Saving on Kitchen Renovations

From Zillow.com:

Anyone with a kitchen that’s older than this century has probably entertained thoughts of a redo, although just mentally adding up the potential cash outlay may be enough to send the project straight to the back burner. But never fear: Careful shopping and creative money-saving strategies can help move a kitchen update from the to-do list to reality.

As you might expect, careful shopping for the big-ticket items will yield the most significant savings. Paring 10 percent or more off the cost of cabinets and appliances will leave a lot more cash in your wallet than purchasing, say, a discounted light fixture or faucet — though small savings can add up too.

To get your shopping off to a good start, step away from the professional appliances. They can be real budget busters. The good news is that quite a few of the major home-appliance manufacturers have mimicked the pro look, delivering robust styling in sleek stainless steel at steep savings. Since these appliances are designed for the home market, they may even have amenities that some pro versions lack such as easy-care, sealed-unit gas burners and self-cleaning ovens.

Consider your Needs

Moving beyond appearance, keeping your lifestyle and culinary needs in mind when shopping for appliances can help save some bucks. If most of your meal preparation consists of plating takeout or heating prepared foods, a multi-burner, high-BTU cooktop or double oven will likely offer way more firepower then required. This could be a good place to scale back.

Keep an eye out for appliance options and extras, and skip the ones you won’t use or don’t need. For example, a lot of refrigerators come equipped with external water dispensers — some even offer a choice of cubed or crushed ice. It’s a neat feature, but one that wouldn’t get a daily or even weekly workout in some households. Finding a model without these goodies would benefit your bottom line.

Mix it up with high-low

When it comes to cabinetry, home remodelers can learn a lesson from clothes-conscious fashionistas, who have always found ways of making a statement with a kind-to-the-budget blend of high and low. Just as the well dressed and the beautiful can make headlines by pairing a Gap T-shirt with a couture skirt, savvy kitchen remodelers can create a stir at home by mixing and matching items from big-box stores and boutiques.

Architect Mark R. LePage, AIA, president and partner in charge of operations at Fivecat Studio in Pleasantville, NY, recommends dressing up simple, budget-conscious IKEA cabinets with decorative high-end knobs and pulls.

Pairing IKEA cabinet boxes with custom wood doors and drawers is another one of his money-saving strategies, as is using open wooden shelving in place of lower cabinets. LePage likes to shop at commercial kitchen-supply houses for open stainless-steel shelving and rolling carts, which make versatile and smart-looking storage units. Though low cost, they tend to play nicely with upscale kitchen elements.

Plywood can be beautiful

Sealed plywood cabinets are an affordable option, according to LePage. Made of wood veneer layers from trees like spruce, birch or tropical hardwood, plywood often has a bold, distinctive grain and can be decorative as well as durable.

Cabinet savings can go more than skin deep. Instead of ordering units equipped with built-in rollouts and dividers, consider retrofitting them from the array of less-expensive, ready-made items available through storage specialty shops, catalogs and big-box stores. It’s also fun to improvise your own in-cabinet storage solutions: Stamp your kitchen with personal style by combining storage bins, boxes and baskets in a mix of sizes, colors, textures and materials.

Resist temptation

Cutting cabinetry costs may make it tempting, and possible, to splurge on an extravagant countertop. Resist the temptation. There are lots of ways to get good-looking and well-functioning counters at a smart price, especially by aiming for that high-low blend. Use pricey materials such as stone or wood sparingly and focus them on specific workstations for tasks like baking or chopping. Top the remainder of your counter space with less expensive surfaces (e.g., laminates).

LePage suggests dressing up laminate countertops with wood or stainless-steel edging for a custom look. He also likes to create counters by repurposing salvaged materials such as stone, stainless steel or wood.

Consider tiles over slabs

For those who love the look of natural stone like granite, marble and even alabaster, tiles are typically more affordable than the bigger, thicker slabs that must be custom cut to fit. Ranging in size from petite mosaics to 12-inch squares and even larger rectangles in a seemingly unlimited variety of colors and patterns, stone tiles are a versatile option for counters, floors, backsplashes and beyond. Again, there are almost endless mixing-and-matching options, with the luxe-looking natural stone employed sparingly as accents, borders, or to create pattern on a surface otherwise dominated by wood, ceramic tile or another less expensive material.

DIY your backsplash

The backsplash can be a place to let your imagination — and your do-it-yourself chops — run wild. Applied to the walls, sheet metal such as copper, galvanized aluminum, stainless steel or traditional tin ceiling panels can add a touch of bling to the room. LePage likes using broken colored glass for a lively and nontraditional backsplash mosaic. You can also recycle your broken pottery shards, tile scraps, and other ceramic odds and ends into a pique assiette pattern, reminiscent of the playful works of the Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí.

With a combination of careful shopping, imagination, flexibility and creativity, you can plan your way to an affordable new kitchen.

Are Millennials the Newest Luxury Buyers?

Are Millennials the Newest Luxury Buyers?

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Although it’s been argued that rising mortgage rates and home values have largely excluded millennials from the housing recovery, a portion of Generation Y has skipped traditional starter homes and moved right to the top.

From Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg to entrepreneurial Facebook users, more and more millennials are purchasing luxury properties. And with the market as hot as it is, why wouldn’t they?

Interest rates are still relatively low by historical standards, and overall consumer confidence and the belief that real estate is a wise investment have led more and more millennials to skip the baby steps and move right to a luxurious lifestyle by purchasing their million dollar (and multi-million dollar) baby.

Here are a few more factors influencing the trend:

Familial assistance

As older generations have been through the “better and worse” of the real estate market, they realize today is in fact a great time to buy. In turn, they’re providing their children with financial assistance — from hefty down payments to purchasing a property with a child — to help them achieve the American Dream.

Safest bet

Young buyers have also come to the conclusion that investing in real estate is a lot less risky than riding through the stock market. Millennials have seen how the market can and will change, allowing them to be more prepared for adjustments within the real estate sphere. When prepared, a more confident decision can be made, leading them to not only purchase luxury properties but also to add investment properties to their portfolios.

A new floor plan

Supply and demand are the basics of what makes a business succeed. With more millennials in the market to buy, real estate developers are analyzing these new buyers’ wants and needs. Dynamic loft-like spaces with floor-to-ceiling windows, updated appliances and an indoor/outdoor flow could not be built faster for these 20- and 30-something buyers. And what luxury buyer doesn’t want amazing amenities? Basketball courts, pools, gyms, spas, putting greens — if it’s built, they will come!

While the market continues to improve, millennials are wasting no time putting their money where they see the most value, both financially and leisurely.

Are Millennials the Newest Luxury Buyers?

8 House Plants that Naturally Purify Air

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This is a collection of some house plants which help clean the air in the room from pollution, bad smell and lower carbon dioxide naturally. Some of them repel biting insects, other invite useful wasps that kill the parasites on the other plants. Most of those plants below will live in perfect coexistence near each other (except the mint, if planted in the same box or pot). They will also not grow too tall and wide, so you can fill small spaces around your windows and not risk stumbling upon them all the time.


Rosemary

Some use this herb for cooking, other use it as a herbal tea. As with all plants having needle-like leaves, the rosemary is evergreen and can be held indoors in the whole winter, still leaving pleasant aroma. Most of the needle-leaved plants are very good purifiers, especially for humid winter air. They breathe carbon dioxide and exhale oxygen. The most important function of this herb is its ability to improve cognitive function.

Lavender

It is excellent insect repellent. The aroma relaxes the lungs and helps for calmer night sleep. The aroma (also) helps relax if you suffer from anxiety. If you don’t want to buy oil lamp for aromatherapy or sleep with lit aroma candle beside your bed – have a pot of Lavender growing on your bedroom window. It loves sunlight so – don’t deprive it or it will refuse to bloom.

Basil

Grows about 1-2 feet long with small white blossoms and wide leaves. The fruit is small 4-seed nut that dries and drops by itself at autumn and can be reseeded in the next Spring. The rich aroma and the pleasant peppery taste are only one part of the coin. It can be also used as herbal tea and as all other plants will reduce the Carbon Dioxide in the room. Gather some leaves for the salad and leave enough smaller leaves for it to grow.

Mint

The best plant for indoor planting. They make excellent herbal tea or tasty cooking spice. They love sun and water but are incredibly easy to grow. You can cut a branch and leave it in a glass of water for one week. It will grow very potent roots and you can plant it everywhere.

Jasmine

Jasmine opens its flowers between 6 and 8 PM, when the temperature is lower. Having Jasmine aroma when dining is very pleasant. And think of all the tea you can drink!

Geranium

The best houseplant for beginners. Excellent aroma if you can tolerate it. Mosquito repellent. Looks excellent when blooming. Don’t need much care. Can live without water for 2 weeks in cold days. More sun = more blossoms.

Coffee plant

It blooms in white and smells so refreshing in the morning, you will probably skip your coffee beverage and just breathe. The normal coffee plant can grow to a small tree (3 meters), but indoors in a pot, it is quite compact – 1 meter (3 feet). Takes about 4 years until it starts blossoming and if you allow sufficient sunlight and help germination from small wasps and bees – you can grow your own coffee beans. Roast and grind them to coffee! One plant provides about 50 grams dry coffee mass (~ 2 ounces). Sufficient for one week.

Woodbine

This plant is very useful for indoor stairs, especially if your rooms have sufficient sunlight. You can grow it in pot with a wooden log or dry branch planted in the soil, so the vine can climb on it. It has very sweet scent, especially at night.

Bank Forecloses Home Despite Owners Never Missing Payment

An Altadena, California family will be able to keep its home after a local news report exposed major errors made by the financial company that tried to sell it out from under the borrowers even though they were current on their payments.

Nationstar Mortgage bought Louise and Ceith Sinclair’s mortgage from Ocwen Financial Corporation and failed to honor a loan modification that the Sinclairs had finalized prior to the transfer of their loan. “Every time we call them back, they give us the run-around, saying call back in two days, call back in two days,” Louise Sinclair told Los Angeles’ KABC. Then in June, someone knocked on the door and told the Sinclairs their house had been sold and they’d need to leave and even pay rent until they did. Nationstar had foreclosed on the house and sold it to another financial company without ever notifying the rightful owners. “They said that we didn’t notarized one paper of the modification, and in fact, we did,” Ceith Sinclair told KABC.

Once the local news started making calls and reviewing the Sinclairs’ documents proving they had always been current on their payments, the nightmare ended. A statement from Nationstar credited KABC’s investigation with bringing the situation to a positive resolution: the improper foreclosure sale has been rescinded and the company says it will now honor the pre-existing loan modification.

Many homeowners caught in the trap of mortgage servicer abuses and aggressive foreclosure tactics don’t share the Sinclairs’ good fortune. Etienne Syldor of Orlando, Florida faced foreclosure despite repaying his loan early. Jo-An Seipp, another Floridian, was current on her payments when Wells Fargo sold her house. Jacqueline Barber of Atlanta, Georgia was “dual-tracked,” meaning the bank foreclosed at the same time they told her she was on track for a loan modification that would keep her in her home.

These individual stories are the tiniest fraction of the whole problem of mortgage servicing.

Documentary abuses and ducked phonecalls are two of the most common abusive practices in a review by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau that found sloppy and illegal foreclosure practices are rampant nationwide. Nationstar, which buys mortgages from banks by the millions, has been sued for allegedly seeking to liquidate the mortgages it buys up rather than to actually service them. The government’s limp approach to resolving the foreclosure crisis, through easily manipulated settlements with big banks and modification programs that are both underutilized and ineffective, has left room for companies like Nationstar to attempt to convert trillions of dollars’ worth of poorly documented loan transfers into hard cash through the sorts of aggressive foreclosure sales that nearly left the Sinclairs homeless.

Are Millennials the Newest Luxury Buyers?

Superstitious Real Estate

From Zillow.com:
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Superstitions never seem to die, which is why a lot of people still believe Friday the 13th is an unlucky day.

When it comes to real estate, some superstitions are passed down through generations, especially in certain cultures. The thinking goes that if you follow these superstitions, you’ll increase your luck and sell your home quickly for a good price.

Of course, superstitions won’t sell a home. But if they did, here’s how you’d get lucky in real estate.

Pay attention to numerology

Superstition around specific numbers can play a role in how people price their homes, which homes they won’t buy and even how builders name the floors of a high-rise condo building.

In some cultures, real estate luck is often attributed to the last nonzero digit in a sales price. In Chinese culture, for instance, the number 8 is considered lucky because it’s pronounced similarly to the Chinese word for wealth and prosperity. It’s not unusual, therefore, to find homes in heavily Chinese neighborhoods priced at, say, $368,000. You might even see a home in a more expensive neighborhood priced at $888,888.

At the same time, the number 4 is considered unlucky in Chinese culture because it sounds like the Chinese word for death. So if you want good luck, stick an 8 in your sales price and forgo the 4.

Or you may want to put a 7 before the zeroes in your price. In Vegas and many other places, 7 is seen as a lucky number.

The number 13, of course, is considered unlucky. Some people just won’t buy a house or condo with the number 13 in the address.

Many high-rise condo builders skip the 13th floor entirely. Even though research shows most people don’t believe the number 13 is unlucky, less than 5 percent of <high-rise condo buildings in New York City have a 13th floor, according to a recent report in the Wall Street Journal. The floors instead jump from 12 to 14. Developers reason that it’s only numbers, so why risk alienating buyers who might be superstitious?

Bury a statue of St. Joseph in your yard

St. Joseph is the patron saint of real estate. Many people believe burying a statue of the saint in their yard will help sell their home. In fact, some agents bury a St. Joseph statue as soon as the “For Sale” sign goes up. There are tales of homes that go for months without an offer — and then someone buries St. Joseph on the property and the offers come. It’s superstition, of course, but it endures.

What’s luck got to do with it?

You can’t depend on superstitions to help you get lucky in real estate. If you’re a buyer, focus on finding the right home for you, at the right time. If you’re a seller, get a good agent, show your property at its best, know your market well and price your home right. It’s these things — rather than specific numbers or burying a statue — that will bring you good luck in the end.