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Best Home Security Systems

Nothing is more important than protecting your family and property. Home security systems play a major role in preventing burglaries, home invasions and property theft, and often provide valuable information to law enforcement when crimes occur. Today’s home security systems combine the benefit of professional monitoring with mobile technologies that allow you to access your system from almost anywhere. Choosing the best home security system might seem daunting, but following a few buying guidelines, along with the advice of consumer professionals, can ensure you purchase the best protection for your home and loved ones.

Choosing the Best Home Security System

Home security systems involve an investment in equipment and typically require a professional monitoring contract, so shop around to find the best combination of value and service. When shopping for home security systems, read customer reviews, research Better Business Bureau ratings, and search for industry awards and certifications.

Key factors to consider when shopping for home security should include:

  • Technology: Most new home security systems connect wirelessly to home Wi-Fi networks. Wireless home security systems usually provide enough protection, but can fail during internet and power outages. For maximum protection, look for security systems that offer cellular backup, which continues to send data to monitoring centers, even if your electricity or internet service fails.
  • Mobile operation: Home security systems that include mobile apps enable you to remotely arm and disarm your alarm system and receive real-time alerts when something triggers a camera or sensor. Some apps allow you to access video live streams and control smart home devices such as door locks, garage doors and thermostats.
  • Expandability: The security system you buy today may not fit your needs in the future. Shop for systems that enable you to add additional cameras and smart home devices. You may also consider security systems that integrate with popular voice-activated technologies such as Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant.
  • Professional monitoring: The best home security systems offer included or optional 24/7 professional monitoring. By choosing professional monitoring, you can receive faster emergency services response and oftentimes avoid municipal false-alarm fees. Most monitoring services require two- to five-year contracts.
  • Trial periods and warranties: Most home security companies offer a money-back guarantee for equipment and services. Typically, guarantees range from 14 days to six months. Likewise, most security packages include equipment warranties for up to two years.

J.D. Power’s Best Home Security Company Survey

Each year, J.D. Power conducts a home security study, which rates companies based on factors such as overall customer satisfaction, technology, mobile operation, property protection and price. Overall, J.D. Power gives high marks to the home security industry for delivering products and services that keep up with evolving technologies and meet consumer needs. In its 2018 Home Security Satisfaction Study, J.D. Power ranked these 5 companies as the best in home security:

#1 Brinks Home Security

#2 AT&T Digital Life

#3 Vivint Smart Home

#4 ADT

#5 Xfinity Home Security

Brinks Home Security

Brinks Home Security boasts over one million customers and has an A+ rating with the BBB. Perry Brink founded the company in 1859, and it quickly rose to become a national – and later international – leader in secure cash management.

Today, Brinks Home Security offers several home security systems, ranging in price from $499 to $1,499. For qualified customers, Brinks offers 0% APR, 36-month financing on all its home security systems. All Brinks security systems include the Brinks Home Touch control panel, along with motion detectors and wireless door or window sensors, window stickers and yard signs. Some Brinks systems also include indoor and outdoor cameras with night vision technology, doorbell cameras and Nest Secure devices which seamlessly integrate with Google Assistant.

Brinks designs most of its home security systems for easy self-installation. Devices such as door and window sensors attach to surfaces with adhesive tape. For its top-of-the-line Smart Security Ultimate system, which runs $1,499, Brinks includes professional installation.

Brinks’ 24/7 professional monitoring costs $29-$39 per month. Brinks-branded systems require a 36-month monitoring contract. The Nest Secure system offers monitoring for $29 per month, with no contract.

The Brinks Home Security App, available for Android and Apple cellphones and tablets, gives users complete system control from their mobile devices. The app also enables users to access stored video footage, see video live streams and control compatible smart home garage doors, lights and thermostats. App users give it a 3.6 out of five stars rating.

Brinks systems feature 4G LTE cellular backup technology, which many competing brands do not offer. This technology allows systems to continue sending data to Brinks monitoring centers, even during internet and power outages.

Brinks offers a 30-day, money-back guarantee on all its security systems, as well as a two-year warranty on all equipment.

AT&T Digital Life

The company we know as AT&T dates to 1876, with Alexander Graham Bell’s invention of the telephone. In addition to offering telephone and TV services throughout the United States and Mexico, AT&T provides home automation and security services in 75 U.S. markets under the Digital Life brand and has earned an A+ rating from the BBB.

AT&T Digital Life offers one home security system for $549.99, but does not have a financing program. The system comes with door and window sensors, a keypad, a motion sensor and an indoor siren, and includes professional installation. The wireless system does not require a landline and works with any high-speed internet service.

The AT&T Digital Life App, which Android and Apple users rate 3.2 to 3.3 out of five stars, enables you to arm and disarm your system, operate compatible smart home devices and access live video streams. Most home security apps send email or text messages when something triggers a security camera. The Digital Life app uses push notifications, which users can tap for live video stream access. 

AT&T Digital Life’s 24/7 professional monitoring costs $39.99 per month and requires a two-year contract. Digital Life security systems come with a 14-day trial period. A restocking fee of up to $99 may apply when returning equipment during the trial period.

Vivint Smart Home

Vivint Smart Home has provided home automation and security products and services since 1999 and boasts two million North American customers. Based in Utah, Vivint has over 10,000 employees and was named one of Utah’s best employers for diversity in Forbes’ 2019 America’s Best Employers survey.

Vivint offers several home security systems, which cost around $710 to $1,790, including professional installation. Systems include central control panels, motion detectors and smoke detectors. More advanced equipment packages feature doorbell cameras, indoor and outdoor cameras, smart home door locks, garage door controllers and thermostats. Qualified customers can apply for no-interest system financing.

Using the highly-rated Vivint Smart Home app, available for Android and Apple mobile devices, users can arm and disarm alarms, control smart home devices, receive real-time alerts and view live video streams. The Vivint app is compatible with Amazon Echo, Element Thermostat, Google Home, Philips Hue and many other smart home devices.

Vivint offers professional monitoring for $44.99 per month, with upfront equipment purchase. Customers who finance equipment must sign a service agreement and pay $49.99 per month for up to 60 months.

The BBB rates Vivint Smart Home D-. In the last three years, the BBB has received more than 4,500 Vivint customer complaints, which generally focus on poor customer service, unclear contract terms, sales tactics and service costs.

ADT

In its infancy in 1874, ADT protected a few dozen homes by connecting them to a central office using telegraph-based technology. Today, ADT operates in more than 200 Canadian and U.S. locations and boasts over seven million home security customers.

All ADT security systems are custom-designed to fit customers’ needs. System components include digital control panels, door and window sensors, indoor and outdoor cameras, keychain remotes, motion detectors and video doorbells. ADT’s Pulse line of  cameras include a doorbell camera and an outdoor camera equipped with night vision technology, two-way audio functionality and Wi-Fi connectivity. ADT Pulse indoor cameras capture 720p high definition video and come equipped with a stand for tabletop placement or wall mounting. Professional ADT installation costs around $100 to $200.

With the ADT Control App, available for Android and Apple mobile devices, users can arm and disarm their alarms, operate smart home door locks, lights, smoke detectors and thermostats, and receive instant alerts when something triggers a camera or sensor. ADT-branded smart home devices integrate with Amazon Alexa for voice commands.

ADT offers 24/7 professional monitoring for $36.99 to $52.99 per month. All ADT systems require a 36-month monitoring contract.

New ADT customers can enjoy a six-month, money-back guarantee on systems and services. ADT also provides a theft protection guarantee, which pays up to $500 for burglaries that occur at a property armed with an ADT alarm system.

The BBB awards ADT an A+ rating. In 2019, PC Magazine listed ADT among its top 10 Best Smart Home Security Systems.

Xfinity Home Security

Comcast provides home security, internet, mobile, TV and voice services under the Xfinity brand. The company boasts 29 million customers in 39 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. The BBB gives Xfinity a D+ rating. In the last three years, Xfinity customers have lodged more than 25,000 complaints related to customer service issues, quality of service and technical problems.

Xfinity offers several home security systems, which range in price from $360 to $600 and come with a 30-day, money-back guarantee. Qualified customers can also take advantage of Xfinity’s no-interest, 24-month equipment financing. All Xfinity systems include a touchscreen control panel, door and window sensors and a Xfinity Home Security yard sign. Advanced systems include indoor/outdoor cameras and wireless keypads. Xfinity systems feature cellular backup for maximum protection during internet and power outages.

Users can expand their systems with individual Xfinity-branded devices such as additional door and window sensors, smart home outlet controllers, smoke detectors and thermostats. Xfinity systems also integrate with popular third-party smart devices, including the August Smart Lock, Carrier Cor Wi-Fi Thermostat, MyQ Garage controller and Philips Hue light.

The highly-rated Xfinity Home App works with Android and Apple mobile devices. The app enables users to remotely arm and disarm alarm systems, control smart home devices, receive real-time alerts and view live video.

Xfinity offers 24/7 professional monitoring for $40 to $50 per month. You can often save money by choosing an Xfinity bundle, which can include any combination of home security monitoring, internet, phone and TV services. Typically, bundled services require a two-year contract.

Cool, Sleek Bathroom Remodeling Ideas You Need Now

The hottest tech products like the Apple Watch or iPhone 6, the Tesla S sportscar or a Bang and Olufsen BeoVision TV all have something in common: the latest in innovative, modern design. Take the features that make them sexy, like minimalist fluid lines and the latest tech — and use them for your bathroom remodeling ideas.

According to Remodel Magazine’s annual report of cost versus value remodel projects, the bathroom remodel is one of the top projects that brings a good return on your financial investment. Getting your remodeling expenses back when you sell your home is important, but enjoying a design-forward bathroom is better.

The most valuable remodel projects have three important features. Keep them in mind when considering bathroom remodeling ideas:

1. Low Maintenance

Selecting finishes that are easy to keep looking clean and new not only saves you money and time in maintenance, but also extends the life of your remodel by looking new and fresh longer. Consider the following ideas for a low maintenance bathroom:

–Quartz counters instead of marble
–Quality faucets that are built to last a lifetime
–Glass shower doors treated with water anti-spotting agents

2. Energy Efficient

One of a home’s biggest selling points today is energy savings. Water shortages and rising utility bills make this a priority for home buyers. Energy efficiency is also big from the environmental standpoint.

When planning your bathroom remodel, these items maximize energy efficiency:

–Tankless water heaters
–Low flow toilets and faucets
–LED lighting instead of traditional incandescent
–Radiant floor heating
–Insulated windows

3. A light, bright bathroom

All homeowners look for bright, open spaces. The brighter your bathroom, the larger it looks. And if you’re investing time and money into upgrading your bathroom, don’t let your design choices go unnoticed in a dark, shadowy room — lighting will showcase your bathroom remodel investment beautifully. Three ways to create a brighter bathroom:

–Add windows and skylights
–Use lighting for different purposes throughout the bathroom
–Choose finishes and surfaces that are reflective and light

When thinking about remodeling your bathroom, be sure to ask yourself if each item fits the three features above. Luckily, the latest high-design trends not only look beautiful but address these points. Here are our favorite bathroom remodeling ideas to incorporate now:

High-Tech Lighting

led-bath

The largest energy effiency you can add to your bathroom is through LED lighting. According to the US Department of Energy, LED lights use at least 75% less energy, and last 25 times longer, than incandescent lighting.

Besides savings energy, LED lighting adds a beautiful design element. They can be programmed to change colors and can be used safely near water. Because they’re easy to install in any bathroom, they are perfect for DIY projects. Besides task lighting, some innovative ways to use LEDs include:

–To add color to water in a tub or sink
–As a color wash effect on a wall
–To back light wall mirrors
–To light counters or shelves

Metallica

bathroom-remodel-tiles-3

The latest design trends in Europe translated the latest in consumer electronics like the gold Iphone 6 into beautiful, metallic tile. Metallic wall tiles lend a bathroom a fashion-forward look while adding the illusion of more space to a bathroom, thanks to the tile’s eye-catching and reflective qualities.

Another way to add the metallic element to your bathroom is by painting the walls with metallic paints from Ralph Lauren or Benjamin Moore.

Add Bold Flooring To Your Bathroom Ideas List

bathroom-remodel-floors-5

The trend for color in the bathroom remains neutral or white in order to showcase elements like a beautiful free-standing tub or a wall of gorgeous metallic tile. But a bathroom needs a graphic dose of pattern somewhere and bold flooring is the latest.

If you’re not ready for a bold floor, add a large, graphic floor rug in your bathroom. You can also read more about bathroom tile ideas here.

Sexy, Ergonomic Design

bathroom-remodel-curves

The fluid and seamless curvy design of computers and electronics today is also coming to your bathroom. Boxy angles are out, while beautiful curvy shapes are becoming more available in the bathroom product market. You don’t have to add curves to the entire bathroom — pick two or three elements for balance. Some good bathroom remodeling ideas to go ergonomic are:

–Add curve to one bathroom wall
–Choose faucets or fixtures that are a bit more rounded and refined
–Hang wall decor that highlights circles and curves

One of the top requested design elements in bathrooms today is a free-standing tub. If you have the space for one, choose a tub that cocoons you in its curves.

A Floating Vanity

Basement Flooring Ideas: How to Choose the Right Surface

Everyone wants to make the most of their home’s square footage, and enhancing your basement’s potential as viable living space is an excellent way to do just that. To make your basement the space of your dreams, you’ll need to start at the bottom.

Choosing the right flooring has different rules in a basement than it does in other rooms; if you make the wrong selection, it could be potentially disastrous. That’s why we’ve laid the groundwork to give you the best basement flooring ideas for your home.

There are many more options available for suitable flooring in your below-ground space than in years past. Note: When you begin shopping around, you’ll notice the term “below grade.” Don’t let this concern you; it simply means that the material is meant for underground or basement installation.

Keep an eye out for this term as you weigh your flooring options. Manufacturers are well aware that consumers want products that are stylish and durable, innovative and eco-friendly, and the basement flooring market is no exception.

How Do You Plan to Use Your Basement?

This is the initial question to ask yourself. If you want to use your basement for a work area or a game room, you’ll want flooring that’s durable and easy to clean, such as stained concrete, vinyl or linoleum. Plan to make your basement a more cozy living space? Look to laminate, carpet or cork.

This is also the time to do a little soul-searching about how much maintenance you’re willing to do on your flooring. If you want the quickest, most inexpensive surface, simply paint your concrete floor. Keep in mind, though, that it will wear in high-traffic areas and may need to be redone every few years.

Perhaps you want basement flooring that could outlast your house. If so, ceramic tile may be the way to go. It’s simply a matter of preference and budget. It’s your house, your money and your workload — so do what feels right to you.

Basement Flooring Ideas

The choices that you will encounter are far more sophisticated and stylish than you might expect. There are practically as many options for your basement as there are for any other level of your house. The one flooring to stay away from is solid wood, because of its susceptibility to changes in temperature and humidity.

Solid wood flooring is expensive, and the risk of it warping and cracking in a basement install makes it a big risk that is probably not worth taking. If your heart is set on a wood look, don’t despair; many of the options listed below will satisfy your woodgrain desires.

Browse through our flooring gallery and read on to learn more about preparing your basement for new flooring. Installation costs listed below are general guidelines for professional work; consult service providers in your area for specific quotes.

wood basement flooring

Engineered Wood

Engineered wood is a thin veneer of solid wood that is attached to a plywood core. Style choices in this department are vast, and the long-lasting, easy-to-clean, easy-to-install options have many opting for this fabricated flooring. The cost is $2-$20 per square foot, depending on the style selected, with installation costs adding $4-$5 per square foot.

basement design laminate floor

Laminate

Similar to engineered wood, laminate flooring consists of a plastic resin veneer attached to a plywood core. Laminate can be deceiving, as many samples resemble real wood, ceramic tile or stone, making it desirable for those on a tighter budget who still want the upscale look of natural materials.

As a bonus, many varieties offer moisture and mold resistance, making it a perfect choice for damp basements. The cost is $3-$5 per square foot, and installation is an additional $4-$5 per square foot.

basement tile floor

Ceramic Tile

Tile remains a popular basement flooring choice thanks to its durability and vast style options. In addition to the broad range of natural patterns available, ceramic tile is touted for its water-repellent nature, but it can get slippery if condensation occurs, so consider an anti-slip finish.

The cost for ceramic tile is $1-$15 per square foot, depending on the style selected; installation is an additional $5-$10 per square foot.

vinyl tile

Vinyl Tile

For the DIYer or those on a budget, vinyl tile is a great choice. The tiles come in numerous patterns and colors to fit every decor, and self-stick options allow for easy installation and replacement. The cost is $1-$5 per square foot, with installation an additional $1-$2 per square foot.

cork floor basement

Cork

Popularity of this soft, breathable, eco-friendly material is on the rise. Cork is naturally resistant to bacteria and water, making it an ideal choice for damp basements.

Cork may show scratches and heavy wear and tear, so be sure to consider lifestyle beforehand. However, it is relatively inexpensive to replace. The cost is $2-$12 per square foot, and installation is an additional $3-$5 per square foot.

linoleum

Transitional Design: What It Is and How To Pull It Off

We all know that transition means moving from one place or thing to another. But what does it mean in reference to interior design? The term “transitional design” is often used by interior designers to reflect a room’s meshing of modern and traditional elements — essentially, combining two styles in one space, resulting in a cohesive design.

Why should we care about transitional style? Because it’s a hot trend. Designers are seeing a drastic increase in the number of clients who want to toss the rules out the window and merge traditional elements (such as wainscoting or antique furniture) and modern, clean-lined furnishings.

This is no easy feat to pull off — but Freshome is here to help. Here’s a primer on transitional design, as well as tips on how to mix seemingly disparate styles into a look that works for you.

bedroom grey walls side tables bedding

What Is Transitional Design?

As we touched upon, transitional design is a modern mix of classic and contemporary. You can think of it as simply a new take on an old classic, or a younger, more punchy version of traditional design. It’s especially popular among the millennial generation, as they want to venture out and create their own stamp.

Transitional design marries curved furnishings with straight-lined, lacquered finishes, resulting in a room that is equally masculine and feminine in nature. It is not a scattered, eclectic mess; rather, it is only lightly adorned with accessories, a clean room with added texture and a neutral color palette.

It might seem difficult to achieve a cohesive look when mixing such opposing styles. Let’s look a bit deeper into how to properly mesh them.

white living room fireplace chairs sofa

Transitional Is the Art of Mixing

Successful transitional design is achieved by seamlessly combining a mix of modern and traditional. While there are many interpretations of this style, here’s a list that will help you achieve a well-blended transitional look.

  • Stay neutral with your color choice, allowing the lines of the furniture to take center stage.
  • Incorporate textural elements such as wood, glass, lacquer, rattan, fabric, steel and metal.
  • Limit the use of accessories; you are adding artful details through your mix of furnishings and fabrics, and you don’t want to confuse the eye.
  • Choose impactful art, but use it sparingly. In most cases, one large piece on the wall is better than an arrangement of small pieces.
modern kitchen floors tile wood

How to Create a Cohesive Transitional Style

Creating a cohesive transitional room can be challenging. Here are some ideas for mixing transitional elements room by room.

  • In the dining room: Use a modern dining table and chairs, but upholster the chairs in a traditional fabric. Alternatively, use traditional furnishings and offset them with modern lighting, such as steel pendants with exposed lightbulbs. Classic wood wainscoting can be another traditional feature in an otherwise contemporary dining space.
  • In the bedroom: Upholster a tufted, curved headboard (a traditional element) with a steel-gray fabric (a more modern element). Or flank a traditional headboard with modern cube side tables and sleek metal lamps.
  • In the kitchen: If your kitchen cabinets are already traditional in nature and you don’t want to replace them, use a stronger hand with modern accessories. Consider adding contemporary pendant lights over your island, or replace the island with a lacquered piece. Steel countertops can also add a contemporary look to an otherwise traditional kitchen.
  • In the bathroom: Use glass, metal, ceramic and wood for a modern touch. If you have a traditional clawfoot tub, install modern floor tiles, or arrange traditional tiles in a chevron pattern.
  • In the living room: If you have traditional architectural features such as trims and moldings, add clean-lined chairs and sofas, keeping fabrics warm yet neutral in color.
bathroom tile shower bathtub

As you can see, transitional design can bring together two opposing styles into a cohesive room design when done properly. If you doubt your ability to do this on your own, then consider hiring a skilled interior designer to help you.

Innovative Pivoting Doors Double as Room Dividers

Belgium-based Anyway Doors created these modern pivoting doors that revolve around a central hinge. Designed to fit both new construction and renovation projects, the innovative doors double as room dividers. The company has been studying the applications of modern interior doors since 1995.

The hinges are hidden in the door panel, making them practically invisible. They operate in both directions, allowing the doors to revolve 360 degrees. Even heavy doors feel light, thanks to the innovative hinge system. The company’s patented locking technology also is integrated within the door, which closes without a sound.

Room Dividers pivoting doors by Anyway Doors (2)

“The invisible pivoting hinges are mounted on the floor using a compact stainless steel part, without a floor spring or integrated floor fixtures,” the designers said. They can be mounted even on floors with under-floor heating systems, and the axis can be offset, if desired.

“This pivot-door concept can be used frameless, but it will lose its closing capabilities this way; light and air will bleed through around the door,” they continued. “The pivot concept is compatible with all door frames designed by Anyway Doors.”

Room Dividers pivoting doors by Anyway Doors (3)

Customers can choose from among plain, glass or aluminum-framed glass doors. Glass options include clear, matte, leavened and colored glass.

“Not only are doors the most-used building element in any residential construction, they also cover a fair percentage of the wall surface area,” the designers said. “All the more reason for the client to pay extra attention to doorways.”

Room Dividers pivoting doors by Anyway Doors (4)
Room Dividers pivoting doors by Anyway Doors (5)
Room Dividers pivoting doors by Anyway Doors (7)


Steel-Framed Café Becomes Hanging Garden in Vietnam

Studio Le House recently completed An’garden Café, an original spot for daily gatherings located in Hà Đông, Hà Nội, Vietnam. This steel-framed café has a total surface area of 8,072.9 square feet (750 square meters) and features a playful layout. Plants and flowers add character throughout the space, inspiring a sense of freshness and seclusion.

“While a house full of steel frame may sound dry and heavy, the impression of An’garden Café comes from impromptu hanging plant pots, conjuring up a vision of a dreamlike hanging garden,” the architects say. “This building aimed for an exclusive place that brings guests enjoyment from both coffee fragrance and picturesque surroundings. ”

Despite clear industrial influences, this original steel-framed café in Vietnam feels welcoming. Dim lighting and plenty of wood finishes help achieve a friendly atmosphere.

“The facade of this shop intermingles large pieces of glass with steel frames,” the architects add. “Simple cement walls separate the pavement from indoor space. In order to minimize heavy feelings of cement, plants are considered an optimal solution that synchronizes with the indoor environment.”

Because the tables are organized in a variety of configurations, the space invites both large gatherings and intimate talks. A small pond with aquatic plants under the staircase adds to the charm. Photography by Hiroyuki Oki.

Home Seller Guide: How To Sell Your Home

The decision to sell your home is a daunting one. Whether this will be your first time on the seller’s end of the settlement table or you haven’t been there in years, you probably have questions about how the selling process works — and how to find a buyer as soon as possible.

We’re here to help. Following is a comprehensive guide to selling your home. Use it as a resource and you’ll know what to expect as you head into the real estate market and toward what we hope will be a quick and easy settlement.

Before You Put Your Home On the Market

Hire Professional Help

Selling your home is a legally binding transaction, and if you’re unsure of what you’re doing it could lead to liability issues. Though it is optional, hiring a real estate agent who can help guide you through the sale will undoubtedly make this often-stressful process easier.

As you would whenever hiring professional help, consider interviewing multiple realtors before making your decision. Ask about their industry experience, their marketing process and their opinions about your home, including any potential obstacles. Trust your instincts and hire the one who gives you the most realistic answers, as opposed to just telling you what they think you want to hear.

Determine the Sale Price

Sale price is often the biggest hurdle for sellers to overcome when preparing to put their home on the market. Unfortunately, variables such as what you paid for it, how much you spent on upgrades and how much income you need from the sale of your home in order to make your next purchase cannot factor into the sale price.

Rather, to sell your home quickly, you’ll need to focus on pricing it fairly according to its current market value. Most qualified real estate agents will help you determine your property’s market value by following a two-step process.

First, they should visit your home to get a feel for its condition, size and any upgrades or extra amenities. Then, they should perform a comparative market analysis (or CMA) — wherein they look at similar homes in your area that are either on the market or have recently sold — to see how your home stacks up.

Fill Out the Seller’s Property Disclosure

Before putting your home on the market, your agent will ask you to fill out a Seller’s Property Disclosure (SPD). This form asks a series of questions regarding the current condition of the property; for example, the age of the roof or whether the home has a history of flooding.

A copy of the SPD is given to prospective buyers. As the seller, it’s in your best interest to fill out this form as completely and honestly as possible. While it’s perfectly acceptable to admit that you’re unsure of a time frame or simply do not know an answer, don’t lie or leave out a known issue to make your home appear to be in better condition. Doing so could cause you to lose an offer and even put you at risk of facing legal action.

Consider hiring a real estate agent to guide you through the selling process. Image Via: Jules Duffy Designs

Marketing Your Property

Boost Curb Appeal

Think of curb appeal the same way you would a date or a job interview: It’s the first impression that potential buyers will have of your home. Whether they’re doing a drive-by to determine whether they’d like to see the inside or they’ve already scheduled a showing, you’ll want your home to look its best.

While your home is on the market, keep the lawn well maintained. Add flowers, whether in a bed or planter. Provide a clearly marked pathway to your front door, and make sure there’s plenty of lighting to accommodate evening showings. Consider warming up your entrance by adding a fresh coat of paint to your front door or getting a new welcome mat.

Stage Your Home

Staging your home simply means arranging the rooms in the clearest and most aesthetically pleasing way. While there are companies that you can hire for this, you can do the work yourself by following a few easy steps:

  • Create a focal point. Each room should have one piece as its focus that also clearly defines the function of the space.
  • Depersonalize. Pack away personal items like family photographs so that your home will appeal to the widest range of buyers possible.
  • Stay neutral. When it comes to details like paint colors and furniture styles, use neutral tones. Again, your goal is to appeal to the most buyers rather than showcase the latest trends.
  • De-clutter. Don’t make buyers struggle to see your home’s worth. Pare down wherever possible, and invest in stylish storage solutions that will allow you to stash your belongings.
  • Add homey touches. Scented candles or fresh flowers can add a warm and welcoming feel to the space.

Get Great Photographs

The average buyer spends less than a minute looking at listings online before deciding whether to see a home in person. With such a tight time frame, it’s imperative that your home be represented at its best through great photos. While your agent will probably have a process for this, there are a few things you can do to make the task a little easier.

First, clean your home. Dust particles and other microscopic materials can show up on photographs and distract viewers. You can minimize that risk by giving the rooms in your home a good scrub-down beforehand. Then, right before the photographs are taken, walk through the rooms to put away any clutter.

Show Your Home

The showing is the most crucial step on the road to selling your home. After all, it’s how prospective buyers get a feel for the property and have a chance to envision themselves living there.

As a seller, the best thing you can do to ensure a positive showing is be flexible. Buyers may want to see your home on your day off or a hectic weeknight, and it’s important to accommodate their requests whenever possible. Remember that every showing has the potential to lead to an offer.

Boosting curb appeal is one of the easiest ways to entice buyers to see your home. Image Via: Sundeleaf Painting

Negotiating an Offer

Look Over the Agreement of Sale

If a buyer is interested in purchasing your home, he or she will submit an offer through a legally binding document known as an Agreement of Sale. In it, the buyer and seller will negotiate various facets of the transaction, including sale price, settlement date, the type of financing the buyer will use, time frames for performing inspections and clearing title, and the allotment of closing costs.

Successfully negotiating an offer requires compromise on both sides. As you read through an offer, make sure it meets the criteria that are most important to you. Be willing to compromise on lesser details to foster goodwill between you and your buyers. If an offer doesn’t feel like a good match, you’re well within your rights to refuse it and wait for a better one to come along.

It’s important to note that once the Agreement of Sale has been signed by both parties, they must adhere to the terms outlined within the document. If the buyer misses a deadline, the seller can walk away from the sale and withhold the buyer’s deposit money. Conversely, if the seller is found falsifying information or fails to complete an agreed-upon improvement, the buyer can terminate the sale and take legal action.

Hire Professionals to Make Repairs

An inspection of your home is elected and paid by the buyer to get an unbiased opinion of the repairs that need to be made to the property. When the report is completed, both parties will negotiate who will pay for what, as well as whether it should be done before the settlement or factored into the closing costs.

When the work falls on the seller’s shoulders, it can be tempting to get a handy friend to do the job under the table for you — but do not fall into this trap. You’ll need to present written proof at the settlement table that the repairs were made. Hire professionals and always keep multiple copies of any work invoices and receipts.

Get the Appraiser’s Valuation

If your buyer is receiving financing to buy the property, the bank will likely acquire an appraisal. During this process, a third-party appraiser will be sent to your home to verify its value. Like your real estate agent did in the initial CMA, the appraiser will take into account your home’s condition and upgrades as well as recent sales in your area to determine your home’s market value.

In an ideal world, that figure will match your sale price — another reason to offer a fair price from the start. If there is a discrepancy between the sale price and the appraised value of the property, your agent and the buyer’s agent can appeal the decision by providing their own comparable properties (comps). However, there is a possibility that you may have to renegotiate the sale price based on the appraised value.

Clear the Title

The title report is a document that outlines any restrictions that will interfere with your ability to pass the deed for your home to the buyer. These restrictions could include:

  • Legal boundaries on the property
  • Unpaid property taxes
  • Mortgages or liens against the property
  • Easements
  • Association documents on condos or other HOA communities
  • Historic oversights, restrictions or planning requirements

Though satisfying most of these requirements is as simple as providing the buyer with written documentation, it is the seller’s responsibility to clear the title report before settlement. You will work with the title company and your real estate agent to determine what needs to be done to provide a clear deed for your property.

Prepare for Settlement

Once the inspection and appraisal are done and the title is clear, the seller has only one job left before the settlement: prepare to move. On the day of closing, the seller must be completely moved out of the home, except for any items that both parties agreed to have left behind in the Agreement of Sale.

Selling your home can seem overwhelming, but it can be easier if you are knowledgeable about the process. Use this home seller guide as a resource for what to expect when you decide to put your home on the market. We hope that we’ve made the process as simple as possible.

Are you thinking about selling your property? What questions do you have about putting your home on the market? Let us know in the comments below.

Creative Wall Art Ideas to Breathe New Life Into Your Home

Looking for new ways to freshen up your space? These wall art ideas offer the biggest impact in a room. When designing a home’s interiors, many people focus on furniture, accessories and rugs. But the walls are often the largest piece of real estate in a room. Give your place personality by getting creative with your wall art.

The latest trends in wall art involve large, powerful pieces, but they don’t have to be unwieldy. A collection of smaller pieces arranged in triptych fashion or as a gallery wall can create the same effect as a large piece.

You don’t have to spend a fortune on art for your walls. Make creative use of found objects to create a one-of-a-kind piece of wall art for any room; paint the wall a bold color to make your art pop.

Here are some wall art ideas for any room.

Gallery Wall Art

Hang a grouping of your favorite pieces and objects on a bare wall for the ultimate in wall chic. Gallery walls are a high-design, personalized way to give your walls new life. Not sure how? Check out our post on the art of hanging a gallery wall; it has lots of ideas that go beyond framed photos.

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Dimensional Wall Art

Try using different materials and elements as wall-mounted sculptures to add some shine and elegance. The latest on-trend tones to update your room’s decor involve a combination of silver and gold. Try hanging metal wall sculptures in unexpected ways, such as angled or freeform.

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Bold Wall Art

The hottest look in wall art involves large artwork. Hang an oversized canvas on a main wall to create maximum visual impact. Use large, bold art as a focal point in the room. Tie in other room accents to the colors in the artwork to achieve a pulled-together look.

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Decal Wall Art

A huge variety of wall decals and murals is available; you can also design one yourself, or order a print of some of your personal images or work. If you are renting your place or just want something less permanent, many of the latest decals are removable.

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Lighting Wall Art

Try hanging a neon sign for a contemporary look, or use marquis-style letters to put a word or sentence in lights.

10 Rustic Kitchen Designs That Embody Country Life

You’re standing in your cozy rustic kitchen admiring the warm glow that only aged wood cabinets and a natural fireplace can emit, and the smell of pine trees surrounds your senses. You drop into your favorite plaid-covered chair, resting your stocking feet close to the open flame of the wood-burning stove — just close enough to warm your cold toes. The logs in the fire seem to pop to the tune of the kettle boiling on your huge cooking stove…..

Were you there for just a moment? Escaping the hectic fast-paced city life and dreaming of what a quiet country life would be like.  In this article we are not talking about a country kitchen where toile fabric covers every corner and ceramic roosters perch on your window sills and countertops.

Rather, here you will find images and descriptions of rustic kitchens that feature amazing natural wood elements, old stones that have tumbled through time, rough hewn wood beams, and a few unexpected modern elements that mix surprisingly well with rustic life.  If the rustic-style is not for you, then consider reading our 10 Amazing Modern Kitchen Cabinet Styles.

Let’s take a look at these time-worn treasures to see if we can create this intimate aesthetic in our own home:

1) Dark Wood and Pops of Red

Wide wooden floor planks, wood ceiling beams, time-worn wood cabinets — all of these wonderful wooden elements bring nature inside your rustic country kitchen. If you love wood-based designs then also read Timber Architecture: 10 Benefits of Wood-based Designs.

The knots in the wooden pine wall show where tree branches once grew, the grooves in the ceiling beams show where blistered hands once scraped the wood clean of bark, and the floor boards creek with age under your feet.  In order to achieve the aesthetic of a rustic kitchen, wooden elements are a must.

The intimate kitchen in the image below features plenty of dark wood that seems to radiate warmth. The hint of barn-colored red in the island adds a nice country touch, as well. Mimic this design to achieve your own cozy country kitchen.

dark wood kitchen

2) Elements Of Stone Are Perfect In A Rustic Kitchen

Nature has more to offer other than just wood. Stone can be an amazing feature to add to your rustic kitchen. Whether you add hints of stone in a fireplace hearth, or cover an entire wall with large tumbled river rock — consider adding some element of stone to your kitchen.

If a wooden floor in your kitchen seems like too much , then maybe consider adding a flagstone floor throughout. This would certainly add a nice bit of aggregate to your home— just be sure to add a few area rugs for a warm layered look.

Other rock elements could be used in your kitchen counter tops, such as quartz or granite. Essentially, any natural mineral is a fine choice for a rustic kitchen design.

stonewall wood kitchen

 3) Rustic Mixes With Modern

Maybe an entirely wood-covered kitchen is not your style, but you still crave some small elements of the natural rustic aesthetic.

Take a cue from the modern kitchen featured below. Its main design is that of a contemporary kitchen with clean white cabinets, black walls and shiny stainless steel. Then look around the kitchen a bit more and you begin to notice natural wood floors, wooden stools and an amazing wooden ladder incorporated into an otherwise modern light fixture.

This kitchen design mixes modern with rustic in smart manner, allowing the homeowners to enjoy the best of both (seemingly opposing) design worlds in one cohesive kitchen.

white and grey kitchen

 4) Wood Can Be White, Light And Airy

Dark wood can seem too imposing for some smaller, dimly lit kitchens, so consider adding painted or bleached white wood instead.

The wooden ceiling beams in the kitchen featured below are solid wood, but are bleached with a white stain, allowing the room to seem rustic, yet large and airy, too. The cupboards are made again of solid wood, but a light-colored pine wood that is far from dark or dreary.

Everything still feels rustic and countrified, yet somehow open and modern, as well. This may be a look you could love for your rustic kitchen design.

bleached wood kitchen

 5) Primitive Paint

Time-worn, aged and chipping paint is essential in any rustic kitchen design.  This is not a look for all those Type A personalities that love a perfect, chip-free home (who can blame them). Instead, it’s a relaxed look that says, “My home is your home. Go ahead, put your feet on the coffee table.”

Primitive painted pieces are easy to find at most flea markets, so go on a treasure hunt for the perfectly worn table or cabinet for your relaxed-style kitchen.

If the chipped paint is too much for you to bear, then consider repainting a few pieces, but keep the grooves, dents and dings in order to keep that rustic vibe.

6) Add Accessories To Your Rustic Kitchen

Ask any designer and they will agree that accessories can make or break a design space. Initially, when imagining a farmhouse-style kitchen, one may think of ceramic country roosters pecking on window sills, but this look is becoming outdated.

Instead, surprise the eyes with accessories that are anything but country. Look at the kitchen featured below, it is accessorized with ornate, carved mirrors and stone pineapple statues. What a neat design idea!

If you want to stick with a rustic style, then consider accessorizing your kitchen with navajo rugs, woolen textiles and twig-style furnishings.  Have fun, and don’t be scared to play up your kitchen with fun, quirky decor items.

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How to See Your Home Like an Interior Designer

Interior designers are trained individuals with an envious talent for pulling a room together, often using things you would never imagine. They certainly have a lot to offer and are an excellent resource for those who hire them — but many of us just don’t have the budget.

Here’s a secret: You can learn how to think like an interior designer. Sure, if you watch enough design shows on TV, you’ll start to get an idea. But it takes much more than those attention-capturing highlights.

Here’s how to see your home like an interior designer.

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1. Determine what you want to accomplish.

Anyone who has taken on a design project knows that your original plan can escalate quickly. There are times when that is a blessing, but more often than not, it becomes a pain — not only to those you share the space with, but also to your wallet (and sometimes even your back).

Look at your space as if you were hiring someone else to design it. Do you simply want a new color scheme, or are you looking to start over? Are major renovations of your space within your budget, or do things need to be done quickly with no monetary surprises? Plans can certainly change, but start by answering those questions to save yourself a headache down the redesigning road.

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2. Look at your space with fresh eyes.

We often get so comfortable in our space that we don’t question whether our decor is arranged in the most aesthetic or functional manner. For example, if you are redesigning your kitchen, think about the things you use most often and where they should be placed.

Designers arrange a kitchen layout with the work triangle in mind, making it functional and easy to use. Always consider how you want the space to function and feel, drawing on past experiences to determine what you want — and don’t want.

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3. Consider the feeling and function of the space.

Do you dream of having a cozy living room for friends and family to sit and talk? You need to plan for how many seats that involves. Does your career call for you to host business dinners in your home? Ponder your dining area and its formality.

Think about the comfort level of your space, whether it’a a home office, living room or bedroom. Being thoughtful about your requirements and how your design can best satisfy those needs will pay off as you proceed.

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4. Remember that design is 90 percent inspiration.

While there is no scientific study to prove it, inspiration is the key to successful design. And you are lucky enough to be designing for someone that you know incredibly well — yourself. Spend some time thinking about the mood you want in your space and how to capture it.

Make an inspiration board (physical or electronic) to keep track of your ideas. Does the beach inspire you to think more clearly? Perhaps your office inspiration board features seaglass colors. Are you looking for an escape in your master bathroom? Look to high-end spas for that feeling of relaxed pampering.

unique modern kitchen floors tiles

5. Remember that inspiration can be found anywhere.

Yes, we already talked about inspiration, but it is worth mentioning again. There are so many ways to find what inspires you, including showrooms, design galleries and open houses. But don’t forget those you can peruse in your pajamas — websites such as Freshome and Pinterest offer wonderfully designed spaces that you can view at any time, no appointment (or shoes) needed.

Perhaps you saw a pillow that you adored while shopping. Jot down what you liked about it, take a picture of the color scheme, record how you felt when you looked at it. Don’t buy it until you’re sure that it works in your newly designed space, but document the feeling that you got from it. The little details can inspire an outstanding room.

grey and pink modern living room sofa

6. Keep the scale of the room in mind.

Even though you might love the coziness of an overstuffed sofa, you’ll need to choose a more scale-appropriate piece if you live in a compact urban condo. Likewise, a small piece of art could be lost in a grandiose dining room.

Interior designers know how to select pieces that fit the scale of the room — and when it is acceptable to work outside of the scale. Ultimately, there is no right or wrong; if you like the way a piece feels in your space, then it is the right scale for you.

modern dining room table chairs art

7. Keep the Rule of Three in mind.

Design rules seem to be made to be broken, but this classic is certainly worth mentioning. To think like an interior designer, start thinking in odd numbers. There is more visual interest in three pieces on a mantel than in two pieces on that same mantel. This is called the Rule of Three.

Symmetry is nice, but to make a space energized, consider sacrificing some of your symmetrical comfort and use odd numbers in your arrangements. Five picture frames grouped together is much more engaging than four; three decorative elements displayed together will draw your eye more than two. Even three colors in a design scheme will feel more vibrant than one or two.

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8. Mix it up; everyone loves a complement.

Speaking of things that are more visually interesting: mix up your style. A bedroom full of one style or one color can lead to a boring space. If you have a bold headboard in your bedroom, complement it with softer nightstands. Put a vintage clock in a room with a modern sofa.

As you looked at your inspiration rooms, how many of them were filled with one type of furniture? That style may be great for sales ads, but not for a stimulating space created by an interior designer. Be brave and fight the compulsion to be matchy-matchy. Complements are so much more flattering!

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9. Accessorize.

Your space is almost ready; it’s time to add the finishing touches. The accessorizing step can make a huge impact on the space you have created. Did you find smaller pieces that inspired you at the beginning of this process? Perhaps it is time to add those into your new space.

Accessories let you add personal flair to your space. Be bold and display those items that speak to you.

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10. Take a step back.

Step back from your space and try to look at it as an outsider. Think like an interior designer and ask yourself if you accomplished what you set out to do. Sometimes taking pictures helps in this last step, allowing you to truly see the space from a different perspective.

Is your space functional? Stylish? Reflective of both your personality and your needs? Did you follow the guidelines of interior design, or did you bend those rules and create a space that represents you?

These tips should help you start thinking like an interior designer and give you an artistic advantage on your next project, even without a designer. Who knows — you might get your own TV show someday!