Sep 6, 2016

Keep your home organized for under $50

Garage Organization Ideas for Under $50

If clutter trumps cars in your garage, get organized (and make room for your vehicles) with these smart, budget-friendly garage storage solutions.
If you've got a garage, most likely you've got waaayyyy more than cars in there. It's the catch-all place to keep stuff (mostly) out of sight and out of mind.
Put order to the chaos and protect your car's paint job with simple storage systems and organizing hacks for everything from sports equipment to tools.

Bikes, Skates, and Other Wheels

Hoist bicycles to the rafters with a rope-and-pulley system (starting around $40) that makes it easy to raise the bike and lock safely in place. When you’re ready to ride, release the lock and lower your bike to the garage floor. You’ll need an hour or two and basic tools to secure the pair of pulleys to ceiling joists and thread the ropes. (Similar hoists are available for kayaks or small boats; starting around $25.)
Use a specially designed wall rack to hang helmets and skateboards together;starting around $20. Secure this one to wall joists in less than an hour.
Keep scooters and bikes out of the way with tool hooks installed on a length of 1-by-6-inch lumber. You’ll pay $3 for each pair of vinyl-coated screw-in tool hooks and $1 per foot for lumber. You’ll need only an hour or two to secure the lumber to wall joists and screw the hooks into place along the board.

Sporting Goods

Bring together balls and bats on a convenient wire rack equipped with hangers that hold gloves too; starting around $35.
Stash two pairs of snow skis, poles, and boots in one handy steel ski rack; $45. Securing this rack to wall studs helps it hold the weight of the equipment. If you can’t position it on studs, use wall anchors for a secure installation. You can do the task with or without anchors in an hour or two.
Stow your fishing rods by suspending two wire shelves from your garage ceilingabout 5 feet apart, then threading the rods through the openings. Use shelves left over from a project or purchase a 4-foot-by-16-inch vinyl-coated wire shelf for less than $9, and saw it in half crosswise (or clip with bolt cutters) to make two 2-foot shelves. Snip additional wires where you need wider slots to accept pole handles or reels.

Tools

Hang wrenches and bungee cords using an ordinary vinyl-coated wire tie-and-belt rack, available at big box stores; $8.
Hang metal tools on a magnetized rail, keeping items in view and easy to retrieve; starting around $30. Simply screw the rail to wall studs to safely hold the weight of the tools (it’s an idea you may be drawn to.)
Cushion and protect tools by padding your toolbox drawers with a soft, non-slip liner. The open-weave design keeps moisture away and prevents tools from rolling around. Enough material to line eight average-size drawers is $15. Just cut the liner to length to fit and slip it into the drawer.
Organize small items -- such as pencils, box cutters, and tape measures -- by stashing them in electrical junction boxes; about $2 each (free if you have spares). Purchase a variety of sizes and shapes and secure them to studs or pegboard.

Yard and Garden Gear

Transform an old filing cabinet into storage bins for various yard tools. Remove the drawers, turn it on its backside, and use a couple afternoons to apply paint and pegboard sides. Less than $25.
Mount heavy tools, long-handled implements, and ladders on long steel rails with extruded holes high on the garage wall and secured to studs. Add hooks and pegs on the rail to hang big tools. Two 48-inch rails sell for $22.
Secure a wooden pallet to wall studs to create a pocket for holding long-handled garden tools. To find free wooden pallets, check with local businesses as well as online classifieds, such as Craigslist. Cost: Free.
Use a can rack to keep bottles of fertilizers, repellants, and lubricants upright and easy to retrieve. Rack ($15) prevents cans and bottles from tumbling off shelves.

Sep 2, 2016

Home Upgrades that don't payoff!

Home Upgrades with the Lowest ROI

File these six upgrades under wish fulfillment, not value investment.
Life is a balancing act, and upgrading your home is no different. Some upgrades, like akitchen remodel or an additional bathroom, typically add value to your home. Others, like putting in a pool, provide little dollar return on your investment.
Of course, homeowning isn’t just about building wealth; it’s also about living well and making memories -- even if that means outclassing your neighborhood or turning off future buyers. So if any of these six upgrades is something you can’t be dissuaded from, enjoy! We won’t judge. But go in with your eyes wide open. Here’s why: 

1. Outdoor Kitchen

The fantasy: You’re the man -- grilling steaks, blending margaritas, and washing highball glasses without ever leaving your pimped-out patio kitchen.
The reality: For what it costs -- on average $12,000 to $15,000 -- are you really gonna use it? Despite our penchant for eating alfresco, families spend most leisure time in front of some screen and almost no leisure time outdoors, no matter how much they spend on amenities, according to UCLA’s "Life At Home" study. And the National Association of Home Builders' 2013 "What Home Buyers Really Want" report says 35% of mid-range buyers don’t want an outdoor kitchen.
The bottom-line: Instead, buy a tricked out gas grill, which will do just fine when you need to char something. If you’re dying for an outdoor upgrade, install exterior lighting -- only 1% of buyers don’t want that.

2. In-Ground Swimming Pool

The fantasy: Floating aimlessly, sipping umbrella drinks, staying cool in the dog days of summer.
The reality: Pools are money pits that you’ll spend $17,000 to $45,000+ to install (concrete), and thousands more to insure, secure, and maintain. Plus, you won’t use them as much as you think, and when you’re ready to sell, buyers will call your pool a maintenance pain.
The bottom-line: If your idea of making it includes a backyard swimming pool, go for it. But, get real about:
  • How many days per year you’ll actually swim.
  • How much your energy bills will climb to heat the water ($760 to $1,845 depending on location and temperature).
  • What you’ll pay to clean and chemically treat the pool ($20 to $100 per month in-season if you do it yourself; $75 to $165 per month for a pool service).
  • The fact that you'll likely need to invest in a pool fence. In fact, some insurance carriers require it.
3. In-Ground Spa
The fantasy: Soothing aching muscles and sipping chardonnay with friends while being surrounded by warm water and bubbles.
The reality: In-ground spas are nearly as expensive ($15,000 to $20,000) as pools and cost about $1 a day for electricity and chemicals. You’ll have to buy a cover ($50 to $400) to keep children, pets, and leaves out. And, like in-ground pools, in-ground spas’ ROI depends solely on how much the next homeowner wants one.
The bottom-line: Unless you have a chronic condition that requires hydrotherapy, you probably won’t use your spa as much as you imagine. A portable hot tub will give you the same benefits for as little as $1,000 to $2,500, and you can take it with you when you move.

4. Elevator

Your fantasy: No more climbing stairs for you or for your parents when they move in.
The reality: Elevators top the list of features buyers don’t want in the NAHB “What Buyers Really Want” report. They cost upwards of $25,000 to install, which requires sawing through floors, laying concrete, and crafting high-precision framing. And, at sales time, elevators can turn off some families, especially those with little kids who love to push buttons.
The bottom-line: If you truly need help climbing stairs, you can install a chair lift on a rail system ($1,000 to $5,000). Best feature: It can be removed.

5. Backup Power Generator

Your fantasy: The power in your area goes kaput, but not for you. You were smart enough to install a backup power generator. While the neighbors eat cold hot dogs by a flashlight beam, you’re poaching salmon in your oven and pumping out Red Hot Chili Peppers tunes.
The reality: Power outages may seem to go on forever, but they don’t. Fifty dollars worth of batteries can power portable lights, radios, and TVs; a car adaptor will charge your cell phones and iPods; and some dry ice will keep freezer food cold for at least a couple of days.
The bottom-line: If you live in areas where power shortages are the rule, not the exception, spend the money for reliable backup power: Your still-frozen steaks, home office fax, and refrigerated medicine will thank you. But if the power goes out rarely, then installing a standby generator is overkill.

6. New Windows

The fantasy: Brand new windows that don’t stick, and slash energy bills.
The reality: A $15,000 vinyl window replacement project will return about 80% of your investment at resale, according to the "2015 Remodeling Impact Report" from the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®. And if they’re Energy Star-qualified, they can save you around $300 in energy bills per year.  So, plan to live in your house about another 10 years to recoup the cost of new windows.
The bottom-line: We get it -- new windows are sturdy, pretty energy savers. But unless old window frames are thoroughly rotten, most windows can be repaired for a fraction of replacement costs. And if you spend about $1,000 to update insulation, caulking, and weather-stripping, you’ll save 10% to 20% on your energy bill.

How to Pick Paint Colors

How to Pick Paint Colors

Paint has remodeling power when you use it to emphasize a room’s best features or play down the flaws.
Every home suffers a few negatives, but not every solution requires pricey structural changes. Paint is an often-overlooked, low-cost remodeler’s remedy for common complaints with interiors, offering the chameleon-like ability to lighten, warm, enlarge, erase, or attract attention.
“Paint is a powerful tool that can enhance the architectural character and intent of space,” says Minneapolis architect Petra Schwartze of TEA2 Architects. “As you choose your paint, think about what the experience in the room should be.”
More Schwartze advice:
  • Always sample paint colors on a few walls. Don’t be shy about painting a few large swaths on walls and trim to consider the effect of natural and artificial lighting. Add samples to opposite sides of a room to judge the paint color from different angles.
  • Check the space with the samples in place and watch how the paint color changes at different times of the day.
  • Evaluate your reaction to the proposed colors: Does the space feel cozy or is the openness enhanced?

How to Enlarge Space with Color

Painting walls white, cream, pastels, or cool colors (tinged with blue or green) creates the illusion of more space by reflecting light. Paint trim similar to walls (or use white on trim) to ensure a seamless appearance that visually expands space. 
In addition, using white or light colors on walls lifts the ceiling; darker shades can have a similar effect if you select a high-gloss paint sheen, which reflects light and enhances space.

Use a monochromatic scheme to amplify the dimensions of a room. Select furnishings in one color and paint walls and trim to match. Lack of contrast makes a room seem more spacious.

Make walls appear taller by extending wall color onto the ceiling. Create a 6- to 12-inch-wide border of wall color on the entire ceiling perimeter, or wherever walls meet the ceiling.
   
Vertical and horizontal stripes of alternating color can make a room grand. Although vertical stripes enhance room height by drawing the eye upward, horizontal stripes lure your gaze around the perimeter, making walls seem further away. Use similar light colors for low-contrast stripes, and your room will look even larger.

Creating Intimacy

When a space feels cavernous, draw walls inward and make it cozy with warm colors (red-tinged) because darker hues absorb light. Similarly, a dark or warm color overhead (in a flat finish) helps make rooms with high or vaulted ceilings less voluminous.

Give Peace a Chance

The right paint choice can lend tranquility to a bathroom, master suite, or other quiet, personal space. A palette of soft, understated color or muted tones help you instill a calming atmosphere. Some good choices include pale lavenders, light grays or greens, and wispy blues.

Define Your Room Assets

Call out notable features in a room with paint. Dress crown moldings and other trims in white to make them pop against walls with color. Make a fireplace or other feature a focal point by painting it a color that contrasts with walls.

“Using a higher sheen of paint on woodwork, such as baseboards and door or window casings,” says Schwartze, “creates a crisp edge and clear transition from the wall to the trim.”

Hide Flaws

Not everything should stand out in a space. Using a low-contrast palette is a good way to hide unappealing elements or flaws. Conduit, radiators, and other components painted the same color as the wall will seem to disappear.
   
Selecting low-sheen or flat paint colors also helps hide flaws. Unless walls are smooth, avoid using high-gloss paint because it reflects light and calls attention to an uneven surface.

What’s the Cost?

As a DIY job, painting a 12-foot-by-12-foot space costs about $150, including paint, primer, brushes, drop cloths, and other painting tools and supplies. A professionally painted room using high-quality, brand-name paint costs $200 to $400.

8 Tips for Adding Curb Appeal and Value to Your Home

8 Tips for Adding Curb Appeal and Value to Your Home

By: Pat Curry
Here are eight ways to help your home put its best face forward.
Homes with high curb appeal command higher prices and take less time to sell. We’re not talking about replacing vinyl siding with redwood siding; we’re talking about maintenance and beautifying tasks you’d like to live with anyway.
The way your house looks from the street -- attractively landscaped and well-maintained -- can add thousands to its value and cut the time it takes to sell. But which projects pump upcurb appeal most? Some spit and polish goes a long way, and so does a dose of color.

Tip #1: Wash Your House’s Face
Before you scrape any paint or plant more azaleas, wash the dirt, mildew, and general grunge off the outside of your house. REALTORS® say washing a house can add $10,000 to $15,000 to the sale prices of some houses. 
A bucket of soapy water and a long-handled, soft-bristled brush can remove the dust and dirt that have splashed onto your wood, vinyl, metal, stucco, brick, and fiber cement siding. Power washers (rental: $75 per day) can reveal the true color of your flagstone walkways.

Wash your windows inside and out, swipe cobwebs from eaves, and hose down downspouts. Don’t forget your garage door, which was once bright white. If you can’t spray off the dirt, scrub it off with a solution of 1/2 cup trisodium phosphate -- TSP, available at grocery stores, hardware stores, and home improvement centers -- dissolved in 1 gallon of water.

You and a friend can make your house sparkle in a few weekends. A professional cleaning crew will cost hundreds -- depending on the size of the house and number of windows -- but will finish in a couple of days.

Tip #2: Freshen the Paint Job

The most commonly offered curb appeal advice from real estate pros and appraisers is to give the exterior of your home a good paint job. Buyers will instantly notice it, and appraisers will value it. Of course, painting is an expensive and time-consuming facelift. To paint a 3,000-square-foot home, figure on spending $375 to $600 on paint; $1,500 to $3,000 on labor.
Your best bet is to match the paint you already have: Scrape off a little and ask your local paint store to match it. Resist the urge to make a statement with color. An appraiser will mark down the value of a house that’s painted a wildly different color from its competition.

Tip #3: Regard the Roof

The condition of your roof is one of the first things buyers notice and appraisers assess. Missing, curled, or faded shingles add nothing to the look or value of your house. If your neighbors have maintained or replaced their roofs, yours will look especially shabby.
You can pay for roof repairs now, or pay for them later in a lower appraisal; appraisers will mark down the value by the cost of the repair. According to the "2015 Remodeling Impact Report" from the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®, the national median cost of a new asphalt shingle roof is about $7,600.
Some tired roofs look a lot better after you remove 25 years of dirt, moss, lichens, and algae. Don’t try cleaning your roof yourself: call a professional with the right tools and technique to clean it without damaging it. A 2,000-square-foot roof will take a day and $400 to $600 to clean professionally.

Tip #4: Neaten the Yard

A well-manicured lawn, fresh mulch, and pruned shrubs boost the curb appeal of any home.
Replace overgrown bushes with leafy plants and colorful annuals. Surround bushes and trees with dark or reddish-brown bark mulch, which gives a rich feel to the yard. Put a crisp edge on garden beds, pull weeds and invasive vines, and plant a few geraniums in pots.

Green up your grass with lawn food and water. Cover bare spots with seeds and sod, get rid of crab grass, and mow regularly.

Tip #5: Add a Color Splash

Even a little color attracts and pleases the eye of would-be buyers.
Plant a tulip border in the fall that will bloom in the spring. Dig a flowerbed by the mailbox and plant some pansies. Place a brightly colored bench or Adirondack chair on the front porch. Get a little daring, and paint the front door red or blue.
These colorful touches won’t add to the value of our house: Appraisers don’t give you extra points for a blue bench. But beautiful colors enhance curb appeal and help your house to sell faster.
Tip #6: Glam Your Mailbox
An upscale mailbox, architectural house numbers, or address plaques can make your house stand out. 
High-style die cast aluminum mailboxes range from $100 to $350. You can pick up a handsome, hand-painted mailbox for about $50. If you don’t buy new, at least give your old mailbox a facelift with paint and new house numbers.

These days, your local home improvement center or hardware stores has an impressive selection of decorative numbers. Architectural address plaques, which you tack to the house or plant in the yard, typically range from $80 to $200. Brass house numbers range from $3 to $11 each, depending on size and style.

Tip #7: Fence Yourself In
A picket fence with a garden gate to frame the yard is an asset. Not only does it add visual punch to your property, appraisers will give extra value to a fence in good condition, although it has more impact in a family-oriented neighborhood than an upscale retirement community. 
Expect to pay $2,000 to $3,500 for a professionally installed gated picket fence 3 feet high and 100 feet long.

If you already have a fence, make sure it’s clean and in good condition. Replace broken gates and tighten loose latches.

Tip #8: Maintenance Is a Must

Nothing looks worse from the curb -- and sets off subconscious alarms -- like hanging gutters, missing bricks from the front steps, or peeling paint. Not only can these deferred maintenance items damage your home, but they can decrease the value of your house by 10%.
Here are some maintenance chores that will dramatically help the look of your house:
  • Refasten sagging gutters.
  • Repoint bricks that have lost their mortar.
  • Reseal cracked asphalt.
  • Straighten shutters.
  • Replace cracked windows.

8 Tips for Finding Your New Home

8 Tips for Finding Your New Home

A solid game plan can help you narrow your homebuying search to find the best home for you.
House hunting is just like any other shopping expedition. If you identify exactly what you want and do some research, you’ll zoom in on the home you want at the best price. These eight tips will guide you through a smart homebuying process.

1.  Know thyself.

Understand the type of home that suits your personality. Do you prefer a new or existing home? A ranch or a multistory home? If you’re leaning toward a fixer-upper, are you truly handy, or will you need to budget for contractors?

2.  Research before you look.

List the features you most want in a home and identify which are necessities and which are extras. Identify three to four neighborhoods you’d like to live in based on commute time, schools, recreation, crime, and price. Then hop onto realtor.com to get a feel for the homes available in your price range in your favorite neighborhoods. Use the results to prioritize your wants and needs so you can add in and weed out properties from the inventory you’d like to view.

3.  Get your finances in order.

Generally, lenders say you can afford a home priced two to three times your gross income. Create a budget so you know how much you’re comfortable spending each month on housing. Don’t wait until you’ve found a home and made an offer to investigate financing.

Gather your financial records and meet with a lender to get a prequalification letter spelling out how much you’re eligible to borrow. The lender won’t necessarily consider the extra fees you’ll pay when you purchase or your plans to begin a family or purchase a new car, so shop in a price range you’re comfortable with. Also, presenting an offer contingent on financing will make your bid less attractive to sellers.

4.  Set a moving timeline.

Do you have blemishes on your credit that will take time to clear up? If you already own, have you sold your current home? If not, you’ll need to factor in the time needed to sell. If you rent, when is your lease up? Do you expect interest rates to jump anytime soon? All these factors will affect your buying, closing, and moving timelines.

5.  Think long term.

Your future plans may dictate the type of home you’ll buy. Are you looking for a starter house with plans to move up in a few years, or do you hope to stay in the home for five to 10 years? With a starter, you may need to adjust your expectations. If you plan to nest, be sure your priority list helps you identify a home you’ll still love years from now.

6.  Work with a REALTOR®.

Ask people you trust for referrals to a real estate professional they trust. Interview agents to determine which have expertise in the neighborhoods and type of homes you’re interested in. Because homebuying triggers many emotions, consider whether an agent’s style meshes with your personality.

Also ask if the agent specializes in buyer representation. Unlike listing agents, whose first duty is to the seller, buyers’ reps work only for you even though they’re typically paid by the seller. Finally, check whether agents are REALTORS®, which means they’re members of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®. NAR has been a champion of homeownership rights for more than a century.

7.  Be realistic.

It’s OK to be picky about the home and neighborhood you want, but don’t be close-minded, unrealistic, or blinded by minor imperfections. If you insist on living in a cul-de-sac, you may miss out on great homes on streets that are just as quiet and secluded.

On the flip side, don’t be so swayed by a “wow” feature that you forget about other issues -- like noise levels -- that can have a big impact on your quality of life. Use your priority list to evaluate each property, remembering there’s no such thing as the perfect home.

8.  Limit the opinions you solicit.

It’s natural to seek reassurance when making a big financial decision. But you know that saying about too many cooks in the kitchen. If you need a second opinion, select one or two people. But remain true to your list of wants and needs so the final decision is based on criteria you’ve identified as important.