1. Improve Your Entry

With every potential buyer passing through your front door, your entryway is critical to a good first impression. Cleaning the door, sweeping the stoop, and ridding the area of dirt and cobwebs can be enough to improve the overall look of your home, but for maximum impact, lay a new doormat and replace or paint any rusted or corroded hardware, mailboxes, or light fixtures. If you’re feeling adventurous, painting your front door a different shade can be a great selling feature that can be done in an afternoon.

Traditional brick colonial dressed up for fall with colorful mums and harvest gourds

2. Let the Light Shine

While the outdoors is the natural habitat for all manner of insects, they don’t need to reside in your outdoor light fixtures. Dirty lights and windows will not only reduce your nighttime curb appeal but can also affect how much natural light makes it through to the inside of your home. A thorough cleaning of light fixtures and windows will boost the overall impression buyers have of your home and can affect their impression of the rest of the home. For added impact, place inexpensive solar lights along the border of any gardens or walkways to illuminate your yard at night.

3. Love Your Landscape

Given that landscaping can amount for up to 15 percent of a home’s value, keeping your yard in tip-top shape is more important in the fall than ever. Fall colors and cascading leaves may provide a romantic vision, but may leave a potential buyer focusing on how much raking they will have to do. When seasonal plants fade away, be sure to cut back the dead growth and ensure your yard is regularly raked. Even if your yard doesn’t require frequent mowing, be sure to edge walkways with a straight-edge for a clean-cut look, and add some quick color by placing pots of seasonal plants in gardens and on porches.

Raking fall leaves with rake

4. Whisk the Water Away

The fall tends to bring increased precipitation, which can be a deal-breaker for buyers if they feel water penetration will be a problem. To prevent pooling water, be sure the grading around the foundation slopes away from the house and use downspout extenders, if necessary, to move water out into the yard. Clean the gutters regularly, and take a good walk around your home after a heavy rain to identify any problem areas that may allow water into the house, like door and window caulking.

5. Don’t Overdo the Decor

Finally, while the bounty of fall can be used to enhance the beauty of your home, be wary of overdoing the decor. Too many Halloween decorations, for example, can easily detract from the beauty of your home. Try instead for colorful mums, gourds, and pumpkins in a variety of colors and sizes that can provide earthy variety without overdoing it.

Regardless of the weather, the fall is still a hot time to sell a home, and can be an incredible opportunity to make a lucrative sale. Keep in mind that most buyers will either view your home online or drive by before making a decision to visit, so a sharp curb appeal can help keep your home above the competition.

5 Things That Might Make Your Home Insurance Null and Void

5 Things That Might Make Your Home Insurance Null and Void

Home insurance is essential, regardless of your house’s size or location. However, even if you have homeowners coverage in place, there are many reasons why your home insurance policy may become null and void. Here are a few to watch out for.

Guest post by Ryan Hanley

Home insurance is essential, regardless of your house’s size or location. However, even if you have homeowners coverage in place, there are many reasons why your home insurance policy may become null and void. Here are a few to watch out for.

1. Keep Receipts of Your Belongings

 What good is home insurance if you can’t get the coverage you need for all of your possessions? Ultimately, you’ll need receipts to verify property ownership—along with when you purchased property and how much you paid for it—to your home insurance provider. If you file a home insurance claim for a lost, stolen or damaged item and cannot verify property ownership, your policy could be voided.

Typically, a home insurance policy offers coverage for a wide range of property. But it is important to note that coverage limitations may be in place. This means you probably won’t get the full value for an original Van Gogh painting, 5-carat round cut ring or other expensive or rare property stored in your house based on the coverage limitations in a “standard” homeowners policy.

If you keep artwork, jewelry or other high-priced items in your house, you should get these belongings appraised. By doing so, you’ll have receipts that verify that you own these items and can get full compensation for them if they are stolen, damaged or destroyed.

It often pays to keep an inventory of your belongings, too. This inventory can be updated periodically based on property that you buy or sell.

Furthermore, if you’re ever uncertain about whether to add or subtract items from your home insurance policy, you can reach out to an independent insurance agent for assistance. This home insurance expert can provide insights into what it takes to fully insure all of your belongings, at all times.

2. Avoid Submitting an Excess Number of Claims

Most homeowners are unlikely to submit a home insurance claim in a given year, which is reflected in recent data from the Insurance Information Institute (III). In fact, about 5 percent of all homeowners submitted a home insurance claim in 2014, according to the III. Among these claims, property damage accounted for 97 percent.

On the other hand, a hurricane, tornado or other natural disasters can strike without notice. If one of these natural disasters occurs, a homeowner probably will need to submit a home insurance claim as quickly as possible.

When it comes to home insurance, you should only submit a claim when it is absolutely necessary to do so. A home insurance company reserves the right to void a homeowner’s coverage if a policyholder submits an excess number of claims over the life of his or her policy. If you submit an unusually high number of claims within a given time frame, your home insurance provider may view you as a “risky” homeowner and void your coverage.

 

3. Report Major Home Renovations

Do you want to add a new bedroom to your house? Or maybe you plan to install a swimming pool in your backyard? If you complete home renovations and fail to notify your home insurance provider, you may put your homeowners coverage in danger.

Property changes may impact the home insurance coverage that you need, as well as your home insurance premiums. Also, in some situations, property changes may cause your insurer to void your policy.

There are many “major” home renovations that you should tell your insurer about, and these include:

  • Alarm System: An alarm system may require an upfront investment. But over time, this system may help you lower your home insurance premiums as well as increase your home security.
  • Roof: A home insurance company is unlikely to cover the costs of upgrading your current roof or installing a new one. On the other hand, an improved roof helps lower the risk of weather-related and structural damage to your house, thereby reducing the risk of a potential home insurance claim down the line.
  • Swimming Pool: Swimming pools create liability risks, and in some cases, an insurance company may require you to purchase additional coverage for your swimming pool; alternatively, your insurance company may drop your policy.

When in doubt about whether a home renovation project is a “major” endeavor, it always is better to err on the side of caution. If you plan to embark on a major home renovation project, you should reach out to your insurance company in advance. That way, you can guarantee your home and personal belongings are fully covered before, during and after the renovation project is completed.

4. Be Proactive When Traveling

Leaving a home vacant for more than a few days can be risky. For example, consider what might happen if you embark on a two-week winter vacation. You may leave your home empty for the duration of your vacation. Meanwhile, if a pipe freezes and bursts while you’re away, the associated property damage could be significant.

In the aforementioned scenario, you probably won’t know about the property damage associated with the burst pipe until you return home. As a result, your home insurance company may view you as a “negligent” homeowner and is unlikely to cover the full costs of your property damage.

If you plan to take an extended vacation, you should contact your home insurance provider ahead of time. A home insurance policy usually has limits about how long you can leave your residence unoccupied and still be protected by homeowners coverage. Additionally, most insurance companies have policies in place about the steps that you need to follow if your house is going to be vacant for 30 days or more.

Lastly, don’t forget to contact a friend or family member to keep an eye on your house during your trip. With extra help from a friend or family member, you can further reduce the risk of burglaries and other potential home issues while your house is vacant.

5. Avoid Deliberate Property Damage

Let’s face it – no one wants to pay the steep costs associated with home improvement or maintenance projects. In some instances, homeowners might consider causing property damage in the hopes that their home insurer will cover their property replacement or repair costs. Yet deliberate property damage is not covered under a homeowners policy.

Deliberate property damage is a form of insurance fraud—a serious problem for home insurance providers and homeowners alike. Consider the following statistics from the Insurance Information Institute (III):

  • Most insurance companies use antifraud technology, and 76 percent of insurers said detecting claims fraud is the primary use of their antifraud technology.
  • 90 percent of insurance companies that leverage antifraud technology use automated red flags or business rules to detect fraud, and more than half employ predictive modeling.

New antifraud technology makes it increasingly likely that a homeowner who tries to beat the system will get caught. Plus, the penalties associated with deliberate property damage and other forms of home insurance fraud are substantial. Many states classify home insurance fraud as a felony, and those who are convicted of fraud may face financial and legal consequences as well.

 

Home insurance is a tricky subject, particularly for those who are uncertain about what types of coverage they need. Fortunately, independent insurance agents are available to teach you about home insurance.

An independent insurance agent possesses comprehensive home insurance expertise and is happy to explain different home insurance coverage. And if you ever have home insurance questions, an independent insurance agent is ready to respond to your queries at any time.

Connect with an independent insurance agent today, and you can purchase and maintain the right homeowners coverage.

 

Ryan Hanley is the Vice President of Marketing at TrustedChoice.com and the Managing Editor of Agency Nation. He is also a speaker, podcaster and author of the Amazon best-seller, Content Warfare. Ryan has over 10 years of insurance expertise and blogs frequently to help consumers understand complicated insurance topics.

What You Need to Know About Solar Panels

What You Need to Know About Solar Panels

Once you have decided to install solar panels, it’s important to research which solar panels are best for you, your home and your budget.

Guest post by Lauren White 

The solar panel industry has developed exponentially, in the past decade. Much of that is owed to increased demand. According to the Department of Energy, Americans use 23 times more solar energy now than we did around ten years ago.

Homeowners have more solar energy options than ever before. In order to meet demand and outshine the competition, companies are putting their resources toward research and development. They are constantly working toward creating more efficient and innovative solar energy technology.

Once you have decided to install solar panels, it’s important to research which solar panels are best for you, your home and your budget. There are generally three solar panel choices for residential homes: Thin-Film, Polycrystalline and Monocrystalline. These three panels are part of solar photovoltaic (PV) systems, which means they convert the sun’s photons into electricity.

Thin-Film

Perfect for: The homeowner with a small budget, a low-to-average rate of energy consumption, and lots of area for installation.

The cells of thin-film panels are constructed by layering photovoltaic material on glass, metal or plastic. These layers can be measured in nanometers, significantly thinner than in traditional panels. Their thin construction makes them lightweight and flexible, and they have a low cost of production. As such, they come at a lower cost to consumers.

One drawback of this technology is its rate of degradation. These solar panels have an average life expectancy of 10-15 years, depending on the photovoltaic material used. Comparatively, monocrystalline solar panels have a life expectancy of 25-35 years.

Another drawback is their low efficiency rating of 7-15%. This rate doesn’t work well for homes consuming more than the national average of 11,000 kWh per year. Also, these panels must be installed over a significant amount of space, which can be a deterrent for homeowners with limited area for installation.

In recent years, technology has improved and certain thin-film technologies are pushing past 20% efficiency. With a higher efficiency rating, this technology can meet higher energy demands and become a greater competitor in the market.

Polycrystalline

Perfect for: The eco-conscious homeowner with wiggle room in their budget, an average rate of energy consumption, and perhaps a penchant for the color blue.

Polycrystalline panels are constructed by melting silicon into molds to create perfect square “wafers.’ These wafers of silicon are then installed on a grid to form the panel. The cost of making these panels is relatively low and the process produces minimal waste. This makes polycrystalline a more affordable option than the original solar panel, monocrystalline.

The efficiency rating for polycrystalline panels is typically 13-16%. They would perform best in homes with typical rates of consumption. You will still need a significant amount of installation space, for these panels, in order to achieve optimal benefits. You must also take into consideration whether or not your taste will agree with their blue tint.

Monocrystalline

Perfect for: The homeowner with less roof space for installation and/or a higher rate of energy consumption, who wants a longer-lasting product and can make a sizeable investment.

Monocrystalline panels were the first solar panels to be made available. Currently, they are some of the most expensive. Each panel is created using high-purity silicon cut into “wafers.” These silicon wafers are extremely efficient at converting photons into energy, with monocrystalline panels hovering around a 22% efficiency rating.

Since these panels can convert more energy per square foot, you won’t need as much space for installation. Greater energy conversion also means you’ll be able to power more appliances, like hot tubs, heated pools and electric cars.

Get What You Pay for—and Then Some

In most cases, homeowners surveyed by HomeAdvisor say the cost of installing solar panels is much less than their projected energy savings over a twenty year period. In fact, it’s been estimated that, in 2017, homeowners in Massachusetts and California will save double their investment in solar energy.

Calculate Your Estimated Savings

If you’re not sure of your ROI, Google has a convenient tool called Project Sunroof, which will calculate your estimated savings based on your specific home address. As for your installation cost, you can request local estimates through HomeAdvisor to get a realistic figure for budgeting.

While you’re doing your research, or when you are speaking with a professional, see what’s new and on the horizon in the industry. These technologies are developing so rapidly, there are breakthroughs on a yearly basis. In July of 2017, for example, scientists developed a solar cell with 44.5% efficiency. There is hope that this technology, and others like it, can be streamlined and integrated into the residential and commercial solar market.

Staging Your Home for a Successful Sale This Fall

Staging Your Home for a Successful Sale This Fall

Consider these key points when you are staging and marketing your home for success this fall!

The following is guest post from Patti Stern of PJ & Company Staging and Interior Decorating. The photos are examples of design and staging work by PJ & Company Staging. 

With a competitive fall real estate market ahead, it may be challenging to get your property noticed and on the top of buyers’ lists. The best advice we give our clients is to step back and look at your property from the perspective of today’s sophisticated buyers and then present it as a product that will help them envision living there. The following are some key points to consider when marketing your home for success in a competitive market.

 

Keep It Simple

Less is always more with home staging. After decluttering and depersonalizing, find the proper balance of furniture and accessories that will enhance a room so that buyers won’t be distracted and can focus on its unique features, size and flow. Keep decor simple, fresh and bright to help buyers visualize what it would be like to live there with their own furniture in the space.

Boost Perceived Value With a Cosmetic Facelift

The majority of first time buyers are willing to pay more for a home that doesn’t need improvements. Instead of spending time and money on expensive renovations, increase perceived value with basic updates and repairs such as repainting kitchen and bathroom cabinets, new hardware, modern lighting, eco-friendly faucets and neutral wall color. These updates are all that is needed to suggest a home is in move-in ready condition.

Create a Lasting Impression

Most prospective buyers can’t visualize beyond what they see so if they don’t connect with a property right away, they’ll simply go to the next listing around the corner. Whether vacant or occupied, make the home memorable from the entry to the basement with key pieces of furniture, rugs, lighting and wall art. This will add warmth and personality so that buyers can emotionally connect and be more likely to make an offer.

For more examples of interior decorating and home staging, visit www.pjstagingdecorating.com.

Is Summer or Winter the Best Season to Buy a Home?

Is Summer or Winter the Best Season to Buy a Home?

Each season has something different to offer to a potential home buyer. Read the pros and cons of buying a home during the summer versus the winter.

You hear it a lot – there are best and worst times to make any sort of purchase. Whether it’s a television, a car, or a home, statistics are available that may influence your decision on when would be the best time to make a purchase.

Numerical data isn’t the only thing you should be taking into consideration, though. Each season has something different to offer in terms of making the home buying process easier or more challenging. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of buying during the summer or winter.

What to Think About When Buying a Home During the Summer


Did you know there are more homes on the market during summer? According to the National Association of Realtors, inventory in the U.S. is actually 15% greater in the warmer months than in the colder months.

If you have a lot of items on your home wish list, you might be better off searching during summer as you’ll have more homes from which to choose. The only disadvantage (depending on the climate where you live) is that summer results in more competition, as a greater amount of people are likely to visit open houses in nicer weather.

It probably goes without saying, but moving during summer is a bit more pleasant than moving during winter. For many, sweating beats freezing while trying to pack and unpack a moving truck. You can always cool yourself down, but it’s usually harder to warm up. It also tends to be safer if you reside in or are moving to an area that gets snow or ice.

If you have school-aged children, moving during their summer vacation offers more flexibility than trying to move during the winter holidays or spring break.

Lastly, one nice thing about summer is the lack of snow. That can be a huge obstacle when trying to look at the exterior of a home. You might miss the fact that a few shingles (or the entire roof) need to be replaced when there’s a pile of snow on top of it. The same goes for cracks in the driveway, and curb appeal in general.

What to Think About When Buying a Home During the Winter

There’s less competition in the winter as most people are busy with the holidays, their new year’s resolutions, or getting back into the swing of things at work. At this time of the year, buying a home isn’t typically at the forefront of most people’s minds.

What does that mean for you? No bidding wars, and more room to negotiate if a seller is feeling a bit desperate.

They might be if the reason why they’re moving is a pressing one. Combined with having to work around their real estate agent’s holiday schedule, having less showings, and subsequently, less interested buyers, sellers might be willing to give you a better deal or include more bonuses in the offer.

Again, depending on where you live, the weather during winter can be brutal. You’ll be able to easily identify drafts from windows in a house, and you’ll notice how effective the heating system is.

While snow can work against you, it can also work for you as you’ll be able to see how well the roof and driveway handle several inches of accumulation. Are there noticeable dips in the driveway? Have ice puddles formed on the property? These fairly major repairs can give you an advantage during negotiations.

Considerations for Both Seasons
There are a few factors to be concerned with during both seasons – namely, your real estate agent’s availability, and your neighbors.

Obviously, real estate agents may take time off during the holidays in the winter, but if they have children, they may also be likely to take off during the summer as well. Before you work with an agent, ask them about their availability over the next few months. You want to ensure that their planned absence won’t negatively affect your intentions to buy.

On the other hand, an agent looking to work through the winter holidays may be more motivated to help you, given the number of prospective buyers is lower.

Additionally, when you buy a new home, you’ll want to be surrounded by good neighbors, right? Summertime is great for seeing which neighbors excel at lawn maintenance and which ones let their grass grow for weeks on end. If you’re someone that cares a lot about a home’s upkeep, this might concern you.

At the same time, you’ll be able to see if neighbors work together to get rid of snow during the winter, or if houses on the block are nicely (or obnoxiously) lit up with holiday decorations.

Which Season is Better for Buying a Home?
As you may conclude, there’s no right or wrong answer. There are benefits and impediments to searching for a home in any season. You shouldn’t let weather or the trending numerical data hold you back. When you’re ready to buy, you’ll know it.

Toss These 5 Things Before You Move For a Fresh New Start

Toss These 5 Things Before You Move For a Fresh New Start

While you’re packing, consider throwing out these household items and give yourself a fresh start in your new home.

 

Houzz Contributor, Aly Finkelstein

It’s a great feeling to walk into your new home and know you have a blank space to work with. But making sure your new home stays this fresh, clean and exciting is much harder. Here are five things to consider throwing away before your next move.

1. Old trash cans. Old and used garbage cans and bins can be dirty and in bad shape. And nothing says “yucky” like an old trash can that you’ve used for years.

If your family is anything like mine, you have gum, stains and sticky spots on even the cleanest of indoor and outdoor trash cans. Do yourself a favor and throw out the old bins before you move to your new home. You can buy new trash cans that match, fit the space and are clean. This rule may also apply to recycling bins you have around the house.

If buying all new cans isn’t in your budget, definitely clean your cans before packing them into your moving truck or car. Fill the inside of the can with dish soap and warm water and let it soak. Then scrub. The soak will make scrubbing easier.

2. Toys. Moving is the best time to clean out the things you haven’t used and the things that won’t serve you in your new space. Toys are a major clutter culprit, and often many of them just aren’t being used anymore. My motto: Keep the favorites and toss the rest. Once you’re in your new space, you can buy a special new toy to celebrate the move.

Pro tip: If you feel too guilty about getting rid of your child’s toy, pack up the ones you think your child may miss and leave them in a separate box in the garage. If they don’t ask for them after a certain amount of time, get rid of them.

3. Old paint. Every client I work with has gallons of old paint. Chances are the colors match your old house but not your new one, so this is a great time to clean out all the old cans.

Before disposing of paint, check your town’s rules on recycling or disposing of it.

Pro tip: If you loved some of those colors, add them to a spreadsheet on your computer. Make sure you list the room a paint was used in, for future reference. Make sure to update the spreadsheet as you repaint in your new house too.

4. Paper. As long as you’ve rectified your statements, paid your bills and set aside important documents and receipts, you don’t need to keep all the paper that’s weighing you down. File the things you need to keep, such as tax documents, health insurance paperwork and property records, and get rid of the rest.

I keep three files on my desk at all times: bills to be paid, business receipts to keep and paid bills. Once I see online that the paid bills have been registered as paid, I throw the paper versions out. This keeps the files small and manageable year-round.

Pro tip: In the weeks before you move, carve out five to 10 minutes a week to tackle the paper piles you have around the house. Almost all of the items in these piles can be thrown away if you take the time to go through them.

Read more about which papers to toss and which to keep

5. Storage containers. Do yourself a favor and get fresh storage containers for your new home! The container drawer is often a major source of clutter and frustration for my clients. Your new home will feel even newer with a full set of matching storage containers.

I store my containers with the lids on so they don’t get separated. If for some reason the lid does go missing, I repurpose the bottom or get rid of it. I’m loving glass containers these days because I can microwave, store and eat from them. They can do it all and then go back into the drawer with their matching lids.

Pro tip: Buy storage containers based on your family’s needs. For example, if you cook often and send friends and family home with leftovers, buy inexpensive, disposable containers. If you use your containers weekly for whole meals, buy larger sizes.

How to Tell the Difference Between a Buyer’s Market and a Seller’s Market

One important thing to remember about the property market is that it’s always in a state of change. Sometimes the market is favorable to buyers and sometimes it’s favorable to sellers. But don’t worry, a knowledgeable agent can guide you in the sale or purchase of your next home, no matter what type of market you’re facing.

What is a Seller’s Market?
A seller’s market is simply a property market that benefits you as a seller. In a seller’s market, there’s a scarcity of properties, which can drive up the price of homes, especially in desirable locations.

Sellers can depend on real estate experts to know what the market is doing, but here are some signs of a seller’s market:
– Low inventory when compared to previous months and/or years
– Homes are selling faster
– Less than six months of inventory on the market
– More homes are selling
– Median sales prices are growing
– Less information in real estate ads; just the bare details
– “For Sale” signs don’t stay up long before being replaced with “pending” or “sold”

What is a Buyer’s Market?
A buyer’s market is the opposite of the seller’s market. If you’re buying at this time you’ll be spoiled for choice as the supply of homes on the market exceeds the number of buyers, giving you the chance to score a fantastic deal.

A sharp agent will quickly be able to tell you where the market lies, but here are some signs of a buyer’s market:
– Inventory that is high when compared to previous months and/or years
– Homes are selling more slowly
– More than six months in inventory on the market
– Sales prices are shrinking
– Fewer sales are taking place
– Real estate ads are growing in size, giving more details and/or images
– “For Sale” signs are staying longer, meaning the days on the market are longer too

How Do I Figure out the Months of Inventory in a Market?
1. Look for the total number of active listings for the month prior to the current one
2. Look for the total number of sold or closed transactions for the same time frame
3. Divide the total number of listings by the number of sales. This figure represents the number of months of inventory there are.

For example, let’s say there were 6,500 listings in one month’s time. During that same time, there were 1,500 properties that were sold. Divide 1,500 into 6,500 and you arrive at 4.3 months of inventory, meaning that this is a seller’s market.

While a savvy real estate agent is the best resource for this information, other resources include real estate listing websites and/or your local real estate association.

Do All Markets Follow the Same Cycles?
Markets are always in a state of flux. At its core, people are the driving force behind the real estate market.

For example, as more people move into a location, the more need there is for housing. If the number of properties in the area cannot support the number of people moving in, prices of existing homes will likely rise until more homes can be built.

This constant change to the supply and demand in a market is how markets shift back and forth from being more favorable for either buyers or sellers.

Can I Buy in a Seller’s Market?
Absolutely, but it’s not going to be a walk in the park. You’ll need determination, knowledge, and most importantly, someone on your side who knows the market inside and out.

Something to consider – you don’t know the seller’s true reasons for wanting to sell. Maybe there’s a divorce pending or another baby on the way and they need more space fast. Whatever is going on with the seller, a savvy agent will spot opportunities to help you and the seller arrive at a mutually agreeable solution.

One key reason it’s vital to engage an agent in a seller’s market is for their negotiating skills. While it’s important to always negotiate, a seller’s market calls for serious help to ensure that you don’t pay more than you need to.

Should I Wait to Sell?
It depends. Is it mandatory that you sell right now or could you wait until it’s a seller’s market again?

Consult with an agent to get his opinion about your chances of getting what you need or want for the sale of your home. He just might have some options you may not have considered that will help you get out from under your home and get on with your life.

Don’t be afraid to sell or buy if you think the market isn’t in your favor. The real estate market can be highly varied, so trust your agent to help you get the best possible results, no matter what the market looks like.