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Buying a House on Disability Benefits or SSI 19 Jan 2018, 1:30 pm

The complexities of Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits leave many people wondering not only if they can buy a home, but if buying a home will, in turn, affect their benefits in the future. The short answer is many people who receive SSDI and SSI benefits can and do qualify to buy a home, but will also likely face some additional hurdles unique to receiving these benefits.

How does SSI work?

SSI serves as a stipend resource for people with limited income who have a physical disability, and are 65 or older. These benefits are paid out monthly at the current rate of $735 for an individual and $1,103 for a couple, as of January 2017.

With a limited monthly income, it can seem incredibly difficult to save for a home while also covering ongoing household needs. According to 2017 Zillow data, 68 percent of renters cited saving for a down payment as the biggest hurdle to buying a home.

How does SSDI work?

SSDI is a resource available to those younger than 65, but it also requires work credits, meaning you must have worked enough during the years prior to applying for SSDI. While people receiving SSDI can face additional hurdles when trying to buy a home, they aren't bound by the same income restrictions as people receiving SSI.

The problem, however, is that neither lenders nor recipients of SSDI benefits know how long the benefit income will last. In turn, it's difficult to assess whether recipients have stable income - the Social Security Administration (SSA) only provides proof that people are actively receiving benefits instead of guarantees for the future. The SSA performs regular reviews of SSDI cases for continuance.

Buying a house on SSI

Buying a home while on SSI comes with its own set of unique challenges. Most notably, SSI rules limit the amount of income or assets you can have while remaining eligible for benefits. As a result, having enough money to buy a home - but not too much that you lose benefits - can be a fine line.

Because people on SSI can't have assets valued at more than $2,000 as an individual or $3,000 as a couple, saving up enough cash for a down payment to even consider buying a home is difficult. On the bright side, not all assets count toward those limits. Case in point: The home you live in is considered your primary residence and is not considered an asset.

Although you might face additional challenges, buying a home on SSI is still possible.  Lenders look at your income and credit score, just like they would with any other loan applicant. But even if your credit score and income aren't up to par, there are programs in place to help you get into a home. Need to find a lender? You can use Zillow to quickly find a lender who's licensed to work in your area.

If you do acquire a home loan, it doesn't count as income and doesn't reduce your SSI benefits.

Find help

You can find many SSI housing resources when you're thinking about buying a home. For instance, Fannie Mae offers loans for people with disabilities and loans to make necessary home improvements for your disability. Here are some examples:

  • Fannie Mae loans for disabled individuals
  • Individual Development Account (IDA)
  • Habitat for Humanity
  • Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Homeownership Voucher Program

While many paths to homeownership exist for people with disabilities, see if any local nonprofits in your area offer additional support. Make sure to consult with a lender who has experience with SSI or disability benefits.

Photos courtesy of Shutterstock.

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8 Minimalist Homes That Are Big on Style (Not on Stuff) 19 Jan 2018, 11:01 am

Stunning. Sleek. Neat. If these homes are any sign, 2018 is shaping up to be the year of keeping things simple, yet sophisticated.

From Philly to Phoenix, feast your eyes on eight minimalist homes so serene, they might just have you decluttering in no time.

Philadelphia, PA

1310 S 20th St
New construction: $635,000

Photo by PLUSH Image Corporation.

High ceilings and a palette of neutral colors make this Philadelphia living room feel open and luminous. From the Mid-Century Modern couch to the simple side tables, furniture with exposed legs adds to the appearance of ample space. Large windows allow abundant natural light to fill the room, giving it an airy feel.

Check out more homes in Philadelphia.

Austin, TX

4606 Avenue D
For sale: $1.35 million

Photo by Colt Verret.

Three Edison bulbs hang above the island of this Austin kitchen, giving it a radiant, yet clean look. A slate of uniform white cabinets makes the space feel open and spotless, while a stainless-steel farmhouse sink completes the look. From the bar stools to the sliding barn door, natural wood accents complement the kitchen - without the clutter.

See more homes for sale in Austin.

Newport Beach, CA

37 Rue Fontainbleau
For sale: $2.45 million

Photo from Zillow listing.

Set against walls of white, this minimalist chic bathroom is the perfect spot to cleanse the body and the mind. This Newport Beach space has flowing, zen-like design elements. The shower walls and double slipper tub have a sinuous look, reminiscent of the nearby Pacific Ocean.

View more homes in Newport Beach.

Dallas, TX

10506 Westlawn Dr
For sale: $1.3 million

Photo from Zillow listing.

Clean and chic, this Dallas dining room is a dream in simplicity. A modern, silver-colored chandelier provides a pop of inspiration, set against a classic backdrop of black and white. Hardwood floors and a natural wood dining table add warmth without the clutter.  

Find more homes in Dallas.

Chicago, IL

2429 N Artesian Ave
New construction: $999,000

Photo by Angelika Piatek Photography.

Crisp white walls and a bold, gray-paneled fireplace anchor this bright Chicago living room. Touches of light blush tones complement the simple aesthetic, while metallic-leg, Mid-Century Modern furniture adds to the minimalist chic. Clean, geometric lines - from the crisscross rug to the modern side table - complete the look.

(Listing photos are of a similar property built by the same developer.)

See more homes in Chicago.

Phoenix, AZ

3434 E Pasadena Ave
For sale: $1.5 million

Photo by Roehner+Ryan. Home staging by Local Trade.

Ample light and simple lines provide the soothing setting for this Phoenix home. Gold- and silver-colored light fixtures add to the glow, while a bar cart doubles as a storage space. It’s also a sneaky way to stash clutter in a pinch, keeping things neat and tidy.

Take a look at more homes in Phoenix.

Austin, TX

1309 Meriden Ln
For sale: $4.9 million

Photo from Zillow listing.

Sleep comes easy when a bedroom is this free of distractions. To the Lone Star State we go for a glimpse at this minimalist bedroom in Austin. Classic white walls provide a soothing visual backdrop, while the patterned rug integrates a simple, chic design. Floor-to-ceiling windows elongate the space, inviting in generous amounts of light.

Check out more homes in Austin.

Portland, OR

5291 SE 50th Ave
New construction: $524,900

Photo from Zillow listing.

The City of Roses blooms with minimalist ideas, including this living room. Long vertical lines - from the tripod lamp to the decorative wooden ladder - draw the eye upward, making the space seem larger. Touches of gray and blue add cool, soothing tones to an otherwise neutral space.

Find more homes in Portland.

Top image by Angelika Piatek Photography

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These 4 Clever Hacks Give New Life to Household Junk 19 Jan 2018, 7:00 am

We all have a junk drawer bursting with items we can't bear to throw away. But with these simple hacks, you can turn household junk into fun and functional items for your home.

Low-key wall hooks

We gotta admit: There's something charming about turning old keys into hooks for your current keys. But the real appeal? Never losing your keys again. (You're welcome.)

"Put a cork in it" mini planters

Succulents can thrive almost anywhere, including on your fridge. Our recommendation: Make several for maximum visual impact.

Mint-condition earbud case

Some packaging is just too pretty to get rid of. Not only does this earbud case fit almost anywhere - including your purse, gym bag or nightstand drawer - it's also super easy to make.

Game, set, match jar

Keep this match jar close to your favorite candle for some instant relaxation. Now that's a perfect match.

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Fill Up on Oceanfront Eye-Candy With This Malibu Castle 18 Jan 2018, 7:02 am

There are open floor plans, and then there's 23800 Malibu Crest Drive - a sprawling mansion built on the former site of Castle Kashan, a faux-Scottish castle destroyed by a fire in 2007.

The new 5-bedroom home - measuring 10,331 square feet and listed for $85 million - lives up to the grandeur of the previous structure with panoramic ocean views, wide-open spaces and upscale amenities like an infinity pool, wine room and spa. (Its guest house is 4,407 square feet and has 2 bedrooms.)

While buyers will surely covet the home’s oceanfront perch, architect Scott Gillen insists it's the views from the main house that steal the show. "I pretty much envisioned the biggest, widest, most open space I could achieve," Gillen says of the great room that captures the view.

To avoid building walls on the first floor, he used 187 gluelam beams between the first and second floors - no load-bearing walls exist on the first floor whatsoever. "It's one massive great room, and within that, I contained a living room, kitchen, dining room, library, and wine and cigar room."

The great room appears to go on forever, unfolding itself as you enter - just like a movie, says Gillen, who is also a film director. "You're kind of directed to function the way that the layout's been designed," he says.  

One example of the "invisible ergonomics," or flow, as Gillen calls it, is the home's lighting. "When I do a lighting plan, I usually walk through a space and place the switches in areas where you'd naturally reach for a light switch," he says.

The steps of the staircase, too, rise at a particular height to fit his notion of how a person should move through the home.

Toward the right of the great room, the kitchen announces itself with a "striking" graphite center island, says Gillen. The background cabinets, which are taller, were done simply in white and accented with small pieces of stainless steel. Things that stand out are within easy reach, he adds, while "things you don't need to see fall back in the background and somewhat blend in."

The color scheme was chosen for its ability to not distract from the oceanfront view. "It's a very, very large kitchen, and if you made it in color, it may feel oversized and overbearing," says Gillen. "You can miss it, and you could have too much of it - that's one of the two options with open spaces."

Another example of this attention to detail are the speakers, which were installed directly into the walls and drywalled over. "They have no visual appearance, but you get great sound," Gillen says. "It allows the wall to be a blank canvas."

In the master bathroom, an 8-by-8-foot shower and tub made of solid black walnut lend warmth to the space. "When you open the doors, which are facing a creek, you get the sense of being in the open air," says Gillen. "It's inviting the outside into the house - it's the epitome of indoor-outdoor living."

The floating vanity, he notes, gives the room a sense of height and brings the eye up. "I don't want you to look down, I want you to look level. It's just fresher - not contemporary, but fresh. It's what people are asking for."

Get the look at home

  • Let natural materials shine. Gillen chose a "very specific aged oak" for the floors, along with plenty of teak and solid black walnut. By keeping the furnishings subtle, he allowed these materials to speak for themselves.
  • Customize where you can. "Most of the furniture is either handmade or custom to fit this specific house," says Gillen, who spent months hand-sanding the exposed beams. By sourcing 60 percent of the furniture from local outlets, he helped give the home its unique sense of place.
  • Set the flow. By grouping the furniture, Gillen was able to mastermind how guests move through the house.
Photos courtesy of UNVARNISHED.

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How to Choose the Right School: 6 Tips for Parents 17 Jan 2018, 10:22 am

If you're a parent, buying or renting a new home isn't just about where you'll tuck the kids into bed at night - it's also about where you'll send them off to school in the morning.

So, how can you be sure your dream house feeds into your child's dream school? You're going to have to do some homework.

1. Go beyond the numbers

Every state's education department publishes an online "report card" for each district and school. But just as you wouldn't buy a house based solely on square footage or listing photos, you shouldn't select a school just for its test scores and teacher-to-student ratios.

Dr. Steve McCammon, chief operating officer at Schlechty Center, a nonprofit that helps school districts improve student engagement and learning, cautions that most reported test scores are for English and math. They don't provide insight into arts or music programs or how well a school teaches critical thinking skills.

The right school isn't something you can determine based on any statistics, numbers or even reputation, says Andrew Rotherham, co-founder of Bellwether Education Partners and writer for the Eduwonk blog.

"Don't go where the highest test scores are or where everybody else says you should go," he says. "Different kids want different things. Go to the school that fits your kid."

Adds Rotherham: "The most important things are what does your kid need and what does the school do to meet those needs. Whether you're talking public, private or charter, you can find excellence and mediocrity in all of those sectors."

2. Take a school tour

Just as you'd look around potential homes before signing a contract, you'll want to do the same with potential schools. Call and arrange to tour the school and observe.

"Be suspicious of any school that isn't into letting you visit," says Rotherham. Some schools may say visitors are too disruptive, but he calls that a cop-out. "With some fairly basic norms, you can have parents and other visitors around without disrupting learning."

Sit in on a class or two and take notes. You want to see students who are genuinely engaged, not wasting time or bored. It's OK for a classroom to have lots of talk and movement if it's all directed toward a learning goal.

Schools should be relatively noisy places. McCammon says, "If you go into a middle school, and you hear no noises, I would be concerned that the principal is more interested in keeping order than in making sure kids are learning."

Observe how teachers and administrators interact with the students and vice versa. Do they display mutual respect? "You don't need to be an education expert," says Rotherham.

See if student work is on display. "A good school is a school where, regardless of grade level, student work is everywhere," McCammon says. "It means that place is about kids and their work."

Talk to kids, too - they're the subject matter experts on their school. And if you have friends with kids in schools you're considering, ask them what they like and don't like about their schools. Kids won't try to feed you a line. "They're pretty unfiltered," Rotherham says.

Check out the physical space, suggests National PTA President Jim Accomando. However, don't get caught up on the building's age and overlook the quality of the programs going on inside.

Look for signs that the school community takes pride in the facility. It might not be pristine, but trash on the floors or signs of rampant vandalism are red flags. If you see something that seems off or odd, ask if there's a plan to address it.

3. Check out the community

Go to a school board meeting for clues about the district. Are parents there because their children are being honored or their work is being showcased? Or are they there because of a problem? Likewise, attend a PTA or PTO meeting, and chat with the parents there. They are likely the most involved "outsiders" and can share school challenges and successes.

Another consideration: the makeup of the students. Chances are, if you opt for a neighborhood school, you'll find a certain similarity between your kids and their classmates, because there are probably a lot of similarities between you and your neighbors. But a school that has a diverse student body offers a big benefit.

"We live in a diverse society," Rotherham says. "If you want to prepare your kids for what their lives are going to be like in this country going forward, it's important for them to have experience with diverse groups."

Even if your child's school isn't particularly diverse, avenues like sports and music give them a chance to interact with students from different backgrounds.

4. Think long term

Today's first-grader will be heading to middle school before you know it. Unless you plan on moving relatively soon, be aware of the middle and high schools in your district.

"If you pick a house because you love the elementary school, you'd better be psyched by the middle school and high school," Rotherham says. "Or have some kind of a plan" for post-elementary years.

Of course, there is such a thing as planning too far ahead. The music prodigy wowing your friends at her third-grade recorder performance may decide she hates band and wants to focus on soccer by the time she hits middle school. Rest assured: If upper-level schools in your prospective district are about kids doing great work, they'll likely be a good fit.

5. Watch for boundary issues

Pay attention to the boundaries of prospective school districts. The houses across the cul-de-sac could be in a different school service area or even a different school district. And boundaries often change. To be sure, call the school district and give them the specific address you're interested in.

Don't assume you can fudge an address or get a waiver to enroll your children in a school or a district that doesn't match your address. Things that were allowed last year may not be this year. If an individual school or district is at capacity, they will get very picky about enrollment outside of the school assigned to your home, which can lead to heartbreak if you find yourself on the wrong side of that boundary line.

6. Look for a place where you feel welcome

Whatever involvement you put into your child's school will pay off, says Accomando. "If you can be engaged at school, you will understand the pulse of what's happening there."

He also says that doesn't mean getting sucked into a huge commitment. "You can read in your child's first-grade class. You can hand out water at a fun run or contribute something for a teacher appreciation party at the high school. And when you do, walk the halls and see what's happening."

McCammon says good schools should welcome parents as volunteers and visitors. "Look for evidence of parents feeling comfortable and engaging with the school," he says. The principal should be someone you feel comfortable talking with if there's a problem.

No matter how welcoming the school, it's natural to have some butterflies on the first day in a new school. Just as it takes time for a new house to feel like home, it takes time for kids to settle into a new school.

Once they've found their way to the restroom without asking directions, made some friends and gotten to know their teacher, they'll be comfortable with their new learning home. And your research will have been well worth the effort.

Photos courtesy of Shutterstock.

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3 Reasons Why a Real Estate Agent Is a House Flipper's Best Friend 17 Jan 2018, 7:03 am

Flipping houses isn't just about visualizing how to change a home; it's also about being able to actually sell the house when you're done renovating. Whether it's your first flip or your 30th, having an experienced real estate agent on your team can boost your likelihood of success significantly.

Debbie Cederlind and Lora Lindberg - Seattle house-flipping pros and owners of Urban Squirrel - say their real estate agent, Jennifer Reyer, has played a huge role in their business. The three women met back in 2010 when Reyer was helping Cederlind's daughter buy a house, and they quickly decided to team up.

"[Debbie] rounded up Lora one day, and I said, 'Let's just look at a house,'" says Reyer. "So I took them to the worst possible house you could imagine on our first showing."

Instead of running for the hills like Reyer expected, Cederlind and Lindberg were more excited about renovation than ever. Now seven years into their partnership, the designer duo can't imagine doing their jobs without her.

If you’re in the business of renovating houses, here are three ways a real estate agent can help you become more successful.

1. She can negotiate

When you're flipping a house, your initial instinct is to think about what physical transformations the house needs to go through instead of your overall bottom line. A real estate agent can negotiate the price of a home you want to flip, which can give you more wiggle room for your renovation budget (and give you more overall profit).

"A lot of people will ask me, 'Why don't you guys get a real estate license?' but I am more convinced than ever that she is worth every penny," says Lindberg. "She basically taught us how to flip. She's also a pretty tough negotiator, and aggressive. Debbie and I are not. We're wimps, and it’s good to have someone who can do that for us on our behalf.”

2. She determines if the numbers will work

In the beginning, Reyer explained the whole flipping process to the women of Urban Squirrel since they were new to the game. Now, they mainly work together on the buying and selling process, which involves lots of budgeting.

Through numerous flips, Urban Squirrel has never had to lower their listing price. That's in large part thanks to Reyer's expert knowledge of the Seattle market, her networking skills, and her ability to crunch numbers quickly.

"Before we even buy a house, she helps us figure out a price point and helps figure out a price point that we need to sell it at,” says Cederlind. “If those two numbers aren't working in the beginning, we won't pursue it.”

Working with Reyer also holds the team accountable: They don't cut corners in the renovation just to get the job done faster or cheaper, Cederlind and Lindberg say.

Additionally, Reyer gives the women advice on determining the most buyer-friendly solutions in their designs. That helps them in the eventual marketing and selling of the home.

3. She helps you reach the finish line

At the end of a project, a real estate agent can feel like a lifeline to a flipper. Renovation shows on TV may make it look easy, but flipping involves a lot of hard work and tiring days. If you’re doing both the renovation and the real estate work, it can feel overwhelming. A real estate agent is just starting her part of the work when you may feel like you’re absolutely spent on a project.

"One of the many reasons we would never want to be our own agent is because at the end of a project, we're exhausted and burnt out. We've worked long hours," says Lindberg. "But then we turn it over to her, and she's fresh and excited because she's just starting."

Tip: Find an agent who enjoys the process

Of course, it also helps a renovation business to have an agent who enjoys the fast-paced work of flipping houses.

After seven years, it's clear: Reyer is still as excited as ever to work with Urban Squirrel. She especially enjoys seeing their innovative renovations on houses with "uninhabitable," "possible teardown" or "no financing available" on the original listing. Whether they're working on a cabin, a Craftsman or a 1980s tract home, Urban Squirrel’s designs have gained a following in the Seattle area.

"I think they're kind of magical," says Reyer.

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10 Things You Need to Do When Buying A Home 12 Jan 2018, 1:52 pm

A home is often the biggest financial investment you'll make in your lifetime. In fact, a recent Zillow analysis reports that the typical American homeowner has 40 percent of their wealth tied up in their home.

Several years ago, I wrote a complete guide to financial planning on one index card, which went viral and later became a book: "The Index Card: Why Personal Finance Doesn't Have to Be Complicated" (co-written with Helaine Olen).

Now, following up on my original index card, I've written a guide on buying a house. Below is the housing index card - a handy resource to print out and take with you as you look at houses or think about buying one, plus some additional advice as you contemplate making the big decision.

1. Buy for the long run. Assume you'll own your home for at least five years.

A home is a significant investment, not to mention a linchpin of stability. According to the Zillow Group Consumer Housing Trends Report 2017, the majority of Americans who sold their homes last year had lived in their home for at least a decade before selling.

Some are even staying for the long haul. Almost half (46 percent) of all homeowners are like me - living in the first home we ever purchased. In short: Buy a home you want to live in - one equipped (or ready to be equipped) with the features and space you need, both now and in the future.

2. Buy to improve your life, not to speculate with your money.

Your home is more than a financial investment; it's where you sleep, eat, host friends, raise your children - it's where your life happens.

The housing market is too unpredictable to buy a (primary) home purely because you think it will net a big short-term financial return. You will most likely be living in this home for several years, regardless of how it appreciates, so your first priority should be finding a home that will meet your needs and help you build the life you want.

3. Focus on what's important to you. Don't be distracted by features you don't need.

Today's housing market is short on inventory, with 10 percent fewer homes on the market in November 2017 than November 2016.

So, focus on finding a home you can afford that meets your needs - but don't get distracted by shiny features that might break your budget. Nice-to-have features often drive up the price tag for things you don't particularly value once the initial enjoyment wears off.

Make a list of your basic needs, both for your desired home and for your desired neighborhood. Stick to finding a home that meets these needs, without buying extra stuff that adds up.

4. Determine a budget and stick to it. Don't look at houses above that budget.

It's important to set a budget early - ideally before you even start looking at homes. In today's market, especially in the more competitive markets, it's incredibly easy to go over budget - 29 percent of buyers who purchased last year did.

The most common culprit? Location. Zillow's data indicates that urban buyers are significantly more likely to go over budget (42 percent) than suburban (25 percent) or rural (20 percent) buyers.

There's nothing inherently wrong with that. Local schools matter, and psychologists tell us that a short commute improves your life. But be realistic about your local market and about yourself. Know what you're willing to compromise on - be it less square footage, home repairs or a different neighborhood.

5. A 20 percent down payment is ideal. If you can't afford that, consider a smaller down payment, or lower your budget.

If you can afford it, a 20 percent down payment is ideal for three reasons:

  • Buyers who don't put a full 20 percent down pay a premium, most commonly in the form of private mortgage insurance (PMI). This is less financially punishing than it used to be, given today's low mortgage rates. A monthly mortgage payment (with PMI) may be lower than a monthly rental payment in many markets - but still.
  • Buyers who put more down upfront typically make fewer offers and buy faster than those who put less down. Zillow research found that buyers with higher down payments make 1.9 offers on average, compared to 2.4 offers for buyers with lower down payments (after controlling for market conditions).
  • A higher down payment reduces your financial risk. You don't want to owe more money than your house is worth if local markets dip when you need to sell.

6. Keep a six-month strategic reserve after down payment. Stuff happens.

While a down payment is a significant expense, it's also important to build up a strategic reserve and keep it separate from your normal bank account.

This reserve should cover six months of living expenses in case you get sick, face an unexpected expense or lose your job. A strategic reserve will not only save you from financial hardship in the event of an emergency but also provide peace of mind.

When we accumulated a strategic reserve, my wife and I finally felt ready to build for our future. Without it, we were living from paycheck to paycheck, anxiously managing our cash flow rather than saving or budgeting.

7. Get pre-approved, and if you want to avoid uncertainty down the road, stick with a boring 30- or 15-year fixed-rate mortgage.

The pre-approval process requires organizing all your paperwork; documenting your income, debt and credit; and understanding all the loan options available to you. It's a bit of a pain, but it saves time later. Pre-approval also shows sellers that you're a reliable buyer with a strong financial footing. Most importantly, it helps you understand what you can afford.

There are a variety of mortgage types, and it's important to evaluate all of them to see which is best for your family and financial situation. Those boring 30- and 15-year mortgages offer big advantages.

The biggest is locking in your mortgage rate. In short: A 30-year fixed mortgage has a specific fixed rate of interest that doesn't change for 30 years. A 15-year fixed mortgage does the same.

These typically have lower rates but higher monthly payments, since you must pay it off in half the time. Conventional fixed-rate mortgages help you manage your household budgeting because you know precisely how much you'll be paying every month for many years. They're simple to understand, and current rates are low.

One final advantage is that they don't tempt you with a low initial payment to buy more house than you can afford.

8. Comparison shop to get the best mortgage.

Though a home is the biggest purchase many of us will ever make, most home buyers don't shop around for a mortgage (52 percent consider only a single lender).

I certainly didn't. This did save me some annoying phone calls and hassle, but it cost me $40 or $50 every month, for years. The difference of half a percentage point in your mortgage rate can add up to thousands of dollars over the lifetime of the loan. It's important to evaluate all the available options to make sure you're going with the lender who meets your needs - not just the first one you contact.

The three most important factors to buyers are that the lender offers a loan program that caters to their specific needs (76 percent), has the most competitive rates (74 percent) and has a history of closing on time (63 percent).

9. Spend no more than a third of your after-tax income on housing (unless you live in an especially pricey market).

It's better to regret spending too little on your home than spending too much. One-third of your after-tax income is a manageable amount. This isn't always possible if you live in a place like San Francisco or New York, but it's still a good yardstick for where to be.

10. When getting ready to buy, always be willing to walk away.

Buying a home is a time-consuming, stressful but ultimately rewarding endeavor - if you end up closing on a home that meets your needs. But it's important to manage your expectations in case you don't immediately find a home you can afford with the features you need.

Always be prepared to walk away if the sellers don't accept your offer, the home doesn't pass a rigorous inspection or the timing isn't right. Hold fast to your list of must-haves, stick to what you can afford and don't overreach or settle.

It's no tragedy to miss out on any particular house. Remember that you're playing the long game. You want to be happy 10 years from now.

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A (Lazy) River Runs Through This Home – House of the Week 11 Jan 2018, 2:43 pm

Welcome to tropical modernism. Built in 1968, “Woodsong” was designed to follow the contour of the palm trees around it. As a result, there are three separate buildings, with a 90-foot lap pool connecting them. You can swim from the living room pavilion to the dining pavilion, then float over to the bedroom pavilion for a nap.

Photo by James Irwin of PlanOmatic.

In Frank Lloyd Wright’s organic Mid-Century Modern style, architect Alfred Browning Parker wanted this home, where he lived, to amplify the property’s natural surroundings - so he kept the trees and fitted the home around them.

Photo by James Irwin of PlanOmatic.

“It’s probably one of the finest palm gardens in south Florida,” said Gary Hecht of The Cherry Group at ONE Sotheby’s International Realty. He and his wife Sylvia Cherry sold the unique residence in April 2017 for $2.05 million.

Photo by James Irwin of PlanOmatic.

The living and dining pavilions include second-floor sleeping lofts that can also double as offices or libraries. The master suite pavilion is three stories high, with a den over the pool on the first floor, a bathroom surrounded by windows on the second floor, and a third level with just three walls that’s an open-air bedroom.

Photo by James Irwin of PlanOmatic.

For added luxury, there’s also a lagoon, waterfall, sauna and cabana shower room.

Photo by James Irwin of PlanOmatic.

Built of Honduran mahogany and brass nails, Woodsong offers a rich warmth seldom found in newly built homes. “A smell like wood permeates the lot; you can smell it out on the street,” Hecht said.

Top image by James Irwin of PlanOmatic.

Originally published September 2, 2016.

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10 Island Homes That Will Warm You Up This Winter 11 Jan 2018, 11:51 am

A hazy shade of winter has settled in over much of the country, but these brightly colored retreats are a good reminder that it's always sunny somewhere.

From Florida to Hawaii, we've got your dream destinations covered. Here are 10 island spots to fantasize about as you count down to spring.

Atlantic Beach, NC

239 Sea Dreams Dr
For sale: $695,000

Photo from Zillow listing.

This North Carolina beach house is set on Sea Dreams Drive - fitting for a home that’s just steps from the Atlantic Ocean. The bold, blue house on a hill offers up views from sea to sound. Cathedral ceilings also give this 3-bedroom retreat the feel of a classic beach house. Bonus: There's an outdoor shower.

View more homes in Atlantic Beach.

Vero Beach, FL

692 Ocean Rd
For sale: $12.5 million

Photo from Zillow listing.

The warm waters of the Atlantic Ocean practically lap at the backyard of this Florida dream house. At more than 14,000 square feet, this home has ample space for entertaining. The first-floor master suite has its own dedicated wing and private bar; second-floor bedrooms each have their own balconies facing the ocean.

Check out more homes in Vero Beach.

Dauphin Island, AL

106 Westward Ho Ct
For sale: $399,000

Photo from Zillow listing.

There’s sand on all sides of this waterfront home on Alabama’s Dauphin Island. The 3-bedroom beach house has both covered and open-air decks, offering views of the Gulf of Mexico and the Mississippi Sound. The interior features an open floor plan, fit for relaxing with friends after a day of swimming or beach volleyball.

Check out more homes on Dauphin Island.

Lahaina, HI

4809 Lower Honoapiilani Rd
For sale: $18.75 million

Photo from Zillow listing.

This Hawaiian hideaway is all water views all the time. Glass walls slide away, opening up rooms to the ocean vistas outside. The 7-bedroom estate also boasts private waterfront land and a winding pool with waterfalls and a spa. For a more laid-back experience, a luxurious, second-floor bathtub features two built-in lounge chairs pointed at the beach. Aloha!

Explore more homes in Lahaina.

Key West, FL

1500 Albury St
For sale: $2.19 million

Photo from Zillow listing.

Nestled in the heart of Key West, this home may look historic, but it’s brand new. A backyard pool under a canopy of palm trees is the perfect spot for cooling off on simmering Florida days. Inside, an open kitchen - with modern appliances and a built-in wine refrigerator - is primed for having guests over for dinner.

View more homes in Key West.

Johns Island, SC

4289 Charles Freer Ln
For sale: $4.99 million

Photo from Zillow listing.

This spacious South Carolina getaway offers 180-degree water views, along with a backyard dock to launch a kayak or simply watch the sun fade onto the horizon. A classic Southern-style front porch allows for relaxing outdoors on warm nights, and the backyard infinity pool is a refreshing respite when the weather heats up. For chillier nights, the screened-in sunroom features a stone fireplace and views of a large tidal creek.

Take a look at more homes in Johns Island.

St. John, US Virgin Islands

43 Chocolate Hole
For sale: $1.075 million

Photo from Zillow listing.

The sunsets alone make this next spot, in the U.S. Virgin Islands, worth the flight. The 3,900-square-foot island retreat features panoramic views of the surrounding islands along with a poolside bar and five bedrooms. For swimmers and snorkelers, the Virgin Islands Coral Reef National Monument is a just short boat ride away.

Check out more homes in St. John.

Galveston, TX

1502 17th St
For sale: $360,000

Photo from Zillow listing.

Everything’s bigger in Texas, and this home is no different. Just three blocks from the beach, the Galveston getaway has big pops of color reminiscent of the Caribbean. An open kitchen with bold wallpaper is perfect for entertaining friends fresh from the beach (bonus: it’s got a bar with a wine fridge!), plus the master bathroom has spa-like features for unwinding after a day in the sun.

Explore more homes in Galveston.

Balboa Island, CA

333 E Bay Front
For sale: $5.4 million

Photo from Zillow listing.

Launch a boat and reel in the catch of the day from the private dock of this home on California's Balboa Island. This bayfront beauty in Newport Beach comes with a spacious front patio built to entertain (hello, outdoor refrigerator!). A master bedroom features a private deck and the requisite panoramic water views.

See more homes on Balboa Island here.

Key West, FL

1319 Eliza St
For sale: $1.625 million

Photo from Zillow listing.

Modern upgrades abound throughout this classic Key West-style home. Though it was built in 1933, some touches are distinctly 2018: accent walls made of reclaimed wood and barn-style doors leading to the bedrooms. A canopy of palm trees surrounds the backyard pool and large deck; if you’re more in the mood to dip your toes in the sand somewhere, beaches are within walking distance.

See more homes in Key West.

Related:

10 Ways to Conquer Clutter and Simplify Your Life 10 Jan 2018, 3:31 pm

It’s the season of fresh starts, which means it’s the perfect time to rejuvenate your home organization strategy. Spoiler: It’s not as hard as you think! In fact, these stress-reducing tips will help you solve some of the most common home organization woes - simply and with minimal effort.

1. "I can't find it!"

Cutting clutter is an obvious starting point for resolving this issue. Having too much stuff can make it hard to locate items you need. Favorite shirts get lost in a crowded closet, the perfect spatula hides in the overstuffed kitchen drawer, and necessary tools float to the bottom of an unsorted toolbox.

But getting organized may be easier than you think. Let's take those tools as an example. The garage can be one of the messiest places in the house, but this simple and easy starting point will help you get it under control.

  1. Hang a pegboard, and install some hooks.
  2. Using a marker, draw an outline around each tool to indicate its location.

You’ll have a tool organization system that not only keeps you organized but also alerts you when the tools are missing. Plus, organizing is contagious - once you start, it spreads rapidly throughout the house.

2. "I left home without it (again)."

Have you ever walked out of the house and forgotten the birthday card for your friend? Left the set of directions to your niece's wedding on the printer? Or failed to retrieve the receipt for returning the vacuum you purchased last month?

If only we could remind ourselves about these things before walking out the door.

Whether the front door or mudroom is your jumping-off point each morning, you can set it up for total success. Create an organizing system with pockets that hang on the knob or over the door to hold items you’ll need before you leave for work, school or events.

A simple door organizer usually costs under $15 either in stores or online.

3. "Did you wash my soccer uniform?"

The laundry room is often the nemesis of an organized house. Here’s a laundry system that will restore household harmony and save you time: Get each family member their own laundry basket, and label it.

Rather than placing the clean laundry on the stairs or couch and watching everyone walk by without picking up their clothes, ask them to pick up their personalized basket in the laundry room.

There will be no lost items or mix-ups - and no more blaming you.

Courtesy of Zillow Digs.
Photo from Zillow listing.

4. "Do I have to do everything?"

The kitchen is the pulse point of most homes. It's a high traffic area that everyone uses all through the day. We open our mail here, study for school here, use the computer here, pile our stuff here - plus, it's where the food is!

Dedicate one part of the counter to be set up for daily routines, like a lunch-making station. Stock it with paper towels, wraps, baggies and a cutting board. You could also make a coffee and tea station, equipped with supplies like filters, strainers and sugar.

If you create an organized space for your family to make their own lunches or coffee drinks, your life is easier. That's called delegation.

5. "Where’d I put the phone number for the doctor’s office?"

Another tip for the kitchen is one that can save a life: a household manual, in either a physical or digital form. You can create this in just a few minutes, and it costs you nothing.

To get started, grab a binder and three-hole punch, and put all your vital information in the binder. This includes emergency contact info, the name of your family doctors and vet, school rosters, alarm codes, medications and dosages for the kids, caregiver names, the location of your wills - anything you’d need someone to know in an emergency.

When you have a minute, make it digital. But start with step one: Simply gather important information in one place, and keep it contained.

6. "I can't corral these crazy cords!"

Phones, chargers, remotes and mismatched cords are always scattered throughout the house. The shortcut for pulling everything together? A central charging station.

A charging station hides cords, keeps all electronic items together and can even blend in with your furniture.

7. "There are toys all over the place!"

Many parents’ biggest home organization issue is the kids not picking up their toys.

The solution here might be as simple as teaching your children organization skills early on and making it easy for them to put things in their place.

Here's one idea that will allow you to shift from frustration to elation:

  1. Use bins to hold the toys. Each bin should hold toys of the same type.
  2. Find a picture of the toys being stored in each particular bin. For example, if you have dolls and stuffed animals in one bin, attach a picture of dolls and stuffed animals to the front of it.
Photo from Zillow listing.

8. "Can everybody please clean up after yourself?"

Wouldn't it be wonderful if everyone could clean up their own mess in at least one communal room? Does your bathroom come to mind? Make this a reality by creating a system that works fairly universally.

Get each person in the house a toiletry caddy. Just like at summer camp or in a college dorm, put names on the caddies, and store them on shelves in the bathroom or, if space is really at a premium, ask folks to carry their caddies back and forth from their bedrooms.

The bathroom stays organized, and there's an automatic tidying-up system built in after every visit.

9. "I have no place to really relax."

Clearing clutter can create a peaceful home - away from overstimulation and the demands of our external world.

Take that idea to one room in particular: our bedrooms, which are meant to serve as a sanctuary for rest and romance. The piles of laundry, books and magazines living next to the bed nix any possibility of a calm and relaxing experience.

Let's get the laundry and closet into a workable system and put a cap on the number of books and magazines in your personal space.

You can start to create a peaceful space by:

  • Getting rid of clothing you don’t need anymore. Box it and store it, sell it or give it away.
  • Going through all the books on your bedside table (or floor), and selecting just one to read. Store the others in an alternate location. Keep just this month's magazines on your table, and either relocate, recycle or donate the rest.
Photo from Zillow listing.

10. "I don't have time to get organized."

One of the top reasons for not getting organized is lack of time. It seems we devote all the energy we have to work, family, school, volunteering and other commitments.

While many of us dream about alphabetized folders and color-coded sheets and towels, the fact remains that there is often little time in the day to organize or even clean.

The best way to manage this issue is to reduce - and then repeat after me.

  • Reduce. Eliminating clutter is the No. 1 thing we can do to create more time for ourselves. When there’s less clutter, we spend less time cleaning it, less time putting it back where it belongs and less space storing it. Take just 10 minutes today, and eliminate 10 items you no longer really need.
  • Repeat after me. Here’s a mantra for you: Avoid perfection at all costs. Don’t get too hung up on the details. Your home doesn’t need to be perfectly organized every day. Sometimes "good enough" is all you need.
Top photo from Zillow listing.

Related:

Beachside Bliss: A Florida Home Built Into a Sand Dune 9 Jan 2018, 2:56 pm

Carl Drew and his wife Jennie Malloy showed interest in a home so unusual, they were asked to do a sanity check.

"When we first learned about it, our youngest son was in high school. We told him, 'We're coming up to Jacksonville for the weekend because we want to see this home,'" Malloy remembers. "He said, 'What? We're going to see a cave with eyes? What? Are you OK?'"

The couple ended up buying the Atlantic Beach duplex built into a sand dune.

From the street, it looks like a grassy knoll: green blades glinting in the sun, a pair of wooden staircases leading to a deck above. The front doors are barely visible through small swirls in the mound.

From the beach, two horseshoe-shaped openings conceal a pair of sliding glass doors. Tall grass hides a private, sandy fire pit.

If you blink, you'll miss the place.

Drew wouldn't have it any other way. Having grown up in the area, he remembers scores of people driving past the lot in the 1970s to watch workers create the unique living spaces.

As Drew tells it, when Hurricane Dora hit in 1964, the storm left behind a sand dune. The famed architect next door, William Morgan, saw an opportunity: build a masterpiece - a home unlike any other - by taking advantage of the canvas Mother Nature created.

"Everybody wanted to come by and see it as it was being built," Drew said. "It was built around the concept of being environmentally sensitive: building structures into the environment and not dominating the environment."

The structure, known locally as the Dune House, has no right angles - only curves. It’s insulated by the earth around it, keeping it cool in summer and warm in winter.

The interior walls, ceilings and spiral staircases are modeled after a nautilus shell, with each stair progressively narrower as you climb.

When Drew and Malloy came up from South Florida and bought the Dune House in 2012, the purchase took a bit of convincing.

"When we first saw it, I thought, 'Oh boy. This needs some updating,' but the bones were good," said Malloy. "Carl started to look into other works by William Morgan, and the lightbulb went off, like, 'Wow, this is really neat.'"

"It’s not thinking inside the box or four corners of the box," she continued. "You’re really outside the box.”

As part of their arrangement with Morgan, the couple agreed to keep the original design, but updated some features. Out came the ’70s shag carpet and in went marble floors. The pair added a Zen garden using local shells and rocks.

Each 750-square-foot unit has a lofted bedroom space and closets built into the wood-paneled walls.

The couple also splurged on custom wood decks on top of the knoll, giving them a chance to gaze at the beach vista each morning and breathe the ocean air at night.

In the process, they may have upset some of the kids nearby, though.

"When we first got it, there was no deck, and so in between the two units was a straight, steep shot of grass going right down to the base. It’s a good 25-30 feet, and so the neighborhood kids would ride their bikes to the top of it and then come shooting down in between," Drew recalled.

"We had to remedy that situation pretty quickly," he said. "I think the kids weren’t happy with us, but it’s a little safer now."

The grassy roof still requires plenty of maintenance. (And yes, that does involve mowing the roof.)

After owning the place for five years, Drew and Malloy say it's had an unusual way of growing on them and their family. Even as they’ve become landlords, renting out both units, they’ve felt a sense of responsibility in passing the architect’s original vision to future generations. Of note, their youngest son has come around since they bought the property.

"He, like many teenagers, was very abrasive about it. Then a strange thing happened," Malloy recalled. "We spent some time in the Dune House, and all of a sudden he wanted to study architecture.

“It moved him in a way that we were really not expecting.”

Jennie Malloy and Carl Drew enjoy an evening by the fire.

Related:

5 New Year's Resolutions That Can Help You Buy a Home in 2018 8 Jan 2018, 4:19 pm

Thinking of buying a home this year? We compiled five New Year’s resolutions that can help you keep your financial resume in tiptop shape.

1. Avoid job hopping

Employment history and income are two of the biggest factors lenders look at when evaluating a mortgage application. A new job may be a good career move, but if you plan to buy a home in 2018, know that it can be a red flag to some underwriters - especially if you’re moving to a different industry.

A steady job history and few or no gaps in employment over the past two years are ideal, as it helps lenders more easily forecast your future income.

If you do get a new job while home shopping, let your lender know as soon as possible. It doesn’t mean you won’t qualify for a mortgage - just be prepared to show extra documentation.

If you’re moving from a commissioned or hourly job to one that’s salaried with equal or more compensation, it may help your application, as lenders often prefer borrowers to have steady, predictable paychecks.

2. Limit monthly subscription services

Monthly subscription services are certainly convenient, but they can add up. Even if you pay off your credit card every month, you could be dinged for high credit utilization if your credit report is pulled midcycle.

If you’re thinking of buying a home this year, consider keeping your monthly subscription services to a minimum.

3. Build a solid credit history

One of the first things a lender will look at is your credit history. Lenders like borrowers who have a history of paying off debts, like credit cards, on time because it signals that you’re less of a risk and a responsible borrower.

If you don’t have credit, securing a home loan may be significantly more challenging and time-consuming, but not impossible. Records of paying rent and utilities on time, as well as student loan debt or cell phone bills, can help show a potential lender that you have a history of managing monthly payments.

4. Check your credit

Your credit score can have a significant impact on your ability to buy a home. A low credit score can negatively affect how much money a lender is willing to loan you, as well as your interest rate.

Just a few percentage point differences in an interest rate can cost you thousands over the life of a loan. Monitor your credit closely, especially for fraudulent activity, to prevent any surprises that could delay the loan application process.

If you’re unsure of your credit score, many financial websites offer credit score monitoring, or you can get a full credit report once a year.

5. Avoid large purchases

Avoid taking on large amounts of debt - whether it’s buying a car or planning a large vacation - before buying a house, even if you’re already preapproved.

Your debt-to-income ratio, or how much money you make compared to how much debt you have, can significantly affect how much money a lender is willing to give you. Keeping debts to a minimum can help make the home-buying process go a lot more smoothly.

Just like proofreading your resume before you apply for a job, cleaning up your financial resume can help improve your chances of buying a home.

Take advantage of online tools and resources, like our affordability calculator, which can help you determine how much home you can afford. Our mortgage calculator can also provide custom down payment estimates based on home price and interest rates. And as you search for your future home, check out our extensive lender and agent reviews, which can help you find the best real estate partners for your needs.

Related:

7 Perfect Kitchen Upgrades for a New Look Without Remodeling 8 Jan 2018, 7:00 am

Kitchen renovations require time and money, taking several months to complete and costing tens of thousands of dollars. If you don't have the financial resources for a full-on renovation, there are a variety of ways you can give your kitchen a new look for a lot less. From refacing cabinets to replacing lighting, a few cosmetic tweaks can give you the kitchen you've always wanted.

Cabinets

More and more homeowners are turning to kitchen refacing as an easy way to update their cabinets. Refacing involves replacing the doors, drawers and hardware and covering the entire exterior of the cabinets in a brand-new veneer. If you're happy with the layout and function of your kitchen, but aren't necessary keen on the aesthetic feel, consider cabinet refacing.

"It's for people who have kitchens from the '70s and '80s that have solid wood cabinets," says interior designer Anna León, who has a background in kitchen refacing with Home Depot. "They can take off the original doors and put on modern doors."

The cost, which starts at around $6,000, depends on the size of the kitchen and the materials used. With an array of options available - such as woodgrains, painted wood and pressure-fused laminate doors like Thermofoil - you can transform a kitchen's facade easily. Contemporary Thermofoil doors also come in a variety of fun looks, including glossy, matte and woodgrain.

As opposed to a full-on kitchen gut and renovation taking several months to complete, cabinet resurfacing typically takes three to five days.

Painting cabinets is a more affordable route to take than refacing, costing around $3,000 to $5,000 for a professional to do the job, according to León.

Or, you can always DIY, which is the most affordable option, but is laborious and takes a great deal of time.

"Painting cabinets is great, but it's all about the prep work," says Richmond, VA-based interior decorator Lesley Glotzl. "You have to prep and paint them perfectly or they’re going to chip or peel. You can’t cut any corners."

Photo from Zillow listing.

Backsplash

Creating a new backsplash is an easy way to freshen up your kitchen. Be sure to choose a timeless material that will complement your cabinetry, and avoid mixing styles and periods. For instance, if you have '70s-era cabinetry, you won't want to pair that with something trendy like subway tile.

If you're a confident DIYer, tile your backsplash. Or for $20, you can paint it in a bold high-gloss paint that you can easily wipe down after cooking.

In Glotzl's home, she installed a beadboard backsplash and painted it in a high-gloss blue.

Shiplap is an affordable and durable option as well, and it’s not difficult to DIY. Glotzl also recommends using vinyl wallpapers from companies like Osborne & Little as backsplash, as they come in an array of fun textures, colors and patterns.

Photo from Zillow listing.

Countertops

For countertops, head to your local stone yard and choose a granite at the lower end of the price range. Formica - a more affordable option than natural stone - has a lot of cool countertop options in patterns like Greek key or textures like barn wood or grasscloth.

If you're short on counter space and aren't looking to add more cabinetry, consider buying a premade island or bar-height table that you can float in the center of your kitchen.

Or, if you have a more contemporary kitchen, consider purchasing a stainless-steel food prep table from a restaurant supply company. Just make sure you have at least 36 inches between the cabinets and island on all sides for easy traffic flow, advises Glotzl.

Photo from Zillow listing.

Shelving

If your cabinets don't have lip molding on the interior, remove cabinet doors to create open shelving and show off your beautiful serving dishes.

Or, if you have an empty wall, create your own shelving system with floating shelves from a retailer such as Pottery Barn or IKEA. Just be sure you install brackets underneath the shelves if you plan on loading them up with dishes and cooking wares. Glotzl recommends Van Dyke's Restorers for shelving support.

Photo from Zillow listing.

Lighting

Lighting can dramatically change the look and feel of any room. Tear out harsh fluorescent lighting and replace it with can lights.

Make food prep easier by having an electrician install under-cabinet halogen fixtures or ambient Light Tape. Over the kitchen sink is the perfect place for a statement piece like a sculptural pendant light.

Photo from Zillow listing.

Pulls and knobs

If you're going the cabinet-refacing route, you'll have plenty of new pulls and knobs to ponder. You can find them at online retailers or local shops.

If you’re painting your cabinets - or even if you’re not - new pulls and knobs can go a long way toward creating a new look in your kitchen. This simple solution is one that works particularly well for renters.

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

Appliances and plumbing

Dated appliances paired with updated cabinetry will make your kitchen feel incomplete. New stainless-steel appliances are the finishing touch. For less than $500, you can get a new stainless-steel electric range; for less than $700, a brand-new top-freezer refrigerator.

"Compared to everything else you have to do, it ends up feeling like pocket change," says León.

You can easily update your faucet for under $100 (although, of course, you could spend a lot more). And a new farmhouse sink could be yours for less than $400.

Photo from Zillow listing.

Related:

Are You Covered If Snow and Ice Damage Your Home? 5 Jan 2018, 1:02 pm

By Stephanie Reid, Avvo attorney and NakedLaw contributor

In addition to the health and safety dangers of sub-zero temperatures, blinding snowstorms and inconspicuous ice sheets, winter weather can also be incredibly dangerous to your home. Homeowners must consider a number of winter weather issues, including legal liabilities to watch out for and knowing whether your homeowners insurance policy has you covered.

Winter damage culprits

The two main causes of wintertime home damage are snow and ice. The weight of snow can collapse a roof or damage an automobile. And when snow inevitably melts, it can cause major flooding and problems with home septic systems.

The major problems with ice, from a homeowner's legal perspective, include slip-and-falls and frozen pipelines. Ice accumulating on trees can also cause damage if a tree branch falls on your home — or even worse, your neighbor's home.

What is generally covered

A homeowners insurance policy typically covers damage that results directly from winter weather events. Direct damage includes trees falling on homes, roof collapse due to snow accumulation, wind damage during a blizzard, displacement due to a major power outage, and frozen or burst pipes (subject to exception).

What is probably not covered: negligence

A curveball factor can affect the damage your insurance policy covers: homeowner negligence, which means neglecting the standard care that allows your home to withstand normal winter weather. This may include factors such as:

  • Pipes. If the insurance company believes that pipes broke because they were neglected — if the heat was off, or the pipes were not drained, for example — you may be denied coverage.
  • Trees. If a homeowner knew that a tree or its limbs were at risk of falling but took no steps to trim or remove them, the homeowner can be held liable if they do fall and cause damage.
  • Snow. If your home is damaged due to melting snow seeping through the roof, and the adjuster determines that the roof is in disrepair or is improperly installed, you will be footing the bill on your own.
  • Ice. Laws vary by location, but there may be rules regarding prompt snow and ice removal. In New York City, rental lease agreements generally stipulate that either the owner or the renter must clear sidewalks within four hours after snow stops falling.
  • Storms. Evidence that a homeowner could have done more to protect the property before or during a storm will be taken into consideration and could result in a denial of coverage.

What is definitely not covered: flood damage

The big issue to watch out for is flooding, which is not covered by a homeowners insurance policy. A major snowstorm followed by a warm snap often results in overworked drainage systems and flooding. If you live in a climate where this is likely to happen, flood insurance is a must.

Also within this category is the damage that can occur when an overburdened septic system backs up into your home, causing raw sewage to flow from the drains. A flood insurance policy will likely cover this scenario, whereas a general homeowners policy will not.

Good neighbors

One common question involves damage occurring to a home caused by a tree or flooding from a neighbor's property. In those cases, the insurance company will first look into whether the neighbor was negligent or otherwise blamable in the event. If there’s no evidence of negligence, the owner of the damaged structure is then responsible for repair to that structure, but their policy will cover the damage.

However, if the neighbor is found to be blamable in the event, the case may result in a civil lawsuit if the parties can’t reach a workable solution. Consult with an attorney if you find yourself at such an impasse.

Making a claim

Insurance companies advise making a claim as soon as practically possible following a major weather event. This will allow the adjuster the best opportunity to assess the damage and make a factually solid determination of whether the issue is covered under the policy.

If your damage is minimal, you may want to consider forgoing a claim to your insurer since making multiple claims can raise your premiums. If it seems likely that your issue won't cost much more than the deductible, it may be wise to cut your losses and complete the repairs without involving your insurance provider.

Related:

Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of Zillow.

Looking for a New Apartment? Here's What You Need to Know 4 Jan 2018, 3:58 pm

No matter what your local rental market looks like, the process of finding a place that works within your budget, timeframe and wish list can be a balancing act. Understanding the current market and typical search process can help you mitigate some of the stress involved.

Today’s rental market

In many metros, renting takes up more of people's income than in past years, largely because demand for rentals often outpaces supply, driving up prices. Growing job markets - like the employment boom in the Seattle metro region - have contributed to a supply shortage.

The high demand contributes to the share of income spent on rent jumping to 29.1 percent nationally, according to a November 2017 study by Zillow Research, compared to an average of 25.8 percent between 1985 and 2000. While many areas hover around that 29 percent - like Chicago (29.7 percent) and Austin, TX (29 percent), or even below like Atlanta (26 percent) - renters are spending a larger proportion of their income on rent each month than they previously did in each of those metros.

Additionally, many renters are paying more than 30 percent of their incomes in rent. Los Angeles renters pay the highest share of their incomes at 48.4 percent, but even places like Portland, OR (32.5 percent), New Orleans (33.2 percent) and Miami (41 percent) eat up more of renters' take-home pay than before.

While rents have jumped in the past decade, incomes have largely not kept pace. October and November 2017 did see income growth match rent hikes, but incomes did not match rents during most of the previous five-year period.

Not only do renters have to spend a larger share of their income to cover rent, they also often see their rent jump. Seventy-nine percent of renters who recently moved from a previous rental saw their rent jump prior to moving. Nearly six in 10 renters who have rented their current home for over a year (57 percent) have also seen their rent jump since they first moved in.

Beyond the cost of renting, renters should expect to act quickly. Unlike buying a house, which takes 4.3 months on average, renters search for an average of 2.6 months; one-quarter (26 percent) search for less than one month.

Managing your own expectations

In this challenging rental market, we recommend you enter your search with a full understanding of what you can afford. Not sure what that monthly figure looks like? Use a rental calculator to hone in on it, and don't forget: Many landlords require first and last month's rent as well as a damage deposit. As you apply, look carefully at any additional costs; they can differ depending on the landlord.

The first place you apply to - no matter how great it appears - may not be the one you move into. On average, renters make 4.5 contacts to landlords and turn in 2.5 applications. Look in neighborhoods adjacent to your original locale of interest to cast a wider net in your search.

When and how to use online tools

If you're like most renters, you'll be using online tools to find your next rental. While finding a rental online is far easier than driving around looking for an elusive "For Rent" sign, be cautious. If the advertised rent is several hundred dollars below the going market rate, the rental may be too good to be true. Almost one-third (32 percent) of renters indicate they had issues determining if a listing was legitimate.

Due to the growing number of online tools, expect landlords to get back to you quickly. Three-quarters (76 percent) of contacted landlords responded in a "timely manner" - which for 72 percent of renters is within a day.

As many renters complete their search and make initial inquiries online, how can you stand out to a potential landlord? First off, be prepared with all your paperwork (like recent pay stubs, bank statements, contact info for your employer and past landlord) when you apply. Additionally, try an easy, free tool like the Zillow Rental Profile to share your qualifications securely and give a landlord that great first impression.

Once you find a place

Most renters (68 percent) sign a 12-month lease. As you read through that lease, ensure you understand everything in the agreement. If a detail is not in writing, it's not legally binding. Additionally, make sure you understand the financial penalties you may incur if you break your lease.

You should also be familiar with your rights as a renter. Renter rights differ on the state and local levels; make sure the ones you're referencing accurately represent your situation.

Despite most renters using online resources to search for their new home, most leases are still signed in person (84 percent of renters). More than half of renters (53 percent) pay their rent in person or at a bank. To understand your payment options, talk with your landlord.

Finally, unless you're planning on renting for the foreseeable future, prepare your next search ahead of time. The number one thing renters would do differently in searching for their new home is to start their search earlier to have more time (32 percent of renters). Put a reminder in your calendar about three months before your lease ends to help you start thinking about your options. If you do stay put, you may save money in the long run - landlords typically raise rents less often for renewing tenants.

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8 of the Biggest Kitchen Design Trends for 2018 2 Jan 2018, 7:04 pm

Looking for a fresh start for the new year? Consider upgrading your kitchen.

Those Shaker-style cabinets should be the first thing to go, and you'll probably want to give the dramatic paint trend a try. Here are some trends professional designers say we’ll be seeing a lot of.

1. Clean lines

"We aren’t seeing as many Shaker-style cabinets," says VW Fowlkes, principal and founder of Fowlkes Studio in Washington, D.C. "They became trendy [in the ’90s], and people thought the look had the right amount of clean lines, without being too plain. But more and more they're being seen as sentimental and too country."

The better option: flat-panel cabinets with minimal embellishment that look as if they came from a showroom in Germany.

Photo from Zillow listing.

2. Black cabinetry

Speaking of sleek kitchen cabinetry, "black is the new white," says Rebecca Van't Hull of Martha O'Hara Interiors in Minneapolis.

"We’re starting to see more clients eager to break away from the all-white trend, opting for hues that are richer, bolder and darker," she notes.

While black is fast becoming the new go-to, deep navy and forest green are also on the radar.

Photo from Zillow listing.

3. Neutral walls

Just because cabinetry is going darker doesn't mean your walls will follow suit, says Van't Hull. "We're still seeing a lot of bright whites in warmer tones," not to mention the occasional pop of beige. "One of our staples is Dovetail White by Benjamin Moore.”

 

Photo from Zillow listing.

4. Open shelving

Open shelves aren't going anywhere, says Fowlkes.

Whether displaying a pretty collection of glassware or providing the illusion of space, open shelving will be all over kitchens next year.

Photo from Zillow listing.

5. Fewer pendants

"People are doing fewer pendants over islands because of the clutter," says Fowlkes. Recessed lighting, which seems to fade into the ceiling, is the preferred choice.  

Photo from Zillow listing.

6. Less bling

When it comes to kitchen cabinetry, less is more, Fowlkes notes. He predicts fewer homeowners will opt for as many hardware accents as they have in the past.

Integral pulls on cabinet doors are becoming more common, he adds, and they're a cost-saving solution.

Photo from Zillow listing.

7. Brass accents

Van't Hull still expects this trend to stay hot, and she’s incorporating brushed brass "on everything from plumbing and lighting to hardware and accessories."

Photo from Zillow listing.

8. Downsizing

All those years of living in McMansions have finally caught up with us, and now homeowners are paring down their kitchens - at least in New York City, says Michael Tower, founder of Michael Tower Architecture.

"Functionality is still critical - you can't remove that from the design process - but people are being smarter about what they need," he says. Think doing away with massive prep spaces, dual-functioning ovens and so on.

"They're still full kitchens,” Tower says, “but maybe they don't have a grill for pancakes on Sunday morning."

Photo from Zillow listing.

Related:

Residential Home Types: 17 Clarifying Home Definitions 2 Jan 2018, 11:45 am

There are so many types of homes and houses, and some can be easily confused. Let's take a look at definitions of homes that are often mixed up, so you can be sure that you know what you're looking for.

What is a single-family home vs. a multifamily home?

Families come in all shapes in sizes, as do single-family homes. A single-family home is a standalone house built for one family. If a structure includes more than one collection of living spaces with separate entrances and privacy, it's a multi-family home.

The term multi-family home can be applied to any structure with more than one independent dwelling space, from a simple duplex to a sprawling apartment building.

What is a duplex vs. a twin home?

The difference between a duplex and a twin home is ownership. They are both single structures with two private living spaces that share a wall. A twin home is sold as two properties on two separate lots. Alternatively, a duplex is considered one property.

You might share a wall with the person next to you in a twin home; otherwise, the owners are free to treat their side of the structure and their lot as they wish.

It's possible for a duplex to be sold to two separate owners - similar to a twin home - but the lot is one shared space, and therefore, owners must cooperate on decisions regarding the property.

What is a townhome vs. a row house?

Townhomes and row houses are both homes that share at least one wall with another home. A row house specifically refers to attached homes that line up along a street, in a row. Townhomes can be arranged in clusters or lines that aren't parallel to the road.

What is a manufactured home vs. a prefab or modular home?

A manufactured home is ready to be lived in when it leaves the factory. A prefabricated home is constructed in pieces which are then assembled on-site. The term modular home refers to houses that are built off-site, and placed on a permanent foundation (and includes prefab). According to Andy Gianino, a builder of modular homes and the author of “The Modular Home,” most modular homes are between 12 feet and 15 feet, 9 inches wide, and up to 60 feet long, which allows for transportation of the pieces via truck. A manufactured home is not a modular home because it can be moved after construction.

What is a mobile home vs. a motorhome or RV?

A mobile home is less mobile than a motorhome or RV. Mobile homes (also called trailers) are generally placed in one location for permanent living. They come in two standard sizes: singlewide (typically 18 feet wide or less and 90 feet long or less) and doublewide (typically 20 feet wide and 90 feet long or less).

A motorhome or RV is a home on wheels that can be easily moved from place to place. The most common size of motorhome (Class C-25) is 23 to 25 feet long and can sleep a family of five.

What is a houseboat vs. a floating home?

A houseboat is like a motorhome on water; it's self-propelled and can be driven like a boat. A floating home is a home on the water that floats on a foundation of logs, Styrofoam and/or concrete. Floating homes are permanently connected to a dock where they're hooked up to electrical and sewage.

What is a tiny home vs. a tiny house?

A tiny home is a standalone structure, typically between 100 and 400 square feet. Most tiny homes are built on wheels, but they aren't necessarily meant to be mobile. In most cities, the minimum size for an Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) on a residential property is around 800 square feet. To get around these restrictions, the first tiny home builders constructed their dwellings on wheels, so they could park them on their property like an RV.

Some say tiny homes and tiny houses are the same thing. Others argue a tiny house is any small living space, including RVs, vans, sheds, boats, etc. When in doubt, call the 400-square-foot-or-less structures on wheels tiny homes.

What is a mansion vs. a McMansion?

A mansion is a very large house; somewhere between 5,000 and 8,000 square feet. But the specifics of what qualifies vary based on opinion and location. A mansion in Manhattan might be 3,000 square feet while a house in Atlanta would need to be much bigger to qualify. A mansion is also defined by luxury: tennis courts, large open foyers, grand staircases, crystal chandeliers. A McMansion is big too, but that's not what makes it different from a mansion. "McMansion" is generally used to describe homes with few unique characteristics. Their cookie-cutter design is usually between 3,000 and 5,000 square feet, but runs the gamut. As Brian Miller, a sociologist at Wheaton College put it in an interview with CityLab: “You have people who would suggest that 3,000-square-foot homes are McMansions. Well, it’s 500 square feet more than the average new home, but that's a lot different from other people who are describing 10,000-square-foot homes as McMansions.”

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How Many Credit Checks Before Closing on a Home? 29 Dec 2017, 12:10 pm

Navigating the purchase of a home can be overwhelming for first-time buyers. Lenders require documentation of seemingly every detail of your life before granting a loan. And of course, they will require a credit check.

A question many buyers have is whether a lender pulls your credit more than once during the purchase process. The answer is yes. Lenders pull borrowers' credit in the beginning of the approval process, and then again just prior to closing.

Initial credit check for preapproval

In the first phase of acquiring a loan, pre-qualification, you'll self-report financial information. Lenders want to know details such as your credit score, social security number, marital status, history of your residence, employment and income, account balances, debt payments and balances, confirmation of any foreclosures or bankruptcies in the last seven years and sourcing of a down payment. This is only a portion of the total information needed for your mortgage application.

Once you're ready to get preapproved for a loan, lenders will verify your financial information. During this phase, lenders require documentation to confirm the information in your application and pull your credit history for the first time. You may be required to submit a letter of explanation for each credit inquiry in recent years, such as opening a new credit card, and for any derogatory information in your history, like a missed payment.

Once you find a home within budget and make an offer, additional or updated documentation may be required. Underwriters then analyze the risk of offering you a loan based on the information in your application, credit history and the property's value.

Second credit check at closing

It can take time for your offer to be accepted, and for your loan to pass underwriting. During this period from the initial credit check to closing, new credit incidents may occur on your history. Many lenders pull borrowers' credit a second time just prior to closing to verify your credit score remains the same, and therefore the risk to the lender hasn't changed. If you were late on a payment and were sent to collections, it can affect your loan. Or, if you acquired any new loans or lines of credit and used those credit lines, your debt-to-income ratio would change, which can also affect your loan eligibility.

If the second credit check results match the first, closing should occur on schedule. If the new report is lower or concerning to the lender, you could lose the loan. Alternatively, the lender may send your application back through underwriting for a second review.

It's important for buyers to be aware that most lenders run a final credit check before closing, so the home-buying window is a time to prudently mind your credit.

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This Checklist Is the Key to Taking Care of Your Home (Without the Stress) 28 Dec 2017, 7:00 am

Here’s an easy way to get on top of your home maintenance checklist in the new year: Take it one small chunk at a time!

Little steps add up to big results. And if you dedicate some time to home maintenance - two hours a week, an afternoon per month and a couple of days a year - your home will remain in tiptop shape this year.

Here’s our easy-to-follow checklist:

Weekly home maintenance

Your weekly home maintenance ritual will be largely determined by the features of your home, but may include some of the following tasks:

  • Give all your carpets a thorough vacuuming. Or, if you have hardwood floors, give them a good once-over with a large dust-mop.
  • Plan to spend 30 minutes performing one small maintenance task in your yard, such as pruning a tree or shrub, painting a mailbox, or blowing leaves and debris from a garden path or sidewalk.
  • Do some bathroom maintenance. Again, we’re talking about biting things off in small chunks here! Some examples:
    • Pick a drain used by a person with long hair, and clean it out with a Zip-It tool.
    • Spend some time repairing damaged tile grout in a shower or tub.
    • Clean the mineral sediment out of a showerhead.
  • Freshen up your garbage disposal. Run a tray of ice cubes through it, along with some baking soda or lemon rinds, and voila! It’ll be clean and fresh again.
  • Clean the outside of all appliances and the inside of one appliance per week. For instance, if you clean out the refrigerator this week, run a cleaning tablet through your dishwasher next week, and wipe out your dryer the following week.

Monthly home maintenance

These are the projects we all know we should do regularly but often don’t get to. Just pick an afternoon, and go for it!

  • Clean the range hood and filter. This is one of those areas that we often forget about, but if you don't take care of it on a regular basis, it will become unmanageably greasy and dirty over time.
  • Clean the furnace filter, and replace it if needed. This will help your furnace run efficiently, keeping utility bills down.
  • Polish wood furniture, dust light fixtures and wipe down baseboards.
  • Check your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors to make sure they’re functioning and don’t need new batteries. If you have a fire extinguisher, make sure it’s fully charged.
  • Visually inspect the outside of your home for problems or issues, such as loose shingles, damaged siding, insect nests, or overgrown trees or shrubbery. Make a note to correct the problems!

Yearly home maintenance

Schedule these tasks in a way that makes sense to you. You can do them on a seasonal basis or just schedule one or two days per year to knock everything out.

Here are some bigger tasks to take on once a year:

  • Clean and organize your garage, basement or attic. This is a maintenance task that everyone dreads doing, but it feels so good once it’s done! Plus, you’ll most likely discover some forgotten treasures to either donate to charity or sell online.
  • Wash windows and window screens, and let the sunshine in! While this task is often done in the spring, you can do it any time of the year.
  • Take on one major outdoor improvement project per year, and schedule a day or two to complete it. For example, you might want to install a fence, refinish a large deck, patch up an asphalt or concrete driveway, or install raised garden beds.
  • Clean out gutters, check under the eaves, remove trees or shrubbery that are encroaching on your home, and install wire grates in any holes to keep pests out.
  • Freshen up one room in your home. Pick any room, and give it a mini makeover. For instance, you can repaint it, switch curtains, move the furniture, and add plants and knickknacks to give it a whole new look. If you do this with one room per year, in a few years, your whole home will look terrific!

By following this easy checklist, you can have a wonderfully maintained home with a minimal investment of time and energy.

Related:

An Incredible Home in Hawaii That's as Much Fun as Summer Camp 28 Dec 2017, 7:00 am

Sunshine, island breezes, grass skirts and surfing are just some of the things that this summer-camp-inspired home brings to mind. Surrounded by mountain and sea views, it’s located at the foot of Pu’u Ku’ili, the Big Island's old cinder cone that’s known for being a good place for spotting whales.

Western red cedar, oversized sliding doors, board-formed concrete, operable wood louvers and rope lashing contribute to the home’s laid-back, camp-like feel.

Designed by San Francisco-based practice Walker Warner Architects with interiors by Philpotts Interiors and landscaping by David Y Tamura Associates, the home follows the layout of traditional Hawaiian architecture and is composed of multiple structures.

Upon passing an entry bridge, one enters a massive green compound with six separate buildings.

The main building features an open-plan living, dining and kitchen area that boasts high ceilings and is surrounded by a generous covered deck.

Thanks to a short corridor with a seating area, this living space is connected to the master bedroom in one wing, and a studio space in another wing.

In the expansive backyard, a large overhang of western red cedar shelters a tiki bar, outdoor seating lounge and an elongated pool.

Next to the bar and lounge area is a barbecue/luau spot where family and friends can enjoy outdoor cooking and feasting under the shade of a Kiawe tree.

Other buildings on the property include a large bathhouse with a wooden bathtub and a parking garage.

Marion Philpotts-Miller, who designed the interiors, used retro elements, rattan chairs, metal bed frames and summery colors including olive green and flamingo pink to create a stylish, surf-shack-inspired look.

With its open design and alfresco chill zones, this home is set up perfectly to enjoy the best of Hawaii's stunning landscape and pleasantly warm weather.

This article was written by Michele Koh Morollo and originally appeared on Dwell. Check out more of their content on Dwell.com.

Photos by Matthew Millman Photography.

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7 Simple Ways to Keep Your Kids' Toys From Taking Over Your Home 27 Dec 2017, 7:00 am

Remember the days when you could read a decorating magazine without crying? If parenthood has made a mess out of your home and evening routine, get your sanity back with these simple tips.

1. Reduce the clutter

It doesn't matter how organized you are - a surplus of toys will always ensure your house is a mess waiting to happen. Fortunately, getting kids on board with the idea of ditching their stuff is a lot easier than it sounds.

The trick is to make it an opportunity for them to define themselves and their interests. Encourage kids to make a pile of "baby toys" to donate, and have them set aside any toys that no longer interest them, such as action figures from a forgotten TV show. Separating these toys will help them appreciate how much they've grown and rediscover the toys they love.

2. Choose toys wisely

Since you'll probably be stuck with them for a while, it pays to be picky when it comes to buying toys. To make toys more meaningful to your child, only buy them for holidays, special occasions and rewards - don't shy away from asking relatives to do the same.

Avoid toys that are poorly made (cheap), not age-appropriate, unnecessarily large, pointless or anything tied to a movie - unless it's that one you've been playing on repeat every day. The best toys are versatile, encourage creativity and can easily be expanded upon, such as Legos, wooden train tracks and dollhouse sets.

3. Leave some toys out of reach

If you're constantly finding play dough and puzzle pieces in the sofa cushions, it's time to put them on the top shelf of the closet. Designating these messy toys as "family toys" will give you more quality time with your child instead of scrubbing pen marks off the curtains.

Also, try to set aside a tote of toys, games and puzzles for rainy days. This ensures you'll always have a trick up your sleeve for sick days or when a boring relative visits.

4. Set boundaries

If toys are already sprawled out over every available surface of your house, don't worry! You can quickly reclaim order in your household by setting a few ground rules, such as "no toys in the kitchen" or setting limits on the number of toys allowed out overnight.

While that might seem a bit draconian, children are generally happier when they're given clear expectations and few surprises. That's why it's important to follow through and pick up every night, no matter how exhausted you feel at the time.

5. Give kids ownership

Picking up toys doesn't have to be boring. Babies, toddlers and big kids alike can have fun organizing and picking up, just as long as it's not a negative experience. This means you should provide enough time for enjoyment without resorting to counting "1, 2, 3" or shouting empty threats.

A great thing about setting aside extra time for picking up is that you and your child can do fun things like scoop up blocks with a blanket or deliver toys across the house via tricycle. If you make it fun enough, your kid will eventually pick up without even being asked.

6. Give every toy a home

Without a simple organizational system, picking up can be a major headache. Don't throw everything into one big toybox; there's a better way.

Buy a series of matching plastic bins and line them up along the wall where your child can easily put away and retrieve toys on his own. Designate one box for Legos, one for stuffed animals, one for train tracks … you get the idea.

Use stacking plastic boxes for smaller toys like matchbox cars and dolls. Organize them further by storing puzzle pieces, doll clothes and other annoyances in Ziploc bags.

7. Hit the books

It's not your imagination. That pile of storybooks by the couch really is getting taller, and if you wait much longer, it will likely turn into a giant heap.

Worse yet, your kid uses those books to stall and push back bedtime a little later with each passing night. That's why it's important to either keep the books in your child's room, or keep a small selection of favorites in a basket for easy retrieval.

Related:

TV's Most and Least Desirable Neighbors for 2018 27 Dec 2017, 2:01 am

We wanted to know which fictional TV characters Americans would most like to have as a neighbor and which ones they’d avoid.

Most desirable neighbors for 2018

Leonard Hofstadter and Penny from CBS's “The Big Bang Theory” (above) are the top choice for neighbors in 2018, earning 19 percent of the votes. The couple received strong results from voters across different genders, generations and education levels, but were slightly less popular among voters from the West.

Leonard and Penny were neighbors when they first met, and they've remained close friends with their former roommate and current neighbor Sheldon Cooper over the years despite his interesting quirks. Plus, living next door gives Sheldon plenty of opportunities to play video games and watch sci-fi movies with Leonard and Penny's entire group of friends.

“‘The Big Bang Theory’ is one of the most popular shows on TV, so it’s not surprising that American adults chose its leading couple as the most desirable neighbors for 2018,” said Jeremy Wacksman, chief marketing officer at Zillow.

The Dunphys from ABC's “Modern Family” and the Simpson family from FOX's “The Simpsons” tied for the second-most desirable neighbors, with 11 percent of the votes each. Will and Grace from NBC's revitalized sitcom of the same name rounded out the top four, earning 10 percent of the votes, followed by Jack and Rebecca Pearson from NBC's “This Is Us” (9 percent) and the Johnsons from ABC's “Black-ish (5 percent).

Least desirable neighbors for 2018

Despite their popularity, the Simpsons still topped the list of least desirable neighbors with 31 percent of the votes. Adults over the age of 55 were most likely to name the family as the least desirable neighbors on the list, while fewer millennials cited the Simpsons as the least desirable neighbors in the poll.

“It wouldn't be easy to live next to the Simpsons, who have spent nearly 30 seasons causing chaos for neighbor Ned Flanders and the rest of Springfield,” Wacksman said.

The Lannisters from HBO's “Game of Thrones” came in second on the list of worst neighbors with 21 percent of the votes. They ranked much higher than the rest of the competitors, including Sheldon Cooper and Amy Farrah Fowler from “The Big Bang Theory (9 percent), Olivia Pope from ABC's “Scandal” (6 percent) and the Jennings from FX's “The Americans” (5 percent).

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3 Ways to Get a Whole New Look With Just a Coat of Paint 21 Dec 2017, 6:04 pm

Paint is easily one of the biggest home design tools at your disposal. It has the ability to take a room from dark and dingy to light and bright - and from small and cramped to spacious and airy.

To find out exactly how to change the look of a room with paint, we asked house-flipping pros and owners of Seattle-based Urban Squirrel, Lora Lindberg and Debbie Cederlind, for some pointers.

"Paint can lend a feeling you want to evoke,” says Cederlind. “The walls are the biggest surface for the biggest impact." But you can get a new look without committing to painting a whole room.

Here are Lindberg’s and Cederlind’s tips for transforming your space with just a little paint.

1. Paint your furniture

Your first instinct may be to look at the walls for a drastic change in your home, but painting your furniture can pack just as much punch - if not more.

Not only is this a more renter-friendly solution, but it's also a good way to break up the monotony of furniture that came in a set or that matches the flooring.

Photo courtesy of The Design Firm.

"It's definitely more interesting to mix in a painted piece of furniture rather than have everything wood," says Cederlind.

If you're a renter and aren't allowed to splash any color on the walls, go for a bold color on your furniture that will brighten up the room - particularly if you have white or off-white walls in your rental home.

2. Don't be afraid to paint paneling

If you live in an older home that has been blessed with the gift of wood paneling, it may look dark, outdated and cavernous. Although it might be tempting to rip it out and start over, Lindberg and Cederlind suggest painting over the wood instead.

"We see so many houses that haven't sold because of paneling. Painting the paneling is one of the most dramatic changes you can make," says Lindberg. "Some people say it's a sin to paint wood, but a paneled room can look incredible with a lighter paint."

Photo courtesy of Tyler Whitmore.

When you choose the paint color for your wood paneling, Lindberg and Cederlind suggest painting it a muted color and saving the pops of brighter color for artwork and area rugs.

3. Limit bold color choices to a room or two

Painting a dramatic color in one or two smaller spaces, like a powder room or a dining room, will make them stand out and be more memorable to visitors.

Photo from Zillow listing.

Although adding bold color to your walls is a great way to change up your space immediately, don’t go overboard with dramatic colors.

"The thing that drives me the craziest is painting every room a different bold color. Paint the whole house the same color, then pick one or two special rooms to get an accent, like a dining room or powder room or den," says Lindberg. "A trend I've been noticing a lot is dark walls. You definitely don't want to do that everywhere."

This tip is especially important if you live in a home with an open concept living or dining space. The house will seem bigger and flow better when there's continuity in the paint color throughout the home, Lindberg and Cederlind say.

Remember: Finding the right paint color takes time

Whether you decide to paint your walls in just one space or all of them, make sure you choose the right color before you tape off the baseboards and prep the room to paint.

"Picking out colors is the hardest,” says Cederlind. “We spend a lot of time getting samples and trying them physically in the room, but it's worth every penny. Don't go and get the paint chip and then buy a gallon of $60 paint. The chances of getting the color right the first time are pretty slim."

Top photo from Zillow listing.

Related:

6 Ways to Use Your Home to Give Back 21 Dec 2017, 11:31 am

When it comes to giving back, most people immediately think of donating time or money to a cause. But another just as impactful - and perhaps less thought of - option is sharing your home as a force for good.

Here are six ways to make a difference with your home.

1. Connect your neighbors through reading

Perhaps you've seen charming little structures in your neighborhood that are similar to mailboxes but filled with books. Started in 2009, the Little Free Library is a nonprofit that inspires a love for reading while building community. Purchase – or build – one of these book exchange boxes to place in front of your home, and fill it with books you want to share.

2. Host a soldier for the holidays

Live near a military base? Many organizations offer the opportunity to host a soldier for a holiday meal at your home. The easiest way to adopt a soldier or other member of the military is to connect with your local U.S. Army Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) or Navy MWR resource office to check what opportunities they provide for hosting.

3. Share your home with a cancer patient and their family

Cancer patients seeking treatment may end up at hospitals and communities far from home. While many hospitals provide lodging, there's also an opportunity for hosts to step in and provide a homey place to stay.

Programs vary from area to area, so the best place to start is connecting with your local hospital. If you're in the greater Philadelphia area, check out Hosts for Hospitals or Boston's Hospitality Homes.

4. Open your home to evacuees

When a natural disaster strikes, entire communities are unable to return home. Launched in 2017, Airbnb Open Homes is a program through which Airbnb works with nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to book homes for people in need, for free. When a disaster occurs, hosts near affected areas are contacted with requests from displaced families and individuals.

To list your home on Airbnb or learn more about the program, read through its extensive FAQs.

5. Provide a safe place for refugees

Those forced to flee their country may not always have the connections and immediate financial resources to find shelter. A spare room or unused part of the house could be a great temporary solution for these refugees while they get on their feet.

Room for Refugees started in the United Kingdom and now works in the United States and Canada, too. Many other refugee resettlement services offer hosting opportunities, so research the relevant needs in your area.

6. Get creative

Your home can serve as the gathering place for all kinds of impactful work. Invite your neighbors over for dinner, or throw a progressive dinner party. Hosting a Death Over Dinner party is a great way to talk about end-of-life care for yourself or someone you love. Other ideas include hosting a lecture series, a documentary viewing or a crafting night, all in an effort to build community right where you live.

Related:

 

14 Million Households Plan to Give Their Homes to Family 21 Dec 2017, 11:09 am

Americans are moving less than ever, according to Zillow's analysis of the U.S. Census Bureau's Current Population Survey. Just 4.2 percent of American homeowners moved between 2015 and 2016 - which is almost half the 7.7 percent rate reported in 1990.

According to the Zillow Group Consumer Housing Trends Report 2017, 86 percent of all American homeowners - defined as those who have owned their home for more than a year - have no plans to move in the next three years. Why? Those planning to stay in their homes list love of their home (58 percent) and neighborhood (45 percent) as the top reasons they don't plan to sell.

A smaller, but still sizable, percentage of homeowners list a very generous reason for staying. Almost one-quarter (23 percent), a total of nearly 14 million households, say the reason they're not moving is because they plan to pass down their home to a family member.

Move over, fine china - homes just might be the new hottest heirloom.

This is good news for younger generations, who may be struggling to afford to buy their own home or living with their parents while saving up to buy one. In fact, over the past two decades, there's been a marked increase in the number of young Americans aged 18-34 living with their parents - up to 33.4 percent in 2016, compared to 27 percent in the late '70s.

Interestingly, this increase in recent years isn't driven by younger generations who may be putting off moving out - it's driven by older millennials. Since 2012, the percentage of 18- to 25-year-olds living with a parent has actually started to decline, while the share of 26- to 34-year-olds living with parents continues to increase. If their parent(s) are among the households planning to pass their home down, maybe they won't ever have to fly the coop.

Family financial gifts play a big role in helping people buy homes, above and beyond those generous families giving their entire home away. According to the Zillow Group Consumer Housing Trends Report 2017, 14 percent of all home buyers who purchased a home in the past 12 months used a gift from a family member or friend to help pay for the down payment. That number jumps to 20 percent for all millennial (18- to 37-year-old) home buyers.

Related:

How to Get a Mortgage and Change Jobs at the Same Time 20 Dec 2017, 11:05 am

It's true that changing jobs can affect your loan approval, but, like most mortgage-related questions, the devil is in the details. So long as you are moving from one position to one with equal or higher income, and you are able to provide documentation of your work and income history, any changes to your loan approval chances should be minimal. The most important thing for lenders and their underwriters is ensuring you can repay the loan, and the best indicators of that are your income and history of employment.

Lenders want to know you have reliable, steady income that is ongoing, for at least the next three years.

If you're thinking about accepting a new job or recently moved positions, consider the ways it may hinder your mortgage acquisition.

What to expect when changing jobs before getting a mortgage

If your new job is within the same industry as your last, and if the transition earns better pay, then lenders likely will not have a concern. Promotions are looked at favorably. Even lateral moves to stronger companies offering increased salary or improved benefits are sensible business decisions that shouldn't impede loan acquisition.

Your lender likely will want to ensure the longevity of your new role and confirm your new salary. Full-time positions with long-term contracts are ideal. Expect to work in your new role for at least 30 days before earning loan approval. Typically, you'll need to provide your first pay stub from the new company and disclose your offer letter confirming your salary. Be prepared for lenders to omit commission earnings from your total salary since your commission is unproven in the new role, which could affect your total loan amount.

How to get a mortgage with a new job

Avoid transitioning to a job that doesn't make financial sense, such as a lateral move for less pay, a change from full-time employee to contractor or a major industry change. Employment history showing frequent career moves could be a red flag for lenders that you may not be able to maintain steady income.

Another red flag for lenders is an extended gap in employment history. Chances of acquiring a mortgage may be stronger if your period of unemployment was less than six months. However, some exemptions include military service members returning from deployment or full-time students transitioning into the workforce; these paths are viewed as forms of employment.

How to get a home loan when relocating

If your new job requires you to move, you'll need to solidify living arrangements before relocating. If you don't mind renting in your new location for at least 30 days to provide lenders with your first pay stub, it's likely the least stressful solution. Extended-stay hotels are popular options while familiarizing yourself with the surrounding community and local real estate market. On condition that you're sticking to the same industry and the new role offers a financial or career advantage, the new job should not restrict quick loan acquisition in a new city.

Alternatively, you could attempt purchasing and closing on a home in the new location before giving notice to your current job for a smooth, one-time move. If you're moving fast, understand a purchase offer takes 30-45 days to close, on average. Lenders verify employment during loan application and then again just prior to closing, so be sure to maintain employment until the sale closes.

If you're a homeowner and need to sell while shopping for a new home, and possibly live in a rental simultaneously, finances can become demanding. Selling your current property before buying can provide cash from closing to help fund your down payment, which could boost your loan eligibility. But if you can afford carrying two mortgages for a period of time, you can purchase a home in the new location, move in directly and then work to sell the initial property remotely. Again, you'll be limited to the speed of the purchase agreement or expect to disclose your new role to the lender.

Can relocation packages help with home purchases?

Often, companies offer relocation packages that range in coverage from paying for a moving service to a generous Guaranteed Buy Out (GBO). A GBO is when the company buys your home for an average appraisal value if it does not sell in a fair timeframe. Other relocation packages might help with closing costs of your home sale or pay the real estate commission fees. If you're underwater on your home, your new employer might cover the loan difference at resale.

Some relocation packages assist their new employees purchase a local home within a year of moving, they may buy down your interest rate or contribute to a down payment.

Whether buying a house out of necessity or preference, acquiring a new job within the same industry for better pay likely won't prevent loan approval, but it may slow the process down by a month.

Related:

5 Home Design Trends for 2018 (and 3 Fads That Need to Go) 20 Dec 2017, 6:00 am

Home design trends come and go - and in 2018, one look that’s on its way out could actually cause your home to sell for less.

Here’s a look at five design trends you’ll be seeing more of in 2018, and three it’s time to kiss goodbye (especially if one of your New Year’s resolutions is to sell your home).

Trending in 2018

Floral prints

Interior design experts predict floral prints in bold, contrasting colors will make a big comeback in 2018, particularly on large billowing fabrics, like drapery, as well as chairs and throw pillows.

Photo courtesy of DwellStudio via Instagram.

Statement floors

Forget statement walls - 2018 will be about statement floors. From bold colored geometric tiles to soft herringbone-style hardwoods, expect to see fab floors everywhere next year, especially in bathrooms and laundry rooms. They’re a great way to make a small room pop, without adding clutter.

Photo from Zillow listing.

Light wood cabinets

Homeowners are gravitating toward medium and light wood cabinets, particularly with flat fronts and clean lines. The warmth, texture and natural element wood cabinets add help make the space feel more inviting.

Photo from Zillow listing.

Warm neutrals

From warm reds to caramel browns to soft beige, moodier color palettes, both on walls and in artwork, will be popular in 2018.

Photo courtesy of Adam Ford (The Happy Tudor) via Instagram.

Matte metal hardware

What kind of drawer pulls and light fixtures do you want with those wood cabinets? Matte metal! Homeowners are moving away from shiny silver- or gold-accented kitchen hardware - they can make the space feel cold.

Photo from Zillow listing.

2017 fads to forget

All-white kitchens

This look has been popular for a while, but it’s on the way out, according to the Zillow Home Trend Forecast.

Expect to see more color in kitchens next year, especially if the homeowner is planning to sell. Zillow data shows homes with blue kitchens sell for $1,800 more than homes with white kitchens.

Adding color and texture in the kitchen can help make the space feel more inviting. "While homes with all-white kitchens can be beautiful in photos, they are hard to keep clean and they may sell for less money,” says Zillow home design expert Kerrie Kelly.

You’ll see designers and bloggers painting their kitchen islands navy blue or deep red (maybe even purple!) or using white countertops to contrast with medium or light wood cabinets.

Bar carts

While perfectly staged bar carts look beautiful, most people don’t use theirs every day. Instead, the carts take up space and collect dust.

But don’t get rid of your cart just yet! Experts predict a shift toward coffee carts, which can be equally trendy, but far more practical.

Succulents

Succulents are easy to care for and relatively affordable, but so many other vibrant indoor plant options are out there. Nobody’s saying to toss out your beloved Haworthia, but do consider incorporating other plant varieties into your home - perhaps a palm or hearty fiddle-leaf fig.

Top photo from Zillow listing.

Related:

Design Trend: Beige That's Anything but Bland 18 Dec 2017, 12:54 pm

Given the interest in all things natural these days, it makes sense that beige is making a comeback.

Danish design brand Ferm Living's autumn/winter collection featured caramel-coated doors framed by bubblegum-pink walls. Even New York City designers have chosen beige for its ability to warm up interiors, and many find it reads as a natural material, not unlike marble or wood.

This East Hampton, NY home uses beige to create a serene master bedroom. Photo from Zillow listing.

We asked a couple of pro-beige designers to share their tips for working the color into interiors.

Select a luminous color

"All colors are not created equal," says New York interior designer Glenn Gissler, who covered his art-filled room at this fall's inaugural Brooklyn Heights Designer Showhouse with a terra-cotta stria wallpaper by Farrow & Ball.

"It's a way to get a very soft, sophisticated background," he says, "because the stria is a few tones of one color, so it doesn't read as flat and dull as a beige might."

Splurge on the paint

"If you're going to paint, don't cheap out on the quality of the paint," says Gissler. "If you go for simple, inexpensive paint, the only colors you can get back are the ones that are in the paint. But if you have a complex mixture, the room will have more luminosity."

Photo by Gross & Daley, courtesy of Glenn Gissler Design.

Choose a grayer tone

"If you choose what would be a clear beige, it may look unattractive," warns Gissler. "Go toward the grayer end of the spectrum." The idea is to choose something mellow that "doesn't seem shrill when it's first painted."

When testing a color, don’t just paint samples on the wall, where you'll only see that color in relation to the previous one, Gissler suggests. "It's better if you do it on a 2-by-2 piece of wood or board so you can hold it in various corners of the room morning, noon and night to see what it does."

Also, remember that "LED lights can look ghoulish," Gissler says, so check your color in the context and lighting you'd normally use.

Keep it interesting

Rather than use the same neutral again and again, try to vary your palette with "an interesting mix of cool and warm neutral colors," says Kiki Dennis, a principal of New York-based firm Deborah Berke Partners.

Photo by Catherine Tighe, courtesy of Deborah Burke Partners.

In a 1923 penthouse on the Upper East Side, for instance, Dennis kept the walls a cool shade of beige, while she warmed things up with curtains that had a beige undertone. "Having some variation" in your neutrals and beiges looks more modern, she says.

Shift into neutral

"People like to use neutrals because they're a great foundation for making things pop," says Dennis. They're also a flexible backdrop for those who change their art and home accents often.

"No matter what trends are coming and going," she says, "there's always some underlying amount of space where designers resort to a neutral palette," so don't be afraid to do the same.

Think of beige as a "medium-light neutral," offers Gissler, who gravitates toward warm, natural colors. "If you're going to use beige, it needs to be part of a more complex set of values. You need darker things and lighter things … beige everything? That's a big bore."

Related:

2017's Most Favorited Home in Every State 15 Dec 2017, 5:10 pm

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Not only is it the holidays, but it’s that time when we look at the homes favorited most by Zillow users (yes, we’re talking about that little heart button at the top of each listing!). In 2017, users’ top picks ranged from grand mountain chateaus to modest suburban homes - and even a spooky listing that went viral. Whether they earned 200 or 2,000 favorites, these homes all have their selling points.

So what’s the most favorited home in your state? Scroll down to find out!

Alabama

598 favorites
6605 Cedarwood Ct, Mobile, AL
Our favorite features: old-growth trees, a newly remodeled kitchen

Photo from Zillow listing.

Alaska

572 favorites
L53A Whiskey Lake, AK
Why we adore this home: remote location, rustic wood interior

Photo from Zillow listing.

Arizona

2,736 favorites
976 S Wanda Dr, Gilbert, AZ

Simple pleasures: a large backyard with no neighbors in sight

Photo from Zillow listing.

Arkansas

717 favorites
16240 Kostner Dr, Rogers, AR

Reason to adore this home: movie theater with built-in projector

Photo from Zillow listing.

California

7,290 favorites
924 Bel Air Rd, Los Angeles, CA

The wow factor: private helipad, two fully-stocked wine cellars

Photo from Zillow listing.

Colorado

2,507 favorites
600 Chateau V, Evergreen, CO

Fun fact: modeled after the famous Biltmore Mansion in North Carolina

Photo from Zillow listing.

Connecticut

1,058 favorites
163 Creamery Rd, Durham, CT

Selling points: expansive windows, surrounded by nature

Photo from Zillow listing.

Delaware

604 favorites
24908 Crooked Stick Way #4333, Long Neck, DE

Selling points: dog park within walking distance, solar panels on the roof

Photo from Zillow listing.

Florida

2,038 favorites
11112 Ancient Futures Dr, Tampa, FL
Reasons to call it home: arched doorways, high ceilings, hardwood floors

Photo from Zillow listing.

Georgia

3,056 favorites
1055 Ada Ave NW, Atlanta, GA

What we love about it: bright hardwood floors

Photo from Zillow listing.

Hawaii

1,546 favorites
72 S Kalaheo Ave, Kailua, HI

Where we’d rather be: this home’s poolside bar or cabana

Photo from Zillow listing.

Idaho

728 favorites
8602 W High Ridge Ln, Eagle, ID
Eye-catching feature: a bright red front door

Photo from Zillow listing.

Illinois

1,897 favorites
1932 N Burling St, Chicago, IL
Windy City wow: 25,000 square feet in the heart of downtown

Photo from Zillow listing.

Indiana

1,383 favorites
New Edition Floor Plan, Harrison Lakes, Fort Wayne, IN

What’s warming our hearts: the fire pit and covered patio

Photo from Zillow listing.

Iowa

603 favorites
2209 E 9th St, Des Moines, IA

Things to ogle: historic character, leaded glass windows

Photo from Zillow listing.

Kansas

652 favorites
11613 Barton St, Overland Park, KS

Things we love: vaulted ceilings, covered deck

Photo from Zillow listing.

Kentucky

832 favorites
324 Wilson Downing Rd, Lexington, KY

Why we love it: newly remodeled with hardwood floors throughout

Photo from Zillow listing.

Louisiana

672 favorites
1448 4th St, New Orleans, LA
Fun fact: film location for a few movies

Photo from Zillow listing.

Maine

933 favorites
35 Seafarer Cv, Whiting, ME

Standout features: private dock, fireplace

Photo from Zillow listing.

Maryland

2,751 favorites
Lincoln Dr LOT 1, Jessup, MD

Why we’re mad about this MD home: 5 large bedrooms on a large lot

Photo from Zillow listing.

Massachusetts

1,235 favorites
22 Old Colony Avenue, Pembroke, MA

Selling points: historic home with modern upgrades, access to a nearby pond

Photo from Zillow listing.

Michigan

1,045 favorites
20 Peppers Trl, Montague, MI

This listing had us at: “tree house on the shores of Lake Michigan”

Photo by Roger Wade Studio.

Minnesota

1,827 favorites
Haverhill Apartments, 32 Spruce Pl, Minneapolis, MN

The draw: restored brownstone walking distance to downtown

Photo from Zillow listing.

Mississippi

543 favorites
706 W Pine St, Hattiesburg, MS

Why we love it: old-world charm, modern upgrades, a small backyard pond

Photo from Zillow listing.

Missouri

1,067 favorites
597 Harper Ave, Saint Louis, MO

Reasons we fell in love: 100+ years old, located by a park and golf course

Photo by Jason Fry.

Montana

1,191 favorites
Montana’s Shelter Is, Rollins, MT
The obvious reason we love it: private-island castle

Photo from Zillow listing.

Nebraska

634 favorites
2114 S 46th St, Omaha, NE

Reason to ‘heart’ this Heartland home: 19th-century charm

Photo from Zillow listing.

Nevada

3,611 favorites
1033 Tabor Hill Ave, Henderson, NV

Favorite feature: private backyard pool for hot desert days

Photo from Zillow listing.

New Hampshire

956 favorites
3 S Main St, Newton, NH

Why we adore it: fully remodeled in 2012

Photo from Zillow listing.

New Jersey

1,298 favorites
18 Frick Dr, Alpine, NJ

Selling point: less than 10 miles from New York City

Photo from Zillow listing.

New Mexico

562 favorites
5724 Fairfax Dr NW, Albuquerque, NM

Reason we love it: upgraded kitchen with a subway-tile backsplash

Photo from Zillow listing.

New York

1,769 favorites
635 W 42nd St #45th Floor, New York, NY

Why we love this Big Apple beauty: breathtaking river views

Photo from Zillow listing.

North Carolina

1,620 favorites
196 Bayview Dr, Stumpy Point, NC

Why we love it: historic home in a wildlife refuge

Photo from Zillow listing.

North Dakota

339 favorites
5039 Elm Tree Rd, Kindred, ND

Things to ogle: not one but two sunrooms

Photo from Zillow listing.

Ohio

1,001 favorites
3903 Saint Lawrence Ave, Cincinnati, OH

What we love: historic Victorian with six fireplaces

Photo from Zillow listing.

Oklahoma

971 favorites
707 Martin Cir, Sand Springs, OK

Why this OK home is more than okay: views of Tulsa from every floor - even the basement

Photo from Zillow listing.

Oregon

1,529 favorites
1135 SW Coast Ave, Lincoln City, OR

Why we adore this home in a word: oceanfront

Photo from Zillow listing.

Pennsylvania

1,227 favorites
122 Squirrel Rd, Buck Hill Falls, PA

Reasons to ‘heart’ this home: historic log and stone structure, beautiful views

Photo from Zillow listing.

Rhode Island

611 favorites
252 Thatcher St, Rumford, RI

Fun fact: overlooks a country club

Photo from Zillow listing.

South Carolina

1,259 favorites
709 Michaelmas Ave, Cayce, SC
Why we’ve seen this home before: viral status

Photo from Zillow listing.

South Dakota

283 favorites
2613 S Van Eps Ave, Sioux Falls, SD

Fun feature: wood-paneled accent wall

Photo from Zillow listing.

Tennessee

1,436 favorites
2325 Golf Club Ln, Nashville, TN

Reason to sing about this Music City home: private recording studio

Photo from Zillow listing.

Texas

4,459 favorites
10711 Strait Ln, Dallas, TX

Proof everything is bigger in Texas: 10 bedrooms, a bowling alley inside

Photo from Zillow listing.

Utah

796 favorites
1886 S Geneva Rd, Orem, UT

Luxury feature: motocross course

Photo from Zillow listing.

Vermont

706 favorites
1796 Cheney Rd, Lowell, VT

Reason to break out the maple syrup: classic log cabin on 20 wooded acres

Photo from Zillow listing.

Virginia

1,912 favorites
2975 Desert Rd, Suffolk, VA

Why we love it: giant front yard for recreation, private sauna for relaxation

Photo from Zillow listing.

Washington

2,651 favorites
935 Deerbrush Dr SE, Olympia, WA

Our favorite feature: yellow front door

Photo from Zillow listing.

Washington, D.C.

1,184 favorites
3030 Chain Bridge Rd NW, Washington, DC

Why it caught our attention: timeless exterior, modern interior

Photo from Zillow listing.

West Virginia

755 favorites
1103 Juliana St, Parkersburg, WV

Why we love it: century-old columns

Photo from Zillow listing.

Wisconsin

887 favorites
743 N 25th St, Milwaukee, WI

What we love: classic Queen Anne-style with a cupola

Photo from Zillow listing.

Wyoming

391 favorites
2005 S Crescent H Rd, Wilson, WY

Why we keep staring: floor-to-ceiling glass walls you can slide open

Photo by Josh Franer.

Top featured image by Roger Wade Studio.

Related:

4 Unique Home Trends That Ruled 2017 15 Dec 2017, 1:53 pm

#Vanlife in the fast lane

The open road is calling, and so we must go! Articles about #vanlife were shared more than 400,000 times this year across social networks - that's double last year's number - according to online trend tracker Buzzsumo. Interest in life on the road peaked in June (summer travel, anyone?) with many of you wondering about wanderlust.

What did you love? This story about two women who left their day jobs to remodel Airstreams full-time and this vintage travel trailer on a private bluff (hello, panoramic ocean views!)

Not only did you adore stories about Airstreams, but you're apparently buying other homes on-the-go, too: this year, RV makers reported their best sales ever. The company that makes Airstreams sold more than $2 billion in trailers and motorhomes this summer alone, adding that it can't make RVs fast enough to keep up with the demand.

Interested in a life on the road? Here are 6 questions to ask before picking a home on wheels.

Tiny living is still big

Photo by Cape Fear Real Estate Directory.

Homeowners once again rolled out the welcome mat for the tiny home trend in 2017. Stories about tiny homes were shared nearly 1.8 million times on social networks this year, according to Buzzsumo. In fact, tiny homes are now so popular, there are starter models cheaper than some cars, along with luxury ones, too (this design comes with a jacuzzi tub!)

Beyond traditional tiny homes on wheels, tiny living came in many shapes and sizes. This beachside house was built from a recycled shipping container, while some homeowners are even taking the tiny trend to the trees. This Atlanta treehouse was one of our most popular House of the Week features of the year.

Want to test out a tiny home yourself? Here are 7 Tiny Homes For the Perfect Getaway.

Crazy about cabins

Photo by Shidume Lozada.

Whether it's an island getaway or a mountain retreat, you were crazy about cabins this year! Cabin popularity peaked this summer, according to Google Trends, and remained hot all year.

So what's with the spike in sharing woodsy retreats on social media? One explanation could be that more homeowners - especially young homeowners - are seeking out a space viewed as a sanctuary, said Julie Link, director of research and consumer insights at Scripps Networks Interactive.

"The world is a chaotic place right now, no matter what your views on politics are. [Millennials] really look inward and they want to control something and the easiest thing for them to control is their home," Link said. "Their home is feeling a certain way and it's vibing in a way that's it's peaceful and they can seek respite is really the mood of the country right now."

Feeling cabin crazed? Here are 10 cozy cabins for $300,000 or less.

Madly in love with Mid-Century Modern

Photo by Susan Pickering Photography.

"Mad Men" may have ended in 2015, but the mid-century modern trend lives on. Interest in MCM homes peaked in May and October, with many of you ogling this gem in Berkeley and this LA mid-century modern manse.

Mid-century style is so hot that online retail giant Amazon even launched its own line of furniture in 2017, described as "distinctly mid-century modern" and "wouldn't look out of place in a West Elm catalogue." The collection features everything from metallic wall art to solutions for small spaces.

Looking for something distinctly MCM that’s still vintage? This mid-century modern time capsule hit the market for the first time in decades earlier this year. Practically untouched since it was built in the late 1950s, the 2,935-square foot house features pink polka dot paper, a working soda fountain and even an avocado-colored conversation pit.

So what will 2018 bring? Pop the bubbly and make your predictions in the comments section below!

Top photo courtesy Todd Taylor of Taylor Photography Group.

 Related:

How Breaking 3 Design Rules Made Our Home Feel More Like Us 14 Dec 2017, 11:35 am

"A house is a machine for living in."

Swiss-French architect Le Corbusier made huge contributions to Modernism, urban planning and furniture design, but among all his contributions, the one thing I keep coming back to is this quote.

The challenge we all face as homeowners is in adapting our houses to our unique lifestyles instead of worrying too much about obeying tradition, design TV shows or our neighbors. And there are so many rules!

Here are three design rules we broke when renovating the dining room in our Omaha home.

The dining room, pre-renovation.

Rule 1: Every home needs a dining room

One of the biggest pitfalls people fall into when decorating their home is being afraid to change the purpose of a room. Sure, a kitchen is always going to be a kitchen, but dining rooms, formal living rooms, and bedrooms are ripe for repurposing.

Like many folks, we don't make much use of a dining room. While we enjoy visitors, we don't throw many formal dinner parties, and our eat-in kitchen works just fine for daily meals. Meanwhile, our living room is lovely but not particularly spacious - a piano, fireplace and stairway limit the amount of seating we can add to the room.

Our solution was to extend the "living area" into the adjacent dining room. Suddenly, we doubled the amount of space we have for casual entertaining, while creating a spot for a flat-screen TV for watching movies. The result is a cozy, calming room that the British would call a "snug." We think that describes the space perfectly.

This layout - and giving up a dining table to get it - may not be the right fit for every family, but it more closely aligns with our needs and could easily be switched back by the next homeowners.*

Rule 2: Dark colors make a room feel small

You've heard it from designers on TV. You've heard it from real estate agents. Neighbors. The guy working the paint counter. "A dark wall color will make a room feel smaller."

I have two responses to that:

  1. Not necessarily.
  2. Even if it does, is that always a bad thing?

In many instances, a darker wall or ceiling color will have no effect at all on the perception of room size. Very dark colors can, counterintuitively, make walls and ceilings appear to recede from the observer, creating the illusion that the room is deeper. So, the jury remains undecided.

What dark rooms inarguably do is create an environment that is cozy, elegant or romantic. While your eye may initially perceive a space as smaller, it will not actually be any smaller. You can fit just as much furniture and as many people into the space as before. So maybe it isn't a problem at all.

Our adjacent living room (and much of the house) has stark white walls and big windows to bring in sunlight, so we decided to paint our dining room-turned-snug in Sherwin-Williams' Tricorn Black. Nothing subtle about that, but once we filled it with artwork and furniture, everyone commented on how big the room seemed.

Post-renovation, the snug provides plenty of seating space for entertaining.

Rule 3: Too much furniture in a space will make it cramped

As designers and furniture manufacturers, we talk with clients about furniture layouts every day, and choosing too large a sofa in their home is a recurring concern.

While it's true that the scale of furniture matters, you can often get away with putting more into a room than you might imagine. It's all about placement and maintaining pathways.

Our snug is a great example of this. It measures merely 13 feet by 10½ feet, and has a wide opening to our living room, a door to our kitchen and three big windows. Into the room, we fit a 10½-foot-by-8½-foot sectional sofa, a barrel chair, three small tables, a bar cart, a large wall-mounted flat-screen TV and tons of artwork. Despite squeezing in seating for a big group of people, we haven't compromised the critical pathway running from the living room back into the kitchen.

We absolutely love our cozy, compact lounging space and don't miss our dining room at all. Our unconventional choices may not make sense for your lifestyle, but keep them in mind as you find the best way to live in your home.

* We're staying in our house forever, so this point is irrelevant. (See previous blog posts regarding me making my husband promise we’ll never move again.)

Related:

The Most-Loved Kitchen of 2017: Did Your Fave Win? 13 Dec 2017, 5:42 pm

Most of us don’t get to cook in dream kitchens outfitted with loads of counter space, two or three ovens, an industrial-sized refrigerator, and multiple sinks for piling up the dirty dishes. But let’s escape for a moment into a sugar-scented daydream, where the dishwasher is always empty, the floors are never sticky, and nothing ever burns.

We pitted eight gorgeous kitchens against each other to see which would get a chance at being voted 2017’s ultimate kitchen. (Keep reading to see them all!)

Here’s a look at the winner, a sleek, sunny modern farmhouse style kitchen in Solana Beach, CA.
With flat-front Shaker cabinets, granite countertops, and a wood-paneled ceiling graced with skylights, this kitchen’s clean lines create a backdrop for the special touches that make the room a winner.

We’re talking about generous folding glass doors set in a reclaimed wood doorway that frames the view to the patio. Or how about the frosted glass doors on the upper cabinets, which blend with the gently tinted subway tile to provide the perfect hint of color?

It’s hard to pick just one favorite feature of this room - and with something for everyone, it’s easy to see why this kitchen was voted No. 1!
Want the full tour? See the entire home

Missed the voting?

See all eight kitchens that competed in the tournament:

Country charmCity skylightsBrick beautyStone stunnerModern minimalistNeutral and naturalFrench dressingVintage charm
For more photos of the homes, check out their listings: Country warmth; City skylightsBrick beauty; Stone stunnerModern minimalist; Neutral and naturalFrench dressing; Vintage charm

Round 1 results

In the first round, skylights and a wide island won the modern farmhouse category with 62% of the vote, while a stone accent wall claimed 55% of the vote to beat a brick stove surround in the traditional kitchen category.

With 89% of the vote, neutral tones were the clear favorite in the contemporary category, and when it came to glam kitchens, ornate accents were the clear favorite, with 81% of the vote.

Round 2 results

It was a close call in both races! The “City skylights” modern farmhouse got 54% of the vote to beat the “Stone stunner” traditional-style kitchen, and the “French dressing” glam kitchen eeked out a win against the “Neutral and natural” contemporary kitchen by just two percent.

Hungry for more gorgeous kitchens?

Check out Zillow Digs for kitchen designs in every style!

Related:

House of the Year: A Treehouse Tower With Water Views 11 Dec 2017, 9:36 pm

Leave it to a celebrity architect to live in a home that was just voted our 2017 House of the Year.

Each week, we take you inside a unique space - from a shipping container converted into a tiny home to a magical treehouse that happened by accident. And at the end of each quarter, we ask you to vote on your favorite.

Tens of thousands of you weighed in throughout the year, voting this wooded, waterside home your favorite of those featured on Porchlight. Even with its August debut, it quickly earned nearly 2,500 votes.

When we first wrote about the five-story home among the treetops, it belonged to Jason McLennan, a designer and environmentalist based on Bainbridge Island, just outside Seattle, WA.

You loved McLennan’s 3-bedroom, 4-bathroom sanctuary with reclaimed wood, accents from a salvaged ship, and lush, green surroundings.

The house was built in 1978 by another architect, who salvaged four immense wooden posts to anchor the living space. The builders rescued other touches from an old ship, in a nod to the local maritime industry.

A 12-foot-long antique leaded glass window anchors the kitchen, while adjacent doors open up to a patio that offers views of Puget Sound.

Every floor of the five-story home has vistas of passing ships. It’s part treehouse, part ship, some might say.

The home stands in stark contrast to last year’s winning home, a 16,000-square-foot palace with a private ski bridge in Big Sky, MT. That 6-bedroom, 9-bathroom home boasted a full gym and movie theater.

This year’s stunner sold over the summer for $875,000. Read more about the home in our original post here.

Photos by Erik Hecht. Set decoration provided by Lily Karsten. Plants provided by Bainbridge Botanicals.

Related:

The 2018 Pantone Color of the Year Is Here, and It's Purple 7 Dec 2017, 4:02 am

Editor’s note: Color authority Pantone just announced its selection for the 2018 Color of the Year: Ultra Violet, a purple shade that is sure to prompt passionate discussion among design pros and enthusiasts. Pantone says the color “communicates originality, ingenuity and visionary thinking.” 

We spoke with Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute, about how her team selects the color of the year, and some of the color trends that will influence home decor in 2018. 

Pantone's annual Color of the Year selection makes an impact on the home and interiors industry - often in ways the average consumer isn’t even aware of.

For example, Pantone's 2016 selection Rose Quartz paved the way for Millennial Pink, a blush hue that made headlines in 2017 thanks to its ubiquity in packaging, logos, and products - particularly those targeted to young female consumers.

"That [selection] really created a spike," says Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute and author of the recently released book “The Complete Color Harmony: Pantone Edition.”

"Pink just went everywhere,” she continues. “It went viral." Pantone chose the shade because it was reminiscent of rosy cheeks and good health.

Rose Quartz shared the 2016 Color of the Year designation with sister shade Serenity, a soft blue. The delicate colors were chosen for a balance between warm and cool, and to show that pink and blue are no longer gender specific.

Pantone proclaimed its 2017 choice, Greenery, a symbol of new beginnings, and “illustrative of flourishing foliage and the lushness of the great outdoors.” This year, perhaps influenced by Greenery, Gen Z Yellow and other vibrant sunny hues have been seen in the home and on the fashion runways.

"Vibrant yellow has captured attention because in every society, yellow is sunlight. It means warmth, an enveloping presence, and it makes you happy. It's a feel-good color," says Eiseman.

It will be interesting to see whether consumers embrace Ultra Violet. Purple tends to be a divisive color. Those who love it, love it wildly; those who hate it are equally passionate. Incorporating such a shade into home design made not be for everyone.

According to Pantone, “In interiors, Ultra Violet can transform a room into one of extraordinary self-expression, or conversely its polish can tone down a room with subdued, modern pairings. Adding spice and brightness, Ultra Violet calls attention to a tufted couch, piece of art or accent wall. As a color that can take you in so many directions, Ultra Violet makes a statement in any space, whether it's one of tradition and elegance or unexpected boldness. In hospitality, we are seeing purples like Ultra Violet take center stage in interior spaces as large and small hotels harness color and design to entice travelers and stay relevant.”

Trends for 2018

Next year, in addition to Ultra Violet, expect to see a new, exciting spectrum of colors in the interior design world. Pantone's 2018 home and interiors color palettes include Playful, an array of "lollipop colors" that are perfect for a cheery kids' room.

Pantone’s Playful color palette offers a selection of whimsical hues.

On the other end of the spectrum there is Discretion, which features natural hues and nuanced neutrals, and the Verdure palette’s quieter shades in the green and blue family.

Eiseman also notes a newfound interest in neutrals. Beyond shades like gray, beige, off-white, camel and taupe, a new, exciting category of colors is making its way into the design world. New neutrals like "greige" (gray-beige) and blush are fun new options for the person who wants a neutral that has a little personality to it.

"Neutrals started out in a very basic place," says Eiseman. "When you add undertones to neutrals it can be affective and sophisticated. You can add a mauve tone to gray so it's rosy, not dull and flat."

Eiseman also recommends embracing the natural world and using neutrals that incorporate green tones.

Since 1999, when Pantone started selecting a Color of the Year, the interest in color forecasting has grown dramatically. "It's just so interesting the way people respond to it," says Eiseman. "It really proves how exciting the subject of color it is - whether you're a designer or someone who simply loves getting a conversation going about color. It helps to unleash creativity."

Signals from many sources

From 2016's delicate pink and blue to 2017's invigorating Greenery, color trends have dramatically shifted just in a year. So how does Pantone make its predictions about what the next big thing will be?

From art exhibits to animated movies, each year design elements from around the world guide Pantone as they forecast color trends for the year ahead.

"Our team at Pantone is well-traveled,” Eiseman. “We go to trade shows in Paris and Milan, and while we’re there we stay in the Design District, so we get a real sense of what is in stores, worn on the street, what exhibits are being shown - and then we start to connect dots."

In the art world, Pantone stays abreast of current exhibits for artists like David Hockney and Yayoi Kusama, along with the colors that appear in their work.

"These shows travel the world and get the buzz out and people start talking about [the art] and the way color is used," Eiseman says. "This also enters into our thinking when we are creating a forecast. Yayoi uses bright colors and polka dots, and Hockney uses saturated colors for the most part."

Eiseman also mentions big worldwide events like the Olympic Games and international auto shows in Los Angeles and Geneva as places where Pantone observes the interplay of hues. "These are indicators of the future," she says.

Using color in your home

When selecting color for your home, many factors come into play. Here Eiseman gives her pro tips on infusing your abode with the right hues.

  • Inside the home, don't be afraid of defying tradition. "You create your fantasy on the inside of your home," says Eiseman. For instance, Eiseman lives in the gray Pacific Northwest, so she painted her walls in a sunny yellow to evoke a happy mood and the illusion of sun.
  • For your home’s exterior, choose subtle colors. Eiseman warns that painting your home an attention-grabbing color like purple could rub people the wrong way. If you love vibrant colors, paint your front door a bold hue or incorporate bright colors in your pots and plantings.
  • Decide on your comfort level. "What do you want your house to feel like?" asks Eiseman. "Figure out what you want your house to represent." If you want solitude, go with a calming color palette. Or if you love bold color, go all out. Each color sends a different message and evokes a different mood.
  • Set the mood. For a soothing environment, choose quiet colors like Pantone's Angora White or Dove Gray. For a tinge of warmth, go with Rose Water Pink or Almond Oil. Cooler neutrals include sea spray greens, dew-touched blues or a frosty lavender. Eiseman warns to not exclusively decorate with cool hues, as it can create a cold atmosphere.
  • Create balance. For someone who wants a more "provocative palette," Eiseman recommends seductive hues like spicy reds, hot pinks and succulent oranges - but not exclusively. To ground the vibrant colors and balance out the warmth, she recommends adding a rich chocolate, black or peacock blue.

What do you think of  2018’s Color of the Year?

Related:

3 Easy Holiday Crafts to Get You Feeling Festive 5 Dec 2017, 5:30 pm

Even when you’re eager to get in the spirit, the busy holiday season can make extra projects feel like a chore. That’s where these easy how-to hacks come to the rescue!

Fun, festive and functional, these DIYs provide the perfect opportunity to spend a cozy night indoors while also crossing a few to-do’s off the list for your next holiday bash.

Learn how to make pine cone place cards for your table setting, homemade snow globes to liven up your decor and a kid-sized gingerbread playhouse guaranteed to keep the kiddos occupied.

Ready for a closer look at each project?

Tabletop welcome

Your guests will feel extra loved with these customizable place cards. Whether you stamp them with names or a holiday greeting, this craft brings smiles around the dinner table.

Snow scene

When a friend or family member gives the snow globe on your shelf a shake, you’ll be able to tell them you made it yourself. Insert the setting of your choice to create your own little winter wonderland in a jar.

Playtime starter home

It’s hard to get all the holiday cooking done when you have little ones that want to be entertained. Set them up with this nifty cardboard creation while you bake some treats.

Related:

Vote for Your Favorite Home of 2017 4 Dec 2017, 5:28 pm

Editor’s Note: Feel free to continue to vote for your favorite homes, but our polls are closed for 2017. Check out the winning home here!

Each week we shine a spotlight on a home with unusual features, outstanding architecture or a spectacular locale. Take a look at the homes, and cast your vote for the House of the Year.

January


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Quiz Maker – powered by Riddle

See more: Snow White Cottage, Firehouse Turned Home, Fairytale Cottage, New York Farmhouse

February


Which home do you love most?

233-Year-Old Home

Mansion with a Lap Pool

Storybook Home

Provence-Style Mansion

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

See more: 233-Year-Old Home, Mansion with a Lap Pool, Storybook Home, Provence-Style Mansion

March


Where would you rather spend a day?

Oldest Residence in Charleston

LA Log Cabin

Paintbrush Stroke of Beauty

Hawaiian Paradise

Dallas Glass House

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

See more: Oldest Residence in Charleston, LA Log Cabin, Paintbrush Stroke of Beauty, Hawaiian Paradise, Dallas Glass House

April


Which home would you pick?

Converted 1900s Firehouse

Lighthouse Inside a House

Historic Southern Manor

Hobbit-Inspired Lake House

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

See more: Converted 1900s Firehouse, Lighthouse Inside a House, Historic Southern Manor, Hobbit-Inspired Lake House

May


Which home is calling your name?

Ocean-View Oasis

Clock Tower Penthouse

Buttonwood Manor

$100 Million Mansion

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

See more: Ocean-View Oasis, Clock Tower Penthouse, Buttonwood Manor, $100 Million Mansion

June


Which home do you like most?

Northwest Island Cabin

Tiny Shipping Container

Tropical Creative Oasis

Historic Home with Greenhouse

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

See more: Northwest Island Cabin, Tiny Shipping Container, Tropical Creative Oasis, Historic Home with Greenhouse, World’s Tallest Single-Family Home

July


Where would you rather wake up?

Mid-Century Time Capsule

Tiny Home in the Desert

Magical Treehouse

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

See more: Mid-Century Time Capsule, Tiny Home in the Desert, Magical Treehouse

August & September


Which home speaks to you?

Part Treehouse, Part Ship

Artist Compound

1800s Estate with Personality

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

See more: Part Treehouse, Part Ship, Austin Artist Compound, 1800s Estate with Personality, Dome Built by Hand

October, November & December


Which home do you love more?

Converted 1920s Tea House

Colorful Craftsman

Caribbean-Inspired Brownstone

Remote Meditation Retreat

Tiny Creekside Cabin

Historic Ice House

 

 

 

 

See more: Converted 1920s Tea House, Colorful Craftsman, Caribbean-Inspired Brownstone, Remote Meditation Retreat, Tiny Creekside Cabin, Historic Ice House

Related:

A Cool Twist on a Historic Ice House – House of the Week 4 Dec 2017, 2:05 pm

Jacquie Dadam sees a warm future for a historic ice house near the heart of downtown Boise.

When she first noticed the 3,300-square-foot building, it was a commercial space most recently serving as an interior design studio for kitchens. She and her husband, however, cooked up a different recipe for the spot: They wanted to turn it into a single-family home with modern amenities and an industrial feel.

Photo by Tom Hamilton.

The couple, who had dabbled in home improvement projects before, set out to preserve everything from the brickwork to the 92-year-old window panes. It took them two long years (and one extensive gut renovation) to get the job done.

"I don't think we'd taken on anything that historic before. It was a complete gut job, and then we just started over," Dadam said. "We also just completely redeveloped the interior of the property."

Photo by Gabe Border.

The exterior of the 2-bedroom, 2.5-bathroom building was in great shape, Dadam added, but overhauling the interior required an expert's touch. The 1925 structure is rumored to have been an ice house, meaning it stored ice and food before electricity and home refrigerators were common. It had beautiful, double-layer brick walls, but restoring them to their prime would take some serious work.

Photo by Karen E. Photography.

The duo enlisted the help of an expert mason, who took nearly two months to painstakingly pull out all the crumbling mortar pieces and bring the brick back to its original glory.

The couple tore out everything else down to the floorboards, and then set out to put in all new framing, insulation and structural beams in the living room. They were able to keep the original windows on the main floor and preserve the arched brickwork above each.

Dadam and her husband brought in reclaimed wood from a local hops-drying barn to build the floors.

Photo by Tom Hamilton.

Up next: a spiral staircase to the master suite upstairs. Dadam's husband had seen one online which had been cut by a CNC machine; he convinced the owner to share the details so the duo could build their own out of birch.

"The stairs were an engineering marvel. It's a work of art. It's so pretty, and it's really, really solid," Dadam said. "You walk up and you feel like you're walking up a solid wood staircase."

Photo by Tom Hamilton.

The master bedroom features built-in shelving, additional closets and exposed silver ductwork for a modern industrial feel. 

Photo by Karen E. Photography.

The adjacent bathroom has subway tile and an outdoor patio overlooking the foothills of Boise. ("You can go out there and enjoy your morning coffee," Dadam added.)

Photo by Gabe Border.

A narrow, original doorway on the ground floor leads to an outdoor patio. (It was too charming to discard, the couple felt.) They planted weeping hemlock and Serbian spruce trees, and put up and privacy screens to grow vines on.

There's also a second, 500-square-foot building the duo built in 2016. It features a roll-up garage door — perfect for a bakery, yoga studio or even a guest house. (It is zoned for both commercial and residential uses.)

Photo by Karen E. Photography.

The couple listed the turnkey residence at $800,000. Their favorite feature may just be the location, they said, from downtown Boise's riverfront bike path to the beautiful natural light the home gets.

"Early evening, I love sitting in that main living room with a glass of wine. The light starts to change, and all of the windows start to change to that beautiful blue color," Dadam said. "Everything inside starts to glow. It's so special, that time of night."

Photo by Gabe Border.

"I love the overall warmth of the home," she continued. "People want to stay and be there."

Sherri Battazzo of The Buy-Boise Real Estate Group holds the listing.

Top image by Tom Hamilton.

Related:

The Secret to No-Fuss Holiday Decor? Use What You Already Have 29 Nov 2017, 7:00 am

Hold your holiday decor horses! Before you purchase gobs of tinsel and piles of twinkle lights, take another look at items you already have - they may be the holiday embellishment you've been looking for.

By hunting through your cabinets and closets, you can easily repurpose common household items into yuletide decor for your abode. Need a little inspiration? These design experts share how they style up everyday objects into festive flourishes.

Dig through the craft closet

"Bust out the burlap! I've been known to use burlap for anything from tablecloths to a Christmas tree skirt. It's so versatile and lends an organic, rustic vibe."
- Brooke Wagner, Brooke Wagner Design

"Roll out brown or black butcher paper on your table like a runner. It somehow elevates everything you set on it. Plus, you can write your guests names on it in black marker (or chalk marker for black paper) instead of place cards."
- Jenn Muirhead, Jennifer Muirhead Interiors

"Paint a wall with chalkboard paint. It’s the perfect themed accent wall that's fun and creative, and it gets the kids involved, too."
- Melissa Martin Molitor, MMM Designs-Interiors

Photo courtesy of Melissa Martin Molitor.

"Tie ribbon on everything! Thread it through chandeliers or banisters. Or put festive printed fabric in picture frames and scatter them throughout the house."
- Katie Schroder, Atelier Interior Design

Scour the kitchen cupboards

"Place a set of teacups on a pretty tray, and fill each cup with a succulent or small flower arrangement. Or create a centerpiece by placing candles on a serving tray or cake stand."
- Gita Jacobson, In The Deets

“Fill a large glass serving bowl - or maybe a punch bowl or trifle bowl - with whatever seasonal item you want. Just use the same thing so it looks purposeful and pretty.”
- Jenn Muirhead, Jennifer Muirhead Interiors

"Take an ordinary flower vase, and stick glass ornaments inside with a string of white lights. It's a pretty display that’s simple and creative!"
- Wendy Berry, W Design Interiors

Ransack the fridge

"Dried fruit garland is still classic and sweet. Take a needle and thread to some popcorn, cranberries or dried sliced oranges, and string it up wherever you want to!"
- Jenn Muirhead, Jennifer Muirhead Interiors

"Cut up fresh fruit and put it in a pitcher before adding flowers for a centerpiece. Throw in some cloves and cinnamon sticks for added flair. For a dash of festivity, use oranges with cloves in them for place card settings."
- Christine Estep, Jackson Thomas Interiors

Sift through the closet

"Use a vintage plaid throw as a tablecloth or runner. Or decorate a small tabletop tree with jewelry or ribbon."
- Katie Schroder, Atelier Interior Design

"Repurpose one of your favorite scarves as a cozy centerpiece runner."
- Gita Jacobson, In The Deets

Forage in the yard

“Instead of placing a star at the top of my Christmas tree, I'll take a handful of fallen sticks and tie them together at the top of the tree with a raffia bow. I'll also layer pine cones throughout my tree to balance out the glass ornaments for an organic, natural feel.
- Wendy Berry, W Design Interiors

“I gather sticks cedar branches, along with magnolia, holly, boxwood and pine. I spread them around the bases of containers or arrange them in colorful tea tins. It’s an easy way to bring in greenery without spending too much money."
- Susan Jamieson, Bridget Beari Designs

“I love to add a garland of fresh greens around my dining room chandelier and hang ornaments from it. The fresh scent mixed with holiday cooking is wonderful."

- Jennifer Stoner, Jennifer Stoner Interiors

Look everywhere!

"Scatter some festive items that aren’t necessarily holiday themed. For example, we’ll set out some naturally shed antlers in the fall or a tuxedo hat around Christmas. I’ll mix in a few of these types of things that feel seasonally appropriate but aren’t necessarily traditional holiday decor."
- Summer Thornton, Summer Thornton Design

"Give a corner of your home a holiday touch with just a handful of tweaks. We made a sitting area more festive by adding new pillows (they needn’t have an overt holiday motif – a wintery look works just as well), some evergreen cuttings from the yard (with a few sprigs of berries), a stack of wrapped gifts, a scarf and bow for our deer, and a teddy bear found in the attic."
– Chris Stout-Hazard, Roger + Chris

Photo courtesy of Chris Stout-Hazard.

"Gather objects with a similar color scheme. I pull out all of my white and silver anything and group them together - candle holders, vases, pots, ribbon. Then I go to my neighbors' yards for magnolia and holly cuttings and get laurel out of my own yard. I just keep everything green, white and silver - jumbled together it works."
- Lesley Glotzl

"Repurpose a metallic vessel into a vase for displaying rich greenery or arrangements of holiday objects. A brass champagne cooler, a bright silver trophy cup or even small copper mugs could work perfectly. Add fresh pops of red with cranberries, pomegranates, deep-red apples or even a few red roses."
- Kerrie Kelly, Kerrie Kelly Design Lab

Photo courtesy of Kerrie Kelly.
Top photo from Zillow listing.

Related:

5 Holiday Looks on the Nice List 28 Nov 2017, 6:00 am

If Santa's decor has been on the top of your wishlist ever since he claimed his home on Zillow, now you can make it happen. We highlighted five ways you can easily incorporate his holiday style into your home.

Get Santa's Look In Your Home

Related:

The Untold Story of Tiny Homes, Straight From the North Pole 28 Nov 2017, 6:00 am

Elves: They're just like us. Or is it the other way around? For instance, did you know that many of our trends originated from elf culture? It's true. Perhaps the biggest (or maybe it's the smallest) trend is the tiny home.

A short history of the tiny home

Elves didn't just invent tiny homes, they perfected them. When elves first joined Santa in the North Pole, they decided to live on-site – the traffic jams caused by migrating polar bears made the commute intolerable. So they quickly got to work building their own community on Santa’s land.

Because the diminutive craftsmen didn't need much space, they kept their homes small: 150 square feet. While each elf added their own flair, the layouts are similar with the living area and bathroom on the main level and the bedroom in the loft. Word of these mini dwellings spread south and so began the rise of tiny homes for larger humans.

The design hub of the north

The North Pole serves as the address for many elves. Nobody quite knows how many, but when Santa claimed his home on Zillow, we got a glimpse of one elf enclaves. Being the trendsetters they are, each elf had at least one statement-making feature created by their own ingenuity. These are our three favorites.

1. The serving cart

One look at those itty-bitty Moscow mule mugs on the stylish cart will make you crave a peppermint julep. Popularized by elves, bar carts like this one got their start by serving as an extension to the limited countertop space in tiny homes.

Bar cart

2. Wood panels and exposed beams

There's something about wood paneling and exposed beams that make this home feel so inviting. Before it became a design choice, wood planks were the preferred siding for elf homes because of their ability to insulate from the cold, harsh climate.

Wood plank and exposed beams in the kitchen

3. Yoga zone

Having your own home gym is a luxury reserved for those with extra space, so it's impressive this elf found room for a dedicated yoga area. While home gyms are a convenience for most, they were started by elves out of necessity due to regularly getting snowed in.

Yoga area

 

Related:

An Insider's Look at Santa's House 28 Nov 2017, 6:00 am

When Santa claimed his home on Zillow, updated the home's facts, and uploaded photos and a video walkthrough, we wanted to learn more about his house. We tracked down the people in charge of Santa's remodel - interior designer Marian Bright and general contractor Doug Fir - and asked them to spill the details.

What motivated you to take on this project?

Marian Bright (MB): Santa is synonymous with the holiday season. He has inspired people around the world to change their home decor for at least one month out of the year. How could I say no to a challenge like that?

Doug Fir (DF): This is a man who appreciates fine craftsmanship and woodworking. One look at his gorgeous log home and I knew I had to get my hands on it. This was my chance to impress the jolly old elf and get on the nice list for good.

How did you incorporate Santa's style into his house?

DF: I didn't want to compete with the rustic vibe of the cabin that Santa himself built. So I found ways to enhance that atmosphere with outdoor elements. I brought grandeur to the mantle with floor-to-ceiling river rock, since the fireplace is such a large part of Santa's background.

More windows and skylights were incorporated into the new open concept design, making the home feel more spacious - especially for his many tiny guests.

MB: I wanted to meld Santa's iconic festive style with his wintery wonderland surroundings. That's why you'll find so much fresh greenery, knotty pine furniture and cozy linens all throughout. I call the look Falalala Fabulous.

Santa's Kitchen Table

Which area of the home proved to be the most challenging?

DF: Definitely the garage, which was converted from a rinky-dink one-sleigh space to a grease monkey's dream. Not only does Santa have dedicated parking for his all-weather sleigh, but he has room to work on it, too.

He was very specific about his needs for the area. I had to create space to accommodate a specialty lift, as well as NORAD Tracks Santaincorporate an intricately wired system for the Elf Launch Staff who communicate with NORAD* for sleigh-tracking purposes on Christmas Eve. Who knew he was such a garage enthusiast?

MB: For me, it was the living room. Doug created this masterful fireplace and I needed to match its stateliness with decor that could keep up - without overpowering the space.

That's why I mixed in just a couple of statement pieces around that mantle: 17th-century German nutcrackers and lanterns Santa used on a camping trip with Teddy Roosevelt. Of course, Santa requested I leave room for his 4K Ultra HD Sub-Zero Edition Smart TV programmed with a Christmas documentaries setting.

Fireplace mantle inside Santa's House

What inspired your designs?

MB: There were so many wonderful pieces around the home that Santa had picked up from his world travels. One item that served as my muse was an apron with a Scandinavian print that he got for Mrs. Claus in Sweden. That helped inspire some of the Nordic elements that you see in the kitchen.

Santa's House Kitchen

What's your favorite element of the design?

DF: Before Santa hired me, the area above the dining and living rooms was closed off. Opening it up gave the house a whole new look, with more room to breathe. So I'd have to say the lofted ceilings is my favorite feature in the house.

MB: Doug's addition of the lofted ceilings allowed me to suspend a custom-made light fixture over the dining room table. I adore that piece. I commissioned it to be modeled after the property's landscape.

Santa's Vaulted Ceilings

Want the full tour? See more photos of Santa’s house. 

*Endorsement by the United States Department of Defense or NORAD is not intended nor implied.

Related:

Originally published November 30, 2016

What Happens When a One-of-a-Kind Home Needs a New Owner? 22 Nov 2017, 1:46 pm

When shopping for a home, it’s not uncommon to come across one that truly stands out. It's not because the home is an old fixer-upper or that it's a newly renovated home with a designer kitchen. It's a home that's architecturally significant or in some way conveys a "different" attribute. For instance, it might be a castle, a church or even a fire station that has been converted into one or more living spaces.

With an unusual home, pricing and marketing can be a challenge. Here are three things to keep in mind when either buying or selling a truly unique property.

1. Buyers should be cautious

As crazy as it sounds, a would-be buyer may want to reconsider purchasing an offbeat home. While it may be a home you love, it is also an investment. A home with a unique, unchangeable structural feature will likely alienate a large portion of the market.

If you're faced with the opportunity to purchase a unique home, don't get caught up in the excitement of it all. Think long term. Understand that when it comes time to sell, it may be a burden, particularly if you try to sell in a slow market.

2. When selling, don't assume buyers will love what you love

As the owner of an interesting or different home who is considering a sale, be aware that not everyone will have the same feeling about the home as you did when you bought the place. While you're likely to get lots of activity, showings and excitement over your property, a lot of that may simply be curious buyers, nosy neighbors or tire kickers.

Time after time, sellers with unique homes believe that since they fell head over heels, another buyer who might feel the same. But that person could be hard to find.

3. Hire the right agent and have a serious marketing/pricing discussion

A unique home requires a unique marketing plan and pricing strategy as well as a good agent. The buyer may not even live in your local market, and instead might be an opportunist buyer open to a unique property. So you should consider advertising outside the mainstream circles. Media and press can help get the special home the attention it may need.

The buyer may not want to live in your town but is fascinated by an old church or castle. The more you get this out there, the better your options for finding the specific buyer.

If you get lots of action but few offers, you may need to drop the price below the comparable sales to generate interest, particularly if you really need to sell. Just like a home with a funky floor plan, on a busy intersection or with a tiny backyard, the market for your unique home is simply smaller.

With online home listings, blogging and real estate television shows, unique homes stand out and get more exposure than ever. But selling a distinctive or offbeat property requires out-of-the-box thinking early on, and with a top agent. You only have one chance to make a first impression. Be certain to price the home right, expose it to the masses and have a strategic plan in right from the start.

Top image from Zillow listing.

Related:

Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of Zillow.

Originally published October 10, 2014.

Go Exploring With This Tiny Home in Tow 22 Nov 2017, 7:00 am

Architect Duff Bangs and social worker Ashley Rodgers were ready to leave Seattle - and the nine-to-five grind. Taking a leap of faith, the couple quit their jobs, sold their condo and spent the past summer traveling the western United States in the Adventure Wagon 28, a 200-square-foot tiny home with a 70-square-foot sleeping loft. Now settled in Eastern Washington, Bangs and Rodgers are continuing their business Modern Wagon with the mission of building affordable tiny homes that are ready to hit the road, and donating a portion of the proceeds to housing for the homeless.

When designing the prototype, the couple aimed to include amenities like a bathtub, washer and dryer, and space for a yoga practice. The 28-foot trailer, carefully balanced for weight distribution, features a sloped roof and angled front and rear walls for maximum living volume. The exterior is composed of aluminum composite rainscreen with pre-finished birch lining the interior and Europly cabinets.

Bangs and Rodgers traveled nearly 11,000 miles over three months beginning in June 2017 - heading east to Chicago, back west to Colorado and Yellowstone National Park, and then south to Utah and Southern California before ending up in Eastern Washington. “We stopped at every national park we could,” says Bangs, who still lives in the prototype with fiancée Rodgers. “Living in a tiny home is better than I expected. [We] downsized from a 1,000-square-foot studio, and our lives are so much less cluttered and more simplified.”

Photos courtesy of Modern Wagon

The 13,000-pound tiny home stayed steady, even through storms in Montana and the Midwest. Says Bangs, “The entire journey has been extremely rewarding. It was pretty amazing to set a goal to design and build such a fascinating project within our deadline and be able to have the freedom to travel for three months all while towing our home.”

If you’re curious to hear more, check out the Modern Wagon blog for an account of the design process and road trip, and the website to get in touch with the creators.

This article was written by Jenny Xie and originally appeared on Dwell. Check out more of their content on Dwell.com.

Related:

A Fireplace for Every Room 21 Nov 2017, 7:00 am

Although a longtime living room fixture, fireplaces are a comfort best enjoyed everywhere. From bedrooms to basements and even the master bath, there’s no right or wrong way to curl up and snuggle ’round the fireside.

To spark your fireplace fancy, here’s a roundup of ideas for inviting warmth into even the unlikeliest of rooms.

Entryway

Give guests an immediate reprieve from the chill with a fireplace front and center.

Photo from Zillow listing.
Photo from Zillow listing.

Kitchen

Because the heart of the home ought to have a hearth to go with it.

Photo from Zillow listing.
Photo from Zillow listing.

Dining room

Dress any dinner party up or down with a little fireside ambiance.

Photo from Zillow listing.
Photo from Zillow listing.

Living room

A classic pairing that’s never passe, living rooms and fireplaces forever complement an evening in.

Photo from Zillow listing.
Photo from Zillow listing.

Bedroom

Proceed with caution - once you burrow into bed to the tune of a fire’s cozy crackles, you might never get out.

Photo from Zillow listing.
Photo from Zillow listing.

Master bathroom

Luxuriating in the bath has never been toastier.

Photo from Zillow listing.
Photo from Zillow listing.

Home office

We recommend pairing this combo with a snifter of brandy and a leatherbound book.

Photo courtesy of Griffin Enright Architects.
Photo from Zillow listing.

Patio

If you’re more cold-snapped than snowbound, an outdoor fireplace lends festivity without the frost.

Photo from Zillow listing.
Photo from Zillow listing.
Top photo from Zillow listing.

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Remote Meditation Retreat With Rocky Mountain Views – House of the Week 20 Nov 2017, 4:26 pm

Sometimes when searching for a place to live, you don't find the spot - the spot finds you.

Such was the case for David Tresemer. The year was 1986, and Tresemer was looking to escape the hustle and bustle of burgeoning Boulder, CO. He drove 90 minutes in every direction and was eventually drawn to an expansive spot a short drive from the city.

"It's so pure. It looks down on Boulder," he said. "The land really just spoke to me."

With snowcapped-mountain views and creekside trails to explore, the 105-acre setting was so inspiring that Tresemer not only built his home here but also created a spiritual retreat for the community.

The centerpiece is a 12-sided structure he calls the StarHouse, which serves as a nondenominational gathering space for everything from yoga to weddings to solstice celebrations.

"We all tend to feel a little overwhelmed by what's going on in the world, and it's important to have a place to reconnect - for silence and a deeper connection," said Tresemer's wife, Lila.

Lila and David married in the StarHouse in 1995, and they've since officiated a number of weddings there. They now live in a custom-built 6,500-square-foot home on the property named MorningStar.

With 7 bedrooms and 5 bathrooms, the house is bathed in warm, natural wood elements, from the walls to the ceilings to the doors.

Tresemer described the home as rustic and spiritually accented, with crystals and fountains interspersed throughout.

There's a celestial mural the couple commissioned from a local artist above a fireplace, and an outdoor courtyard serves as a private meditation spot.

But the west-facing deck on the second floor, perfect for dramatic sunsets and more, might just be the couple's favorite.

"You're looking at the snowcapped mountains, and you can see the sunset or the moonset," Tresemer said. "I prefer the moonset because it's so dramatic."

An off-grid, 2-bedroom retreat cabin is just beyond the main house (a woman recently spent an entire week there in silent meditation).

There’s also a historical 1904 homestead cabin on the property, along with organic gardens and other spiritual locales, including two labyrinths.

A perfectly shaped dodecahedron acts as a meditation chamber, and a 20-minute walk on the property leads guests to a physician's tree - a spot for personal healing, Tresemer said.

Despite their deep love for the home, the Tresemers decided to put it up for sale for $2.45 million (they’ve also listed the entire property for $5.2 million)

"[This spot is] already loved by many, but there's room for someone to bring their own vision and their own concept," Lila said. "We would like to see it continued by a community of people who've come to love it."

"It's age-related for us, and we feel there's a lot of vision and enthusiasm among the younger generations," she continued. "We would love to see them take it to the next level."

Roger Walker of RE/MAX Alliance on Walnut carries the listing. Photos courtesy of Rob Larsen.

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Bringing a 1980s Relic Into the Light, Bright Modern Age 17 Nov 2017, 7:00 am

It's never easy to restore an old home, but redesigning a home built in the 1980s - an era not particularly loved for its style - requires imagination.

Debbie Cederlind and Lora Lindberg, Seattle house-flipping pros and owners of Urban Squirrel, recently tackled a Bothell, WA home built in 1989 that didn't have much going for it on the style front.

"With 1980s houses, it's a challenge to put character back in,” says Cederlind. “We started with no character, but it felt good at the end. We made it stand out and gave it some specialness that wasn't there."

The traditional-style home had already been renovated before Cederlind and Lindberg got their hands on it, but the work was less than desirable.

"There were some hideous paint colors on the wall,” Lindberg recalls. “You could see they were trying to inject character with super bright yellows and reds. And there was a bathroom with no windows. It was livable, but pretty ugly inside."

Let it breathe

When Cederlind and Lindberg first walked into the home, their main objective was to let some much-needed light inside.

They removed a wall between the kitchen and dining room and opened up the stairwell leading down to the basement. The stairwell was long and completely closed up with a door at the top, so the designers decided to open both sides of the wall.

"We let it breathe a little bit," Lindberg says.

The kitchen was reimagined - taken from dark and unremarkable to sleek, light and modern, featuring a charcoal-colored island, white open shelving and a shiplap treatment. The designers also covered the appliances with paneling to make them less obvious.

In addition to revamping the kitchen and the main bathroom, which was lightened with a rectangular exterior window and some large-piece tile work in the shower, the designers also altered the awkward layout upstairs.

They decided to close off an outdated half wall that overlooked the living space and front entryway, then create a bedroom to replace the lofted office that previously existed there.

Inject character

The bulk of the work and style added to the home was in the basement. "The space was super creepy and weird and didn't flow well," Lindberg says.

Out of this blank, dark and uninviting slate, the designers created two bedrooms, a library, a kitchenette and an additional bathroom. The kitchenette and bathroom feature sliding barn doors, which open up to the large living space downstairs.

The kitchenette is every bit as stylish as the full kitchen, featuring open shelving, charcoal-colored open cabinets and stone counters.

The biggest quandary the designers faced in the basement was deciding what to do with the three posts in the middle of the room. After much deliberation, they turned the posts into a built-in library, adorning it with vintage-style hanging chairs on each side suspended from beams.

"We went around and around, and that was the trickiest thing to figure out,” Cederlind says. “But if you’re a family with kids, you want the whole basement to be a big playground.”

Get the look at home

  • Make your kitchen flow. "Now that we're doing these open kitchens, people don't want their kitchen to look like a kitchen. They want it to flow," Cederlind says. Add artwork, pottery and other accessories to make the room feel less like a kitchen and more like the rest of your home.
  • Consider conversation. "We think a lot about our seating arrangements. We think about conversation and not about TV placement," Lindberg says. Face couches and chairs toward each other - not the TV - to create a cozy space for chatting with friends and loved ones.
  • Incorporate contrast. "You need the balance of dark and bright," Cederlind says. If you have dark hardwood floors, don't feel like you have to match your cabinetry. Creating contrast will prevent your home from looking too dark or dated.

Take the full home tour:

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This Hobbit House Will Have You Dreaming of Middle-Earth 16 Nov 2017, 4:26 pm

Building tiny meant dreaming big for Kristie Wolfe.

Inspired by the “Lord of the Rings” stories she enjoyed as a child, the Idaho native set out to build a tiny home in a hillside for an unlikely client: a real-life hobbit.

"I grew up watching the 1970s cartoon, and I've read ‘The Hobbit,’" Wolfe said. "I really always loved the house and the type of house that they lived in."

Wolfe found the perfect backdrop for her Shire in the small central Washington community of Orondo. (It's not quite Middle-earth, but smack dab in the middle of the Evergreen State.) She had already built a treehouse in Hawaii; for her next project, she had her heart set on an authentic, buried hobbit hole inspired by characters from the famous "Lord of the Rings" books.

But what the soul wants, the soil can't always deliver: The property offered million-dollar views, but getting construction equipment up to a rural hillside would prove challenging.

"I wanted the house to be buried, to be as authentic as possible. I tried to do a lot of research, but there’s not a lot out there," Wolfe said. "I couldn’t get a concrete truck up here. We could have mixed it by hand, but it would have been really difficult. I talked to the building department, and they just said nobody’s ever done it, but you can give it a shot."

Wolfe relied on the construction know-how she'd picked up from her parents - her mother remodeled houses when Wolfe was a child - and brought in a backhoe to clear the land. Wolfe needed to ensure the hobbit hole could hold the foot of dirt she planned to place on the roof, so she used marine-grade, pressure-treated wood.

"Any time you put dirt on top of a house, when that dirt gets wet, it’s basically having a swimming pool on top of your house," she added. "It’s a lot of weight."

Up next: an entrance fit for a hobbit. Wolfe wanted a signature round entryway, which she created using an industrial-sized cable spool. She enlisted a local designer to craft the hinges and the opening to the 288-square-foot space. He repurposed a trailer hitch to build the door handle.

When guests enter through the circular portal, they immediately stand in the bedroom. To the right is a fireplace, which helps heat the home in the winter, along with a woodworker's bench. To the left is the bathroom, complete with a large wooden tub.

Other touches were sustainably sourced. Wolfe crafted the cordwood floor from roadside logs she gathered, chopped up and glued together. She found some furnishings on Craigslist. The cozy wood Jacuzzi bathtub came from a used furniture shop.

With a location so remote, Wolfe installed solar panels to generate electricity. The dirt-covered roof has the benefit of keeping the home at a cool 55 degrees year-round (the oversized fireplace comes in handy in cooler weather). Wolfe's sister, a landscaper, wove sticks and branches together to create a hobbit-style fence, greeting fans and friends alike.

Speaking of fans, they've made this spot as beloved as the books themselves. The home is available as a vacation rental and is so popular, it's almost fully booked for the next year. Some guests come in full hobbit regalia, Wolfe said; others have used the home as a backdrop to get engaged.

Given the home's popularity, it's no surprise that Wolfe is looking to expand. She's got two more hobbit holes planned for the same property.

"I want to build a communal kitchen … that will look like an English-style pub," she said. "People from all over can meet, or come stay with their friends and family, and break bread together like hobbits would."

Related:

5 Signs You Need to Upgrade Your Kitchen 15 Nov 2017, 12:09 pm

Your kitchen is likely the most loved room in your home - and the wear and tear proves it. It's the hangout for hungry teenagers, the conversation station during the holidays and the catch-up room after a busy workday.

A functional and appealing kitchen is important not only for your family but for your guests, too. After all, a delicious meal is only so appealing in a messy and cluttered kitchen.

Here are five signs that your kitchen may need an upgrade.

1. Outdated appliances

Perhaps they were there when you moved in, or maybe they came with you decades ago when you bought the home. Either way, outdated appliances are usually less attractive and drain more energy than newer models on the market.

Consider their safety, too. If you have to press a secret combination of buttons and chant a spell to light your range, it's time to upgrade to newer, safer appliances.

When you do upgrade, consult a professional electrician to make sure everything is wired properly and up to code.

2. Damage and wear

Nobody expects your kitchen to stay in like-new condition forever, but damage beyond normal wear and tear needs addressing.

Water damage from a leaking fridge or dishwasher can cause mold on and underneath the flooring or peeling on the countertops, floors and walls, depending on the materials.

Cracked, peeling or chipped countertops and floors are prime spots for dangerous bacteria to reside - and hide from cleaning supplies. Even clean counters and floors with stains can cause your guests to think twice when they're invited over a second time.

Upgrading to newer counters made from a durable material like granite is a good investment that can last practically a lifetime.

3. Not enough counter space

If your counters are covered with appliances, utensils and food, you need an upgrade. Ideally, your counters should always be clutter-free, and everything should have an easily accessible place.

Adding more counter space doesn't have to mean tearing down walls and rehauling the layout. If your floor plan allows, installing an island is a great and relatively simple way to add counter space.

If it’s not the space but the clutter that's the problem, larger cabinets or deeper drawers will increase storage so you can reclaim your counters.

4. You can't find anything

Do you look forward to cooking or dread the time commitment? How much time is actually spent on food prep versus searching for the right utensils, appliances and dishware?

A disorganized kitchen makes it difficult to find anything, which can cause anxiety over cooking and render your kitchen useless. A fresh design and organization strategy is a worthy investment to get you eating in your own home again and enjoying the cooking process.

5. Your house won't sell

Saving for your new home is often the priority when moving. But upgrading your current kitchen before you go is an investment that may very well pay for itself.

Home shoppers often gravitate first toward the kitchen. So, if you've been having trouble selling your home and the kitchen’s outdated - that could be the reason.

Buyers are usually more interested in move-in ready homes that require little or no remodeling. A more appealing, upgraded kitchen can be a motivating factor for buyers, hopefully resulting in less time on the market and a better selling price.

 

Make the necessary upgrades when the time comes, and your kitchen will reclaim its rightful place as the heart of the home.

Photos by Timothy Riley and Luke Caldwell.

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10 Cozy Cabins for $300,000 or Less 14 Nov 2017, 11:32 am

Whether you’re looking for a vacation home or somewhere to leave the city behind and unplug the electronics for good, there are plenty of cabins to fit even a modest budget.

Grab your favorite flavored latte and a flannel blanket before settling in to look at these 10 cozy cabins for $300,000 or less.

Gore, OK

96077 S Redbud Ln
For sale: $294,900

Photo from Zillow listing.

This A-frame cabin has stellar views of crystal-clear Lake Tenkiller from the spacious back porch, and it’s just down the road from direct water access. After a long day out on the lake, you'll enjoy the open-concept living and dining space, which has plenty of natural light from the French doors and the windows that stretch nearly up to the gable. Snuggle up with a book at the end of the day in one of the bedrooms or in the bonus sleeping loft upstairs.

See more homes for sale in Gore.

Lake Geneva, WI

N3211 Highland Dr
For sale: $275,000

Photo from Zillow listing.

Located just minutes from downtown Lake Geneva, this log cabin has all the room you need to recover from the blustery, cold Wisconsin fall and winter temperatures. This isn't your run-of-the-mill cabin - it boasts many interesting architectural details, including beautiful A-frame beams across the living room, a stone fireplace, wide-plank hardwood floors and a front door with stained glass. End the day by relaxing in the jetted tub, or enjoy the views from the master suite balcony with a hot cup of cocoa.

Find more homes in Lake Geneva.

Gaylord, MI

1449 Equestrian Ct
For sale: $299,500

Photo from Zillow listing.

Surrounded by 40 acres of nature, this cabin is sure to please those wanting to completely unplug and enjoy wildlife and foliage. The cabin is spacious, modern and updated, with vaulted pine ceilings, an open-concept living and dining space, and lots of natural light coming through the floor-to-ceiling windows. A large deck extends from the living room, perfect for taking in the sights and sounds of nature.

Search for more Gaylord homes.

Morganton, GA

215 Appalachian Trce
For sale: $195,000

Photo from Zillow listing.

This Morganton home is the quintessential cabin in the woods. It features floor-to-ceiling wood planks, a stone fireplace in the corner, a deer-horn chandelier and a porch with rocking chairs. Located minutes from the Blue Ridge Mountains, this cabin is perfect for those who love to hike, bike or simply enjoy the peace and quiet of the wilderness.

Check out more homes in Morganton.

Sevierville, TN

3201 Stepping Stone Dr
For sale: $300,000

Photo from Zillow listing.

This stunning cabin in Sevierville is truly a gem of the forest. With two stories of wraparound porches, floor-to-ceiling windows in the main living area, an updated kitchen with brand new appliances and real wood on the walls, floors and ceilings, you'll be living stylishly in the middle of the woods. Enjoy the sweeping views with a glass of wine on the couch - or from the bubbling hot tub on the porch.

Find another home in Sevierville.

Bridgewater, VT

1031 Chateauguay Rd
For sale: $299,000

Photo from Zillow listing.

Is there anything more picturesque than a cabin in the middle of Vermont? This rustic Bridgewater cabin provides the perfect space to warm up by the fire and enjoy all of those fall evenings. Wood planks and beams cover the floors, walls and ceilings, giving the space a snug, den-like feeling. Outside, a covered porch awaits your rocking chair, and a hot tub on the patio gives you a great spot to stargaze.

See more Bridgewater homes for sale.

Turners Station, KY

1429 Zen Forest Rd
For sale: $199,900

Photo from Zillow listing.

This turnkey cabin in Turners Station gives you all the luxuries of the city without any of the noise. An open, updated kitchen with new appliances is just right around the corner from your wall-mounted electric fireplace, ensuring you'll be nice and toasty when you're preparing a meal. Upstairs, the oversized skylit loft would be great for a game room - or for piling up a bunch of blankets to fall asleep under the stars.

Find more Turners Station homes.

Cleburne, TX

8449 Bruntsfield Loop Dr
For sale: $240,000

Photo from Zillow listing.

It may not get cold in Texas very often, but you'll have the urge to cuddle up around a bonfire by this cabin in Cleburne. With cathedral-style ceilings, a covered porch and a modern, spacious kitchen, you'll be set up to host friends and family throughout the year. Best of all, the home is located in a neighborhood known for its golf club, which is one of the best in Texas.

Search for more homes in Cleburne.

Elk, WA

13 Terry Rd
For sale: $300,000

Photo from Zillow listing.

Lakefront living sure looks glamorous in this Elk cabin. Nestled on a beautiful property with plentiful opportunities for wildlife sightings, this home really does have it all: a beautifully designed kitchen, spacious bedrooms, a comfy covered porch and a private walkway to the shoreline.

See more Elk homes for sale.

Westcliffe, CO

510 Drunk Horse Ln
For sale: $199,900

Photo from Zillow listing.

With its quirky shape and rustic interior, this A-frame cabin in Westcliffe looks and feels like it popped out of a Wes Anderson film. Although the cabin may be small, the views from the front porch are spectacular - from the Wet Mountain Valley to the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. You’ll enjoy some serious stargazing here, as Westcliffe is a certified International Dark Sky Community.

Check out more Westcliffe homes.

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The 9-to-5er's Guide to Keeping Your House Clean 13 Nov 2017, 12:21 pm

If cleaning the house seems like one big chore, you're probably doing it wrong. Before you put off cleaning for yet another month, here are some ways to make housework a comfortable and even enjoyable part of your daily routine.

Start small

If you begin and end each day with a little picking up, you'll never get swamped with housework again. Keeping a clean house begins with good habits like making your bed every morning and cleaning the dishes while you cook. Nobody wants to navigate through a minefield of yesterday's mess to make coffee, so never allow yourself to fall asleep with dirty dishes or a disheveled living room.

Before you leave for work in the morning, take one to two minutes to tidy up. That way, you can look forward to returning to a clean and stress-free house.

Enjoy yourself

Even the most reviled of household chores can be enjoyable if you have some headphones or a portable speaker. Truth be told, cleaning the house is a hidden source of me time that you'll eventually learn to love.

For example, if you think vacuuming kind of sucks, listen to an energetic playlist of your favorite songs and sway to the music like nobody's watching. If you haven't had much time to read lately, listen to audiobooks and podcasts while you do the dishes. If you're a parent and miss watching movies and shows without singing princesses, prop up your phone or tablet and use some wireless headphones to do a little binge-watching. Yay for chores!

Simplify your chore list

Rather than making a never-ending list of unattainable projects, break it up into manageable, bite-sized pieces.

Get a blank sheet of paper and make four columns: Daily, Weekly, Monthly and Yearly. Everyday chores like making the bed, picking up the house and doing the dishes can go in the Daily column. Chores like vacuuming and dusting can go in either the Weekly or Monthly column, depending on what's realistic for your lifestyle. Reserve the Yearly column for big projects like cleaning the oven, shampooing the carpet and wiping down the fan blades.

Even if you fall behind on your chore list, seeing it all laid out on one page will reduce your anxiety and make procrastination a thing of the past.

Stock your cleaning caddy

Instead of using one caddy to store all your cleaning supplies, only fill it with what you'll use on a weekly basis: spray bottles of all-purpose cleaner and window cleaner, paper towels, a rag, dusting cloth, scrub brush, heavy-duty sponge and an old toothbrush for hard-to-reach places.

To ensure that you'll actually use the caddy, keep it in your bathroom so it's easily accessible. Store specialty kitchen cleaning products (stainless steel and cooktop cleaners) in the kitchen, and keep big bottles of bleach, vinegar and floor cleaner in the garage. And of course, keep any cleaning products out of the reach of young children.

Multitask

Even though your sink is caked with toothpaste, soap scum and beard stubble, you still haven't found the time to clean your bathroom lately. Well, fellow procrastinators, here's a little secret: You can wipe the sink while you get ready in the morning! Keep a roll of paper towels underneath the sink so you can wipe the countertop and basin whenever you brush your teeth.

To keep the shower clean, fill a hollow dish scrubber with a mixture of half dish soap and half vinegar, keep it in the shower and scrub the tiles a little every time you shower.

To spot clean the kitchen floor and put off mopping another week, save any damp paper towels whenever you clean the kitchen counters. Before throwing them out, use them to clean up messes on the floor.

Aim for finished, not perfect

Nobody's going to go over your cleaning job with a fine-tooth comb, so don't bother sweating the small stuff. The goal is to make cleaning an attainable habit that fits in nicely with your busy lifestyle; worrying about not doing a good enough job will only make you procrastinate more.

Another problem is biting off more than you can chew. If mopping the whole house at once seems too daunting a task for one afternoon, settle for the kitchen floor for now. You can always move on to another room if you feel the urge.

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