Downsizing is on the minds of many homeowners today. Some are ready to retire, others want to live more simply, and many want to save money and say goodbye to home maintenance. If you can relate to any of those sentiments, ask yourself these five questions:
Have you done the math?
The financial savings that can be generated by downsizing can be significant – especially as they add up over time. When doing the math, make sure the move will save money, rather than spend unnecessarily.
Have you researched elder-care options?
Many homeowners hold on to their current home longer than they should because their parents / parents-in-law may need to come live with them in the future. While a noble gesture, there are many excellent elder care living options available today. Often, all it takes is a tour of those facilities to realize that your loved one may actually be happier, and far better served, in a place devoted to their care and happiness.
Have you considered off-site storage?
You don’t need to immediately discard a big chunk of your belongings in order to downsize. In fact, trying to do so in one fell swoop only creates needless stress. Most people find it works much better to move some of their belongings into off-site storage for six months. During that time, you can gradually incorporate some of those items into your new living arrangement, and slowly figure out what to do with the others.
How do you feel about sharing costs and decision-making?
Townhomes and condominiums are popular downsizing options. But both require that you share the decision-making and expenses associated with any maintenance and improvement projects with your neighbors and potentially an HOA. If you’re a people-person and agree that two heads are better than one, and you like the idea of sharing the cost/responsibility for expensive repairs, you’ll enjoy condo living. If not, this may not be the best option for you.
Have you consulted with a real estate agent?
Many homeowners don’t think to consult with a real estate agent until they’ve made the decision to downsize. This leads to guesstimating about some of the most important factors. The truth is, your real estate agent is someone you want to talk with very early in the decision-making process.
Photo by letsbemates.com.au
Working from home is an aspiration for many of us, but to do so effectively takes effort. A disorganized space at home can be just as troublesome as a hectic office. The most disciplined telecommuters will tell you that you need a structured routine and organization to get into work mode.
Having a designated workspace helps you set the tone for your day. Even if you live in a small space, you need to find a balance between home and office. People who work from home often have a difficult time separating work hours from their non-work hours because it’s so easy to continue working late into the night. However, maintaining a balance and shutting down the computer is important for your overall wellbeing. These five tips can help you create the perfect home office:
- Natural Light – Study upon study tells us that natural light is needed to boost productivity and mood. Make sure to set your desk up as close to a window as you can. If being near a window isn’t an option, a natural light lamp is the next best thing. It helps balance your body clock and leaves you feeling rested and refreshed.
- To-Do List or Planner – Start each day off by making a to-do list outlining what you need to get done before the end of the workday. Make sure to set a realistic time frame in which all of that should be completed, so you can check each one off the list and feel immense accomplishment once you’ve completed them all.
- Storage – If you have a big enough space, put in a large bookshelf where you can organize everything (think storage boxes). It reduces clutter and looks stylish. Using your walls and cabinetry is the most efficient use of space.
- Calendar – Many people tend to rely on digital calendars these days because of their convenience. When all of your devices sync together and pop up with reminders, you never have to worry about missing an appointment. However, many people find that it helps to keep a paper calendar handy too so you can easily view your whole month at a glance.
- Space for Inspiration – It doesn’t matter what field you work in, having a source of inspiration in your workspace is essential. Whether it’s a photo of your family, your dream car, or that vacation you’ve been dying to take, having that inspiration right in front of you provides a constant reminder of why you do what you do.
When dissatisfaction with your current home strikes, it can be exciting to launch into a plan for a new addition. A new living room, bedroom, or more can add value to your home while improving your quality of life.
On the other hand, even a modest addition can turn into a major construction project, with architects and contractors to manage, construction workers traipsing through your home, hammers pounding, and sawdust everywhere. And although new additions can be a very good investment, the cost-per-square-foot is typically more than building a new home, and much more than buying a larger existing home.
Define your needs
To determine if an addition makes sense for your particular situation, start by defining exactly what it is you want and need. By focusing on core needs, you won’t get carried away with a wish list that can push the project out of reach financially.
If it’s a matter of needing more space, be specific. For example, instead of just jotting down “more kitchen space,” figure out just how much more space is going to make the difference, e.g., “150 square feet of floor space and six additional feet of counter space.”
If the addition will be for aging parents, consult with their doctors or an age-in-place expert to define exactly what they’ll require for living conditions, both now and over the next five to ten years.
Types of additions
Bump-out addition—“Bumping out” one or more walls to make a first-floor room slightly larger is something most homeowners think about at one time or another. However, when you consider the work required, and the limited amount of space created, it often figures to be one of your most expensive approaches.
First-floor addition—Adding a whole new room (or rooms) to the first floor of your home is one of the most common ways to add a family room, apartment or sunroom. But this approach can also take away yard space.
Dormer addition—For homes with steep rooflines, adding an upper floor dormer may be all that’s needed to transform an awkward space with limited headroom. The cost is affordable and, when done well, a dormer can also improve the curb-appeal of your house.
Second-story addition—For homes without an upper floor, adding a second story can double the size of the house without reducing surrounding yard space.
Garage addition—Building above the garage is ideal for a space that requires more privacy, such as a rentable apartment, a teen’s bedroom, guest bedroom, guest quarters, or a family bonus room.
You’ll need a building permit to construct an addition—which will require professional blueprints. Your local building department will not only want to make sure that the addition adheres to the latest building codes, but also ensure it isn’t too tall for the neighborhood or positioned too close to the property line. Some building departments will also want to ask your neighbors for their input before giving you the go-ahead.
Requirements for a legal apartment
While the idea of having a renter that provides an additional stream of revenue may be enticing, the realities of building and renting a legal add-on apartment can be sobering. Among the things you’ll need to consider:
- Special permitting—Some communities don’t like the idea of “mother-in-law” units and therefore have regulations against it or zone-approval requirements.
- Separate utilities—In many cities, you can’t charge a tenant for heat, electricity, and water unless utilities are separated from the rest of the house (and separately controlled by the tenant).
- ADU Requirements—When building an “accessory dwelling unit” (the formal name for a second dwelling located on a property where a primary residence already exists), building codes often contain special requirements regarding emergency exists, windows, ceiling height, off-street parking spaces, the location of main entrances, the number of bedrooms, and more.
In addition, renters have special rights while landlords have added responsibilities. You’ll need to learn those rights and responsibilities and be prepared to adhere to them.
The cost to construct an addition depends on a wide variety of factors, such as the quality of materials used, the laborers doing the work, the type of addition and its size, the age of your house and its current condition. For ballpark purposes, however, you can figure on spending about $200 per square foot if your home is located in a more expensive real estate area or about $100 per foot in a lower-priced market.
You might be wondering how much of that money your efforts might return if you were to sell the home a couple years later? The answer to that question depends on the aforementioned details, but the average “recoup” rate for a family room addition is typically more than 80 percent.
The bottom line
While you should certainly research the existing-home marketplace before hiring an architect to map out the plans, building an addition onto your current home can be a great way to expand your living quarters, customize your home, and remain in the same neighborhood.
Enough is enough! It’s time to get organized.
I asked some of my more meticulous friends how they keep their homes so neat and organized. Here are their top tips along with a few from some famous organized people:
- Have an “inbox” for your home.
If all of your table and counter space occupies a different pile of mail, bills or magazines that you want or need to look at, the home inbox is a great trick to at least keep the piles in one stack. An easy method is to put a stylish container next to your door. If you get mail or write yourself a note to do later, put it in the box (unless it’s extremely urgent). Each week, sit down and process everything in your inbox. File it away permanently or take care of it right now, but do not put it back in the box! (via David Allen author of Getting Things Done)
- Have an “inbox” for your home.
- Kitchen: Skip the spice rack.
Does anyone really use all the spices in a spice rack? Try heading to your local organic market which carries bulk spices so you can buy just what you need. Bulk spices are especially helpful if a recipe calls for a pinch of something new to you, so you don’t have to buy an entire jar.
- Kitchen: Skip the spice rack.
- Living room: Put the DVDs away please.
You can always discover something interesting about someone’s personality by the DVDs they have, but all those bright cases can also be a cluttered distraction. Instead, store your DVDs in shoebox-style boxes with the spines facing up so you can quickly pull them out and find your favorites. Bonus points if you sort them by alphabetical order, genre or director.
- Living room: Put the DVDs away please.
- Bedroom: Tuck your charging station into your nightstand.
We’ve all seen those bulky “valets” intended to organize your electronic necessities as they charge while you sleep. I must admit I own one, but it takes up too much space. Instead, drill a hole in the back of your nightstand (if you dare) and keep your phones and more out of sight while charging overnight. (via Martha Stewart)
- Bedroom: Tuck your charging station into your nightstand.
- Closets: Turn all the hangers in your closet to face one way.
As you wear an item, turn the hanger the opposite way. After a few months if there’s anything you haven’t worn, it might be time to donate it.
- Closets: Turn all the hangers in your closet to face one way.
What’s your secret to keeping your home organized?
Modern home appliances make our lives so much easier: They tackle dreaded household chores, saving us time and effort. There are lots of ways to use them, however, that you may not have thought of before. From cleaning your ceiling fixtures in the dishwasher to vacuuming your pet, here are 13 little-known tricks for getting more than your money’s worth from your appliances.
- Sanitize small toys and more. Use your dishwasher to wash and sanitize teething rings, small plastic toys, mouth guards, and even baseball caps. Place items on the top rack and run the dishwasher as usual with detergent (without any dirty dishes). Put smaller items in a small mesh laundry bag so that they don’t move around.
- Clean ceiling fixtures. At least once or twice a year, remove and clean your glass ceiling fixtures and light covers in an empty dishwasher. Run the machine on the normal cycle.
- Eliminate wrinkles from clothing. To smooth out wrinkled clothes or linens left too long in the dryer, toss a damp, lint-free cloth in with them. Run the load on the lowest setting for 10 to 15 minutes. Newer dryers also feature a steam setting that removes wrinkles and refreshes clothing between wears.
- Disinfect sponges and dishcloths. Kitchen sponges and dishcloths contain billions of germs. Clean and disinfect them daily by zapping them on high in the microwave for 2 minutes to kill germs.
- Freshen up your curtains. Vacuum heavy drapes with the upholstery attachment. Use the dusting brush attachment for lighter drapes. Wash sheer curtains in the washing machine on the delicate cycle, then hang them up while they’re damp to prevent wrinkles.
- Remove wax from fabric or carpet. To get rid of wax on a tablecloth, place it in your freezer until the wax is hard. Then put a flat paper bag over the wax and another under the fabric. Iron the top bag with a medium-hot iron until all the wax transfers to the bag. To remove wax from a carpet or rug, place an ice pack on the spot until the wax hardens. Shatter the wax and vacuum up the chips.
- Clean baseboards. Dusting baseboards can be a backbreaking chore. Use your vacuum cleaner and the dusting brush attachment to avoid having to bend down. Do the same to clean chair and table legs.
- Organize your fridge. Use the built-in features of your refrigerator to organize food by category. Designate certain shelves or areas for leftovers, preferably front and center, so you don’t forget they’re in there. Use special-purpose bins for their intended use: crispers for vegetables, deli trays for deli meats and cheeses, cold storage trays for meats. Newer models also feature convertible cooling zones to keep food fresh.
- Dust blinds. Extend the blinds fully and turn the slats to the closed position. Use the dusting brush attachment on your vacuum cleaner to clean the slats from top to bottom. Then open and reclose the slats in the opposite direction and repeat the process.
- Clean your microwave. The best time to clean your microwave is immediately after using it. Thanks to residual steam, all you have to do is wipe it out with a paper towel or damp sponge. To clean old messes, microwave 2 cups of water on high for 5 minutes. The steam will soften cooked-on spills, which you can wipe off with a paper towel or cloth.
- Exterminate dust mites. Dust mites live off human and animal dander and other household dust particles. They thrive in sofas, carpets, and bedding. Use the upholstery attachment to vacuum your mattress and upholstered furniture regularly to minimize dust mites. Be sure to empty the canister in an outdoor trashcan.
- Groom your pet. If your dog or cat doesn’t hide when you get out your vacuum cleaner, try using the dusting brush attachment to brush your pet. It’s a gentle way to collect shedding fur.
- Remove grime from shower liners. Wash plastic shower curtain liners in the washing machine with hot water and detergent on the regular cycle. Throw in a small bath towel to help “scrub” mildew and soap scum off the liner. Then rehang the liner and let it air-dry.
Have you found any unusual cleaning hacks for your appliances? Share in the comments below!
A home that exudes beauty from the inside and the outside is also a true reflection of its owner. Today, homes are not just mere living spaces that are filled up with furniture – every home has a character, design theme, and personality of its own, characterized largely by the material used to build it, the color scheme on the inside and outside, and also the accents and hues of every element that goes into it.
One such building material is Timber, which truly brings out the class and beauty in a home. Timber frame houses have many positive attributes to them and are rightfully becoming one of the most popular choices for home building material. Let’s look at some of the pros of using timber for your home:
- Look and feel
Timber is one of the classiest looking building materials, with a sleek finish and a light but sturdy build. Timber, being a natural material, also has a natural feel to it, of course without compromising on reliability. Timber both on the inside and the outside looks amazing and is also quite easy to work with in terms of designing and color palettes. Timber comes in a number of finishes and colors. You could go for a smooth and sleek finish it even a textured look for a more rustic feel. There’s also distressed timber which gives a home a vintage and retro look and comes in a darker shade.
- Heat and cold
Timber framing and construction allows you to enjoy the benefits of its insulating properties. Not just that, it also retains heat and maintains a conducive temperature and atmosphere inside the home. Timber is one of those materials that would sustain you in both hot and cold climatic conditions, and you wouldn’t have to spend too much on HVAC solutions either.
- Longevity and ease of use
Timber is surely one of the most durable materials for constructing a home, especially the new age timber frames which go through special treatment to make the material is stronger, more resistant and also durable. The best part is that timber is also such an easy and convenient material to work with. The build time for a timber frame home is significantly lesser than most other traditional materials. Erecting a timber frame home can be done with ease, and it also does not require any extensive concrete footings, hence the quickness of construction.
- Versatility outdoors and indoors
There are umpteen options for you to choose from, where timber can be used to add-on to the beauty of your home both internally and externally. Outdoor kitchens, pergolas, gazebos, picnic shelters, covered decks, bridges and so much more can be done to the external area of your home.
For the interiors as well, timber can be used for frame accents, staircases, and beautiful railings, and complete timber frame kits and packages come with everything you’d need, including door, window, roof and wall enclosure systems that provide the support your timber frame home needs. Imagine a spacious timber frame home with an open, gourmet kitchen and a dramatic winding staircase? Or even floor to ceiling windows that allow ample natural light to encompass the home. All of this and more is very much possible with timber as the main material.
- Space utilization
Want to make the most of every inch of space you have for your home? Timber framing is one of the best ways to do this! A timber frame floor plan is so flexible and dynamic, and you can add absolutely anything you want, as long as you include it into the final plan. Want to add an extra room? Opt for bigger doors and windows? Or maybe use the extra roof space to create a handy loft? All of this and more is quite easy to do with a timber frame home, and that’s what makes your home uniquely yours in both design and functionality.
Costs are usually a concern while building a new home or re-doing an existing one, but timber is one material that gives you total value for the money you spend. A regular brick and mortar home is expensive as is and doesn’t provide you with any additional benefits. Timber, on the other hand, gives you all the above-mentioned benefits and more, so in terms of cost to value ratio, is a much smarter and more sensible option to go for. So, to create a uniform look and feel both inside and outside, timber is the ideal material to bring out the true beauty of your abode!
Our Guest Author is Tyler of Hamill Creek Timber Homes.
It is finally summer; time for barbecues, summer camp, and family vacations. In recent years we’ve heard of people shortening their vacations, staying closer to home, or going nowhere at all for “staycations”. Another way to save money, while still getting away, is to leverage your own home for a home exchange.
A home exchange—often called “house-swapping”—is a money-smart vacation idea that’s been around for a long time. With virtually everyone feeling the economic squeeze, some exchanges are more popular than ever before.
Why a home exchange? Since accommodations are usually the priciest part of a vacation, a home exchange saves money, allowing travelers to take longer vacations and perhaps splurge a bit on dining, tours, or shopping. Larger families appreciate how homes meet their needs for space, meals, and a good night’s sleep. And, home-swappers often say they enjoy “living like the locals,” especially when traveling internationally.
How it works. The basic idea of a home exchange is that two families agree to live in each other’s home (usually at the same time) at no cost—it’s considered an even trade. Exchangers find one another via home exchange website that provides detailed listings of available homes. Exchanges take place within the United States or internationally, and the length of stay is whatever the parties agree upon. Exchangers typically do not meet in person but get acquainted via phone calls and emails before the exchange happens. Details, including pets, the use of a car, and cleaning are all agreed upon ahead of time, usually in a written contract provided by the website.
What makes a house desirable? You might be surprised! As a general rule, home exchangers are looking for location, location, location. They want to explore attractions in your area, attend an event, or visit family. A beachfront house in California is highly desirable, as is a condo in an exciting city—and even a home in the suburbs will appeal to the right travelers. Because swappers are primarily looking for a convenient jumping-off point for their adventures, your home’s age, floor plan, and furnishings don’t matter too much, as long as it’s clean, comfortable, and accommodating.
Vacation homes are ideal. Whether it’s a rustic cottage on a secluded fishing lake or a condo at a popular ski area, a second home is ideal for exchanges. Logistically, you don’t have to vacate your primary residence, and you have more flexibility as to when the swap can happen. For this reason, many retirees—who often own second homes and enjoy freer schedules—find home exchanges especially appealing.
First steps. If you’re intrigued, start by exploring a few websites; you can view a lot of information for free. Home exchange websites typically charge an annual membership fee of $50 to $100 to list your home. If you decide to join a service, you’ll provide several photos and a detailed description of your home. You’ll also post your desired destination(s) and travel dates, and you’ll be able to peruse the homes that meet your criteria. It’s common to trade information with several homeowners before finding just the right match, and the process may take several months.
Focus on the basics. Once you’ve agreed to an exchange and are preparing your home for guests, think about what makes a hotel room enjoyable. A clean, clutter-free home is universally appealing, and comfortable mattresses and attractive bedding are a must. Your kitchen should be well organized, and internet access is a big plus. Your guests know they’re staying in someone’s home, so don’t worry about scuffed baseboards and well-worn furniture. Likewise, don’t expect five-star accommodations when you step into your host’s home.
Is a home exchange right for you? If the very thought of others living in your home and sleeping in your bed—or you in theirs—makes your palms go clammy, an exchange is probably not for you. But many travelers are hooked!
What are your summer vacation tips?
When you think of your home, it likely conjures up feelings of safety, shelter, and comfort. However, accidental injuries in the home are one of the leading causes of harm to children 14 and younger. By taking certain precautions, many of these accidents can be prevented.
While supervision is the best way to keep your children safe at home, you can’t watch them every second. Childproofing, to whatever degree you are comfortable, will go a long way toward keeping your littlest loved ones safe and healthy at home.
Here are some tips to get you started.
Many accidents happen with or around water.
If you have children at home, it’s advisable to adjust your water heater to no higher than 120 degrees to prevent scalding. Furthermore, you should never leave a small child unattended in a bath tub, even for a few seconds. And be sure to safely secure doors that lead to swimming pools and hot tubs, including pet doors. When cooking or boiling water, turn pot handles in, or better yet use the back burners, to prevent little hands from pulling them off the stove.
Household chemicals can be very harmful to children.
It’s important not to keep poisonous materials under the sink, even if you have a cabinet guard in place. Keep dangerous chemicals up high and in a room that isn’t accessible to your little ones. Seemingly innocuous medicines can also be dangerous. Make sure your medicine cabinet is out of sight, mind, and reach.
Use safety latches and gates.
It’s advisable that you use safety latches on drawers, cabinets, toilets, and windows, as well as place covers on all electrical outlets. Gate off stairways and entrances to rooms, such as garages, that contain dangerous or fragile objects.
Secure furniture and other objects.
Heavy furniture, electronics, and lamps must be secured to prevent a child from pulling them over. Bookshelves and entertainment centers often come with devices that attach them to walls so that a climbing child won’t topple the furniture. The end-caps on door stoppers can be a choking hazard, so it’s advisable to remove them. Place plastic bumpers on sharp corners or edges of coffee tables, entertainment centers, and other furniture to prevent cuts and bruises.
Install a carbon monoxide detector.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) recommends that consumers purchase and install carbon monoxide detectors in addition to smoke alarms. Be sure to test both devices regularly and replace batteries as needed. The American Red Cross advises families to learn first aid and CPR, and to devise an emergency evacuation plan for fires and earthquakes.
Emergency contact info.
Last, but not least, in case an emergency does happen, always keep numbers for your child’s doctor, your work and cell, and other emergency contact info in an easily found place, preferably near the phone.
Accidents can and will happen, but by following a few small steps you can have peace of mind knowing that you’ve done everything you can to protect your family from harm in your home.