Home Improvement Projects for Spring

The beginning of spring can be the absolute best time to take on home improvement projects. With a rejuvenation of seasonal elements and a personal renewed sense of vigor on your side, many incubating home cleaning projects and upgrades become feasible once again.

Windows: The Eyes to a Home’s Soul

While you may have spent most of your winter sealing up and protecting your windows, the warm promises of spring require that you let down your guards — literally — and open your world back up to the outside. Clean your windows to remove the ravages of a harsh winter, including dirt, dust, and snow particles. If you heat your home using a fireplace, especially with smoky Texas Mesquite wood, wipe away soot buildup. Suitable and inexpensive cleaning solutions can be found right in your kitchen: A mixture of water and white distilled vinegar can leave your windows spotless. A quick, yet thorough cleaning of window panes can help guarantee you have a front-row seat to the new weather and all of the joy that’s born of it.

Dust for Home, Health, and Hearth

Take advantage of one of the gloriously warm pre-spring days in Texas by opening your windows and doors and allowing drafts of air to circulate throughout your Lone Star home. While enjoying the fresh air, jump on the opportunity to dust and vacuum. Remember to start at the highest possible place — this powdery nuisance can even accumulate on ceilings — and work your way down. Dust storms of varying intensity can provide enough of a reason to break out your best dusters, furniture polish, and microfiber cloths. Since North Texas’ allergen load tends to rank very high compared to other cities in the nation, this pre-spring cleaning exercise can be just what you need to help combat unwelcome sneezing, sniffling, and wheezing.

Walk Out on Winter

The tracking in of dirt and mud into a house is something that even the most conscientious of homeowners can’t always avoid. Dallas soil, however, has a particularly notorious reputation for being difficult to clean because of its clay-like properties. Use the period right after winter to scrub down your floors and coax stubborn accumulations out of all the nooks and crannies that it may have settled into throughout the colder months. Consider this ground-floor vantage point the perfect opportunity to check your foundation’s stability: North Texas soils can often expand and contract throughout the year and affect structural integrity, necessitating additional home improvement projects.

The Great Outdoors

Some of the first casualties of winter include tree branches and other unprotected, wild vegetation in yards. To ready your home’s landscape for the upcoming warm weather, prune lifeless tree branches and other cold-rocked vegetation to make room for new blooms and budding greenery. Use raked leaves to create mulch or compost; this can give your yard a facelift just in time for the season of youth and new beginnings.

In your backyard, spruce up your garden to prepare for the coming life-imbuing weather of spring. Consider remodeling or transplanting garden beds and positioning flowers that are meant to bloom during the warmer months. These pruning and transplanting activities give you the opportunity to transform your yard into a new landscape: For example, removing certain branches of trees and tending to annual flowers can influence how they grow when they’re revitalized by the spring sun.

Image Source: Flickr/Nadya Peek

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What You Need to Know About the Latest Housing Numbers

Spring finally broke through at the end of last month, with the first official day of the season arriving on March 20 bringing hope of both warmer weather and a housing market heating up for the spring season.

According to the most recent existing-home sales report from the National Association of Realtors, fewer homes sold this past March than in March 2013. The report also found the price of homes that sold last month was about eight percent higher than it was for homes that sold in March 2013. Throughout the country, the median price of homes that sold in March was $198,500.

The number of homes on the market last month may have played a role in the amount and price of sales. Inventory at the end of March rose almost five percent when compared to March 2013. Even though there were more homes for sale, the report found that those homes sold about seven days faster last month than they did in March 2013. The median time on market for homes sold in March dropped to 55 days, down from 62 in March 2013. In total, more than one in three (37 percent) homes that sold in March were on the market for less than a month.

Of course, all real estate is local, so here is a breakdown of the median price of homes sold in each region of the U.S. during this past March, along with a home currently on the market at or near that price:

  • Northeast: $244,700

o    3 Bedroom, 2.5 Bath home in Hooksett, N.H.(1,720 sq. ft.) – Lot 36 Bell Ave

  • Midwest: $149,600

o   5 Bedroom, 2 Bath home in Wichita, Kan. (2,364 sq. ft.) – 5102 South Custer

  • South: $173,000

o   3 Bedroom, 2.5 Bath home in High Point, N.C. (2,150 sq. ft.) – 3934 Johnson Street

  • West:  $289,300

o   4 Bedroom, 205 Bath home in Graham, Wash. (2,800 sq. ft.) – 20408 95th Ave

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Must Do Tasks to Get Your Home Ready for Spring

If you’re like me, you’ve been scavenging around the internet for small but efficient ways to transition your home from the treacherous Winter we’ve had to a (hopefully) beautiful and pleasant Spring. I am relieved to tell you I found a great article from The Home Depot which rolls out some smart and easy tips and tricks for making the most out of your “Spring Cleaning” efforts. Check them out below. 

1. Check caulking around all doors and windows. Improper caulking allows for moisture to get inside your walls and cause mold. This is also the perfect time to wash/clean all windows and replace torn or damaged screens as necessary. (The Home Depot)

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2. Deep cleaning carpets is a spring-cleaning must. Consider purchasing a steam cleaner for your home – not only will it come in handy during twice-yearly major cleaning sessions, but it will also prove to be a lifesaver if you have pets or children in the home. (The Home Depot)

Carpet Must Do Tasks to Get Your Home Ready for Spring

3. Check for possible damage to the roof.  Look for missing, cracked or broken shingles and make note of any needed repairs. For safety reasons, you may want to consider hiring a qualified professional to take care of any repair work that needs to be done. (The Home Depot)

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4. Check for and repair cracks in driveway/sidewalk. Spring is the best time to seal cracks in the driveway or any other concrete. (The Home Depot) We repaired our driveway last Spring which was perfect timing considering what a wet and salty Winter it was.

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5. Check garden hoses for dry rot and inspect hose faucets for possible freeze damage that may have occurred during the winter months. (The Home Depot) Unless you’ve kept your hose inside the garage or shed over the past few months, giving your hose a check before use will definitely be beneficial.

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Spring is Here. So What Do You Need to Know About Latest Housing Numbers?

The following is a guest post from Jessica Chen.

It’s officially spring and while the temperatures hesitantly begin climbing upward, I can without a doubt say that I’m ready to ditch the bitter cold and snow for sunshine and May flowers. With springtime, also comes a sense of renewal and beginning as we sweep out the old and look forward to the new. It’s no wonder so many people begin looking to buy homes during this time of year. The recently released February existing-home sales report from the National Association of Realtors reflects this trend as we head into spring.

With rising prices and the chilly weather, home sales declined 0.4 percent to an annual rate of 4.60 million in February compared to 4.62 million in January. The severe temperatures and snow contributed to February’s pace of sales – the lowest since July 2012.

On the bright side, total housing inventory at the end of February rose 6.4 percent up from January, and 5.3 percent above what it was just one year ago. With more homes on the market this spring, now is the perfect time to purchase, but homebuyers must act fast – the median time on market for homes in February was 62 days, down from 67 days in January.

Take a look at how home prices across the U.S. compare with one another:

  • Northeast: $237,800
  • Midwest: $140,900
  • South: $163,400
  • West: $279,400

As we bid farewell to the winter doldrums, check out the below home listings to celebrate the start of spring!

  1. Take a blast from the past in this Annapolis, MD colonial on the National Register of Historic Places
  2. Enjoy a stroll through the flower garden at 6 Twin Oaks Court in Spartanburg, SC
  3. Relax with a view of the river at this Mount Pleasant, MI retreat
  4. Start the spring anew at 120 Fox Street in Cary, IL
  5. Get lost in a good book at this Oregon City, OR home’s tucked-away garden oasis

Header image courtesy of Flickr user stella12

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Realtor Mag Agrees, Color is a Must in 2014!

I don’t know about you but I am (figuratively) jumping for joy because Spring is finally upon us! If you are like me, you’ve already begun opening the windows at your house to air out all of winter’s remains. Spring is about rejuvenation so adding small details to your environment like a little bright paint, some new furniture, or fresh flowers is really the best way to waken your spirit.

If you’re looking for an idea on how to renew your space first consider how you can add some color. Even Realtor Mag agrees that in 2014, decor and design is all about eclectic color schemes.”After years of beige and whits grabbing all the attention as a way to appeal to potential buyers, many home owners now opting for more varied colors. Color forecasters agree that gray, especially a warmer hue, is the “it” gal in home design for 2014.” (Realtor Mag)

I understand that having a red or yellow accent wall could be overwhelming for some. If this is the case, as you’ll see referenced in the photos below, implementing small decor pieces like a bright frame or chair is a great start. For more incredible photos and design inspiration visit Coldwell Banker’s Instagram ig badge 16 Realtor Mag Agrees, Color is a Must in 2014! and Pinterest Coldwell Banker  pages.

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Calming purple lawn furniture.

Photo via Pinterest

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Regal violet walls.

Photo via Pinterest

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Various hues of pink to brighten this guest bedroom.

Photo via Pinterest

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A neon yellow staircase.

Photo via Pinterest

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Dandylion yellow furniture and decor.

Photo via Pinterest

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Natural lighting and an orange couch.

Photo via Pinterest

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This pastel blue definitely makes this work space inspiring.

Photo via Pinterest

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An interesting way to spice up ordinary picture frames.

Photo via Pinterest

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Interesting bedside lamps with great pops of color.

Photo via Pinterest

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Vibrant and inviting furniture.

Photo via Pinterest

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A bright and beautiful flower arrangement.

Photo via Pinterest

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The most wonderful tulips to brighten up your spirit.

Photo via Pinterest 

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Deep but rich colors make this bouquet special.

Photo via Pinterest


What color will you be adding this Spring?

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How to Make Your Lawn Look Like a Baseball Outfield

outfield grass How to Make Your Lawn Look Like a Baseball OutfieldThe greatest lawn cutters on the planet earth work at Major League Baseball parks. The outfield grass at these pro stadiums is unbelievable. It glistens in the sun and has those perfect stripes in the grass.

As I watch baseball games from around the majors, with the exception of Colorado and Minnesota where apparently they like to still play April baseball in the snow, these fields look immaculate already and I wondered if there was a way to replicate some of their tactics on my own home’s lawn.

I did a little digging online and found this pretty entertaining and useful video from LawnCareMidwest.com. The video is relatively short and they share a pretty simple tip to enhance your lawn mower so that it can more easily create those great lawn stripes and patterns in your front lawn.

Take a look at the video above and let us know in the comments if you have some of your own tips and tricks to make your lawn look as good as a Major League Baseball outfield.


Image courtesy of Flickr user Paul Schultz

5 Things Husbands Need for Spring Cleaning at Home

Gentlemen, the hour is coming nigh. It will be a crisp, sunny Saturday morning and your wife will turn to you and say, “I think we need to do some spring cleaning today.” Fear will strike your heart. An entire Saturday has just vanished before your eyes and you will soon be scouring every dark corner of your home for dust, dirt and particles unknown.

While Lowes & Home Depot TV commercials like to depict spring as a joyous occasion filled with singing, smiling, and Disney-like majesticness (which evidently isn’t a real word, but it should be), the truth is no one truly enjoys the annual spring cleaning of your home. And most of the time, husbands aren’t prepared for this undertaking either. As I looked at various articles about getting your home ready for spring or spring cleaning or whatever, all the lists were void of what is needed for the husbands of the world to be ready for this laborious task

Well, it’s about time you got prepared. No more getting blindsided by spring cleaning. Let’s get our act together as men and face this challenge head on. Here’s our list of things husbands will need for this year’s spring cleaning bonanza:

1. A Full Tank of Gas

Friday night you better have your car filled up and ready to go because on any given Saturday you might be asked to make 14 runs to your local hardware store for supplies, tools, and things that you did not even know existed. 13 of these trips will be unintentional because you thought you could get everything in 1 trip, but you know that’s never the case. Fill up with gas so you’re ready for wherever your spring cleaning travels may take you.

2. A Paid App for Entertainment

Sure you’ve been holding out on spending $5 on that one app or the $20 monthly subscription fee for that sports or music app because you’re trying to be frugal. Spring cleaning is not a time for sensibility. It’s a time for survival. Fork over the $20 for the MLB At Bat app or a subscription to Spotify so you’ll have a new form of entertainment to keep you occupied while you labor away at home. Pop in some earbuds and you’ll soon find that the hours spent sweating in the garage are passing sooner than you expected. Anyone who tells you cleaning a home with your significant other is a time to bond and talk is either delusional or has an unbelievably unique relationship. Ditch the free app. Treat yourself to a paid app.

3. A Shop Vac

If you already have one, you know how useful this. If you don’t, you desperately need one. A shop vac can help make your home’s spring cleaning efforts that much simpler. Whether it’s clearing out the basement or cleaning up the garage, a shop vac is the one piece of machinery that can make it all go smoother. Why? Because it can suck up anything. Leaves, dirt, small rodents, you name it and a good shop vac will take care of it.

4. OpenTable App

What on earth does this have to do with spring cleaning? This my fellow men is the key to a successful spring cleaning day at home. Let’s say you get the dreaded statement that today is the day for a full on cleaning of the house. You can simply say, “Oh really? I was going to surprise you and take you to dinner tonight.” Do you see what you’ve done there? You’ve just set an end time for your spring cleaning schedule. Your loved one won’t want to miss out on a surprise date, and if you mess up anything during spring cleaning this dinner out can act as a make good for your mishaps. Get the OpenTable app on your smartphone so you can secretly make those reservations whenever you get the chance. Now if you have children, that’s opens up a whole new world of problems because you’ll have to deal with babysitters or ruin the romanticism in the offer by bringing them with you. It’s a dangerous game, but you’ll score serious brownie points if you can make it work.

5. Better Hearing

There is a Proverb that states “incline your ear to my sayings” and no statement better exemplifies this next point. No app or tool can help with this, but when spring cleaning arrives at your home you better have your ears cleaned out. You will be told 25 different things you need to do in the span of about 45 seconds. If you forget one of those things, you’re going to be in trouble. If you try and pretend like your forgot one of those things because you really didn’t feel like doing it, you’re going to be in trouble. If you honestly didn’t hear one of those requests because your mind wandered to the NFL Draft status of your favorite, you’re still going to be in trouble. Bring your listening ears home with you at spring cleaning time. If you can somehow listen and accomplish everything being asked of you that weekend, you will earn ultimate man status and truly be the master of your domain.

Good luck this spring gentlemen. Whether it be the garage, the attic or the landscaping in the front of your home, I wish you the best of luck and may your trips to Home Depot be limited.


Image courtesy of Flickr user Chiot’s Run

How is the Real Estate Market?

I like to joke that I started my career in real estate as a 12-year-old when my dad hired me to do odd jobs at his Huskey Realty in Orlando. While mowing the lawn and taking out the trash clearly isn’t “real” real estate, I got a chance to learn about the business from my dad and his agents at a very early age. The lessons learned in those formative years about customer relationships and the role of the Realtor as a trusted advisor remain with me to this day.

And no matter what role I’ve held during my 30 year career, there is a question that I’m asked (as is everyone else in real estate) …. “How is the market?” A fair question, but the answer can be much more complex. We were taught by the trainers of the past to utter descriptions like “fantastic” or “super,” though such simplistic sound bites hardly instill credibility in the wake of a volatile housing cycle.

In reality, there is no single answer to the question of when a person should take action. For example, are you a buyer or seller? If the latter, how much equity do you have in your home and is there a lifestyle reason to move? Are you hoping to buy a fixer-upper, entry level or luxury home? What neighborhood are you most interested in? Is this a principal residence or an investment property. If both, are you moving up or down. I could go on and on.

But I thought it appropriate to put some perspective on the rebounding housing market, a least with a national overview.

The National Association of Realtors reports the number of homes sold has increased by 10.2% over last year with median prices rising by 11.6%. Those are large percentage gains, but it’s the consistency of the market rebound that is most important. There have been price gains each of the last 12 months while the days-on-market (the average time it takes to sell a home) has been reduced by 24% over last year to just 74 days. Amazingly, a third of all homes sell within their first month on the market.

Home sellers are clearly recouping some of the financial losses, whether real or on paper, they incurred in their homes during the recession, while buyers are returning in strong fashion after years of not having confidence in the economy and/or their own personal job status.

Essentially, so many of us “put our lives on hold” as we waited out the recession and its implications. Today, as confidence grows, more and more are willing and able to re-enter the housing market. Yet many of these potential buyers are witnessing a shortage of available homes. The number of homes on the market has declined by 19.2% over last year and is now just 4.7 months (1.94 million), which has caused a major uptick in multiple bids and lack of buyer choices.

In my view, this is occurring because of a “lag effect”. It takes a while for buyers and sellers to jointly recognize changes in market conditions. I remember when the recession began and I looked at the numbers in Florida where I worked at the time. While the number of homes sold began to slide in 2005, it wasn’t until 2007 that prices trimmed and began to dip. Now that we’re on the opposite side of the housing cycle, the reverse is occurring. It will take a while for sellers to truly recognize the positive shift in the market and realize their home is likely worth significantly more than they might have thought. Once they do, we will likely see more homes come on the market and price gains to more sustainable single-digit increases.

For this to occur, sellers need to understand local market conditions and realize that some of their equity in their home has returned (or they are no longer “under water” in their mortgage). In February alone, the amount of listed homes nationally grew by 200,000. It appears the Spring buying season has started early this year.

And with increased focus on housing, it is no wonder the “how is the market” question is being heard more and more by Coldwell Banker agents around the U.S. I urge you to take some time and talk to these agents and gain a sense of your neighborhood and town conditions. You might be surprised at what you learn, and just how quickly the dynamics have changed.

Slideshow: Homes from the World Baseball Classic Finalists

Despite another winter storm hitting the northeast last night, spring officially starts tomorrow and baseball is surprisingly already heating up. At the start of March, 16 teams from Europe, Asia, the Caribbean and North and South America began a quest for baseball supremacy in the third installment of the World Baseball Classic.

The dust has settled and Puerto Rico and the star studded squad from the Dominican Republic play tonight for the title and ultimate bragging rights. We’re excited to watch tonight’s game but It’ll be hard to feel bad for the team that loses, because we know from experience that players from both squads will go back home to pristine beaches, year round perfect weather and absolutely fantastic homes.

Here’s a look at some of our favorite homes from Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic on coldwellbanker.com.

1. A Piece of the Caribbean Sea in Humacao, Puerto Rico – $1,799,000

You’d probably never want to leave home again if you owned this property located in one of the country’s most sought after private resort communities. The home offers panoramic views of the Caribbean Sea, infinity pool with Jacuzzi, walking access to a private white sand beach below and over 6,200 square feet of interior living space. Sprinkle in world class amenities like 2 golf courses, an equestrian center, 18 restaurants, 20 tennis courts, scuba diving and much much more, and you’ve got tropical living at its finest. Listed by Katherine Figueroa with Coldwell Banker KF Real Estate.

2. Country Living Close to the City in Guanica, Puerto Rico – $1,100,000

Just a short two hour drive from Puerto Rico’s largest and most famous city San Juan, this home nestled in the country hills offers a quieter lifestyle but big city and beach action are mere minutes away. This custom built 1 story home has a luxury pool, sits on 1.3 acres, has 5 bedrooms with 3 full baths, and offers all the luxury amenities you’d want while retaining old Puerto Rican traditional charm. The town of Guanica is also home to a small speck of land a few miles off the coast called “Gilligan’s Island” that happens to be one of my favorite places in the world.  Listed by Katherine Figueroa with Coldwell Banker KF Real Estate.

3. A Spanish Condo in the Heart of Old San Juan – $200,000

The influence of Spain’s 400 year “ownership” of the island of Puerto Rico are most evident when walking the streets of Old San Juan, the tourist hot spot of the country. This extremely affordable condo is located in the heart of the oldest settlement in the country, mere blocks to the Atlantic Ocean and old Spanish Colonial forts. The home features that quintessential old Spanish architecture with an interior courtyard and large wooden bay windows to let the warm tropical breeze in.  Listed by Katherine Figueroa with Coldwell Banker KF Real Estate.

4. A Stunning Oceanfront Villa in Cabrera, Dominican Republic – $4,500,000

This luxurious oceanfront villa is something out of a movie. This truly unique and private villa located on the unspoiled northern coast of the Dominican Republic offers 15,000 square feet of living space and 8 bedrooms that have their own full en suite bathrooms. The luxury home has hand-painted detailing throughout and is highlighted by its massive 80,000 gallon / 3,600 square foot pool that might almost make you forget the ocean is mere steps away. Listed by Jacques Noirhomme with Coldwell Banker Amber Coast Realty.

5. An Architectural Marvel in Loma Bonita, Dominican Republic – $3,800,000

You can certainly tell that this sumptuous Villa is the home of an architect. The 4 level home offers unspoiled views of the sea and mountains along with an outdoor entertaining space that could make you forget you lived in doors. Not to be topped, the interior offers a dance room, massage parlor, multiple terraces and sports hall. With 7 bedrooms and 7 bathrooms, this trophy property is one of the country’s most luxurious and finely appointed homes. Listed by Alexandre Houisse with Coldwell Banker Coast to Coast Real Estate

6. A Taste of Hollywood in Sosua,Dominican Republic – $2,500,000

This art deco inspired tropical masterpiece echoes the glamour of Hollywood in its most opulent era. The 7,200 square foot home is located in an exclusive gated resort community which offers horseback riding, a tennis club and private beach access. The home was decorated and furnished with contemporary pieces that radiate a real modern but relaxed tropical ambiance  As fantastic as the interior of the home is, I’d spend most my time in the circular infinity edge pool and shaded island gazebo; soaking in the sun and ocean breezes. Listed by Coldwell Banker Amber Coast Realty.


Real Estate Headlines for the First Week of March

It’s month number three of 2013. It’s one of my favorite months. You’ve got spring break, spring training, march madness and Cadbury eggs are now available in your local supermarket. So as we hope for an early spring, here is your weekly dose of real estate headlines.

Alicia Keys has sold her glassy penthouse in New York City.

An interesting new company, WikiHouse, looks to democratize design for inexpensive and easily built homes. (video above)

CNBC reports home buyers are back, but where are the houses?

Kanye West when not busy harassing Taylor Swift, apparently is putting his Hollywood Hills home back on the market with a price cut.

Here are 10 areas that have had zero foreclosures in the last year.

Will robots change real estate? Inman News thinks so.

Bloomberg has some strategies to prepare for the spring housing market.

And finally, are you selling your home? Time warns you to choose your words carefully.