Monthly Archives: December 2014

Greening Up Real Estate and Not Just for the Holiday

I came across an article that highlighted the first green home listed in the Northstar Multiple Listing Service (MLS). The listing, located in Robbinsdale, MN, is an Energy Fit-certified home, which means that it reached the Center for Energy and Environment’s standard of energy efficiency. The thing that got me curious was the ‘first” reference. How is it that this home, in 2014, is a first to be marketed as a green listing in the local MLS?

I’ve since learned after poking around that out of the 860 MLSs in the country only a hundred or so are what industry insiders call a “green MLS.” That means that only a small fraction of real estate agents in the country have the ability to market a home in their local MLS as green.

Why does this matter? Well for starters, what if you’ve invested in green upgrades to your home and are now ready to sell? If you’re one of the lucky few putting your home on the market in a green MLS, other real estate agents will be able to tell their buyers about your green home, especially those that are looking for a green-labeled home. Otherwise virtually no one will hear about these wonderful upgrades.

The other big issue of not having a green MLS is lack of data. Without reporting on green home amenities in an MLS, those within the industry, including homeowners, have no way to prove how much more a home is worth with such upgrades. There are a handful of studies from those early green MLS adopters that indicate homes sell for more money and in less time. But, as we all know, real estate is local, so that might not be the case in all markets.

I’ll be keeping an eye out on this subject and looking forward to welcoming more green MLSs into the club. If you’re interested in learning more about this, please visit The Green MLS and these two white papers by the National Home Performance Council and U.S. Building Green Council.

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Home Tip of the Day: Personalized Wrapping Paper

As 2014 comes to a close, we can’t help but look back on all of the memories we made this year. One very memorable way to do this is to create personalized wrapping paper with photos from this year’s activities. Unwrapping holiday gifts will be even more special when it involves reminiscing about this year’s greatest moments. It may even be a gift in itself!

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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Home of the Week: A French Country Estate Right on Lake Tahoe

In our newest ‘Home of the Week‘ we move from the spectacular Palazzo di Amore to a wonderful French country estate right on Lake Tahoe’s picturesque West Shore.

With cascading mountains in the distance and Lake Tahoe in your backyard, you’d be hard pressed to find a more picturesque landscape to wake up to each morning. You could live in a tiny 400 square foot log cabin like Thoreau did and it would be still be beautiful here, but this private 2.8 acre estate in Tahoe City, CA boasts a French inspired home that is a true compliment to the beauty of the land.

The 5,200 square foot home is highlighted by huge picture windows that let in magnificent views of Lake Tahoe. Apart from the priceless views, the 4 bedroom and 5 bath home built in 2007 has all of the amenities and fine touches you would expect from a 21st century luxurious property. When you’re not warm and cozy in front of the fireplace, you can venture out on the beautifully landscaped grounds or down to your 150′ of private shoreline and pier to swim, boat or even kayak.

Click here to learn more about this estate listed by Dwight McCarthy with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage.

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I’ll Be Home by Meghan Trainor Captures the Feeling of Home for the Holidays

What is the purpose of a home?

At its core home is a gathering place. Sure you sleep there, eat there and watch TV there, but home is one of the few places you can join together with those that you love to celebrate any occasion. Birthdays, Thanksgiving, Christmas and most of life’s major events center around home, and not just the physical structure, but the idea that home is the place where your loved ones come. There’s a certain joy in having others come to your home.

You may remember that joy as a child, but with my 4 boys being young I witness it every time someone comes to the door of our home. A spark of excitement lights in their eyes and the anticipated arrival of their cousins coming over is enough to make them sit patiently by a window. Did you catch that? 4 boys sit patiently. You know it’s a special occasion.

The holidays are, of course, one of the most prominent times where we gather with loved ones at home so when I came across this song I’ll Be Home by Meghan Trainor on my Spotify Christmas station, I knew it was something I had to share.

We’ve all heard various renditions of I’ll Be Home for Christmas which in my mind is one of the best Christmas songs ever written, but there’s something about I’ll Be Home that captures both the hopeful wishing that you will be able to make it home as well as the joy of being home for Christmas.

I’ll Be Home is all about wanting to be home with the ones you love and isn’t that what makes the holidays so wonderful? Sure I want Call of Duty for Xbox as much as the next person, but while gifts are fleeting memories made with loved ones last so much longer. Home is the canvas on which those memories are created.

While I enjoy being left alone to watch sports or be slothful at home, no one wants to be away from home and family and friends at Christmas. That’s why whenever I hear these Christmas songs about coming home for Christmas I can’t help but think of our men and women in the military who are not only away from the ones they love, but are also in harm’s way. They’re sacrificing Christmas memories for the sake of our freedom. When I think of it that way, it’s hard not to get choked up.

To all those headed home for the holidays, we here at Coldwell Banker wish you safe travels and a wonderful holiday season. And to those in the armed forces who are stationed overseas, we are hoping you get to come home soon.

Here’s Meghan Trainor’s I’ll Be Home.

Header image courtesy of Flickr user Chris_J

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Home Tip of the Day: Make Your Own Wrapping Paper

It’s officially wrapping season! Looking for a unique way to doll up your gifts? Try making your own wrapping paper. Here are a few ideas on how to customize your holiday gifts to make them even more special.

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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DFW Home Maintenance Tips for Winter

You’ve probably seen memes on the internet, poking some gentle fun at Texans and the general state of panic that sometimes ensues when threatening winter weather is on the horizon. Even when a snowpocalypse isn’t in the making, however, there are a few important home maintenance items you should address in your DFW-area home before temperatures dip and icy precipitation arrives. Use this handy list to be prepared.

Fire Up The Furnace

All summer long, your furnace has sat in patient hibernation while your air conditioning system worked overtime. Before the worst of the winter cold hits, it’s time to get that furnace — and your entire heating system — checked out and serviced. An HVAC maintenance company can make sure your equipment is working efficiently and that your home’s exterior openings and interior ductwork is sealed to prevent undue leakage.

If you have a gas furnace, checking on your pilot light before turning on is especially important. And in addition to checking for ductwork leaks, it’s a good idea to also check for leaks in the pipes that carry natural gas into your home.

Up On The Rooftop

Santa’s sleigh needs a well-conditioned rooftop to land on this winter — and you need to ensure that your home is properly sealed against precipitation, wind, and any critters who may decide to make your home their home.

The fierce thunderstorms that sweep through Texas in the spring and summer can leave roof damage that you may not detect until much later on. Even a few missing shingles can lead to big problems in your home during the winter months. If you have a tall enough ladder, you can try inspecting your own roof for damage. But when it comes to roof repairs, make sure to call in the experts — and check to see if your homeowner’s insurance will cover any necessary work.

Sweep ‘Em Out

You have two key areas on/in your home to sweep out before winter: your gutters and your chimney/fireplace. Let’s start with your gutters. As leaves fall during autumn, they can clog up your gutter, which may make it impossible for precipitation to freely flow. When winter hits and that precipitation freezes, your gutters may crack or separate from your home because of leaves, nuts, acorns, and other obstructions. Sweep your gutters each year after all trees in your yard have finished shedding their leaves.

Your chimney and fireplace are also highly important areas to address before you use them for the first time each winter. Clean debris from last winter out of your fireplace. To ensure that your chimney is in tip-top shape, you can either hire a chimney sweeping service or burn a special creosote-dispersing log to help clear out old soot. One last area that needs addressed for your fireplace: the very top. Ensure that no critters have made their home in your chimney over the summer. If necessary, you may need to replace (or add, if you didn’t already have) screening over the top of the chimney.

Lighten and Brighten

The winter months can sometimes be dreary, but think about how wonderful it is on days when the sun is shining brightly. Get your home ready to take advantage of the heat the sun can offer even on the coldest of days by putting up lighter draperies. This natural sunlight can not only brighten your home but can help you to get your daily dose of vitamin D to keep the winter blues away.

Ready? Set! Now it’s time to prepare to tackle your winter home maintenance chores.

Image Source: Flickr

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What You Need to Know about the November Housing Numbers

Season’s greetings! As the temperatures begin to get chilly and the holidays are just around the corner, it’s officially wintertime. With only a few more days left in 2014, the National Association of Realtors (NAR) released its November existing-home sales report. Total existing-home sales totaled 4.93 million in November 2014, above last year’s November number by 2.1 percent.

November also marked the highest percent of first-time buyers (31 percent) since October 2012. And while properties stayed on the market in November longer (65 days) than October (63 days), 32 percent of homes sold in November were on the market for less than a month!

The median existing-home price for November was $205,300, which marked the 33rd consecutive month of year-over-year price gains.

Below is a breakdown of the median price of homes sold in each region of the country during this past November. As we say goodbye to 2014, check out these on-the-market listings, perfect for new beginnings in the New Year!

Northeast median sales price: $246,100

Midwest median sales price: $160,500

South median sales price: $176,500

West median sales price: $292,700

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5 Holiday Storage Options for the Space-Starved New Yorker

Unlike suburbanites, most New Yorkers don’t have basements for holiday storage. And while some larger buildings offer storage to residents for a fee, waitlists are usually really long.

That means city-dwellers need to get creative when it comes to storing holiday decorations from year to year. Here are some ideas that’ll help save you from the clutter. Some require you to get out of the house, others can be done entirely from the comfort of your (warm) apartment.

1. Send Them to the Suburbs
If you have family or close friends in the nearby suburbs, now’s the time to ask them whether they’ll store a box or two for you. What seems like a lot in a New York City apartment would probably go unnoticed in a house.

2. Buy a Storage Unit
There are storage companies and storage units all over the city, and SpareFoot helps you find the storage space closest to your apartment (simply type in your zip code). Manhattan Mini Storage, for one, offers four-foot-by-four-foot “personal closets” for $29 a month if you sign up for a year. Plus the company offers a free ‘”storage taxi ” that takes you and your stuff to or from your holiday storage.

3. Donate Them
If you’re the nostalgic type, this option won’t work for you, but if not, you can forgo holiday storage altogether if you buy cheaper decorations each year (think Christmas lights, simple ornaments, and disposable popcorn chains) and then donate most of them after the holidays are over. Organizations like Goodwill welcome seasonal decorations. Not only will this option save you space, but it’ll help spread holiday cheer to others well into 2015.

4. Take Advantage of Storage Startups
NYC is home to a couple of new storage startups that do most of the work for you. They bring you some bins, pick them up, and store them for you on a month-to-month basis. Boxbee — which calls itself an “urban storage valet” — is $7.50 a month for each 24-by-12-inch bin. MakeSpace, whose motto is “Your Closet in the Cloud,” charges $25 a month for a 27-by-17-inch bin. Plus, they offer a digital visual catalog of your stuff so you can order it back to your home whenever you like.

5. Buy Some Cute Furniture to Hide Your Decorations
Here in NYC, our living spaces are so small that each piece of furniture needs to do double duty. Why not keep your holiday decorations in an ottoman that can also serve as extra living room seating or a place to put up your feet while you watch TV?

Image Source: Flickr/Tracy Ducasse

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How to Make My House Smell Good During the Holidays

Simmer Pot

The winter holidays have one major drawback: They happen during winter, when the weather in Philadelphia tends to be cold, if not snowy and wet. That means you can’t throw open your windows and let fresh air in the way you can in spring, summer, or fall. With so many holiday gatherings happening this time of year, you may be thinking to yourself, “I need to know how to make my house smell good this holiday season.” Luckily, you have plenty of options that don’t involve welcoming freezing air indoors.

Image Source: Flickr/Diana Mieczan

Make a Simmer Pot

If you want a completely customized, warm scent to fill your home during the holidays, a simmer pot might be the way to go. A simmer pot is simply a saucepan filled with water and a number of spices or other highly fragrant things. Place the pan on the burner over low heat and let the water come to a simmer. The heat of the water will release the scent of the spices, filling your home with a lovely fragrance.

What you put in the pot really depends on your tastes, but options include cinnamon sticks, cloves, nutmeg, vanilla beans, and slices of citrus. While the cost of spices can be prohibitively high, some places in Philly, such as Essene Market, sell spices in bulk, by the pound. You can get a couple of cinnamon sticks, a few vanilla beans, and some whole nutmeg for a lot less than you would buying the spices in glass jars.

Scented Pomander

Image Source: Flickr

Fill a Bowl with Pomanders

There are many types of pomander (a scented ball whose name comes from the French term for “apple of amber”). Around the holiday season, though, when people think of pomanders, they think of little oranges or other citrus fruits studded with cloves. The process of making your own pomanders to make your home smell good is relatively easy. Use a marker to draw a design on the oranges, then poke several holes into the skin of the orange, tracing along the design. Push a clove into each hole. You can also completely cover the oranges with cloves.

After you’ve decorated the citrus with the cloves, you’ll want to dry the fruit, so that mold doesn’t grow and so that the pomanders actually last more than a week or so. Martha Stewart recommends tossing the oranges with orris root powder. A less expensive and less messy way to dry the fruits is to hang them in a dark closet for a few days or to stash them in the refrigerator for about a week. Once the pomanders are dry, place them in a large bowl and set on a table to fill your home with fragrance.

Scented Candles

Image Source: Flickr/ Redcorn Studios

Light Some Candles

If you’re still wondering “how to make my house smell good” the easiest way possible, look for scented candles in festive, winter-ready fragrances. Add a little local flair to your tablescape by choosing locally made candles. Bee Natural is a small apiary from Delaware that produces beeswax candles in a variety of scents. You can order the candles online or pick them up in person at Reading Terminal Market.

A house that smells great can help put you in a festive mood. It also can help any guests who come visit for the holidays feel at home. You don’t have to do much to bring a holiday scent to your home. Try these ideas in your Philadelphia home this winter.

Main Image Source: Flickr/Rob Faulkner

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Real Estate Headlines with Derek Jeter, The Flinstones and Dubai

Twas the week of Christmas and all through house, not a package was wrapped and your freaking out. Before panic sets in and Christmas dinner is cooked, here are some weekly real estate headlines you shouldn’t overlook.

Happy holidays to you and your home and thanks for making 2014 our best year yet on the Coldwell Banker Blue Matter blog. Now for the headlines:

The Motley Fools wants you to please stop making these home buying mistakes.

Guess who’s buying up property in Dubai like it’s going out of style?

Dick Clark’s Flinstones inspired home has been sold by Coldwell Banker agent, Diane Carter.

What are the cities with the largest homes?

Forbes shares 10 hot real estate markets to watch in 2015.

Take a look at the most incredible video in real estate this year.

Bigger Pockets shares 25 tips for smarter real estate investing.

Can you guess how much America’s housing market is worth? Hint: it’s in the trillions.

Derek Jeter may have just bought a house in a place you’ve never heard of: Skaneateles Lake, NY.

And finally, Gawker says, “rents are going up suckas.”

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