5 Kitchen Design Trends That Buyers Hate

Fancy kitchen

Glow Decor/Getty Images

Serious home chefs, or just house-proud owners, might consider the kitchen their showstopper room—the one that will stop potential buyers dead in their tracks. And that’s why they add all the upgrades, accoutrements, and trendy new finishes they can possibly find. To some extent, they’re absolutely right—a great kitchen can make a buyer fall deeply in love.

An inherent danger of taking a deep dive into modern design is accepting the harsh fact that today’s trends may be tomorrow’s “Oh, God, remember that?” fads such as fake brick or hideaway appliances. With the average kitchen remodel pushing $20,000, designing without foresight can be a costly and embarrassing mistake.

Some trends such as subway tile and granite countertops have a long tail: Designers expect they’ll be in style for the foreseeable future, so you’re safe giving them a starring role in your makeover.

Others are doomed to fade hard and fast. Such as…

Mixed metals

Combining bronze and copper in the kitchen might give the room an “eclectic” look, but in a few years, chances are good it will just look confused. Same goes for stainless steel and gold, or nickel and brass.

“Anybody who mixes metals besides Rolex is an idiot, and maybe Rolex is an idiot, too,” says Chicago kitchen designer Scott Dresner of Dresner Design. “Some people think it’s the greatest thing since sliced bread. It’s just not. I think it’s appalling.”

He should know: Dresner has designed more than 7,000 kitchens, and his airy Chicago renovation won K+BB’s 2014 Kitchen of the Year Design Award.

Still want the look? Try mixing in different metals with replaceable hardware such as drawer pulls and towel rings, so you can easily ditch them if you put your home on the market.

DIY concrete countertops

Making your own concrete countertops is all the rage on Pinterest, but kitchen designers think the trend is already passé.

“The DIY concrete countertops have become a nightmare,” says Yarmouth, ME, designer Jeanne Rapone. “Every call I’ve had about those counters  is all about people calling me wanting them ripped out of the house they just bought. They hate the concrete.”

Because countertops are the kitchen’s primary focal point, it’s important to ensure their longevity. Picking a trendy material will—at best—annoy the hell out of you in a few years. In a decade, it might make your home impossible to sell. Better to spend a bit more on a surface you’ll love for a long time.

Open shelving

There’s a time and a place for open shelving—a few simple marble-and-steel slabs can look stunning. But swapping all of your cabinetry for open shelving is a soon-to-be-outdated fad.

“Open shelving is a thing that could be done very elegantly or very cheaply,” says Dresner. Simply pulling off the cabinet doors to mimic the effect is a surefire path to an unattractive, dust-collecting kitchen. If you’re interested in the look, a designer can help you combine minimalism, style, and functionality.

Rapone believes open shelving was a “complete economic response to the 2008 recession,” when homeowners wanted to redesign their kitchen but lacked the budget for extensive cabinetry upgrades. Under financial strain, “they’re willing to do stuff like open shelving in the kitchen, which saves a lot of money. It came out of good intentions, but now people say, ‘No, Jeanne, I’m tired of dusting shelves. I’ll pay for the doors now.’”

Reclaimed wood

Another recession response that’s fast approaching (or already surpassing) its sell-by date, reclaimed wood can look either superb or terrible, depending on its application.

As an accent, it’s perfect: “I love reclaimed wood. I love the idea of reusing something,” Dresner says. “Reclaimed wood on your island top could be gorgeous.” But what happens when you go beyond accents? “If you’re using it to make cabinets, I think it’sgarbage. It looks horrible, and it’s not the right way to use that type of wood.”

So if you’re itching to integrate repurposed wood into your kitchen style, focus on horizontal surfaces, where it has a tabletop effect.

“We see people going a little overboard with the reclaimed look,” Rapone says. “A reclaimed wood island countertop will last a lifetime, but reclaimed cabinetry with barn doors and a real rustic look—that’s a trend that will be way out of style soon.”

Industrial style

Unless you’re living in a loft, skip the stainless-steel countertops, exposed Edison bulbs, and aluminum shelving.

“The industrial look is making its way out,” Rapone says. If you want the effect without the commitment, she recommends finding an industrial-looking lamp that can be easily swapped out when the trend passes its prime.

“In five years—when everyone’s, like, ‘Wow, remember when we did that in 2014?’—you can take it down and replace it with something else,” she says. “That way, you’re not changing out $30,000 in cabinetry.”

But whatever you do, Dresner strongly recommends avoiding the exposed-lightbulb look.

“There are so many cool lights at Restoration Hardware that have that industrial feel, versus something that looks like it should be in the basement of an old building hanging from a block,” he says.

7 Ways to Conserve Energy and Save Money This Winter

heater-money

With the temperatures dropping, you may be worried about a soon-to-come snowy commute or potential holiday season stress. No matter what is on your mind, before you know it, your winter energy bills will be pouring in. For many of us, these are higher than what we got in the summertime, throwing your monthly budget out of whack and even possibly putting you into debt.

Some of your energy use may be hard or even impossible to curb, but there are plenty of things you can do now to prepare your home for the cold weather. Your wallet will certainly thank you. Check out these tips to help you conserve energy and save money during the cold weather this year.

1. Consider an audit

Before you make any changes, it is good to know where you stand. You can hire professionals or speak with your local energy company about getting an energy audit to evaluate your space for efficiency. Your home can be tested for energy loss, and a report can be generated highlighting any issues in your home. Some companies offer an audit for free.

2. Insulate & assess

The biggest way to cut back this winter is keeping outside air out and inside air in. Look for gaps and cracks in your foundation, windowpanes, and door frames. You can also look for places to add insulation, from the attic to the pipes.

3. Tune the heating system

Energy costs are often closely related to your heating system. If you have inefficiencies with your furnace, the price can jump even higher. Every fall, it can be a good idea to change or clean your heating filters and check on them once a month while the system is being used heavily.

4. Stock up in fall

Don’t wait until the snow starts to buy what you need. Restock your winter essentials such as salt, ice melt, shovels, and blowers now so you are more prepared—and you’ll likely get a better price. It can also be a good idea to clean your gutters and leave mowed (instead of raked) leaves on the grass so that the small pieces can decompose and nourish your lawn through the coming season.

5. Seek & seal leaks

Apply stripping or caulk around windows and doors to prevent cold air from seeping into your home. You can even put insulation film on your windows to further warm your home. Lastly, make sure the damper on your fireplace chimney is closed when you’re not using it.

6. Program your thermostat

A smart thermostat allows you to set lower temperatures at certain days and times. You can leave it warm for the morning and when you get home from work, while letting it drop while you’re out of the house. You can also try setting the temperature slightly lower and instead put on a sweater. You can even add layers through indoor decorating—pillows, rugs, mats, and blankets can add both warmth and aesthetic value.

7. Check the lights

The less you take advantage of (free!) sunshine, the more electricity you will need to use. There is no time like the present to buy some CFL and LED lights for your home. Also take advantage of the sunlight when it is there by keeping shades and curtains open during the day, especially on the south side of your home. Then close them when the sun goes down to keep the heat in.

How to Make a Mediocre School Great Within a Year

nettlehorst

How to Walk to School via Facebook

For home buyers with kids, settling in a good school district is a must, right? Not according to Jacqueline Edelberg. In 2006, when she was deciding where to send her child to school, Edelberg checked out Nettelhorst, the local public option in her Chicago neighborhood. The problem: It was run-down and failing. Most of the students were bused in from outlying low-income areas; even local city officials recommended that Edelberg send her child elsewhere.

But after touring the school, Edelberg and another parent were asked by the principal what it would take for them to enroll their kids. So they submitted a list of must-haves—and they insisted that these changes be completed within nine months. Some of the demands were low-hanging fruit, such as replacing the motivational posters in the hallways with kids’ artwork.

“We knew if it took longer, neighborhood families would make other plans for their kids’ education,” says Edelberg. She and the other parent also agreed to help the school meet these challenges.

Although it was a tall order, it didn’t take long for Edelberg’s changes to make a palpable difference. Within a year, Nettelhorst had a waitlist and the school was on its way to being designated “high performing.” And within a few more, developers started building condominiums in the neighborhood and boasting in promotional materials that they were located in the Nettelhorst district.

“The school has absolutely given families a reason to stay in the neighborhood,” saysBrad Lippitz of Chicago’s Brad Lippitz Group. “It’s become the nucleus of the whole area, and home buyers now seek it out.”

“The important takeaway is that we’re not a boutique example or an urban myth, and we’re not rocket scientists,” says Edelberg, who went on to co-write “How to Walk to School: Blueprint for a Neighborhood School Renaissance.” In fact, she says communities all over the country are improving mediocre schools so quickly that their own kids can reap the benefits.

Here’s how Edelberg and others achieved these goals in case you’d like to follow in their footsteps.

It takes a village

For Edelberg, the key to improving her school started with making it a more welcoming place. For one, she asked that the intimidating “No Loitering” signs in the playground be removed, and that the classroom shades stay open, day and night, to show off classrooms filled with kids’ artwork.

“That way neighbors on the way home from work would see joyful classrooms,” she says. “It’s very hard to invite your neighborhood in when everything is locked down and shuttered tight.”

From there, Edelberg galvanized local parents, assigning tasks to members of the school community with relevant experience to improve the school—piece by piece.

“Our success depended on being a place where people wanted to be, and a place that locals felt invested in,” recalls Edelberg. So to cultivate that connection, they invited local artists to make over the walls and asked neighborhood tradespeople (electricians, plumbers, etc.) to each do one thing, pro bono, at the school site. They also made the school’s space available after hours to community groups and began hosting community festivals. On weekends, they set up a farmers market; within the classrooms, they had parents volunteer to help support teachers.

It didn’t take long for this influx of community involvement to make a difference. Some teachers weren’t in tune with the new vibe at the school and opted to leave. Others upped their game to meet the new expectations of the students, their parents, and the school administration.

The whole movement was led by a core group of eight parents—some working full time, others occupied with young children—that used a local diner as its headquarters for biweekly meetings.

“You wouldn’t believe what even the busiest parents can get done with some training and strategizing,” says Danielle Asher, director of the Parent Leadership Initiative in Commack, NY, which offers training in public speaking and organizing to parents interested in making changes in their school system.

A school’s online impression matters, too

Another essential step to transforming a school: Improve the impression it makes online, because that’s how many parents will research a school.

“The trick is to talk about the school in the light in which it wants to be perceived,” saysMatt Archambault, who works in online brand management for BrandYourself.com. A killer website, active Twitter feed, and a blog with real stories about the people and events of a school can all burnish a school’s image.

Communication is also key when it comes to making change, whether it happens over coffee at a local diner, as in Edelberg’s case, or by using new options such as Tendle, which offers school communities an online space for discussions and sharing ideas.

“Whether it’s school performance or other trends that are circulating at an institution, knowing about the issues and having a place to discuss them is the first step to solving them,” says Melanie Lekkos, Tendle’s founder.

Show me the money

Of course, to raise a school’s standing quickly, money is also important. Instead of “shaking parents down,” Edelberg and her team opted to create a dozen or so proposals for projects they desperately wanted funded, including a new gymnasium and science lab. Over time, as donors and organizations expressed interest in helping out, the proposals—with precise requests and guidelines—were made available so people could pitch in. Other creative methods abound, too.

“Parents often think raising money isn’t worth it, because it won’t affect change quickly enough to benefit their own kids while they’re still at a school,” says Sarah Barrett, author of “A Mom’s Guide to School Fundraising” and “The Party Book Kit,” which outlines innovative suggestions for fundraising events. “But if the fundraisers are genuinely enjoyable and therefore popular, they’ll raise money that can be used toward visible things like new playground equipment—and that can improve the school’s standing.”

Barrett suggests partnering with local businesses to offer an evening that parents would most likely pay to participate in elsewhere, such as a wine tasting. Or for an event with more family-friendly appeal, she recommends cutting a deal with a video game truck at a time when it probably isn’t booked, like a weekday afternoon.

Lastly, there are always the old-fashioned ways of getting things done, such as running for a seat on the school board.

“It’s great for parents to be involved by showing up at parent-teacher nights and PTA fundraisers, but it’s better for parents to get control,” explains Regina H. Paul, president of Policy Studies in Education, an organization that provides consulting services and technical assistance to both public and private educational institutions. “And being elected to the school board is the best way to do that.”

Ultimately, it is possible to turn a school around. But it takes serious commitment and vision.

“Nettelhorst’s transformation was not all smooth sailing all the time,” cautions Edelberg. In fact, during one early volunteer shift when she was helping paint a mural near the lunchroom, a teacher spit on her while passing by. Yet somehow, Edelberg and her team remained resolute.

“The school wasn’t fit for any kid, let alone my own,” she says. “But we just kept asking people to help by doing a little of what they already did professionally, like advertising or communications. And it worked.”

Why You Should Never Buy the Best House in the Neighborhood

best-house

Dimitri Otis/Getty Images

When you’re house hunting, finding an amazing house in your location of choice that doesn’t require much additional investment seems like a huge score.

But is it really? Before making an offer on that picture-perfect home, take a look at the surrounding houses. If they’re all in disrepair—or just obviously less nice than the one you’re considering—you might be buying the most expensive house in the neighborhood.

Maybe that seems awesome because you’ll get bragging rights and price of place! But more than likely, it’s going to hurt you. Here’s why.

Someday you’ll need to sell it

When you’re in the throes of buying a home, it’s easy to forget that the place you’re busy buying will someday be the place you’re selling. And when it comes time to sell, unloading the priciest home on the block will be a challenge.

Please, Mr. Postman

Send me news, tips, and promos from realtor.com® and Move.

“A lot of buyers forget a home is an investment,” says Brendon DeSimone, a real estate expert and author of “Next Generation Real Estate.” “The world changes. Things happen fast. People transfer, people lose their jobs. Now imagine yourself as the seller of that home.”

So you’re hanging by a thread: As it is, someone might buy it—after all, you did—but there’s no way to increase your equity in the home. With your house already significantly nicer than its neighbors, any upgrades (however minor) will send it into the stratosphere. That quality mismatch between your home and the surrounding homes will lead most buyers to pass on it. If they’re going to spend that much money, why wouldn’t they buy a home in a more desirable neighborhood?

The best you can hope for is your home holding its value. The worst-case scenario: You can’t sell it.

“You can change your house, but you can’t change your location,” DeSimone says.

You need to leave room for improvement

As we said before, a home is an investment—and the best investments have the most room for improvement. Ideally, you’ll be adding to the home during your ownership, building equity in hopes of a payoff when you (eventually) sell.

That’s why DeSimone actually recommends buying the worst house in the best neighborhood. Yes, you read that correctly.

“You can add value on your own,” he says. “If you’re choosing between an awesome house in a crappy location or an awful house in a great location, I would choose the latter.”

Note that “improvement” doesn’t necessarily entail a complete renovation. Even the small changes that happen when you—a responsible person—move in will increase its value. We’re talking about things such as regular maintenance, refreshing the paint, and fixing the odds and ends that might go ignored by another occupant. But if your home is already priced well above the rest of the neighborhood, those tiny changes won’t make a lick of difference.

You can’t bet on the neighborhood to improve

If you’re buying the nicest house on the block hoping the neighborhood will improve, you’re putting a lot of stake in a volatile market—and you’re more likely to be disappointed (and possibly even go broke).

Ideally, the chain of events goes like this: You buy your nice home in an up-and-coming neighborhood. Over time—thanks, gentrification—the homes around you improve until all of your neighbors are pretty much on the same footing. Because the area has improved so drastically, your home’s value will still increase.

It’s a wonderful idea, and it is certainly realized occasionally. Too bad Magic 8 Balls don’t really work. For each time this strategy works, there are a dozen others in which homeowners end up with an overpriced, unsellable home in a middling neighborhood.

If you’re eager to live in a neighborhood with potential, “buy a bad house,” DeSimone says. “At least you can improve the interiors and make it more valuable. If that neighborhood doesn’t actually ‘up-and-come,’ your expensive home is already as viable as it can be.”

Sometimes, betting on your home can pay off—but risking your home? That strategy might sacrifice everything.

Halloween Pranksters Trash Your Home? Here’s How to Clean It Up

halloween-tp

Halloween is fun and all, but then there’s the aftermath. Even if you dole out treats, hooligans may plaster your home in eggs, or shower your car in shaving cream, or trim your trees with toilet paper. In fact, around this time of year certain towns ban the sale of eggs to minors in an attempt to keep these high jinks to a minimum, although we’re dubious that makes much difference.

If you’re one of those unlucky homeowners faced with a horrifying post-Halloween cleanup job, read these tips first. Broken down by type of ammo—egg, shaving cream, and TP—these tips from pro cleaners will save you time, energy, and further damage to your property so your home is no worse for wear, at least until next year.

Eggs

Whether they’re splattered on your home or your car, eggs are bad news because they can corrode paint.

“It’s crucial to clean eggs as soon as possible,” says Mary Findley, a veteran cleaning expert and owner of GoClean.com. If the goo has hardened, you’ll want to soften it first by covering it with a sopping wet hot cloth that’s been dipped in a 50-50 mix of water and distilled grain-based white vinegar. Let that set 10 to 15 minutes, Findley says, then gently wipe it off. If there are any egg shells, delicately pick them off first, or else they might scratch the paint.

If you do find, alas, that the egg has damaged or discolored your paint, that doesn’t mean you’re out of luck.

“Before going to the expense of repainting your car, grab what’s called an oxidation remover at an automotive supply store,” says Findley. “This is a polishing compound designed to remove scratches that can also restore the color somewhat. When using it, always wipe from left to right and never in circles, or else you will now have swirl marks on top of the scratches.”

For damaged paint on homes, apply a primer over the area, then repaint.

Shaving cream

That luscious foam may be kind to your skin, but it’s a killer on paint, so this is another mess you’ll want to clean quickly. If you catch the cream when it’s still wet, a pressure washer can blast it off. But if it’s dry, “don’t scrape it away, since you may damage the paint,” says Hannah Caner, an editor at Who Knew? Tips. “Instead, use a wet rag to dampen the shaving cream until it softens, and then wash the area with dish soap.”

Toilet paper

“If you wake up the morning after Halloween to find that your house has been toilet-papered, check the weather report,” says Caner. “If it’s a dry day, wait until the dew has evaporated before you start cleaning, since the TP will be less likely to shred into pieces.” If it’s rainy and damp, on the other hand, you should start as soon as possible to keep the shredding from getting worse.

To gather the paper without damaging your trees, use a rake or broom to gently comb over the branches; a leaf blower can also help you clear twigs without damaging them. “Or try taping a lint roller to a broom handle so the paper sticks to the sticky tape of the lint roller,” says Findley.

There are also ways to curb your odds of a post-Halloween cleanup completely. “Turn on your porch lights and keep them on all night on Halloween,” suggests Findley. After all, Halloween pranksters prefer to do their dirty work in the dark.

These 8 Lamps Are Some of the Tackiest You’ll Ever See

A trio of risque lamps from Japan

Lamps aren’t only the way we illuminate a room; they can shed light on our personalities, too. The perfect pendant or floor lamp can add just the right touch to your home’s decor, underlining whether your sensibilities are more industrial or rustic.

And then there are these lamps and lighting fixtures, which pretty much identify their owners as completely lacking in taste. (Upon reflection, we decided not to show you allthe most outrageous examples we found.) Purchase at your own risk: They’ll probably inspire would-be buyers to back out of your house.

Did someone behead Paddington Bear?

Developed by Suck UK, the headless teddy bear lamp is readily available on Amazon for the low, low price of $160. The value of traumatizing your children? Priceless.

Headless teddy bear lamp by Suck UK
Headless teddy bear lamp by Suck UK

———

If you really, really love your dog …

Thanks to U.K. artist Whatshisname, you’ll always have a present from man’s best friend. The pooping Chihuahua lamp comes in red or black and costs $1,684, while the Great Dane version will give your wallet the runs at $3,980.

Pooping dog by Whatshisname
Pooping dog by Whatshisname

———

Tell us how you really feel

A teenager’s woeful poetry notebook personified, this hangman lamp sets the mood for an enchanting evening of nihilistic theory and Lars von Trier films set to a steady background of deep sighs. Even if you do want this lamp, be prepared for another dose of sadness: Developed by Spanish studio EnPieza, this limited-edition Colgao lamp is out of stock. Perhaps it could make a comeback if we keep thinking dark thoughts.

Colgao by EnPieza
colgao

———

The hair lamp

Apparently someone watched “The Addams Family,” saw Cousin Itt, and decided it would look so much better with a lightbulb for a face.

During lonely nights, the hair can be braided, curled, pinned, or pulled into a ponytail—but hopefully not set on fire. Anika Engelbrecht of Kassel, Germany, came up with the lamp design, and although it isn’t for sale anymore, all you need is a wig and a torchier lamp and you can make your own. (Disclaimer: Don’t!)

Hair lamp by Anika Engelbrecht
Hair lamp by Anika Engellbrecht

———

A very cheeky light

Smack this butt lamp, and voila—it turns on. Called the Slap It, this jiggly silicone night-light will run you $228.79, and it comes in a buttload of colors—10, to be exact.

———

Breast lighting fixture ever

The more the merrier? That’s possibly what designer Jonathan Adler thought when he came up with the Georgia Table Lamp, which features over 50 boobs in white porcelain. They can all be yours for just $495.

Georgia Table Lamp by Jonathan Adler
"Georgia table lamp" by Jonathan Adler

———

Leggy maid lamps

The line between playful and creepy furnishings is razor-thin. These leggy lamps from Japan stand firmly on the creepy side. With one foot coquettishly pawing at the back of a leg and a light switch that is located—ahem—up the skirt, these lamps were spotted at the Onoden Electrical Appliances store in Tokyo for 12,600 yen (about $104).

A collection of risque lamps from Japan
A trio of risque lamps from Japan

———

Let’s get lit

This marijuana-themed floor lamp would get a pass in a college dorm room, but it should be snuffed out anywhere else. In case anyone doesn’t get the idea, the psychedelic lampshade is complemented by a pot leaf–shaped light switch. Available for $29.99 on Amazon.com.

Pot leaf lamp by Rabbit Tanaka
Pot leaf lamp by Rabbit Tanaka

Selling Your Home This Winter? You Can Still Make Your Yard Pop

yard-in-winter

Add some frozen tundra or gray-brown slush, and you might be tempted to put that “For Sale” sign away until spring, when budding flowers and lush lawns entice buyers on their own. But waiting isn’t an option for everyone. If a job transfer or family circumstances have you on a tight timeline, you might be stuck trudging through the wintertime sell.

Don’t lose hope—winter can be a fabulous time to sell if you know how to capitalize on the market. High on the priority list: Know how to make your home stand out from all those other sad, cold houses on the block.

Winter landscaping is far from an oxymoron—it’s a necessity. Here are some easy solutions to improve the appearance of your snow-covered yard this winter.

Put in the work

Before you throw up your hands and call it a lost cause, remember this: To achieve a winter wonderland of a yard, the most important ingredient is some good old-fashioned sweat equity.

“Simple yard maintenance can go a long way,” says Steve Firlit, president of Firlit Landscape Design in Rochester, NY.

If the leaves are still falling, get out your rake; if it’s winter, make sure to neatly shovel your sidewalks, porch, and driveway. And don’t neglect your bushes and shrubs during the cold months—pruning them occasionally gives the landscape a “tidier, neater look,” Firlit says.

“If you’re making the effort to sell the house, put in a little bit of elbow grease,” he says. “You want to show off your landscaping on the front of the house.”

Dress up your garden beds

Your beds may not be filled with flowers, but that doesn’t mean they should look dreary. While adding mulch won’t help plants grow when the ground is frozen, it will give your garden a visual makeover and help you catch a buyer’s eye.

Firlit recommends re-edging your garden beds and giving them a light coating of mulch, covering up dead material and making the landscaping pop.

“It gives the appearance that the planting beds are kept up and neat-looking,” he says. “That goes a long way.”

Mix in color and greenery

Just because your flowers are dead for the season doesn’t mean your home’s exterior should be, too.

There are a number of hardy plants that can survive the winter. Some require forethought—shrubs such as the vibrant, red flowering quince need to be planted no later than fall, and the imposing boxwood requires time for growing and shaping. But others, such as Christmas greens, can be found at your local nursery and do well potted on porches.

Firlit suggests trying a seasonal wintertime arrangement. Winter greens such as holly and pine hold their color throughout the winter, which means you won’t be rushing out to refresh your plants every time your agent hosts an open house. Intertwine these with colorful fabric from a crafts store and dried flowers to create attention-grabbing arrangements.

“Color makes people feel warm and fuzzy,” says Firlit.

(Pro tip: Stop by your garden center shortly after Christmas to get some great deals on seasonal greenery.)

Add lighting

As the days get shorter, lighting up your home’s exterior becomes more important. Start with path lighting—which helps with navigation—and build up your lighting scheme to highlight your home’s best features.

“If you want the house to pop out from the roadside, temporary lighting can go a long way,” Firlit says.

Spotlight obvious focal points, and add small lighting at the bottom of your water features or showstopper trees such as the Japanese maple.

Don’t leave your home in the dark, either. If you’re lucky enough to have beautiful brick or stone veneer, Firlit recommends soft spotlights to highlight the architectural details.

“When you drive by along the road, it’ll grab you,” Firlit says.

When it comes to winter home sales, any method to attract the attention of prospective buyers is a worthy investment. Lights aren’t only a great idea—they’re a necessity.

Don’t ignore the backyard

After a big snowfall, we’re sure you at least try to keep your front yard in order, but when was the last time you took your shovel out back?

If you’re trying to sell your home during the snowy winter, this is a vital step. You should even consider hauling out your patio furniture during open houses to help visitors determine how they would use the space.

Sweep off other features, too, such as fountains, decorative paving, or the pool area. Mentioning them in the listing isn’t enough—if you want every advantage possible in a difficult winter market, you need to make buyers understand the glory of the home in the spring and summer.

“If there’s snow on the ground, it’s hard to visualize what’s underneath it,” Firlit says. “It’s one thing to show off the inside of the house, but families with kids or who want to entertain will want to see the landscaping.”

The Sneaky Science of Selling Your Home Revealed!

realtor-science-4

Selling a home isn’t just about slapping down a fresh coat of paint—you need to delve into home buyers’ brains and figure out what makes them tick. From the moment they spot your listing to the instant they walk through your door, what persuades them to make an offer, and stick around to close the deal? To find out, we culled the most recent scientific studies that examine the home-buying mind to find out what turns it on—and off—and how you can use this information to your advantage.

Buyers know within seconds if they want a home

With a decision as weighty as a home purchase, one might think that buyers deliberate over all the pros and cons before they decide to sign on the dotted line. Yet studies show this is not the case.

According to the “Psychology of House Hunting” report by BMO Financial Group, 80% of prospective buyers know if a home is right for them within seconds of stepping inside. The reason? Researchers theorize that our minds process far more information in less time than we think, so a lengthy deliberation process may be a waste of time.

Take-home lesson: Since buyers know within seconds of entering your home whether it’s The One, you’ll want to spiff up the area they’ll see in that time frame—namely, your foyer.

“It can be a challenge to keep this area tidy since that’s where homeowners put their mail, keys, coats, shoes, dog leashes, and other items,” says Sissy Lappin, a real estate broker in Houston.

Containers are key for keeping this mess under control: baskets or racks for shoes, bowls for keys and change—and, unless you have a nearby closet, you can never have too many coat hooks. Be sure to stash any seldom-used items elsewhere. Anywhere else.

They find aromatherapy confusing

It’s not all about what home buyers see; what they smell matters, too. But that doesn’t mean you should fill your home with potpourri or freshly baked cookies.

These “complex” scents can actually backfire in homes, according to a study by Eric Spangenberg at Washington State University, who found that shoppers will spend 32% more in stores where he piped in a simple orange scent rather than a multifaceted blend of orange, basil, and green tea. The reason? Complex scents may be nice, but they’re also more distracting as people try to figure out what they are.

As Spangenberg explained to the Wall Street Journal, “They are not there to process the smells. They are there to process whether this is a place they want to live.”

Take-home lesson: If you go for a scent, keep it fresh and simple. Spangenberg recommends lemon, basil, or pine. You have no time to grab scented candles?

“As a quick fix, I splash Pine-Sol down the sink,” says Lappin. “While certain scents might appeal to one gender but turn off the other, everyone loves the smell of clean.”

They’re wary of the number 9 in a price

On just about any shopping spree, we’re wooed by “charm prices”—in other words, T-shirts or towels priced at $9.99 rather than a round $10—because consumers tend to think that prices ending in 9 are a way better deal. Only with big purchases like homes, charm pricing makes buyers wary.

According to a study by Old Dominion University, 9’s near the end of a home price—say, $199,000 versus $200,000—are a turnoff. Why? Because these homes appear to be trying too hard to look like a bargain, and buyers don’t like that whiff of desperation when it comes to such a big purchase.

Take-home lesson: Avoid 9’s near the end of your asking price, because buyers may have a knee-jerk impulse to turn away.

“Charm pricing may be fine for T-shirts, but it looks sleazy on a home,” Lappin says. “You feel like you need a shower after seeing the price.”

Prices with round numbers are a turnoff, too

Another number no-no? Pricing your home with round numbers with lots of zeroes, like $200,000, seems like you pulled this number out of a hat. A more specific number like $217,000, on the other hand, makes it look like you’ve really done your homework and know exactly what your home is worth.

One study by Columbia Business School found that negotiators who ask for specific amounts are more successful than those who make rounded offers.

Take-home lesson: Avoid the round number trap and make sure your asking price is specific.

“It will sound like you’ve run the numbers on your home, right down to the exact square footage,” says Lappin. “Oftentimes buyers will ask, ‘Where does this number come from?’ and I’ll say, ‘This seller has done their research and it will take an hour to explain it.’ That’s usually enough to convince them to fall in line.”

Buyers fall hard for staged homes

Staging a home to sell is all the rage these days, and research shows it works: A study by the Real Estate Staging Association looked at 63 unstaged homes that sat on the market for an average of 143 days. Once those houses were professionally staged, they sold, on average, 40 days after their makeover.

Take-home lesson: Pay attention to presentation. But you may not have to open your wallet for a professional stager; the basic premises are simple ones that anyone can put into practice. For one: If you’re already moved out, get some furniture back in the house.

“Seeing a house without furniture is like seeing someone naked in bright light: You can see all their flaws,” says Lappin. Or, if your home does have furniture, make sure it’s the right furniture for each room.

“If you turned your college kid’s bedroom into an office/workout room, change it back to a bedroom,” says Lappin. “I don’t care if it’s four-bedroom—if you only have a bed in one room, it will be perceived as a one-bedroom house. It may sound weird, but that’s how people think. They may say they have imaginations, but they really don’t. On a subliminal level, they take what they see to heart.”

3 Sneaky Ways to Make a Small Home Office Look Huge

home-office2

The plight of the way-too-small home office: a space that needs to be functional often doubling as a guest room and the holding pen for all the random stuff you couldn’t find a home for elsewhere. And did we mention these rooms are often tiny? You spend many of your waking hours in this wee, cramped place. So, how can you figuratively supersize one of the hardest-working and smallest rooms in your home?

1. Pick the right-sized furniture

One of the worst home office gaffes? Furniture that simply doesn’t fit! Just because you want a large work surface (who doesn’t?), it doesn’t mean you want to overwhelm your space with a massive CEO-style desk, says Allison Petty, an interior designer with Homepolish, a national design firm based in New York City.

Start with the right-sized desk, and orbit other furnishings around it. There isn’t a formula for size; the more compact you can go, the better. The small-home mecca otherwise known as Ikea (cue the trumpeting angels) offers countless affordable desk options. Take measurements of your room before you shop, and don’t forget to account for other furniture that needs to go in the tight space. And maybe factor in a bit of walking space, too.

Find a desk that has ample storage and just enough surface space for your computer, Petty suggests. If you primarily use a laptop, you can get away with a small laptop deskfor tight spaces. For bigger devices, consider a storage-rich desk (Petty loves this onefrom Crate & Barrel) that’s both stylish and sturdy.

Treble White Desk
Treble White Desk

When it comes to your chair, you want comfort but you don’t need the gargantuan seat on wheels that you’d see in an office building. Pro tip: Go for a stationary chair with style, Petty says. “I use standard dining chairs because they’re smaller than most office chairs, but they have high backs so you don’t have to worry about being down too low,” says Petty, who recommends West Elm’s Saddle Dining Chair and the Dane Armchair. “Dining chairs are a lot more attractive than office chairs, and they just blend in better.”

2. Find a place for everything

On websites, floating, open shelves look amazing. Know why? Because they’re styled for photos, not living. They probably hold about half the stuff you really need. Your pile of crumpled and mismatched paper? It’s not nearly as eye-pleasing as the perfectly stacked piles you see in design books.

Here’s a good way to leverage wall space: Use it to hang file holders. You’ll find plenty of options at The Container Store or any office supply retailer. Every item should have a dedicated place that’s not your work surface or the floor, Petty says.

If you can squeeze another piece of furniture in your room, Petty suggests a closed cabinet. A stylish armoire could be a nice touch. Use bins to store your office wares inside. Purchase cord organizers and tuck away that laptop when you’re offline to make everything look seamless.

If you must leave things out, then do it in style with finds from online shops such as Poppin.com, says Petty.

3. Have fun with decor

Scoop Table Lamp- Copper
Scoop Table Lamp- Copper

One of the easiest and most cost-effective ways to make your work ambiance more Zen is through color.

You can paint, but a hued wallpaper looks great, too. The key, productivity-wise: You want a design that’s inspiring but not distracting, says Petty.

While overhead lighting is the best lighting for task-orientated work, a desk lamp can add a great decorative detail, says Petty. Don’t opt for one that looks too utilitarian. With practically no effort, you can find options that are stylish, attractive, and affordable (the trifecta!), like this one in copper.

One thing to skip: rugs. “Chairs are harder to move on rugs and placing them under a desk ends up cutting the rug off awkwardly,” says Petty.

7 Cheap Upgrades That Will Make Your Home Feel Like It’s Brand-New

painting-improvement

If your home has you down in the dumps but you lack the cash to fix it up, don’t despair! Not every upgrade has to take a big bite out of your bank account.

Here are seven foolproof ways to make your home feel like a totally different place through small changes—and small expenses.

1. New hardware

Swapping out the boring chrome hardware the previous owners installed can go a long way toward making your home look like yours—not to mention give the entire space an easy, inexpensive refresh. Depending on your style, new pulls or handles can cost mere dollars.

“The first thing I do to give the home more of the look and style that I like is swap out the hardware,” says Doug Mahoney, who worked in construction for 10 years and now writes about tools and home improvement for The Sweethome. “All it takes is a screwdriver, and it’s surprising what a difference it can make.”

2. Small paint jobs

Don’t have time to repaint your entire home? Start by tackling smaller jobs such as your front door or kitchen cabinets. Since these projects are quick, you can squeeze them in during the weekend (or even an afternoon). And you’ll use only a fraction of a gallon of paint (which costs between $15 and $30)—making for an ideal impact-to-expenses ratio.

“Personally, I can’t stand the look of polyurethaned oak cabinets, so I’d cover those up with a nice white paint,” Mahoney says. “It makes it look like a whole new kitchen.”

If you like your cabinets, consider repainting the trim in your living room or adding some fresh color to a small room such as your bathroom.

3. Sensor lights

Tired of scrambling for the light switch while your arms are holding bags of groceries? Add sensor lights to your front porch and any other regular entrances such as your garage door. Starting at just $15, it’s a tiny cost with a big reward.

These lights won’t just improve your visibility—they’ll also lower your electricity bill. And they’re a big home safety boon to boot; experts say motion-detecting lights discourage criminals from lurking around your home.

4. Magnetic door catch

Speaking of those arms full of groceries: Adding a magnetic door catch (like this onefrom Amazon, which costs $11) to your primary entrance drastically simplifies loading and unloading. No more awkward sideways crab walks as you attempt to keep the door open while carrying a big package. You might even consider installing this before moving day to make your movers’ job easier.

5. Keyless entry pad

If you’re always losing your keys, try investing in a keyless entry pad such as this simple$100 Kwikset deadbolt. It can mean the difference between spending a few hours moping in your car and enjoying a hot cup of cocoa in your living room.

Plus, you’re not the only one who benefits: If you’re expecting guests but won’t be available to greet them, they can let themselves in—a huge improvement from hiding a key, which might be a safety risk.

6. Low-flow toilet

“It may seem intimidating to those not very interested in DIY, but swapping out toilets is a fairly simple process,” Mahoney says.

Choose a high-efficiency or low-flow toilet to save money on your water bill. While it does require some investment (expect to pay between $100 and $325 for the toilet itself), you’ll be making your money back soon enough—especially if you’re replacing an older model installed before 1992. That’s when federal plumbing standards mandated all toilets use 1.6 gallons or less per flush.

With a high-efficiency model, you’ll use about 300 fewer gallons of water per year—if not much more.

7. Fresh mulch

Jazzing up the outside of your home can go a long way toward making you love where you live. While you could go all-out—landscaping the yard and painting the trim—there’s a simpler solution: mulch.

“New mulch in the flower beds can add a lot to the curb appeal,” Mahoney says.

Instead of grimy old dirt that’s been trod on for years, a fresh new layer looks clean, fresh, and pretty—making a huge difference for just $6.