Cooking Up Color: 5 Ways to Bring Blue Into the Kitchen

Many ingredients go into designing the perfect kitchen. One that’s often overlooked or not considered early enough in the design process is color. It’s perfectly fine to prefer a neutral kitchen, of course, but many homeowners default to everything in white, beige or gray simply because they feel overwhelmed at the number of decisions to make or the prospect of committing to anything bolder. In this first edition of a new series on kitchen color, we’ll explore the options for injecting interesting blue hues into your space.

OK, this flooring is technically multicolored, with blue the predominant hue. The complexity of the pattern also offers a side benefit. Though I sweep my kitchen floors regularly and mop them about once a week, in between the cleanings I’d rather not see every little speck of dirt. Prior to remodeling my home, I had solid black ceramic floor tiles in the kitchen (installed by a previous owner) and they looked dirty within minutes of being mopped. A patterned or multihued flooring material such as this will be more forgiving if you aren’t willing or able to clean it every day.

If clean-looking floors are a concern for you, ask your designer or flooring vendor to provide a sample of the material you’re considering so you can test it for durability and how easy it is to keep clean.

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December 18, 2018   No Comments

Looking for a Bargain? Put on That Winter Jacket and Go Buy a Home Before the Spring Thaw

A new release from RE/MAX emphasizes what we’ve been saying for many years: The winter season is a great time to buy a home if you don’t want to pay top dollar. While areas like Southern California may not see much, if any, of a seasonal price break because of a lack of winter, bargains may await buyers in places that see cold and snow.

Jeff LaGrange, Vice President of the RE/MAX Northern Illinois Region, explained that, “In the Midwest, homes that go under contract in November, December and January usually are offered by highly motivated sellers. In spring and summer, purchasers may pay a premium because they compete with many other buyers. Less competition in winter means prices typically don’t include that premium, and sellers frequently are more flexible about price and other terms.”

It’s that flexibility that is often key to a successful closing. So how can you use the time of year to your advantage to buy a home? Here are a few tips.

Be ready to negotiate

“When you have fewer buyers in the market, supply exceeds demand,” said The Spruce. “This usually results in prices being lower than during the hot or peak season.”

In northern Illinois, “Chicago-area homes sold in February had a median sales price that averaged 17.8% less than homes sold in June of the same year” over the past 14 years, said LaGrange. But, that doesn’t mean you can lowball and come away with a new home. You never want to insult the seller, who can flat out reject your offer if they so choose. Allowing your real estate agent to guide the process to come away with a good deal for you that doesn’t turn off the seller is key.

Creative negotiating may also help you get the home. Be willing to look at scenarios involving closing costs, repairs to items uncovered during the inspection, and even renting back if needed to help get a deal done.

Be ready to tour a home on a moment’s notice

OK, maybe not on a moment’s notice. But being flexible with your home tours is important in a winter weather-prone area. “With fewer hours of daylight, it may be necessary to visit more homes after dark, a less than ideal situation,” said RE/MAX. “When that happens, it makes sense to arrange a daylight visit before making an offer, and that can involve taking time off work,” said Linda Dore, a broker with RE/MAX Synergy in Orland Park, Ill, “but it’s worth it.”

Make sure your agent is winter savvy

Vacant homes can throw a wrinkle into any buyer’s plans, especially if a storm has left the home in less than hospitable condition. You never know when you’re going to have to MacGyver a situation. “These days, more homes than ever are vacant when they go on the market, and you never know what to expect,” said Donna Smolak of RE/MAX Vision 212 in Chicago. “Some can be beautifully maintained, but in other cases there can be six-inches of snow in the driveway, the storm door many be frozen shut or the whole home may be winterized with the heat and plumbing out of service,”’ she said. “I always bring a fold-up shovel with me in case a car gets stuck or we want to scrape snow off an outdoor area to check what’s underneath.”

Use your imagination

Vacant homes can also pose a challenge to buyers who lack the ability to envision what the home may look like with their furniture inside. But buyers are notoriously bad at seeing past paint colors or décor in any home. Especially when you’re dealing with a home that may not be everything you want, it’s important to try to look beyond any poor decorating choices or even some curious floorplan issues to see what the home can be.

Remember that if the house were perfect, it would either be more expensive, would have been sold quickly in the spring or summer, or both. Try to focus on things like overall space, ceiling height, and natural light. That will help you see the potential in the space and plan for changes once the home is yours.

Keep the goal in mind

Buyers in the winter often “have a real need to buy quickly, perhaps because of a work-related relocation, the arrival of a new baby or dealing with a divorce,” said Dore. It’s easier to let the small stuff go if you remember what you’re trying to achieve. And if that doesn’t work, think about: “This year they should have an added incentive as mortgage interest rates are likely headed higher in 2019.”


Written By Jaymi Naciri



December 12, 2018   No Comments

Holiday Hosting Tips for First-Timers

Hosting a holiday meal or party for the first time this year? It’s a rite of passage, and one you’re probably particularly excited about if this is your first year in your new home. Naturally, there may also be some fear tied up in all that excitement. After all, successful hosting is a skill that’s honed over many years.

Don’t fret. You can skip the rookie mistakes by paying attention to these top tips.

Don’t try to do everything yourself

The key to successful hosting is knowing when to say “when,” and accepting help when it’s offered. Remember this when you start to worry about delegating too much: just because you’re hosting doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get to have fun, too. Plus, if you spend the whole time in the kitchen, your guests won’t get to see you—and that defeats the purpose of them coming over in the first place.

Do what you can ahead of time

If everything you’re serving needs to be made at the last minute, you’ll likely be a stress ball standing over the stove and cursing the sauce that won’t thicken up while your guests are having fun in the other room. When you’re doing the menu planning, pay attention to items that allow you to do the cooking, or at least the prep, a day or two before. It’ll save you time—and save your sanity—on the day of the shindig.

Don’t try to be Martha Stewart

Nobody expects you to be the perfect hostess and chef and interior designer. Your friends and loved ones just want something to eat and drink among good company. If your lack of fancy dishes—or even matching dishes—is giving you a pre-party eye twitch, keep this in mind. “Use what you already have! Say you have a mixture of odd plates—scatter them and try to have a common thread,” said Domino. “For example, if the plates are all different, have the same matching napkins. If you have mismatched glassware, try alternating matching ones at each setting. Try to be mindful when you’re setting a table to find a balance visually for your guests, but things don’t have to be perfect.”

Don’t be overly ambitious

It’s natural that you’d want to show off your cooking skills or try something new to impress your guests. But that might not be the best tactic for your first time hosting.

“When you’re hosting at your home, it’s smart to scale back and stick to what you know,” Kathleen Schaffer, creative director and culinary chef at Schaffer as well as a celebrity caterer to clients including Gwyneth Paltrow, Reese Witherspoon and George Clooney, told The Knot. “In other words, this isn’t the time to attempt the fancy sous-vide or soufflé recipe you saw on Facebook. Set yourself up for success by playing to your strengths, and most importantly, planning and preparing in advance.”

But keep the food coming

You never want your guests to start getting grumpy because they arrived hungry and dinner is delayed. Having a spread of appetizers everyone can nosh on buys you time to get the main dishes together and keeps them satiated. This “cream-cheesy salsa of fresh cranberries, cilantro and a little jalapeno kick” is one of our favorite holiday apps, and not just because it’s incredibly easy to make. You can find more ideas here.

Remember that you can never have too much toilet paper

This is the kind of thing you might overlook while you’re shopping, and you definitely don’t want to have to run out in the middle of your gathering—or, even worse, bring in the dreaded roll of paper towels. While you’re buying plenty of TP, do the same with napkins, plastic cups and silverware, and bottled water.

Don’t sweat the small stuff

Someone is going to spill something. Or drop all the crackers on the floor. Or break a chair. Or all of the above. Keep your sense of humor closeby and you’ll get through it with stories to tell later on. If that fails, consider downing another glass of wine.

Written By Jaymi Naciri



December 12, 2018   No Comments

Should I Sell My Home Now or Wait Until the Spring?

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on November 6, 2014. Housecall continues to share this piece due to ongoing requests and reader interest.

There are many questions homeowners ask themselves during the selling process. “How much will my home sell for?”  “How much should I list my home for?”  “Who should I select as a real estate agent to sell my home?”  “What if the real estate agent overprices my home?”  Last but not least, “Is this a good time to be selling a home?” is also a very common question that real estate agents are asked.

As with every decision in life, there are pros and cons, and choosing when to sell a home is no different. There are many factors that need to be taken into consideration before deciding when to sell a home. Many homeowners believe selling a home during the fall or winter months is not a good idea and that the spring is the only time a house should be sold. This is the furthest from the truth. Certainly most real estate markets across the United States experience a “spring market rush” every year. There is no doubt that the “spring market” is a great time to be selling and buying real estate, however, the fall and winter seasons may be the best fit for you for many reasons.

Here are several reasons why choosing to sell your home now may be a better decision than waiting until the spring:

Less Competition
One way that you can tell the spring real estate market has arrived is by driving down a street in your local community. In all likelihood there will be For Sale signs up all over the neighborhood! One great reason to sell your home now and not wait until the spring market is there is sure to be less competition.  The fewer number of comparable homes for sale, the greater the probability that a buyer will look at your home.

Simply put, it’s the supply and demand theory. If there are less homes for sale, there are less homes that a potential buyer can choose from, therefore increasing the demand for your home. Not only will less competition increase the probability for showings, but it will also increase the probability that an offer will be received and you will get the maximum amount of money for your home.

Serious Buyers Are Out There
Homes are sold and bought 365 days a year, period!  Many homeowners believe that buyers aren’t out there during the fall and winter months. This simply is not the case. Serious buyers are always out there!  Some buyers may stop their home search because it is the fall or winter, but serious buyers will continue to look at homes, no matter what time of year it is.

The fall and winter months are also a great time for a potential buyer to see what a specific neighborhood is like.  Do your neighbors have pumpkins on their front step?  Are there lots of Trick-or-Treaters wandering the neighborhood on Halloween?  Do any of your neighbors have any light displays for the holidays?  There are buyers out there who will look at these types of things when determining whether your home is in the right neighborhood for them or not.

The Best Agents Are Always Up To The Challenge
Any real estate agent who tells you that the fall or winter months are a bad time to sell is not someone you want selling your home! A great real estate agent will know how to adapt to the current season and market their listings to reflect that.  A great real estate agent can make suggestions and give some of their tips on how to sell a home during the fall or winter seasons. If a real estate agent doesn’t have any suggestions on making your home more desirable for the current season, you should be concerned about the creativity they are going to use when marketing your home.

Staging For The Holiday Season
Many sellers believe staging a home is the main reason a home sells.  While staging certainly helps sell homes, some buyers have a difficult time envisioning themselves in a home no matter what you do. However, there are some buyers who can easily be “sold” on a home because it is staged.  Simple “seasonal” staging such as adjusting the color of the decor or having an aroma in the air that is relative to the time of year can go a long way with some potential buyers and possibly be the difference between a home selling or not.

Quicker Transactions
Right now, there are fewer real estate transactions than there will be in the spring.  The fewer number of transactions means the mortgage lenders have less loans to process, attorneys have less closings to do, and home inspectors have fewer inspections to do.  All of these factors should lead to a quicker transaction and closing for all the parties involved.  One of the most frustrating things for a seller to deal with while selling their home is not getting answers in a reasonable amount of time. A quicker transaction is going to be less stress for you.

By considering all of the reasons above, you will be able to determine whether now is a good time to sell or if you should wait until the spring.


Written By Kyle Hiscock



December 12, 2018   No Comments

The Best Black Friday Deals for Home

TVs and iPhones and Xboxes, oh my! Yes, it’s Black Friday time, and that means you’re probably making plans to get some great deals on popular electronics to gift this year. But don’t miss out on the chance to gift yourself, and your home, too. Black Friday is a great time to focus on improving your place, whether that means making some quick updates to the bedroom or making a large furniture purchase. Here are some of the best deals we found for home.

65″ Sharp 4K Roku Smart TV—Walmart, $398

There are tons of great deals on TVs this year, but if you’re looking for a big one without a big spend, this 65” Sharp TV from Walmart is your winner. “The best TV we found to fit a $500 budget is this 65″ Sharp 4K Roku TV from Walmart, where it’s a Doorbuster,” said Brad’s Deals. “We do expect it to be available online, but it may sell out quickly at this price. Walmart’s Black Friday sale launches online on Wednesday November 21, 2018 at 10pm EST.”

Samsung Stainless Steel French Door Refrigerator—Home Depot, $998

That’s a whopping 44% savings on this fridge from its former price of $1,864.

Dyson Ball Animal 2—Best Buy, $300

Vacuum cleaners may not be sexy, but don’t miss the chance to get one now if you’re in need. The prices are great on everything from the lower-end stuff to the big ticket suckers. For our money (and mainly because multiple children and animals live in this house), it’s all about the Dyson. “This upright is a highly ranked model in our ratings, and performed wonderfully at cleaning bare floors,” said Consumer Reports. “It also earns an Excellent rating for its ability to suck up embedded pet hair in carpet in our tests. It’s not the cheapest upright you’ll find, but at $200 off, it’s a solid deal for a top-performing Dyson upright.”

Google Home Hub with Google Assistant—Best Buy, $99.99

Save almost $50 and get connected (or give someone else a boost into the land of Smart homes) with Google Home Hub.

Everything!—IKEA—$25 off $100

You can take your pick of IKEA favorites this Black Friday. From November 22–26, you get a blanket $25 off your $100 purchase.

Amazing sheets—Brooklinen, discounts starting at 10 percent

Brooklinen has basically achieved cult status for its super-soft sheets, and they’re offering a stepped-up discount for Black Friday. Save 10 percent on $250, 15 percent on $350, and 20 percent on $450 across the site from November 23–26.

Canvas and framed art—, 50 percent off

Get half off everything site-wide on November 23.

Instant Pot—Target, $69

This kitchen fave is marked down from $99 at Target, plus you’ll get a $10 gift card to boot. This Doorbuster is available starting Thanksgiving day at 5pm.

Serta 16-inch raised queen-size airbed—Target, $60

How thoughtful of Target to put this airbed on sale just before your family arrives for the holidays! You’ll save $40 on this great deal.


Written By Jaymi Naciri



November 19, 2018   No Comments