Deck the Halls: 10 Things to Do Leading Up to Christmas

Christmas is one of the busiest times of the year. You have to buy and wrap presents, decorate the tree, cook, bake, and more. Preparing your home for Christmas may seem stressful but it doesn’t have to be. Here are small things that you can do every day leading up to Christmas. Your home can be more festive in no time.

1. Create a Christmas card display: Arrange the Christmas cards you’ve received over the past few weeks on a mantel or in a nice Christmas wreath. This adds a sentimental value to the holiday and shows your family and friends that you appreciate them.

2. Plan Christmas menu: Knowing exactly what you’re cooking makes grocery shopping faster. Plus you won’t have to run out because you forgot milk…again.

3. Put out smaller decorations: There is no such thing as too many Christmas decorations. If your tree is up and the outside of your home is decked out, adding small touches inside the home is the next step. Hang wreaths, display nutcrackers, snow globes, and hang the stockings — this added decor brings the Christmas season full circle.

4. Display presents under the tree: As you are finished wrapping presents for your family and Christmas guests, display them under the tree. You’ll remember where you put the gifts and you’ll get excited every time you see them under the tree. Note to Self: Stop hiding gifts and forgetting where they’re hidden.

5. Prepare for guests: If you have family staying over during the holidays, prepare in advance. There’s no need to run around on Christmas trying to cook, clean, and get things together for guests. A few days prior to the holiday, put out extra towels, bedding, and anything else your guests may need. If you have enough time, use these tips to set up a great guest room.

6. Bake, bake, bake: A night or two before Christmas, get all your baking done. It’s a fun activity to do with your family and you’ll take care of something else on your to-do list.

7. Deep clean your home: A clean home is a happy home, especially during the holidays. Clean your home a few days before Christmas. A mess may ensue during the holiday but at least the meticulous cleaning job is done.

8. Set the table: Don’t set your table in a hurry. Take some time to make it beautiful. Set up a runner, put out candles, and add a festive centerpiece.

9. Set out seating: If your home doesn’t have the capacity to hold all your guests, make arrangements in advance. Borrow or rent extra tables and chairs so there is room for everyone and everything.

10. Burn candles: There is nothing like the fresh scent of a Christmas candle. Light a few before your guests arrive to help make your home look and smell beautiful.

If you do one small thing each day before Christmas, your home will be prepared for the actual day. As a host, you will be able to enjoy the holiday more knowing everything is taken care of.

Source: century21.com

Is the Home You Love Worth It? Home Pre-Inspection Tips to Put to Use

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To hear professional home inspectors tell it, Americans take better care of their automobiles than their homes. Consequently, every homebuyer should plan to spend the $400 to $600 necessary to have the house they like best thoroughly examined by an independent third party before closing.

But wait: Before you’ve made your final choice and order a home inspector to take a look, you should do some preliminary investigating of your own. That way, you can protect yourself from picking the wrong house and allowing a better maintained property to slip away.

Even rookie buyers can get a good idea of just how well kept a house has been. Even when the seller has given the place a fresh coat of paint and trimmed the lawn, there still are often telltale signs that the owner may not have been as diligent as he could have. But keep it mind, it would be counterproductive to put every house under this kind of microscope. Once you narrow your choices down to two or three homes, it’s time to take a harder look. Then, after you make your final decision, call in the experts.

Look at Small Details

For example, a clean furnace filter can be taken as an indication the house has been well cared for. But who’s to say the seller didn’t just replace a filter that hadn’t been changed in years? If the filter hasn’t been changed regularly, the furnace hasn’t been working efficiently and it may not live up to its expected life span.

So how do you now? You don’t for sure. but if you spy a pile of spare filters tucked away in a storage closet, it’s a pretty good sign that the owner is on the ball. Someone who is in the process of selling isn’t buying extra filters he won’t use.

Home Service Log

Another clue that the furnace is in good shape is to look for a service log showing that the machine has been serviced regularly, at least once a year.

Of course, homebuyers, even those who have purchased several houses, shouldn’t substitute this kind of rudimentary investigation for a complete and exhaustive inspection by a trained professional. Even if the furnace has been serviced consistently, it could be on its last legs, and only a pro will be able to determine that.

Go Through the Motions as an Owner

Don’t be afraid to kick the tires and act like you’re already living there. You have every right to open closets, flush toilets, run the dishwasher through a full cycle, turn on all the stove-top burners, check the refrigerator and open the in the windows. The owner shouldn’t object – not if he really wants to sell.

If you are really interested in a property, make an appointment with the owner to return with your agents in tow. Give yourself plenty of time to give the place a good once-over. Then, you can decide if you want to proceed.

Tips from Professionals

Here, in no particular order, are some other suggestions from professional inspectors to help you decide if the choices you are considering are inspection-worthy:

Tips for Inspecting Basements

If the house has a basement, follow your nose. If there is a damp, musty smell, there’s usually an issue. A dehumidifier is another tip-off to a wet basement. They aren’t part of the decor. Also, look for stains or rot where the stringers, or side pieces, on the basement steps touch the floor. If there is a water problem, the moisture will wick into the wood. If there is nothing on the basement floor, that could be a sign of water problems. Inspectors love to see stacks of old magazines in the corner with spider webs. That means they have been there a long time and the there is no water problem.

Water Damage to Look for

Some owners will try to hide water damage in their bathrooms by re-caulking and grouting tiles. But you can beat them at their own game by tapping on the tile where it hits the tub or shower floor. The tile should sound and feel solid. If it sounds hollow, give it a nudge to see if there is any give to the wall. If there is, something’s going on behind there that isn’t good.

Electrical Inspections that are Amateur-friendly

After water issues, improper electrical wiring is the second most common defect found by home inspectors. It is difficult for an amateur to determine if the electrical system is adequate, but there are clues. If you see a lot of fuses lying around, especially burnt-out ones, it’s a dead giveaway that the wiring is probably undersized. Another sure-fire indication that the wiring is insufficient: A bunch of extension cords snaking around, hither and yon.

Always Check the Roof

Roofing problems also are fairly common, so look for shingles that are cupping at the corners. They may have to be replaced. If the roof appears to be sagging between the joists, the entire thing may have to be removed. And if there are already are two layers of shingles, the cost could be 20% higher or more. If the house has been well maintained, the owner will know exactly how many layers are on the roof, the age of the top layer and if new sheathing has been put down between the two layers.

Turning on Faucets is Always a Great Idea

Turn on the faucets on the bathroom sink and tub and flush the toilet, all at the same time. If there is an appreciable drop in water flow, there could be a serious pressure problem, possibly caused by mineral buildup in old pipes.

Keep in Mind…

* Maybe one in 20 houses examined by the pros qualifies as well maintained. But if the seller keeps a maintenance log backed by files of receipts, warranties, instruction manuals and color swatches, it’s probably a safe bet that the house has been a labor of love. Neatness counts, too. There should be access to all space, and nothing should be blocking the furnace or electrical panel.


Lew Sichelman

Syndicated newspaper columnist, Lew Sichelman has been covering the housing market and all it entails for more than 50 years. He is an award-winning journalist who worked at two major Washington, D.C. newspapers and is a past president of the National Association of Real Estate Editors.

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Source: homes.com

How to Incorporate Collections into Your Home

Your home should be a reflection of you and your family. Incorporate your personality into your home decor by displaying family collections. Your collections tell stories that deserve to be told – and represented throughout your home.

Get creative and find a place for all of your cherished collections. Here are a few sample ideas to get you started. Modify them according to your collection of choice.

1. Stamps: Do you have a bevy of vintage or one-of-a-kind stamps? Frame pages of stamps. Display your framed collections on mantels, in your entryway, or even create a gallery wall.

2. Crystal Figurines: Display your figurines in glass cases or on a shelf near a window. The light from the windows and glass will reflect on the figurines and make them sparkle beautifully.

3. Matchboxes: If you have a collection of fancy, beautifully designed matchboxes, put them out for show. Group them together on an end table or in an armoire with glass panels.

4. Antiques: One of the most popular collections to display in a home is antiques. Whether it’s antique furniture, picture frames, or something as small as a breadbox, place them in their appropriate room for added decor. Display them in different rooms so that you remember the story behind them whenever you see them.

5. Travel Souvenirs: Save travel souvenirs like museum tickets, plane tickets, and even currency. Put them in memory boxes and frame them throughout your home. Hang a map with pins representing every place you’ve traveled as a family.

6. Any other quirky item: Any collectible has the ability to be hung up on a wall. Creating a gallery wall is the easiest, no fuss way to display your items. Grouping similar picture frames, silver trays, or any other like items on a blank wall in your home creates a focal point of beautiful decor.

Displaying your beloved and timeless collections throughout your home is not only a great way to display your interests, but it’s also a great conversation starter.

Source: century21.com

How to Decorate Your Home for the Holidays

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Not only are the holidays arguably the most cheerful and fun days to experience with your loved ones, they’re also the best time of the year for decorating.

Whether you go all out or prefer minimal decorations these tips will get your home into the holiday spirit.

1. Decorate the door: Make a great first impression. Decorate your doorway with garland and hang a wreath from your front door.

2. Christmas lanterns: A lantern is a very elegant and sophisticated piece of decor that will instantly dress up any room. Add candles or flameless candles to brighten any room.

3. Centerpieces: A centerpiece is the focal point of your table. It transforms how guests view your dining room and can really get everyone into the Holiday spirit. Adorning your table with a bouquet of red roses mixed in with some garland, berry sprigs, and candles is a great way to bring the season into your home.

4. Hanging lights: Decorate any sort of hanging, pendant light with garland.

5. Staircases, columns, etc.: Take your love of detail into other parts of your home. Add bows, garland, and string lights to the handrails and columns inside and outside your house. These small decorations will help make your home cozy and give it a very Holiday feel.

6. Coffee Table: Fill glass bowls or cylinders with ornaments. If you’re feeling extra creative spray paint pinecones and add them.

7. Mantelpiece: Your mantelpiece is usually the focal point of your living room, and what better time to draw more attention to it than the holidays? Decorate the mantel with red berries, tree branches, Christmas stockings, and other small holiday touches.

8. The tree: For Christmas it’s all about the tree during the holidays. All families have their own traditions, but you may want to change things up a bit. Add some metallic shimmer, top the tree with bells instead of an angel, and cluster ornaments together. It’ll give a traditional tree a new look.

Decorating your home for the holidays is a fun family activity. Add some cheer to your home!

Source: century21.com