A delightfully warm spring in many parts of the Western U.S. has many folks brushing off their summer clothing early. While this is exciting for all who love the outdoors, public spaces like parks and beaches may be overcrowded. What better time, then, to focus on ways to maximize the space you have in your own home. There’s no one ideal way to design or set up your deck, but we’ve put together a few of our favorite ideas to help inspire your next redesign.
Credit: H. Camille Smith / HGTV
- Especially if your square footage is limited, tiering your deck into multiple levels is a great way to incorporate extra outdoor space into your home.
- By separating your deck into multiple levels, even slightly, you can create a cozy sense of separation between spaces.
- Give yourself options for privacy. Depending on your property, the base level of your deck may be below your fence-line. If you have a view you’d like to enjoy with your barbecue, consider a second tier.
- A simple way to save space and hassle is to build in your seating spaces during your deck’s construction.
- It’s important to consider what you will predominantly be doing on your deck. Lounging while reading? A corner bench is a great fit and can be outfitted comfortably. Potlucks and cookouts? Consider higher benches or fences with wide tops for easy plate placement.
- Consider your environment. If your deck will weather rain, sand, or wind consistently, don’t write off surfaces like brick and concrete, which can be framed as appealingly as wood or other stone.
- As the sun fades, your deck’s utility can shine or fade with it. Including discreet lighting within the construction of your deck is a small step that can pay huge dividends.
- Increasingly popular low-voltage systems have made a well-lit backyard and deck drastically more affordable.
- Depending on your location, solar powered lighting is a worthwhile investment that can help accentuate your stairs, fences, and other outdoor decorations.
If you have ever had the responsibility of hosting a get-together for July 4th, you probably know that it can be a daunting task. Between barbecuing, decorating, and general mayhem, this patriotic holiday can feel like its own brand of work. To ease those stresses, we’ve gathered up a few of our favorite DIY patriotic traditions that can make everyone’s lives easier. Who knows, you might even have a little fun with them!
Make decoration creation a family event
If your attic shelters a full array of patriotic decorations, it may be no trouble for you to adorn your home appropriately. For the rest of us, here are some family-friendly options for last minute party décor.
- Grab several slats of wood, paper, or any other surface you feel comfortable displaying.
- Set up a “paint-friendly” space, ideally outdoors, with rags or paper laid out underneath to avoid excess mess.
- Optionally, you can create or buy stencils of flags, fireworks, stars, and other thematic artwork to help guide the youngest in the group.
- Set up the kids with age-appropriate artistic implements and let them go wild. While a watchful eye will surely remain necessary, not only will you have family-approved decorations for the weekend, you might just get a moment to actually catch up with one another.
It’s the little things
- Candle holders and vases make just as big an impact in theming as grand gestures. Small DIY decorations such as adding stars and stripes to your accent pieces helps flesh out the theme you’re going for.
- By sticking with a consistent artistic tool (sharpie, paint, pencil, etc.) you can deliver a sense of consistency to your guests while saving yourself time an effort.
- Function can be found in all sorts of items. If you find yourself caught in a windy day on Monday, your creations can play double-duty as paperweights and board game savers.
Help nature help you
Credit: Kathy Quillian
- The simplest of decorations are those that grow all by themselves. Whether in bouquet form, wreaths, or, in your own garden, natural coloring adds the perfect touch to your party decor.
- Mixing roses, petunias, and irises creates a charmingly patriotic array.
- Plan for your guests! Will there be children at your party? Setting out a dozen single-stem vases will look great but may lead to disaster, so consider your audience before decorating.
Sleek design, open floor plans, and great natural lighting are all appealing characteristics of modern architecture. Over the years, modern design concepts in home building have become more popular, as is the resurgence of interest in modern real estate. More companies, like 360 modern, are specializing in modern properties. Modern homes vary greatly in style; however, they have some unifying qualities that distinguish them from other properties built over the last 60 years. Here are some characteristics often found in modern homes:
Clean geometric lines: The core of modernist values is the simplification of form. Modernist homes have a very ‘linear’ feel with straight lines and exposed building materials. Furnishings and adornment reflect this value, incorporating vibrant, geometric and abstract designs.
Modern materials: Large windows are abundant in modern architecture, allowing light to fill and expand the interior space, bringing the natural world indoors. Generally, all exposed building materials are kept close to their natural state, including exposed wood beams, poured concrete floors or countertops, stone walls and stainless steel.
Modern homes are well suited for technological and green upgrades, as well including eco-friendly building materials and energy efficient practices. Flat roofs accommodate solar power. Energy efficient appliances work with the aesthetics of modern homes. Modernist landscaping need not require water-thirsty lawns but instead can reflect local flora.
Post-and-beam structure: One classic element in modern architecture is the exposed wood posts and ceiling beams. This style of building has been around for thousands of years; however, modern homes really emphasize the structure, rather than hiding the bones behind drywall. In new modern homes, the post-and-beam structure can be made out of concrete, iron or other materials. The highly visible horizontal and vertical beams reinforce the clean geometric lines of the space.
Low-pitched gable or shed roof: One of the most differential characteristics of modern homes than more traditional home design is the shape of the roof. Classic modern homes on the west coast generally have a flat or low-pitched roof, highly influenced by architect Joseph Eichler. New urban homes also leverage rooftops for outdoor entertaining space.
Open floor plan: Modern design strives to “open” the space by eliminating enclosed rooms. For example opening the kitchen and dining room into an open living space, allowing the ‘rooms’ to flow into one another.
Large windows: Natural light and the incorporation of natural elements are important aspects of modern home design. Large, floor-to-ceiling windows illuminate the open space and highlight the natural landscape. Some new modern homes have adjusted the large windows to open, diminishing the barrier between the indoors and out.
Incorporation of outdoor elements: Frank Lloyd Wright, one of the pioneering modernist architects, incorporated the natural setting into his architecture, most famously with Falling Water. Outdoor elements are incorporated into modern architecture in many ways; through large windows, landscaped terraces, and patios, and through use of natural and organic materials in the building including stone walls, and more.
Minimalism: With open and connected modernist spaces, careful curation of furniture, adornments, and household objects is important to preserving the modernist aesthetic. Generally, modernist homes have art and furniture that reflects the clean geometric lines and the natural materials of the architecture, leaving less space for clutter. Minimalist philosophies of few household items that serve both form and function work well within this design and architectural style.
In addition to providing shelter and comfort, our home is often our single greatest asset. It’s important that we protect that precious investment. Most homeowners realize the importance of homeowners insurance in safeguarding the value of a home. However, what they may not know is that about two-thirds of all homeowners are under-insured. According to a national survey, the average homeowner has enough insurance to rebuild only about 80% of his or her house.
What a standard homeowners policy covers
A standard homeowner’s insurance policy typically covers your home, your belongings, injury or property damage to others, and living expenses if you are unable to live in your home temporarily because of an insured disaster.
The policy likely pays to repair or rebuild your home if it is damaged or destroyed by disasters, such as fire or lighting. Your belongings, such as furniture and clothing, are also insured against these types of disasters, as well as theft. Some risks, such as flooding or acts of war, are routinely excluded from homeowner policies.
Other coverage in a standard homeowner’s policy typically includes the legal costs for injury or property damage that you or family members, including your pets, cause to other people. For example, if someone is injured on your property and decides to sue, the insurance would cover the cost of defending you in court and any damages you may have to pay. Policies also provide medical coverage in the event someone other than your family is injured in your home.
If your home is seriously damaged and needs to be rebuilt, a standard policy will usually cover hotel bills, restaurant meals and other living expenses incurred while you are temporarily relocated.
How much insurance do you need?
Homeowners should review their policy each year to make sure they have sufficient coverage for their home. The three questions to ask yourself are:
- Do I have enough insurance to protect my assets?
- Do I have enough insurance to rebuild my home?
- Do I have enough insurance to replace all my possessions?
Here’s some more information that will help you determine how much insurance is enough to meet your needs and ensure that your home will be sufficiently protected.
Protect your assets
Make sure you have enough liability insurance to protect your assets in case of a lawsuit due to injury or property damage. Most homeowner’s insurance policies provide a minimum of $100,000 worth of liability coverage. With the increasingly higher costs of litigation and monetary compensation, many homeowners now purchase $300,000 or more in liability protection. If that sounds like a lot, consider that the average dog bite claim is about $20,000. Talk with your insurance agent about the best coverage for your situation.
Rebuild your home
You need enough insurance to finance the cost of rebuilding your home at current construction costs, which vary by area. Don’t confuse the amount of coverage you need with the market value of your home. You’re not insuring the land your home is built on, which makes up a significant portion of the overall value of your property. In pricey markets such as San Francisco, land costs account for over 75 percent of a home’s value.
The average policy is designed to cover the cost of rebuilding your home using today’s standard building materials and techniques. If you have an unusual, historical or custom-built home, you may want to contact a specialty insurer to ensure that you have sufficient coverage to replicate any special architectural elements. Those with older homes should consider additions to the policy that pays the cost of rebuilding their home to meet new building codes.
Finally, if you’ve done any recent remodeling, make sure your insurance reflects the increased value of your home.
Remember that a standard policy does not pay for damage caused by a flood or earthquake. Special coverage is needed to protect against these incidents. Your insurance company can let you know if your area is flood or earthquake-prone. The cost of coverage depends on your home’s location and corresponding risk.
Replacing your valuables
If something happens to your home, chances are the things inside will be damaged or destroyed as well. Your coverage depends on the type of policy you have. A cost value policy pays the cost to replace your belongings minus depreciation. A replacement cost policy reimburses you for the cost to replace the item.
There are limits on the losses that can be claimed for expensive items, such as artwork, jewelry, and collectibles. You can get additional coverage for these types of items by purchasing supplemental premiums.
To determine if you have enough insurance, you need to have a good handle on the value of your personal items. Create a detailed home inventory file that keeps track of the items in your home and the cost to replace them.
Create a home inventory file
It takes time to inventory your possessions, but it’s time well spent. The little bit of extra preparation can also keep your mind at ease. The best method for creating a home inventory list is to go through each room of your home and individually record the items of significant value. Simple inventory lists are available online. You can also sweep through each room with a video or digital camera and document each of your belongings. Your home inventory file should include the following items:
- Item description and quantity
- Manufacturer or brand name
- Serial number or model number
- Where the item was purchased
- Receipt or other proof of purchase photocopies of any appraisals, along with the name and address of the appraiser
- Date of purchase (or age)
- Current value
- Replacement cost
Pay special attention to highly valuable items such as electronics, artwork, jewelry, and collectibles.
Storing your home inventory list
Make sure your inventory list and images will be safe in case your home is damaged or destroyed. Store them in a safe deposit box, at the home of a friend or relative, or on an online Web storage site. Some insurance companies provide online storage for digital files. (Storing them on your home computer does you no good if your computer is stolen or damaged). Once you have an inventory file set up, be sure to update it as you make new purchases.
We invest a lot in our homes, so it’s important we take the necessary measures to safeguard it against financial and emotional loss in the wake of a disaster.
Electing a full sale or a property management situation is a life-changing decision that shouldn’t be taken lightly. In choosing whether or not becoming a landlord is right for you, there are a number of factors to consider, but primarily they fall into the following three categories: financial analysis, risk, and goals.
The financial analysis is probably the easiest of the three to perform. You will need to assess if you can afford to rent your house. If you consider the likely rental rate, vacancy rate, maintenance, advertising, and management costs, you can arrive at a budget. It is important to both be detailed in your projections and to have enough reserves to cover cash-flow needs if you’re wrong. The vacancy rate will be determined by the price at which you market the property. Price too high and you’re liable to be left vacant. Should you have applicants, they’ll often be a group that for some reason couldn’t compete for more competitively priced homes. Price too low and you don’t achieve the revenue you should. If you want to try for the higher end of an expected range, understand that the cost may be a vacant month. Any way you slice it, it’s difficult to make up for a vacant month.
Consider the other costs renting out your property could accrue. If you have a landscaped or large yard, you will likely need to hire a yard crew to manage the grounds. Other costs could increase when you rent your home, such as homeowner’s insurance and taxes on your property. Depending on tenant turn-over, you may need to paint and deal with maintenance issues more regularly. Renting your home is a decision you need to make with all the financial information in front of you.
If your analysis points to some negative cash-flow, that doesn’t necessarily mean renting is the wrong option. That answer needs to be weighed against the pros and cons of alternatives. For instance, how does that compare to marketing the property at the price that would actually sell? Moreover, you’ll need to perform additional economic guesswork about what the future holds in terms of appreciation, inflation, etc. to arrive at an expectation of how long the cash drain would exist.
Risk is a bit harder to assess. It’s crucial to understand that if you decide to lease out a home, you are going into business, and every business venture has risks. One of the most obvious ways of mitigating the risk is to hire a management company. By hiring professionals, you decrease your risk and time spent managing the property (and tenants) yourself. However, this increases the cost. As you reduce your risk of litigation, you increase your risk of negative cash-flow, and vice versa… it’s a balancing act, and the risk cannot be eliminated; just managed and minimized.
In considering goals, what do you hope to achieve by renting your property? Are you planning on moving back to your home after a period of time? Will your property investment be a part of your long-term financial planning? Are you relocating or just hoping to wait to sell? These are all great reasons to consider renting your home.
Keep in mind that renting your family home can be emotional. Many homeowners love the unique feel of their homes. It is where their children were raised, and they care more about preserving that feel than maximizing revenue. That’s ok, but it needs to be acknowledged and considered when establishing a correct price and preparing a cash flow analysis. Some owners are so attached to their homes that it may be better for them to “tear off the band-aid quickly” and sell. The alternative of slowly watching over the years as the property becomes an investment instead of a home to them may prove to be more painful than any financial benefit can offset.
Before reaching a conclusion, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the landlord-tenant-law specific to your state (and in some cases, separate relevant ordinances in the city and/or county that your property lies within) and to do some market research (i.e. tour other available similar rentals to see if your financial assumptions are in line with the reality of the competition across the street). If you are overwhelmed by this process, or will be living out of the region, seek counsel with a property management professional. Gaining experience the hard way can be costly. With proper preparation, however, the rewards will be worth it.
The calendar may claim summer begins on June 21st, but for most of us, it’s already fully in gear. Kids are getting out of school, families are making summer vacation plans, and backyard barbeques are on everyone’s minds. This is also a great time of the year to get your house in order and ready for the summer season. The following are a handful of ideas and tips to help you with this process.
Gardening– It’s not too late to start your garden! If you’re thinking of getting your green thumb engaged, just make sure you use starts because many summer harvest vegetables won’t start from seed this late in the season.
Outdoor living– My home has an outdoor space that, like many, suffers in the grey of winter and the rainy spring. To get it properly in the summer spirit I need to get it prepped for hosting. This includes finding outdoor lighting options, updating the seating and cleaning up the barbeque.
BBQ- Make sure your grill is ready to go this season by making sure everything is clean and in working order before you fire it up. In the northwest that includes making sure the fuel lines are spider-web-free. Also, make sure you have propane or charcoal on hand for impromptu dinners.
Clean Windows- Now is a great time to clean your windows, inside and out. Sun shows more dirt and smudges.
Lawn care- Prepare your lawn for the months ahead. Depending on where you live this means different things. Check your sprinkler system to make sure it wasn’t damaged over the winter; upgrade your lawn care to ensure fuller greens, check for and remove moss to prevent dead patches and start your weeding regimen.
Pool prep- If you have an outdoor pool get this ready for a summer season of fun in the sun, (unless you are lucky enough to enjoy your pool year-round). Same goes for hot-tubs. Make sure your equipment has been serviced, chemicals are available and your pool is clean and ready to use. OR, head to the local hardware store and buy your kiddie pool now before they run out!
Summerize- Check or replace AC filters, window screens, and household fans to make sure these are all functioning and will help provide maximum circulation in your house. Consider installing an attic fan or vent to help pull heat out of your home all winter long. Pack away excess cold weather items such as heavy blankets, jackets, and other items so they aren’t in your way. Same goes for any sundry items you only use during fall and winter.
Lighten the Space- Though I likely won’t spend much time inside once the mercury rises, I want to keep the house as light and cool as possible. I have found that replacing the curtains with a lighter shade lets the light in, but also keeps the rooms from overheating from sun exposure. Summer always makes me want to lighten up with the accessories- lighter colors, more whites, bright accents and less clutter.
Rearrange – Freshen up spaces by rearranging some of your wall art. If you don’t have enough wall pieces to rearrange regularly it may be time to add to your collection. You can find inexpensive original art online at stores such as Etsy or in person at local galleries. You can always play with other items like framed images from books, vintage posters or record albums. Here are some terrific ideas for using what you have to add interest to a room.
Air it out- Open all the windows, shake out the rugs and update home fragrances to fit summer moods (citrus, freesia, clean linen, coconut, melon, fruits and tropical, etc.). You can create your own diffuser with essential oils to distribute fragrance. This may be more symbolic than practical but it always makes me feel ready for summer.
Paint- If you have a room you really want to refresh, a three-day weekend is a good time to take on a project of scale, so you have plenty of time to prep, paint, dry, and clean up. Painting is one of the least expensive ways to really transform how a room feels. Need help picking colors and paint type? Here is some good advice.
Garage or Basement- Tackle a big space that makes a big difference. Our garages and basements often become year-long dumping grounds for seasonal decorations and clothing, items that don’t fit in cabinets, memorabilia and maintenance tools. Go through your items and sort by keep, throw out and donate/sell and then group your keeps by function. Make sure your tools are accessible for easy gardening and entertaining by making sure your tools are accounted for, ready to go, and easy to reach. Here is a useful video on garage organization.
Yard/Garage Sale- If you have overflow at your house, plan a yard/garage sale to get rid of items you no longer need or want. Just make sure to pack everything up and donate it at the end of the sale otherwise you are just letting the clutter back in!
Plan a party- Once your space is all cleaned up and redecorated you will want to show it off! Plan a summer BBQ, dinner party, pool party, picnic or any other gathering.
New tax legislation was signed into law at the end of 2017, and it included some significant changes for homeowners. These changes took effect in 2018 and do not influence your 2017 taxes. Here’s a brief overview of this year’s tax changes and how they may affect you*.
The amount of mortgage interest you can deduct has decreased.
Under the old law, taxpayers could deduct the interest they paid on a mortgage of up to $1 million. The new law reduces the mortgage interest deduction from $1 million to $750,000. These changes do not affect mortgages taken out before December 15, 2017.
The home equity loan deduction has changed.
The IRS states that, despite newly-enacted restrictions on home mortgages, taxpayers can often still deduct interest on a home equity loan, home equity line of credit (HELOC) or second mortgage, regardless of how the loan is labeled. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, enacted December 22, suspends from 2018 until 2026 the deduction for interest paid on home equity loans and lines of credit, unless they are used to buy, build or substantially improve the taxpayer’s home that secures the loan.
The property tax deduction is capped at $10,000.
Previously taxpayers could deduct all the state, local and foreign real estate taxes they paid with no cap on the amount. The new law limits the deduction for all state and local taxes – including income, sales, real estate, and personal property taxes – to $10,000.
The casualty loss deduction has been repealed.
Homeowners previously could deduct unreimbursed casualty, disaster and theft losses on their property. That deduction has been repealed, with an exception for losses on property located in a federally declared disaster area.
The capital gains exclusion remains unchanged.
Homeowners can continue to exclude up to $500,000 for joint filers or $250,000 for single filers for capital gains when selling their primary residence as long as they have lived in the home for two of the past five years. An earlier proposal would have increased that requirement to five out of the last eight years and phase out the exclusion for high-income households, but it was struck down. Find out more about 2018 tax reform.
How does tax reform affect your plans for buying or selling a home?
*Please consult your tax advisor if you have any questions about how the new tax reform impacts you