Tips for surviving the next drought

Last winter, the rains were plentiful. This spring and summer, the rivers have been gushing, lakes have been full and waterfalls have been crashing.

It’s a scene we haven’t had in the Bay Area in quite some time. But since the drought ended, all the regular water usage has returned – flushing normally, watering our gardens more than once a month, leaving the water going occasionally and not worrying about it…

That said, we’re still in California and we’re still in an accelerated state of global warming (according to most climatologists, anyway). So, there will be another drought. Here are some Bay Area-specific tips from the Contra Costa Water District (CCWD) for surviving the next one:

Know your water provider’s Drought Program and its requirements

Every water provider should have a Drought Program. Contact them to make sure you know what their requirements are, ahead of the next drought. If you have CCWD, you can sign up for their newsletter to get updates.

Know how much water you are using

You can read your water meter to better understand how much water you’re using. However, that can be tricky. Here are some tips on CCWD’s website: www.ccwater.com.

Check for leaks

You can also utilize your meter to check for leaks. One of the most common leaks and wastes of water comes from the toilet. Check regularly!

Use efficient fixtures and appliances

You should always get EnergyStar appliances if possible, and you should have a toilet with 1.28gpf or less. Check if yours does at www.map-testing.com. Also, make sure your laundry loads are always full and don’t leave faucets running!

Convert lawns to gardens

Some water providers offer rebates for converting a lawn to a garden. For example, CCWD offers $1 per square foot of lawn converted ($1,000 maximum residential, $20,000 maximum Commercial/HOA). And California will give you a state rebate for front and back lawn conversions as well. Plus, it just looks prettier!

If you irrigate, do it efficiently

If you irrigate or have sprinklers, make sure the system is in good shape (no blocked or broken heads) so there’s no water waste. Try to water after the sun goes down or before it goes up to avoid evaporation. And turn the system off when rain is coming.

There are a million different simple ways to avoid water loss when the next drought occurs. Water is a still a precious commodity!

The smallest decisions can make your house more valuable

When selling a home, oftentimes the goal is to maximize financial return on the deal. Everybody wants to make as much as they can off their home sale, and even the slightest changes can increase what a home sells for.

Take this article on Inman.com for example. It’s about how homes with blue bathrooms sell for $5,400 more on average than others, according to a Zillow study. Crazy, right? Literally just changing the color you’ve painted a wal or two can add thousands of dollars to your wallet!

The article goes on to list a couple other color choices that can add or subtract from the sale price; for example, grey (and other neutral) exteriors sel die about $3,500 more than homes with other colors.

It really goes to show that small aesthetic decisions can play a huge role in netting you some extra zeroes on your home sale. It’s always wise to cater to the current trends when painting, decorating and remodeling your home to go on market – even if it means just a couple grand more in your pocket.

I try to stay tuned in to what’s popular so I can help you make those decisions. I am committed to maximizing your value as a seller, and on the flip side, getting you the best deal possible as a buyer. Give me a call if you’re interested in a real estate transaction!

Navigating the inspection process when buying or selling a home

Whether you’re buying or selling a home, there will almost always be inspections done. Oftentimes, buyers will do roof, home, and pest inspections. Sometimes fireplace, foundation and sewer lateral inspections will be conducted as well.

Cranston, RI, April 17, 2010 -- FEMA inspector Mike Irwin with home owner Jose Henriquez run through his home inspection again to illustrate to the media what a FEMA home inspection looks like and what people can expect when they have their homes inspected. Photo: Michael Rieger/FEMA

Buyers are trying to determine the integrity of the house they want to buy – nobody wants to buy a home only to find out later that they will have to put additional money into it. However, sellers rarely know about these things off the top of their heads.

That is why it’s important, and beneficial to both parties, for inspections to be done. At the very least, a seller should do a pest inspection before going on the market to understand the cost of any issues, rather than deal with negotiating after something is discovered.

Once inspections are done, they become a disclosure. So, if a buyer gets scared off for some reason, the inspections are a disclosure for the next buyers. More than likely, this will incentivize the seller to work with the existing buyer. Occasionally, there are bad inspections with unreasonable pricing and there is no coming to agreement between parties. The seller will usually get another inspection from a more reputable inspector.

How bathroom remodels are trending

Of all the things to remodel in a house, bathrooms and kitchens are probably the two most popular rooms.

bathroom-remodel-2

Houzz.com wrote a cool article about how homeowners are “craving stylish, beautiful spaces, with luxurious finishes and big showers.”Their study surveyed more than 2,100 Houzz users in the U.S. who own homes and are currently renovating their bathrooms, are recently done with a renovation, or are planning on one in the near future.

Check out some of the graphs that reveal the current trends for bathroom remodels:

How People Upgrade Their Main Bathrooms, and How Much They Spend
How People Upgrade Their Main Bathrooms, and How Much They Spend
How People Upgrade Their Main Bathrooms, and How Much They Spend
How People Upgrade Their Main Bathrooms, and How Much They Spend
How People Upgrade Their Main Bathrooms, and How Much They Spend
How People Upgrade Their Main Bathrooms, and How Much They Spend
How People Upgrade Their Main Bathrooms, and How Much They Spend
How People Upgrade Their Main Bathrooms, and How Much They Spend
How People Upgrade Their Main Bathrooms, and How Much They Spend
How People Upgrade Their Main Bathrooms, and How Much They Spend
How People Upgrade Their Main Bathrooms, and How Much They Spend
How People Upgrade Their Main Bathrooms, and How Much They Spend
How People Upgrade Their Main Bathrooms, and How Much They Spend
How People Upgrade Their Main Bathrooms, and How Much They Spend
How People Upgrade Their Main Bathrooms, and How Much They Spend
How People Upgrade Their Main Bathrooms, and How Much They Spend

Latest Bathroom Trends

According to a recent Houzz & Home survey, homeowners are investing more on bathroom renovations than in previous years, largely due to outdated designs and finishes. What types of upgrades are they spending money on? Here are some of the latest trends and tech updates being used in bathroom design:

  • Aesthetic Additions – Small changes can bring big rewards, both in resale and in your daily experience. Some of the newest trends include polished chrome finishes and neutral colors like white and gray. Floating vanities, open shelving and undermount sinks are making bathrooms more streamlined. For a larger change, try no-threshold showers or higher vanity heights.bathroom-2
  • Tech Touches – Updating your home appliances isn’t just for the kitchen. Smart bathrooms are also making a splash, including high-tech toilets that boast seat warmers, LED lights, motion sensors and automatic dryers. Accessorized soaking tubs allow for bathing in chromotherapy and mood-enhanced lighting. Digital faucets and showers conserve water and money and incorporate touchless technology and programmable, timed options.

When done correctly, these bathroom upgrades will make a massive difference in your home. There’s nothing like a comfortable bathroom to guarantee a more peaceful experience. Keep an eye out – you’ll probably start seeing these trends taking place in new homes everywhere soon!

 

Check out Arhaus, cool new furniture store

img_9307For fans of my recent Anthropologie blog, you’ll be happy to know that there’s another awesome new store in Walnut Creek that can fit your furniture needs. Arhaus is located in Broadway Plaza and has everything you’d ever need when looking to upgrade the interior and yards of your home.

Arhaus started in 1986, but just recently opened their Walnut Creek location. They pride themselves on unique, quality pieces made with natural hardwoods, stone and fabrics.

One of the coolest things Arhaus does is that they use recycled natural resources like copper and tree roots to make some of their more functional pieces, and they have a commitment to never using wood from endangered rainforests.

I was really impressed with the style Arhaus offered and took a few photos (see below) of the store. The wide range of unique furniture caught my eye, and I’ll definitely be coming back when I went to re-furnish any part of my home with new pieces!

img_9306 img_9308 img_9309

10 tips for adding value to your home before you sell

kitchenWhen you sell your home, it’s all about adding value before it goes on the market. There are some small tweaks you can make around the house to make sure you get top dollar for your house. Here is a whittled-down version of the top 10 tips from Houzz.com on how you can increase that value:

1. Add square footage: Move furniture around to fit the room better and make it feel larger. Perception is powerful, even if that true square footage won’t budge. You want prospective buyers to see a lot of space, and therefore, a lot of potential.

2. Traditional sells too: You don’t have to buy a bunch of new stuff to show off your home. Every buyer has his or her own style, so staying honest to the home’s roots can pay off.

3. Master bedroom closet upgrade: Add custom closets to the master bedroom. A large, walk-in closet will add value to any home and excites buyers. Finding an affordable way to do it isn’t terribly difficult with a little research.

4. Kitchen is king: If you do spend money on your home before it hits the market, put it towards your kitchen. Even updated light fixtures will add value to a space used for eating, drinking, gathering and storage by even the worst cooks.

5. Storage, storage, storage: There is no such thing as too much storage. It’s important to provide ample storage space, so utilize it as much as possible when selling!

6. Fresh paint is magical: Painting is the most cost-effective way to freshen up a space. Freshly painted rooms feel updated, clean and crisp and won’t break the bank. Try to avoid colors that are too bold and might scare off buyers. Traditional, neutral choices can do wonders!

7. Try to be energy-efficient: Buying a home involves closing costs, moving fees, energy bills and more on top of just the sale price. If you offer buyers energy-efficient options (CFL or LED lightbulbs, solar panels, etc.), they may find that long-term cost savings attractive. front-yard

8. Bathroom updates help: Behind the kitchen, bathrooms are going to be the most important part of your home to get updates in when selling. A little bit can go a long way in most bathrooms; replace outdated features or change light fixtures to start.

9. Hire a professional organizer: Don’t try to do everything yourself. This process is stressful enough! A professional organizer can help you de-clutter your home and help open up manageable space. That organization will impress buyers.

10. Add curb appeal: You only get one chance to make a first impression, right? Make sure your front yard is tidy and well-groomed. Don’t let peeling paint or cracks in the walls scare off buyers before they even make it in the door.

Does your front door impact your curb appeal?

front-door-1Yes, it does! When it comes to your front door, big decisions must be made. I’ve seen some of the prettiest houses ruined by the ugliest paint jobs on front doors.

For example, unless the rest of your house can really pull it off, please don’t paint your front door bright, neon pink!

From merging classic colors to considering nature tones and your home’s immediate surroundings, there are a lot more factors to consider than one would think when painting a front door.

When all is said and done, a good paint job can really tie a house together visually.

Check out Better Homes and Gardens’ guide to the “do’s and don’ts” of painting your front door.  I think you’ll find these tips helpful. I know I did, though my front door is in need or repair and really needs to be moved back to it’s original spot – remodeling is on the horizon!

You can also check out this free guide on how to paint your front door right here!

Tips Before You List – Economical, DIY Home Improvements

remodelWhen preparing your home for sale, statistics show staged homes sell faster and for more money than non-staged homes.

However, if your house is already a picture from Architectural Digest or your budget is limited, I am sharing a few tips from BuzzFeed about how you can make a few inexpensive, DIY upgrades to your house to increase the value and improve its aesthetics before listing.

Adding paint in certain parts of the house, evaluating house plants, replacing light bulbs, landscaping and giving your home a good, deep clean are examples of a few things you can do to improve the look of your home before listing.  You, the homeowner, can do quite a bit to significantly raise the value of your home and increase interest among prospective buyers.gardening

For the most part, these projects can be easily completed by you or a handyman and the materials are relatively inexpensive. If you’re willing to put in the time and effort, it may pay big dividends in the end.

Selling your home is an investment in your financial future, and the more TLC you put into it, the more you’ll get out of it. Should you need some recommendations for a handyman, gardener or painter, give me a call. I also provide a free consultation on things you can do to help spruce up the home and get it market-ready.

Check out BuzzFeed’s list for some ideas here.

Why It’s Important to Hire a Landscape Architect

Yard 1Last year, my sewer kept backing up and I found that I needed a new sewer lateral. My front lawn had a bunch of crabgrass, and the lawn never seemed to get green enough. Then, with the drought, I just let it go.

My whole front yard was torn up, so I decided to do some landscaping – new grass, plants and an automatic sprinkler and drip system.

The project turned out to cost much more than I expected. The sewer lateral was $6,000, and then I ended up paying an additional $8,000 for the landscaping and sprinklers.

I thought I was getting a deal, as the person I hired was a personal friend – though he admittedly knew nothing about plants – who could plant the yard and put the new system in.

Turns out, it was much more difficult than either of us expected. This is on me for thinking it would be an acceptable, cheap way to get the yard done. I still wonder if I hired a landscape architect, would I have saved money and would I be happier with the end result?

Of course, no home improvement project is as simple as it seems. My sprinkler heads had faulty gaskets and some of the plants were not getting water and I lost plants. Luckily, Admirals Choice, who installed the sprinklers, is Yard 2replacing them at no cost to me.

A year and a half later, we are still working on the grass, there’s still a line in the grass where the sewer lateral was dug out, and I need to get rid of the weeds.

We put weed killer on it, but I had to wait until the weather cooled, then it didn’t kill my stubborn crabgrass, and the rain began. So…I waited some more.

The gaskets should be replaced next week, then hopefully it will be time to seed before it gets too hot, and then I can fill in the plants that died.

So, with the hope that you don’t end up like me, with a two-year-old front yard project that cost me a fortune, I am sharing a great Houzz article on Landscaping Trends: