Home Buyer Checklist: What to Look for in an Open House

Open houses may be staged to look like a home decor dream, but don’t let that distract you from the real reason you’re there: to potentially buy a home. Make sure you can look past the neatly arranged furniture and focus solely on whether the house would be a good fit for you and your family. To help, here’s a home buyer’s checklist of things you might have missed at first glance.

Windows – Look specifically if they are facing the right direction to let sunlight in, and whether they open to a nice view (versus directly toward another neighbor’s window).

Under the Sink Cabinets – Check for possible signs of water damage due to leaky plumbing.

Electrical Outlets – Make sure there are enough outlets for the appliances and other electronics you’ll be using. If not, you can decide if that’s a renovation you’d like to make.

Storage Space – Don’t just look to see if there’s enough closet space, but look for closet placement. Also check that the storage is in a convenient location.

Appliances – If they’re included in the house, make sure they’re in good condition. They should be on and working while you’re there.

Under the Rugs – Lift up any rugs to check the condition of the floor underneath.

Floor Level – Check to see if the floors are level. Place a marble or another small, round object on the floor and see if it rolls consistently in one direction.

Attic – If the house has one, make sure it’s well insulated.

Water Spouts – Runoff from the gutters should be pointed away from the house, so take a step outside to see if this is the case.

This list isn’t all-inclusive, but it’s a good place to start. Talk to a CENTURY 21 ® agent to see what else he or she might add.

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5 Common Questions Potential Home Buyers May Ask

After seeing your home online or during an open house, potential home buyers may have additional questions for you, the homeowner. Being knowledgeable and honest with potential buyers may expedite your home’s sale. Below are five questions you should be able to answer during the selling process.

What is the status of…?
Although you’ve probably listed the vital information about your home’s integrity in accordance with state law, there’s some information that may be absent from those forms and of general interest to potential buyers. They will likely want to know the quality and age of items such as your roof, appliances, plumbing, windows, central heating and cooling, and garage doors. Research your home’s various parts to know this information for potential home buyers.

Has your home ever had a pest problem?
Potential buyers may want to know if your home is prone to infestation by rodents, insects, or any other irksome little creatures. You’ve most likely managed any pest problems before putting your home on the market, but it’s important to give an honest account of your pest history if asked.

How’s the neighborhood?
This question is intentionally open-ended to let you share any pertinent information about the neighborhood that potential buyers should know. Buyers may be curious about neighbors, schools, restaurants, entertainment, safety, and other general facts. Be sure to highlight the stellar aspects of the neighborhood and shift emphasis away from any negatives.

Where is…?
Certain features of your home may be harder for buyers to locate. They may want to inspect items such as the water heater, sprinkler controls, thermostat, pool filter, and circuit breaker. Show potential buyers where these can be found and how they’re maintained.

Is there anything else I should know about this house?
This is your chance to share all the information you wish you’d had known when you moved in or things that may not have been covered yet. You could share things like when trash day is, the nearest hospitals, the best way to care for your lawn and garden, or which neighborhood dogs are your favorite.

Be ready to answer any question a potential home buyer asks. If you don’t know the answer right away, be honest about it and be sure to get back to them promptly.

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Home Decor Projects for When You’re Snowed In

Sometimes it’s hard to see the upside of harsh winter weather, especially when snow storms leave you stuck inside. However, you can take advantage of a snow day by using the opportunity to improve your home decor. Here are some simple DIY projects for when you’re snowed in. Ask your children to help out (safely) for family fun time that may add a bit of luxury to your living space.

Decorative Lampshade
Add some pizzazz to a lampshade by gluing an inlaid paper cutout on its inner surface. Use a blade to cut a design from paper (either freehand or from a template), making sure to place a rubber mat down first to protect the surface underneath. With a mixture of 50% glue and 50% water, decoupage the paper cutout inside of the lampshade. Once it’s dry, turn the lamp on and admire the glowing design!

Fabric Wall Art
If you have some bold print fabric, use it to create art that pops. All you’ll need to buy are wooden frames of varying sizes and a hot glue gun. Cut the fabric wide enough so that there will be two inches leftover when stretched across a frame. Cover, glue, and voila! Create a gallery wall to display your new pieces.

Hanging Planters
If you have small planters in your indoor garden, consider hanging them for a fun look that will free up surface space. Simply drill two small holes close to the top edge of the planter. Make sure they’re exactly opposite from one another. Knot a thin but sturdy rope or twine inside each of the holes so you can hang them from a hook. Tip: Install the hook near a window so your plant can still get the sunlight it needs.

Memory Table
Memory tables are a great way to personalize your home. You’ll need a deep photo display and a similar sized coffee table. Using a strong wood glue, adhere the back of the photo display to the table. You can now place objects in the display to create a sentimental scene. Try using objects that are cohesive, such as trinkets and photos from a memorable family trip. You may want to glue the objects in place so they are not disturbed when the table is moved.

If you keep one (or more) of these projects in mind for your next snow day, getting snowed in might not seem so bad!

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What to do with Your Basement

Is your basement currently the deep, dark abyss where holiday decorations and outdated furniture get lost? It doesn’t have to be! Just because it is the bottom level of the house doesn’t mean you can’t make it a top priority on your home improvement to-do list. If you’re looking for a little inspiration on what to do with it, we have a few ideas.

For the Sports Lover
Transform your cold, dark digs into a space all sports fan could only dream of. Essentials you’ll need for the ultimate basement transformation may include big screen TV’s, a pool table, comfortable recliners, sports memorabilia and your own personal mini fridge. Your space will turn into a game day oasis for friends and family.

For the Athlete
Two words: personal gym. Save yourself time and money on those pesky gym memberships and build your very own dream fitness center. No longer will you have dart for the only open treadmill during primetime hours or worry if the person before you cleaned the machines. By purchasing your favorite pieces of equipment that will last, you can save yourself almost $2,000 each year on fees.

For the Entertainer
Do you find your family constantly hosting for holidays or celebrations? Wow them with an at-home bar, built by you. Stock the shelves with your favorite beverages, snag some awesome bar stools and let the fun begin! It’s the perfect place to direct everyone for an after dinner cocktail and some conversation. Just remember the rule of thumb, if you’re opting to build your own bar the average bar height is 42 inches to ensure that adults of all sizes can sit comfortably.

For the Artist
Always dreamed of having your own space to freely create masterpieces? Now is the time! Turn up the heat of your once cold and isolated basement with the warm hues of paints, pencils, and clays. Pick up some easels, fill the walls with things that inspire you and voila! Just keep in mind that because you’ll be in the basement with little light, choose a bulb with a CRI of 80 to 100 to reveal vibrant, natural hues.

For the Bookworm
You typically only see it on TV, but some homes do have beautiful built-in libraries. Build out shelving all around your basement, fill it with your favorite stories and cozy up on your favorite vintage chair to unwind from life with a good book. Are you making your own shelves? Cherry wood has a rich and warm red color that deepens over time, making it a perfect selection for shelving meant to be seen. Fellow book lovers might envy what you’ve done with your basement, and may even want to come browse your selections!

Don’t let your basement go unnoticed. Say goodbye to those stored away boxes and bags and hello to your new favorite place in the house. Have another idea? Share it in the comments below for other readers to get inspired by!

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5 Numbers You Need to Know When Buying a Home

C21_Jan_B2_Infographic_v2There are so many things to consider when buying a new home, from house features to location, that it’s easy to overlook what’s really important. However, remember that buying a home is more than just picking out floor plans and backyard space — it’s a financial investment. Plan for a home you can afford by keeping these important numbers in mind.

Buying a home can be daunting, but CENTURY 21® can help. Visit www.century21.com for more home buying resources.

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6 Essentials for an In-Home Movie Theater

While winter weather can make going outside seem less than inviting, you can entertain your family indoors with your favorite movies and shows in a home theater. With a little help, your theater setup might make the cold a little more bearable. Here are six must-haves for your home theater.

1. Theater Seating
Comfortable leather recliners with cushy armrests are a staple of any home theater. The amount of seats is reliant on the size of your space; viewers shouldn’t feel too cramped. Also, the distance you place them from your screen depends on the screen’s size. An easy way to determine seat distance is to take the horizontal length of your screen and multiply it by two to get the minimum distance. Multiply it by five to get the maximum distance. For example: A 60-inch screen would have a minimum distance of 120 inches, or ten feet, and a maximum distance of 300 inches, or 25 feet.

2. Video Projector
Installing a quality video projector can ensure that you and your viewers enjoy the best picture possible. Pay attention to the projector’s throw distance, or the distance at which it should be placed away from your screen. Also, consider how far down you should hang your projector and at what angle to tilt it. Most projectors have vertical lens shift, which allows you to adjust the projection regardless of how you mount your projector. For those that don’t, hang your projector with an extension pipe so that you can adjust the hanging distance to perfect the projected image.

3. Projector Screen and Lighting
For screen placement, pick a wall where light does not fall on it directly. You can even paint your walls a dark color to avoid glare. Mount the screen on your wall so the bottom is between two or three feet off the ground. This helps every seat in your theater achieve the perfect view. Try adding dimmable overhead lights to add an authentic cinema feeling.

4. Surround Sound
The most common speaker system for home theaters is 5.1 surround sound. This six-speaker system is comprised of five full-range speakers and one low-range speaker known as the woofer. The ideal setup for 5.1 surround sound is three speakers and the woofer toward the front of the room, with the remaining two on either side of the back end of the room. Place each speaker at least 20 inches from the wall. If six speakers seem excessive, try a simple three speaker setup with a speaker in front of your screen and two others to the left and right.

5. Sound Paneling and Acoustics
Rectangular windowless rooms generally have better acoustics than square ones, but you might not be able to remodel just for your home theater. Sound absorption panels to prevent echoes, although standard dry wall paneling is usually adequate acoustic material for home theaters. Installing carpeting may also improve the acoustics of your in-home theater and add a level of comfort for viewers.

6. Mini Fridge
Keep a small refrigerator in your home theater and stock it with refreshments that are easily accessible. After all, you won’t have to stand in line and worry about missing your movie when you’re home! You may also want to stock old movie favorites like popcorn and candy in a non-refrigerated unit in the theater. Just don’t eat too loudly during the movie.

With these home theater features, being snowed in this winter might not seem so bad!

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Protecting Your Home: Safety Tips for the Homeowner

We often like to think good things about our new home, such as the memories our family will make there. However, there’s a less than wonderful thought that should also be considered: the risk of burglary. As a new homeowner, you may be at risk for this opportunistic crime, but you can take certain precautions to better protect your new home sweet home.

Install an Alarm System
One of the simplest ways to protect your home may just be to install an alarm system. When doing so, make sure to pick a smart location for the keypad. Choose a spot that’s convenient for you, but away from any doors or windows. You don’t want someone outside to be able to peer in and see whether or not the alarm is set. Also, request a decal from the security company to display on your lawn or window. A mischievous passerby noticing the added protection may decide to leave the house alone.

Plant Gardens Strategically
Gardens can be essential for creating aesthetic curb appeal, but did you know they may add to your home’s security as well? Planting a garden underneath ground floor windows may prevent people from casually walking over to your window to look inside. While it’s possible to just walk through the garden, doing so is a bit peculiar and may look suspicious to anyone nearby. Not wanting to call attention to themselves, potential burglars may just move on.

Don’t Leave Spare Keys Outside
Having spare keys to your house is a great idea, since we all have one of those days where we accidentally lock ourselves out. However, stashing a spare key outside, such as in a planter or under the doormat, is a mistake. Potential criminals know to check these areas. Instead, leave a spare with a trusted neighbor. You may have to work around their schedule in the event of being locked out, but the added security can make that worth it.

Keep up Appearances
Everyone needs a vacation, but you shouldn’t let on to everyone that you’re out of town. While you’re away, time both indoor and outdoor lights to go on at night and off during the day. This way, no one passing by will find a dark, seemingly unattended home. Also, ask a neighbor to collect any newspaper, mail, or packages that may be dropped off at your door, since a pile up of unattended items signals that no one is home.

With the added protection that these safety tips may add to your home, you can have peace of mind to relax and attend to more fun aspects of being a homeowner.

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Kitchen Magic: 5 Must-Have Features

The kitchen is the heart of the home. It’s where you prepare meals for your family, and where you all come together to share those meals. So shouldn’t your kitchen portray that same warmth that you feel? Having a dream kitchen is a goal for many home owners, and while not everything is as easy as waving a wand, there are a few things you can implement that may make your kitchen more beautiful and more practical.

Double Oven

For those who love to cook, a double oven might just be a necessity. Can you imagine how much easier cooking holiday dinners would be if you had two separate ovens? Reduce cooking time with the ability to prepare two dishes at the same time, on different temperatures. Cook potatoes in one oven while roasting your turkey in the other, and you’ll no longer have to start cooking dinner so early.

Kitchen Island

One of the most important things in a perfect kitchen is ample counter space. What better way to get that than with a large island in the center of your kitchen? You might never have to fight for space again when you cook with family or friends. Not to mention, an island can double as a great eating space with the addition of a few bar stools.

China Cabinet

An instant way you can increase style in your kitchen is to install a china cabinet. This piece can allow you to display your glassware and china in a beautiful way, as opposed to hiding them in the back of drawers. If you’re working with a smaller kitchen, you can create the same effect by installing glass panels into your current kitchen cabinets.

High Neck Faucets and Deep Sinks

A larger sink helps you avoid splashing water when you do the dishes. A deep sink fits more dishes, and also gives you more room for washing vegetables or fruits. Add a high neck faucet and it may be even easier to fill pots, pans, and bottles. In addition, these items can make your kitchen look chic and modern.

Hidden Outlets

Have you ever been cooking in a crock pot or using a blender and wishing that you didn’t have to move your tools around the kitchen looking for an outlet? Hidden outlets are one great solution that can make your kitchen both classy and accessible. Have outlets installed under your cabinets, or inside drawers to ensure that you can plug anything in, wherever you’re standing.

With just one of the items on your must-have list, you can move one step closer to the perfect kitchen. What other features would you want to have?

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5 Ways to Keep Winter Decor Bright

Traditionally, spring and summer corner the market on bold, bright colors, with fall and winter ushering in richer, more muted tones. However, this year’s popular colors, featured in Shutterfly’s Hottest Hues Guide, have a versatility that helps enhance decor year-round. Incorporate pops of modern color trends into everyday home accessories to warm up your house and your heart in the cool days ahead.

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1. Set a Color-filled Table

’Tis the season for holiday dinners, and your dining room table is the perfect place to fill your room with color. Saturate your tablescape with chargers, plates, placemats and napkins in festive colors. Deep reds and burgundies are not only perfect for the holidays, but they add warmth to your tablescape throughout the winter season. But don’t limit yourself to the standard red and green—get creative with color palettes as you set your table, bringing in metallic and unexpected shades for a dose of fun!

2. Patch it Together

Invite color to visit by adding seasonally inspired throw pillows or a practical and colorful quilt to your couch or bed. Think outside of your regularly colored box, and experiment with contrast to create a cozy space without committing to a color scheme.

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3. Bring the Outdoors In

Flowers lend a festive touch as well as a hint of brightness to any area. A bold spray of pink orchids or peonies can add a pleasantly surprising shock of color to a sleek neutral winter space. Just because it’s winter doesn’t mean you’re stuck with poinsettias. Pale pink is enjoying a comeback in the design world as a romantic neutral with a range of versatility—and rose quartz just happens to be one of Pantone’s colors of the year for 2016. As interior redesign specialist Wendy Wrzos says, “In fall, it can be paired with a rich brown and cream. In winter, a touch of pale pink will add a cozy warmth to a room, or be an unexpected addition to the more saturated colors.” Pick your palette from a favorite bouquet for a touch of color you already love.

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4. Live a Little Large

Bring big color to a small space by painting your laundry room a bold color for brightness you can enjoy all year round. “The laundry room is a room that gets used all the time, and it is rare to see one that has been decorated. A painted wall and a colorful rug takes no effort at all, and will cheer it up in an instant.” —Wrzos advised. Use a small, out-of-the-way area to be brave with a shade that brings you joy when you see it.

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5. Hang It Up

The artwork in a room is often a focal point and the perfect place to feature color. With a foundation of neutral furniture, flooring, and walls, art and decor accessories can take center stage. Create a canvas or three-panel piece of art from a nature-inspired vacation photo and select a matching color palette to complement your art work. If you’re looking for a more seasonal do-it-yourself option, wrap poster frame inserts in pretty wrapping paper for a temporary triptych to match your holiday decorating scheme.

Between bad weather and Daylight Savings Time, winter feels dark enough. Fill your life with brightness all year round by incorporating color in easy, unexpected ways and bring a little more boldness and brilliance into your everyday world.

About the Author

Ashley McCann shares home décor tips for Shutterfly.com. She is a mom of two and enjoys reading and karaoke. For more from Ashley, you can find her on Twitter.

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How to Transition Your Kids’ Rooms

As your children grow and change, so should their bedrooms. However, if you were to revamp their rooms with every changing interest, favorite color or boy band, you would not only be spending a lot of time, but also a lot of money. Here are a few things to keep in mind if you’re looking to transition a child’s room as he or she continues to get older.

Start With Change in Mind

Designing a child’s nursery when you’re expecting is a fun and exciting experience. What parents may not plan for, though, are the unforeseen changes that the room might need as the child grows. Create a nursery with neutral wall colors and an open floor plan for playtime. It makes an easier transition that you can work with each changing year.

Consult With Them

When you’re planning to revamp your children’s room after a few years, make sure to consult with them. It’s likely they won’t hold back in letting you know what they want. You can enhance a child’s creativity and production levels if their rooms are filled with things that excite them.

Choose the Right Items

There are certain pieces of furniture and décor that can grow with a child. For example, a desk is a piece of furniture that can be added into a room and never seem to lose its importance, whether they’ll be endlessly creating works of art in coloring books or filling out college applications. Other items can include a classic bedframe and a monochromatic comforter.

Work Slowly but Surely

Make sure to try not to overwhelm your child with a lot of changes at once. If you’ve decided that it is time to “grow up” from the nursery, it may be best to do it little by little. Most parents choose to start with a new bed before gradually continuing to swap out the old with the new.

Remember Teen Tips

During the teen years, make sure to declutter (that garage sale money can go to their college fund), freshen up with a new paint job, and provide grown-up accessories. Allow room for self-expression, but with limits. For instance, you can frame posters instead of using thumb tacks or tape directly on the walls. A bold rug is fine for the time being, especially if it protects the carpet or floor from food spills or shoe marks.

Raising children can be one of the greatest joys in life, so make sure their room reflects that! Take these tips with you over the years and let the DIY project become a fun one you and your child can look back on.

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