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8 Steps to Finding the Perfect Neighborhood

By Jacklyn Renz

image1_article5_iss.19You’ve made the decision to move from one home to another. Exciting, isn’t it? While you peruse the internet and drive around taking in the sights of several new-home hopefuls, have you considered the immediate location of your potential places? If our house is the ultimate picture of homestead happiness that we hope to see ourselves in, then the neighborhood is the frame in which that picture is encased. We have gathered a few points of perfection for your new neighborhood.


Pinpoint Your Wants

Before setting foot in a home, sit down with your family to list out what you want in your new neighborhood. You should of course consider the price point of the house, but don’t stop there. Think on the small things that make your life pleasurable such as sidewalks or access to a pool. What kind of space do you want between you and your neighbors? Do you want to live in a Neighborhood Watch Protected Area? Are you looking for a single-family home or something different? This list of neighborhood wants will serve as a great jumping off point.

Valuing the View

As you make your way through each neighborhood, take in the view and we don’t just mean the scenery. Look at the other houses surrounding your potential home. Do your neighbors keep the yards well manicured? What about the upkeep of the homes themselves, such as paint jobs and gutters? Observe the signage, too. Are there several rental signs? If so, your neighbors may fluctuate on a more than desirable basis. What about foreclosures? Considering these points will give you an idea of how well your home will hold its value.

image3_article5_iss.19Commute and Convenience

When deciding where to live, remember that much of our time is spent outside of the home. Consider your commute time to your 40-hour a week home away from home. If you have children, choose a house close to their school, especially if they are involved in after-school activities that will take you there more than five times a week. Close proximity to your most frequented locations will give you more time to enjoy your new house and less time in your car.

Pondering Potential Expenses

Besides the price tag of the mortgage, the neighborhood that you choose can also affect your monthly expenses. For starters, property taxes differ depending on what county and state you reside in. At times, development within an area can also raise property taxes. Further still, some neighborhoods have monthly or annual HOA fees. A Homeowner’s Association can regulate the upkeep of your home and mandate certain updates that could potentially cost you money.

Cruise and Observe

All neighborhoods seem to take on a culture of their own. Try to get an idea for the feel of the neighborhood before you sign on the dotted line. Cruise through at all hours of the day and after dark. Once the sun dips down, are there people still out? Are there families around? Do you see several cars parked on the road or are they garage kept? These are just a few of the clues that give us an idea of what sort of neighborhood we are buying into.

Sights, Sounds, and Smells

We’ve covered several points on the sights already, but let’s hammer that one home. Take a look at your potential immediate neighbors’ houses. Make note if they have anything, such as a tarp covered car or a broken down fence that may be less than desirable to look at each day. When cruising through at various hours, try to notice whether or not the neighbors are loud. What about the buzz of a busy road? Finally, take a whiff of the air. It may sound strange, but you never know if there may be a sewer backup or a stagnant body of water nearby.

Basic Coverage

When you are assessing your neighborhood, research goes a long way. Look up the crime rates in the various possible home locations. Review your family’s collective personality. When it comes to your lifestyle, think about local points of interest that you want to be close to. For example, an avid outdoors explorer will want to have rural terrain nearby. A family who eats out more than they eat in will want plenty of eateries to choose from. If you consider the type of person you are now, then your home’s location will cater to it.

Future Focused

Our final point focuses on any future changes coming down the pike. Are you planning on having children or are your children going to graduate upwards to a new school while at this house and, if so, all the schools they will attend should be nearby. What about job changes? Think about when you may change houses again and what this neighborhood’s value will do.

Save time and heartache by considering these neighborhood points before buying. With a little pre-planning, your home will be centered in a location that you love as much as the house!

Sources: HGTV.com, sterlingliving.com, forbes.com

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Are You a Bargain Décor Expert?

By Rachel Collar

image1_article6_iss.19For decorators on a budget, there is nothing more exciting than discovering a diamond in the rough. Garage sales, thrift stores and seasonal sales hold a special intrigue for these treasure hunters as they search endlessly for the hidden gems that will polish up to become centerpieces in their home.  Some look for antique tables that have covered their beauty in years of old paint and dust, just waiting to be sanded and refinished to their former splendor. Others simply want to repurpose discarded items such as pallet wood or turn an old piece of scrap metal into a lamp.  Though some people seem to have a knack for extreme bargain hunting, anyone can become an expert with a few tips and a little practice!

Garage Sales

image2_article6_iss.19Though there is no doubt that one can find a deal on internet resale sites, there is nothing that can replace a good old fashioned garage sale, where you can see items with your own eyes and negotiate price. Make a list of garage sales in your area and go early to catch the best deals. Show up again before they close shop to see if the seller is willing to take less for unsold goods. Look for well-made and name brand treasures that are either classic in style or very unique. Do not hesitate to take on small repair or upcycle projects that may just require a little paint.

Thrift Stores

It is amazing what people are willing to donate when it comes time for spring cleaning. Checking local thrift stores often and right at opening is a good way to fall into the find of a lifetime. Many thrift stores have newsletters that will send out coupons or notifications of new stock. Know your brands and materials. The best way to become an expert shopper is to spend time in high end stores, window shopping for your dream decor. Once you develop a sense of your own taste and the feel of fine home goods, you will be able to quickly identify the same items or look alikes that have been relocated to the shelves of the resale store.  Become a regular and some store managers will put you on a list to call for specific items if they come across them.


The most literal interpretation of trash to treasure is to pay nothing for your project because it is discarded material. Pallet wood has endless possibilities and can often be found at for pennies or completely free at local businesses. Wine bottles can be painted and repurposed into a vase for wildflowers. Farm crates become shelving for a shabby chic kitchen while an old tin bucket house magazines. Get creative with your free finds but always ask permission before rummaging through another’s discards.

Scratch and Dent

Try shopping the clearance section of home stores and large department stores for damaged items that may only require a small repair or modification. Shop at the end of each season to find the best markdowns. With very few tools and the help of the internet, you may be able to repair an item that could be marked down to a fraction of the original price. Never hesitate to ask for a manager and negotiate.

Now that you are a bargain decor expert, consider giving back by donating your own unwanted items to a fellow treasure hunter!

Sources: www.pinterest.com, www.thisoldhouse.com, www.refinery29.com


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How to Make Your Bedroom Feel like a Five-Star Hotel

By Rachel Collar

image1_article2_iss.19Nothing compares to the feeling of checking into an upscale hotel. You slide the room key in and open the door with great anticipation and high hopes to rest your weary traveler bones. What awaits you is better than you could have dreamed. A decadent combination of style and comfort folds out before your eyes, filling your senses, and inviting you to live like royalty during your stay. While you enjoy the bliss of this pampered accommodation, it is only a temporary retreat.  By the end of your stay, you may find yourself wondering why your own boudoir does not hold the same intrigue and splendor. With a small investment and thoughtful details, you can bask in complete serenity every time you enter your bedroom.

To begin transforming your space into a five-star destination, you must first remove all excess clutter that does not promote relaxation. Separate items into categories and disperse around the house into a new location. Next, create or purchase storage options that remove the mess from sight.  If you must have your office in your bedroom, try and contain the area to one corner or wall while keeping it neat and contained.  Shelves should be sparse and not crammed with objects.

Consider the space you are working with. Can furniture be reconfigured in a more relaxing or simplified manner? Is there excess furniture that is really not needed in the room? The less furniture, the more open and spacious the room will feel. Make sure the scale of the furnishings are appropriate for their location. The bed should be the focal point and easy to get into. Flank the bed with night time lighting using either matching lamps on nightstands or installed sconces above the headboard. Keep draperies simple and make sure they can be pulled back. Most importantly, do not cover the windows with large pieces of furniture. Letting the sunlight in and enjoying the view are part of life’s small delights.

The wall colors you select are essential companions to your lighting. Keep tones soft and muted for a peaceful vibe that promotes clear thinking and restful nights. Consider buying a trendy metallic removable wallpaper for a fun accent wall.  Your hotel bedroom is not complete without fine art, or at least some really great imitation fine art. This is simple to achieve and may involve items you already own. Black and white landscape prints can be framed and matted to create a streamlined and subdued tone of artwork. Use magazine photos of travel and cultured settings to save money.  Keep frames simple and coordinating to ensure a seamless look.


If your bedroom is a gourmet cake, then your textiles are the rich frosting on top. The bedding that you choose should be nothing less than spectacular. The finest hotels often have bedding that is almost completely white or tan with textured throw pillows. Do not settle for a thread count less than 500 on your sheets and try bamboo cotton for a truly delicious feel that keeps you cool while you sleep. Hold your pillow in your hand and ask yourself if you have feelings of complete bliss or indifference towards it. I am serious. You should L-O-V-E your pillow. If you do not, ditch it and get a new one. Your five-star bed must be like a cloud that you cannot wait to sink into. Unless you are buying furniture, the bedding is where to put your money.


A small and plush seating area is a great way to create boudoir bliss. A soft chair next to a window where you can snuggle into a good book; A loveseat adorned in pillows to take a moment and breathe in the morning or enjoy a glass of wine at night. The most fabulous hotels excel at creating these moments of comfort by using well designed seating areas. Remember to keep color and print muted and use texture in fabrics to create depth and luxury. The addition of this opulent element will turn your bedroom into a destination that you can enjoy all day long and not just at bedtime.

image4_article2_iss.19Indulgence is often experienced when all five senses are employed. The eye takes in the simple elegance of the neutral palette and soft colors, while touch is fulfilled with those high thread count sheets and luxurious throw pillows. Take time to add the ambiance of music to please the ears. Light a scented candle or use an essential oil diffuser to fill the room with the aroma of relaxation. As for taste, clearly this decadently decorated retreat is oozing with great taste, but go ahead and order some strawberries and champagne to seal the deal. Sure, you may have to double as room service, but you will never have to pack up and leave this five-star accommodation.


Sources: www.pinterest.com , www.fivestaralliance.com , www.freshhome.com


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