Monthly Archives: January 2015

Apartment Renovation in NYC: How to Do It Right

An apartment renovation in NYC can be every homeowner’s dream — and nightmare. On the one hand, homeowners are excited about turning their homes into the spaces they’ve always dreamed about, but they’re also worried about the possibility of costs spiraling out of control. If you’re planning a renovation on your New York apartment, keep these tips in mind.

1. To create your budget, add up your projected costs … then double it.

Budgets written down on paper make total sense, but they often don’t anticipate everything that could come up during the reno. You may discover that your subflooring is severely damaged and needs to be replaced before you can even think about laying down that Brazilian walnut flooring you’ve had your heart set on. Or maybe there’s heretofore undiscovered water damage that will need to be repaired. If you haven’t set aside a cushion for the unexpected, you could find yourself spending a lot more than you’d planned. By automatically doubling your estimated budget, you’ll be able to anticipate and deal with any unexpected expenses.

2. First do what you have to do, and then you can do what you want to do.

The phrase “Work now , play later” can totally be used when it comes to your NYC apartment renovation. Whether you’re putting together a $10k job or you’re planning to drop half a million dollars on your renovation, it’s natural that you want something that reflects all of your hard work (and money) with an obvious aesthetic upgrade. Everyone loves the sexy part of home renovations — picking out the Carrara marble countertops, or deciding between an AGA or a Wolf range, or figuring out which Farrow & Ball paint shade will best show off your fabulous living room while bringing out the color of your eyes.

But while there’s nothing cool about, say, spending $30k on a plumbing upgrade, If your apartment needs under-the-hood fixes, make those first. There’s no point in “putting lipstick on a pig.” Take care of the plumbing issues, electrical problems, or any damage that’s causing issues with your apartment. It may mean slicing some of the budget for the more cosmetic fixes or postponing some of them, but in the end, you’ll be thankful you did. If you ignore glaring structural issues with your apartment, you’ll pay much, much more for them in the long run — and fixing them later might even mean having to tear out your precious aesthetic upgrades in the process.

3. Consider using less expensive materials.

You may have your heart set on an all-marble kitchen, but mixing some of your surfaces with a less expensive material like butcher block can save you several thousand dollars or more. If you find that you have to spend more than you thought on structural and behind-the-scenes issues, be creative when it comes to your aesthetic fixes.

4. Don’t go cheap when it comes to contractors.

You may think that if one plumbing contractor gives you a bid for $5k and another gives you a bid for $9k, it’s an obvious choice: Go with the cheaper option and have more money to spend later. Well, you could assemble a line that wraps around the city a thousand times filled with people who’d tell you they wish they hadn’t made that decision. When it comes to NYC apartment renovations, don’t cut corners that you will regret later. Go with the contractor with the great reputation who’ll do it right the first time. This strategy will save you money down the road.

Image Source: Flickr/Andreas Karsten

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A Winter How-To Guide for Philadelphia Homeowners

In Philadelphia, each new season brings its own set of challenges. During the winter months, one primary goal is keeping your home insulated and warm. Here’s a quick how-to guide to help you take care of some common cold weather chores every Philadelphia homeowner might face.

Draft-Proof Doors

If you notice cold air seeping through the gaps around your doors, consider replacing the weather-stripping seal. Self-stick weather-stripping tape is sold in different thicknesses, so it’s a good idea to measure the gap between the door and the frame before shopping. To apply, simply unroll the tape and peel off the sticker before pressing into place. If you’d prefer not to use the sticky-tape vinyl weather strip, you can purchase a felt version that you nail in place. Still feeling cool air? Try making a draft snake using an old pair of jeans or other recycled materials.

DIY Log Carriers

For homes with wood-burning hearths, a log carrier is the best way to transport firewood in and out of the house. To limit your trips back and forth to the wood pile and to protect your floor from dirt and debris, one quick solution is to make your own log carrier out of fabric or canvas. You can recycle old materials or sew your own carrier using heavyweight fabric and wooden dowels, as shown in this DIY Network how-to guide.

HVAC Filters

The all-too-brief lull between air conditioning and heating season is a great time to have your heater cleaned and serviced. During the Philadelphia winter months, you’ll also want to periodically change your HVAC filter to guarantee your heater is operating most efficiently. Disposable HVAC filters are inexpensive and sold in most home improvement or hardware stores. You may also opt for a reusable filter. The reusable varieties are more expensive but can be rinsed off and dried before they are returned to the heating unit. Check your HVAC filter monthly and aim to replace it every two to three months, or more frequently if needed. When you do need to change the filter, make sure your heater is off. If your heater doesn’t restart after changing the filter, check for correct placement or call your HVAC service technician for further instruction.

Many simple insulating techniques earn homeowners significant savings and added warmth in the coldest months. If you’re a crafty and creative person, there’s no limit to the number of ingenious ideas you can come up with to fight winter drafts and increase efficiency in your home.

Image Source: Flickr/Kevin Burkett

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Cure Those Winter Blues At Home With These Bright Ideas


The holidays have come and gone. The warmer weather just feels so. Far. Away. If you’re like me and sadly don’t have a tropical getaway in your immediate future, you may be feeling a case of the winter blues. Fortunately, this is not a serious condition and can be cured with the following fun ideas in your home:

1. Have a BBQ
Yes, barbecues are usually reserved for the spring and summer months, but who’s stopping you from having one in January? Grab some hamburgers, hot dogs, and chicken and fire up that grill! Make sure to check out our tips for grilling in the chilly weather!

Image via Flickr user Pete R.

2. Brighten up your space
The winter months can feel like they drag on since the sun sets early and the days are much shorter. While the sun may not be shining outside, you can bring some of those warm, sunny hues into your home by incorporating them into your decor. Throw a bright throw over your favorite chair, blow up your favorite family beach photo on canvas and hang it in your living room, or even switch out a plain white lampshade for a bold color. You’ll be surprised how much these small changes can really affect your mood!

Image via

3. Infuse your home with a summer scent
Scent is one of the most powerful triggers which can immediately bring us back to a specific place or time. Coconut, tangerine, and florals immediately remind me of a warm summer’s day. Light a candle in your favorite summer scent to be transported to your happy (summer) place!


Image via

4. Buy some fresh flowers
Your backyard garden may look a little “blah” this time of year, but you can always bring the garden indoors by purchasing a fresh bouquet of flowers in your favorite hue. If taken care of properly, your fresh flowers may even last a week or more!


Image via

How do you keep the winter blues away in your home? Let us know in the comment section below!

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Things to Keep in Mind Around Your Home as You Clean Up from the Winter Storm

As I’ve been watching the coverage of the most recent winter storm, I’ve been wondering about the environmental impact these storms have regarding the materials used for clean-up. The biggest factor is the salt and its impact to the eco-system. Since there is nothing we can do about how our local governments treat the roadways, except voice our concerns about clean-up methods, there is action we can take when it comes to how we deal with the snow around our homes.

Going Green During Your Winter Clean-up Around the House

Of course the best green advice is a back-breaker: shovel. And then shovel more, and you know the rest of the story. But an alternative might be to locate and hire an eco-friendly snow removal company like Eco Snow Removal to help you in the process.

If you want to get high-tech in your snow removal method, you might want to consider having a professional install a Sno*Melter on your roof, driveway or sidewalks. How jealous is this going to make your neighbors?

But if you don’t have the budget for a Sno*Melter anytime soon, then the most common de-icer method ends up being salt. There are all types of products on the market, so make sure to choose wisely because some products can wreak havoc on the environment (and your pets). The least toxic solution is calcium chloride or calcium magnesium acetate (CMA). Be sure to check the labels of the products you are bringing home to ensure you’re not introducing harmful agents around your home. Here is a great reference chart to help you in your next purchase.

Have another green snow or ice removal solution? Share with everyone so we all can get in on the snow day fun.

Photo credit via Flicker user Justin Wolfe

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Home of the Week: A Historic Manor Outside of Boston

In our newest ‘Home of the Week‘ we move from a sleek condo in the Fifty Shades of Grey building, to a classic stone manor just 20 miles outside of Boston.

You might not be able to see it under the 30 or so inches of snow blanketing the Boston area today, but this $2,725,000 home in Needham, MA is truly something special. Nestled on just under 5 acres, the gorgeous private grounds are surrounded by granite walls and a fountain that give off a distinct English countryside vibe.

At the center of the sprawling estate is an elegant home that appears at once stately, but also very much like a warm and inviting place to be with family. A part of the warm ambiance exuded by this 7 bedroom home can be attributed to its rich history – as it was built in the 1930s by one of the oldest families in Boston. The home may be over 80 years old, but its recent renovations make it absolutely ideal for those seeking 21st century luxury living and convenience.

The over 8,500 square foot home offers up the best of New England – history with a lovely mix of the new! I could personally see how great it would be to raise a family here. Enjoy barbecues and pool parties during the summer, and hot chocolate by the stone fireplace during the winter! Click here to learn more about this home listed by Melissa Dailey with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage.

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3 Activities in Dallas You Don’t Want to Miss This February

Live in the DFW area and looking for something to do? There are tons of exciting activities in Dallas happening this winter — whether you want a fancy night out or something fun to do with the kids. Here’s a peek at some February events you’ll want to add to your calendar.

Turtle Creek Chorale’s 35th Anniversary Concert | February 7

Did you know Dallas is home to the most-recorded male chorus in the world? That’s right. The Turtle Creek Chorale (TCC) has more than 150 singing members, 38 CDs, and two feature-length, motion-picture documentaries. This February, TCC is celebrating its 35th anniversary with a super-special concert. Get dressed up and head to Dallas City Performance Hall for an unforgettable evening of amazing music. This is one of those activities in Dallas that you definitely don’t want to miss. Tickets range from $50–$150.

Odysseo | Through February 8

Internationally acclaimed Cavalia brings its new production, Odysseo, to the Dr Pepper Ballpark for some exciting, family-friendly entertainment. Here’s what you can expect at the show: jaw-dropping acrobatics, high-tech theatrical effects, and outstanding equestrian arts all set on a larger-than-life stage with a real carousel and a magically appearing lake. It all happens in front of a video backdrop the size of three IMAX screens. Yeah, it’s pretty cool. If you’re looking for activities in Dallas to do with your family, this is a winner. Tickets range from $29.50–$259.50, with special pricing available for groups, children, juniors, and seniors.

Robots 3D | Through March 22

Here’s a fun family outing that’s entertaining and educational: the Robots 3D film at the Perot Museum of Nature and Science. You’ll see (in stunning, three-dimensional detail) some of the cutting-edge developments from robotic labs around the world. If you or your kids are fascinated by robots and want a behind-the-scenes look at how scientists create them, go ahead and get your tickets for this film. The Hoglund Foundation Theater at the museum runs a variety of other films, too, so be sure to check out upcoming shows. Tickets are $6 for members and $8 for non-members.

The Metroplex is a bustling place to live, work, and play. You’ll always find activities in Dallas to entertain, delight, educate, and inspire. If you want to mix things up this February and do something unique and memorable, you can’t go wrong with these three events.

Image Source: Flickr/Michael Kwan

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Preparing for an East Coast Snow Storm

Snow angel

Philadelphia is an East Coast city that’s sometimes prone to drastic changes in the weather. One day it can be a beautiful springlike day, and the next there’s an East Coast snow storm on the way. Winter snow storms bring a number of responsibilities for property owners, including shoveling walkways and preparing your Philadelphia property for the icy temperatures. Take note of these important tips to prepare in advance for a possible winter storm.

Keep at Least 10 Bags of Rock Salt On Hand

One year in recent East Coast history, it was nearly impossible to find rock salt. All the stores were sold out, and even local townships didn’t have salt to use to make roads safer for travel. So make it a point each year before the wintertime in Philly to purchase plenty of rock salt for your sidewalk, walkway, and driveway in case you have snow storms during the season. Always keep at least 10 bags available in storage.

Get Supplies

When an East Coast snow storm makes the roads difficult to traverse, authorities will usually recommend that you stay inside until the snow begins to melt. So it’s a good idea to fill your pantry with plenty of supplies, in case you can’t drive for a few days during a snow storm. Also, if the power goes out (which sometimes happens when ice and wind overwhelm the power grid), you’ll need supplies to keep you and your family comfortable. Here’s a short list of things to buy and store in case of winter storms:

  • Dry and canned foods
  • Dry pet food for family pets
  • Ice to keep your food cold in case of a power outage
  • Flashlights and first aid kits
  • Battery-powered radio and/or TV
  • Batteries of all sizes
  • Candles and battery-powered lanterns
  • Cellphones with fully charged batteries and portable chargers
  • Extra medication, in case you can’t make it to a pharmacy safely
  • Alternate heating source (like a fireplace or backup generator to run electric heaters)

Image Source: Flickr/Saskia Heijltjes

Winterize Your Home

When snow covers the area around your home after a storm, your heating system is going to have to work overtime to maintain a comfortable temperature inside. Spend time in advance of an East Coast snow storm to thoroughly winterize your home to reduce heating costs. Here are a few important steps:

  • Use plastic sheeting kits to cover all of your windows; they’re very affordable, simple to install, and effective at keeping out cold air.
  • Add a door sweep to any doors in your home that are letting cold air inside.
  • Cover your water pipes with foam installation; these are circular rolls available at your local home improvement store that are designed to fit over standard 1/2-inch and 3/4-inch pipes.

Visit FEMA’s website for more important tips about preparing your home for the winter.

With preparation, you’ll be just fine this winter in Philadelphia — even if there’s an East Coast snow storm or two to contend with. When you stock up on supplies and take the time to properly winterize your home the only thing you’ll probably have to think about is who will make the best snow angel in your front yard!

Main Image Source: Flickr/Kevin Burkett

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Get Ready for Winter with These Patio Cleaning Tips

Patio Cleaning: Cleaning Furniture

When cold weather arrives in New York, it’s time to make sure your outdoor space winter-ready. A little patio cleaning now will make your life much easier come spring!

Prepare Furniture and Cushions

Before you store furniture and cushions for winter, it’s important to clean them properly. Dirt and grime may harm your furniture over time, so don’t neglect a good cleaning. The type of furniture you own will determine the cleaning method:

  • Metal: Spray with a hose to loosen dirt. Go over furniture with a scrub sponge and soapy water to remove any remaining grime. Rinse with clean water and dry thoroughly.
  • Wood: Use a dry dish brush to loosen grit, then sand rough areas with sandpaper. Spray furniture down with a hose, and then go over everything with soapy water and a cloth. Spray with clean water. When furniture has dried completely, coat it with an oil made for wood, such as teak oil. (Regular vegetable oil works in a pinch, too.)
  • Wicker: Excessive water is the enemy of wicker furniture, so avoid drenching it while cleaning. Use a handheld vacuum or a stiff brush to remove as much dirt and grime as possible, then clean it with warm, soapy water. Rinse everything with clean water and then dry it off thoroughly.

If your furniture has cushions, check the care labels. You may be able to remove the cushion covers and clean them in your washing machine. If that’s not possible, spot-clean the cushions with soap and water. Dry them in the sun.

If your patio table has an umbrella, you’ll want to clean that, too. Wash it with soap and water, and let it dry completely before closing and storing.

Image Source: Flickr/US CPSC

Get Your Grill Ready

You grill needs to be prepared for winter, too. Start by turning a gas grill up as high as possible or lighting a hot fire in a charcoal grill. Let the fire go for a few minutes and then extinguish it. This will burn off any stuck-on debris. After your grill has cooled, scrape off any residue and clean all surfaces with warm, soapy water. If you’re putting a gas grill into storage, make sure to remove the tank. Wrap the tank and store it securely on your patio.

Patio Cleaning: Grill

Image Source: MorgueFile

Wrap Everything Up

After you’ve cleaned your furniture and accessories, it’s time to wrap everything up. The most important thing is to choose a well-fitting cover. Amazon has a great selection, if you can’t find anything locally. Look for a heavy-duty cover that’s both UV- and water-resistant, and measure your furniture carefully before making a purchase. Secure the cover to your furniture tightly and check on it periodically throughout winter.

Other Things to Consider

Keep the following in mind during your patio cleaning, too:

  • Bring plants inside. They’ll brighten up your apartment over winter. Discard anything that’s in bad shape and store the pots upside down to avoid collecting water.
  • Clean leaves and other debris from drains.
  • Secure everything tightly to your patio. You don’t want to lose anything to a gusty nor’easter.
  • While you’re cleaning the furniture, keep an eye out for loose screws and other issues. Fix these issues now.
  • Bring any glass inside if at all possible. At the very least, move it away from icicle-forming ledges and anything else that may shatter it.

Patio Cleaning: Plants

Image Source: MorgueFile

Anyone who lives in an NYC apartment with an outdoor space should take note of these patio cleaning tips. Run down the list, and your patio will be ready for winter!

Main Image Source: Flickr

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4 Questions to Ask When Hiring A Real Estate Agent

Before hiring anyone for an open position, the natural next step is usually an interview. So before you hire a real estate agent, who will serve as your advocate for the home selling process, shouldn’t you conduct a proper interview first?

In the video below, Ronnie Aiosa of the Boswell/Aiosa Group with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage fills us in on the 4 important questions you should ask when interviewing potential agents to sell your home.

Whether you’re ready to sell, buy or rent, Coldwell Banker can help you find your way home.

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Philadelphia Restaurant Week and More: 5 Things to Do in Philly This Winter

It’s winter, it’s freezing outside, and the last thing you want to do is leave your house and explore what Philly has to offer. While the temptation to stay indoors until things thaw out in spring might be high, if you do so, you’ll end up missing out on a lot of fun opportunities. So bundle up and head out to enjoy plenty of events, from a budget-priced dinner during Philadelphia restaurant week to an educational and free evening at a well-known museum.

Attend Restaurant Week

During Philadelphia Restaurant Week, a bevy of restaurants in Center City offer three-course dinners for $35. Participating restaurants include a few steakhouses, classic Italian eateries, and sushi restaurants, among others. A few of the establishments will also offer a $20 three-course lunch option. If you’re planning on giving it a go, it’s a good idea to review the menu offerings for a few places before making your pick. The three courses are usually limited to a few options. A few places do offer vegetarian options, but not every establishment does, so if you’re looking to leave meat out of your meal, checking the menu before booking a table is particularly important. It’s also worth noting that the $35 price doesn’t include tax or tip, nor does it include beverages.

See a Show

The winter is an ideal time to see a play at one of Philly’s renowned local theaters. This season, the Wilma Theater is making theatergoing a bit more affordable. Tickets for all seats at all its plays are just $25, thanks to a grant from the Wyncote Foundation. The theater’s production of The Body of an American by Dan O’Brien runs through the beginning of February, followed by Hamlet in March. The theater also hosts a number of special events to coincide with its performances, such as post-show discussions, documentary screenings, and beer tastings.

Learn Something New

On the third Wednesday of every month, you can attend the Franklin Institute for free, thanks to Target Community Nights, which start at 5 p.m. Each month, the community night has a different theme — February’s is heart health, for example. During the event, there will be the opportunity to find out more about the theme and to explore the museum on your own.

Make Something

If the cold weather and lack of sunlight is starting to get you down, a Date Night at the Clay Studio in Old City might be just what you need. Get the creative juices flowing as you work on a clay project, either with a special someone, your close friends, or by yourself. Advanced registration is required and the studio’s Date Nights tend to fill up quickly, so sign up for one sooner rather than later.

Take a Trip to St. Petersburg …

… without even leaving Philadelphia. In late January, the Philadelphia Orchestra hosts its St. Petersburg Festival, a three-week musical series that celebrates the legendary composers Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff, and Shostakovich. Later, in February, you can also catch their “Russian Masterworks” concert.

Philly doesn’t go into hibernation during the winter. It continues to be full of exciting things to do. Get your new year of to a great start by trying something new in the city or by visiting a new-to-you restaurant during Restaurant Week.

Image Source: Flickr/Tom Ipri

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