Show Us How You Staged It!

Calling all stagers and real estate professionals! We want to see your best photos of staging the following areas in a home:

  • The Entryway
  • Fireplace
  • Master Retreat

Do you have a photo to share showing off how you perfectly staged these areas? If so, please email Realtor Magazine writer Melissa Dittmann Tracey at mtracey@realtors.org. You and your work could be spotlighted in an upcoming photo gallery spotlighting our favorites at REALTOR® Magazine online.

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Make a Bigger Statement in the Kitchen: Stylish Hoods

By Melissa Dittmann Tracey, REALTOR® Magazine

That spot over the stove is prime real estate in the kitchen these days. Lately that space is being reserved for a decorative hood, which is becoming almost like a centerpiece of the kitchen.

Stainless steel hoods have been all the rage in recent years. But brass hoods and decorative wood ones with detailing are also proving to be popular choices. Check out some of these hood styles incorporated into kitchens from designers posting their work at Houzz.

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This Home Looks Like a Barn (But Has Enough Room to Be a Small Castle)

Like many married couples, the Clarks have a lot in common: a last name, a first name (they’re both Kelly) and an affinity for wide-open spaces – which inspired them to build a 10,000-square-foot barn-style home on 30 acres of land in West Monroe, Louisiana. 

But let’s back up. Kelly Clark (that’s him) and Kelly Moore-Clark (that’s her) wanted a change of scenery for their family. So when a friend put some land up for sale, they decided to make a move.

“We pretty much bought the property sight unseen because you couldn’t walk through it,” Moore-Clark says, referring to the thicket of overgrown trees and plants that carpeted the ground. “We bought the land and then crossed our fingers that, when we cleared it, we would find a spot to build the home.”

Spoiler alert: They found that spot. The perfect location sat at the back of the property on a hilltop, far from the main road.

They immediately began working with a team of designers to create a plan for their space. The blueprints were beautiful, but something didn’t feel quite right.

“We just couldn’t pull the trigger on it. … It was just a gut feeling,” Moore-Clark says. “I [felt] like whatever [was] supposed to be out here [was] supposed to be special.”

Then, Moore-Clark’s mother had an idea: Why not build a home that looked like a barn?

“I remember [my mom] specifically saying, ‘You could roll the doors up and drive through the house,'” Moore-Clark says.

And that’s when it all clicked. With the help of Moore-Clark’s father, a former army draftsman, they made a new plan, hired a team of subcontractors and watched their home begin to take shape.

“It was a very organic [building] process,” Moore-Clark says. “As the framers started framing it up, we would come into the room, and I would try to envision what our life [would look] like.”

Moore-Clark doesn’t have to use her imagination anymore. Today the couple, their three daughters, a dog, an old pony and 80 free-range chickens roam about the 10,000-square-foot home. And although they spend most of their time in a small fraction of the space, there’s plenty of room to grow. Three main areas, to be exact.

At approximately 2,250 square feet, the east side of the home is where you can usually find the family. This area includes the bedrooms, the living room/kitchen area and the bathroom.

Speaking of that bathroom: “I wanted it to be like a little greenhouse,” Moore-Clark says. Her vision for the bathroom predates the actual bathroom itself – she bought the tub before they started building.

Even though there’s room for dozens of bedrooms, the girls share one room, complete with custom-designed bunk beds.

And then there’s the breezeway. This is the second section of the home, and it’s around 2,000 square feet. The breezeway is an indoor porch area with roll-up doors and plenty of living space.

“Lots of playing happens in the breezeway,” Moore-Clark says. “[The girls] ride their bikes through it, put on musical events with their friends – ballets, plays, lots of things.”  

Finally, there’s the west side, which contains an office space, a home gym, a shop, and a guest bedroom and bathroom.

“When people stay … they really have their own space,” Moore-Clark says. “You don’t even hear each other. It’s good for a little retreat.”

The home is good for a lot of activities that fall outside the ordinary – it’s hosted live music recordings, floral workshops and even a Christmas Eve church service.

So what compelled Clark and Moore-Clark to create a space so vast and so intimate at the same time? They’re not really sure. Yet.  

“We feel like, one day, it’s going to be used for something interesting. … [It’s] a gut feeling.” Moore-Clark says. “We don’t know exactly why we built this place the way it is. But we knew it was right.”

Photos by Seth MacMillan.

Related articles:

  • A Farmhouse-Style Prefab That’ll Make You Want to Ditch the Big City
  • Sleek Prefab Meets Rustic Red Barn – House of the Week
  • Haylofts to Hardwoods: How One Family Salvaged a Historic Barn By Hand

A Park Slope Townhome That Went From ‘Mess’ to Masterpiece

Very few would have considered purchasing a crumbling and decrepit 1890 Victorian townhome. But Lindsey Branca and her partner (both in business and in life), Mike Grosshandler, saw what most didn’t: opportunity.

After a sweeping renovation that included collapsing plaster and a complete layout change, this townhome – located in trendy Park Slope, Brooklyn – went from a deteriorated state to downright stately.

“When we purchased the home, we were on the hunt for a ‘mess’ that would provide the most opportunity,” says Branca.

The opportunity they saw in this home was a “hidden” second floor not visible from the street – a very rare find in the New York City real estate scene. This hidden second floor brought a whole treasure trove of extra square footage, including an extra floor of bedrooms.

Although the renovation was a complete overhaul, which involved removing a bedroom downstairs, taking out a bathroom, and removing an extra kitchen from its days of multifamily use, the project only took Branca’s restoration company, Branca & Co., around nine months to complete.

Inside, they transformed damaged carpets and worn-out walls into a sleek and contemporary single-family home.

They kept as much original detail as they could, such as the painstakingly stripped marble mantles, and what they weren’t able to salvage (like the damaged plaster molding), they restored to fit the original design.

The modern details they added, like white oak plank flooring and an open-concept kitchen with a large island and open shelving, play nicely with traditional details, such as a clawfoot tub and trace ceilings.

“I’m very happy with the results. We stuck to a very strict budget (one my architect was skeptical we could hit), yet we were still able to produce a really beautiful, thoughtful product,” says Branca.

Photos by Nicole Franzen.

Related:

  • Modern Design Goes Green in This Park City Mountain Escape
  • Whale Watch From Any of This Home’s 3 Rooftop Decks
  • This Remarkable Home Is Anything but Square

Why Is This Hairy Chair Popping Up Everywhere?

By Melissa Dittmann Tracey, REALTOR® Magazine

Love it or hate it, faux fur furniture is having a big moment in home design, and you’ll spot it creeping up in a lot more interiors lately.

The faux fur trend started off as sheepskin throws over the sofa or as a fluffy accent pillow. But now that furry trend is coming to furniture. And it’s no longer just a hot dorm accessory, but you’ll also spot it being incorporated into more sophisticated living rooms too.

Here’s why it’s becoming a go-to accessory: It adds texture to a room. Texture can help make a room more visually appealing and add warmth to a space. And a statement chair of faux fur certainly adds a lot of texture! Check out how designers incorporated this now infamous chair into some of the designs below.

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7 Places in America That Will Pay You to Move There

If you’re willing to move and if you meet the qualifications, many rural American towns are offering incentives aimed at attracting new residents and reviving their communities.

At the beginning of the 20th century, rural America housed more than half the country’s entire population. While the number of Americans living in rural areas has been roughly stable over the past century – as urban and suburban America have boomed – its share of the total population has declined, falling from 54 percent in 1910 to just 19 percent in 2010.

This is due, in part, to migration to urban cores, especially by younger generations and the middle class.

This decline in population – and the accompanying social and economic challenges – is forcing rural America to come up with incentives to attract new residents back to rural communities.

Tribune, Kansas, offers such a program. “If you move here, we will pay down your student debt,” explains Christy Hopkins, community development director for Kansas’ least populated county, Greeley (in which Tribune sits).

This program, called the Rural Opportunity Zone (ROZ) program, offers perks to grads from big cities for moving to underpopulated towns in one of 77 participating Kansas counties. One of the incentives? They’ll help you pay off your student loans – up to $15,000 over the course of five years.

And it seems to be working – for both the town and its new residents.

“We’re the least populated county – we’re 105th in population for counties in Kansas, and now we’re eighth in college degrees per capita. There’s a correlation to draw,” says Hopkins.

Here are five towns and three states that offer a robust set of loans, programs and/or assistance for those seeking to become homeowners:

Curtis, Nebraska

Population: 891
Median home value: $79,000

Dream of building your own home from the ground up? Curtis, Nebraska, has a sweet deal for you. If you construct a single-family home within a specified time period,  you’ll receive the lot of land it sits on for free.

Marne, Iowa

Population: 115
Median home value: $75,300

Just 45 minutes east of Omaha, Marne will give you a lot of land for free – all you have to do is build the house (conventional construction or modular) and meet program requirements. Houses must be a minimum of 1,200 square feet, and the average lot size is approximately 80 feet by 120 feet.  

Harmony, Minnesota

Population: 999
Median home value: $93,900

Dreaming of a a newly built home in the Land of 10,000 Lakes? Good news: Your dream comes with a cash rebate.

The Harmony Economic Development Authority offers a cash rebate program to incentivize new home construction. Based on the final estimated market value of the new home, rebates range from $5,000 to $12,000, and there are no restrictions on the applicant’s age, income level or current residency.

Baltimore, Maryland

Population: 616,958
Median home value: $116,300

Definitively not a rural town, Baltimore offers homeowners incentives that are too appealing to leave off this list.

Baltimore has two programs offering robust incentives for buying a home in the city. Buying Into Baltimore offers a $5,000 forgivable loan (forgiven by 20 percent each year so that by the end of five years, you no longer have a balance) if you meet certain qualifications.

The city’s second solution is a brilliant one. The Vacants to Value Booster program offers $10,000 toward down payment and closing costs when you buy one of the program’s distressed or formerly distressed properties.

New Haven, Connecticut

Population: 131,014
Median home value: $168,400

Also not a rural area, but offering an incredibly generous package of homeowner incentives, New Haven offers a suite of programs totaling up to $80,000 for new homeowners, including a $10,000 forgivable five-year loan to first-time home buyers, $30,000 renovation assistance and/or up to $40,000 for college tuition.   

Alaska

Population: 739,795
Median home value: $310,200

Alaska offers incentives for veterans and live-in caretakers of physically or mentally disabled residents. They even have a manufactured home program and a rural owner-occupied loan program. See the full list of programs here.

Colorado

Population: 5.6 million
Median home value: $368,100

Colorado offers traditional programs that assist with down payments and low interest rates, but it also has a disability program that helps first-time buyers who have a permanent disability finance their home.

The state also has a down payment assistance grant that provides recipients with up to 4 percent of their first mortgage, which doesn’t require repayment.



Related:

  • Small-Town Charm: 8 Homes for Sale in Less Populated Areas
  • A Farmhouse-Style Prefab That’ll Make You Want to Ditch the Big City
  • 5 Reasons to Buy a Home This Fall

Originally published October 2017. Information updated October 2018.

Small-Town Charm: 8 Homes for Sale in Less Populated Areas

There’s just something special about a small town. Less traffic, no noise pollution and friendly neighbors can all make for an idyllic escape from the grit of the city.

Some of these small towns may be hours from the nearest Amazon Locker or Whole Foods, but what they lack in big-city amenities, they make up for in big-time charm.

Here are eight homes for sale in some of the best small towns in America.

Stately in South Carolina

For sale: $668,000

Nothing could be sweeter than this stately home in Beaufort, South Carolina, which has a prime location on South Carolina’s coastal Sea Islands. The home was built in 1997, but it looks like it was plucked straight from the 19th century, with notable features like a large front porch, whitewashed brick on the exterior, an updated and spacious living-dining area, and a covered back porch for those sweltering summer nights.

Photo from Zillow listing.

See more Beaufort homes for sale.

A coastal cottage in small-town California

For sale: $1.4 million

This quaint cottage in Carmel-by-the-Sea, California, is the quintessential coastal retreat. Carmel-by-the-Sea is located just an hour outside the tech capital of the country – San Jose – but feels worlds away, thanks to its small population and relaxed lifestyle. The cottage itself is a seaside charmer, featuring blue cedar shake siding and a large deck for lounging, and it’s just a short walk from downtown Carmel.

Photo from Zillow listing.

See more Carmel-by-the-Sea homes for sale.

Small-town Southern charm in Georgia

For sale: $379,900

If there were one home to define small-town Southern charm, it might be this cute Craftsman in Dahlonega, Georgia. Once considered a gold-mining destination, Dahlonega is now a quiet little mountain town with a downtown that’s listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Craftsman home, located minutes from the downtown square, is elegant yet cozy, with hardwood floors throughout the main level, wainscoting in the dining room, and two levels of decks that have a beautiful tree-lined view.

Photo from Zillow listing.

See more Dahlonega homes for sale.

Scandinavian style in a small mountain town

For sale: $1.1 million

This cabin in Ketchum, Idaho – population 2,689 – may have your typical rustic mountain cabin exterior, but pop inside and you’ll find an unexpected use of Scandinavian style. The interior of the cabin features Venetian plaster, low-voltage cable lighting, stainless spacers in maple-wrapped beams and a custom staircase.

Photo from Zillow listing.

See more Ketchum homes for sale.

Fancy on the New York farm

For sale: $995,000

Just a bit beyond the bright lights of Times Square, you’ll find this vibrant farmhouse in Rhinebeck, New York, which is a charming and historic town about two hours away from Manhattan. This home makes small-town life feel fabulous, with stunning details like beamed vaulted ceilings in the living space and master bedroom, a chef’s kitchen, and even an indoor lap pool with views of the 5-acre lot.

Photo from Zillow listing.

See more Rhinebeck homes for sale.

A Queen Anne Victorian in Arkansas

For sale: $439,000

This quirky and colorful Queen Anne Victorian home in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places, and it’s currently being used as a bed-and-breakfast for the bustling tourist town in the Ozarks. A pastel facade and a large front porch greet you as you enter the 7-bed, 7.5-bath home – which is divided up into three floors full of guest suites with private entrances.

Photo from Zillow listing.

See more Eureka Springs homes for sale.

Mayberry-like in Marietta, Ohio

For sale: $270,000

This Arts and Crafts-style home, located in the historic district of Marietta, Ohio (population 14,085), combines the gorgeous architecture of the early 20th century with the modern, convenient and open spaces of the 21st century. The rooms throughout the home have been carefully updated while still keeping the original charm intact, including the embellishments on the hardwood floors, the built-ins in the living area, and the cozy fireplaces in the dining and living spaces.

Photo from Zillow listing.

See more Marietta homes for sale.

Small Southwestern charm in Taos

For sale: $725,000

This pueblo-style home in Taos, New Mexico, is just a short walk to the small town’s famous art galleries in Taos Plaza. The pueblo itself is a work of art, with beautiful details like dark wood beams across the ceiling, a Spanish tile floor and a large fireplace in the living room.

Photo from Zillow listing.

See more Taos homes for sale.

Top photo from Zillow listing.

Related:

  • 9 Cozy Cabins for $300,000 or Less
  • A Farmhouse-Style Prefab That’ll Make You Want to Ditch the Big City
  • 5 Reasons to Buy a Home This Fall

Staged to Sell: A Vintage Cottage in Need of Some TLC

Home stager: Kelly Kurtz, a licensed REALTOR(R) with Exit Options Real Estate and founder of Simply Well Simply Organized

The home: This cottage was located in a small community in Groton, Mass. The home was rundown, and the owner had accumulated years of belongings that were scattered everywhere. Kurtz knew the home needed a deep cleaning and some staging to make it appealing to a buyer, without sacrificing the owner’s potential for profit by listing it under market value. Kurtz took the strategy of decluttering and cleaning the property but purposely muted her staging accessories to fit the style of the property. The home, which was built in 1925, was listed for $249,900.

BEFORE

AFTER – Photo Credit: Kelly Kurtz, Exit Options Real Estate

 

BEFORE

AFTER – Photo Credit: Kelly Kurtz, Exit Options Real Estate

 

BEFORE

AFTER – Photo Credit: Kelly Kurtz, Exit Options Real Estate

Kurtz’s Staging Tips:

1. Work with the “feel” of the property. In this cottage, there already was a “vintage feel” so Kurtz knew shiny, new accessories wouldn’t work. The home’s kitchen was last updated in the 1950s, and so she worked with what she had. She weaved in timeless accessories–like a red kettle on the stovetop and tea towel curtain valances–to bring out the vintage charm already present in the space. She added a vintage kitchen stool by the laundry area and a chrome rimmed high-top table and colored stools in a sitting room off the kitchen, which fit more a 1950s decor style.

Photo Credit: Kelly Kurtz, Exit Options Real Estate

2. Fit the home to the likely buyer. Kurtz envisioned what type of buyer might live there. She added simple accessories that would appeal to that demographic. Kurtz staged the home with inspiration that a young couple who possibly had a small, younger family would be drawn to the home’s location, square footage, and budget.

3. Highlight any unique features. Kurtz knew the vintage stove might be one of the first items that many real estate professionals would recommend replacing, but instead she sought to accentuate it. The new owners could then decide to keep or toss it after they closed on the home, but it was all part of the vintage feel she tried to create.

 

Have a home you recently staged that you’d like to show off here at Styled Staged & Sold? Submit your staging photos for consideration, along with three to five of your best spruce-up tips. Contact Melissa Dittmann Tracey at mtracey@realtors.org.

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How to Host a Cozy Game Night

It’s cold out there, and whether you’re snowed in or just looking to unwind, it’s the perfect time for game night.

Fun for the whole family or as a night in with friends, game night is all about friendly competition. Decor should be simple, drinks should be hot and the mood should be mellow.

Here’s a DIY and a recipe that are sure to charm even the chilliest guest. (Materials and instructions below!)

Card coasters materials

  • Vintage playing cards – find them at a flea market or yard sale
  • Panel of cork – pick one up at any craft or hardware store
  • Glue

Mulled wine recipe

  • 6 cups of cider
  • 3 cups of orange juice
  • 1-1/2 bottles of red wine – a dry red is best
  • Honey (to taste)

Mix ingredients and simmer until hot. Garnish with a blood orange wheel, an anise pod and a stick of cinnamon. Should serve 10-12 people.

Videography and photography by Mikal Marie Photography. 

Related:

  • 9 Tips for Achieving Maximum Coziness
  • Quiz: What Type of Bar Should You Build in Your Home?
  • Entertaining With Pets: How to Keep Them Safe (and Sane) at Your Next Soiree

Originally published January 2016.

Find and Fix Drafty Windows to Keep Your Home Warm and Snug

There’s a chill in the air – do you feel it? Rather than wait around for the mercury to plummet, take steps now to ensure that your home remains comfortable through the coldest months of the year.

Besides proper insulation and HVAC maintenance, I recommend taking a close look at your windows. Notorious for air leaks, windows can not only admit cold air but also allow heated air to escape.

There are many ways to seal such drafts – but first you’ve got to find them.

Locate the draft

Here’s a quick and easy method of testing the seal on your windows. First, walk through the house and close all the windows as tightly as possible. Next, light a candle. Hold the flame near each window, inches from the glass, slowly moving the candlestick around the seam between the window and its frame.

If the flame bends or flickers while your hand is still, then there’s probably an air leak. Mark the trouble spot with a sticky note so you can return to repair it later. Test every window in the house, marking each area where you suspect a draft.

For a more accurate diagnosis, hire a professional to perform an energy audit of your home. Though there’s a cost involved here, many local utility companies offer such services either for free or for a nominal fee. Check with the company that provides your electricity.

It’s certainly worth inquiring, since what professional energy auditors do is a lot more sophisticated than the candle method. They conduct thorough room-by-room assessments – not only for window drafts but also for any other instances of energy inefficiency.

Address the cause

Having pinpointed the locations of window drafts in your house, the next step is to seal them all up.

There are several ways to get the job done. Some methods are inexpensive, temporary and manageable for DIYers. Other more permanent options are quite expensive and best left to contractors. Choose the fix that best fits your needs and budget:

Weatherstripping

Easily affordable, with a price tag of only a few bucks per window, weatherstripping lends itself to easy DIY installation. Purchase the product in your chosen material – felt, foam, plastic or metal are readily available in hardware stores and home centers.

Cut the strips to size and use them to fill the gaps between a window sash and jamb.

Caulking

Whether you’re working inside or outside, you’ll caulk windows in two places: where the window meets the surrounding casing, and where the casing meets the surrounding wall (inside) or siding material (outside).

Tubes of caulk are inexpensive, and with a little practice, easy to use.  If you’ve caulked your windows in the past, that doesn’t mean you’re off the hook – caulk deteriorates over time. It may be time to remove the old caulk and start over.

Draft snakes

You’ve likely seen or even used a draft snake in the past. These are stuffed tubes, placed on a windowsill or under a door, as a modest measure of keeping out the cold and keeping in the warmth.

Buy one at low cost or make your own for next to nothing. If you go the DIY route, you can use virtually any fabric, including extra towels or socks. Fill the middle with batting, rice, potpourri or anything similar you have on hand.

Though decidedly makeshift, draft snakes work well in a pinch.

Insulation film

If you don’t plan to open and close the window, try sealing it under a layer of insulation film. Sold by the roll, insulation film either self-adheres or goes on with double-stick tape.

Also available are special shrink-wrap kits that, once heated with a hair dryer or other tool, create an impermeable, airtight seal without visible wrinkles.

Replacement windows

The bad news: It can cost a small fortune to replace the windows in your home. The good news: Upon resale, the average homeowner recoups about 79 percent of what they invested in the replacement.

This isn’t a simple case of out with the old, in with the new. Properly installed, today’s energy-efficient windows minimize drafts and create an overall tighter seal. In fact, Energy Star-rated windows can lower your energy bills by 7-15 percent monthly.

Add a layer of protection

No matter the benefits of replacement windows, many people are either unable or unwilling to cover the initial expense.

If you’re looking for a less costly but permanent solution to window drafts, consider storm windows. Some designs fit within the window on the interior; others cover the window from the outside. Any type can go a long way toward insulating and protecting the windows you currently have.

When it comes down to it, every layer helps. If you do nothing else to remedy the problem, why not at least hang curtains? You stand to gain not only greater comfort but also real savings on your month-to-month heating bills. Don’t get left out in the cold!

Related:

  • Your Top 5 Fireplace Questions, Answered
  • 9 Tips for Achieving Maximum Coziness
  • Cozy Updates Under $500: Affordable Ways to Make Your Home a Winter Haven

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 31, 2014.