CNBC’s Tips for buying a great vacation home

Rent First Then Buy

You’ve enjoyed a resort community as a typical vacationer and are thinking of making a major investment in a vacation home. Before you buy, you should rent the home or a similar home close by. If you plan on using the home year round then you should rent for each season and see what it’s like. A home during the summer is very different than a home during the winter and you need to experience both.

Buy If Your Holding Period Is At Least Five Years

Real estate is not a liquid investment, so if the market declines you shouldn’t expect to cash out quickly. This goes double for vacation property, which is more susceptible to market downturns than primary residences. That’s why it’s better to have a long time horizon so you can ride out the ups and downs of the real estate market. The longer the better.

Make Sure Your Vacation Home Can Be Rented

Even if you plan on using the home yourself with no intention of renting it out, buy a home that has good rental potential. That’s because homes that can be rented are more valuable and it’s always better to have the option of renting to others in case your plans change.

During the last down market, many homeowners who wanted to sell could not do so at their desired asking price so they rented their home instead and rode out the slump until the market improved. The fact that their home was could be rented allowed them to recoup a large portion of their carrying costs while they waited for the market to come back.

There are also significant tax advantages to renting your vacation home so you should seek homes that will give you that option.

Properly Budget Carrying Costs

In addition to your monthly mortgage, you’ll need an estimate for taxes, insurance, utilities and maintenance costs, including landscaping, caretaker, repairs and periodic exterior painting. You should set aside about 2 percent of the home’s value annually for maintenance costs.

And after you sum up all those costs add at least 10 percent for contingencies unless you don’t mind surprises. If you live far away from your vacation home, add transportation costs, too.

Location Location Location

If you plan to buy a vacation home, your best bet is to choose a community located close to a major metropolitan region. Over 80 percent of second-home buyers choose a house within driving distance from their primary residence.

Most buyers want to visit their home frequently so proximity within 90 miles of their primary residence is a big plus. Avoid buying property in far off isolated locations because you’ll significantly limit your resale potential.


Fall Decorating ideas

Now that school is back in session and the transition from summer to fall is upon us it’s the perfect time to bring the changing colors and natural elements of the outdoors inside to give your home a fall-like look. 


Almost everyone’s  favorite candle season is fall, the smell of baked apple and pumpkin and spice are like a little bit of heaven.

fall scented candle centerpiece Decorate Your Home For Fall

Image via Porter House Designs

The best thing about decorating for fall Is that you can harvest things from the outside such as acorns,leaves, moss, pine cones and tree branches to create decorative accents, garlands and centerpieces.

fall berries and branches Decorate Your Home For Fall 

Fall Foliage Display Decorate Your Home For Fall 

fall centerpiece table setting Decorate Your Home For Fall

Images via BHG

pine cones in silver urn centsational girl Decorate Your Home For Fall

Image via Centsational Girl

Create a display with seasonal foods such as a jar full of candy corns,  filling a bowl with floating apples or displaying a tray of autumn inspired foods such as pecans, pistachio nuts, berries or red apples

Candy Corn Display Decorate Your Home For Fall 

dreamy whites apples in bowl centsational girl Decorate Your Home For Fall

Image via Centsational girl

fall decorating ideas 1 Decorate Your Home For Fall

Image via BHG

Decorate with Pumpkins of all shapes, sizes and colors. You can create a unique display or incorporate them into an existing display to dress it up for fall.

pumpkin display Decorate Your Home For Fall 

autumn display pottery barn Decorate Your Home For Fall

Photo via Pottery Barn

fall pumpkin decor Decorate Your Home For Fall

Image via Ask the Design Diva

vase filled with pumpkins Decorate Your Home For Fall 

pumpkins dressed with wires Decorate Your Home For Fall

Images via HGTV

mums as pumpkins centsational girl Decorate Your Home For Fall

Image via Centsational Girl

Lantern displays are fabulous to decorate with, as you can tailor a lantern grouping for any season, but fall is my lantern season of choice.

laterns with apples pottery barn Decorate Your Home For Fall

Images via Pottery Barn

Shift your throw pillows,blankets,  towels, place mats, curtains and other textiles to darker richer colors like hues of chocolate brown, burnt orange, eggplant and lipstick red.

orange accents Decorate Your Home For Fall

Image via Rooms with Style

Try using heavier fabrics, weaves and blends to bring in a more rustic tone. A personal favorite of mine is Burlap; by adding a burlap table cloth, throw pillows, picture frame, cork board or burlap wreath you are able to give your home a natural autumn like feel.

burlap pillows bhg Decorate Your Home For Fall

Image via BHG

Burlap ideas Decorate Your Home For Fall 

burlap picture frame Decorate Your Home For Fall

Images via Pinterest

 A few other cozy fall fabrics that you can choose from are cotton flannel, ultra-suede, chenille, velvet and wool.

chenille throws Decorate Your Home For Fall

Image via Restoration Hardware

DIY Flooring Options

The economy may be keeping a lid on spending, but when it comes to flooring, it’s driving trends. That’s because today’s cost-conscious consumer is more demanding of value than ever.

Flooring manufacturers are getting the message. As a result, they’re keen on providing more bang for the buck — reining in high-end marketing and concentrating on products that are sensible, low-maintenance and easy on the budget.

That means bringing more innovation and variety to the perennial low-cost champs: resilient vinyl and carpeting.


Vinyl That Doesn’t Look Like Vinyl

Choices for resilient vinyl flooring include a spectrum of styles, colors, textures and patterns. Add in vinyl’s easy-to-clean characteristics, comfort under foot and family-friendly stain-resistance, and the result is increasing popularity with value-hungry shoppers.

The demand continues for the “luxury vinyl” segment — top-quality resilient flooring with lookalike qualities that are increasingly difficult to distinguish from stone, wood plank and ceramic tile. As shown above, what looks like a wood floor, is acutally vinyl. At $4 to $5 per square foot, luxury vinyl products sit at the middle of the flooring price range. Nevertheless, the ability of these products to mimic traditional high-end materials, such as tumbled marble and exotic hardwoods, puts extraordinary good looks at the feet of ordinary homeowners at a fraction of the cost.

Carpet Leads the Way

Carpet remains the market-share leader, accounting for more than 60 percent of retail flooring sales. Manufacturers’ response to the stagnant home market has been to provide more fashion-oriented options at all prices.


Growing With Green

If there’s a growth category in flooring, it’s the green market. Although the notion of green flooring has been au courant for years, demand for commercial flooring that complies with LEED standards has helped lower prices for green residential flooring as well. That translates into more new products and more consumer acceptance.

Most flooring manufacturers are jumping on the green bandwagon, adding lines that boast high recycled content and raw materials obtained from sustainable sources. Among our favorites:

  • Wood flooring certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) comes from forests that are managed with strict standards of sustainability and environmental responsibility. Beautiful woods such as tigerwood and Brazilian cherry are available as engineered planks at reasonable ($7 to $8 per sq. ft.) prices.
  • Nontoxic cork is taken from bark of the cork oak tree. It’s used to make cork flooring and is a key ingredient in eco-friendly linoleum. Cork is a sustainable material, meaning the bark grows back and can be harvested repeatedly. Corkoleum, from US Floors, combines the best attributes of natural cork in its linoleum products.
  • Further proof that wine is beneficial: The Vintage Barrel Collection, from Fontenay, is a fully reclaimed-wood flooring product made from white-oak wine barrels.
  • Carpet industry leaders such as Mohawk Industries continue making inroads into the green market by producing carpeting that features fibers made with corn sugar instead of nylon. Several manufacturers feature lines of carpeting with fibers made from 100 percent postconsumer food and drink containers.
  • Engineered wood floors from Magnewood eschew plywood base construction in favor of wood pulp mixed with stone dust to produce an extremely stable substrate composed of 75 percent recycled material.

The new flooring buzzwords are “antimicrobial” and “antibacterial.” Leading the way is cork, which is supposed to possess natural antibacterial properties. Tile from Stonepeak Ceramics uses sunlight to activate a chemical on the tile’s surface that oxidizes germs and “speeds up the decomposition of pollutants,” substantially (we’re supposing) extending the five-second rule.


Showing your home with Pets

petsI am a dog person, as I am sure much of our blog readers on this site are. However, when I was selling my home earlier this year, not everyone who came to see it was in love with dogs as I am. That is why you need to plan for your pets while you are showing your home.

People viewing homes may have allergies, they may have trauma from a dog bite as a child or they may just not be pet people. They are not mean, uncaring people they just were not raised with animals and so they do not want to see them in homes they are going to buy. The question becomes, what to do with Fido.


When listing a pet lovers home the first question homeowners ask is what to do you with their pet. This is part of their family. They are asking what to do with part of their family.

This pet or family member should not be seen, heard or smelled while the home is being shown to potential buyers. This is because the seller’s home has now become a product to sell and less distractions mean a better chance of having that perfect buyer fall in love with your home.

The expression in the real estate business is that, “If it smells it won’t sell.” It could also be ruled out if there is barking dog that keeps the people from being able to tour the entire home. It could be ruled out if there is a smelly kitty litter room. It could be ruled out if there are bird feathers floating in the air.

Pets distracts the buyer from seeing the great features of the home.

There is also the matter of liability. The sweetest dog in the world may become not so sweet when its territory is invaded by strangers. This is a great reaction when someone is breaking into your home but not so great when an agent is bringing buyers through.


The best thing you can do is remove the animals during showings. If this is not possible, confine your pet during the showing time. I know how hard it is to not allow your pet the run of the house, but it is hard to show a home when you are concerned about the animals.

The agent showing your home should be showing the features and not worried about the animals or where they are.

Another problem with pets is odors. You have to make sure that your kitty litter is kept clean at all times. Remove or have kitty litter where it is not the first thing you see or smell. If you have a dog make sure there are no doggy odors in your home. Both of these can kill a deal. People are afraid odors will remain after animals are gone. So remember, “If you can smell it you cannot sell it.”

A few ideas that might help during this time. Go for a walk during the showing time. Put the animals in the car and go for a ride.


Buy a product that will help remove the cat odor from the home. You can find these at pet stores.

Your agent will work with you on an acceptable showing plan with animals. We know it is hard to have a life and have your home on the market but with the right price and the right condition it should be temporary.

You and Fido can then move to your new home and resume your normal schedule.




‘Better Homes and Gardens’ 2013 Fence Tips

Before you install a fence, ask yourself what your reason is for installing it. If it’s strictly utilitarian — keeping the dog in the yard — you can probably get by with a basic chain-link fence. If you’re looking to block noise or add privacy, you will want something tall and solid. Chances are your wishes are complex: You want to protect pets, but you also want to add a decorative element to your home’s exterior. Whatever its purpose, a fence can function in many ways, but the first step is deciding what you’re looking for to choose one that works for you.


Choose Your MaterialsA white picket fence is quintessential, but before you buy wood posts and whitewash, think about the commitment you’re making. Wood fences may require occasional staining or sealing and can warp and rot over time. Consider a low-maintenance material, such as vinyl, that offers the look of wood without the elbow grease. Other material options include aluminum, steel, wrought iron, and bamboo.

Mix It UpIf cost is an issue, mix different types of fences. Wood picket fencing could be placed at the front of the home, for example, connecting to chain link fencing in the back. No only will this combination fence potentially save installation costs, but it also will reduce the amount of fence that might require repainting.

Do Your ResearchInquire with homeowners or neighborhood associations and municipal building code officials regarding covenants that dictate fencing look, height, and material. City and neighborhood rules may specify the better-looking side of a fence (the side that doesn’t show posts and rails) be placed toward the public face of the property. Ask how far a fence has to be set back from sidewalks and property lines, and find out if your fence project will require a building permit.Vinyl_ChesapeakFences_hero

Think GreenLandscaping can be used to protect your home from weather and views and to mark property lines. Remember, local building codes and neighborhood fence rules may cover such living walls. Additionally, you’ll need to ensure that planted materials don’t overgrow such restrictions in the future.

Hire ProfessionalsFence installation is harder than it looks, but the American Fence Association makes it easy to find a local fence contractor.
Visit If you decide to hire a pro, ask to see examples of fences they have installed. This may even generate ideas for your own fence.

Be a Good NeighborBe open and up front with neighbors about your fencing plans, and try not to block their views unnecessarily. A party fence can be built and shared by two or more neighbors, but such agreements should be made in writing and only after the property boundaries have been professionally determined.

Consider ClimateIn cold northern climates that experience frost, concrete anchors are necessary for fence posts. Post should be secured 36 inches deep to avoid cracking in a cold snap. For warmer, damper climates, vinyl is your best material choice, as wood is susceptible to water damage.Fencing-Options-Home-Improvement-Pages-Home-Improvements

Create EntrancesFor safety and convenience, plan at least two paths into a fenced area. Ensure that one of these is large enough to accommodate bulky outdoor equipment such as a lawn mower, large garbage cans, and the like. Stepping stones and pergolas can help indicate the locations of gates, as can finials or other decorative elements.fence-with-diamond-pattern-on-Follen-St

Dress It UpOnce your fence is in place, customize it with decorative posts or finials. Depending on your home’s style, you may want to paint the fence a contemporary color. Consider planting a row of flowers in front of it for a truly welcoming picket fence-resized-600

Sources: “Better Homes and Gardens” magazine, Home Depot, Lowes, 1800Fencing

Should you get a home security system?

Home safety and security is a top concern for most consumers, so it’s no surprise the home security industry is booming in this time of economic uncertainty and rising crime statistics. But while new technologies have made home security systems smarter and easier to use, how much protection do you really get for your money?


The answer is: it depends. Costs, services and benefits are as varied as the ways burglars try to break into a house. If you’re monitoring the home security market for the right system to protect your family and your property, here are answers to the big questions about home security alarm systems.

How much will a home security system cost?
The cost of alarm systems ranges from next to nothing for basic components and a monthly monitoring contract priced between $30 and $50, to several thousand dollars for a more complex, advanced home security system. Different homes and homeowners have different requirements, and the cost of a security system ultimately depends on the features you include and the level of service you choose. Video surveillance, wireless motion sensors, smart-phone-based controls and carbon-monoxide detection are just a few of the elements that can increase costs along with security. Surprise setup and activation fees can also catch you off guard.

It’s mission critical to do thorough research before you buy, making sure you’ve read the fine print and pushed past the flashy marketing that accompanies many bargain-priced security packages. What looks basic and seems to cover all your security bases may actually involve several additions that add up, like installation of supplemental smoke or heat detectors that are required by your local building safety code. An on-site assessment by your home security system representative is the best way to determine what you and your home really need, so don’t make any big purchase decisions without it.

How does a home security alarm system work?
Security alarm systems vary, of course, but usually include a combination of motion sensors and door and window contacts that connect back to a home alarm device with at least one keypad control. When the system is armed and active, the sensors and contacts trigger the on-site alarm. If the alarm isn’t immediately disarmed by punching the correct code into the keypad, the security company’s monitoring center is notified, and they in turn will call you and the police. System additions like fire and flood detection will trigger other alert processes, and a reputable home security alarm company will work with you to develop every detail of detection, protection and contact for emergency situations.

What makes a home security system worth the money?
A home security system can be a strong, proven deterrent for would-be burglars. In fact, a recent Rutgers University study found that the presence of residential burglar alarm systems actually decreases crime, making homes that have security alarms far less attractive to intruders. And, contrary to popular belief, because burglars find your home protected doesn’t automatically mean they will go down the street to attack a neighboring house. The Rutgers team found that home security systems protect the homes they are installed in without displacing potential burglaries to other homes in the neighborhood.

Peace of mind is also a major benefit, and the variety, flexibility and high-tech features offered by today’s security systems make it possible to cover concerns beyond breaking and entering. Smart systems can notify you when the kids have arrived safely home from school, warn you of fires and carbon-monoxide exposures, and even alert you to frozen pipes and potential plumbing disasters when you’re out of town.

Another reason home security is worth the investment? Reduced insurance costs. Depending on your system’s design and service structure, most of the monitoring costs can be made up by discounts on your homeowner’s insurance coverage.

Cheaper alternatives
While home security systems can offer a wide array of protection, you don’t need to invest in one to toughen up your home for intruders. A number of cheap home security tricks can enhance your home security, or build upon the effectiveness of any professionally installed system.

For example, a well-lit home is much less likely to be broken into, so illuminate your home’s exterior with motion-detector spotlights and other strategic fixtures, and put interior lights on timers when you’re away. Also pay attention to your landscaping, keeping trees and shrubs trimmed so that thugs don’t have a place to hide. Reinforce all entry doors with deadbolt locks, add security bars and pins to sliding and garage doors, and install a wide-angle peep hole in your front door so that you can easily see who’s come knocking.

Finally, make sure all windows are closed and locked any time you leave the house, and forget the idea of hiding spare keys in “secret” places outside your home (news flash: smart burglars definitely know which flowerpots to look under).

According to the FBI, nearly one-third of all burglaries occurred when the intruder simply walked right in to an open house. Even the best security system in the world can’t protect you from that!

Source: Daily Finance, AOL, “The Money Pit”, Tom Kraeutler

HGTV’s 10 tips for Designing your Home Office


Whether your home office is designated space for running a business, the occasional telecommute, or simply a nook for paying bills and organizing your schedule, you deserve more than a metal desk and extra chair stuffed into a spare corner. Why? An office that reflects the design and comfort of the rest of your home is a place you’ll want to burn the midnight oil. Here are 10 tips for creating a charming, practical work space.

1. Location, location, location. You’ll likely spend many hours in your home office, so don’t stiff yourself on space (e.g. squishing a tiny desk into a windowless closet to preserve the rarely-used guest room). Also consider traffic flow and your ability to withstand distractions. Do you work best in the thick of activity, or should your office be tucked away in a quiet space? If clients will be stopping by, a private space with ample seating is a must.

2. Don’t sacrifice form for function. Your desk, shelves, and storage should serve you, not the other way around. Consider your workflow and what items you need at your fingertips before investing in furniture, and then look for pieces that are both beautiful and functional. Home office furniture should complement other rooms in your house instead of screaming “soulless cubicle.” If your home has traditional décor, warm wood and soft, comfy chairs or a loveseat are ideal if you have the space. A contemporary home office can feature artistic pieces or modern metal furniture.

3. Invest in a great chair. You spend hours parked in your office chair; a beautiful, ergonomically-correct, comfortable seat is worth every dime.

4. Paint the walls a color you love. Forget “office beige”: you need a color that gets your work motor humming. For some people, that’s a bright, cheery color like orange or lime green. Others need a calming shade like botanical green or sea foam blue to perform. Find out more about how certain colors can affect your mood.

5. Give yourself a view. Position the desk where you can stare at something more interesting than a blank wall (even if you do love the color) when you glance up from the computer. A window’s natural light is ideal, but if you’re in a windowless space, hang a pretty picture above the desk, or position your chair to face the door.


6. Choose homey accessories. Unless you’re going for a contemporary look, choose extras that enhance the comfy feeling of your home office, like a pretty mug for a pencil holder, trendy notepads and sticky notes, and a decorative waste basket. Wrap your bulletin board in a gorgeous fabric, and hide utilitarian bookshelves behind curtains made from the same material. Hang inspirational prints on the walls, whether that’s simply your kids’ framed artwork or a classic painting.

7. Organize vertically and horizontally. Many home offices aren’t swimming in square footage, so using space efficiently is imperative. Hang floating shelves on the walls to get papers and office equipment off the desk, and use vertical file folders on the desk to keep important papers within arm’s reach. Are you a stacker or a filer? If you tend to make piles, get a nice basket to tame your mail, notes, and papers. If you prefer a clean desktop, designate one drawer for your “to-do” papers. Wooden or metal cube storage is a fun alternative to bookshelves, since each space can be used for books, knickknacks, or baskets of odds and ends.

8. Master your technology. There’s not much you can do to beautify the computer, printer, and phone, but you can hide unsightly cords. Start by making sure your equipment is close to outlets and easy to access if you need to unplug. Encase cords on the desk in a pretty fabric cord cover like this one from Taylor Gifts, and feed the cords into a desk grommet, a plastic or metal cap that helps guide cords through a hole in the desk and hides them underneath. Tame the cord jungle on the floor with cord winders, tubing, or a wire organizer that’s attached to the desk and lifts the cords off the floor.

9. Let there be light. Here’s a bright idea: make sure your office has plenty of light to cut down on eye strain and headaches. Position the computer monitor so there’s no glare from a window or overhead light, and put a small lamp on the desk for task lighting.

10. Inspire yourself. Set up a mini-shrine — a few cherished knickknacks, a piece of framed art, a special photo on your desk — that motivates you to create and/or get the work done so you can get out of there. A print of Paris can channel your inner muse, or a photo of your children might remind you that you’re doing it all for them.