Real Estate Tips

8 Minimalist Homes That Are Big on Style (Not on Stuff)

Stunning. Sleek. Neat. Feast your eyes on eight simple, yet sophisticated homes so serene, they might just have you decluttering in no time.

Open and airy – up, down and around

Photo by PLUSH Image Corporation.

High ceilings and a palette of neutral colors make this living room feel open and luminous. From the Mid-Century Modern couch to the simple side tables, furniture with exposed legs adds to the appearance of ample space. Large windows allow abundant natural light to fill the room, giving it an airy feel.

White and bright with wood accents

Photo by Colt Verret.

Three Edison bulbs hang above the island of this kitchen, giving it a radiant, yet clean look. A slate of uniform white cabinets makes the space feel open and spotless, while a stainless-steel farmhouse sink completes the look. From the bar stools to the sliding barn door, natural wood accents complement the kitchen – without the clutter.

Clean, fresh and flowing

Photo from Zillow listing.

Set against walls of white, this minimalist chic bathroom is the perfect spot to cleanse the body and the mind. This space has flowing, zen-like design elements. The shower walls and double slipper tub have a sinuous look, reminiscent of the nearby Pacific Ocean.

Mid-Century meets the 21st

Photo from Zillow listing.

Clean and chic, this dining room is a dream in simplicity. A modern, silver-colored chandelier provides a pop of inspiration, set against a classic backdrop of black and white. Hardwood floors and a natural wood dining table add warmth without the clutter.  

Classic style in blush tones and gold

Photo by Angelika Piatek Photography.

Crisp white walls and a bold, gray-paneled fireplace anchor this bright living room. Touches of light blush tones complement the simple aesthetic, while metallic-leg, Mid-Century Modern furniture adds to the minimalist chic. Clean, geometric lines – from the crisscross rug to the modern side table – complete the look.

A nod to nature

Photo by Roehner+Ryan. Home staging by Local Trade.

Ample light and simple lines provide the soothing setting for this home. Gold- and silver-colored light fixtures add to the glow, while a bar cart doubles as a storage space. It’s also a sneaky way to stash clutter in a pinch, keeping things neat and tidy.

Perfectly placed patterns

Photo from Zillow listing.

Sleep comes easy when a bedroom is this free of distractions. Classic white walls provide a soothing visual backdrop, while the patterned rug integrates a simple, chic design. Floor-to-ceiling windows elongate the space, inviting in generous amounts of light.

The illusion of height

Photo from Zillow listing.

Long vertical lines – from the tripod lamp to the decorative wooden ladder and tall potted plant – draw the eye upward, making the space seem larger. Touches of gray and blue add cool, soothing tones to an otherwise neutral space.

Top image by Angelika Piatek Photography

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Originally published January 2018.

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Real Estate Tips

7 Retro Trends Making a Comeback

Each year, fashion leaves a strong impression on the design industry and its offerings for the season. For 2020, the vibe includes handmade organic details paired with the sparkle of the ’70s disco club and the velvety softness of the ’80s.

But beyond the nostalgic hints that those artistic impressions carry, what lies ahead for interiors? How will we change and evolve in our home environment? Read on and see what speaks to your design style as we approach another new year.

Cork and recycled elements

Many manufacturers, designers and architects have focused their products and projects on a sustainable, environmentally friendly approach to home building and design. Thanks to modern technology, sustainable products don’t mean inferior quality, comfort or design.

In fact, these products celebrate eco-chic versions of modern or traditional designs in both elevated and affordable versions. While products like linoleum or cork flooring may have been long forgotten, they will see a strong comeback in the new season, thanks to its natural characteristics.

Abloom with florals

The traditional beauty of floral patterns, either abstracted or straight-up chintz, will continue to be the pattern to use, especially when paired with deep luxurious velvets and maximalist styled spaces. But home designer, beware: Chintz can be tricky. Its bold old-fashioned prints can easily turn to frilly English bed-and-breakfast if you’re not careful. When done right, the floral theme can add color, texture and just the right touch of classic elegance to your interior.

Handmade accents

Handmade items made with sustainable materials like jute, rice paper and clay will be all the rage in 2020. These elements go far in grounding a home, allowing its inhabitants to be in touch with the earth and their roots. The incorporation of natural materials popular years ago – like caning, rope, sea grass and bamboo – has a strong influence over modern furniture silhouettes and decor details. Elaborately embossed wall coverings, including gold rivets and metallic accents, give surfaces a beautiful tactile sensation and modern ambiance.

Plastic and acrylic

Increasing social consciousness around climate change has influenced the design industry to produce products accordingly. Plastics are being used for indoor and outdoor furniture frames, while water bottles are being used to create outdoor rugs and accents.

For a more luxe look, acrylic products are having a comeback, giving a room the architectural structure it needs without taking up visual real estate. Acrylic in a small space, like an entryway or sitting area, provides a surface that can be layered with more organic items and not feel fussy.

Authentic construction

The rise of digitally printed fabrics has created a true appreciation for real embroidery, thick wool boucles, linens and other artisan-inspired elements. Rich textural expressions are the theme of the upcoming season. Think velvet upholstery, hemp drapery, cork walls, wicker and jute for furniture and finishes.

Maximal artwork

The surge of minimalism and Scandinavian design, characterized by neutral colors and simple materials, is finally declining. In its place, bright colors and graphic patterns are becoming more prevalent in the home.

Don’t be afraid to mix colors, patterns and textures. Take a gallery wall to the next level by having it cover an entire wall, or add a dramatic large-scale piece to your space. In this case, more is more.

Metallic accents

And speaking of timeless metal accents, sparkle is still on the design scene for living room decor compositions. Add a hint of disco glamour and luxury by introducing bronze, gold and chrome details through decorative accents, furniture inlays, hardware, lighting, mirrors and accessories.

Related:

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Real Estate Tips

8 Ways to Incorporate Your Passions Into Your Home Decor

Your home reflects who you are, and you’re way more than a selection of tasteful paint and furniture. Why not celebrate your passions by incorporating them into your decorating? When your talents, skills, and hobbies are on display as a natural part of your decor, you feel more inspired and more at home.

You don’t have to remake your life to incorporate your passions into your home decorating. In many cases, just a small change of storage or placement will make all the difference – and you may even save money because you’re using items you already own.

If something makes you happy, bring it out and let it shine.

Store your tools in arm’s reach

Many creative hobbies come with beautiful tools. Don’t hide your paintbrushes or yarn – show them off with pride of place!

Make sure to put tools you use frequently in accessible places where you can grab them. Nothing’s worse than being inspired to create and having to wrestle a guitar off the wall or extract a crochet hook from the back of a cabinet. A good rule is to keep anything you use once a week or more within easy reach.

Display seasonal equipment year-round

Just because you can only ski a few months out of the year doesn’t mean you forget about hitting the slopes. Keep your seasonal passions alive by keeping them in sight, but out of the way.

Mount skis or fishing poles over a door in the off season. If you have space above kitchen cabinets, that’s a great place for the gorgeous fondue set you only use in winter. You could even ceiling-mount a canoe paddle – or the whole canoe if there’s room. The good thing about most seasonal equipment is that you use it outside, so you don’t have to worry too much about interim storage.

Put your talents to work

Give your creative passions room to shine in everyday life. If you’re great at calligraphy, write a stylish meal-planning list for your week or create a framed school checklist to put by the front door.

Woodworkers can make anything from cutting boards to furniture. If you embroider, make your own cushion covers and embellished hand towels. Potters, once you fill your mug cupboard, branch out into making planters and wall hooks.

For almost any art or craft, there’s a practical application, so make it a fun challenge to find yours.

Bring the mass-appeal objects into the conversation

When you have an interest in common with someone, the conversation just flows. That’s why it’s great to have some pop-culture touchpoints in your living space. Items like framed vinyl albums give your guests an easy way to learn about your interests and start talking.

Not everyone will be able to contribute to a discussion about your 19th-century Japanese chisel, but almost everyone who sees your framed program will remember the first time they heard about “Hamilton.”

For a living room where you entertain friends, or a home office where you have clients, these objects can help create connections.

Let your collection tell a story

When you’re a collector, every piece has a story. As a whole, the items in a collection tell a narrative of their own history and how they came into your life.

Keep collections in a place of honor where the whole story can come together. Cabinets and display shelves are great for 3D objects like glassware, figurines and curios, and albums are perfect for stamps, old photos and ephemera.

Active items inspire action

If you need a little motivation to practice your passion, let your decor help inspire action. Match each inspiring object with the place you’re most likely to need a boost.

If you aren’t feeling your usual gourmet self, display your antique bakeware in your kitchen. To help with writer’s block, display your diploma, your first pitch acceptance letter or special first editions of your favorite books over your desk. Hang athletic medals and photos of you at the finish line over the shoe bin near your entryway to encourage you to go for a run.

Match the vibe of the room

In general, keep the purpose of the room in mind when deciding where to display your prized possessions. Don’t just go by where you have available wall space; take time to find the right fit.

A shelf of antique clown toys can look great in an office or playroom, but might not feel restful in your bedroom. And your championship soccer cleats or a signed football may be perfect inspiration in your workout room, but they’re less than appetizing hanging in the dining room.

Mellow treasures set the mood

Some of your possessions are just for you, and they spark special memories and feelings when you see or touch them. If you have an object that brings your comfort, place it according to how it makes you feel. Does that beach rock make you feel calm? Keep it by your bedside.

If your grandpa’s old pipe reminds you of how he taught you to read, keep in in a display case on a bookshelf or by your desk.

These are just a few of the ways you can bring your passions into your home decorating. Hopefully these ideas inspire you to bring your most important possessions into your decor, so you can keep those passions alive in your daily life.

Related:

Originally published April 2018.

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Real Estate Tips

This School Bus Is a Tiny Home … to a Family of 6!

The wheels on the bus go round and round – and then might stop for family dinner, if you’re Gabriel and Debbie Mayes.

It may not be the dream for every family, but it’s the one Debbie envisioned after seeing a video on Facebook a few years ago. It featured a couple who had converted a school bus and spent all their time on the open road, exploring the country.

“I immediately thought, ‘Hey, we can totally do this with our kids. Why not?'” she recalled. “And so I brought the idea to Gabriel. It took a while to convince him.”

“Definitely took a while,” Gabriel chimed in.

But the more the duo thought about the idea, the more it made sense. They felt disconnected as a family in a 5,000-square-foot home; downsizing would bring the family closer.

4,752 square feet closer, to be precise. 

“We were talking about that disconnection in our marriage, in our family as a whole, and just thought if we’re gonna do anything adventurous, now would be the time,” Gabriel said. “We were looking to reconnect, to do something crazy exciting with our kids, and just to take life and flip it upside down.”

So they bought a school bus to live in.

The family of six – two adults, four kids – sought the help of an outside company when it came to finding the bus and designing the features.

Photo by Marcus Ricci.
Photo by The Mayes Team.

Their priorities: separate sleeping areas for the kids and the adults (the master bedroom has a door that closes), space to entertain guests, and a kitchen with ample countertops. (They pulled that off by installing an under-the-counter fridge. It holds enough food for a week!)

Photo by Marcus Ricci.

“We even went and taped out the design on the floor so we could walk through and see,” Debbie said. “We did things like reduce the depth of the couch, reduce the depth of the [kids’] bunk beds. We knew aisle space would be way more important than them having that extra bed space. I was very intentional in designing all of the little areas to be functional. It’s down to the inches.”

Gabriel’s only ask: a rooftop deck.

“I just had this vision of taking the bus, backing it up against the lake, opening up the skylight out of my bedroom, going up to the roof deck, and then sitting in my chair and just chilling,” he said. “I just wanted this place where I’m secluded from the rest of the world and I’m overlooking just beautiful scenery.”

Photo by Marcus Ricci.

Buying and renovating the bus cost about $38,000 and took about five months. During that time, the family sold or donated much of what they owned and put the rest in storage. They hit the road in August 2017.

Photo by The Mayes Team.

On their first trip, the road hit back.

“I remember the day that I got in the bus. We had spent the whole day packing. Last thing goes on, the kids get on, we close the door, and I put it in drive and our home starts moving. I can’t fully explain how exhilarating that feeling was,” Gabriel said.

“It was amazing but also did not go exactly how we had planned,” Debbie added. “We got 300 miles into the journey, and the bus broke down on the side of the road. It was like, ‘Wah-wah.'”

Photo by Marcus Ricci.

The school bus – which they affectionately call “the Skoolie” – picked a patch of desert land in Oklahoma to break down.

Turns out it was also a piece of private land.

“We fed the kids lunch and tried to figure out what the heck we were gonna do, and a random stranger pulls up after we’d been there for a few hours, and he was like, ‘You’re actually on my land.'” Debbie said. “But he had been a diesel mechanic.”

The stranger ended up building a part to get the bus moving. It’s been pretty much smooth sailing ever since, from the mountains of Wyoming to the Bonneville Salt Flats of Utah.

Photo by Jen Hammer.

Their biggest advice for others considering a home on wheels: Do the research. Find a builder or designer you can trust. In retrospect, they probably would’ve chosen a washer and dryer over installing a shower, but they have few other regrets.

And yes, of course, there are seat belts for all. The family designed the living space to hide the seat belts under the couch cushions when the bus is parked. The baby rides in a car seat. “They are able to buckle up safely,” Debbie said, about her kids. Anything that’s breakable gets packed away for when the bus moves.

Photo by Marcus Ricci.

“To be able to have everything that you own as a family of six inside 248 square feet, knowing everything that you own is where it’s supposed to be – the amount of stress and anxiety really goes out the window,” Gabriel said.

“Whenever you rid yourself of this desire to have things, it’s not that the desire goes away, it’s just that you just don’t have the space for it anymore,” he continued. “It causes you to start thinking on different levels. Now I just want to be intentional with my wife and be intentional with my kids. This massive weight is just gone.”

Photo by Marcus Ricci.

Eventually, the Mayes plan to park the bus and turn it into a short-term rental. They hope to find a forever home and allow others to explore their tiny home on wheels.

“The kids feel like they’re on this massive adventure. Whenever you pull up to a location that’s surrounded by mountains or there’s a new waterfall to go explore or some trail just to go run down, you put the bus in park, and you open the door,” Gabriel said. “Just to see their excitement … I’ve never experienced anything like that.”

Photo by Marcus Ricci.

Top featured image by Jen Hammer.

Related:

Originally published July 2018.

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Real Estate Tips

6 Yurts That Will Have You Dreaming of Your Next Adventure

Contemporary yurts are popping up everywhere – from Los Angeles to Zion National Park – as airy homes, backcountry destinations or even weekend glamping getaways. 

Below are some of our favorites.

Marfa, Texas

Photo by Nick Simonite.

Sleep under a swath of stars in this brightly colored Marfa, Texas, yurt. Located about three hours southeast of El Paso, the yurt sits on a 21-acre artists’ retreat with a hammock grove, bike rentals and wood-fired hot tubs. Bringing friends? The yurt is perched alongside safari tents and renovated vintage trailers.

This home is currently available as a short-term rental.

Orderville, Utah

Photo by Robert Ranney.

Just beyond the terra-cotta backdrop of Zion National Park, this Utah yurt is off-grid and on point. Cell service and technology are nonexistent, making for the perfect environment to enjoy this bucolic setting. An outdoor fire pit serves as a spot to warm up underneath the night sky, and the yurt’s interior can sleep up to 11 people tuckered out from exploring Utah’s natural bliss.

This home is currently available for short-term stays.

Elgin, Texas

Photo by Sean Mathis.

About 30 minutes outside of artsy Austin, Texas, sit five yurts for the glamping fan in all of us. Each space is artfully decorated, from the Southwestern decor to the hand-picked vintage furniture. The rustic surroundings provide the perfect escape from the hubbub of big city life. There’s a classic writer’s desk inside each yurt, relaxing hammocks outside and walking trails nearby.

These homes are currently available as short-term rentals.

Fairplay, Colorado

Photo by Joe Holmes.

If the mountains are calling and so you must go, this might be the yurt for you. Nestled in the wilderness about 30 minutes from Denver, this home serves as a Rocky Mountain retreat for explorers of all ages. Enjoy stunning stargazing at night, fresh powder all winter long and 360-degree views from the wraparound deck.

This home is currently available as a short-term rental.

Los Angeles, California

Photo by Ryan Schude.

This urban yurt proves the circular structures aren’t just for outdoor explorers. Smack dab in cosmopolitan Los Angeles, this yurt sits under a canopy of orange, lemon and avocado trees, just a few miles from the famous Hollywood sign. The space boasts hardwood floors, modern amenities and a fire pit (for the few weeks each year that LA braves chilly weather).

This home is currently available as a short-term rental.

Saratoga, Wyoming

Photo courtesy of The Lodge & Spa at Brush Creek Ranch.

About two hours outside of Cheyenne, Wyoming, sits this 700-square-foot mountain yurt. An overnight stay in this luxury space comes with custom gourmet meals, along with an expert guide to lead you to your digs via horseback. There are luxe glamping amenities on the inside (leather couches and a giant bed) and all that rural Wyoming has to offer on the outside (trout fishing, wildlife viewing and even yoga au naturel).

This home is currently available as a short-term rental.

Top featured image by Sean Mathis.

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Real Estate Tips

Van? RV? School Bus? 6 Questions to Ask Before Choosing a Home on Wheels

We’ve all seen photos of the perfectly manicured home on wheels: the reclaimed wood-lined walls, the occupants dreamily sipping coffee and watching a sunrise. People of all ages (including me) are asking themselves, “Can I do that too?” 

When I first saw the van that would one day be mine, I thought it was perfect for me. The 1986 GMC Vandura had a comfy bed, turquoise cabinets and twinkle lights that made me weak in the knees.

But a mobile life can involve just as much work as a stationary one – sometimes even more. You won’t have to pay a mortgage, but you might need new brakes. You won’t have to rely on neighbors to water your plants when you travel, but you will have to keep a tiny space organized and livable on the road.

If those things don’t scare you off, the rewards can far outweigh the work. Here are some important questions to consider first.

Which home is right for you?

There are various names for homes on wheels and recreational vehicles.

The RV is a self-contained, manufactured home on wheels. It typically contains a bathroom and a kitchen, and depending on the version you choose, it can be driven or towed. If you own a vehicle with towing capacity, a towable RV allows you to park and move around more freely.

Camper vans are more compact but offer fewer amenities. They might have a small kitchenette but rarely contain a bathroom. If you’re willing to rough it on the road, the camper van can be a more affordable option.

Then there are the more creative approaches to mobile living. People have converted school buses and vintage Airstreams into living quarters. Choosing the vessel for your life on wheels is an important decision, so weigh your options carefully.

How will you use it?

Previously, people bought mobile homes when they retired. These days, the options for remote work allow more people to embrace a mobile lifestyle, with many variations. Some people want to travel regularly, while others park their homes and only occasionally switch locations.

My motivation for buying a van was the freedom to spend month-long stints on the road and rent out my house whenever I left. As a freelance writer, I often travel in search of stories, and this seemed like a perfect way to do so. I could have the comforts of home and the freedom of wheels.

However, since dropping $5,500 on the initial purchase and about $1,000 in repairs, I’ve landed a full-time job. It’s now more of a weekend camping vehicle than a home. The extra headspace that once seemed luxurious now feels cumbersome, especially when I’m driving over windy mountain passes and spending $60 to fill up my tank. Also, the $80-per-month insurance feels extra expensive, now that I’m paying for something I don’t often use.

I’ll travel regularly in my van someday, but my experience illustrates the importance of knowing how your van will facilitate the life you wish to lead. Where will you go, how often will you go and what will you do? Looking back, I would have gone for something a little smaller and lower maintenance.

Freedom can become debilitating if you don’t know how you’ll use it.

Where will you park?

Campgrounds, RV parks, Walmart parking lots and city streets have all become temporary homes for people who live on the road. But you must consider parking laws, safety and cost – every single night.

RV parks and many campgrounds offer hookups for electricity and water. If your home is designed to accommodate those amenities, they’re nice to have. It helps to research campground details before you hit the road. 

If you’re freeing yourself from rent or a mortgage, you might not want to dump that money back into parking each night. National forests offer free camping, as long as you’re 100-200 feet away from any road, trail or water source. Ask local ranger stations about access to dispersed camping and local regulations. 

While mobile life is often celebrated with a backdrop of ocean beaches or beloved national parks, cities are something to consider too. They just require a little extra consideration.

Vans have a leg up on bigger, flashier RVs when it comes to cities, especially if your van doesn’t look like someone lives in it. 

The most important piece of advice when considering where to park: Do your research. Reserve a spot when heading to popular parks, call ranger stations for information about parking in the area, join local forums, and always collect information ahead of time so you you’re not searching for a place to sleep in the middle of the night with no service.

How much does it cost?

Paring down your belongings can be a great way to save money. But mobile living isn’t always cheap.

First, there’s the cost of your vehicle, which can vary considerably. Conversions – van, Airstream, school bus, etc. – can be expensive, even if you’re doing the work yourself. For example, this stylish Sprinter van conversion cost $54,120You’ll see a huge range on RV prices as well, from several thousand to millions of dollars.

Once you find a home that’s right for your budget, you’ll need to consider living costs too.

Camping fees are about $20 per night, which can be alleviated by free parking. But you won’t get water and electrical hookups unless you pay for them.

Vehicle insurance will add a few hundred to several thousand dollars in yearly costs. Comprehensive auto insurance, while more expensive than bare-boned liability plans, will protect your home and belongings from vandalism and theft.

I learned the hard way that an RV insurance plan is required of any vehicle that’s been converted into a living space. Even though my van isn’t technically an RV, AAA initially refused to tow me when I broke down in Seattle because I didn’t have RV insurance. I’ve since upgraded, which has been worth it for the peace of mind. 

Depending on the age and condition of your vehicle, you’ll also need to factor in regular repairs. And don’t forget gas money! You’ll spend a lot more on gas for your mobile home than you will on filling up your regular car. And the more toys you carry with your mobile home, the more your gas bills will climb.

Where will you go to the bathroom?

Unless you’re able to find a mobile home with a built-in shower and toilet, personal hygiene can be a challenge on the road. But there are plenty of creative ways to make it work.

A membership to a gym chain with locations across the country, like Planet Fitness or L.A. Fitness, will allow you to access showers and bathrooms – not to mention a workout, which can be vital when your living space only allows you to walk a few feet in either direction.

Campgrounds and truck stops also provide facilities to the traveler looking to freshen up.

If you don’t have a toilet, you’ll likely find yourself using truck-stop and cafe bathrooms. But a late-night bathroom break could mean toilets aren’t available, and you’ll have to settle for whatever is around.

Can you work on the road?

Remote work opportunities have freed many people from the constraints of a typical office job. But working from a mobile home is much different than a home office.

First, consider how often you’ll need to work and where you’ll be able to do so. It might be helpful to stay close to developed areas where there are plenty of establishments offering free Wi-Fi.

If you can work comfortably inside of your mobile home, you can use your mobile device as a Wi-Fi hotspot or purchase a dedicated Wi-Fi hotspot for $100-150. Whichever option you go with, you’ll need to sign up for a service plan with data. Check on the coverage area of service providers before you pick one – they’re no use when you’re in a dead zone!

Working from the road also means you’ll need electricity, which is nice to have for other uses, too, like charging your cell phone or running a fan to stay cool when your engine is off.

Solar panels are a convenient, rechargeable and environmentally friendly energy source. 

I can see my van parked on the street from the window of my house right now. I’m still not entirely sure what a mobile life will look like, but figuring it out is half the fun.

Related:

Originally published September 2017.

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Press Releases

A Skier’s Dream Destination Vacation at the Grand Lodge on Peak 7

Thousands of acres of fresh powdered snow and hundreds of miles of groomed trails are available for some of the best skiing in the state of Colorado. All this just steps from your door at the Grand Lodge on Peak 7. The ski in and ski out resort is located in the beautiful town of Breckenridge nestled within the magnificent Rocky Mountains.

 

With over an average of 300 inches of snow a year, Breckenridge is a skier’s dream destination! The long ski season typically runs from November through April. When the winter snowfall is plentiful, the ski season has lasted even longer, extending through to the end of June for some of the best summer skiing.

 

Along with legendary skiing, the area is an outdoor lover’s playground.  Breckenridge boasts some of the best fly-fishing in the region. Enjoy the surrounding natural beauty with nature hikes, mountain biking, kayaking, and horseback riding.

 

Breckenridge is within walking distance of the Grand Lodge on Peak 7 resort and offers guests an exceptional après-ski scene, fine dining, and a bustling nightlife. The popular ski town hosts a variety of events all year long. One of the most popular winter competitions is the International Snow Sculpture Championship. In the fall vacationers can attend the local Octoberfest celebration. During the summer months, the town hosts the International Festival of the Arts.

 

Within the resort, the Grand Lodge on Peak 7 offers guests a relaxing atmosphere with casual dining, private movie theaters, pools, and hot tubs. To unwind after a busy day of outdoor activities, you can book a session at the resort’s full-service day spa. The family fun center has a variety of entertainment for everyone to enjoy including, arcade-style games, ping-pong, and a pool table. During the warmer summer months, you can also play shuffleboard outside to enjoy the beautiful mountain scenery.

 

Finding Your Perfect Timeshare Unit

Owning a timeshare in the Grand Lodge on Peak 7 gives you the freedom to enjoy all the resort and Breckenridge has to offer year round. The units at the resort range in size from smaller studios to expansive three-bedrooms. Each timeshare includes king and queen-sized beds and sleeper sofas to comfortably accommodate your family and guests.

 

TimeSharesOnly.com is your key to easily finding the perfect unit within the resort. The site offers you access to hundreds of timeshare listings throughout the world including available units at Grand Lodge on Peak 7. With the assistance of TimeSharesOnly.com, you will be able to go from wishing you owned a vacation home to owning your own timeshare and enjoying all the fabulous amenities that the resort has to offer.

 

 

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Real Estate Tips

Sealing and Insulating Your Ductwork

Insulation isn’t free, but as the old saying goes, sometimes you have to spend some to make some. When it comes to adding duct insulation, your monthly savings in utility bills will soon cover the costs, especially if you install the insulation yourself.

The problem with uninsulated ducts

You need insulation – even around your ducts – no matter where you live. Insulation isn’t only about keeping heat in. It also keeps the heat out of the home (or duct).

In the average home, around 20% to 30% of the heated or cooled air flowing through the ducts is lost to leaks and uninsulated surfaces, according to the Department of Energy. The result is higher utility bills, wear and tear on the heating and cooling system, and difficulty maintaining the temperature inside your home. Additionally, uninsulated ducts can accumulate condensation, which eventually leads to rust. Once the ducts start rusting, you face having to install new ducts.

Evaluating your ducts

First, consider the duct location. The greater the temperature extreme between the air inside the duct and the air surrounding the ductwork, the greater your need for duct insulation.

Unfortunately, so many houses – especially newer homes – end up with ductwork running through the attic. Unheated basements, crawl spaces under the home and even garages are also unconditioned (neither heated nor cooled) runs for ductwork.

If, on the other hand, your ducts run across the ceiling of a heated basement or inside well-insulated walls and ceilings, your need for duct insulation is minimal. However, if the ducts have a lot of leaks, the air that makes it to your rooms will not be as warm or as cool as intended. So duct loss matters no matter what.

Then there’s the duct material itself. Most heating and cooling ducts are metal. These are the bulky, gray box-shaped ducts so common everywhere. Sometimes metal ducts are lined with duct liner, a 1-inch-thick fiberglass board that insulates the interior of the duct, rather than the exterior. Duct liner isn’t generally a DIY installation, and if your ducts already have liner, you don’t need to insulate the exterior.

Duct board, much like the duct liner, is also a fiberglass product. Made from 1- to 2-inch-thick sheets of rigid glass fiber and coated with an aluminum laminate for a moisture/air barrier, duct board comes in sections that fit together like metal ducts. Duct board’s advantage is that it is already insulated, eliminating the need for further work, as long as it is structurally sound.

Another product, known as flex duct, is a round framework of wires coated with fiberglass and encased in either foil or plastic to resist moisture and air leakage. Although flexible ducts don’t require further insulation, they are vulnerable to damage, especially punctures. Since they are generally used for short runs, when working on the remainder of your ductwork, check any flex ducts as well.

Types of duct insulation

Once you determine that your duct needs insulation, consider the type of insulation you want. To insulate the exterior, you have a choice between sleeve-style insulation and blanket wraps, which literally wrap around the ductwork.

To install sleeves, you must either disassemble the ductwork and slide it on before reassembling the ducts or – as many homeowners find themselves doing – slit it and wrap it around like the blanket-style material. In the end, it’s probably best to buy the blanket insulation.

  • Duct insulation sleeves: Come in pre-measured lengths. They may have an adhesive strip to make the installation a little easier. Common sleeve materials include foam, bubble wrap and fiberglass, all typically featuring a foil-like outer surface to provide air and moisture resistance. To fit your ducts, simply cut the sleeve to length with a sharp pair of scissors. Like any other insulation, use additional layers to provide better insulation power.
  • Foil-backed self-adhesive foam duct insulation: Installs easily and wraps around irregular ductwork areas well. Most brands come in rolls a foot in width and several feet long. While fairly thin, it works well to dampen sound and can be combined with other forms to increase the insulation rating. Best of all, you eliminate the fiberglass in that area of your home. However, never apply just any foam to your ductwork – only formulas designed for the application. Many foam products are highly flammable and toxic when burning.
  • Fiberglass and cotton duct insulation: This type typically includes an aluminum foil backing to repel moisture invasion or air leaks. Available in a variety of thicknesses, rolls are usually a foot wide and several feet long. It’s often a cheaper form of insulation, though the end value relies on installing it properly. Fiberglass and cotton are easily cut to size.
  • Foil-backed bubble wrap: May not deliver the insulation power and vapor barrier performance you expect if you opt for a cheaper brand. Another drawback is that as a reflective insulation, you must provide an air gap between the duct and insulation itself. Special spacers are purchased to ensure this gap. Alternatively, you can cut squares of the insulation and line the length of the duct with these squares, tape or glue them in place, then install the insulation. Use enough to ensure the length of outer insulation doesn’t touch the duct anywhere. This is quite a hassle, so think carefully before choosing this duct insulation style.

As new and innovative products arise continually, these are by no means the only types of duct insulation available, nor will they remain the main types. When evaluating any type of duct insulation, make note of the installation method, the drawbacks and the advantages, as well as the insulation power, known as the R-value. Talk to others about what works for them and shop around before choosing any insulation for any part of your home.

Considering your insulation R-value

More important than the type of insulation (provided it is installed properly) is the R-value of the insulation you use. R-value is the measure of the ability of the insulation to prevent heat from either penetrating or escaping the object insulated. The higher the R-value (literally meaning resistance value), the better the insulation works. However, there is a ceiling on the effective R-value because, at a certain level, the cost of the material becomes greater than any additional savings.

Before selecting your duct insulation, determine the optimum R-value for your region. In general, the colder your climate, the higher the R-value you will need. Even then, different areas of the home may require greater or lesser insulating power. As a rule of thumb, expect to install a minimum of R-5 material. To be precise, consult the Department of Energy’s Duct Insulation R-value Chart.

When selecting your duct insulation, use the R-value you require to determine what product – or combination of products – you need. Use more than one layer if a single layer won’t give you the value you desire.

Testing and sealing: the critical first steps

Well-meaning homeowners commonly make a couple mistakes when insulating their ducts. First, some don’t realize that you can’t use paper-backed fiberglass insulation. Perhaps the most commonly used insulation for joists and walls, the fiberglass itself is fine, but it doesn’t take much to get the paper hot enough to burn. Never use anything not specifically intended for use with HVAC ductwork.

The second mistake is even more common: DIYers often do not understand that they must seal the ducts first. Failing to perform this basic step will undermine your insulating efforts. No matter how well you install the insulation or how high the R-value, even with the moisture/air barrier attached to the exterior of the insulation, it won’t prevent air and temperature loss if your ducts aren’t structurally sound.

Some ducts, depending on the material and the location, are more vulnerable than others when it comes to air loss, but any duct has the potential to leak. With age, house settling, rust from moisture, animal intrusion and a variety of other hazards, your ducts may obtain anything from pinholes to gaping voids, loose and leaking connections between pieces, or even potentially missing ducts. Your joists or wall studs may actually form the “duct” run if a portion of your HVAC ductwork is missing – or the air may simply pour out to the exterior.

To ensure you aren’t wasting your time, money and insulation, have a duct leak test conducted before sealing the ducts. A professional duct leak test identifies leaks inside your home’s ducts. Generally called a duct blower door test, the technician seals the air intake and outlet registers before blowing air through the system. With the aid of specialized tools, the technician can determine the amount of air leaking from your ductwork and where it’s occurring. Common problem areas include around the registers and vents, where they enter the room they service, and at each duct joint (connection).

Having your ducts tested adds to your expense, of course, with most professional inspections running $100 to $200. Only a professional has the equipment and knowledge required, so it’s really not a DIY-friendly task. Still, spending the money will end up paying off in the end.

Also, local building codes are gradually beginning to require that new houses have a whole-house and duct blower door test performed. How does this apply to you? At any point that you make any upgrade involving your ducts that requires a building permit, you will have to follow the current code. It’s also a good selling point if you ever put your house on the market.

To find a professional to perform the work, try your local utility company, HVAC service company or specialized testing companies. The Department of Energy provides excellent tips on choosing your technician. Also look for energy efficiency credits that may be available through the utility company or the state or federal government for testing and insulating your ducts. This may offset your costs significantly.

Sealing and insulating: getting down to work

Some duct testing companies will seal the ducts for you, eliminating leaks and holes, as either part of the service or for an additional fee. Do what you’re comfortable with – if you feel confident about doing the sealing yourself, it will be messy.

If you decide to proceed without testing your ducts, perform a thorough examination, looking for any rust, holes, severely damaged pieces, loose connections or missing portions, starting at the furnace and air unit and working back to the very last register in the home. Mark problem areas with a marker or chalk. After the inspection, seal your ducts, keeping a few tips in mind:

  • Start with clean, dry ducts. You don’t have to wash them, but wiping them with a damp cloth or whisking them with a broom and making sure the surface is dry will help the sealant-to-duct bond.
  • Select your desired sealant, or use a combination of products as appropriate. Mastic is the most common sealant, but specially formulated duct sealant, in cans or caulk tubes, is also available. Silicone caulk will work in small areas.
  • Choose a tape to use with the sealant when necessary. Special foil tapes work well, or select a mastic tape. Never use duct tape – it will not stick for long. In general, only use the tape by itself when you have no other choice. Any tape tends to degrade or peel away with age, while mastic hardens to a stiff, durable surface. When the tape is used with the mastic, however, it works very well.
  • Spread duct mastic or sealant across the duct seams, joints and very small holes. Follow the product instructions for precise application instructions.
  • Apply mastic in a layer about as thick as a nickel. An even, generous layer helps ensure your duct will never leak again. Use a stiff-bristled paintbrush or your fingers to spread the sealant. Wear rubber gloves to limit skin contact.
  • Wear old clothes during application. Mastic and other products may not wash out.
  • Tape cracks or holes larger than 1/8-inch diameter with the tape selected. Cover with the mastic to create a durable duct patch.
  • Seal all the duct joints, holes and connections near the furnace. Seal the duct-to-register connection as well. Wherever there’s a joint or intrusion, use sealant. Keep in mind that it is better to over-seal than to have a remaining leak.
  • Work from the furnace or air unit back to the last (farthest) register in the home. This allows you to prioritize your sealing efforts, ensuring the most important areas are covered. Holes, leaks and gaps closer to the HVAC unit encounter higher air pressure than those farther away, so your greatest savings and increase in efficiency will come from sealing well at and near the unit. Leaks also tend to be common close to the blower fan and where the ductwork emerges from the furnace.

After the sealant is dry, the final step is insulating the ducts. The process is simple if you use a wrap-style insulation product. Before beginning, read the product instructions and follow wherever they deviate from general duct insulation guidelines:

  • Measure and cut your duct insulation a little large to allow overlap at every seam, both lengthwise and on the ends.
  • Wrap the insulation around the duct, allowing the beginning edge to ride up slightly over the previous piece.
  • Ensure the material is turned the proper way; the vapor barrier should face out, and the fiberglass or other material should be against the duct.
  • First staple, if possible, then tape each seam, both lengthwise and between pieces. When overlapped 2 to 3 inches and secured with tape, each joint should be very secure and leak-free. Use a pressure-sensitive vapor retarder tape designed for ductwork.
  • Tape any punctures in the insulation’s vapor barrier to prevent leaks.
  • Avoid compressing the insulation. Most insulation relies upon the air space between its fibers to deliver the R-value promised. When insulation is squeezed, flattened or compressed, its R-value drops tremendously. Some compression is unavoidable, such as around bends.

Once your ducts are sealed and insulated, you can have a technician retest your ductwork if you desire. Some companies may offer the “after” test for free. Following these guidelines and installing everything properly guarantees that your second test will blow the first away – pun intended – but better yet, your utility bills will show the difference.

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Real Estate Tips

10 Things You Need to Do When Buying A Home

A home is often the biggest financial investment you’ll make in your lifetime. In fact, a recent Zillow analysis reports that the typical American homeowner has 40% of their wealth tied up in their home.

Several years ago, I wrote a complete guide to financial planning on one index card, which went viral and later became a book: “The Index Card: Why Personal Finance Doesn’t Have to Be Complicated” (co-written with Helaine Olen).

Now, following up on my original index card, I’ve written a guide on buying a house. Below is the housing index card – a handy resource to print and take with you as you look at houses or think about buying one – plus some additional advice as you contemplate making the big decision.

Photo by Harold Pollack.

1. Buy for the long run

A home is a significant investment, not to mention a linchpin of stability. According to the Zillow Group Consumer Housing Trends Report 2017, the majority of Americans who sold their homes last year had lived in their home for at least a decade before selling.

Some are even staying for the long haul. Almost half (46%) of all homeowners are like me – living in the first home we ever purchased. In short: Buy a home you want to live in for at least five years – one equipped (or ready to be equipped) with the features and space you need, both now and in the future.

2. Buy to improve your life, not speculate with money

Your home is more than a financial investment; it’s where you sleep, eat, host friends, raise your children – it’s where your life happens.

The housing market is too unpredictable to buy a (primary) home purely because you think it will net a big short-term financial return. You will most likely be living in this home for several years, regardless of how it appreciates, so your first priority should be finding a home that will meet your needs and help you build the life you want.

3. Focus on what’s important to you

Today’s housing market is short on inventory, with 10% fewer homes on the market in November 2017 than November 2016.

So, focus on finding a home you can afford that meets your needs – but don’t get distracted by shiny features that might break your budget. Nice-to-have features often drive up the price tag for things you don’t particularly value once the initial enjoyment wears off.

Make a list of your basic needs, both for your desired home and for your desired neighborhood. Stick to finding a home that meets these needs, without buying extra stuff that adds up.

4. Set a budget and stick to it

It’s important to set a budget early – ideally before you even start looking at homes. In today’s market, especially in the more competitive markets, it’s incredibly easy to go over budget – 29% of buyers who purchased last year did.

The most common culprit? Location. Zillow’s data indicates that urban buyers are significantly more likely to go over budget (42%) than suburban (25%) or rural (20%) buyers.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with that. Local schools matter, and psychologists tell us that a short commute improves your life. But be realistic about your local market and about yourself. Know what you’re willing to compromise on – be it less square footage, home repairs or a different neighborhood.

5. Aim for a 20% down payment

If you can afford it, a 20% down payment is ideal for three reasons:

  • Buyers who don’t put a full 20% down pay a premium, most commonly in the form of private mortgage insurance (PMI). This is less financially punishing than it used to be, given today’s low mortgage rates. A monthly mortgage payment (with PMI) may be lower than a monthly rental payment in many markets – but still.
  • Buyers who put more down upfront typically make fewer offers and buy faster than those who put less down. Zillow research found that buyers with higher down payments make 1.9 offers on average, compared to 2.4 offers for buyers with lower down payments (after controlling for market conditions).
  • A higher down payment reduces your financial risk. You don’t want to owe more money than your house is worth if local markets dip when you need to sell.

6. Keep a six-month strategic reserve

While a down payment is a significant expense, it’s also important to build up a strategic reserve and keep it separate from your normal bank account.

This reserve should cover six months of living expenses in case you get sick, face an unexpected expense or lose your job. A strategic reserve will not only save you from financial hardship in an emergency but also provide peace of mind.

When we accumulated a strategic reserve, my wife and I finally felt ready to build for our future. Without it, we were living from paycheck to paycheck, anxiously managing our cash flow rather than saving or budgeting.

7. Get pre-approved, and stick with a fixed-rate mortgage

The pre-approval process requires organizing all your paperwork; documenting your income, debt and credit; and understanding all the loan options available to you. It’s a bit of a pain, but it saves time later. Getting pre-approved also shows sellers that you’re a reliable buyer with a strong financial footing. Most importantly, it helps you understand what you can afford.

There are a variety of mortgage types, and it’s important to evaluate all of them to see which is best for your family and financial situation. Those boring 30- and 15-year mortgages offer big advantages.

The biggest is locking in your mortgage rate. In short: A 30-year fixed mortgage has a specific fixed rate of interest that doesn’t change for 30 years. A 15-year fixed mortgage does the same.

These typically have lower rates but higher monthly payments, since you must pay it off in half the time. Conventional fixed-rate mortgages help you manage your household budgeting because you know precisely how much you’ll be paying every month for many years. They’re simple to understand, and current rates are low.

One final advantage is that they don’t tempt you with a low initial payment to buy more house than you can afford.

8. Comparison shop to get the best mortgage

Though a home is the biggest purchase many of us will ever make, most home buyers don’t shop around for a mortgage (52% consider only a single lender).

I certainly didn’t. This did save me some annoying calls and hassle, but it cost me $40 or $50 every month, for years. The difference of half a percentage point in your mortgage rate can add up to thousands of dollars over the lifetime of the loan. It’s important to evaluate all the available options to make sure you’re going with the lender who meets your needs – not just the first one you contact.

The three most important factors are that the lender offers a loan program that caters to their specific needs (76%), has the most competitive rates (74%) and has a history of closing on time (63%).

9. Spend no more than a third of your after-tax income

It’s better to regret spending too little on your home than spending too much. One-third of your after-tax income is a manageable amount. This isn’t always possible if you live in a place like San Francisco or New York, but it’s still a good yardstick for where to be.

10. Be willing to walk away

Buying a home is a time-consuming, stressful but ultimately rewarding endeavor – if you end up closing on a home that meets your needs. But it’s important to manage your expectations in case you don’t immediately find a home you can afford with the features you need.

Always be prepared to walk away if the sellers don’t accept your offer, the home doesn’t pass a rigorous inspection or the timing isn’t right. Hold fast to your list of must-haves, stick to what you can afford and don’t overreach or settle.

It’s no tragedy to miss out on any particular house. Remember that you’re playing the long game. You want to be happy 10 years from now.

 

Related:

Originally published January 2018.

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Real Estate Tips

Creative Ways to Add Color to Your Rental

Living in a rental can dampen your design options. With unchangeable fixtures and cabinets, bland paint colors, and the threat of losing your security deposit if you make changes, a lot of renters suppress their personal style and settle for builder-grade basic.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. By getting creative with your furniture and accessories, you can have a colorful and inviting home without sacrificing your deposit or infuriating your landlord.

Wall to wall

Many homeowners paint the walls as a relatively easy way to bring color to a space. But landlords and property managers often forbid changing a rental’s interior paint color.

Think beyond paint, and you’ll discover a multitude of ways to dress up your walls without touching a paintbrush. The key is to think big.

Find large-scale art pieces that speak to your style and feature punchy colors. Collect snapshots in ombre frames of your favorite hue (instead of traditional black or white) and assemble a gallery wall.

Have an artistic streak? Paint a mural on a large piece of canvas and tack it over an entire wall.

For the less artistically inclined, removable wallpaper or decals in bright shades and eye-catching designs provide an instant pick-me-up. You can also cover entire walls or awkward spaces with a pretty patterned curtain or piece of fabric for a cozy bohemian vibe.

Punch it up

Rentals often come with outdated cabinets, fixtures, and flooring that can’t be altered. Beige, brown and off-white are the norm for these spaces, but that doesn’t mean you have to let it restrict your style.

Add visual interest and draw attention by bringing in splashy pieces of furniture and decor. Look for pieces in your favorite color or choose a theme, like sunny yellow and coral, to drown out the drab.

Vibrant painted wood chairs can give your dining space some zing. Or purchase a couch or chair in a daring tone like emerald or sapphire.

Don’t have a ton of cash to spend? Go DIY. Find furniture with good bones at your local thrift shop or garage sale, and give it a makeover. Use spray paint for smaller decor pieces and latex or chalk paint for dressers and side tables.

Add extra flair with stenciled details and paint-dipped legs. Line the backs of bookshelves with decorative paper, and temporarily replace boring kitchen and bathroom pulls and knobs with vibrant versions.

Soft goods, bold tones

Textiles in assorted colors will be your best friends for dressing up your outdated or dull apartment. Start with an inviting rug in a rich jewel tone or a trendy overdyed hue. And stay away from traditional white and beige curtains – instead, opt for a bright color or lively pattern.

The same goes for bedding. White may be a traditional go-to for duvet covers, but in the case of a blah apartment, pick a print or hue that will make your bedroom an energizing getaway or relaxing retreat. If you’re looking for a calm feel, search for a bed set in cool indigo, lavender or sage. Want to make it upbeat instead? Try poppy colors like coral, tangerine or sunflower.

Fun throw pillows and blankets will spice up your bed, couch, lounge chairs and more. Keep the color trend going into the bathroom and kitchen by choosing pretty hand towels and bathmats.

 

Make it yours

By punching up the walls with custom artwork, bringing in attention-grabbing furniture, and using pretty textiles to boost the style factor, you can have a colorfully custom home without ever touching a drop of paint.

The key is moderation and intention. Stick with a few favorite shades and mix it up by using variations of those hues instead of pulling in every color in the rainbow. Choose a few important focal points to infuse with color and let the rest blend in.

You’ll be happier for the design boost, and your landlord will be glad you haven’t made any big changes. That’s a win-win situation for everyone involved.

Related:

Originally published June 13, 2016.

 

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