10 Surprising Ways to Find More Space in Your Home

An organized home is a happy home.

By NorthStar Moving Co-Founder Laura McHolm

So real talk…how did your 2017 resolutions go? It’s that time of year again when we break out the running shoes, eat healthier for a couple of weeks and pledge to get our lives more organized. However, how are we supposed to eat healthier if our pantries are over flowing or be inspired to hit the pavement every morning if we are looking at piles of clothes? To lead a more organized and inspired life in 2018 the clutter around you must be cleared. It’s simple, if your home is organized your mindset will be too.

A clean and balanced home is actually a launching pad for all of your other resolutions. So if you are already starting to fail at your self-resolutions try this home resolution – find more space in your home by clearing out the clutter. Follow these ten tips and I promise you it will inspire you to complete your other resolutions and lead you to a more organized, happier year!

1The pantry. Create room by removing the large and awkward food packaging. Purchase clear, air-tight containers, take the box of your food item, and cut out the product name, nutritional facts and expiration date. Tape them to the inside of your clear container and then seal the food.

2. The pantry shelves. Arrange the food on your shelves to help keep your resolutions. Make “first choice” shelves for the food that you want to stay on that diet. Make shelves that are for the kids snacks or foods that you’re just not going to have on a regular basis anymore… You get the idea –some shelves are just for the once a week treat. Some are for every day.

3. The pantry. If you like to buy in bulk, put the bulk of your paper goods in another location, perhaps a closet or the garage, and place only what you need in your pantry— restock as needed.

4. The kitchen. When storing pots, pans and other durable items, stack them on their sides like files. This simple step not only creates more room, it also allows you to see exactly what you need. Caddies or sorters from a shelf or container store are great tools for vertical organizing

5. The dresser. Place clothing in drawers vertically (not the traditional horizontal piles) because it not only maximizes space, it allows you to find items more quickly. You can purchase wooden planks or plastic planks to use as dividers. This way you can see all of your clothes at once when you open the drawer.

6. The closet. If your shoes don’t have a place they end up in a pile taking up valuable space. Place shoes and accessories in clear plastic containers so you can see everything and tape their photo to the inside of their container with photo facing out. This little step gives you triple duty: more space, you can find it easily and better still you can put it away in the exact same spot for next time that hot date rolls around…

7. Use color to keep it straight. Organize your closet and drawers dark to light. It can be great way to find out that you really have way too many black blouses… and you can keep your resolution of being a kinder gentler you by donating the extras!

8. The kids’ rooms. Purchase bed raisers for under-the-bed storage. You can store everything from shoes, laundry basket, books and any bulky items that might otherwise clutter their room.

9. The baby’s closet. Is there room to add another bar? Take advantage of the fact that baby clothing is smaller and if you can, add an additional bar to hang the clothing to maximize space. You can purchase premade closet organizers that you can customize to make the most out of baby’s closet.

10. The best trick to more space in your home, less is more! So if you find you have extra things laying around, throw a reverse housewarming party! You will be starting a new party trend. Set aside your unwanted items and instead of having your friends bring a housewarming gift, they are to pick one of your items and take it home with them. This is a great way to reunite with friends, find your unwanted things a good home, and de-clutter all at the same time!

Now that the clutter around you is cleared your mind will be clearer to meet all those 2018 goals!

Laura McHolm is an organizational, moving & storage expert and co-founder of NorthStar Moving Company. NorthStar Moving Company is an award winning, “A+” rated company, which specializes in providing eco-luxury moving and storage services.   www.northstarmoving.com


Would you be Ready if an Earthquake Struck Today?

Would you be ready if an earthquake struck today?

By Brian Terbush, Earthquake/Volcano Program Coordinator

To put it lightly, it’s been a tough end to a remarkable summer.

Checking the headlines over the past few weeks, a huge hurricane dropped ten more inches of rain than Seattle averages in an entire year on the city of Houston within the span of a week; one of the strongest recorded hurricanes in the Atlantic has already devastated several Islands in the Caribbean, and is now forecasted to place 37 million people in harm’s way; wildfires are burning all across large portions of Oregon, Idaho, California, Washington and Montana, forcing residents to flee their homes; and last night, the strongest recorded earthquake in more than a century struck near the Guatemala-Mexico border, generating a tsunami.

Our hearts go out to everyone impacted by and/or preparing for these events.

Whether these events provided weeks, days, or even only seconds of warning (residents in Mexico City, distant from the epicenter, had tens of seconds of warning to take personal protective actions before the strongest shaking arrived, thanks to a national Earthquake Early Warning system – though those close to the earthquake source had no warning), all of these disasters occurred. The fact that they all happened around the same period of time goes to show that while the probability of these high-consequence events may be low, that doesn’t mean that they won’t happen in your lifetime, or that they won’t happen to you, or that they won’t all happen at once.

These events have provided a grim reminder that disasters can happen to anyone. No one is immune to the disaster.

Washington – a state which no one has ever accused of lacking variety – is also prone to a wide range of disasters, each with a variety of timelines related to the warning they provide, onset time, duration and recovery. It is entirely possible, for instance, that tomorrow, a change in wind direction could push one of the current wildfires towards your home

At any given time, one of Washington’s five active volcanoes could begin showing signs of unrest, which would provide hours, days, weeks, to months of warning before an eruption – or years of stressful unrest and buildup, followed by no activity whatsoever.

A significant windstorm could knock out power to multiple communities, with downed trees blocking access, taking days or weeks for power restoration crews to arrive.

The largest threat to our state, however, will arrive with no warning.  Like in Mexico, an earthquake could strike Washington from the Cascadia Subduction Zone, or from one of Washington’s many surface faults, or from a deep subducting plate causing damage and cascading impacts to communities, from landslides, to flooding, to power outages, road blockages, and many associated obstructions and hazards.

Just to complicate things, Like Harvey was followed by Irma, which may also be followed by Jose, it is just as likely that several of these events could even occur at once, multiplying and significantly worsening the impacts.

While these events have different amounts of warning associated with them, a common theme on the news reports related to Hurricane Irma’s imminent arrival is showing the scenes of empty grocery store shelves, and discussions of how there is not enough fuel for everyone. If one of these events were to happen tomorrow, it is NOT guaranteed that you would be able to get the supplies that you need. The day of, the day after, and even the days immediately before an event are NOT the time to prepare for an event, especially when so many can occur without notice.

Ask yourself, “if I were in that situation, with a hurricane three days out, would I need to be in the long lines stocking up on generators, weather radios, food and water at the last minute? If given an order to evacuate, would all the materials I need be nearby and ready? Do I know enough about the potential effects before, during, and after the disaster to make an informed decision about whether to stay, or to get your family/pets out of harm’s way?

If you are able to take action; now is the time. Act, or you will be forced to react.

Fortunately for you, helping make sure you know how to prepare is a big part of our jobs in Emergency Management. Here are a few key ideas for how you can begin to prepare, and some resources to help guide you.

Be informed –  Get in touch with your county or local emergency management office to understand what is happening in your community, what the potential hazards are, and what can be done to prepare for them. Learn which hazards you will be able to, and/or should ride out, or shelter-in-place in your home, and how to make sure your home or business will stand up to them; and what the hazards are, so that if authorities issue an evacuation recommendation, you can make an informed decision for yourself and your family.

Build kits – In Washington, it is important to be two-weeks ready. Learn more about what you should have in your “grab and go” kit, in case a quick evacuation is needed; and what you should keep in your car kit. We also provide suggestions on how to store two weeks worth of supplies in your house, on any budget. It may seem anywhere from “daunting” to “downright impossible” right now, but start working on it a little bit at a time, and you’ll be surprised how easy it is to become prepared; you will be glad you set those resources aside, even when something smaller happens, like the next time the power goes out.

Get Connected –  In a disaster, as shown time and time again, small communities rely on one another for the first line of help after a disaster. Get to know those around you and discuss your plans. Join efforts such as Map your Neighborhood to learn more about your community’s hazards, the people in your community that may have helpful skills, who may require additional help in a disaster. Become part of a Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) and learn how you can help out before and after a disaster in your community.

Lastly, in personal preparedness, it is critical to any response in a community that you know how to protect your immediate during little-to-no-notice events, such as the many earthquakes we have in Washington. Practice your “Drop, Cover, and Hold on” skills, with the rest of the state (to get that life-saving reaction to ground shaking into your muscle memory) during the Great ShakeOut on the third Thursday every year. (10:19 on 10/19 this year!)  For more information on earthquakes, how to hold a drill, how to register yourself or organization, and a variety of resources on how to prepare yourself, your home, and your family/business for an earthquake, go to www.Shakeout.org/washington. Please join us: “Drop, cover, and Hold on,” and take at least one additional preparedness action.

Washington’s readiness for disasters, and its ability to recover from them ultimately lies with individuals, families, and organizations.  We cannot prevent these disasters from happening, but by being prepared, we can ensure that our recovery, and the long-term impacts to our communities and State as a whole are lessened.

As we continue to respond to our fires, and prepare for future disasters, we wish to offer support to those impacted by others. For those wishing to donate to assist those affected by the recent disasters, make sure you’re doing it the right way. The Secretary of State’s Office has tips to avoid charity scams and to help you find the right charity for you.

Leslie Sells Houses

The Good and the Bad of DIY Lawn Care

When you have your own home and are responsible for your lawn care, should you do it yourself?


The Pros

  1. You’ll save money with DIY lawn care, sometimes the extra cost of a professional can be expensive. If you’re on a tight budget, it might not be possible to hire one anyway. In fact, the average price for a single lawn mowing service is $43 per service, according to LawnStarter Lawn Care.
  2. Mowing grass is excellent exercise, and you’ll work up a sweat in no time; especially if you’re using a walk behind mower. Yes, the mower does do a lot of the work, but you still have to hold on to it and guide it. Plus, you have the troublesome spots on the unlevel areas. But it gives you a great workout!
  3. Many homeowners take pride in caring for their lawn themselves. They know where each patch of crabgrass is and where the last dandelion is hiding. They take pride in the beauty of their green yards and interesting gardens that add so much beauty.
  4. It encourages interaction with your neighbors as you discuss the best fertilizer and lawn care products. Plus, saying can you help with my brown spot and do you have moles too?
  5. You will notice more easily things that need your attention. You will find that hole behind a bush that the dog dug trying to escape. Or, whether it’s time to dethatch the lawn or can it wait another week.
  6. If your lawn is thick, it will need dethatching to permit the grass to breathe. Instead of racking your back though you can rent or buy a power dethatcher. This you can do yourself with very little help except for the raking up of the debris.
  7. You have more control over how high you want your to be grass mowed. When the temperature starts to rise, the height of your lawn should too. When you mow too low, then you’re opening up the possibility of weeds because weeds need light to sprout. If you have a kid from down the street mow your lawn, you can’t always control the grass height if it’s their lawn mower.

The Cons

  1. There can be some drawbacks with DIY Ciscoe Morris Master Gardner lawn care such as finding the correct lawn products. Since homeowners don’t usually have the skilled expertise that lawn care companies do or access to commercial grade products, they have to keep on buying different products until they figure out what works the best.
  2. The results of all your hard work may be mediocre as you struggle with crabgrass and dandelions. Or worse, you could have grubs, and without professional help, you may not be able to control them.
  3. There are hidden costs of taking care of the lawn yourself which you may not have factored into it. Without professional input, there are some things you could be missing or doing incorrectly. You could be using incorrect ratios when spreading or spraying your lawn. Or, perhaps misusing a pest control product which could harm the environment, your landscape, hardscape; or even your lawn.
  4. When you do your lawn care, you could have problems storing the containers of product you need for your lawn. You will have to secure weed, lawn, and disease treatments in a place which will be moisture proof and cold weather proof. Plus, if you have children, storing products safely and out of reach can be a big concern.
  5. You might not have the experience to know if the big brown spot if from Fred, your dog, or because you have some type of fungus growing which is slowing killing your grass. You may not be able to treat this without some kind of professional opinion given.
  6. If you really gouge your lawn, the professional that you hire to repair it is going to cost real money.

Whether you do your own lawn care or hire a professional, a great lawn is something everyone wants to have.

Leslie Sells Houses

Jackie Greene is a blogger, gardener, and nutrition enthusiast. She enjoys creating organic meals for family and friends using the fresh ingredients she produces from her backyard homestead.





Tacoma 1890 Boarding House

One of those everyday moments of community and neighborhood. Here’s a posed but comfortable portrait of the residents of a Tacoma boarding house on a summer day in 1890. The actual location is lost to time but the street numbers, in gold leaf, are clear on the transoms above the twin entries. These were the neighbors who received their mail at the same address, the parents who raised their little girls and boys in the sunny rooms and the boarders who kept and eye on them playing in the neat picket fenced yard.

This was a white collar address, probably at the edge of downtown, where clerks, agents and managers hung their varied hats (bowlers, soft rims and silk top hats) and the women could afford fashionable bustled city dresses. The building reflects modern Italianate styling with an accented paint scheme, bowed window boxes and fine lace curtains with roll up shades. There are formal newel posts at the wood plank sidewalks and a sense of compatible well being in the faces and postures of the lodgers. The composition suggests a social balance anchored in the middle by the women and children, weighed on the left by dark suited single men and counterbalanced on the right by the elderly couple on the porch and the two seated sisters in the window, one with her arm on the sill like a railroad locomotive engineer and the other reclined in an angle of relaxation and perhaps control.

Tacoma was rising fast in 1890 and these were the makers and biographies of the new metropolis. Prosperity was within their grasp, there were gold coins in every pocket, storebought suits and french porcelain dolls for the children. They could read the daily newspapers, write contracts and long letters and imagine a time when Tacoma would be the most important city in the Pacific Northwest. Statehood was only a few months old and three years into the future Tacoma’s ascension would stall. Some of these folks would move on to Seattle and then maybe the Klondike gold fields seeking their fortune. Some would stay but move to more modest lodgings as their income slumped with the economic depression. But some probably kept their address at this mannerly Tacoma boarding house- wherever it was…..



Photograph from the Washington State Historical Society collection: Catalog ID Number: 1990.56.8

Leslie Sells Houses


This site is about the way history, in this case of a city and it’s surrounds, is remembered or recorded in stories and small bits of memory. It’s also about the way images and stories go together, how they inform and enrich each other and how we as thinking people fill in the content between a narrative and a visual document. So here is my city in time past, the way it looked and the people and events that create its character. For more than 20 years I have taught a 5 credit course on the History of Tacoma at the University of Washington Tacoma. With an average of 30 or 40 students a year, each doing a research paper as their primary focus for the course, I have benefited from many paths of inquiry and many researched and assembled stories. Here are some of them in the retelling along with the treasures of photographs and images in the collections of the Washington State Historical Society, Tacoma Public Library, University of Washington Digital Archives, Washington State Archives at the Office of the Secretary of State, Library of Congress, Washington State University, Alaska State Library, and many other archives, libraries and private collections.

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  1. My grandmother ran a boarding house in Tacoma from before my mother was born in 1930 until the early 60’s. It was called “Burton House” and was located at 404 N G in a house that was once
    The “Monarch Club”. It was damaged in a fire and was torn down. I have a stained glass window from the house in my home now. My mother had a very interesting up bringing with lots of fun stories.

    Liked by 1 person

Cheap Curb Appeal Tricks That Offer the Best Home-Selling Returns


Most savvy home sellers know that curb appeal is important to make a great first impression on potential home buyers as they pull up and park at, well, your curb. But if the prospect of painting your whole house or landscaping your yard seems too pricey, never fear: There are plenty of ways to create high-impact curb appeal on the cheap.

Check out these ideas that require little investment time but pay off big-time down the road.

Paint the ugly bits

Not up for painting the whole house? Then one budget-friendly alternative is to repaint just the trim, mailbox, and other small areas. You can also put your brush to better use by covering up unsightly things like the electrical box on the side of the house and any pipes and parts that are connected to it. Match the color to that of your house for a clean, streamlined look.

Bye-bye, dull gray electrical equipment!
Bye-bye, dull gray electrical equipment!Listoic


Update your garage door

Improving this utilitarian spot is one of the easiest ways to give the exterior of your home a face-lift, advises Dan Grandon, president of Closet Factory Franchise Corp.

“First you should consider the purpose of the space. If you use the garage for work, go with a door that features large window inserts as this helps bring more natural light into the space,” he notes.

However, if your garage is mostly used as a dumping ground, you might want to focus on a more energy-efficient design, like an insulated door. And it goes without saying, the garage should be pristine (many buyers will enter the house through this space).

A neat—and therefore spacious-looking—garage is one of the first things a buyer sees from the curb.
A neat—and therefore spacious-looking—garage is one of the first things a buyer sees from the curb.Closet Factory


Create a sitting area

Carol Marcotte, a designer with Form & Function in Raleigh, NC, likes to set up an outdoor spot on the front porch to amplify the first-look attractiveness.

“Stage a place to sit that includes a pair of chairs with a couple of cute outdoor pillows,” she suggests. This idea helps your home look friendly and lets potential buyers envision themselves on your front porch, sitting and waving to the neighbors. Save your pennies by putting out weather-safe indoor furniture you already own.

“If your outdoor porch doesn’t have enough room to accommodate a lot of furniture, just a small bench can make a big difference,” adds Anna Shiwlall, a designer with 27 Diamonds in Los Angeles.

This inviting spot telegraphs a friendly neighborhood.
This inviting spot telegraphs a friendly neighborhood.Catherine Nguyen Photography


Trim the hedges

Of course you’ll make sure your lawn is cut regularly, but don’t forget about the bushes that surround the property. There’s not much worse than blocking the view of the house with overgrown boxwood. Plus, there’s the safety factor, says Marcotte.

“Burglars could hide in those bushes,” she warns. Simple trimming and weeding can help beautify your yard and won’t cost you a dime.


Add small accessories

Small details can raise the wow factor without breaking the bank. For example, hang a colorful birdhouse or two in the prominent trees of your front yard. Or place a couple of cute garden statues or sculptures (a frog, turtle, or other animal) among the flower beds. An arbor or trellis from a garden store makes a nice focal point, especially when placed near the entrance to the backyard or patio.

Historic Garden Restoration in Wilmette, IllinoisAdding a statue is an easy garden upgrade. Just keep it classy.


Hide the clutter

We’re talking garbage cans, recycling containers, air conditioners, compost bins, and garden tools. A jumbled pile of hose needs corralling, so coil it and store it inside a large pot or basket. Prefab lattice can be joined together to create a smart-looking fence to hide cans, bins, and that big ol’ AC unit. Not handy enough to make a box? Arrange a few strategically placed potted plants in front or plant a bush to help conceal these items.

Make it sparkle

In addition to picking up the yard, you’ll want to make sure the sidewalk and driveway look their very best, too. But rather than repaving, rent a power washer instead.

“You can do this fairly cheaply,” says Marcotte. “You want to be sure the outside of your home is super clean, because it says ‘well-maintained’ to a potential buyer.”

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How to Spot an Up-And-Coming Neighborhood in Your City

how to learn more about a neighborhood

Ready to take on the challenge of buying in a diamond-in-the-rough neighborhood?

Everyone has seen the neighborhood that’s changed: One day it was on the fringe, and the next it had turned a corner. Suddenly, it was teeming with new businesses, new residents, new life—and newly high property values, to the advantage of those residents who stuck around. First-time buyers, cash-strapped buyers, and “pioneering” buyers alike flock to these next big neighborhoods. But to get in early before it becomes the next big thing is the key to stretching your dollar. How can you tell if a neighborhood is up and coming or down and out? Here are seven questions to ask yourself as you research a new neighborhood, especially if you’re thinking of making an offer on a new home.

  1. 1. Is an organic grocery store moving in?

    When a co-working space, an organic grocery store, or a new pop-up restaurant moves into the neighborhood, it’s a sign that the neighborhood is changing. This is just as true for small boutiques and specialty stores as it is for large businesses that sell the basics with flair. In fact, most larger businesses do a fair amount of economic research and projections before moving into a neighborhood. Watching retail industry moves can be a great way to spot emerging areas with strong fundamentals.

  2. 2. Is it near the subway or bus lines?

    If you live in a densely populated metro area, or an urban setting with intense building restrictions, demand for homes will continue to grow with the population. Older neighborhoods close to employment centers, public transportation, freeways, and bridges tend to be prime for whole-neighborhood remodeling. This is especially true in times of population growth or rapid real estate price hikes in already-prime areas.

  3. 3. How have perspectives on city living changed?

    If there’s one major issue that has caused an area to be less desirable and it’s no longer seen as negative, it could turn the neighborhood around. The addition of a major employer could spark a serious real estate renaissance. But new notions of what’s considered cool or desirable—for example living above a commercial unit—could also affect homebuyer’s perspectives on a neighborhood.

  4. 4. Is there untapped architectural potential?

    Keep an eye out for neighborhoods characterized by a particular type of architecture. Often, neighborhoods that are filled with Tudors, Victorians, Spanish-style homes, or even Mid-Century Moderns will see a surge of revitalization when a fresh generation of homebuyers falls in love with the style and realizes the deals that can be had there unlike in other areas in town.

  5. 5. What’s going on in the local economy?

    From cloud storage data centers in Des Moines to a new light-rail station in Denver, one large-scale employer or infrastructure development can be a very early, very strong sign that an area will see its real estate fortunes rise. With that said, areas dependent on one employer from an industry on the decline can see their fates shift downward as well. Look for industrywide investment in an area, versus a single company’s investment.  Your local neigborhood

  6. 6. Are there many construction trucks in the street?

    When an older area that has not seen much investment in it for years suddenly has a number of ongoing renovations, this can be an early signal of an up-and-coming neighborhood turnaround. It might be worth taking a trip down to the city building permit counter to see whether the staff has seen the same uptick in individual owners’ investment in the area, and if so, what they think the story of the neighborhood might be—or might become. City staffers often have a wealth of information, everything from pending commercial development applications to city projects based on development initiatives.

  7. 7. How many days are houses in the neighborhood spending on the market?

    Ten years ago, I listed a charming, pristine home on a less than ideal street. The location was its fatal flaw, and the place just lagged on the market as a result. Now millennials buying their first homes are salivating over this precise location because of its urban feel, trendy hot spots, and convenience to the subway. Homes that once took 90 days to sell began selling in 45, then eventually they were on the market for only a couple of weeks. This decline in the number of days on market (DOM) occurred much before the home prices themselves increased. A slow, steady decrease in DOM is a smart, early sign that a neighborhood might be on the verge of up-and-coming status. Ask Leslie Sells Houses to help clue you in as to where precisely those areas might be in your area.

Are you looking to move into an up-and-coming neighborhood? If so, what’s your motivation? Share in the comments below.

Farmhouse Chic, and Other Top Kitchen and Bathroom Trends for 2018


Is Joanna Gaines the oracle of home design? Many of the kitchen and bath trends that industry experts believe are destined for greatness in 2018 can be seen on her popular HGTV show, “Fixer Upper.”

The most popular kitchen design of the year will be farmhouse, according to the National Kitchen and Bath Association’s annual trends report. It’s marked by the use of barn doors, painted cabinets, shiplap wood paneling, and mixed metals throughout. Sound familiar?

The report is based on interviews with more than 800 U.S. and Canadian industry designers, remodelers, architects, dealers, and manufacturers.

“Farmhouse is becoming popular because of what we’re seeing on television,” says Elle H-Millard, industry relations manager at the association.

Transitional-style kitchens, a blend of contemporary and traditional with arched doorways and simple lines, and contemporary-style kitchens, which have all clean lines, sharp angles, and open shelving, are also fashionable at the moment.

For bathrooms, the most popular style was transitional. The look features wood cabinets, painted walls, brushed-nickel fixtures, and a color palette of white, gray, and blue. Contemporary, which has quartz countertops, free-standing bathtubs, and curbless showers, came in second, followed by more traditional bathrooms.

The home kitchen and bathroom market is expected to grow 9.3% in 2018, to hit about $179 billion. The bulk of that, nearly two-thirds, is likely to be in remodels instead of new construction. That’s likely because a lot of people are opting to improve the home they have rather than trade up. The survey was of nearly 200 builders, remodelers, and general contractors. The spending included is just on products and does not include labor and construction costs.

The most popular kitchen and bath elements

When it comes to kitchens, homeowners are very particular about what they do—and do not—want. Painted cabinets top wooden and glass ones, ceramic or porcelain backsplashes reign supreme, and hardwood floors are all the rage.

For countertops, “quartz is where it’s at right now,” H-Millard says. See ya, granite! Homeowners also continue to love white, off-white, and gray colors.

And “we’re seeing a big rise in barn door applications,” she adds.

Folks are just as choosy about their bathrooms. They overwhelmingly want quartz countertops, wooden cabinets, and porcelain or tile floors. They also prefer painted walls to tiles and white, off-white, and gray color schemes rather than blues.

What kitchen and bath features are people spending the most money on?

In kitchens, builders and homeowners dropped the most cash on cabinets, at $17.8 billion; appliances, at $17.5 billion; countertops, at $13.4 billion; flooring, at $12.1 billion; and sinks, at $4.4 billion in 2016, according to the most recent data available from the association.

About three-quarters of the money spent on kitchens is in remodels—instead of newly built homes. The median cost of remodeling a medium-size kitchen was $47,500, according to the report.

When it comes to bathrooms, folks spent the most on showers, at $11 billion; flooring, at $10.8 billion; vanities, at $9.5 billion; bathtubs, at $9.1 billion; and countertops, at $8 billion in 2016, according to the association.

The money was roughly split between remodels and new construction. The median cost to remodel a master bathroom was about $35,000, while a second bathroom remodel was about $15,000, according to the report.

Kitchen and bath trends to watch

There are a few kitchen and bath trends to watch. Rose gold and white or simple gold and white color combos are gaining traction among homeowners. Home cooks are opting for induction and steam cooking over gas stoves and ovens, and folks are adding more bright pops of color into their kitchens, accented with white.

H-Millard’s also seeing some pushback against the “open everything” concept, with some private spaces showing up in otherwise open kitchens. Island prep stations are now being installed with built-in sinks.

“And we’re seeing custom everything” as homeowners put their unique stamp on their abodes, she says.

For bathrooms, the use of natural stone is on the rise.

“Designers are really finding natural stone as a true piece of art,” H-Millard says.

Digitally controlled smart toilets (no, we’re not kidding), steam showers, and barn doors are also becoming more popular.

Clare Trapasso is the senior news editor of realtor.com and an adjunct journalism professor. She previously wrote for a Financial Times publication and the New York Daily News. Contact her at clare.trapasso@move.com.

Home is Going to the Dogs


Dreams of home ownership are often sparked by major life events, including college graduation, marriage, children, and retirement. The need for space, comfort, convenience, tax breaks and the satisfaction of being a homeowner spurs many renters into buying. And surprise! Dog owners are driving the buying trend.

Especially for millennials, owning a dog (or planning to own in the future) plays a major role in both the decision to buy and the type of home purchased. A recent survey shows dogs motivate buyers more than marriage, or even kids. And it’s no wonder: HOAs and rental agreements often prevent apartment or condo dwellers from owning a dog larger than 25 pounds, and limited square footage can restrict active dog breeds.

Many dog owners want to provide a life of luxury for their pets. Pampering dogs at home is all-important. It’s such a high priority that builders and designers are creating pet suites to accommodate this trend. These aren’t just your typical laundry room with a cushy dog bed; they’re luxurious spaces with a washing stations, electronic feeders, automatic pet doors, and even flat-screen TVs conveniently placed at doggy height.

In a recent survey conducted by Research and Markets (with data included from APPA’s National Pet Owners Survey, HABRI, and Cohen Research Group) dog ownership has increased with some surprising statistics.

  • Dog owners drive growth in pet ownership and overall pet population
  • Dog ownership is up 29% in the past decade
  • Millennials and Boomers are driving growth
  • Number of unmarried or childless dog owners has increased
  • Owners of multiple dogs are more likely to splurge on their pets

With so many people becoming dog owners, deluxe amenities in the home aren’t the only growing trend: Dog parks are increasingly important in many communities. Condominiums and apartments are considering the need for pet-friendly spaces. Buyers on the hunt for the perfect home are often swayed by access to these amenities, and may reconsider an otherwise fantastic property if it lacks pet appeal.

With homes clearly going to the dogs, it’s important for buyers to consider the wants and needs of their pets. Working with a real estate broker lesliesellshouses who knows exactly what the buyer needs to keep Fido happy can narrow down the search for the perfect (dog)house.Image result for Pictures of a dog house

Sellers should take extra care to ensure their home is devoid of all doggy evidence, including odors they may have gone noseblind to. Dog ownership numbers are rising, but you never know if prospective buyers have allergies. Play it safe!

leslie sells houses


How to Remove Dog Smells From Your Home (Because Honestly Fido Stinks)

how to get rid of dog smells

SELL 5 Reasons It’ll Pay to Sell Your Home Early in 2018


It’s been nearly a decade since the Great Recession delivered the worst housing crash in modern memory. But these days, the fallout feels squarely in the rearview mirror. Markets have bounced back with fervor, and confidence is skyrocketing: From Charlotte, NC, to Stockton, CA—and everywhere in between—homes are flying off the market at record prices, and buyers are still clamoring to get in the game.

One thing is clear: It’s a great time to be a seller.

“We’ve seen two or three years of what could be considered unsustainable levels of price appreciation, as well as an inventory shortage that resulted in a record low number of homes for sale across the country,” says Javier Vivas, director of economic research for realtor.com®.

In other words: Today’s buyers are exhausted. And in many cases that means they’re willing to sacrifice to get a toehold in the market.

Sounds like the stuff of seller’s dreams, right? But know this: If you plan to sell in 2018—and you want to unload your home quickly and for maximum money—your window of opportunity may be rapidly narrowing. Here’s why you should get moving ASAP.

1. Rates are still historically low, drawing buyers into the market

We may not be enjoying the rock-bottom interest rates of yore, but by historical standards, today’s 30-year mortgage rates—hovering just above 4%—are still low. And experts agree mortgage credit will remain relatively cheap for most of the year.

That means the getting’s still good for buyers—and, subsequently, for sellers looking to unload their homes.

But rates are on the rise, and it’s been widely predicted that they’ll reach 5% before year’s end. Buyers know that the longer they wait to buy, the more expensive it will be.

Roughly translated, that means you’d be wise to list your home earlier in the year, before more rate hikes kick in. Not only will you capture the market of buyers scurrying to close a deal, but if you’re buying after you sell, you’ll also benefit from those lower rates.

2. Inventory remains tight—and demand high

Simply put, there are more buyers than available homes—particularly in red-hot markets where land is scarce and it isn’t cheap to build.

And the housing shortage will likely get worse before it gets better: Realtor.com data predict inventory will remain tight in the first part of this year, reaching a 4% year-over-year decline by March.

Sellers, that means this is your opportunity to be wooed. Buyers, their choices limited, are going to great lengths (and making some major concessions) to win the house, says Katie Griswold, a Realtor® with Pacific Sotheby’s in Southern California.

“We’re in a very favorable seller’s market,” she says. “We’re seeing bidding wars—which push up prices—and buyers are submitting offers with very pro-seller terms, like forgoing the repair request or waiving the appraisal contingency.”

And cash investors are in the mix, too, accounting for 22% of all home sales transactions in November 2017 (up from 20% in October), according to the National Association of Realtors®.

Those cash buyers are snapping up homes in an already tight market and keeping some first-time buyers at bay (sorry, buyers!). But if you’re selling, you stand a better shot at an all-cash offer—one you just might be crazy to refuse.

Of course, there’s a catch: Inventory levels are predicted to begin rising in the fourth quarter, marking the first inventory gain since 2015 and setting the stage for more dramatic housing gains to come. So if you’re thinking of selling, start preparing now in order to walk away with a sweet paycheck.

3. Home prices are still increasing

From coast to coast, home prices continue to rise—which translates to more money in your pocket when you sell.

But the gains are predicted to be more moderate than in years past. Realtor.com data suggest a 3.2% increase year over year, after finishing 2017 with a 5.5% year-over-year increase.

Bottom line: You still stand to make a pretty profit if you sell this year, but the earlier you can list, the better off you’ll be.

4. People have more money in their pocket

Record levels of consumer confidence, low unemployment, and stock market surges are setting the stage for high home buyer turnout in 2018. For the first time since the 1960s, the Fed has projected that the unemployment rate will drop below 4%, and the domestic stock market is enjoying a nearly unprecedented rally.

The housing market is already reflecting this boom: Existing-home sales soared 5.6% in November 2017 (the most recent month for which data are available) and reached their strongest pace in almost 11 years, according to the NAR.

“Incomes are growing and people are finding better and more stable jobs,” Vivas says. Buyers “are feeling pretty good about (their) finances.”

And thanks to the GOP tax legislation, which nearly doubles the standard deduction, we’ll see fewer people itemizing, says National Association of Home Builders Chief Economist Robert Dietz.

“The income effect of that is that most people are getting a tax cut—which should help (buyer) demand,” Dietz says.

All of these factors combined mean more buyers could be on the hunt, with more money in their pockets to shell out on a home for sale—possibly yours!

5. Millennials are ready to commit

Millennials, often crippled by student debt, have been especially hampered by rising interest rates and high home prices.

But the aforementioned conditions are ripe in 2018 for these first-time buyers to take the plunge, and experts predict that millennials will make up a vital part of the buyer pool over the coming year: Millennials could account for 43% of home buyers taking out a mortgage in 2018 (a 3% year-over-year increase), according to realtor.com data.

“As people move into their 30s, they’re looking to move from renting to homeownership,” Dietz says. “And we predict that trend will continue even more this year.”

More home buyers flooding the market can only mean good things for sellers—at all price points.


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