Re-posted from https://www.moneytips.com/top-5-reasons-to-buy-a-home-during-the-holidays Why it Makes Sense to Buy a Home at Year’s End Few people like to uproot their family and go through the stresses of home buying and moving during the holidays, but for those who do not mind, the holiday season may provide home buying bargains. Here are a few of the reasons why. Less Market Activity – Lots of family, school, and work activities, combined with the weather in many locations, lead to fewer real estate transactions over the holidays. Since fewer people overall are looking to buy houses, you will have less competition for your preferred house – and this gives you leverage. Holiday home sellers often have to adjust their price downward or make other concessions if they want to sell. Keep this in mind as you search for homes. Bargains may be available, and listed prices may be more open to negotiation. Motivated Sellers – People who are selling their homes over the holidays often have great incentive to sell, such as an upcoming job relocation. If a house has already been on the market for some time, that incentive is multiplied. You may be able to use this urgency to your advantage (assuming you are not in a similarly urgent need to buy). Negotiate fairly but firmly with sellers and you should be able to extract a lower price and/or other concessions like paying part of the closing costs. Potential Tax Advantages – If you itemize your taxes, you can deduct any points you paid upon closing, as well as property taxes and mortgage interest. Whether it is to your advantage to buy before or after year’s end depends on factors such as how many other deductions you have this year and expect to have next year. It is best to consult with a tax professional before purchase. Even though you do not want to make a decision on a home purchase strictly for tax reasons, it could be to your benefit to close before the end of the year. Better Interest Rates – Within the general trend of interest rates, there is often a cyclical trend of lower interest rates during the holidays – not from the generosity of lenders but due to limited demand forcing greater competition among lenders. There are plenty of factors that can obscure or swamp this cycle, but in general, you should see preferable interest rates around the holidays compared to the times immediately before or after. Faster Closings – Generally, all parties involved have incentive to complete transactions toward the end of the year. Lenders want to close their books, real estate agents want to receive their commissions before the year closes, sellers want to move on to their...

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From post on http://www.forbes.com/sites/houzz/2017/01/06/top-10-home-design-trends-to-expect-in-2017/#6442c8b031d5 JAN 6, 2017 @ 06:00 AM Mitchell Parker, Houzz Editorial Staff Looking for some great ideas for your home? How about a voice-activated assistant that will give you a weather update while you pour coffee into a preheated mug from a warming drawer? Not your style? No worries — there’s something for everyone in this preview of 2017 design trends. We plowed into Houzz data, sifted through popular photos and articles, and talked to industry leaders for this look at 10 things we think you’ll be seeing more of in the home in 2017.   1. Satin brass. Brass finishes have been making a comeback in recent years, cherished for their ability to bring shiny golden tones to a space without the high price tag. But more recently, designers like Elizabeth Lawson have been turning away from the reflective finish of polished brass and embracing satin or brushed brass, which is more muted and warm. “I especially like a satin brass finish because it’s transitional and can complement a number of styles,” says Lawson, who used the finish in the kitchen shown here. “It also looks amazing against almost any color of the rainbow. I think we’ll continue to see rooms with satin brass for quite some time and also possibly mixed with other finishes for a more eclectic look.” 2. Voice-activated assistants. There’s been a lot of talk about voice assistants in the home. It’s something Shawn DuBravac, chief economist of the Consumer Technology Association, which puts on the Consumer Electronics Show every year in Las Vegas (Jan. 5 to 8, 2017), says will be big in 2017. Amazon’s Alexa, which is enabled in the Echo Dot shown on this side table, acts as a voice-activated interface for many smart home devices. Google Home’s voice assistant launched about a month ago. These devices work through activation phrases like “Alexa” or “OK Google.” The devices, placed throughout your home, are always listening in somewhat of a dormant state. Say the activation phrase, and the device fires up and awaits your command. Ask it to give you the weather or play a song from Spotify or dim your lights or power up the hot tub. Early last year, Amazon opened its platform to third parties and has since added thousands of integrated features from smart home companies like Lutron, Crestron, Philips Hue, Wemo, Honeywell, Nest, Samsung Smart Home to other services from Uber, Domino’s, NPR and more. Google Home just launched its voice-activated assistant about a month ago, and DuBravac says he expects the company to open the platform to third-party companies soon. “What you’re seeing is...

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From post on http://realtormag.realtor.org/home-and-design/feature/article/2015/10/understated-master-bathroom OCTOBER 2015 | BY BARBARA BALLINGER Master bathrooms, along with the average home’s overall footprint, grew larger in recent decades. And with more square footage came excessive luxury and expense—tubs with aromatherapy kits, exotic countertop materials, coffee makers, small refrigerators, and showers for two with an arsenal of body sprays that performed like a human-sized car wash. But changes are afoot. As homes have decreased in size, many people prefer to put any extra space into other areas of the house, such as closets, says Stephanie Pierce, senior manager of the design studio at MasterBrand Cabinets. They also don’t always see the need for more than one tub in the house, and often there’s already one located in bathrooms designated for children or guests. Concern about getting money that’s been invested in a remodel back at resale is another driving force spurring home owners to spend less on master bathrooms. It’s tough to justify significant expenditures when buyers seem to attach greater value to adding a deck or replacing a garage or entry door, according to the 2015 “Cost vs. Value” report. Bathrooms remodeled with upscale finishes and fixtures, for example, cost around $54,115 this past year and returned only an estimated 60 percent of that in the sales price. Less costly midrange redos brought back a better return of 70 percent, according to the same survey. Yet, having a personalized, functional master bathroom with a touch of luxury remains a buyer priority. “People aren’t going to the extreme they once did, but they want a room that looks fresh,” says Sarah Barnard, a designer in Santa Monica, Calif. Rather than relying on trends from the hotel industry as has been popular in years past, Elissa Morgante of Morgante-Wilson Architects in Chicago says, home owners are more likely to use their own needs as inspiration. Case in point: Nikki Wheeler resisted a designer friend’s advice when remodeling her master bathroom in her 1890s Denver home. “She was pushing me to knock down walls to create a magnificent oasis. I thought with an older, more historic home, creating these giant hotel-style bathrooms didn’t fit,” she says. Wheeler kept within the existing footprint, adding a vaulted ceiling and upgrading the shower, countertop, cabinets, and floor. Making these types of changes can make a big difference when selling, says sales associate Paul Wyman of The Wyman Group in Kokomo, Ind. An outdated bathroom requires a lot of work, and most buyers will favor a house with a redone bathroom over an unfinished one, he says. Today’s understated master bathrooms are influenced by the following eight style categories. Encourage your...

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From post on http://realtormag.realtor.org/home-and-design/feature/article/2017/01/these-doors-can-modernize-your-listing-s-look We realize that this copy targets real estate brokers specifically, but you can easily imagine it addressed specifically to you. Just substitute “your home” every time the author says “your listing.” Good luck! JANUARY 2017 | BY MELISSA DITTMANN TRACEY A front door with pizzazz has always had a starring role in a home’s curb appeal. But lately, the doors inside a home are getting a closer look for their ability to add style and address design challenges. Strategically placed doors can offer privacy in open floor plan environments or increase the usability of cramped spaces.   Real estate pros Helene Bonello-Strauss and Malte Strauss with Trust International Real Estate LLC in Orlando, Fla., who also manage the staging blog idesigntosell.com, have used barn doors hung on sliding tracks above door frames and pocket doors, which tuck inside a wall, in several remodel and staging projects. “We use [barn doors] all the time in master bathrooms where there is a vanity area that is separate from the tub [and] commode area,” says Bonello-Strauss, also a home stager. In some older homes, vanities are located in the master bedroom rather than in the bathroom, a style that quickly can date a home. “Now we just close those off with a barn door, and buyers love that solution.” She also recently used two barn doors hanging from each side of an open door frame to solve an open floor plan’s privacy issue. The homeowners had built an addition off the living area that could be used as a guest bedroom, but they never installed a door to separate the bedroom from the main area. Bonello-Strauss added the double barn doors so the space could be used as a guest bedroom or opened to expand the living area when not in use by a visitor. “It truly makes the room and provides an architectural interest to an otherwise bland wall,” she says. But don’t be thrown off by the word “barn.” Your listing doesn’t have to be country chic to benefit from this space saver. The concept works in many styles, from walnut barn doors for traditional homes to galvanized metal doors for urban lofts, says Lynn MacMillan, with Gem Home Staging & Designs in St. Catharines, Ontario. Pocket doors vary widely too, from all glass to all wood and from designs that stretch to the ceiling to those that are only waist-high. Sliding doors can attach to a kitchen island and can be used to close off areas to pets or children when needed. “I prefer using sliding doors in all my projects,” says designer and architect Lilian...

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Originally published on http://realtormag.realtor.org/home-and-design/feature/article/2016/10/creative-ways-market-odd-spaces We realize that this copy targets realtors specifically, but these “marketing” strategies work because they are actually great suggestions: just because a room has always been used for one purpose does NOT mean it can’t be used for a different purpose. That’s what this article is about: re-purposing rooms to suit your needs.  OCTOBER 2016 | BY BARBARA BALLINGER What do you say to buyers who look at a listing’s floor plan only to focus on the large space labeled “dining room” that they know they’ll rarely use? The fact is, buyers and sellers may have vastly different perceptions about how they want to live in the same home. But that doesn’t have to be a deal-killer. Part of the problem stems from how architects and builders label rooms on plans, says Chicago-based commercial interior designer Mary Cook. “Rooms get designated and labeled for specific purposes, so it’s difficult to break that perception and think about them as spaces that are something else,” she says. But as a real estate professional, you can help make a difference with the descriptions you write in your marketing materials and with the way you talk about space in a listing. Clever copy can provide just the right inspiration for buyers who might have otherwise turned away. A huge log-burning fireplace dominating a living room can be recast as a “built-in entertainment center to gather around,” suggests designer Lonnie Unger of Fredman Design Group in Chicago. Just be sure to make concrete suggestions that buyers can visualize, even before they zoom in on photos or step through the front door. Whether you’re working with sellers who have outdated notions of their listing’s assets or with buyers who can’t imagine how they’d use a space that doesn’t seem to apply to their lifestyle, we’ve amassed some talking points that can help you smooth out the conflict. Here are five examples to inspire you to help your clients imagine what can be, rather than allowing what is to become a deal breaker. 1. What it is: Oversized walk-in closet The big closets that came along with the McMansion trend were often outfitted with shelves, rods, cabinets, and even storage islands and seating space. As conspicuous consumption falls out of favor, these spaces may seem like a waste for some buyers, who’d rather spend their square footage elsewhere. What it can be: “Practical laundry space adjacent to master bedroom.” Because large walk-in closets are usually well illuminated and may even have a window for daylight, they offer numerous possibilities. How about an upstairs laundry by the bedrooms? After all, this is where most...

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Originally posted on http://styledstagedsold.blogs.realtor.org/2016/03/21/designing-for-an-open-floor-plan/ Walls are vanishing from newer homes and the open-plan layouts are showing off multi-purpose areas, such as kitchens and dining rooms and living rooms that seamlessly flow into one another. But how do you decorate one large space – to make it comfortable and beautiful for eating, entertaining, relaxing and more? “The key is continuity,” says Kim Kiner, Vice President of Textile & Material Design and The Alustra® Collection for Hunter Douglas. Here are some ways: Color To keep an open-plan interior open, the No. 1 element for achieving continuity is wall color, says New York designer Glenn Lawson says. Whether “warm” or “cool,” you can use the same one throughout or paint such architectural elements as pilasters, soffits and chair rails variations of the main color, from light to dark, Lawson says. Large furnishings such as sofas and area rugs are most successful when they are, color-wise, “cousins” of the walls, three shades of blue, for example, Lawson adds. “This way the eye keeps travelling throughout the space and is not interrupted by large disparate areas,” Lawson says. Also, consider using pops of the same color, such as a grey sofa in the living room and then a grey chair-seat fabric at the dining table and a grey lamp shade in the library, suggests Shea Soucie of Soucie Horner in Chicago. “Thread a single color – or varying shades of a color – throughout an open space, and you’ll have a comforting sense of continuity as you move from one end of your home to the other,” she says. Flooring “When you have an open-concept living space, it’s important to keep the flooring material consistent so you don’t chop up the flow of the space,” Soucie says. “You can make it interesting by laying wood planks on the diagonal, for instance, or by setting reclaimed European tiles in a herringbone pattern. Whatever you choose, make it the same throughout the space.” Rugs can then be layered on top to soften the look and add warmth. It can also help in identifying the rooms within too. “Rugs are amazingly versatile,” Soucie says. “No matter what kind you choose, they add personality, color, texture and style. And you don’t have to restrict them to your floor by the way – you can hang a beautiful rug on the wall just like you would a piece of art!”   Art and accessories Use art or pillows to enhance the space, such as by repeating or contrasting with an existing color in the room. Add texture with the frame. Don’t just hang the artwork to the wall, though,...

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