Monthly Archives: July 2014

Like Going Out? Head to East Passyunk

The area around East Passyunk in South Philadelphia is known for a lot of things. There’s the Singing Fountain, which is the site of a weekly farmers’ market in the summer, as well as a number of other events, from poetry readings to opera. There’s also Pat’s and Geno’s, the two cheesesteak restaurants that sit kitty-corner from each other and seem to be locked in never-ending competition. More recently, the area has become known for a slew of great restaurants and bars — so much so that in 2013, Food & Wine magazine put it on the list of their top 10 best foodie streets in the country. Whether you’re currently living in Philly or thinking of moving here, make sure you put East Passyunk on your list of places to check out.

Plenty to Eat

The restaurants along East Passyunk Avenue run the gamut, from casual eateries selling cheesesteaks and pizza to more upscale fare. Fine dining options include not only French, Italian, and American cuisine, but also Norwegian and French-Canadian menus.

The Avenue also offers a mix of new and old. Some establishments have been open for decades, such as Marra’s Cucina Italiana, which has been in the same spot for 80 years, while others have opened over the course of the last few years. Flavors of the Avenue, an event that’s held in the spring each year, lets you sample from the menus of each restaurant on the street.

Fun and Games

Passyunk Avenue isn’t just a dining destination. It’s also a great place to kick back and enjoy a few games. Garage, a bar located across the street from Geno’s Steaks, has a unique concept. Instead of BYOB, it’s BYOC — bring your own cheesesteak. You can bring in a cheesesteak from across the street or take advantage of the food cart in the middle of the bar, which features a rotating cast of popular chefs from around the city. Another thing that makes Garage fun is the presence of not just a pool table, but also Skee-Ball and pinball machines.

Local Flavors

Sometimes, you feel like cooking a full gourmet meal at home. Before you do so, you can stock up on ingredients along the Avenue. From the start of summer through the fall, head to the Singing Fountain every Wednesday afternoon to pick up fresh vegetables and fruit, as well as bread, cheese, and other dairy products at the farmer’s market. The rest of the week, you can find a selection of locally grown and produced foods at Green Aisle Grocery, which offers everything from locally roasted coffee to specialty bitters. The shop also launched its own line of pickles and preserves in 2012.

Pennsylvania has stricter rules when it comes to the sale of liquor and alcohol than most other states. For the most part, you can only purchase wine and spirits at state-run stores. But you can also purchase directly from the distillery or winery. On Passyunk Avenue, that means you can stop into Pollyodd for locally produced limoncello. While you can also find Pollyodd liqueurs in state stores, the storefront offers more flavor options, such as “mangocello” and “orangecreamcello.”

Whether you’re in the mood for sushi or Skee-Ball, you’ll find it on East Passyunk Avenue. The street has so many options, you might find yourself returning there night after night just to take it all in.

Image Source: Flickr/Paul Sableman

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Wichita Real Estate Isn’t the Only Reason “There’s No Place Like Home”

Dorothy from the The Wizard of Oz isn’t the only one who wished to be back in Kansas — and I’m not just talking about Wichita real estate! There are thousands of people who move here every year in hopes of a great life.

When many people think of Kansas, they associate it with its role as a trading post on the Chisholm Trail in the 1860s. Others think of it more aeronautically as the “Air Capital of the World,” with Beechcraft, Cessna, Boeing, Learjet, and Spirit AeroSystems continuing to operate factories in Wichita today.

But for me, Kansas (and Wichita in particular) is so much more! Here are my top 10 reasons to move to Kansas.

1. Low Cost of Living

Cost of living in Kansas is approximately 21 percent lower than the US average. And with an average household income of $41,664, most households can maintain an acceptable standard of living. This makes Wichita real estate steady!

2. Jobs, Jobs, and More Jobs!

According to Wichita State University’s Center for Economic Development, this year alone, non-farm employment in Wichita is expected to increase by 3,565 jobs. And unemployment in Kansas is 4.9 percent — which is well below the national average.

3. Buying a Home in Kansas Is a Good Investment

With home prices steadily increasing, Wichita real estate and Kansas is a good investment. The statewide average sale price last month was $177,500, compared to $174,802 in May 2013. The statewide median sale price last month was $148,000, the same as in 2013. According to the National Association of Realtors, the median home price in the Midwest rose by 4.0 percent to $165,900.

4. Entrepreneurs Welcome!

Pizza Hut, White Castle, Garmin, Vornado, Rent-A-Center, Rainbow Loom, and many other businesses all started in Kansas! In 2013, The Business Journals‘ blog On Numbers ranked Wichita number 23 in small-business vitality among the nation’s 102 major metropolitan areas.

5. A Great Place to Learn

Kansas has six state universities, 19 community colleges, five technical colleges, six technical schools, and a municipal university.

6. Dine, Eat, Enjoy

With nearly 900 restaurants spanning all kinds of cuisines, Wichita offers something for any appetite!

7. Museums

Kansas boasts over 300 museums, and Wichita is home to over a dozen of them — from the Wichita Art Museum to the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame.

8. Great Place to Raise a Family

In Today‘s 2008 survey of “The 100 best places to raise a family,” Wichita ranked number 11 out of 257 cities. Family Circle magazine agrees that Kansas is a great place for families.

9. The Suburbs!
Wichita is surrounded by several rapidly growing suburbs, including Andover, Derby, Goddard, Haysville, Kechi, Maize, Park City, and Valley Center.

10. We love our Military and Veterans!

Wichita is home to McConnell Air Force Base, and Wichita ranked 13th out of 50 cities on the 2013 Military Friendly Cities list.

These are just 10 reasons why I love Wichita, Kansas, and have decided to raise my family here. I hope they help you learn more about our great state and all the wonderful opportunities Wichita has to offer.

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Home of Week: A Grand English Manor in Westport, CT

In our newest Home of the Week we move from a mountain retreat in Aspen to a classic manor in Westport, Connecticut.

At $8.3 million dollars, this home pays meticulous attention to details. Inside you’ll find features like top of the line appliances, original wood beams and at 9,500 square feet you’ll have plenty of space. This six bedroom and eight bathroom estate also boasts marble heated floors and hand crafted crown and base molding.

A luxury lifestyle isn’t just confined to the interior walls of the home. Set on five perfectly manicured acres you’ll be delighted by a beautiful in-ground pool and jacuzzi. The massive yard also includes open lawns, gardens and a covered patio to meet your entertaining demands.

Click here to see more of this tremendous property listed by Emily Gordon with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage.

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Find a Roommate for Your NYC Apartment: Tips and Considerations

When it comes to apartment living, choosing to partner up with a roommate can offer many benefits. Living in New York City can be expensive. If you find a roommate, you automatically cut your rent and utilities in half, you have someone to share responsibilities (such as cleaning and shopping for household items), and you may also make a great new friend in the process! Here are some tips to keep in mind while trying to find a roommate:

Maximize the Search

Put the word out to your social network that you are looking for a roommate. Post it on Facebook, tell your friends, and ask around at work. It may turn out that a friend of yours knows someone who’d be perfect for your living situation. Word of mouth is always a great way to start your search, but if that doesn’t work, you may want to turn to online classifieds instead. If you go this route, make sure to be very specific about what you’re looking for in a roommate and what your non-negotiables are.

Know Yourself

Whether you’re asking friends for recommendations or posting an ad in the classifieds, you need to know what kind of roommate you’re looking for, and you need to be very clear about anything you consider dealbreakers. For example, many people can’t live with a smoker, so it’s important to put that in your ad. Know yourself! Are you willing to have a roommate who has a pet? What about multiple pets? Are you comfortable living with someone of the opposite sex? What about someone of a very different age? Knowing what you are looking for is an important first step.

Ask Questions

When you receive answers to your ad or to your inquiries through friends, make sure you sit down and get to know your potential roommate before moving in together. There is much to discuss! Some of the kinds of questions you’re going to want to ask:

  • Does the person have a significant other who will be spending a lot of time in the apartment? What about guests?
  • Does your potential new roommate like to throw parties?
  • How will you split the rent and utilities? How will you split the cost of common household items, like paper towels, and how will you split the responsibility of procuring those items? What about splitting food costs and sharing food?
  • What’s your prospective roommate’s sleep schedule? If one of you prefers to go to bed early every night, while the other person’s a night owl, it could lead to conflict down the road.

You should also try to suss out your potential roommate’s living style. Is this person neat or sloppy? If they’re a friend or acquaintance of yours, perhaps you can make a visit to their current apartment to see for yourself. Even if you’re not a perfect match in every way, it doesn’t mean your potential living arrangement is automatically doomed, but it’s best to be well-informed from the start.

Finding a roommate also gives you a chance to make a new friend. So besides asking about living habits, it’s also important to do your best to assess whether you’ll get along with your roommate and “click” with them. You’ll be seeing a lot of each other, so it’s best to make sure that your personalities mesh as much as possible.

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Historic Homes in Philadelphia: What You Need to Know

Strolling down Elfreth’s Alley in Philadelphia’s Old City, you might find yourself dreaming of living in one of the historic homes on the block. While older homes have their charms, historical properties come with a lot of rules and red tape. Plus, the age of the home might mean that it needs a lot of maintenance right from the beginning. Before you decide that a historic home is the one for you, do your research and find out about the city’s rules, as well as much as you can about the property.

Understand the Goals

The goal of having historic homes and districts in Philadelphia is to preserve some or most of the character of the homes and areas. According to the Rittenhouse Fitler Historic District Manual, the rules of a historic district help protect it and its homes from demolition, incongruous changes, and from unbound new construction. Which means that you may not have the freedom to add on to your historic home or to change the facade or roof of the house as much as you’d like, but that’s part of the point of owning a piece of history.

Understand the Rules

Owning a historic home in Philadelphia doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t make any changes to the exterior of the home. It simply means that you need to get approval from the Historical Commission before you make the changes. You also need a permit from Licenses and Inspections, but odds are likely you’d need that for any home in the city.

You typically only need permission and approval when you want to make changes to the exterior of the home. For the most part, any interior changes you want to make, such as painting the walls bright yellow or adding carpet, is fine. Interior changes will typically only be visible to people invited into the home and won’t impact the character of the neighborhood.

Usually, if you want to change something on the exterior of the home in some way, you’ll need to use specific materials. For example, if your home is in the Rittenhouse area, you may need to use slate on the roof, as many older roofs originally had slate tiles. Slate is more expensive that other materials, but it’s an important element when it comes to preserving the historic character of the home. The Rittenhouse Manual points out that it’s pricier up front, but can last longer than more modern materials.

Maintaining the Home

Historic homes in Philadelphia typically require more maintenance than the average home. For example, you should inspect your roof several times a year to prevent leaks or to keep the gutters from leaking. You may need to clean the masonry on the facade of the house yearly and check the flashing to keep it watertight. Water and leaks can damage the structure of the home, meaning you need to spend a considerable sum of money to repair the property if it gets to that stage. It’s better to keep up with maintenance than have to deal with replacements and repairs.

When looking at historic homes in Philly, remember to hire a home inspector who has experience evaluating such homes. It’s best to make sure the home is in relatively decent shape before you invest in it, to save you both money and headaches down the road.

Image Source: Flickr/Jason Paris

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Rehabbing Homes in DFW: The Basics

Homeowners, real estate investors, and local organizations may participate in rehabbing homes — and their reasons for doing so can vary. Some homeowners may choose to rehabilitate a home because they’re restoring a historic building, while others may choose to rehabilitate a home in an older part of the Metroplex in order to live close to downtown areas. Current homeowners who require public assistance may request grants from government programs or organizations to rehabilitate a home in need of major repairs. In some cases, rehabbing homes is done by organizations to revitalize certain areas or provide affordable housing. Real estate investors and “flippers” might choose to purchase a neglected property to restore it and turn a profit. Here are some of the common elements involved in rehabbing homes you should familiarize yourself with if you’re planning to buy a home in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

When Should You Rehab a Home?

Rehabbing homes can involve cosmetic improvements, such as painting and interior updating, along with more substantial work on the electrical and structural components of a home. Older homes may require updated wiring and plumbing systems to meet city codes. The scope of a rehabilitation project largely depends on the state a home is currently in and its age. It’s not uncommon for homes in areas such as Oak Cliff or historic Fort Worth to undergo rehabilitation after decades of neglect or vacancy.

The Inspection Process: Whether you’re an investor or a potential homeowner, an inspection is extremely important for determining the scope of a rehabilitation project. While a home that requires improvements may be priced lower, buyers should factor in the cost of repairs and the current market value of turn-key homes in the decision making process. Real estate blog Bigger Pockets stresses that looks can be deceiving: “A shabby looking house with no structural problems has more value than a neat-looking one with structural problems.”

Other Factors to Consider: When determining whether a home is a good candidate for rehabilitation, there are a few factors to consider beyond the condition of the home. Bigger Pockets recommends that those searching for homes to rehabilitate or flip should look at the following factors:

  • Location of the property.
  • The home’s neighboring amenities, such as good schools, parks, and areas of employment.

How Do You Pay for Rehabbing Homes?

Some current homeowners may be eligible for funds from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development for rehabilitating homes. These funds can help repair damage to roofing, plumbing, electrical, and wear and tear on properties. There are also local resources for rehabbing homes. For example, the city of Plano, a suburb of Dallas, offers housing rehabilitation assistance for owner-occupied housing.

Choosing to rehabilitate a home is a big decision that could require a great deal of time and energy, as well as assistance from licensed professionals such as plumbers, carpenters, and electricians. Before you set out on a home-rehabilitation project, it’s best to seek counsel from real estate agents and home inspectors first.

Image Source

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From Vinyl Wall Décor to Backsplashes: 4 Great Ways to Use Vinyl

Making the leap from tacky to trendy, vinyl wall décor — and vinyl in general — has come a long way in recent years. There was a time when the mere mention of the word “vinyl” would give people horrible flashbacks to the tacky, dated vinyl-clad kitchens of yesteryear. Today’s vinyl, however, is an extremely versatile material that can be used for everything from flooring to wall art. Modern high-quality vinyl products don’t have that shiny fake look of the vinyl of old, and they can be made to look like more expensive materials like wood and even marble. Check out below for some really cool ways to use vinyl in your home.

Update Your Floor

Today’s vinyl flooring is not your mother’s vinyl flooring. Modern vinyl flooring (often referred to as “resilient flooring”) can mimic just about any material out there. If you’ve always loved traditional, classic black-and-white checkerboard tile flooring in a kitchen, but your budget doesn’t allow for a brand-new floor, you can still get that look by using more affordable vinyl options. Even better? Vinyl tends to be a lot easier on the feet and back than harder flooring options. Best of all, it’s incredibly easy to clean. Work with a local contractor for a truly seamless installation.

Banksy Your Walls

Vinyl wall décor is an extremely affordable, fun, and gorgeous way to add artistic pizzazz to bare walls. The sheer variety of decals available is extensive, allowing you to express your quirky, cute, or relentlessly Anglophilic sides. Have fun with proportion and placement: Choose a really large decal for a single wall, or have the decal art interact with objects in the room. Experiment with colors, too. You can even use vinyl letters to spell out words and phrases that are important to you and your family. Most decals are of the peel-and-stick variety, meaning that if you tire of a particular design or look, you can effortlessly swap it out for a new one. Not only are they easy to remove, but under some circumstances, they’re also reusable. (Check with the decal manufacturer to figure out whether yours can be reused.)

Personalize a Rental Space

One of the biggest conundrums for NYC renters is figuring out how far to go when it comes to personalizing their homes. They may not want to put too much money into decorating their spaces (or maybe the terms of their lease prevent them from making major changes), but they’d still like to create a space that feels like home. If you’re facing this issue right now, vinyl can help make it all better. For instance, striped vinyl wallpaper can create an accent wall straight out of a high-end shelter magazine, while a vinyl backsplash can give you the kitchen of your dreams without the budget of your nightmares. If you have children, you may not want to hire an artist to paint a custom mural on their walls, but you can get on their “cool parent” list with a custom-made decal made in the design of your choice — or their choice. They can even make decals that glow in the dark.

Get Creative

You don’t have to limit yourself to walls and floors when it comes to decorating with vinyl. You can use this versatile material to transform your home in so many other ways — from the dry goods jars in your kitchen to the entrance to your bedroom door, there’s always a place in your home that can use a little vinyl love.

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Real Estate Headlines with Lego Apartments, Fast Company and Reality TV

Why do weekends in the summer go so quickly? It feels like an iced coffee kind of afternoon as we reach the last full week of July. Dog days of August await us next week, but before the humidity rises even further here’s your weekly dose of real estate headlines to start your week.

Can landscaping really deter intruders and pests?

Holy House Hunters, Batman! Will reality TV encourage home flippers to get back into the market?

Cash is still king especially in new home sales.

Being in the dog house is no longer a bad thing as more home owners are creating amenities to comfort their canines.

Don’t tell my boys, but “Lego” apartments are all the rage in Australia.

The first female mayor in Paris says her “absolute priority is housing.” Merveilleux d’entendre.

Fast Company has a feature on rooftop solar panels that also act as extra housing.

Oscar the Grouch would be jealous. An environmental activist just made a house out of garbage.

Check out these “homes of the future” from the 50′s and 60′s when plastic was thought to be the building future of the next century.

Bank of America and Merrill Lynch have agreed that the Dodd-Frank bill killed housing.

And finally, here are 12 signs you love your home a little too much.

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Sound Real Estate Lessons from the Incas

This is a guest blog post by our very own Kalpana Krishna-Kumar:

This year I resurrected my travel bucket list and the destination I picked was Peru – in particular Machu Picchu – the mystical “Lost City of the Incas”. To make a long joyous story short, it was every moment the fabulous experience I had dreamed of. That story is for my personal blog; but during my visit there, I kept seeing sensible real estate wisdom the Incas followed many centuries ago that are very relevant to every buyer, home-owner or seller in today’s housing market. Here they are:

Location, Location, Location:

Yes, the Incas must have certainly known of this central tenet of home ownership. Machu Picchu (in original Quechua language meaning “Old Mountain or Peak”) is considered by some to have been the summer retreat of the greatest Inca king – Pachachuti. It was obvious that he thought strategically while picking the location. Machu Picchu has:

- Some of the most spectacular and mystical views in the world
- Abundance of water and food supply from the fertile lands, and
- Natural defenses – steep mountain cliffs and deep precipices that surround it along with the fast-running Urubamba River running along the base of the mountain.

No wonder the invading Spaniards (and the rest of the world) spent so much energy looking for it and could not find it for a long time.

Real Estate Wisdom: Location is key to home value. As a buyer, determine what’s important to you – commute time, schools, amenities, views, neighborhood, etc. and prioritize them. Use these as search criteria whether looking online (check out www.homefacts.com or the Sitegeist app available for iPhones and Androids) or with a Coldwell Banker real estate professional.

Location is key to home value

Knowledge is power:

Have you been taken by surprise when your basement flooded the first time it rained after you moved into your new home? Or you found large cracks in your foundation – thanks to the roots of the beautiful white Spruce on the side of the house? Take a lesson from the Incas – the Incas knew about the seismic activity of the Andes when they decided to build Machu Picchu. They were no strangers to the perils of earthquakes and erosion due to heavy rainfall either. So they borrowed sound construction concepts from the civilizations that occupied the land before them. Inca engineering has amazed historians and tourists alike – even giving rise to speculations of alien intervention (remember Indiana Jones’s adventures in the Land of the Incas?). No – I didn’t find evidence of any extra-terrestrial beings. But I did find smart architecture and efficiency to manage the issues that could affect their sacred abode.

Real Estate Wisdom:

a) Buyers – Before you put your bid in, learn more about the potential home and neighborhood. Some suggestions:

- Ask your real estate agent for a Sellers Disclosure (if available)
- Get the home inspected by a certified Home Inspector
- Request for information publicly available from the Town or simply get a ready-made report from www.housefax.com. Find out about the flood hazard area of the property with this nifty online tool.

b) Homeowners – Besides learning more about your home with the suggestions above, take a bird’s eye view (walk around your property) with your camera or smartphone and note the nuances that you might have missed; such as soil type, water table level and gradient of the land. Also be sure to walk the area to and away from your home to take note of the trees on your surrounding property, flooding potential, or even sink hole hazards (for Florida residents) etc. Make sure to record your observations.

Know they property as thyself

Use your resources wisely:

Every Inca city and settlement I visited from Ollantaytambo to Pisac was a testament to their harmonious existence with nature. Machu Picchu was exemplary in this matter, for instance:

- The multi-ton blocks they used to build Machu Picchu came from the rocks of the mountain site itself. The city simply developed in and around the quarry.
- They used naturally occuring mountain springs and water sources through well planned aqueducts.
- They built their homes to maximize natural light.
- Terrace agriculture was their chosen way to grow seasonal crops on mountain sides that not only stopped soil erosion but also aesthetically enhanced their community.
- They reserved their most labor and cost-intensive construction for special buildings like their temples and royal quarters while using common materials for the rest of the city.

Real Estate Wisdom: Fast forward to the 21st century, using resources wisely in the context of your home:

- Prioritize home renovations based on the value it will add to your home’s equity. It is widely stated that kitchen renovations return a sizable value for investment. Check out this Cost vs. Value Report for other types of renovations and home improvements.
- Greening your home is not only a sustainable alternative but also increases the value of your home according to a research study conducted by UC Berkeley and UCLA. From simple steps like using Energy Star appliances to using geo-thermal energy to heat your home, there are many sustainable and cost-effective things you could do to bring about extraordinary efficiencies.

Greening – a sustainable value proposition for your home

The last and most poignant lesson I felt in my veins as I stood admiring the grandeur of the mystical city was a sense of never wanting to leave – just the same as when I am finally HOME!

“Machu Picchu isn’t just beautiful, it’s sublime.”

Mark Adams – author of “Turn Right at Machu Picchu”

*Header Image Courtesy of Flickr User: TheCsMan

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Drop the Watering Can and Enjoy These Low Maintenance Outdoor Plants

Gardening is just one of the many joys that come with homeownership. However, watering can often feel like a labor of love we could do without. This is the first year I have had a garden and I can already say I am kind of over lugging heavy watering cans and fighting with a hose that seems to kink with every step I take. Next year I plan on planting a few less plants that require so much water and thought I would share some of my favorite finds with you.

Do you have any low-maintenance beauties to share? Please let me know about them in the comments section below.

Butterfly Bush

These small, fragrant blossoms grow in spikelike clusters and attract butterflies to your garden. Learn more from sunset.com.

Purple Coneflower

A beautiful perennial that was described as “We’re talking the lowest maintenance possible,” by Chip Tynan at the Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis.

Blue Eyed Grass

laspilitas.com

Blue Eyed Grass has small, iris-like leaves and is drought tolerant . Learn more here.

Bee Balm

homedepot.com

Sounds kind of like a chapstick right? This brilliant addition to your garden only requires water if rainfall is less than 1 inch per week

Salvia

gardeningknowhow.com

According to gardeningknowhow.com, growing salvia is something every gardener should try. This plant is not only beautiful but it can also withstand extreme weather conditions.

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