12 Tasks to Tackle This Fall

The days are getting shorter, and the nights are getting cooler. The kids are trudging off to school again with their backpacks, and leaves are falling from the trees.

Yep, it’s official: Fall is here. Now’s the time to finish up any pre-winter maintenance projects and get your home and yard ready.

Take care of these 12 tasks to get your home clean, warm and cozy for the cool days to come.

Exterior prep

1. Fix cracks in concrete and asphalt

Depending on where you live, these may be the last weeks this year when it will be warm and sunny enough to repair driveway and sidewalk cracks.

2. Clean out the gutters

No one loves this job, but we all need to do it annually. A few hours of work can prevent big problems later on.

While you’re up on that ladder, visually inspect your roof for damaged shingles, flashing or vents. You can also inspect the chimney for any missing mortar and repair it by tuck-pointing, if needed.

3. Turn off outdoor plumbing

Drain outdoor faucets and sprinkler systems, and cover them to protect them from the freezing weather to come.

4. Start composting

If you don’t already have compost bins, now’s the time to make or get some. All those accumulated autumn leaves will bring you gardening gold next summer!

5. Clean outdoor furniture and gardening tools

It may not yet be time to put them away, but go ahead and clean your outdoor furniture and gardening tools so they’re ready for storage over the winter.

6. Plant bulbs for spring-blooming flowers

Plant bulbs in October, as soon as the soil has cooled down, to reap big rewards next spring. If you’ve never planted bulbs before, select a spot in your yard that gets full sun during the day.

shutterstock_155900531

Interior prep

7. Prepare your furnace for winter duty

If you didn’t already do it last spring, consider getting your furnace professionally serviced in time for the cold season. At a minimum, visually inspect your furnace and replace the furnace filter before you start using it on a daily basis.

8. Clean the fireplace and chimney

Clean out the fireplace, inspect the flue, and ensure the doors and shields are sound. Have the chimney professionally swept if needed. Now’s also the time to stock up on firewood!

9. Keep the warm air inside and the cold air outside

Inspect your windows and doors. Check weatherstripping by opening a door, placing a piece of paper in the entryway and closing the door. The paper should not slide back and forth easily. If it does, the weatherstripping isn’t doing its job.

Also, now’s the time to re-caulk around windows and door casings, if needed.

10. Light the way

Bring as much light into your home as you can for the colder, darker months. To accentuate natural light, clean your windows and blinds, especially in rooms that get a lot of sunlight.

Add lighting to darker spaces with new lamps. And consider replacing traditional incandescent light bulbs with energy-efficient bulbs.

11. Create a mudroom

Even if you don’t have a dedicated mudroom in your home, now’s a good time to think about organizing and stocking an entryway that will serve as a “mudroom” area for cold and wet weather.

Put down an indoor-outdoor rug to protect the floor. A fun and rewarding weekend project is to build a wooden shoe rack, coat rack or storage bench for your entryway.

12. Home safety check

Replace the batteries in your smoke alarms and carbon monoxide monitors. A good way to remember to do this is to always replace the batteries when you change the clock for daylight saving time.

Create a family fire escape plan, or review the one you already have. Put together an emergency preparedness kit so you’re ready for any winter power outages.

Once you finish with your autumn home checklist, you can enjoy the season in your warm, comfortable home.

Related:

  • This Checklist Is the Key to Taking Care of Your Home (Without the Stress)
  • 4 Ways to Cozy Up Your Kitchen for Fall
  • 9 Updates Your Home Needs Every 10 Years

Originally published September 2016.

Getting Your Home Ready for Trick-or-Treaters

As we settle into fall, many of us start looking forward to Halloween. It’s a holiday adults can enjoy as much as kids. But, homeowners do have one serious obligation on this fun night: If you expect trick-or-treaters, you must make sure the path to your door is a safe one.

Take no trips

Inevitably, some giddy ghosts and ghouls will race excitedly to your door. Be prepared.

In the full light of day, inspect your lawn, driveway and front path for trip hazards like exposed tree roots, cracks in concrete or missing pavers. Make repairs where possible, or, at the very least, cut off access to unsafe areas.

Meanwhile, if you’ve decorated the front yard with decorations like light-up pumpkins and animated figures, keep electrical cords away from your walkways.

Light the way

Make sure the path to your house is bright enough for trick-or-treaters to approach safely.

You don’t need to install a full suite of year-round landscape lighting simply to accommodate visitors on Halloween night. There are plenty of temporary and affordable options for illumination, from glow sticks to tea lights.

And although it may seem more in keeping with the mood of this spooky night to switch off your porch light, it’s much safer – not to mention more inviting – to keep it on.

Resist flammable decor

Whether vandals or accidents are to blame, there are many more fires on Halloween than a typical October night, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Holiday decorations are often quite flammable, involving materials such as paper, hay and dried cornstalks.

If you can’t resist adorning your home and yard with such potentially dangerous items, then be sure to keep them away from candles and other heat sources. If jack-o’-lanterns or luminaries figure into your celebrations, illuminate them using LED tea lights, not open flames.

Curb your dog

Chances are yours is a friendly dog. But if some Halloween costumes are convincing enough to frighten small children, those same get-ups could be equally disturbing to your pooch – particularly on such a high-energy night.

It’s good sense to contain your dog in an indoor space that’s comfortable and secure.

A festive parade of goblins and ghouls, princesses and superheroes will soon be marching to your house. Do your part by clearing the path and lighting the way. Be safe out there, and have a happy Halloween!

Related:

  • Sharpen Your Pumpkin Carving Skills With a Pro
  • How to Plan a Celeb-Worthy Halloween Party
  • Enter If You Dare: Inside a Real-Life Haunted House

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 2014.

Buying Your First Home? Plan for These Hidden Costs

You’re excited because you just found the perfect home. The neighborhood is great, the house is charming and the price is right.

But if you’re a first-time home buyer, you might find out that the price is pretty far from perfect.

If you’re shopping for your first home, prepare for additional – and often unexpected – home-buying costs. They catch many home buyers unaware and can quickly leave you underwater on your new home.

Expect the unexpected

For almost every person who buys a home, the spending doesn’t stop with the down payment. Homeowners insurance and closing costs, like appraisal and lender fees, are typically easy to plan for because they’re lumped into the home-buying process, but most costs beyond those vary.

The previous owners of your home are the biggest factor affecting your move-in costs. If they take the refrigerator when they move out, you’ll have to buy one to replace it. The same goes for any large appliance.

And while these may seem like a small purchase compared to buying a home, appliances quickly add up – especially if you just spent most of your cash on a down payment.

You’ll also be on the hook for any immediate improvements the home needs, unless you negotiate them as part of your home purchase agreement.

Unfortunately, these costs are the least hidden of those you may encounter.

When purchasing a home, definitely hire a home inspector (this costs money too!) to ensure the home isn’t going to collapse the next time it rains. Inspectors look for bad electrical wiring, weak foundations, wood rot and other hidden problems you may not find on your own.

Worse still, these problems are rarely covered by home insurance. If an inspector discovers a serious problem, you’ll then have to decide if you still want to purchase the home. Either way, you’ll be out the cost of hiring the inspector.

Consider the creature comforts

Another cost is your own comfort. There are a number of smaller considerations you may not think about until after you move in.

Are you used to having cable? If so, is your new home wired for cable? It’s much harder to watch a technician crawling around punching holes in your walls when you own those walls.

And if you’re moving from the world of renting to the world of homeownership, you’ll probably be faced with much higher utility bills. Further, you could find yourself paying for utilities once covered by a landlord, like water and garbage pickup.

Plan ahead

The best way to prepare for the unknown and unexpected is through research and planning. This starts with budgeting before house hunting and throughout your search.

Look at homes in your budget that need improvements, and then research how much those improvements could cost. Nothing is worse than buying a home thinking you can fix the yard for a few hundred dollars and then realizing it will cost thousands.

There’s really no limit to how prepared you can be. Say you find a nice home that’s priced lower than others in the area because of its age. You may save money on the list price, but with an older house, you could be slapped with a much higher home insurance payment, making the house more expensive in the long run.

This is where preparation comes in. Research home insurance and property prices in the areas you’re considering to make more educated decisions before you ever make that first offer.

Clearly define how much you intend to put toward your down payment, and then look at how much cash that leaves for improvements and minor costs, like changing the locks. That way, when you find a house at the high end of your range, you’ll know to walk away if it requires a new washer and dryer or HVAC system upgrade.

Establish a rough estimate for as many costs as you can think of, and be extremely critical of homes at the top of your budget – otherwise, you could easily end up being house-poor.

Know your budget and plan ahead. Buying a home is a lot less scary when you know what you’re getting into.

Top featured photo from Offset.

Related:

  • Insurance FAQs for First-Time Home Buyers
  • The Huge Risk Home Buyers Take When They Waive Inspections
  • 3 Weird Things You Can Ignore When Home Shopping

Originally published August 2016.

This Sky-High Water Tower Doubles as a Rustic Beach Retreat

In the 1940s, this Huntington Beach water tower – which stands at around 100 feet tall – serviced the local trains that came through town, connecting the inner city to the beach. Today, it’s a 3,500-square-foot high-rise with unmatched views of the Pacific Ocean, downtown Los Angeles and Catalina Island.

The historic and beloved water tower has long been a fixture of the Huntington coastline, but it was nearly torn down in the 1980s – until the local community pulled together and demanded it be saved.

“There was a huge community outcry to keep it,” said Scott Ostlund, the owner of the water tower home. “People were selling quilts and having meetings on ‘Save Our Water Tower.'”

Luckily, the tower was spared, and a local professor decided to turn it into a home in 1986. And in 2017, Ostlund purchased it and did extensive renovations, which were sorely needed.

“There was literally dust dropping from the termites in the ceiling, so it needed a lot of work. We went through and restored it after the buy,” Ostlund said.

A crew of 70 worked round-the-clock for three months to update the features and bring the water tower back to its former glory. The hard work and renovations paid off, and the one-of-a-kind-home will remain a neighborhood institution for years to come. Though the outside of the home still looks like the traditional structure of a water tower, the inside is cozy and rustic with 4 bedrooms and 3.5 baths.

Sprinkled throughout the home are artifacts of its past life of servicing trains, such as the barrels and burlap sacks decorating the first-floor bathroom as a nod to how trains carried cargo back in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. A tiny train track also hangs on the ceiling of one of the home’s lounge areas, giving the house a feeling of nostalgia and a sense of its history.

Beyond the historic details, the water tower’s living spaces are impressive: A lounge area boasts sweeping, panoramic views of the ocean…

…and the spacious kitchen features fire-engine red cabinets, open shelving, subway tiles and floor-to-ceiling farmhouse paneling.

The sizable bedrooms upstairs have multiple windows that pop open, offering enviable and unobstructed views of the ocean right from the comfort of a bed.

The water tower’s best feature, however, is its wraparound deck that’s perfect for sunset views, catching a good ocean breeze and soaking in the hot tub, which is conveniently located next to a built-in wine fridge and wet bar.

The novelty of a water tower-turned-home isn’t lost on Ostlund, who knows how unique it is to the area as well as the whole country.

“The value in the water tower is the permanence to build a house on the beach 100 feet in the air.  You look out over every other house in Southern California. There is no house that’s this tall in the country,” he said.

11 Fall Maintenance Tasks to Do This Weekend

By Shannon Ireland

The scent of pumpkin spice has begun to fill the air, sweaters are moving toward the front of the closet, and leaves are changing from their summer green to the vibrant hues of fall.

But before you cozy up with a fleece blanket and a cup of tea, take the time to tackle a few home maintenance projects.

Why is seasonal maintenance important?

The answer is simple: Seasonal maintenance can help keep your home looking and functioning properly, and save you money because you’ll catch problems before they get out of hand.

Plus you’ll get the added bonus of sleeping easier at night knowing you’ve taken all necessary precautions.

‘Tis the season to …

1. Rake it in

Few things are more beautiful than a yard speckled with crimson, gold and tangerine-colored leaves. But failing to dispose of them can kill your grass and inhibit growth in the spring months.

Grab your rake and enjoy the crisp temperatures of the season. You can always treat yourself to a pumpkin treat when the raking is done.

2. Clean the gutters

Speaking of leaves, when they clog your gutters, rainwater can’t flow through and will eventually spill over. So what, right? This overflow can damage your home’s siding, roof and foundation.

It’s better to remove the leaves from your gutters than to chance the buildup turning into a costly problem.

3. Check the roof

While we’re on the subject of the roof, fall is a great time to check that all shingles are in place and in good shape before winter snowstorms pop up on your radar.

4. Conduct a walking inspection

Take a walk around the exterior of your home, keeping an eye open for damage along the pathways leading to your doors. Cracks could mean loose cement or gravel, increasing the likelihood that someone could trip or slip and fall.

To ensure the safety of visitors, seal any cracks you see. Be sure to inspect the siding and foundation while you’re at it, and tackle any repairs as soon as possible.

5. Cracks and gaps can cause problems indoors too

When you shut doors and windows, make sure there aren’t any spaces allowing air to escape. If there are, seal them.

You may not think much of these little gaps right now, but you will when you open your heating bill and see how much you’re paying to keep the whole neighborhood warm, or when you find out that a mouse has made your cabinet his home for the winter.

6. Store summer staples

Patio furniture is susceptible to damage from winter weather. Since you probably won’t spend as much time outside – except for roasting marshmallows over the fire pit – move outdoor furniture, trampolines and other summer staples into storage.

7. Make it a clean sweep

Schedule a time to have your chimney and heating system cleaned and maintained, including swapping old filters for new ones. It’s important that everything is in good working condition to decrease the likelihood of house fires.

8. Pipe down

Shut off the water supply to exterior faucets and insulate your pipes before the weather dips below 32 degrees. This will help prevent pipes from freezing, bursting and flooding your home.

9. Take time to vent

Your dryer vent, that is. Cooler weather means more static electricity, which means lint buildup in your dryer can ignite more easily. Clean your dryer vent to help prevent this problem and keep it working more efficiently.

10. Testing … 1, 2, 3

Test safety devices, such as smoke alarms, and check the expiration date on your fire extinguisher. In case a fire ignites, it’s important to know that you and your family will be alerted and able to get out of the house quickly and safely, or able to extinguish smaller fires before significant damage is done.

11. Check your home insurance coverage

Can your insurance weather the storm? The final item on your fall home maintenance checklist should always be to call your insurance agent. Arrange a time to walk through your coverage to ensure your home will be protected, no matter what situation may arise.

Related:

  • Why Halloween Scares Insurance Providers (and Should Scare You)
  • Insurance 101: Review Your Insurance Policy at Renewal
  • 12 Tips for a Safer, More Organized Home

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 2016.

8 Minimalist Homes That Are Big on Style (Not on Stuff)

Stunning. Sleek. Neat. Feast your eyes on eight simple, yet sophisticated homes so serene, they might just have you decluttering in no time.

Open and airy – up, down and around

Photo by PLUSH Image Corporation.

High ceilings and a palette of neutral colors make this 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.

White and bright with wood accents

Photo by Colt Verret.

Three Edison bulbs hang above the island of this 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.

Clean, fresh and flowing

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 space has flowing, zen-like design elements. The shower walls and double slipper tub have a sinuous look, reminiscent of the nearby Pacific Ocean.

Mid-Century meets the 21st

Photo from Zillow listing.

Clean and chic, this 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.  

Classic style in blush tones and gold

Photo by Angelika Piatek Photography.

Crisp white walls and a bold, gray-paneled fireplace anchor this bright 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.

A nod to nature

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

Ample light and simple lines provide the soothing setting for this 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.

Perfectly placed patterns

Photo from Zillow listing.

Sleep comes easy when a bedroom is this free of distractions. 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.

The illusion of height

Photo from Zillow listing.

Long vertical lines – from the tripod lamp to the decorative wooden ladder and tall potted plant – draw the eye upward, making the space seem larger. Touches of gray and blue add cool, soothing tones to an otherwise neutral space.

Top image by Angelika Piatek Photography. 

Related:

  • Designer Lookbook: Marc-Michaels Creates Stylish Minimalism
  • Minimalist Kitchen Design: Clean Look and Lines
  • 1920s Japanese Tea House Turned Zen Retreat – House of the Week

Originally published January 2018.

7 Retro Trends Making a Comeback

Each year, fashion leaves a strong impression on the design industry and its offerings for the season. For 2020, the vibe includes handmade organic details paired with the sparkle of the ’70s disco club and the velvety softness of the ’80s.

But beyond the nostalgic hints that those artistic impressions carry, what lies ahead for interiors? How will we change and evolve in our home environment? Read on and see what speaks to your design style as we approach another new year.

Cork and recycled elements

Many manufacturers, designers and architects have focused their products and projects on a sustainable, environmentally friendly approach to home building and design. Thanks to modern technology, sustainable products don’t mean inferior quality, comfort or design.

In fact, these products celebrate eco-chic versions of modern or traditional designs in both elevated and affordable versions. While products like linoleum or cork flooring may have been long forgotten, they will see a strong comeback in the new season, thanks to its natural characteristics.

Abloom with florals

The traditional beauty of floral patterns, either abstracted or straight-up chintz, will continue to be the pattern to use, especially when paired with deep luxurious velvets and maximalist styled spaces. But home designer, beware: Chintz can be tricky. Its bold old-fashioned prints can easily turn to frilly English bed-and-breakfast if you’re not careful. When done right, the floral theme can add color, texture and just the right touch of classic elegance to your interior.

Handmade accents

Handmade items made with sustainable materials like jute, rice paper and clay will be all the rage in 2020. These elements go far in grounding a home, allowing its inhabitants to be in touch with the earth and their roots. The incorporation of natural materials popular years ago – like caning, rope, sea grass and bamboo – has a strong influence over modern furniture silhouettes and decor details. Elaborately embossed wall coverings, including gold rivets and metallic accents, give surfaces a beautiful tactile sensation and modern ambiance.

Plastic and acrylic

Increasing social consciousness around climate change has influenced the design industry to produce products accordingly. Plastics are being used for indoor and outdoor furniture frames, while water bottles are being used to create outdoor rugs and accents.

For a more luxe look, acrylic products are having a comeback, giving a room the architectural structure it needs without taking up visual real estate. Acrylic in a small space, like an entryway or sitting area, provides a surface that can be layered with more organic items and not feel fussy.

Authentic construction

The rise of digitally printed fabrics has created a true appreciation for real embroidery, thick wool boucles, linens and other artisan-inspired elements. Rich textural expressions are the theme of the upcoming season. Think velvet upholstery, hemp drapery, cork walls, wicker and jute for furniture and finishes.

Maximal artwork

The surge of minimalism and Scandinavian design, characterized by neutral colors and simple materials, is finally declining. In its place, bright colors and graphic patterns are becoming more prevalent in the home.

Don’t be afraid to mix colors, patterns and textures. Take a gallery wall to the next level by having it cover an entire wall, or add a dramatic large-scale piece to your space. In this case, more is more.

Metallic accents

And speaking of timeless metal accents, sparkle is still on the design scene for living room decor compositions. Add a hint of disco glamour and luxury by introducing bronze, gold and chrome details through decorative accents, furniture inlays, hardware, lighting, mirrors and accessories.

Related:

  • Creative Ways to Add Color to Your Rental
  • 3 Design Tricks That Will Make Your Small Space Feel Big
  • A DIY for the Books: How to Get Custom Built-In Shelves on a Budget

This Stylish Treehouse Is Luxury Off-the-Grid Living

Kati O’Toole and her husband, Darin, wanted to create a giant piece of artwork on their private and heavily wooded seven-acre property in Montana. They ended up with what they refer to as the Montana Treehouse Retreat – a two-story, fully finished treehouse nestled among three living trees.

“Everybody thought we were crazy [at] the beginning, like ‘What are you guys doing building a treehouse here?’ Our parents thought we were crazy,” says Kati.

But the hard work and vision paid off, and now visitors from all over the world routinely come to stay at their carefully crafted work of art. The 700-square-foot treehouse features a master suite with a deck that overlooks the forest, a living area with three benches that can double as sleeping quarters, and two bathrooms. Guests can also prepare a meal in the treehouse’s downstairs kitchen, complete with a refrigerator, a stove, a sink and a dishwasher.

“There’s even air conditioning in this treehouse, because we wanted to create a very luxury experience here. I have to be honest – the treehouse is nicer inside than the house that I live in, so I like to come back here and just have a little retreat away from it all,” says Kati.

Every detail of the treehouse was painstakingly thought out, and most of the materials were either sourced locally or repurposed. The trim and the interior feature wood that Darin himself milled, sanded and finished, and the breakfast table nook was made from the base of a tree located right on their property.

One of Kati’s favorite details of the treehouse, however, is the spiraling exterior staircase, which is wrapped around a large tree shipped in from Darin’s grandmother’s yard, roots and all.

Although Darin handled most of the heavy-duty construction of the structure, Kati’s handiwork is all over the interior.

“We wanted it to be kind of funky and modern – but still have some Montana accents and still be a little rustic too. So there were many things coming into play, and we wanted people to feel like it was a very cozy home away from home when they came here, and just like a one-of-a-kind Montana experience,” she says.

A combination of white shiplap and multicolored wood paneling covers the interior walls, giving the home an eclectic yet polished farmhouse look, and expansive windows create an open, airy feeling in the small living spaces. Modern elements that are dotted throughout the house, like the industrial chandelier in the kitchen and the black hexagon and subway tiles in the bathrooms, are more reminiscent of a boutique hotel than a remote treehouse located near Glacier National Park.

Close to Kati’s heart are the pieces by local artists that don the walls, with some of the pieces coming from guests who created the artwork while staying at the treehouse.

“It’s been really cool to see [how] this place inspires people,” she says.

But the defining characteristic of this home – and what guests travel miles for – is the unique experience of living out your childhood dreams of sleeping in a treehouse.

“It’s a very unique feeling that most people have never experienced, to be lying in bed and seeing a tree – or you’re actually moving. And people have told me that they love the experience, and it’s – yeah, it’s a treehouse. That’s the beauty. It’s a real treehouse,” says Kati.

Related:

  • Explore a Tiny Tropical Treehouse in Hawaii
  • This Nashville Treehouse Will Drench You in Light
  • Tour These Whimsical Cabins Made From Recycled Materials

Buyer, Beware: Is Your Future House Haunted?

We’ve all heard home-buying horror stories. Sellers backing out or financing falling through can quickly kill a deal. But these snags don’t hold a candle to buying a “stigmatized” home.

A home where paranormal activity, suicide, murder, cult activity or other misfortunes and crimes took place could be categorized as a stigmatized property.

In real estate terms, a stigma refers to an intangible attribute of a property that may prompt a psychological or emotional response on the part of a potential buyer. In addition to physical defects, a house may have unusual features or a history that negatively impacts its value.

Get to know your state’s disclosure laws

Here’s a scary fact: A listing agent may not be required to disclose a stigma to buyers.

Ever heard the phrase “caveat emptor” (let the buyer beware)? In the past, sellers were not required to disclose anything about homes they were selling. Over the years, most states have made changes to this rule and now require that buyers be made aware of certain issues.

The law urges buyers, sellers and their agents to engage in fair and honest dealing with all principals in the real estate transaction. However, the laws that regulate disclosure of sketchy events vary from state to state. Some state laws explicitly relieve the salesperson or broker of the obligation to disclose certain property stigmas.

For instance, what if a house is haunted? Massachusetts is particularly lax when it comes to stigmas. In the witch city of Salem, a seller’s agent does not necessarily need to volunteer information about paranormal activity or even a felony, suicide or homicide that has occurred in a home.

But if you or your agent asks a seller’s agent directly, they must answer truthfully. This differs from California’s stringent laws, which, in addition to other disclosures, mandate that buyers be informed of any deaths that occurred at a property in the last three years.

While it’s certainly ethical for sellers to be upfront about any defects that may impact the value of a property, it may not be a legal requirement.

Research before you fall in love

Since you’re unlikely to find the descriptors “haunted” or “former crime scene” in a property listing, how should you go about digging up some dirt?

  • Check with a real estate attorney in your state to see what disclosures are required.
  • Ask the seller’s representative if criminal or paranormal activity has been reported. Again, sellers and their agents are legally obligated to reveal problems they’re aware of when asked.
  • Carefully review the seller’s disclosures, if one is included with the listing. In many states, property owners are forced to put their real estate disclosures in writing.
  • Get the inside scoop from the neighbors.
  • Always Google the address of your future home. You may uncover a headline that sways your decision.

You may learn that a former owner passed away in the house. In areas with older properties, this is likely going to be the case, though it may not be cause for concern. Someone peacefully passing away in the comfort of their home is a lot different from a situation that involved foul play.

Related:

  • Tenant Troubles: Who Is Responsible for Problems in Your Rental?
  • 3 Things You Should Know About Preliminary Title Reports
  • What You Need to Know About the Fair Housing Act

3 Simple DIY Driveway Ideas

A DIY driveway can be an easy want to add parking or improve the look of your home. Here are three relatively simple options.

1. Carve out a parking pad

The easiest, most affordable way to get an extra parking space is to clear out some grass and throw down mulch. It works fine, looks good and can be done in a day.

But beware: Mulch isn’t a permanent solution. Mulch breaks down over time, floats away in a heavy rain and fades in the sun. Over time, you may end up spending more money sprucing up the mulch than you would have pouring concrete in the first place.

Be sure to use a store-bought landscape barrier, or even lay down newspaper to prevent weeds.

If mulch seems too temporary, consider other loose materials like gravel, stones or crushed oyster shells.

2. Build a DIY driveway with pavers

A more solid parking option is a concrete or brick paver driveway. It can be installed either professionally or DIY. Thousands of videos online show the steps and all the tricks of the trade. It’s really quite simple:

  1. Excavate the area to be paved.
  2. Install a base material, such as crushed concrete, at a thickness of a few inches.
  3. Pack down the base material with a compactor, making sure to slope it as desired.
  4. Install a thin layer of sand on top of the base material.
  5. Install paver blocks on the sand layer, laying them in place in the pattern of your choice.
  6. Install a border row of bricks along the edges, and back that row with a poured concrete edge restraint, which will keep things from moving outward.
  7. Put another layer of sand on top of the finished surface and broom it into the joints between the bricks.

When installed properly, a paver driveway can last for decades.

3. Go with classic concrete

Finally, there is the tried-and-true concrete driveway. There’s a reason concrete is still the most common driveway product in the world: It looks good, doesn’t cost a fortune and lasts a very long time.

There are fewer steps to pouring a concrete parking area than there is to installing pavers, but it’s not quite as beginner-friendly. If you’ve never poured concrete before, it’s a good idea to start with a smaller area, such as a sidewalk, before tackling a large area.

Related:

  • Sealing and Insulating Your Ductwork
  • How to Fix Ceiling Water Stains
  • How to Replace a Ceiling Fan