Monthly Archives: June 2014

6 Tips for Watering your Plants While on Vacation

weeper hose

You’ve spent months cultivating your garden and you deserve some time away, but how do you make sure your plants don’t wither while you play?

Here are 6 tips for watering your plants while on vacation:

6. The Weeper Hose – This hose allows a slow drip that penetrates deeper than spot watering. The best part? It’s camouflaged under your mulch!

5. The Plant Nanny – This terra cotta nozzle is the perfect nest for a recycled wine bottle filled with water. The Plant Nanny minds your plants, so you can free your mind!

Plant Nanny for Watering Plants While Away on Vacation

4. The Life Line – An absorbent cord carries water across a tightrope from source to planter.

Ways to water plants while you are on vacation

3. The Water Bottle Barometer – A plain old plastic water bottle and a pair of scissors is all you need to ensure healthy plants before you leave.

2. Use the plastic bag trick – This genius trick turns household items into a water wick.

1. Hire a garden sitter – When in doubt, ask a neighbor to stop by and give your plants a good watering.

Header Image Source: Flickr

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3 Tips to Help You Get That NYC Rental

You never forget the rental that got away. This all-too-common cautionary tale from the competitive NYC rental market usually goes something like this: At the viewing, you went gaga over the place’s original crown molding and that quirky patch of exposed brick in the kitchen, but what really made it your apartment was the classic clawfoot tub in the bathroom. You went on and on and on about the place to your mom, your boss, your best friend, and even some random stranger on the train. You’d already decorated it in your head, envisioning a faux-fur-throw-draped tiny wooden chair in the bathroom next to your clawfoot tub. You couldn’t wait to call your broker in the morning. But then you got the dreadful news. Someone else swiped your apartment out directly from under you — they handed over all the paperwork and presented the owner with a check before you did!

Anyone who’s ever had this experience learned the cardinal rule of NYC apartment hunting: You snooze, you lose. Want to make sure you never lose your dream pad again? Just follow the tips below.

Money Talks

If you hear of a listing that even remotely sounds like a place that you’d want to call home, have a check ready to go when you arrive at the apartment showing. But don’t just hand your money over — you have to do your due diligence first. Before you arrive, find out how much it will cost to move in and make sure to screen your landlord. If you’ve found the listing on your own, you need to do a quick background check on the apartment owner to help ensure that you’re not handing over your hard-earned money to an impostor. If you’ve gone through a broker, all that background work will have been done for you already.

Bring Your Paperwork with You

If you go to see an apartment and fall in love with it, make sure that you have all of your financial paperwork (e.g., W-2, credit report, reference letters, and pay stubs) ready to give to the landlord. Why? Because apartments have been loved and lost in the time it took a potential renter to “be right back.” A landlord is under no obligation to hold an apartment for you while you run off to get your documents. If another prospective tenant arrives with everything in order, you can kiss that rental goodbye. If your credentials are less than stellar, make sure you have a guarantor on board to help boost your financial credibility. If you don’t have a relative who can co-sign for you, you could try working with a lease guarantor company.

Find and Work with a Good Agent

It’s possible to find an apartment without a real estate agent, but working with a passionate, dedicated agent can help you stand out from the crowd. Agents often know which apartments are about to hit the market but haven’t been advertised yet. They can also put in a good word about prospective tenants with landlords. Working with an agent like this could very likely give you the advantage over other apartment seekers.

Image Source: Flickr

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Tips for the First-Time Home Buyer in Dallas-Fort Worth

Being a first-time home buyer can be an exciting and overwhelming time. In Texas, the Texas Real Estate Commission (TREC) works to regulate real estate practices and protect consumers from illegal activities in real estate transactions. TREC also provides a wealth of resources for prospective and current homeowners. Despite that protection, consumers also have a responsibility to be their own advocate in real estate transactions. Here are some things to consider during your first home purchase in Dallas-Fort Worth.

Don’t Skimp on the Home Inspection

When getting your prospective home inspected, there are several ways to avoid problems later.

  1. Thoroughly research the inspector and read the reviews. You can search for one on the TREC website. If you use an inspector recommended by the real estate agent, make sure you get additional references.
  2. Choose an inspector affiliated with a professional organization, like the National Association of Home Inspectors (NAHI) or Texas Association of Real Estate Inspectors (TAREI).
  3. Insist on attending the inspection and ask questions. If the inspector refuses to let you attend, find another inspector.
  4. Any home can have some minor issues, but make sure to investigate and solve major problems or things that could lead to a major problem, like a leak, before the closing.
  5. Use a checklist to make sure you don’t miss anything important.

Do Your Homework

  • Be sure you’re aware of all the costs that go into owning a home. This includes researching the type of loan (such as first-time home buyer loans [FHA] or VA loans for military), estimating your property taxes based on last year’s appraisals, insurance, closing costs, repairs and long-term maintenance, and utility bills.
  • Research the house you’re considering. Visually inspect the home yourself and look for troublesome areas, like cracks, slopes, evidence of water damage, or suspicious smells. Use all of your senses inside the home and take your time. Make a list of any questions or issues and bring them up to the home inspector. Better to discover an issue now than after you’re in the home. Also talk to the neighbors, they may be able to provide valuable insights.
  • In Texas, because the soil is typically clay, foundation shifting is a common issue to look out for. Other issues to consider are termites, which in Texas can be a challenge, as they’re subterranean (meaning they live in the soil).

Be Cautious of Homeowner Associations (HOA)

A homeowner’s association is responsible for marketing, managing, and selling residential property within a given neighborhood. These organizations have bylaws and deed restrictions, which homeowners are required to follow. Restrictions can vary widely. Dues are also set by the association as either mandatory or voluntary. In recent years, there have been calls from Texas homeowners to reform HOAs. Texas Monthly has previously reported on this issue with an exposé called “Growing Disillusioned with HOAs.” Violations of HOA rules have even led to foreclosures. Be sure to carefully study the documents for an association if you’re considering one.

Home Warranties and Home Insurance

Home warranties and home owner’s insurance are a great way to protect your new investment from unforeseen repairs or disasters. Similar to that of a car warranty, home warranties require certain actions to prevent voiding your warranty. Be sure to read the home warranty contract thoroughly before you sign it. Not all home warranties and home owner’s insurance policies are the same, so be sure to shop around for the best protection.

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Summer Cleaning Tips for Apartment Dwellers

As winter finally recedes and the weather begins to warm up, New Yorkers may feel the urge to open their windows, let the sunshine in, and freshen up the space in which they live. With every new season comes a fresh start. Here are some summer cleaning tips to make your space feel as fresh and new as the lovely weather outside.

Lighten Up

With winter gone, it’s time to put away heavy fabrics. Pack up the heavy comforter and replace it with a light cotton blanket. Any throw pillows that are made of dark or textured fabric like sherpa can be changed out for pillow covers in light fabrics like linen or cotton, in bright colors or fun patterns. Put away heavy throw blankets as well to make things feel more summery and less cluttered.

Deep Clean

Summer is the time to really clean all those nooks and crannies that got dirty over the winter. Vacuum underneath furniture, where dust gathers unseen. Clean underneath your bed. Scrub the floors with a damp cloth. Alternatively, you can hire an outside company like Wizard of Homes (named 2013′s Best Deep Cleaner by New York magazine) to come in and really do a deep cleanse of your apartment. They can clean the oven, the refrigerator, the shower — areas that you might not even know how to clean properly. Using a professional cleaning service costs money, of course, but you may find it worth it to enlist their help once a year.

Declutter and Donate

This is also a great time to declutter your home and rid it of any extraneous items — including clothing. Make a pile of things you haven’t used in a while, put it into a bag, and wait a week or two. See if you miss the items. If you don’t, let them go! Donate them to your local Goodwill or sell them on eBay. Your whole space will feel much more light and fresh without all that extra baggage lying around.

Clean Drapes

To freshen up the overall feel of your space, get your curtains dry-cleaned. This small detail may not be one of the more obvious summer cleaning tips, but grime can gather on curtains over the winter, and if they’re patterned, you may not even notice — until you clean them, that is. It’s surprising the impact that fresh, clean, non-wrinkled curtains can have on a space.

Add Flowers

After you’ve cleaned your apartment floor to ceiling and donated your unused items, treat yourself to some fresh flowers! There’s no better time than the summer months to bring some greenery and gorgeous blooms into your NYC apartment. Fresh flowers go a long way toward brightening a space and adding that extra little finishing touch.

Image Source: Flickr/Nicola Holtkamp

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Colby Rasmus of the Toronto Blue Jays Has the Best Commute Home in Baseball

As a guy who constantly battles traffic on my commute to work everyday, I often envy those who have a home that’s within a convenient distance from their place of work. But after seeing where Toronto Blue Jays outfielder, Colby Rasmus, lives I believe he wins the prize for best commute.

He not only walks to work every day, but he can throw a baseball and hit his office if he wanted. Colby Rasmus lives in a gorgeous apartment right next to the Rogers Centre where the Blue Jays play all of their home games. And if that wasn’t enough his place has stunning views of the city with enough natural light to make any sun worshipper jealous.

When you see Rasmus’ video you’ll get a sense of how big a change living in metropolitan Toronto really is for him. Having grown up in a rural area and starting his career in the Midwest baseball Mecca of St. Louis, moving to not just a big city but another country can take some getting used to. Rasmus does call Toronto home now and has grown to love not just the place in which he resides, but the community as well.

Check out the latest episode of the Coldwell Banker Home Field Advantage video series below or click here to watch some of our previous videos with today’s MLB stars.

Header image courtesy of Flickr user James G via Creative Commons.

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3 Summer DIY Home Décor Ideas for Your Philly Home

WikiMedia / Dickbauch

Spring is the time to clean up your home, and summer is the time to redecorate. Here are three DIY home décor ideas to consider.

1. Add Tropical Warmth with Summer Plants

One of the best ways to add a fresh touch to any living space is to incorporate potted plants into your décor. Decorating your home with plants adds a warm atmosphere to your Philly home. Go to Lowe’s or Home Depot on Columbus Boulevard and pick up some lady palms, ponytail palms, and Hawaiian Sunshine plants to spruce up your house for the summer. If you have a patio, a fern plant (hanging or in a container on the floor) will create a comfortable and pleasant atmosphere for relaxing outside with your friends and family.

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

2. Refresh Your Curtains

Have you taken a good look at your curtains lately? The curtains and drapery hanging in your living room or bedroom can have a major effect on the overall look of your home. Maybe it’s time for a change this summer — do some “curtain detail.” When it’s hot outside in the city, sheer curtains allow the summer breeze to blow freely into your bedroom windows. Add a splash of bold color: oranges, reds, yellows, and greens. Curtains with colorful floral designs also go nicely with the season.

Here’s another nice summertime project for your bedroom: Create a canopy bed using sheer curtains. You can affix the curtains to the ceiling and fashion them to drape over the sides and ends of the bed. Head over to the curtain stores in the northeast part of the city or the Franklin Mills outlet mall to get inspiration for new window treatments.

3. Embrace the Country Life

Take a break from city life outside by adding a dash of country living to the inside of your Philly house or condo. Incorporate decorative elements that make you and your guests feel like you’re at a quaint bed-and-breakfast inn or a country home. Country style works well for summer redecorating because of its emphasis on seasonally appropriate colors (reds, greens, tans, yellows) and floral patterns. For instance, add a couple of sitting chairs to your living room with floral upholstery or pretty painted chairs made of wood. Place valances above your windows in striped patterns and earthy colors. You can also get pillows and pillowcases with a country-inspired pattern to adorn your living room couch and bed.

If you’re feeling that “summertime itch” and want to do something new in your Philly home, consider these three DIY home décor ideas — you can probably finish them in a weekend.

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Busy NYC Neighborhoods: The Pros and Cons of Living There

One great thing about New York City is the variety of different neighborhoods, each with their own distinct atmosphere and personality. And while these neighborhoods offer something for everyone, there are both pros and cons when it comes to choosing a home in the busiest NYC neighborhoods.


SoHo is one of the busiest NYC neighborhoods. If you find an apartment here, consider yourself lucky! You’ll be living in one of the most charming areas of the city, where cobblestone streets and beautiful Old World architecture abounds. You’ll also have some of the most wonderful shops right outside your door, from luxury brands like Stella McCartney and Chanel to popular retailers like J.Crew and Topshop. A fantastic dining destination as well, the area is home to the likes of Dominique Ansel Bakery (where the Cronut was invented) and such restaurants as Balthazar. As you can imagine, these attractions draw tons of people to the area, not to mention car and cab traffic. SoHo is very crowded, especially on weekends, and is a popular destination for tourists. You have to be okay with the noise and crowds and traffic in order to reap the benefits of living in this high-energy neighborhood.

Midtown East

Teeming with office buildings, Midtown East is flooded with people coming to the area for work. While at first blush, it may lack the charm of other NYC neighborhoods, Midtown East boasts the convenience of being centrally located. Grand Central Terminal lies in the heart of Midtown East, and its hub of subway branches will take you nearly anywhere you need to go. There’s also a lovely little enclave of Midtown East called Tudor City, which consists of gorgeous prewar apartment buildings that have very little through-traffic, as they lead up a hill overlooking the East River. At the top of 41st Street, there’s a gorgeous, somewhat hidden park that blooms with lovely flowers in the spring. You’ll also find amazing views of the East River right across the street.

Times Square

Times Square is quite the sight to behold. Bright with neon lights and bustling with energy, Times Square is an attraction that many tourists travel hundreds of miles to feast their eyes upon. If you live in the Times Square area, you’ll have access to tons of shopping and restaurant options, as well as the Theater District and a large subway station. However, the downfall of living in this crowded NYC neighborhood is that you’ll have to contend with throngs of tourists every day. Rarely peaceful and never empty, this area is always action-packed — which can be a con or a pro, depending on your personality!

When it comes to deciding where to live in NYC, it’s really a matter of knowing what you want and what kind of environment best suits your personality. If you thrive on the energy of a neighborhood full of crowds and noise, you might be quite happy in a busy NYC neighborhood, where you can take advantage of all the wonderful restaurants, stores, and transportation options these areas have to offer.

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10 Cats Who Totally Rule Their Home

Cats are notorious for their sneaky but funny antics. In the war against doors, drawers, windows and more, it is clear they can’t be stopped. Here is a collection of cats that are totally dominating their homes.

“Pfft you thought this simple drawer could stop me?”

“Oh that’s cute a baby gate. Hold on let me just hop over this.”

“I put the cat in cat burglar”

“Is there where my human hides my treats?”

“Actually I would prefer to be an indoor cat”

“Nice try but I guess you didn’t know I have the power to make my bones disappear”

“Well what did you expect with all those treats you have been feeding me?”

“Nothing like a good midnight snack. Whatcha got in there?

“I may seem lazy but I am actually a genius”

“Proof that Cats rule and Dogs Drool”

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Home of the Week: An Entire 50th Floor Penthouse in Chicago

In our newest ‘Home of the Week‘ we move from a beautiful lakefront home in Bellevue, Washington to a brand new penthouse in the heart of Chicago.

The entire 50th floor of 25 East Superior Street was recently built out and converted into a truly breathtaking and impressive $7.5 million penthouse. The never occupied home sprawls across 6,500 square feet and also boasts private outdoor entertaining spaces with more square footage than most apartments you’ll find in the entire city!

The home features 360 degree panoramic views of the city from virtually every room, which means you can soak in those million dollar views even when the famous Windy City cold kicks into gear come winter time. This 3 bedroom and 3.5 bath home is the embodiment of upscale city living; with sumptuous master suites, soaring ceilings, a cooks kitchen and a relentless attention to detail that is evident throughout every inch of this special home.

Click here if you’d like to see more of one of Chicago’s coolest new homes listed by Chezi Rafaeli with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage.

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