Happy Autumnal Equinox! What You Need to Know about the August Housing Numbers

As the summery temperatures begin to subside and the smell of pumpkin spice takes over, today marks the first official day of autumn. To close out the summer of 2014, the National Association of Realtors (NAR) released its August existing-home sales report. After four consecutive months of gains, existing-home sales lost momentum due to a decline in all-cash sales from investors. The median existing-home price in August was $219,800, 4.8 percent above August 2013, marking the 30th consecutive month of year-over-year price gains.

On the bright side, this provides an opportunity for first-time homebuyers who have a better chance at purchasing a home with bidding wars declining and inventory constraints easing throughout the U.S. The percent of first-time buyers remained unchanged from July at 29 percent. First-time buyers have represented less than 30 percent of all buyers in 16 of the past 17 months.

 As job growth continues, NAR predicts that steady purchasing power will help Americans’ demand for buying homes.

Take a look at a breakdown of the median price of homes sold in each region of the country during this past August. And as we start cozying up to the crisp fall air, check out the below home listings currently on the market, perfect for spotting foliage and celebrating the start of autumn.

Northeast median sales price: $265,800

o   82 Shaw Road in Goshen, MA

o   $265,000 for a 3 bedroom, 2.5 bath home (2,003 sq. ft.)

Midwest median sales price: $173,800

o   42 Kentland Dr. in Romeoville, IL

o   $174,000 for a 3 bedroom, 1.5 bath home (1,600 sq. ft.)

South median sales price: $186,700

o   200 Timber Ridge Circle in Madisonville, TN

o   $187,000 for a 3 bedroom, 2 bath home (1,947 sq. ft.)

West median sales price: $301,900

o   7048 E. Cuernavaco Way in Gold Canyon, AZ

o   $301,000 for a 4 bedroom, 2 bath home (2,194 sq. ft.)

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6 Tips for Hiring the Perfect Landscaper

As you prepare your lawn for the fall season, why not hire a landscaper to save yourself some time? Landscapers have the tools, experience and knowledge to create the landscape you need or prepare it for the cold days ahead. To help you find the right landscaper, here are some essential tips to follow and questions to ask regarding landscaping.

As you prepare your lawn for the fall season, why not hire a landscaper to save yourself some time? Landscapers have the tools, experience and knowledge to create the landscape you need or prepare it for the cold days ahead. To help you find the right landscaper, here are some essential tips to follow and questions to ask regarding landscaping.

1. Ask around to find a landscaper. If you see well-kept lawns in your neighborhood, why not ask your neighbors who they hired? You might also ask friends and family in the area if they’ve hired a good landscaper recently. You might also check online for screened and approved landscaping contractors who have been rated by homeowners in your area, which will save you time and effort on checking them.

2. Get multiple bids for a project.Once you have a few businesses in mind, you’ll need to get bids. You should never hire the first one to answer the phone. Once you explain the job, the landscaper will give you a project estimate, and numbers will vary from business to business. You can compare bids against project data costs for various landscaping projects to make sure you’re not paying more than you should be. Also be wary of any “low ball” bids, since this could be a sign of a poor job or additional or hidden fees.

3. List past project references. If you find the landscaper in the yellow pages or online, ask about past clients. As you speak to these clients, ask them about the landscaper’s process, communication, staff and how quickly they complete a project. These should help you learn more about the landscaper and how they would work with you.

4. Check for documentation and licenses. The landscaper should be able to prove they’re legitimate with a license. They should also have insurance for the length of the project, if not worker’s compensation to cover injuries on the job.

5. Discuss the specifics. This is where you need to hash out everything about the project before you get to the contract and putting down a deposit. Some of the landscaping questions to ask include:

  • What are your work practices?
  • What equipment and materials will you be using for my project?
  • What’s your past experience with this kind of landscaping project?
  • Does your landscaping business belong to any local, state or national landscaping associations?
  • Can you provide me with a design sketch for the project before we begin?
  • How much of a deposit will you want before beginning the project? (Pro tip: the average is 30% of the total project, so be cautionary of anyone who asks for 50% or more.)

6. Put together & sign a contract. Once you’ve found the right landscaper, it’s time to put down all the details of the job in writing. This contract should include:

  • Start and end date of the project
  • Materials involved
  • Costs and fees
  • A lien waiver
  • Guarantee, if applicable

A lien waiver will keep you from being responsible for paying for materials from a supplier, as the landscaper should be paying for them and then charging you later. A guarantee for items like a deck, patio or other major projects should be for at least two to five years, if not longer. Make sure the contract is completely filled out and that nothing is left blank.

Andrea Davis is the editor at HomeAdvisor, which connects homeowners with home improvement professionals in their area for free. Connect with Andrea on Google+

Cover Photo: Beckett Creek Ln, Humble, TX Currently listed with Coldwell Banker United, Realtors http://bit.ly/1m6rEK1

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Pinterest Home Mythbusters #1: DIY Natural Home Deodorizer

Pinterest has become the Google of the home tips, tricks and decor ideas. Like countless others, my boards are filled with mouth water recipes, holiday decor ideas and stunning outfits that I would have never thought of putting together.

The sad part? I would say about 90% of what I pin I never actually make, cook or buy simply because I don’t have the time.

Sound familiar?

Now that I have officially been a homeowner for one year I have decided to take on a minimum of one Pinterest project a month. It’s time to break out the super glue, finally try my crockpot and even test out some of those “natural” cleaning tips.” I will keep you updated and let you know about my Pinterest victories, fails (I’m sure there will be a few) and discoveries. You can follow along here on Blue Matter or on my Pinterest board.

Project #1: Vanilla Rosemary Lemon Simmer

To start kick off my Pinterest mythbusters series I decided to start with a very popular and very easy project. If searching for home ideas is your hobby then I can almost guarantee you have come across the “Vanilla Rosemary and Lemon” simmer which guarantees to leave your home smelling heavenly.

Seriously it’s everywhere!

pinterest rosemary lemon vanilla

Instructions

The instructions are super easy…

  1. Fill a pot of water (about 2/3)
  2. Add 1 Lemon (sliced)
  3. Throw in a few sprigs of fresh rosemary
  4. Add 1-2 tsp of vanilla extract
  5. Simmer all day (add water as needed)

I threw the ingredients in and went about my Sunday cleaning occasionally stopping into the kitchen to take in the aroma. I even posted about it and was surprised by how many others who had wondered if this lemony concoction was all it is cracked up to be.

 

The Verdict

Fail. I was really disappointed with the outcome. Now, it is important to of course note that everyone has difference preferences when it comes to scents and smells. For me, this scent just didn’t deliver. My husband walked into the kitchen and told me there was no way he was eating whatever I was cooking. (haha) He was happy when I explained what I was doing and agreed with me that the smell wasn’t as pleasant as one would expect and that he preferred the orange peel/cinnamon simmer that I normally do.

Here is the recipe for the orange peel recipe I use from Apartment Therapy:

Peel from 1 lemon
Peel from 1 orange
2 bay leaves
3 cinnamon sticks
2 Tablespoons whole cloves

 

Have you been wondering about a pin you saw? Leave a link in the comments and I might choose it for my next blog post!

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10 Things You Need To Know Before Moving With Pets

By Co-Founder NorthStar Moving Company Laura McHolm

Moving? Let’s be honest, moving is stressful. But, imagine if you can’t read, understand all of the chatter around you and all you see is the chaos of boxes, your home in an upheaval and stressed out humans everywhere. Sounds even more stressful, right? That’s why it is vital to look after your furry friends during the moving process.

Moving doesn’t have to be a dog-gone cat-astrophy. The good news is that with a paw-ful of wise tips you can ease their trauma. Here are ten tricks that have been approved by Dr. Sara Sheltren, veterinarian at the East Padden Animal Hospital, in Vancouver, Washington to keep Fluffy and Fido cared for during the moving process:

  1. Before Moving Day: Become familiar with pet rules and regulations. Landlords and homeowners’ associations may have specific pet rules. Become familiar with your new area’s leash laws, pet ordinances and/or pet licensing requirements. Your pet may need additional vaccinations, medications or certain certificates depending on where you are moving. A call to the local animal control facility should answer your questions.
  2. Talk To Your Current Vet:Your veterinarian is a great resource. If you have an animal that dislikes traveling, your vet can suggest behavior modification techniques or medication that can make traveling less stressful for your pet. When talking to your vet, also discuss getting Fluffy or Fido micro-chipped. Dr. Sara Sheltren, a veterinarian at the East Padden Animal Hospital says getting pets’ identification microchips can be a vital step in reuniting pets with their owners.
  3. Find A New Vet: Find a new vet in your new area before moving day. Your current vet may be able to make recommendations for colleagues he or she knows in your new area. When finding a new vet, it is recommended to set up an appointment as soon as you move in order to get established. It always important to make sure you are comfortable with their practice before they are needed in an emergency.
  4. Get Medical Records: Before you leave your old home, make sure you get a copy of all of your pet’s medical records to give to your new vet and be sure to find the closest emergency animal hospital and keep that phone number handy.
  5. Update Your Address: Don’t forget to have new identification tags with your new address and phone number made for your pet’s collar, and if your pet has an identification microchip, remember to update your contact information in the database. Dr. Sheltren also recommends carrying a picture of your pet with you in case they get lost.
  6. Keep Things Normal:Instead of pulling an all-nighter to pack, try to pack over a long period of time so that your pet thinks everything is normal. This will keep their stress level down. If you are moving with cats, it can help to bring out their carriers out a few a weeks before the move. Put their favorite treats and toys inside their carriers so they can get used to it before the big moving day. Don’t pack the food away! Keep your pet’s food, water, bowls, medication and any other important supplies (like that favorite squeaky toy) off the moving truck and with you.
  7. Moving Day: During the actual moving day, where boxes and furniture are being moved, pets should be removed. Find a friend who wouldn’t mind pet sitting or find a place away from all the noise of moving such as a doggy day care or cat care center. If you can visit them during a spare moment, it can help reassure the pets that nothing is going on.Keeping pets locked away in a room during moving day can make them anxious from all the noise and new people that might be in your home. If you must keep them locked away, find a quiet room, water bowl and put a HUGE sign on the door.
  8. Travel with Your Pet:Unless your move is long distance or international, your pet will likely be traveling by car with you nearby. By driving them yourself you can care for them and give them a sense of familiarity as they move. To prepare your pet for this trip, drive for short distances with your pet to prepare them before the final move. Also, remember to plan ahead for any special carriers your pets may need for transportation. There are even special seat belts for large dogs.
  9. Air Travel: If you are moving your pet by air or internationally, check all rules and regulations far ahead of the day you plan to leave and remember to keep your pet’s special documentation at hand.
  10. After Moving Day: Don’t let pets roam around the neighborhood until they are acclimated. Take them out on a leash to explore their new territory and show them how to get home. If you let them out in a new place right away, they might get lost or run away due to stress. Make sure your pet’s new identification tags are secured to their collar.

Now snuggle up with your furry friend and enjoy the new home!

 

Laura McHolm is an organizational, moving & storage expert and co-founder of NorthStar Moving Company. NorthStar Moving Company is an award winning, “A+” rated company, which specializes in providing eco-luxury moving and storage services. www.northstarmoving.com

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Kitchen Design Guide: Building Your Modern Dream Kitchen

Once upon a time, the kitchen was hidden away in a dark corner of the house or even a separate building. Smelling of smoke and garbage, it was a place of work, separated from the social parts of a home.

Today’s kitchens couldn’t be more different. Furnished with efficient, hard-working appliances and built for comfort, they’re the heart of a home. Besides being the place where  meals are prepared, families use their kitchens for dining, entertaining, studying and even relaxing.

North Cleveland Avenue Chicago, IL

Currently Listed with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage

Looking to modernize your own kitchen? This resource guide, compiled by the team at The Home Depot, will help you make your kitchen more attractive and inviting. With helpful advice from interior designers and Coldwell Banker real estate experts, this guide will cover the room layout, appliances, finishing touches and more. Read on to start designing your own modern kitchen.

I. The New Living Room

Ali Phillips Photography

Interior designer Kerrie Kelly caters to many clients who are looking to make their kitchens more comfortable. “You can think of your kitchen as an extension of your living areas — a space for collaboration, visiting and high interaction,” she says. “Sliding doors and armoire-style appliances that accept sleek cabinet fronts allow a kitchen to look more like a living area. Outfitted with banquettes covered in color and fabric, pizza ovens and even fireplaces, the kitchen can be a loungy, livable space.”

204th Dr Redmond, WA

Currently Listed with Coldwell Banker BAIN

Some families are even bringing back the “keeping room,” a Colonial-era sitting room situated in or near the kitchen. Bryan Bufford, an agent with Coldwell Banker Upchurch Realty in Athens, Ga., says that some clients won’t even consider a house without a keeping room. These kitchen extensions often boast a fireplace, breakfast table and sofa.

“In my mind, it’s the evolution of builders learning that people spend more time in the kitchen,” Bryan says. “I believe it’s the builders’ way of saying, ‘This is where people spend their time, so let’s do this.’”

II. The Lay of the Land: Layouts and Zones

Paseo Tranquilo, Lincoln, CA

Currently Listed with Coldwell Banker Sun Ridge Real Estate

More than any other factor, a kitchen’s layout influences its functionality. Are you working with a narrow galley shape, or do you have a larger U-shaped space with room to spread out? Is there an island or a breakfast bar breaking up the space? Is the kitchen open to the rest of the house or is it a stand-alone room? This article will help you determine your own kitchen layout.

Once you understand your layout, you can develop working zones throughout the kitchen. Because the three hubs of a kitchen are the sink, the stove and the refrigerator, the most traditional model is the ergonomic “work triangle,” which places those three areas within approximately six feet of each other. For more advice on planning out your kitchen work zones, check out this article from ForResidentialPros.com.

Work triangles are still a popular approach, but the concept has evolved to accommodate modern needs. Many homeowners now have more space and more appliances, and they use their kitchen for more purposes than ever before, so it makes sense to embrace flexible, task-specific zones.

Kerrie Kelly Design Lab

Some people want their island to be the hub of the kitchen — or even the home. It’s crucial for the island to have enough space for at least two people to pass by at once, plus room to pull out stools, if they’ll be included. Here are some measurement guidelines from the National Kitchen and Bath Association.

PRO TIP: “We’re seeing innovative solutions for achieving a spacious feel, without necessarily changing the kitchen’s footprint. People are painting and replacing dark cabinets, swapping upper cabinets for open shelving, or incorporating glass fronts. They’re also opting for soft and neutral color palettes to make their kitchens appear more expansive. Multi-purpose surfaces, such as work islands that double as furniture and storage units, have been especially popular.” – Hometalk Director of Community Development Miriam Illions

III. Choosing the Right Appliances for You

Today’s appliances — with their sleek appearance, quiet operations, energy efficiency and ease of use — are often a lifesaver for hard-working homeowners. “Our lives are getting busier, and more often than not, the households are dual-income,” interior designer Jeanne Chung says.

“This makes for little time for meal preparation at the end of the day. Speed cooking on appliances such as the GE Monogram Advantium (where four methods of cooking are rolled into one appliance) or convection cooking is important, saving valuable time while still retaining taste and texture.”

Every kitchen relies on the same basic appliances, but there’s a different model for every type of homeowner, whether you’re a gourmand, a frequent entertainer or you’re more likely to use the oven for storing pots. Realistically consider your needs and desires before embarking on your appliance-buying adventure.

PRO TIP: “Stainless steel has been the choice for appliance finishes in recent years, but that is slowly starting to change. While it’s still relevant in the kitchen, many designers are opting to break the monotony of stainless steel by adding in a burst of color.” — Interior designer Jeanne Chung

GE Monogram

A. Refrigerators
Modern refrigerators do a lot more than keep your food fresh, with handy features like middle drawers, quieting systems and in-door water dispensers helping them work harder than ever before. There are several things to consider before you choose a refrigerator:

  • The amount of space you have available in your kitchen
  • How much capacity your family will need
  • Which layout will work best for you (top-freezer, bottom-freezer, French door)
  • Which features are most important to you
  • Which finish matches your kitchen design (white, black, stainless steel, etc.)

If you’re looking for a refrigerator that’s energy efficient, make sure you fully understand the meaning of Energy Star ratings. This guide will help you read the labels.

PRO TIP: “The convertible refrigerator, where a refrigeration compartment can be changed to freezer or wine storage with a flip of a switch, has been quite important. In short, appliances that can do double duty are and will continue to be important, as the consumer feels as though they are getting more value out of their investment.” — Interior designer Jeanne Chung. To see The Home Depot’s selection of convertible refrigerator options, click here.

B. Dishwashers
Once considered a luxury item, dishwashers are now a must-have appliance in most kitchens, saving homeowners precious time so they can focus on more important things. Today’s dishwashers are quiet, energy-efficient and hard-working cleaners built to last at least a decade — so it’s important to choose your model wisely.

PRO TIP: “Consider installing two dishwashers to make clean-up a breeze. Dishwashers can be rotated for use or you may try a standard dishwasher with a back-up of a dishwasher drawer for smaller runs.” — Interior designer Kerrie Kelly. To see all the dishwasher options Kerrie mentions, visit homedepot.com.

Ali Phillips Photography

C. Cooking Appliances
Between ranges, cooktops and ovens, today’s cooking appliances are faster and more powerful than ever, with an expanded selection of features appreciated by all levels of home cooks. Besides the classic four-burner gas and electric ranges, modern cooks have some truly impressive technology at their disposal.

  • Induction cooktops use a special high-frequency coil under the cooktop’s surface to heat the cookware by magnetic touch. The cooktop stays cool while the cookware gets hot. This is an increasingly attractive option because it’s safer, heats food more evenly than traditional cooktops and it’s easier to clean! Browse Home Depot’s induction cooktops here.
  • Convection ovens use fans to offer faster, more even baking than conventional ovens. They’re available both in gas and electric versions.
  • Gas is often preferred for cooktops, while electric is generally viewed as better for baking. To get the best of both worlds, consider a dual-fuel range.
  • Who says the oven and cooktop have to coexist? Many modern homeowners are choosing to separate the two by installing a wall oven (or even two wall ovens!) apart from their cooktop. Besides offering easier access for cooks, wall ovens save space by fitting seamlessly into the cabinetry. Browse The Home Depot’s wall ovens options here.
  • Even the best chefs have the occasional accident in the kitchen, resulting in plumes of dark, smelly smoke. That’s where a range hood comes in. The ventilation system rids your kitchen of unwanted smells, heat and moisture, and it comes in styles to fit any kitchen, including over-the-range, downdraft and microwave/range hood combos. Check out Home Depot’s collection of range hoods here.

PRO TIP: “A nice appealing item is the fifth cooktop burner, as opposed to the traditional four-burner cook top. Commercial-style ovens are still a popular item as well.” — Steve and Heather Ostrom, agents at Coldwell Banker Sun Ridge, Roseville, Calif.

D. Microwaves

These fast cookers are beloved by even the most demanding gourmand. Shoppers should consider where they’ll be putting their microwave (on the counter, over the stove, built into the cabinetry), the wattage they need, and special heating options (convection, inverter) they might use.

Jeanne Chung

E. Small Appliances
They may not be as big or powerful as some of your kitchen’s major appliances, but sometimes the smallest appliances are the most important — just ask any coffee drinker. Toasters, blenders, juicers, mixers, griddles and coffee makers can be some of your kitchen’s hardest working and most beloved items.

Overlake Dr Medina, WA

Currently Listed with Coldwell Banker BAIN

IV. Storage and Surface Space

Having plenty of space to prep food and store supplies is crucial to an efficient and organized kitchen.

“Storage is important,” says Jeanne Chung, “especially storage that is cleverly integrated into the space, maximizing efficiency in the kitchen and making previously unused areas of the kitchen usable and easily accessible.”

When it comes to storage, some modern homeowners opt to show off their dishes with open shelving. Others give just a hint of what’s inside with glass-front cabinetry, while solid wooden cabinets in all shades are still the most popular — and practical — choice. You may want to consider installing custom storage options depending on your cooking habits, whether you regularly cook with wine (a built-in wine rack) or you want to keep your shiny copper pots within easy reach (a hanging pot rack).

PRO TIP: “The pop-up kitchen counter, which rises from the island below to reveal an appliance garage, is an especially innovative solution. Pull-down cabinets also provide a great solution to reach the hard-to-get upper cabinets without the use of a step stool.” — Interior designer Jeanne Chung

V. Water World: Sinks and Faucets

Between cooking and cleaning, most people spend the majority of their time in the kitchen standing over the sink. Having a cramped, shallow sink can seriously dampen your cooking experience, which is why it’s important to find just the right model — and accessories — for your needs.

As for the faucets, options include single- and double-handle versions, various finishes (rustic bronze, brushed nickel, chrome), and popular pull-down models. Some newer faucets even have motion sensors.

  • What’s the difference between copper, stainless steel, cast iron and all of the other sink materials? This guide from hometips.com breaks down the differences.
  • A garbage disposal is a sink’s best friend. Healthguidance.org offers some tips for keeping your disposal healthy.

VI. Bright Ideas: How to Lighten Up Your Kitchen

Hale Alii PL Kihei, HI

Currently Listed with Coldwell Banker Island Properties

Lighting may be the hardest-working — and most underrated — element of your kitchen’s design.

“All the color, plumbing and appliances in the world sit flat and lifeless without the appropriate lighting,” Kerrie says. The good news? Lighting is also one of the most affordable design elements in your kitchen.

  • Choose appropriate lighting for different areas of the room, including above the sink, dining, and prep areas. Options range from overhead lights to task lighting, recessed lighting and even chandeliers. Reference this guide from The American Lighting Association to help you decide which type of lighting to choose for the different areas in your kitchen.
  • Hanging lights come in all shapes and sizes, offering serious style as well as functionality. Whether you choose rustic barn lights, sleek glass orbs or handmade Mason jar fixtures, it will automatically become a major feature of your space. Here’s a photo gallery from digdigs.com of fun hanging lights.
  • Feeling crafty? Lighting is an easy area to test out your DIY skills, as with this simple pendant light project from tatertotsandjello.com.

PRO TIP: “The secret key to good lighting is to layer it. An ideal lighting scheme starts with natural light and supplements with ambient, task and accent lighting. While the fixtures themselves can add drama and style to a room, a sparkling chandelier or sophisticated sconce can also provide the finishing touch to your space or simply add another layer of design and functionality to the room.” — Interior designer Kerrie Kelly

204th Dr Redmond, WA

Currently Listed with Coldwell Banker BAIN

VII. Finishing Touches

The most minor, inexpensive details can sometimes have the biggest impact on your kitchen. From wall color and window treatments to chairs, décor and accessories, these are the elements that will add style, comfort and color to your kitchen.

  • Choosing your kitchen’s wall color is crucial; the wrong shade can be a big turnoff, or even worse, unappetizing. You can choose a neutral color and add interest with your accessories, or settle on a shade that complements your countertops and cabinetry. Need help choosing a paint color for your kitchen? Maria Killam has some great tips
  • Regular rules for window coverings don’t apply in the kitchen — it’s a whole new territory, whether you’re adding a bamboo shade over the sink or dressing a bank of windows in the breakfast nook with drapes. From Roman shades to folding shutters, this article highlights some popular window covering options from Centsational girl.
  • The backsplash makes post-cooking cleaning easier while adding subtle style to the kitchen. Brighten the room with colorful hand-painted tiles, keep it sleek with white subway tiles or add shine with galvanized metal. This decorpad.com slideshow will give you some inspiration.
  • Kitchen rugs protect your floors from the inevitable splashes of water, sticky food and cooking grease. Here’s a fun DIY project to customize your kitchen rug.

PRO TIP: “For finishing touches that require little or no investment, I suggest painting the back wall of a cabinet or shelves a contrasting color or even applying a patterned wallpaper or grasscloth, and then styling the shelves by stacking sets of bowls, plates, etc. This breaks up the continuous color and provides more visual interest.” — Interior designer Jeanne Chung

At the end of the day, the modern kitchen is exactly what you want it to be: a space that is fully customized and comfortable for you and your family. What does your dream kitchen look like?

 

The post Kitchen Design Guide: Building Your Modern Dream Kitchen appeared first on Coldwell Banker Blue Matter.

Most Expensive “Palace” in the US Hits the Market at $139 Million

It’s time for the Miami creep… no, that’s not the latest dance craze, it’s the creep of big money and big properties creeping north from Miami Beach. William P.D. Pierce, a Coldwell Banker Previews International property specialist from the Miami Beach office, has just listed Le Palais Royal on Millionaires Mile near Fort Lauderdale for a whopping $139 million, making it the most expensive house in America currently on the market.

 

This magnificent, French-inspired Beaux Arts masterpiece is a more than 60,000-square-foot palatial estate sitting on over 4 acres and 465-feet of beachfront. It boasts a 492-foot private dock that can accommodate up to a 185-foot mega yacht, and an underground garage with parking for over 30 cars. Currently under the final phase of construction and slated for completion before the end of 2015, the price tag includes the finishing.

 

Here are just a few of the big ticket items:

  • 13-foot, 22-carat gold-leaf gate
  • 26-foot entrance fountain, one of six waterfalls that adorn the exterior
  • Seamless double “day and night” custom-designed doors in the entryway, one of bronze-encased glass and the other of solid mahogany inlayed with 22-carat gold leafing
  • $2 million marble staircase with steel-iron railing and gold leaf, which took craftsmen more than two years to construct
  • 11 bedrooms, 17 bathrooms
  • First-ever IMAX Theater contracted for private use, featuring a 50 by 27-foot screen and seating for 18 with a bar and IMAX lounge
  • Three master bedroom suites and one presidential master suite, each with a Jacuzzi overlooking the ocean or Intracoastal Waterway
  • La Cornue Grand Palais custom range and custom cabinetry made of solid mahogany accentuated with 22-carat gold leafing
  • 1,300-gallon Living Color aquarium enclosed within custom cabinetry that will accommodate a high definition 3-D television in the family room
  • 4,500-square-foot infinity edge pool with a 12-foot cascading waterfall, double loop LED-lit waterslide, fire pit and swim-up bar for outdoor entertaining
  • Pool was designed with state-of-the-art technology including an automated temperature gauge sensor and triple sanitation system, which utilizes saline, chlorine and ultraviolet light
  • Plunge pool off the master suite on the second floor of the exterior terrace
  • Courtyard featuring an outdoor summer kitchen with a pizza oven, outdoor lounge for royal entertaining, and entrance to indoor spa massage rooms
  • Proprietary security system that was custom-designed for the upmost protection of the property
  • Security guard accommodations that include an air-conditioned kennel for on-site guard dogs
  • Sophisticated soundproofing from the slab to marble, including all flooring, plumbing and air conditioning to ensure a quiet tranquility throughout
  • Unique software that digitally documents every step and every square inch of the construction through photography and video

This will make one heiress, oil exec or crowned prince very happy!

See more of this luxurious property here.

The post Most Expensive “Palace” in the US Hits the Market at $139 Million appeared first on Coldwell Banker Blue Matter.

College Students Swapping Dorms for Homes Purchased by Mom and Dad

UW-Madison campus

Do you ever secretly wish you could head back to college and re-live the good old days, maybe for just one semester? If it seems like college life is only getting sweeter, you may be right. On more and more college campuses, a few lucky students are ditching the crammed dorm life and tiny off-campus apartments for bigger digs – courtesy of mom and dad of course.

In a recent informal survey of its sales associates, Coldwell Banker found that more than one-third of agents across the country are seeing more buyers looking to purchase properties for their children now than in previous years. The reasons for the investment are varied – some are taking advantage of low prices and interest rates, while others are anticipating inventory may be scarce when their child enters school.

Ed Feijo, a sales associate with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Cambridge, Mass., has seen international buyers purchase homes for children as young as 14! No, these child prodigies are not yet at Harvard or MIT. But their parents certainly have high hopes, so they are determined to snatch up a desirable property while they can.

Whether you’re a parent looking to make an investment, or a student who wants to persuade mom and dad, here are some listings within a two mile radius of a few iconic college towns:

 

Cover image via wikimedia.org

The post College Students Swapping Dorms for Homes Purchased by Mom and Dad appeared first on Coldwell Banker Blue Matter.

The Complete List of Important Questions to Ask A Contractor Before Hiring Them

When you set out to do a remodel, addition or other major home renovation, you will need a general contractor to oversee the work that needs to be done. Hiring a general contractor means getting the best person, and while there are many general contractors in your area, you will need to screen them.

Part of that screening process is asking the right questions and getting a sense of their work history and ethics. There are a lot of questions you could ask, but here are some of the essential ones:

What’s your business history?

Asking a contractor’s business history is one of most important steps to finding out more about the work they’ve done, how well they did it and if their past clients were satisfied. If they are unwilling to give you references or talk about their history, it’s a good indication you might look elsewhere.

Some follow-up questions to ask around this question include:

  • How many years have you been doing contractor work?
  • How many projects have you completed like mine in the last year?
  • Do you have a list of references I could call?
  • What kind of insurance do you have?
  • Are you licensed?
  • Do you carry worker’s compensation for your employees?
  • Do you have insurance in case something in my home is broken during the remodel or addition?
  • Will you sign a “time and materials” contract?
  • Do you often finish a project within the allotted time frame?

Who will be at the site and how will it be supervised?

Knowing who will be at your house every day during the renovation is important. You should know who they are, if the contractor will be there and any details about the team working on your home. For example, there might be a construction manager hired, which can cost between $3,200 and $4,400. It will depend on the extent of the project, and if the general contractor isn’t going to be the manager.

Some additional questions to ask:

  • Can I meet the job foreman or project manager, if there will be one for my project?
  • Will you be using any subcontractors on this project?
  • Who will be on the site every day during the project?
  • Will you be onsite every day or stopping by, and if the latter, how often?

Can you give me a timeline?

There should be a timeline for the project, so you know what to expect and when. Having a timeline will keep you aware of whether they’re behind or ahead of schedule. It will also let you know when you might need to be out of the house or specific rooms during the renovation.

You should ask the contractor:

  • What is our schedule?
  • Will this require a permit and who needs to pull them?
  • When will you start and finish?
  • What will be the start time and finish time every day?
  • Will you work seven days a week?
  • How will you communicate with me after hours?
  • How will I know when I need to make decisions?
  • What documents will I receive when the project is complete?

What guarantees can you give me?

Guarantees may or may not be part of the contract you sign with the general contractor. You want to have everything worked out before signing anything, so questions you might ask include:

  • Is there any part of my project that worries you? If so, what is it and how do we work it out?
  • Will you provide me with updates on a daily basis?
  • Do you offer a guarantee on your work, and if so, what is it?
  • Do you have any legal disputes pending from previous work that I need to be aware of?

Can I get that in writing?

Once you get everything worked out, it’s time put it all down in writing. What you need to have in the contract will depend on the project, so some questions you might ask include:

  • Would you itemize the bid?
  • Is the bid just an estimate or your fixed price for the project?
  • Will you agree to a termination clause?
  • Will your contract include the job details, timeframe, materials, cost, “time and materials” and termination clause?

If you think you need to ask any additional questions not covered here, you might want to consult friends and neighbors who have done similar renovations. Some other questions to consider asking when you decide whether to hire a general contractor include:

  • What do I have to put down?
  • What’s the bottom line?
  • What’s your work routine like?
  • Who are your main suppliers?

Remember, you want the right man or woman for the job and don’t want to go back for extensive repairs later.

Andrea Davis is the editor at HomeAdvisor, which connects homeowners with home improvement professionals in their area for free. Connect with Andrea on Google+

Cover image via wikimedia.org

 

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Tips and Tricks To Make You Fall in Love With Your Small Bathroom

As the social media manager for Coldwell Banker I get to see some of the most incredible and luxurious bathrooms from around the world. From bathrooms with a view to a shower that is bigger than some of my rooms, I have seen it all. Of course, this make me feel less than in love with my small bathroom. In an effort to maximize my space I have found some interesting ways to give bathrooms an upgrade without breaking the bank…

Feeling Confined? Lighten Up with Brighter Shades of Color

Bright Bathroom 1

Listed with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Boulder, CO

Dark shades of paint may make a bold statement but they can also make a room feel confined. Consider opting for a lighter shade of paint to make a room appear larger than it actually is.

Bathroom Boring? Add Some Character

Adding a wall to wall mirror or wainscoting are affordable and elegant upgrades that can completely change the look of a small bathroom.

Declutter! Less is More in a Small Bathroom

Beautiful Half Bathroom

Listed with Coldwell Banker BAIN Seattle, WA

A cluttered counter space can drive a person crazy. When possible, utilize cabinets and your linen closet so the room feels clean and organized.

Shower Space Tight? Hang Another Shower Rod

Via Reddit

Showerhead racks are bulky and can make a shower feel overcrowded. Adding another shower rod will allow you to hang baskets.

Go With Glass

Listed with Coldwell Banker BAIN in Seattle, WA

An opaque shower door may add privacy but it also cuts off the space in your bathroom. A glass shower door will open the space back up.

Short on Storage? Consider Mounting Drawers

via Shelterness

If you need more storage you can always consider ways to use wall space. Another great spot to add storage is above the bathroom door.

The post Tips and Tricks To Make You Fall in Love With Your Small Bathroom appeared first on Coldwell Banker Blue Matter.

7 Super Cool Super Hero Themed Kids Bedrooms

Holy Cuteness Batman! These super hero themed kids rooms, from Houzz, take the prize for the most awesome and adorable.  Which is your favorite?

The post 7 Super Cool Super Hero Themed Kids Bedrooms appeared first on Coldwell Banker Blue Matter.