Home Improvement

Tips To Get Your House Sold

Let's face it, most Vermont towns can sell themselves with their close-knit feel, community activities, local amenities, beautiful landscapes, etc., but that doesn't mean someone will be willing to buy a house there if it doesn't make a good impression. Buying a house is a huge deal, and you want someone to be wowed when they enter yours for an open house or private viewing. Making a few improvements doesn't have to break the bank, but it can be the difference between them walking out the door or making an offer. Jaymi Naciri, from Realty Times, has written up ten tips to help you on your way.

Staging your home is a critical step in getting it sold, but all the recommended updates and upgrades can get pricey. Thankfully, there are tricks you can use to make your home look bigger, better, and brighter, without spending a dime.

1. Fix up your floors

Don't want to pay to replace or refinish your floors? No prob. Grab a brown crayon to fill in divots. A one-to-one mix of olive oil and vinegar rubbed directly on scratched areas will also help make it look new. You can also use canola if you don't have olive, but then use a one-part vinegar, three-part oil mixture. 

Floors look great but don't sound so hot? "Fix creaky wood floors with a generous dusting of baby powder," said One Crazy House. "Work it into the cracks until the floor is no longer noisy."

2. Make it sparkle

Presumably, you already have cleaning supplies, sponges, and paper towels in the house. Now all you need is some elbow grease to make your home look shiny and new.

When selling your home, you need to take the cleaning beyond your typical weekly run-through. Think "Spring cleaning" turned up a notch or two. Remember that potential buyers will be looking everywhere, including inside drawers and cabinets. Make sure they're crumb-free and well organized. They may also open your refrigerator. While this can seem intrusive, you don't want to give them a reason to walk away, so make sure to tidy up the inside, wipe up any spills, throw away rotten food, and put a nice big box of Baking Soda in there to absorb any leftover smells.

3. Let the light in

Everyone is looking for "natural light," so show off what you've got by opening up those blinds and drapes. Did you just reveal a bunch of dirty windows and sills? Ewww. Grab that cleaning spray and make them shine. An old toothbrush is a great way to get gunk out of corners and in window tracks.

If your place isn't light and bright, even with all the blinds and drapes drawn, you'll need to depend on artificial lighting. This is no time to have lightbulbs out. Go hit that stash in your laundry room cabinet and switch out for fresh bulbs.

4. Declutter

Home stagers will tell you there is no more important step when preparing your home for sale. "If you are serious about staging your home, all clutter must go, end of story," said Houzz. "It's not easy, and it may even require utilizing offsite storage (or a nice relative's garage) temporarily, but it is well worth the trouble."

Do a walk-through with an outsider's eye, or ask a friend or family member to help since they'll be more objective. Anything that isn't used regularly or is taking away from the open feel of the house can be packed away. Small appliances and anything else hanging out on countertops can be put in a cabinet if you're not ready to stick it in a box. You want people to see the bones of the house, not your blender.

5. Depersonalize

While, you're decluttering, keep personalization in mind. Buyers want to be able to picture themselves living in the home, and they might not be able to do so if they can't take their eyes off your wall of taxidermy.

6. Create closet space

Even if you have the world's largest walk-in closet in the master bedroom, you can give buyers the impression that there isn't enough space by overfilling it. Stagers recommend taking half of your clothes and shoes out and packing them away to create some airiness. Does the idea of packing up your stuff freak you out? You're going to have to do it when you move, anyway. This is just giving you a head start.

7. Remove the stink

Does your home greet guests with a big whiff of cat box? Potential home buyers might just turn right back around and get in the car. You also want to make sure your animals aren't irritating those who are touring or impeding them from entering certain rooms. Don't want to board them? Surely you have a friend or family member who'd love to watch your pets during showings, right?

8. Pull those weeds

You really can't overestimate the importance of curb appeal today. Even if you don't want to spring for a few bags of mulch and some colorful flowers to frame your door, there are easy and free steps you can take to give buyers a great first impression. Dispose of any visible weeds, leaves, and other unwanted stuff hanging out in the yard. Give your bushes a trim and mow the yard. If you can't power wash your home, at least wash the outside of the exterior windows that are within eye level.

And don't forget about the area closest to your front door. Sweep that stoop and make sure your welcome mat is actually welcoming, instead of dusty and dirty.

9. Address your furniture

Some of the most common problems in homes when it comes to furniture: 1) It's ugly; 2) It's old; There's too much of it; The arrangement is uninviting. Ugly and old might be hard to overcome when you're trying not to spend money, but the rest you can do something about.

"Sometimes when sellers are trying to make a small room seem like it's more spacious, they have a tendency to push all of their furniture against the walls to leave a big open space in the middle. This type of arrangement may leave a lot of open space, but ultimately leaves the interior design looking unfinished -- a big turn off for buyers. In this situation, it's better to create furniture groupings. First, envision the way the space should be used," said Freshome. "Do you have a huge flatscreen TV that requires a lot of seating? Is there a corner in your living room that would serve perfectly as a reading nook? Group the furniture in ways that would make sense for the intended use. Then, make sure that there are clean and direct pathways through the room. You want potential buyers to be able to envision themselves living in your home and one of the quickest ways to do that is by creating a cozy seating area that's fit for conversation."

If the problem is that you've created a crowded space by using too much furniture, ditch a few pieces in a friend's garage for the time being (or, even better, donate them!) to create an intimate seating area. You can always bring those pieces back into your new home.

10. Borrow stuff

If, at the end of the day, your home still isn't looking show-ready, maybe it's time to raid a friend's house. Have a loved one who has an extra couch that's more neutral than yours or a couple of great accessories? It's time to test their love for you.

To read the original article click here.

Improve the Value of Your Home in 5 Easy Steps

Damien Justus, of Realty Times, offers some great suggestions to boost the value of your home without going completely overboard. These are things that can be applied to any house, in any neighborhood. 

What increases the value of one home might not increase the value of another. A resort-style pool and outdoor kitchen in Wyoming might not hold as much value for buyers as the same resort-style pool and outdoor kitchen added to a home in South Florida. What works and what doesn't is dependent upon the current market conditions in your area, what buyers in your area want, and the overall feel of your neighborhood. It's not to say you cannot add something no one else has, but you have to add the right thing.

Building a 4,000-square foot addition to your 1,200-square foot home in a neighborhood that consists of all small starter homes is not a wise home improvement. If you're looking to add some value to your home, try one of these five easy steps that almost always adds value no matter where your home is located.

Start Outside

What's the first thing buyers see when they drive up to your home? Your lawn and front door, and they make more of an impression than you might imagine. If your lawn is a mess, your door needs some paint, and your house is dirty, the first thing you do is get it all cleaned up. You're not going to spend thousands on elaborate landscaping, but you might be surprised just how much of a difference a freshly mowed lawn and some brand-new mulch in the flower beds make.

Move it Indoors

Paint is everything in a home. You can have your home any color you want but if you choose to sell and want to increase the value of your home, you're going to add value by adding a nice, neutral paint color to every wall. No more personal colors in bedrooms, no more accent walls, and no more old, dirty paint. Even if your paint is only a few years old, you will make a big difference in the overall value with a fresh coat.

Upgrade the Fixtures

Next is the fixtures. It's time for new door knobs, light fixtures, and faucets in the kitchen and bath. Cabinet and drawer pulls are also important, and every one of these very small details makes a very large difference. You can upgrade these for next to nothing while seeing a significant improvement on the value of your home.

Fix Any Small Issues

If you want to add value to your home, it's time to fix the small issues. If you have a leaking faucet, get it fixed. If the air conditioner makes a funny noise when it runs, call the home warranty company and ask them to come out and take a look. If it's broken, they'll replace it. If it's fixable, you just got rid of that pesky noise and increased the overall value of your home in the eyes of buyers. Small issues are some of the biggest issues. Repair any little dings or holes in the walls, fix any broken baseboards, and repair anything that's not quite perfect. These little things add up substantially.

Clean it Up

Finally, it's time to clean your house. Hire a professional to come in and clean every single nook and cranny. You're not tidying up for dinner guests anymore. You're cleaning cabinets, drawers, walls, floorboards, ground, baseboards, trim, and everything in between. You might not think a home that's clean is worth more, but you'd be surprised. If your sparkling clean house is for sale for the same price as another house down the street that's almost identical but isn't spotless and has a lower asking price, people will want your home. Even if it's more money, it's less work for them and it's cleaner.

A house is an investment, and that's why it's imperative you do what you can to increase the value of your home without spending much money. It's not always expensive upgrades and renovations that add a few extra dollars to the overall cost of your home. Sometimes it's small, easily forgettable details that make the biggest difference to a buyer.

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Expectations for Your First Year in a New Home

Jaymi Naciri, of Realty Times, is here to prepare you for the inevitable. Your first year in a home is going to be great, but it's also going to challenge you. Naciri has created a list of some things you might want to keep in mind while getting settled in your new place so, when something comes up, you can handle it with ease.

Moving can be exciting, and it can also be scary. It can be smooth sailing or so wrought with silly (or serious) issues that your cat peeing in the box of towels because you haven't unpacked his cat dish yet sends you into the kind of rolling-on-the-ground, slapping-your-leg, crying-big-fat-tears laughter that makes your family wonder if you need medical intervention. And that's just the beginning of the adventure.

In the first year in a new home, you'll likely experience the full spectrum of human emotions, sometimes in the span of a few minutes. And while you can't know everything that's going to happen, you can prepare yourself for some of the inevitabilities, of both the good and not-so-good variety.

Something's going to break

It could just be a sprinkler head or it could be your air conditioning unit in the heat of summer, but knowing that something will eventually break in the house is the best reason of all to be proactive. Being able to quickly deal with a leaking water heater or a roof that's been damaged in a hail storm is key to minimizing the damage to your finances, and your sanity.

There are four main keys to being prepared:

  • Saving your money -"Owning a house doesn't change the rule of thumb that it's wise to have approximately six months' worth of income in a rainy day fund, and more experts are now recommending that you build up nine months to a year," said Zacks Investment Research. "What changes is the amount of your monthly expenses that will be consumed if you need to tap into the fund. If your mortgage, tax, insurance, utilities and other payments rise with a new mortgage, you could use your savings up more quickly. With this in mind, if you were saving less than the guideline, intending to tighten your belt, the increased bills that come with homeownership makes skimping on your rainy day fund a dangerous business."
  • Knowing where everything is located - You don't want to get caught in an emergency situation and be scrambling around trying to figure out how to shut off your gas.
  • Finding a trustworthy handyman - Unless someone in the house is handy, and actually does the stuff they say they are going to do in a timely manner, you'll want to find a handyman. Having someone you can call in a pinch to repair the doggy door or the garage door opener or add a ceiling fan to a room that stays five degrees warmer than the rest of the house is clutch. Next Door is a great place to find a handyman, as well as a babysitter, dog walker, and lost cat.
  • Getting a warranty - In many cases, you can buy a home warranty after you've purchased your home. If you have an older home, are someone who could be sunk by a broken air conditioning unit that costs several thousands of dollars to repair or replace, or just want to make sure you're covered for all those things that could bust, a warranty might be a good thing to consider. "A home warranty is a contract between a homeowner and a home warranty company that provides for discounted repair and replacement service on a home's major components, such as the furnace, air conditioning, plumbing and electrical system," said Investopedia. "A home warranty may also cover major appliances such as washers and dryers, refrigerators and swimming pools. Most plans have a basic component that provides all homeowners who purchase a policy with certain coverages. Homeowners can also purchase one or more optional components that provide additional coverage at additional cost."

Junk mail city

Expect to see a full mailbox for months after you move. A lot of it will be junk, but there will also be some valuable stuff in there, like coupons from local stores that can save you money on furniture and housewares. Don't forget to also take advantage of the coupons that are part of the U.S. Postal Services change of address package.

You'll probably also get some refinancing offers. If your home happens to gain equity during the first year and rates dip, you might be able to refi and lower your payment.

You're going to make friends

Unless you're a total hermit who never exits the house even to take a walk, get the mail, or water the flowers, you're bound to make some new friends in your new neighborhood. Maybe even lifelong friends. But, if anyone in the household is nervous about this aspect of moving, there are ways to increase the friendship-making quotient for kids, and adults.

The updates you knew you needed when you moved in will become a priority

That ugly floor and those outdated countertops are just staring at you, taunting you, even. When you just can't take it one more minute, consider this: You don't have to shell out a bunch of cash for them. Use interest-free credit at Home Depot or Lowe's and you can break up the spend into manageable monthly payments over a period of time. Just make sure to make your payments by the due date every month. Missing one, being late, or not paying the minimum due for even one month will void your agreement and add a whole bunch of interest to your total.

Need furniture or electronics more than you need floors? Lots of stores like Rooms To Go and Best Buy offer the same type of interest-free deal.

You're going to have big dreams and big reality checks

Unless you've bought a brand-new home, there are a few things you're going to want to change, beyond furniture and furnishings. It may just be carpet in the bedrooms and a splash of new paint, or it might be ripping out your entire kitchen.

Budget concerns will probably keep the renovations in check for many people. But you'll also want to assess the return on investment for the renovations you have in mind. Even if you're not planning to turn around and sell your home in a year or two, knowing that the updates you make are valuable and will be a good investment is always important. Remodeling Magazine's Cost vs. Value Report is a great guide to see which items pay you back.

It's going to cost more than you thought

This ties back to the saving your money thing, because there will always be stuff that needs to be fixed and updated. But there will undoubtedly also be surprising costs. For instance, if you're going up in square footage, you may not have considered the extra heating and cooling costs.

There are tactics you can use to address some of these costs:

  • Do an energy audit -"A home energy audit, also known as a home energy assessment, is the first step to assess how much energy your home consumes and to evaluate what measures you can take to make your home more energy efficient. An assessment will show you problems that may, when corrected, save you significant amounts of money over time," said Energy.gov. "Items shown here include checking for leaks, examining insulation, inspecting the furnace and ductwork, performing a blower door test and using an infrared camera."
  • Research utility options - In many cities, you have options for your energy providers, and some may cost significantly less than the traditional providers you've gone with in the past. Be sure to check out solar options, too, especially if you're interested in green living. The newest advancements in solar energy for residential homes make it possible to use the sun's energy without having to purchase expensive systems and pay thousands of dollars upfront.
  • Check out alternative credit cards - If you're looking for creative ways to save money, check that junk mail again. There may be some valuable credit card offers in there with lower interest rates or an interest-free balance transfer option.

You might have to do some things you never thought of

You probably weren't thinking about cleaning out your ducts when you were envisioning your new life in your new home. But you probably won't know how long it's been since the last cleaning, and dirty ducks can cost you money if you're HVAC system isn't running efficiently. Thet can also be dangerous because of the accumulation of dust and dirt inside. Poor indoor air quality can worsen allergies and asthma.

A clogged dryer vent can also cost you money because it makes your dryer work harder. But, more importantly, it can be dangerous and even deadly. "Lint is highly flammable and can pose a severe fire hazard when dryer vents are not cleaned regularly and properly," said Barineau Heating and Air Conditioning. "According to the U.S. Fire Administration's National Fire Data Center, clothes dryers are responsible for more than 15,000 structure fires around the country each year, and 80 percent of those fires start with clogged dryer vents."

You'll get woken up in the middle of the night by a fire alarm

Because batteries only die at 3am. Every. Single. Time. You can avoid this nuisance and keep your family safe by changing your batteries when you first move in. While you're at it, change your filters, which will help your HVAC to work more efficiently.

To read the original article click here.

Ideas to Improve your Small Front Yard

We realize it's still snowing, but before long we're going to have spring flowers popping out of the ground. If you live in a more rural area of Vermont chances are you've got a lot of yard to work with, but that's not everyone. If you've got a home in town or live on a bustling street, it can be hard to make your small front yard seem comfortable and appealing. Whether you're looking to sell or simply upgrade your own digs these tips, from Andrea Davis at Realty Times, could give you some ideas to work with. 

There are many ways to improve your small front yard without uprooting your driveway or dialing back your front porch. In fact, with the right touches, small front yards can be just as appealing as large ones. Here are some ideas to make your small yard more appealing year round:

#1 Take a symmetrical approach.

One way to make your small front yard more appealing is to use symmetry. Balancing the elements of your yard on either side of your sidewalk -- grass, fencing, flowers, shrubs -- will make it look grand and inviting; it will also cost less than it would in a larger yard because you have less acreage to cover. You can also find a local landscaper to map out and implement a symmetrical yard plan for you.

#2 Make a seamless transition from yard to house.

Use materials like box planters, stone steps or retaining walls to blend your home and yard together. Potted plants on your front porch or patio will also extend the yard without cluttering it. Make sure you choose plants that complement one another, so you don't have a lot of overgrowth.

#3 Use a hint of color.

If you want to wow people in your small front yard, pick a brightly colored flower, shrub or tree that stands out either on the porch or in the yard itself. Then use neutral colors around to make it stand out. This will be the eye-catching piece in your small yard that people will never miss.

 

#4 Hang basket flowers.

Hang flower baskets around your front porch or patio. They add fresh color and a natural element to your home without cluttering the porch area itself. You can change them every season or every year, depending on the flowers or shrubs you choose.

#5 Light it up.

Your front yard might be less appealing if people see it at night. That's why you should add plenty of lighting. One option is to install standing, solar-powered lamps along the walkway; another is to hang lamps on your front porch to illuminate the plants there. It just depends on how much money and time you want to invest.

#6 Refresh your front door.

While not a traditional part of the "yard", your front porch is still important to the beauty of the area as a whole. This means your front door needs to be appealing as well. Fix any cracks, scratches or other damage to the door. Also, think about revitalizing it with a new coat of paint. Choose a color that complements the exterior landscape.

Conclusion

These are only a few tips to help you improve your small front yard. You want to make it seem bigger, if not at least more comfortable. Adding a fence might be another option to consider, though you'll want to lean towards an open design pattern like picket or chain link. Just keep your budget in mind and try not to clutter your yard while trying to redesign it. 

To read the original article click here.

Home Renovations on a Budget

It seems like every time you look around your house there's something else that could be improved. The windows might be drafty in the winter, your bathroom hasn't been remodeled since the 70's, and the rug in your living room is not the same color it used to be. These can seem like huge problems if taken on all at once but just making a few adjustments around the house can wildly improve its atmosphere. The staff at Realty Times points out some important places, in your house, you might want to consider looking at and how to fix them without draining your bank account.

If you’re looking to get the best return on your investment or just improve your property to attract high-quality tenants, a kitchen remodel is one of the highest value projects. The most recent cost vs. value report, released in January 2014, shows that property owners will recoup 82.7 percent of the cost on a minor kitchen remodel, an increase of more than five percent over 2013.

The good news is that high-value renovations like these don’t have to break the bank. There are a number of options for making improvements to your property that can significantly better its appearance without spending an arm and a leg.

Kitchen

The first thing people look at when buying a house is the kitchen and bathrooms, according to the director of the remodeling futures program at the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University. It’s no different for potential renters, and Rental.Us.com reports these two rooms are considered the best investments for property owners.

Minor improvements such as replacing the kitchen faucet and adding new cabinet door handles can make a big difference in the look of your kitchen. Consider switching out old fluorescent lights for new track lighting or adding a new countertop; laminate isn’t too expensive and can really help update the room. If the appliances don’t match and you can’t afford to replace them with new ones, a less pricey option is to replace their doors or face panels with matching colors which can generally be ordered direct from the manufacturer.

Bathrooms

As bathrooms are also a high priority for home buyers and renters, don’t leave them out when sprucing up your property. Consider changing out old towel bars, toilet seats and sink faucets. If your tiling is old and outdated, it should also be replaced. Re-grouting the tile around the shower and bath is also an easy and inexpensive update.

Flooring

Floors are another important factor that can make or break a home’s appearance. If you can afford it, consider replacing wall-to-wall carpeting with wood laminate flooring. It is cheaper than other hardwoods but can potentially save you thousands of dollars over the years in maintenance costs. For landlords, this makes a lot of sense as it’s much easier to clean between tenants. At a minimum, you should have the carpets professionally cleaned.

The Front Door

Entry door replacement was on the top of the list when it comes to high-value renovations, according to the 2014 cost vs. value report. This is one of the first things potential renters and buyers will notice. If replacing the door is not in your budget, consider repainting it to add curb appeal and changing out the handle-and-lock to help suggest that it’s a solid, sturdy home.

The Exterior

Of course, an attractive home exterior is a must, enticing prospective buyers or renters to want to take a closer look. If the outside looks shabby there is a good chance that it will be passed by.

General cleaning and maintenance of the exterior can greatly improve curb appeal. Remove any items that are left sitting unused, including old, rusty patio furniture or broken garden tools and equipment. These things generally can’t be picked up by your local garbage company and you may need to find a rental dumpster service so that you can tidy up your yard and easily dispose of those unwanted items. Additionally, make sure that walkways are swept and the lawn is well-manicured.

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Six Mistakes to Avoid When Decluttering Your Home

HomeAdvisor editor Andrea Davis wrote this wonderful article on some ways to make decluttering your home effective. Even if you don't plan on buying or selling a place anytime soon, these tips will make for a better living space overall.

If you're getting ready to move or sell your home, clutter is your worst enemy. It makes packing a nightmare, and finding the one item you need could take an extra 15 minutes to more than an hour. Decluttering is a great way to get rid of the things you don't need before moving or preparing your house for a walkthrough. But you need to avoid some of the common mistakes that come with this seemingly daunting job. Here are some of the roadblocks you could run into and how to handle them:

#1 Laziness or procrastination.

If you don't feel like decluttering your house will achieve significant results or make your house feel cleaner, then you're not going to do it effectively. At the same time, if you drag your feet, it may take weeks to get the job done. Have a set goal in mind and stick to it when starting this project, especially if you plan to do the entire house. If you need someone to help or keep you on track, you can hire a home organizer to set a schedule and make the process more manageable.

#2 Tackling too much at once.

You can't organize the entire house in a day. It's simply not doable. And it will sound far too overwhelming from the start, deterring you from ever finishing. Spend just a few hours each day decluttering, tackling one room at a time. If that's too much to do, start with one closet or a few drawers and work your way up. Remember, you will always have a bigger mess before you have something more manageable. If you make a mess of your entire house, you may never regain the energy or desire to go back to the project. For more tips on how to organize your home quickly and easily, check out this post from HuffPost Homes.

#3 Not having an organization plan.

Once you start pulling items from your closets, drawers and other parts of your room, you need to have an organization plan in place. You don't want to throw everything into one big pile -- that creates another mess to sort through later. Instead, tackle it strategically by putting each item into a dedicated pile: donate, sell or throw away. That way, you'll know where it goes and how to handle it once the room is completely decluttered.

#4 Letting emotions do the talking.

You may be tempted to keep certain items because of their sentimental worth -- they were a present, belonged to a family member, have old memories attached, etc. -- but oftentimes the pieces we hold onto are of no use. You shouldn't keep pointless items just for emotions' sake, unless the emotions are so overwhelming that you simply can't help yourself. Old toys, pieces of clothing, shoes -- these are better off at secondhand stores or in the trash. Yes, there will be pieces of jewelry or photos to keep, but be choosy.

#5 Getting rid of things.

Once everything is organized and out of the room, take the next step. Don't let the garbage, donation items or garage sale pieces just sit around. You need to drive them down to the secondhand store or landfill. If you need to sell stuff, arrange a garage sale for the following weekend. Waiting until the opportune moment to finalize your decluttering could lead to more piles, which means more hassle for you.

#6 Waiting too long to declutter again.

Once you've decluttered every room -- whether in preparation to move or sell your home -- don't get too relaxed. There will be another time, perhaps in the near future, where you will need to declutter again. It's a natural part of life - getting rid of old items and making room for new ones. People accumulate things throughout their lives, and it's imperative to keep cleaning out the house. Otherwise, you'll be back at square one in a few years.

To read the original article click here.

9 Tips for Selling Your House in Winter

Laura Gaskill wrote this excellent article for Realty Times on how to make winter work for you when you're selling your house. Winters, especially in Vermont, can be harsh and make the showing of your home's assets a little tricky. Here are some tips and tricks to stand out this winter:

With people away on trips and cold weather making house hunting less appealing, winter can be a challenging time to sell your home. On the other hand, fewer homes on the market means yours will get more attention from buyers. By upping the cozy factor, making the most of winter assets and paying attention to details, you can make your house really stand out.

Here are nine ways to prepare and stage your home for success, and create a warm and welcoming vision for buyers, even when the weather outside is frightful.

1. Have a cozy, crackling fire (or not).

If you have a gas fireplace or new clean-burning woodstove, go ahead and light a fire to welcome visitors. But if your home's wood-burning fireplace is older and leaves a smoky smell in the room, hold off. Those with allergies or smoke sensitivities can be turned off — or literally turned away when they have to go outside. No fire? Consider offering warm apple cider instead.

2. Keep entryways scrupulously clean.

As with any time of year, a clean and clutter-free house will sell more easily (and maybe at a higher price) than one with more visible clutter. During winter it is especially important to remove mucky boots outside and keep family gear hidden in a closet or trunk, where potential buyers won't trip over them. A Swiffer-style mop kept in the coat closet can be used to quickly freshen entry floors before each showing.

3. Give each room a warm touch.

A folded throw draped over the back of an armchair, a plump quilt at the foot of the bed or an area rug in warm hues are a few small additions that will make a big difference in the way a room feels to prospective buyers. Also, be sure that every light is on — even for daytime showings. Winter days can be quite dim, and your house will look its best when it's as warmly lit as possible.

4. Show how outdoor rooms can be used even in the coldest months.

If you have a covered porch or outdoor fireplace, be sure to keep the area fully furnished. Turn on outdoor lights, build a fire in the fireplace and drape a few thick throws over your outdoor furniture.

5. Emphasize spaces that will appeal in winter.

Basement playrooms, indoor exercise areas, heated toolsheds and the like will be especially welcome in a place with a cold winter. Remove all unrelated stuff to make the purpose of the room clear, and be sure to have your Realtor bring it up when showing the house to potential buyers.

6. Showcase the entertaining possibilities of your home.

Winter is prime time for festive parties and holiday open houses, so whet prospective buyers' appetites with an enticing display. Set out stacks of plates and fresh flowers on a dining room buffet or display holiday cookies on cake stands in the kitchen.

7. Use structural elements in the garden for winter interest.

In the middle of winter, it can be hard to visualize a blooming garden. Large urns and planters, benches, rock walls and other garden structures will help buyers see the potential even in the snow.

8. Clear all exterior pathways of snow and ice.

Nothing will turn away potential buyers faster than a treacherously icy path. Open-house guests should be able to easily walk all the way around the house and access outbuildings. Provide as much off-street (snow-cleared) parking as you can to make things easy for visitors.

9. Do decorate for the holidays.

Buyers want to be able to envision living in your home, so it pays to make that vision as inviting as possible. Festive twinkling lights, green wreaths or topiary, and a decorated tree near Christmas will strike the right note. That doesn't mean you have to go overboard — in fact, a house overly cluttered with holiday decor can be a real turnoff.

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Super Easy DIY Tips for Saving on Winter Heating

Vermont winters are a force to be reckoned with. With mornings in the negative double digits, your home heating bill can shoot through the roof. This article, by Jaymi Naciri, points out some steps you can take to combat raising your heating costs. 

Have you taken steps to winterize your home this year? It's not too late to take a look at all the nooks and crannies (Seriously, you should start with the nooks and crannies since they're probably letting all that cold air in and the hot air out!) and make some easy, DIY changes.

Time Money reports that 45% of the average household's energy bill goes to heating. "According to the Department of Energy, heating is the largest expense in the average American home," they said. Have natural gas heating? The average cost of heating your home from October through March is $649. That number goes to $938 for those with electric heating, they said. A little time and effort can make a big difference in how efficiently your home runs - and how high (or not) your winter bills soar.

Change out your filters

You should be doing this on a regular basis, anyway, but, if it's been awhile, it's time to hit Home Depot. New filters help your HVAC system to run more efficiently, which can mean lower heating bills and a heater that lasts longer.

Close up leaks around doors and windows

"A one-eighth-inch" gap under a 36-inch-wide door... will let in as much cold air as a 2.4-inch-diameter hole punched in the wall," said Time: Money. That's a lot of air coming in and a lot of money going out.

Draft guards under doors can plug those holes for a minimal cost ($10–15). For doors and windows, weather stripping tape is cheap, easy, and effective at sealing holes. Still drafty? "Any remaining gaps in siding, windows, or doors can be filled with caulk," said Bob Vila. "For extra drafty windows and doors, caulk the inside too, pulling off moldings to fill all gaps in the insulation. Cost: $20 for a basic caulk gun and $5 to $10 for a tube of caulk."

Cover your windows

Taking care of the leaks around the windows is only half the battle. Heat loss through the windows themselves can also be costly. Insulated drapes can help, and so can insulation film applied directly to the windows. "It may not be the most fashionable tip, but window insulation film can keep up to 70% of your heat from leaking out of windows," said Bob Vila. "Cost: $20 to $35 per kit."

Switch your fans

Most fans come with a reverse switch, but many people don't know what it's for. Turns out, your fan can actually help you feel cozy in the winter and give your heater a bit of a break. "Most people think of fans only when they want to be cool, but many ceiling units come with a handy switch that reverses the direction of the blades," said Popular Mechanics. "Counterclockwise rotation produces cooling breezes, while switching to clockwise makes it warmer. Air pooled near the ceiling is circulated back into the living space—cutting your heating costs as much as 10 percent!"

Banish the exhaust fans

Do you usually flip on the exhaust when you're cooking dinner, taking a shower, or running your laundry? Eliminating this one action could save you money.

"An exhaust fan blows the warm air in your house outside, dropping the temperature of your home as that air is replaced with cooler air," said The Simple Dollar. "Even worse, exhaust fans are usually blowing out moist air, which does a better job of holding the temperature. Instead of flipping on the exhaust fan when you take a shower, just leave the bathroom door open. This allows the warm air to naturally flow into the rest of the house, bringing the warmth of your shower along with it."

Lower the temps

It's no secret that the higher your thermostat is in the winter, the higher your heating costs. But did you know just how much you can save by going lower? "Turn down your thermostat to 68 degrees," said the Consumer Energy Center. "For every degree you lower your heat in the 60-degree to 70-degree range, you'll save up to 5 percent on heating costs. Set the thermostat back to 55 degrees or off at night or when leaving home for an extended time, saving 5-20 percent of your heating costs."

That goes for hot water heaters, too. "Set your water heater to the "normal" setting or 120-degrees Fahrenheit, unless the owner's manual for your dishwasher requires a higher setting," they said. "Savings are 7-11 percent of water heating costs."

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Weighing the Pros & Cons of a Home Addition

Andrea Davis, the editor for HomeAdvisor, brings up some important things to think about when a home addition might be in the cards. The cost of living in Vermont is pretty high, so you want to make sure you're getting the most out of your living space, even if that means doing a little construction.

Adding a new addition to your home is a great idea for various reasons. But interest rates and property values can change the effectiveness of your investment. If you are considering building a home addition, you'll want to consider the following information as you make your decision.

Cost

Possibly the greatest consideration regarding home additions is cost. Generally, many homeowners opt to build or renovate when interest rates are low and they can take advantage of home equity loans. When budgeting for your addition, it's important to plan for the costs that are often associated with major home improvement projects. The hefty cost of a new home addition is something that homeowners need to consider closely before embarking on this type of construction. It's also important to consider the additional costs of utilities and taxes that will affect your annual budget.

Investment Value

Experts suggest that you can recover the cost of a mid-range home addition at the point of sale. This is the main inspiration for many homeowners investing in extra square footage. Even though extra square footage should drive up the value of your home, sellers don't necessarily recoup their entire investment due to other variables associated with property values.

 

Enjoyment Factor

Cost and investment aren't always the main considerations for homeowners who opt for new additions. Many people simply want to enjoy the added space or have a significant need for expanding their home. Whether you're considering extra bedrooms or an expanded kitchen, an addition will improve the functionality of your home and increase your overall enjoyment.

Stress

From conflicts with contractors to the inconvenience of living in a construction zone, home renovations and new additions can be fraught with stress. While stress is a con, it's also likely to be a temporary problem. Moreover, selling your home and buying a new one may prove no less stressful. By working with skilled reputable contractors and planning carefully, you can avoid many of the headaches associated with residential building projects.

Design Aesthetic

A poorly designed addition can detract from the appearance of your home. It's important for homeowners to work with an architect who has the experience and knowledge to create an addition in keeping with the aesthetics of your home. An addition that's mismatched with the main structure can detract from the visual appeal of the house and ultimately turn off buyers.

Other Pros and Cons of a Home Addition

Unless your new addition is a second-story addition, a home expansion is going to swallow up some of your property. Less yard space could prove to be a turnoff to some home buyers. On the other hand, staying in your home allows you to keep your great neighbors and reside in the community you love. Adding on to your home also allows you to customize the entire project to suit your household's needs.

Conclusion

Consider all of the pros and cons when it comes to making a decision about a new home addition. Talking to other homeowners can also help you gather advice and enhance your decision-making process.

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9 Tips for Creating a Family Friendly Home

Vermont is a great place to raise a family with most towns having tight-knit, supportive communities. Most areas offer lots of activities for creative fun for all ages. Check out the local schools and businesses in your area to see what they offer. The rural lifestyle of Vermont is great for instilling an appreciation for nature and a lifelong love of the outdoors. A lot of new homeowners are, or were, in the market because they want to start a family. Having a safe but stylish home doesn't have to be such a crazy transition. This is an article by Jaymi Naciri from Realty Times, entitled "9 Tips for Creating a Family Friendly Home that Marry Form and Function." Here are some ideas to get you started down this new path and ease some worries you may have. 

Having a kid and trying to make sure you don't lose your sense of style as the home gets overrun by bouncy chairs and toys? Maybe you've been in kidland for several years and are looking to reclaim some of your style. It can be challenging.

"As tricky as it may be to live comfortably in a small one-bedroom or studio, decorating a big family home has its hurdles, too," said MY DOMAINE. "There are so many questions to ask: What fabrics are kid- and pet-friendly? Which coffee tables won't take my toddler's eye out? How can I give myself a little privacy? Once you figure out what works best for your brood, the next big thing to consider is how to do it all in style."

Here are some tips to help you navigate the space between form and function.

Fight against dirty walls

"There's no getting around it: Walls take a beating with young ones around," said HGTV. "Cleats are casually tossed against white baseboards. Bedroom doors become backboards for basketball practice. A fresh expanse of drywall morphs into a blank canvas for that new set of crayons. Sticky fingers trail along hallway walls."

But that doesn't mean you can't have beautiful color. Just make sure you choose paint that is washable and wipeable. Some family-friendly favorites can be found here.

Watch those corners

Sharp corners are the bane of a new parent's existence. You can mitigate them by using pool noodles or edge guards, but they're not so stylish. A round coffee table instead of one that's squared off can be a great addition to your living room, both from a functional and style perspective.

Bring in a little fun

Adding in fun touches keeps your home lively. This chalkboard barn door does the trick, and it comes in a variety of different finishes and textures to match your unique style.

You can have the white couch

We always chuckle when we see home design shows that give a growing family a big white couch. That's not happening in our house, where materials are chosen expressly for their ability to resist spills and dog hair, and colors chosen to best disguise dirty fingers and puppy stains. But, white can be done. You just need some washable slipcovers, a little diligence, and a good washing machine.

You don't need a glider chair

It's one of the first things new parents-to-be think about when preparing for their first child. And a glider chair is a great place to hold, rock, and nurse a baby. But, unless you're planning on having several children in a row or see the chair melding into your décor beyond the baby stage (especially if you're intending to put it in the middle of your living room), you might be able to do without - especially if you're on a budget.

There's a lot of back and forth about how much of a necessity (or not) a glider is, but if you're on the fence, don't want to spend the money, or would rather focus on something that better matches your style and long-term décor needs, you're justified.

You don't need duckies and bunnies or baseballs and mitts in the baby's room

Nor do you need a gender-specific color. Check out the chic HGTV star Jillian Harris created for new baby, Leo.

Don't go with a cheap rug

You might be worried about wear and tear and stains with kids, but a quality rug may be a better option than something cheap. "Invest in a wool rug," said The Chriselle Factor. "Wool rugs generally come at a higher price point, but for the family-friendly home, they're worth every penny. They're soft underfoot, help break the tumbles and falls of the newly-walking, and they're much more durable against foot traffic - so more often than not, you'll be saving in the long run."

Get creative with storage

Whether your kids are brand-new or heading into their teens, you always need more places to put stuff, and you want them to be as nice to look at as they are useful. If you're in the market for a new kitchen table, consider a banquet with a lift-top bench or slide-out drawers. They make great places to store kitchen or dining items, bibs and towels, and kids' art supplies.

Coffee tables with drawers or ottomans you can slide under desks or taller tables are key for families and also make great options for extra seating in a pinch. But when it comes to toy storage, they can start to overrun your house.

One of the keys to a good design scheme is mixing it up with interesting shapes, colors, and textures, so consider this tip from Huffington Post: "Think outside of the box with your storage! Who says toys need to be stored in ugly plastic bins? There are so many gorgeous baskets (or even an unexpected roomy tote) at a range of price points. Storage that doubles as décor also makes cleanup a cinch."

Keep the big picture in mind

There are several great tips in this chic living room: Ottomans keep it cushy and can be moved out of the way for floor play. Bookcases stuffed with games and toys put everything your little one wats at arm's reach and are easy to put back for a tidy space. The concrete table is "perfect for kids' crafts," said MY DOMAINE. And bright pops of color and a ship chandelier keep it all interesting.

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