Monthly Archives: December 2014

The Most Read Blue Matter Blog Posts of 2014

Out with the old and in with the new. While everyone has their top lists of the past year, we wanted to share some of our most read posts in case you missed out on any of the home content we’ve shared in the last 365 days. Some of our top posts will be of no surprise while others just might make you want to take a second look.

Here are the most read Coldwell Banker Blue Matter blog posts for 2014:

  1. The #HomeRocks Awards – Celebrationg our “Home Sweet Home” ad’s debut on the Grammy Awards we opened up voting to the public for the best “home” song of the past year. Turns out a boy band called Midnight Red took home the prize and made this post our most shared content of the year with nearly 20k social shares.
  2. The Most Expensive Home for Sale in the United States – Nothing draws an audience like pictures of a $195 million home for sale in Beverly Hills.
  3. 16 Genius Storage Ideas You Probably Never Thought Of – Tips for finding a home for all the things in your home.
  4. 9 Overlooked Items to Prep Your Home for Sale – Thinking of selling your home in 2015? You’ll want to read this.
  5. 10 Pieces of Valuable Info to Gather Before You Sell Your Home – See comment for #4
  6. Home of the Week: A Piece of Paradise – Own a piece of Paradise…Valley.
  7. Expert Advice on How to Prepare Your Home for Sale – We asked our global network of real estate professionals to share their best tips for getting ready to sell.
  8. Coldwell Banker 2014 Home Listing Report – What’s a 4 bedroom, 2 bath home worth in over 2,000 markets across the country? Come find out.
  9. Home of the Week: Amenity Heaven in Irvine – Features one of my favorite listing videos of the year.
  10. Beautiful Glass Homes – These sellers do not throw rocks…ever.

Thank you for making this the best year yet for the Coldwell Banker Blue Matter blog and we look forward to sharing more amazing content for your home in 2015. Have a very happy and safe new year!

Header image courtesy of Flickr user Walter-Wilhelm

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Home Tip of the Day: The Best Baking Trick

To tell if your holiday roast is perfectly done, you can insert a meat thermometer. But, how can you tell if a baked good is ready to be pulled from the oven? Try this foolproof baking trick for all of your sweet treats.

For other clever home tips & tricks, subscribe to Coldwell Banker On Location to view the complete Home Tip of the Day video series.

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I Love the (Philadelphia) Nightlife: Attractions in Various Philly Neighborhoods

Although everyone relishes the occasional quiet night spent at home, some people love spending their evenings out. If you find yourself going out more often than not, finding a home in a Philly neighborhood that offers plenty of nightlife options might be your best bet. Where to look depends on what you’re after. Philadelphia nightlife in some neighborhoods focuses on live music, while food and drink is the biggest draw in other parts of town. If you’re about to move to Philly, check out the nightlife options in the following neighborhoods.

Callowhill

Sometimes called the loft district, the Callowhill neighborhood has an industrial feel that’s well reflected in the music venues scattered throughout it. A few of the Philadelphia nightlife options in the area are located in actual converted industrial spaces. For example, the Electric Factory was at one point in time actually an electric factory. Underground Arts, a concert and theater venue, is housed in the basement of what was once a stationery factory.

One of the big draws to the area is Union Transfer, another venue and bar. Like Underground Arts and the Electric Factory, the building that houses Union Transfer was once something else — in this case, a Spaghetti Warehouse restaurant. Today, the building plays host to a number of well known and up-and-coming indie and alternative rock acts.

East Passyunk

While Callowhill is known for its somewhat edgy vibe and live music options, East Passyunk, in South Philly, has more of a quirky atmosphere. The avenue that gives the area its name, Passyunk, is dotted with an eclectic mix of restaurants, bars, and shops. Boutiques that line the avenue include Era Atomica, a store specializing in mid-century modern furniture and housewares; Occasionette, which sells gifts with a Philly flair; and Nice Things Handmade, which offers cute, handmade items.

East Passyunk also offers a culinary tour of the world. The avenue has been nationally recognized for its great selection of restaurants. Options along the strip include Scandinavian cuisine at Noord; Mexican and Tex-Mex fare at Cantina Los Caballitos and Adobe Cafe; sushi at Izumi; and Italian at Le Virtu, Marra’s, and Paradiso.

Northern Liberties

Located north and to the east of Callowhill, Northern Liberties is another part of Philadelphia that’s become known more and more for its nightlife options in recent years. Like Callowhill, the area has a bit of a post-industrial vibe. One of the major developments in the area, the Piazza at Schmidt’s, is located on the site of a former beer brewery. While the Piazza does offer apartments for rent, what it’s most known for is the selection of restaurants that make up the ground level and that encircle a large outdoor plaza. Options include PYT, which is known for its alcoholic milkshakes and over-the-top burgers; El Camino Real, a barbecue and Tex-Mex joint; Emmanuelle, an artisan cocktail bar hidden at the back of the Piazza.

The Piazza isn’t the only thing Northern Liberties has going for it. Plenty of restaurants and bars line North 2nd Street, including Cantina Dos Segundos (Cantina Los Caballitos’ northern sibling); North Bowl, a bowling alley and bar; and Standard Tap, a pub that focuses on local ingredients and craft beers.

Whether the perfect night out for you involves checking out a favorite band, trying a new cocktail, or digging into some tasty food, Philadelphia neighborhoods feature plenty of options. Having things to do in your neighborhood is an important part of making the most of your home, so check out the nightlife options before you move in.

Image Source: Flickr

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Houses and Apartments for Rent: What Works For You

So you’re on the market, looking for your next home. How will you ever decide? In the DFW area alone, there are thousands of available houses and apartments for rent at any given time. Assuming you’ve already determined your budget and desired area, use this handy guide to help determine whether an apartment or a house would better suit your needs and lifestyle.

Will a House Hold Your Household?

The dynamics of your household can be one of the first deciding factors between renting a single-family property or an apartment. How many people do you live with? The larger your household, the more a rental home may suit your needs. It can be tougher to find an apartment large enough to accommodate a larger family, while single-family homes more commonly boast four or more bedrooms. Conversely, if you live alone or with a roommate, or if you have a smaller family, an apartment may be better for you.

Who Else Lives with You?

Who else inhabits your home? If you have pets — and especially if you have more than one pet — you may find it easier to rent a single-family home. Will your large dog be happier with a backyard space to romp in? Can you better negotiate pet terms with an individual landlord rather than be bound by apartment community pet guidelines?

Can You Keep Up with Upkeep?

Single-family homes generally require much more work on your part. While maintenance staff at an apartment community mow the lawn, you may be responsible for your own yard in a rental house. How do you feel about clearing walkways following inclement weather? That’ll likely be your job in a home, while an apartment community will take care of that for you and all other residents.

What’s In A Bill?

Whether you’re considering an apartment or a house, one of the first factors you should question is what utilities or amenities your monthly rental payment will cover. Landlords and apartment communities vary widely in what is covered versus what must be set up and paid individually.

How’s the Neighborhood?

Apartment living and single-family neighborhood living can be very different. Consider the benefits each may have to offer.

Potential Apartment Benefits:

  • Entertainment space
  • Pool/lounge area
  • Exercise room
  • On-site maintenance team

Potential Single Family Home Benefits:

  • Longer-term neighbors
  • Community connection
  • Mixture of renters and owners

Making A Home Your Own

One final decision factor to consider when considering houses and apartments for rent is how much customization you desire. In an apartment complex, you likely won’t be able to do much with wall colors, types of flooring, or other semi-permanent design fixtures. Living in a single-family home may give you the opportunity to work with your landlord to make changes to the appearance or flow of the space. This can be a point you negotiate as part of the overall contract.

Once you’ve considered your household, needs, lifestyle, and expectations, it’s time to make the choice between houses and apartments for rent in the DFW area. Good luck and welcome home!

Image Source: Flickr/Paul Gorbould

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Brownstone Apartments NYC: What’s It Like Living in Them?

Brownstone apartments NYC: Ground Floor

Brownstone apartments: NYC’s real estate landscape has been dotted with them since the 1870s. NYC brownstones are detail-laden architectural gems built in various styles, such as Renaissance Revival, Italianate, or Greek Revival. Brownstones usually have a center exterior staircase that leads up to the front door and continues to wind its way up through the center of the brownstone and all the way to the top floor. While they’re undeniably beautiful, they do tend to have certain quirks depending on which floor you live on. While there are exceptions to the rules, brownstones tend to basically have the same layouts — if you’ve lived in one, you’ve pretty much lived in them all. Let’s take a look.

Image Source: Flickr/Chris Kreussling

Ground Floor

Awesome:

  • They may have high ceilings (unusual in a ground floor, but they exist).
  • They may have garden access (even better if it’s exclusive garden access)
  • No one’s underneath you, so you can practice your Riverdance routine or play Just Dance 2014 without disturbing anyone.
  • There are no stairs to climb, making it easy to do things like move furniture or bring in the groceries.

Less Awesome:

  • Pests of the multi-legged or furry variety tend to appreciate the easy access to the ground floor as much as you do.
  • People can practice Riverdance routines and play Just Dance 2014 above your head.
  • The only view you have is the one right outside your window.

Brownstone apartments NYC: Parlor Floor

Image Source: Flickr

Parlor Floor

To enter a parlor floor apartment, you walk up the brownstone’s exterior steps and enter through giant pocket doors to the left or right side of the hallway, or through a doorway at the back of the parlor floor hallway.

Awesome:

  • They tend to have ridiculously high ceilings that can make even the tiniest spaces seem massive.
  • They’re usually chock-full of details like molding and wainscoting that make them feel grander than the other floors.
  • They often have giant windows that flood the rooms with sunlight.

Less Awesome:

  • There’s scant storage, and closets are rare.
  • The other floors have the extra room above the entryway; the parlor floor is missing this room because of the center staircase.
  • You hear everything, as neighbors walk back and forth by your door all day and night.

Brownstone apartments NYC: Second Floor

Image Source: Flickr/Ed Yourdon

Second Floor

Awesome:

  • They have high ceilings (though not as high as the parlor floor).
  • They have that precious extra room that sits above the front entryway of the building.
  • They’re above street level, so they’re more insulated from outside noise than the apartments on the lower floors.

Less Awesome:

  • You have to walk up a flight of stairs, which may be an issue when moving in furniture.
  • Sandwiched between floors, you’re not only subject to overhead racket, you also have to be careful about making too much noise for the parlor-floor occupant.

Brownstone apartments NYC: Top Floor

Image Source: Flickr

Top Floor

Awesome:

  • You’ll get the brownstone’s most spectacular views.
  • Your apartment is considered the most secure in the building.
  • No one’s above you, so there’s no one dancing on your head.

Less Awesome:

  • You have to climb up, making it less than ideal or impossible to access for people with disabilities.
  • It may be difficult to move furniture into the apartment thanks to all the stairs, tight stairways, and lack of elevators.

With this guide to the brownstone apartments NYC has to offer, you should be on your way to making the decision about whether they’re the right New York City apartments for you.

Main Image Source: Flickr/John Weiss

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Home Cooked: Aspen Style Mac & Cheese Recipe

Home Cooked_Aspenkitchen

This time of year, there are two schools of thought. One that believes the only way to battle the colder weather is to escape to tropical climates. And the other, which I belong to, that believes if you can’t beat the weather, might as well put it to good use.

In this month’s installment of Home Cooked Recipes, we invite you to dine with us at snowy 15 Westview Drive in Aspen, Colorado, where we’re whipping up a comfort classic to enjoy after a full day of skiing on some of the country’s best slopes. Our hearty après-ski menu will be served cozy-style in front of the kitchen’s two-way fireplace.

Though, the elegant dining space with rustic wooden accents would be perfect for a larger dinner party. In fact, the home is ideal for entertaining, as the floor plan has an effortless flow from the family room, kitchen, dining, and outdoor living spaces.

Home Cooked_Aspendiningroom_2

Within close proximity to downtown Aspen, this 5,400 sq. ft. mountain cottage is the perfect family retreat. While Aspen is certainly not short on gourmet dining options, one of the most famed food spots in the resort town is one known for it’s more casual home cooking: Jimmy’s. Inspired by the comfort food menu of this Aspen staple, (Did you know Aspen has a Mac & Cheese Festival?!) we’re serving Jimmy’s Aspen Style Mac & Cheese.

Aspen Style Jimmy Mac & Cheese

Recipe from Chef David Lawrence

1 pound large elbow macaroni
1 quart whole milk
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
4 cups Gruyere, grated
2 cups extra-sharp aged Cheddar, grated
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 1/2 jalapeño peppers, seeded and diced
1 pound bacon, cooked and crumbled
Panko Bread Crumbs, for topping

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Drizzle oil into a large pot of boiling salted water. Add the macaroni and cook according to package directions. Drain well.

Meanwhile, heat the milk in a small saucepan, being careful not to boil it. Melt the butter in a large (4-quart) pot and add the flour. Whisk over low heat for 2 minutes, stirring constantly to cook out the raw flour taste. While whisking, add the hot milk and bring to a boil, cooking until thickened and smooth. Off the heat, add the Gruyere, cheddar, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Stir in the jalapeño and bacon and fold in the cooked macaroni. Pour into a 3-quart baking dish. Top with panko bread crumbs. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbly and the macaroni is evenly browned on the top.

Thank you for joining us this month for another delicious meal. See you in January at a warmer destination, we promise!

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Home of the Week: Buckhead’s Most Palatial Estate

In our final ‘Home of the Week‘ of 2014, we move from a French inspired estate in Tahoe to one of the largest and grandest homes in the United States.

Located just down the street from the Governor’s Mansion on Atlanta’s most prestigious street lies one of America’s finest homes. This 9 bedroom and approximately 40,000 square foot mansion has been internationally recognized for its beauty and is reportedly the 12th largest home in America.

This $15.9 million estate has been featured in many famous films and was referred to recently by Yahoo as the “house who became a movie star” – and for good reason. Highlights of the home include a grand ballroom, cigar lounge, recording studio, two gyms and the fabulous 18 seat movie theater that I’d enjoy every single day. As if that wasn’t enough, the two acre estate features a resort like outdoor space and a wellness center with a 20 person steam room, tanning salon, massage parlor and hair and nail salon.

Click here to see more of this once-in-a-lifetime home listed by Debbie Sonenshine with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage.

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Home Tip of the Day: Holiday Ornament Storage

Sadly, it’s time for many of us to put away the holiday decorations. Storing your favorite delicate ornaments can be tricky without the right storage solution. Use this clever trick to keep fragile ornaments safe until next year.

For other clever home tips & tricks, subscribe to Coldwell Banker On Location to view the complete Home Tip of the Day video series.

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Clothing Storage Solutions for Organizing Winter Gear

Clothing Storage Solutions: Organized Closet

Winter gear — boots, scarves, and that ubiquitous black puffer coat — is big and bulky, and New York apartments are tiny! However, there are ways to keep your stuff from overtaking your home. Use these clothing storage solutions to keep everything neatly organized.

Maximize Closet Space

Start by making the most of the closet space you already have.

  • Create extra space by clearing out warm-weather clothes and shoes. Get rid of anything you didn’t wear last summer and store the rest in plastic bins under your bed or in a storage locker.
  • If your closet is tall enough, hang another clothing bar under the existing one. You’ll double your closet space instantly. Dedicate some this new found space to your winter gear.
  • Add hooks on the backs of closet doors, too. They’re perfect for holding scarves, hats, and umbrellas.

Image Source: Flickr/Emily May

Utilize Baskets and Bins

Hats, scarves, mittens, and gloves have a way of multiplying and spreading through your apartment. Bins and baskets are ideal for containing accessories neatly.

If you have multiple family members, assign everyone their own basket. Train them to put away their hats and mitts as soon as they arrive home. You can even create personalized labels to make using the system more fun.

Store winter gear that doesn’t get worn as often on the higher shelves in your closet. Bins will keep these items organized and easy to access when you need it.

Clothing Storage Solutions: Utilize Baskets

Image Source: Flickr

Keep Boots and Shoes Contained

Winter shoes pile up quickly and can easily track in gritty, salty slush. The best way to combat that is to create a dedicated space to store pairs that get worn frequently. Here are some shoe storage ideas to try.

  • Invest in an inexpensive wooden shoe rack and place it just inside your door. It won’t take up a lot of space, and it will keep your shoes and boots organized and off the floor. This will allow air to circulate around wet shoes, too.
  • Another way to protect your floors from wet shoes is with a simple baking tray. Fill it with decorative river stones (you can find them at your local craft store) and place your shoes on top.
  • Don’t forget to wipe your shoes down and remove any salt as soon as you arrive home. Your shoes will look better and last longer.

Store Wet Items Properly

Whether you got caught in flurries of wet snow or overheated in the subway, you’ll inevitably get a little soggy this winter. Keep your gear fresh with appropriate clothing storage solutions.

  • If possible, create open storage either inside your apartment or just outside the door. Place a small coat rack in your entry; for tighter spaces, attach hooks to your walls.
  • Hang up coats, scarves, umbrellas, and anything else that’s damp or wet as soon as you arrive home. The open storage will allow air to circulate, drying out your clothes and helping you to avoid strange smells.

Clothing Storage Solutions: Open Storage

Image Source: Flickr

Keep these clothing storage solutions in mind, and your NYC apartment will stay neet and organized this winter!

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Acing Real Estate Appraisals

Congratulations! You’re in the process of selling your home, and now comes a very important step: having it appraised to determine its fair market value. Easy, right? The appraiser will simply show up, be wowed by your property, and intrinsically understand its worth.

Not so fast. You — and your real estate agent — need to advocate for your property one last time before its sale can be complete. To prepare for real estate appraisals, employ these tips and tricks to ensure that your home is properly appraised.

What You See Is What You Get

Take a look around your home through the most neutral eyes possible and compare its current condition to how it was staged for your real estate listing pictures. You’ll need to similarly wow your appraiser — letting the value of your home shine through. Consider performing the following:

  1. Mow your lawn and weed your flower beds. Good curb appeal will leave a favorable memory in your appraiser’s mind.
  2. Make your rooms as clutter-free as possible on appraisal day.
  3. Fix any small issues that are outstanding — reattach electrical faceplates, tighten door handles, re-cement a loose tile, buff your stainless steel appliances, or touch up dings on woodwork.

As Far As The Eye Can See

Many home improvement projects lurk beneath the surface of your home or may not be readily apparent during real estate appraisals. Create a list of all of the work you’ve done on your home, from cosmetic updates to structural issues. Important areas include:

  • Electrical/wiring work: Has your older home undergone a modernization update, or have you redone the flow of electricity through your home to meet modern standards? This is a big deal for the value of your home.
  • Plumbing and gas lines: Have you performed either major (replaced main lines, plumbed home for natural gas) or minor (redesigned bathroom, reworked gas stove piping) plumbing work? This is a major investment that can upgrade your home value.
  • Lead paint or asbestos remediation: Homes built before the 1980s are often rife with both lead paint and/or asbestos. If you’ve had these items addressed and remediated in your home, let your appraiser know.
  • Home/room additions: Have you constructed a new room or converted (for example) an attic into living space? Ensure that your appraiser knows that those new spaces exist and haven’t been factored into prior appraisals.
  • New appliances: The appliances that you’ll leave behind — refrigerator, dishwasher, oven, water heater, furnace — can help up your value if they’ve been newly replaced.
  • Roof: The cost of a new roof is significant. If your home sports a newer roof, ensure it gets factored into your home value.

Location, Location, Location

The neighborhood or subdivision you live in can have a huge impact on your property value. Are you in an up-and-coming area, with many older homes undergoing upgrades? That’ll help boost your property value. Are fabulous public or private schools nearby? Another bonus. How about proximity to the rail lines or major highways to make commuting easier?

While your appraiser will do all that research, you can help add more context. You — through your agent — can pull comps in your neighborhood so you can show your appraiser how location has affected other properties, while pointing out reasons that your property is more unique or valuable by comparison.

Have the Last Word

Your home appraisal is the last time you’ll get to brag about your home before selling. Make sure you do your homework and get in the last word, so your DFW home is appraised appropriately.

Image Source: Flickr/Steven Martin

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