Category Archives: Home Improvement

Small Home Storage: Maximize Your Storage Space

Your small home has more storage space than you think. For relatively little money but a lot of common sense and ingenuity, there’s space to be found.

closet-storage-unsung-hero-shoes_85e5f7d8c76de2ca57835be5e87d0e89_3x2_jpg_300x200_q85Here are six tips to maximize storage that won’t empty your savings account:

1. De-clutter. It’s the first thing architect Sarah Susanka of “Not So Big House” tells clients who talk of expanding their homes. Haven’t used something for a couple of years? Pitch it, she says. You’ll be amazed at how much space opens up when you do.

Cost: $0.

2. Platform/bunkbeds. Add space and eliminate a dresser in a small bedroom with a three-drawer or six-drawer platform bed. Find one at a furniture or big department store, and online.

Cost: $400 to $600, queen size.

Bunkbeds won’t have drawers, but save space by stacking beds. And kids love ‘em. They come in a variety of styles and configurations. Some will convert to two twin beds.

Cost: $300 to $550.

3. Shoe organizers. They’re for so much more than just shoes. Hang one in a kitchen closet or pantry, and use it as your small home catch-all for remotes, keys, notepads, cell phones, and chargers, and other household essentials. It’ll free up a kitchen drawer or two for other uses.

Cost: Less than $20.

4. Toe-kick storage. The space under your kitchen cabinets is a treasure trove of storage possibilities. Put placemats, napkins, cookie sheets, and how-to manuals there. Hire a cabinet-maker to install them, or request them as a custom feature in a new-cabinet order.

Cost: About $300 per drawer.

5. Floor-to-ceiling storage. Furniture-style 6-foot-tall bookcases don’t use all available wall space. But extend shelving that extra two feet to the ceiling, and you’ve got room for a lot more books, knickknacks, or art objects. Home improvement stores have brackets and shelves in a variety of colors and sizes to match your décor.

Cost: Under $200, depending on the space size.

By: Terry Sheridan

Published: January 21, 2011

Curb Appeal In Winter

While spring and summer are ideal for showing properties with neat, beautiful green lawns, shady trees and happy bright flowers, your prospective tenants might show up in the dead of winter looking for a rental home. It’s not your fault the grass is brown and that there are mountains of leaves on the ground. That’s just the cycle of life! They’ll just have to imagine what the place look like when it’s pretty, right? There’s nothing you can do about it.


Your investment properties’ curb appeal doesn’t have to die like a neglected house plant just because it’s winter. Improving an investment properties’ curb appeal during the winter isn’t the easiest thing you can do, but you’ll be grateful when those prospective renters come a-calling. We have found at Premier Property Management, that our Memphis investment properties ~ and even our Dallas investment properties ~ will rent faster, at a higher rental rate and for a longer period of time than other similar properties in the neigborhood because of outstanding curb appeal.  That first impression is so important!  So what can you do to boost your curb appeal and turn your investment property into a winter wonderland?

via Giving Your Investment Property Curb Appeal In Winter.

Home Makeover Tips On A Budget

Do you want to freshen up your home’s look, but you don’t want to spend a lot of money? Here are four easy, affordable ideas that can make a dramatic impact.

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Install a chair rail. 
Add interest to bare walls quickly and easily by putting up a chair rail—a molding that runs around the perimeter of a room about three feet off the ground. You can use inexpensive, self-adhesive molding available at any home improvement store, or choose more decorative traditional molding. Hang wallpaper or paint the wall below the molding with a complementary color to enhance the look.Paint the unexpected. 
You don’t have to repaint your entire home or even an entire room to make a big difference. A little paint in unexpected places can go a long way. Liven up any room by painting interior trim, doorways and windows in fresh colors. You can even paint the doors themselves. The same goes for old tables or chairs. Be creative!

Accentuate the positive. 
You can completely change the look of a room simply by updating accent pieces and rearranging the furniture, so switch things up! Swap lamps from one room to another or pick up some new lampshades. New upholstery can work wonders for couches, but if you want a similar effect at a lower price, add some distinctive throw pillows. New rugs can add the perfect finishing touch without breaking the bank.

Frame your own prints. 
You don’t need to spend money on expensive framed art prints. Save money and add a personal touch with this easy tip. Go to a thrift store and buy used photography and art books. Cut out several images you like and mount them in inexpensive frames, then hang them in any room you like. If you want to change things up in the future, you can always swap out the images using the same frames.

Provided by: American Home Shield

5 Ways to Make a Home Extra Cozy This Winter without Paying a Fortune

sell hendersonville home for 4% commissionBy Melissa Dittmann Tracey, REALTOR(R) Magazine

With cooler temperatures, home owners will want to keep a home inviting and cozy, especially if they’re trying to sell it.

But just cranking up the heat can prove costly — particularly this year. Heating costs are on the rise, and more than 90 percent of homes will likely face higher heating expenses during this year’s cold season, according to the Energy Department. For example, households using natural gas will likely see bills 13 percent higher this year than last, paying on average $679 for heat this season.

So what are some quick, affordable ways to keep a home warm? A free, new ebook, “The Cure for the Common Cold Room: A Safe & Smart Home Heating Guide,” by offers up numerous tips and tricks to home owners and sellers for keeping a home warm this winter. Here are a few ideas from the book:

1. Add area rugs: Hardwood and tile floors can make your home feel cold in the winter. Add some area rugs to provide a warmer barrier between your feet and the floor. Non-skid utility rugs or rubber mats can make kitchen floors more comfortable and safe, according to the ebook.

2. Set ceiling fans to run clockwise: Yes, a ceiling fan can be used in the winter months too and can even help heat your home. The majority of ceiling fans have two settings: Counterclockwise cools rooms in the summer and clockwise can force warm air downward in the winter. Look for a small switch on the ceiling fan to change its direction clockwise for the cooler months.

3. Rearrange furniture: Check the arrangement of the furniture in the home to make sure it’s cozy. Often times, home owners spread out furniture to fill an entire room. Instead, group pieces together to get a warmer feel. Move furniture away from the windows and doors and closer to the fireplace, if there is one in the home.

4. Add moisture to the air: Humid air feels warmer than dry air. Therefore, a humidifier may make a difference. Cool mist and warm mist humidifiers can both be effective in making rooms feel warmer. “A cool mist humidifier is safer — and usually less expensive — because it doesn’t expel hot water or steam vapor that could hurt children or pets,” according to the book.

5. Let the sun shine inside: Use the sun to heat your home by adjusting the home’s curtains to let the sun in. Open south-facing curtains on sunny days. Also, be sure to close curtains at night to provide an extra barrier against wintery winds that are trying to squeeze inside the home.

10 Christmas Light Tips to Save Time, Money, and (Possibly) Your Life

By: Lisa Kaplan Gordon

Published: December 9, 2011

Here’s how to light up your Christmas light display safely and economically.

1. Safety first. Emergency rooms are filled with home owners who lose fights with their holiday lights and fall off ladders or suffer electric shocks. To avoid the holiday black and blues, never hang lights solo; instead, work with a partner who holds the ladder. Also, avoid climbing on roofs after rain or snow.

2. Unpack carefully. Lights break and glass cuts. So unpack your lights gingerly, looking for and replacing broken bulbs along the way.

3. Extension cords are your friends. Splurge on heavy-duty extension cords that are UL-listed for outdoor use. To avoid overloading, only link five strings of lights together before plugging into an extension cord.

4. LEDs cost less to light. LED Christmas lights use roughly 70% to 90% less energy and last up to 10 times longer than incandescent bulbs. You can safely connect many more LED light strings than incandescents. Downside: Some think they don’t burn as brightly as incandescent bulbs.

5. Solar lights cost nothing to run. Solar Christmas lights are roughly four times more expensive to buy than LEDs, but they cost zero to run. They’re a bright-burning, green alternative. Downside: If there’s no sun during the day, there’s no light at night. The jury’s also still out on how long they last; they’re too new on the market for results.

6. Dismantle lights sooner than later. Sun, wind, rain, and snow all take their toll on Christmas lights. To extend the life of lights, take them down immediately after the holidays. The longer you leave the up, the sooner you’ll have to replace them.

7. Plan next year’s display on Dec. 26. Shop the after-Christmas sales to get the best prices on lights and blowups that you can proudly display next year. Stock up on your favorite lights so you’ll have spares when you need them (and after they’re discontinued).

8. Permanent attachments save time. If you know you’ll always hang lights from eaves, install permanent light clips ($13 for 75 clips) that will save you hanging time each year. You’ll get a couple/three years out of the clips before sun eats the plastic.

9. Find those blueprints. Instead of guessing how many light strings you’ll need, or measuring with a tape, dig up your house blueprints or house location drawings (probably with your closing papers) and use those measurements as a guide.

10. Store them in a ball. It sounds counterintuitive, but the best way to store lights is to ball them up. Wrap five times in one direction, then turn the ball 90 degrees and repeat. Store your light balls in cardboard boxes, rather than in plastic bags: Cardboard absorbs residual moisture and extends the life of your lights.

Does One Homeowner Insurance Claim Raise Your Rates

asheville homeowners insuranceDepending on where you live, filing even one claim can push your annual insurance premium up 20%.

When a tree fell on my house during a derecho wind storm last summer, it poked a half-dozen holes about the size of a car steering wheel in the roof. But my husband, Al, and I weren’t in a hurry to call our insurance company.

Call us paranoid, but until we knew how much it was going to cost to repair the roof, we didn’t want to risk letting our insurer know we were even thinking about filing a claim.

Al manages our family’s rental properties and has filed a fair share of insurance claims — from siding damage after someone drove into a house we own in York, Pa., to having our own hardwood floors ruined when the neighbor’s water heater failed, flooding next to our shared townhouse wall.

Our theory is that every time you file a claim, the insurance company punishes you by raising your premium at the very next renewal. File too many claims and they’ll put you in a special, super-expensive rate class.

Related: What Does Homeowners Insurance Cover?

So I wasn’t totally surprised when recently came out with a study saying that in some states, filing just one claim with your homeowners insurer can cause your rates to rise as much as 20%.

Some states where you’ll see double-digit premium increases after filing only one claim, according to the study:

Minnesota 21%
Connecticut 21%
Maryland 19%
California 18%
Oregon 17%
Arizona 17%
Alaska 17%
But if you live in other states, your premiums will barely budge after you file a claim:

Texas 0%*
New York 1%
Florida 2%
Vermont 2%
Massachusetts 2%
*In Texas, insurers aren’t allowed to boost premiums after your first claim.

What Gives? Why So Different from State to State?

The differences come down to the rules states set for insurance companies and the difference in weather from state to state, says Senior Analyst Laura Adams.

And what sounds bad — being in a state where rates get bumped up pretty heavily after the first claim — can actually be a good thing.

“In some states where we’re seeing big rate increases, consumers are getting low rates to begin with,” she explains. If you live in one of those states and never file a claim, you continue to get the advantage of the low initial rate. If you file a claim, however, you pay a heck of a lot more after that claim.

And what sounds good — being in a state where your insurer either doesn’t bump your premium for filing a claim or bumps it only a bit — can be bad because you may be paying a pretty high premium to begin with, especially if you’re in a state prone to weather-related insurance claims like hurricane-prone Florida.

Careful What You Say When You Call Your Insurer

Imagine how mad you’d be if your premium went up because you called to talk about a claim you were thinking about filing but didn’t file. Suppose, for example, I called my insurance company to talk about that tree limb that fell on my house and said I might be filing a claim, but only if the damage is more than my deductible.

If the insurance company’s customer service representative hears me use the word “claim,” she might open a claim and put that tree damage information in my permanent insurance track record. That could happen even if I opted not to file the claim. Then, I wouldn’t get the claim payment and I might still have my premium rise the next year.

But wait, it gets worse. Claims filed by the people who lived in your house before you did can also cause your premiums to rise. That’s because your CLUE report includes claims filed by anyone who lived at your address for the past five to seven years. So maybe you only filed one claim, but if the prior owner filed two homeowners insurance claims, your insurance premium is underwritten as though you filed all three claims.

You know what else can make your homeowners insurance premiums rise? Having neighbors who file claims. Insurance companies create rates by ZIP code, points out Amy Bach, executive director of United Policyholders, a consumer advocacy group.

“It’s not just the claims you file, it’s the claims your neighbors file, and sometimes it’s just the insurance company just plain trying to make more profit,” she says.

What’s a Homeowner to Do?

1. Don’t play your insurance claim card unless you have a catastrophic loss.

2. Don’t file a claim for less than your deductible. If it’s a close call, say a $750 claim on a policy that has a $500 deductible, think before you file. Is the $250 you’d get ($750 claim less $500 deductible) worth the chance that your premium will rise?

3. Check your permanent insurance record, called a CLUE report. It’s a list of every claim you’ve filed in every property you’ve insured and all the claims filed for your property in the past five to seven years.

4. Ask that mistakes in your CLUE insurance report be fixed. If you called to ask a question and it got recorded as a claim, for instance, get that corrected.

5. Think really hard before you file a second, or worse, a third claim. If you’ve had past claims or prior owners filed claims, every claim could be the one that’s one claim too many and causes the company to tell you they’re not renewing your policy or raising your rates substantially.

Related: How to Correct Mistakes on Your CLUE Insurance Report

I would tell you exactly how many claims is too many, but there’s no universal, industry-wide official number of claims that is too many, according to Michael Barry, vice president of media relations for the Insurance Information Institute.

He points out that insurers have to take natural disasters and other community-wide events into account. For example, there are likely homeowners in the Northeast who’ve filed three claims because they were hit by Hurricane Irene, the derecho that dropped the tree on my house, and Superstorm Sandy.

Personally, I suspect the magic number is three. Bach — despite 29 years of advocating for consumers and analyzing insurance issues – has never been able to uncover the magic number either. “It feels like three claims in five years will get you canceled,” she agreed. “But I don’t know what it is.” United Policyholders dug into the issue when it attempted to restrict insurance companies in California from levying rate increases following minor claims, but the rules remained a mystery to the consumer advocacy group.

You could ask your agent or call your insurance company, but it’s hard to find someone who knows and will tell you what the company’s rules are when you file a claim, Bach says. And by the way, she adds, your company may pay your agent an annual incentive based on how many claims his customers file — so the fewer claims you file, the more money he makes.

The bottom-line: Every time you file a claim, it’s a financial crapshoot. So don’t file unless there’s major money at stake. And if you decide to call your insurance company to discuss the issue, you literally need to repeatedly say that you’re not, not, not filing a claim.

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