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Classic French Ratatouille

by Nicole Trumps

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Classic French recipes such as this ratatouille seem intimidating because they require specific techniques, but that’s what makes a good cook. Perhaps you don’t try this mid-week because it requires a whole lot of chopping, but ratatouille is a great Sunday afternoon recipe listening to great music and maybe even having a glass of wine…or two.

While it’s considered a summer dish found throughout the Mediterranean coast, it’s also great in colder weather because it’s warm and comforting without the heaviness of braised meats or stews.

Plus it’s a one-pot recipe, so if you’re a lazy dishwasher like I am, it makes Sunday evenings so much better!

You can eat ratatouille on its own as a side dish, but it’s so versatile in other dishes. You can add it to pasta, or top it with an egg. It’s also amazing on great French bread. Pair it with a glass of your favorite red wine.

classic ratatouille

INGREDIENTTS

  • 34 oz fresh tomato sauce
  • 20 basil leaves
  • 1 large red pepper, sliced in rings
  • 1 medium red onion, sliced in rings
  • 1 yellow zucchini, sliced in rings
  • 1 green zucchini, sliced in rings
  • 1 eggplant, sliced in rings
  • 1 tomato, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1.5 tablespoons dry oregano
  • salt and pepper

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 350 °F
  2. Spread ¾ of tomato sauce into a pan that will fit all of your vegetables.
  3. Begin to layer vegetables (i.e. tomato, then zucchini, then pepper) in a clockwise rotation beginning in the center and moving outward. Don't worry about the order of the vegetables as you'll have more slices of some things than others.
  4. Fill in any gaps between the vegetables with remaining tomato sauce. Season with salt, pepper, and dry oregano. Drizzle with olive oil.
  5. Bake uncovered for one hour.

Originally posted at: Lafayette Real Estate News

The Obstacle in Our Path

by Nicole Trumps

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In ancient times, a King had a boulder placed on a roadway. He then hid himself and watched to see if anyone would remove the huge rock. Some of the king's wealthiest merchants and courtiers came by and simply walked around it. Many loudly blamed the King for not keeping the roads clear, but none did anything about getting the stone out of the way.

Then a peasant came along carrying a load of vegetables. Upon approaching the boulder, the he laid down his burden and tried to move the stone to the side of the road. After much pushing and straining, he finally succeeded.

obstacle in path

After the peasant picked up his load of vegetables, he noticed a purse lying in the road where the boulder had been. The purse contained many gold coins and a note from the King indicating that the gold was for the person who removed the boulder from the roadway.

The peasant learned what many of us never understand: Every obstacle presents an opportunity to improve!


Originally posted at: Lafayette Real Estate News

The Best Mulch Types

by Nicole Trumps

Why Mulch?

Spreading mulch over your garden soil is the best way to save time and energy in your yard. Mulch helps the soil hold moisture so you don't have to water as often. It also suppresses weeds. And over time, mulches made from organic materials break down and increase your soil's structure and fertility.

shredded barkShredded Bark

Shredded bark is one of the most common and least expensive types of mulch. It comes from a variety of sources, including cedar trees. Shredded bark is one of the best mulch types to use on slopes and it breaks down relatively slowly. Some shredded-bark products are byproducts from other industries; they're considered environmentally friendly. Check the mulch packaging for more information.

Mulch tip: Shredded bark can take up some nitrogen from the soil as it decomposes. If you have poor soil, adding some organic fertilizer to the soil can help keep your plants healthy.

leavesLeaves

Save money by shredding fallen leaves in your yard and using them to as mulch to cover the soil. Fallen leaves break down quickly (often in less than a year), but should be shredded before use to prevent them from matting down. Fallen leaves are commonly used as mulch in winter.

 

grass clippingsGrass Clippings

Another type of mulch you can make for free, grass clippings break down fast but add nitrogen to the soil as they do. It's best to use grass clippings in thin layers or to let the grass dry before spreading it as a mulch -- otherwise it starts to stink and rot as it decomposes.

Here's a hint: Avoid using grass clippings if your lawn is chemically treated, especially if you use it in vegetable gardens. The chemicals may harm your desirable garden plants.

strawStraw

Straw mulch has a beautiful golden color that looks great in the garden. It's also a bit slower to break down than leaves or grass clippings.

Mulch tip: Make sure the straw is free of weed seeds, otherwise it can cause more weeds than it prevents. (Oat straw is often particularly weedy.)

 

compostCompost

Compost looks like soil, except it's darker, so it really sets off plants well. This mulch material breaks down quickly but adds to your soil structure the fastest. Plus, it's inexpensive; you can create your own rich compost for free. Many municipalities give away compost, as well.

 

pine needle mulchPine Needle Mulch

Pine needles add a delicate, fine texture to plantings. They hold in place well, making them useful on slopes, and they're relatively slow to break down. If you continuously use pine needles as mulch, they may increase the acidity of your soil. This makes them ideal for use with acid-loving plants such as azaleas, rhododendrons, blueberries, and some types of conifers.

pine bark nuggetsPine Bark Nuggets

Pine bark nuggets are slower to break down than shredded bark, but they don't stay in place as well. They're not a good mulch choice for slopes or other areas where they may be washed away by heavy rain. Pine bark nuggets are available in a variety of sizes; the bigger the nugget, the longer it lasts.

wood chipsWood Chips

 You can often get wood chips for free from local tree trimmers, though the trimmers will usually ask you to haul the chips yourself. Wood chips, especially when they're freshly made, can take up a fair amount of nitrogen from the soil. They can be acidic and lower your soil's pH, as well.

Mulch tip: If you get wood chips from a local source, check if the tree had poison ivy on it. Working with wood chips that contain poison ivy can cause skin irritation. Also: Wood chips from walnut trees may contain natural chemicals that inhibit the growth of many garden plants.

cocoa hull mulchCocoa Hull Mulch

Cocoa hull mulch is one of the most beautiful types of mulch, thanks to its fine texture and rich color. And many gardeners appreciate its delightful chocolate fragrance. Cocoa hull mulch is one of the most expensive mulch types, though. It decomposes slowly, and unlike most mulch types, it doesn't fade with time. It's a great mulch for small-leafed plants such as herbs where the shells are easy to work around. In areas with hot, humid weather, mold may grow on its surface. Cocoa hull mulch is poisonous to dogs and cats if they eat it.

Here's a hint: Because cocoa hulls are light, they can blow away unless you spray them down well with water after you first spread them.

Gravel or River Rockgravel or river rock

Because they're inorganic materials, gravel and river rock don't break down in the landscape, so they don't need to be reapplied every year. However, it also means they don't improve your soil over time.

Here's a hint: It can be very difficult to remove gravel or river rock mulch if you ever change your mind. They can make it more difficult to plant in or divide perennials.


Originally posted at: Lafayette Real Estate News

Can You Really Afford to Buy a House?

by Nicole Trumps

The scenario: Your landlord keeps hiking up your rent, and you’re tired of reworking your budget to accommodate the other areas of your life — or worse, searching for a new rental. You want to invest in a home for sale, but you’re not sure if now is the right time.

buying a house

There are two likely reasons for your hesitation: time and money. Deciding if you should rent or buy can be determined in part by your commitment to an area — you could have legitimate concerns about job relocation or you may wonder if the space you can afford now will be flexible enough that you won’t grow out of it just a few years down the road. And on an economic level, perhaps you’re not sure you can afford all the costs that a down payment, mortgage, and home maintenance entail.

The first step? Do some homework. Consider these questions to help you decide if the answer to “Can I afford a house?” is yes.

Should you buy before home prices climb higher?

In most parts of the U.S., home prices have been climbing steadily for the past few years. Does this mean you should rush to lock in the current prices before they rise even higher? The best answer: not necessarily. Do what’s right for you. If you’re planning to stay in one spot for a decade or more, short-term fluctuations in the house’s underlying value shouldn’t make a difference. After all, the primary purpose of a home is to provide a place to live, coupled with an opportunity to grow equity over time. Don’t over-analyze the market when deciding to buy a house. If the time is right for you, there’s no reason to wait.

Do you have a 20% down payment?

One of the major factors in determining if the time is right to buy a house: whether you have the finances to purchase one. Many lenders require a 20% down payment before they’ll grant you a mortgage. If you can’t come up with such a hefty down payment, it’s possible to secure a loan, but you’ll probably have to pay private mortgage insurance, or PMI, to make up the difference.

PMI rates vary from lender to lender but generally cost 0.05% to 1% of the total loan amount. At 0.05%, you’ll pay $41.50 per month for every $100,000 worth of loan that you carry. If you’re holding an FHA-insured loan, you pay two different mortgage insurance premiums. The upfront premium is 1.75% of your loan size, and it will be added to your borrowed amount (thus increasing your monthly costs). You’ll also pay a second premium, which is assessed annually and billed monthly. This second fee, often known as monthly mortgage insurance, will cost 1.3% annually if you carry a 30-year mortgage and put down at least 5%.

The bottom line? Not having a 20% down payment on hand can be a very expensive proposition. If you borrow $200,000, for example, and you’re charged 1% PMI, you’ll hand over $166 per month — not an insignificant sum.

Hands holding a piggy bank and a house model. Housing industry mortgage plan and residential tax saving strategy

Can you budget for recurring monthly expenses?

Your mortgage payment is the heftiest of all monthly payments. It comprises four items: principal, interest, taxes, and insurance. (Together, these are known as PITI.) If you have a fixed-rate mortgage, your principal and interest will remain a flat monthly fee, regardless of what’s happening in the overall economy. However, your taxes and insurance may change, so even with a fixed-rate mortgage, your payment could fluctuate. Taxes are set by your county government and are based on its assessment of your property, so this expense is subject to increase at any point — either if your county reassesses your home at a higher value or if your local government decides to boost its tax rates.

Ask yourself: Do you have the space in your budget to accommodate that type of tax increase? If your budget is so tight that this will cause you to miss payments, you’re probably not in a strong enough position (right now) to buy a home. Likewise, you might decide to buy a home in a community that’s governed by a homeowners’ association, or HOA. This HOA can assess mandatory “dues” and put a lien on your house if you don’t pay the bill. And the HOA can decide to raise its dues at any point. Do you have enough wiggle room in your budget to accommodate a fee hike?

Do you have savings for maintenance and repairs?

Your mortgage isn’t the only housing expense you’ll need to meet in your budget. When you move from a rental to a home, you have new responsibilities (and the related costs), such as cleaning the gutters, replacing or repairing the roof, fixing and maintaining the HVAC, refinishing the floors, hiring a plumber, installing a new dishwasher, and repairing a broken garbage disposal.

As a very broad rule of thumb, you should budget 1% of the home’s purchase price annually for repairs and maintenance. For example: If your home is worth $300,000, set aside $3,000 per year, or $250 per month. You probably won’t spend this amount each month. Some months, you’ll spend zero. But another month, you may need to replace every window in your home — and could rack up a $7,500 bill.

How long will you stay in your home?

Buying and selling a home incurs thousands in closing costs — including inspections, title insurance, transfer tax, attorney fees, and real estate commissions. If you’re going to hold on to your home for several years, those costs will spread themselves out over time. But if you might be selling your home after two or three years, those costs (in addition to property taxes, homeowners insurance, mortgage interest, and maintenance) might add up to more than what you would have paid in rent.


Originally posted at: Lafayette Real Estate News

Salmon and Summer Veggies

by Nicole Trumps

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This salmon is packed with flavor, full of nutritious ingredients, it’s easy to make and clean up is a breeze! I love cooking with ingredients that are in season, and we all know this summer everyone will be overflowing with an abundance of zucchini, squash and fresh from the vine tomatoes, so why not make a dish that combines all of those?

This recipe can also easily be made on the grill!

Pair it with a glass of Pinot Noir.

salmon and sumer veggies

INGREDIENTS

  • 4 (5 - 6 oz) skinless salmon fillets
  • 2 small zucchini sliced into half moons
  • 2 small yellow squash sliced into half moons
  • 2 shallots, 1 thinly sliced and 1 chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 1/2 Tbsp olive oil, divided
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 2 large Roma tomatoes, diced
  • 1 Tbsp chopped fresh thyme (or 1 tsp dried)
  • 3/4 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp dried marjoram

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut 4 sheets of aluminum foil into 17-inch lengths.
  2. Toss zucchini, squash, sliced shallot and garlic together with 1 Tbsp olive oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste and divide among 4 sheets of foil, placing veggies in center of foil.
  3. Brush salmon fillets with 1 Tbsp of the olive oil, season bottom side with salt and pepper then place one fillet over each layer of veggies on foil. Drizzle lemon juice over salmon and season top with salt and pepper.
  4. Toss together tomatoes, remaining diced shallot, thyme, oregano and marjoram with remaining 1 1/2 tsp olive oil and season lightly with salt and pepper. Divide tomato mixture over salmon fillets. Wrap sides of foil inward then fold up ends to seal. Place on a rimmed baking sheet and bake in preheated oven until salmon has cooked through, about 25 - 30 minutes (cook time may vary based on thickness of salmon fillets). Carefully open foil packets and serve warm.

Originally posted at: Lafayette Real Estate News

Performing Proper Backups: The 3-2-1 Rule

by Nicole Trumps

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In the IT world, some rules are always changing.  It’s good to remember, however, that some rules are timeless because they still make A LOT of sense! The 3-2-1 backup rule is a great example.

The 3-2-1 backup rule can help you overcome nearly any failure scenario if you follow it. It implies that you should:

3-2-1 backup

Despite the 3-2-1 backup rule’s simplicity, many people continue to ignore it and lose their data because they were unprepared for a disaster. Many lessons were learned after disasters such as 9/11 – some companies from the World Trade Center stored their offsite backups in the SAME OFFICE buildings and lost all of their company data in a few short hours.

Following the 3-2-1 backup rule is easy! Here’s how it works:

1. Have at least 3 copies of your data

By three copies, I mean your original data and two backups. It’s obvious that the more copies of your data you make, the less risk you have of losing everything.

One backup is good, just not good enough. If you have only one additional copy of your data, AT LEAST make sure it’s located in a different physical location from the original (and as far away as possible!).

2. Keep these backups on 2 different media

Having several backups of your data and keeping them in the same place is NOT logical. Why? Because a common failure will affect all devices. 

The 3-2-1 backup rule urges you to keep backups on a wide range of different mediums: tapes, USB drives, CDs, external and internal hard drives, etc. 

3. Store 1 backup offsite

Offsite means as FAR AWAY as possible, in another city, state, country or even continent. Your data is safe then, even if there is a fire or national disaster. Using a cloud service also satisfies this requirement.

back up key

How do you follow the 3-2-1 backup rule?

There are lots of ways! For instance, you can just set up a reminder on your calendar and then copy your data manually according to the 3-2-1 rule. There are also a number of easy-to-use applications which will automatically create your backups and ALSO follow the 3-2-1 backup rule by storing them in specified offsite locations.


Originally posted at: Lafayette Real Estate News

The Elephant Rope

by Nicole Trumps

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As a man was passing the elephants, he suddenly stopped, confused by the fact that these huge creatures were being held by only a small rope tied to their front leg. No chains, no cages. It was obvious that the elephants could, at anytime, break away from their bonds but for some reason, they did not.

He saw a trainer nearby and asked why these animals just stood there and made no attempt to get away. “Well,” trainer said, “when they are very young and much smaller we use the same size rope to tie them and, at that age, it’s enough to hold them. As they grow up, they are conditioned to believe they cannot break away. They believe the rope can still hold them, so they never try to break free.”

the elephant rope

The man was amazed. These animals could at any time break free from their bonds but because they believed they couldn’t, they were stuck right where they were.

Like the elephants, how many of us go through life hanging onto a belief that we cannot do something, simply because we failed at it once before?

Failure is part of learning; we should never give up the struggle in life.


Originally posted at: Lafayette Real Estate News

Preventing Bitter Cucumbers

by Nicole Trumps

It's the rare gardener who hasn't experienced growing a bitter cucumber. Few things are as frustrating as tending your vegetables all season long, only to finally harvest them and  find out they don't taste very good, when you get them to the table. Cucumbers are know for being prolific, sometimes to the extreme. But what good is a bounty of cucumbers if they aren't edible?

Unfortunately you can't tell if a cucumber is becoming bitter, while it is still growing and there's something you can do about it. That's why it is so important to take some preemptive steps to keep them from becoming bitter int he first place.

cucumber plant

Preventing Bitter Cucumbers

Cultivated cucumbers all contain cucurbitacin B and cucurbitacin C, compounds that are supposed to make their leaves less tasty to munching animals. These compounds are usually confined to the leaves, stems and roots of the plants, where humans don't notice them. It's when they move into the fruits that we start detecting a bitter taste.

Usually it is not the whole fruit that turns bitter. More commonly, the bitterness will be concentrated at the stem end and the area right under the skin.

There is still some disagreement about what causes the bitterness to spread into the fruits, but it seems to point to some type of stress while the cucumbers are growing. So although we cannot correct the problem after the fact, we can try and avoid the following 3 growing conditions that are potential culprits of bitter cucumbers.

  1. Dry Conditions: Long periods of hot, dry weather can contribute to bitter cucumbers. There’s not much you can do to control the heat, but keeping your cucumbers well watered will help offset the bitterness. Give them at least an inch of water per week, more during extreme dry spells, and mulch the area around the roots, at planting time.
  2. Lean Soil: Another factor in bitter cucumbers is lean soil and a general lack of nutrients. Cucumbers are heavy feeders and a soil rich in organic matter will go a long way toward producing less stressed, better tasting cucumbers. If your soil is less than ideal, give your cucumbers a little fertilizer every 4-6 weeks.
  3. Lack of Sun: Overcast areas, like the Pacific Northwest, have reported bitter cucumbers due to lack of sun. Again, you can't control the hours the sun will shine, but you can plant in a spot that gets as much sun as nature will allow. If it's cool and damp, as well as overcast, growing your cucumbers under cover, like a poly tunnel, will amplify the available heat and light.

So even though cucumber plants grow rather easily and you can get a prodigious harvest from a couple of plants, to get quality as well as quantity you still need to provide them with good growing conditions: plenty of sunshine, regular watering and rich soil.

Finally, look for varieties that are well suited to your area that are labeled ‛non-bitter'. Some reliable varieties are: ‛Armenian', ‛Diva', ‛Eversweet' (any variety with "sweet" in the name), ‛Improved Long Green' and ‛Lemon'.

As with all plants, edible or otherwise, the real trick to healthy, productive plants is to research what growing conditions the plant prefers and doing your best to provide them. Even a few days of stress can cause a ripple effect of damage. Ornamental plants will probably recover, but you only get one chance to get it right with vegetables and other edible plants. That's why it is so important to put some though into choosing both your growing site and your vegetable varieties. Here are some more tips for growing healthy cucumber plants in your home garden.

What to Do with Bitter Cucumbers

heart cucumbers

If you find yourself with bitter cucumbers, don't automatically reach for the compost bucket. Peeling the fruit should improve the flavor. Then try a slice toward the center of the cucumber and see if it is sweeter. You should be able to salvage more than enough for a salad.

And as soon as you notice a bitter cucumber, take the precautions above to ensure the rest of your harvest doesn't suffer the same fate.


Originally posted at: Lafayette Real Estate News

May: The Best Month to Sell Your Home

by Nicole Trumps

Just as TV shows have a prime time, so does the real estate market. And that time is now.

Spring is busy ticking off the season’s milestones: We’re watching the cherry blossoms, celebrating Mother’s Day, and tossing graduation caps. Another item you may want to add to your list? Putting your home up for sale — specifically in May, when homes often sell faster, and for a bit more than the national average.

But why is May the best time to sell a house? Read on to find out why it’s such a magical month for home sales.

may real estate

1. The timing aligns with the new school year

If they intend to move, families really want to close on a new home before the end of summer. Why? Changing school districts after the school year starts is no picnic for anyone. If you take the month of May to search for a home, you can be closed in July or August, which gives you a little time to settle in before school.

2. Buyers are getting serious

When the spring housing season begins, typically right after Presidents Day in mid-February, many buyers feel as if they have plenty of time to find their perfect home and perfectly time their summer move. So they might bid more aggressively and offer less than asking price. If no sellers bite, though, by the time May rolls around, these same buyers may relent to submitting more competitive offers in the hopes of finally sealing the deal.

Remember, though, that May is typically a seller’s market. When buyers are just starting to look at this point, they are excited and have not experienced the agony of defeat by being outbid once, twice, or three times — at which point deal fatigue sets in. After missing several deals, buyers begin to feel as if they are settling and then begin to think that it would be better to just wait. As we move into late June and early July, in addition to being weary of looking, buyers make house hunting less of a focus for this year and more of one for next year.

3. The weather is beautiful

People normally discuss the weather for two reasons: When there’s a huge weather event or natural disaster, such as a hurricane or tornado, or when they have nothing else to talk about. But there’s actually a third reason: Weather plays an important role for home sellers and their open houses. Lovely weather also means lovely homes. Your home will look its best in the spring as flowers start blooming and the lawn is green.

4. People haven’t left yet for summer vacation

If you’re selling to a clientele that typically “summers” elsewhere (lucky ducks!), you need to catch them while they’re still around. The wealthier buyers are back in the city in May. But if you wait until July to list your home, you’ve lost those buyers to the Hamptons until after Labor Day.

sold

5. Tax refunds are burning a hole in buyers’ pockets

Scraping up money for a down payment and closing costs can be quite a formidable undertaking. After filing your taxes, you have a clearer picture of your financial situation. So when you get that big refund from Uncle Sam (if you’re lucky), you might be in a better financial situation to buy. Or if you owe, you at least have that expense out of the way. And sellers take note: You might want to use your tax refund to make repairs and get the home ready to sell.

6. The mood is just right

Just as Goldilocks had to have everything “just right,” home selling has its sweet spot too. In May, most people are home from the spring break vacations they took in April, schools are still in session, taxes have been paid (or extensions filed!), flowers are in bloom, and everything looks fresh and new. Everyone is in the home-buying mood.


Originally posted at: Lafayette Real Estate News

Staging Your Home for a Quick Sale

by Nicole Trumps

When real estate agents talk about staging your home, they're referring to a method of decorating that is designed to showcase the home's best assets, impress buyers and sell quickly for the highest possible price.

Because not all sellers stage their homes, especially homes in lower price ranges, you'll be at an advantage if you do. Read on to find out how.

Why Home Staging Is Important
Although staging is optional, it really shouldn't be. When you're dealing with such a significant financial transaction, you don't want to be lazy and settle for a lower selling price or a longer marketing period than you have to.

Relative to the amount of time and money involved, staging may be one of the most lucrative projects you ever undertake. Potential buyers aren't just looking for a structure to inhabit – they're looking to fulfill their dreams and improve their lifestyles. Staging helps sell those dreams and creates a more emotional purchase that can generate more money for the seller.

Home staging is also beneficial because potential buyers don't want to see work that needs to be done upon moving into the home. For every problem they see, they'll deduct its cost from their offering price. If they see too many problems, they'll pass altogether.

home staging

Staging How To
While there are plenty of room-specific staging tips, if you're on a limited budget, it's best to focus on big-picture improvements and on the areas that will make the biggest difference in your home's selling price.

These include the exterior and entryway (both heavily impact a buyers' first impressions), the living room, kitchens and bathrooms, the master bedroom and outdoor living space, such as a back patio. The following techniques can and should be employed in as many rooms of the house as you can afford and have time for:

Clean
In the kitchen, potential buyers love to see new appliances that come with the home, but if you can't do that, make the ones you have spotless. No one wants to see splattered spaghetti sauce, films of grease or piles of crumbs in their potential new home. Likewise, make sure your bathroom sparkles, from the corners of the tub to the sink drain to that spot behind the toilet you don't think anyone can see. Your goal should be to make everything look new.

Declutter 
There are two major problems with clutter. One is that it distracts buyers from your home's features. The other is that it makes it seem like the home doesn't have enough storage space. Put away knickknacks. Keep in mind that buyers will be interested in your closet space, so tossing everything into the closet to hide it away may not be the best strategy.

Depersonalize
Buyers need to be able to envision themselves in your home, so remove all the family photos, items with family members' names on them and refrigerator art. Also make sure to put away all the toys and anything else that is highly indicative of the home's current inhabitants.

Remove Odors
Pets, kids, what you ate for dinner last night, a mildew-covered bathroom and many other conditions can make your home smell. You are probably immune to your home's smell, so you'll need to have a friend or neighbor help you out with this one. Inexpensive tricks for ridding a home of odors and giving it an inviting aroma include baking cinnamon-coated apples in the oven, burning vanilla-scented candles, or throwing some slice-and-bake cookies in the oven. It's also a good idea to grind half a lemon in the garbage disposal to remove sink odors. While you could use a spray to deodorize your home, it might give it a cheap, institutional bathroom smell, which is hardly the image you're going for. If you're a smoker and you normally smoke indoors, start limiting your smoking to outside the home and take extra steps to deodorize indoors. Finally, don't forget to take out the trash.

Define Rooms
Make sure each room has a single, defined purpose. Also make sure that every space within every room has a purpose so that buyers will see how to maximize the home's square footage. If you have a finished attic, make it an office. A finished basement can become an entertainment room, and a junk room can be transformed into a guest bedroom. Even if the buyer won't want to use the room for the same purpose, the important thing is for them to see that every inch of the home is usable space. This includes alcoves, window seats, corners, breakfast nooks and so on.

Wallpaper/Paint
It is unlikely that a potential buyer will like your wallpaper. Your best bet is to tear it down and paint the walls instead. Don't even think about painting over the wallpaper – it will look shabby and send red flags for the buyer about all the work he or she will have to do later.

Custom paint colors are the same way. You may love your orange bathroom, but people's tastes in colors are very specific and highly personal. While you might think that white walls would be ideal because they create a blank slate that allows buyers to envision their own décor and gives them an easy starting point, it's actually better to paint your home with warm, neutral colors that appeal to the masses and project the homey image you're trying to sell.

Flooring
No one wants to live with dirty, stained carpet, especially when someone else made it that way. Linoleum is passé and looks cheap. Though pricey, hardwood floors add value and elegance to a home. They are also low-maintenance, provide great long-term value and are perfect for buyers with allergies. In other words, they appeal to almost everyone, and if not, they're easily carpeted over by the buyer and preserved for the next owner.

In kitchens and bathrooms, go with ceramic tile or stone if you can afford it. If not, use high-quality vinyl tiles that mimic their more expensive counterparts. If you can't afford to do that, stick to common areas like the living room, dining room and kitchen. Bathrooms should make the cut too because they have relatively little floor area and therefore won't be too expensive to upgrade.

Lighting
Take advantage of your home's natural light. Open all curtains and blinds when showing your home. Add supplemental lighting where necessary. Outdated or broken light fixtures can be cheaply and easily replaced. If you think your existing fixtures are fine, make sure to dust them, clean off any grime and empty out the dead bugs.

Furniture
Make sure furniture is the right size for the room, and don't clutter a room with too much furniture. Furniture that's too big will make a room look small, while too little or too small furniture can make a space feel cold. Don't use cheap college furniture, either. You don't have to pay a lot of money to switch out your existing furniture and you may even be able to rent it, but the furniture should look nice, new, expensive and inviting. You'll also want to arrange the furniture in a way that makes each room feel spacious yet homey. In the living room, for example, seating should be set up in a way that creates a gathering area around the fireplace.

Walls and Ceilings
Cracks in the walls or ceiling are a red flag to buyers as they may indicate foundation problems. If your home does have foundation problems, you will need to either fix them or alert potential buyers to the problem. That said, a fix would be better in terms of getting the home sold. If the foundation only looks bad, but has been deemed sound by an inspector, repair the cracks so you don't scare off buyers for no good reason.

Exterior
Your home's exterior will be the first impression buyers get and may even determine their interest in viewing the inside. Make sure your lawn, hedges, trees and other plants are well-maintained and neatly pruned and eliminate any weeds. To brighten windows, wash them well, and consider adding flower boxes to brighten them up further. If you can, power wash your home's exterior – it can make it look almost freshly painted but with less effort and expense. Make sure the sidewalk leading up to the house is clear and clean, and purchase new doormats for the front and back doors. If you have a pool, showcase it by making sure it's crystal clear. Creating some sort of outdoor living space in the backyard, such as a deck or patio with outdoor furniture, is another way to use the exterior of your home to its greatest advantage.

Last Touches
Just before any open house or showing, make sure that your staging efforts go the full mile with a few last-minute touches that will make the home seem warm and inviting. These include fresh flowers, letting fresh air into the house for at least ten minutes beforehand so it isn't stuffy, adding a pleasant scent as discussed earlier, and putting new, plush, nicely folded towels in the bathrooms.

Bottom Line
Even if you have plenty of cash, don't put too much money into the staging process. You want to emphasize the home's best features, but keep in mind that what sells the home and what will make the home usable for the buyer are not necessarily the same thing. Overall, to get the most bang for your buck, your home staging efforts should be designed to appeal to the widest possible range of buyers. The more people willing to submit purchase offers for your home, the higher the selling price will be.


Originally posted at: Lafayette Real Estate News

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Contact Information

Elite Team
900 S College Ste 100
Lafayette LA 70503
(337) 456-1464

Keller Williams Realty Acadiana,  Lafayette, LA, 70503, 337-735-9300
Keller Williams Lake Charles 825 Ryan St Ste 100 Lake Charles, LA 70601
Licensed in Louisiana
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