Thursday, April 29, 2021

the magic of paint

It was the summer of '93 when I first realized how a can of paint can transform a space. 

Finding myself in NYC for a few months, a dear friend opened her doors to me. And what doors they were. Located on the upper east side, her building was outfitted with a starched doorman, swanky lobby and fast elevators. Her apartment was spacious (for Manhattan). But for everything it had going for it there was one thing that just wasn't right. The stark white walls left you cold. 

So, while Tanya was off to Oslo, I picked up a brush and a few gallons of butter cream paint and over a long weekend her apartment was transformed into a space that was warm, inviting and simply delicious! 

I haven't put down a paint brush since. My father swears the only thing holding my house together is layers upon layers of paint. He's probably right. In fact, I am currently interviewing three neutrals (see below), with the winning one being the new color on my walls. 

Feather Down by Benjamin Moore


Stoneware by Benjamin Moore


Ballet White by Benjamin Moore



Paint not only transforms spaces, it is perfect for fixing flaws. Check out how you can use paint to your advantage. 

1. Make a small room look larger
Paint is a master of optical illusion and can appear to increase a room's square footage. Painting the walls and ceiling the same dark color blurs spatial lines and makes the room's smallness less noticeable. 



2. Make a dark room look brighter
Paint is the go-to source for style in a can, but the right color and finish can also add light to a cavelike room. "A high-gloss oil-base paint can be almost as reflective as a mirror," says interior designer Miles Red. One caveat to consider before you pick up your brush: the paint job has to be pristine, since a high-gloss finish will highlight any imperfections. 


3. Camouflage an eyesore
Ever wonder what the builder was thinking when he placed a radiator on the only wall that would allow art or in the most conspicuous spot in the room? Painting the wall and the radiator the same color helps to make art pop and the appliance to recede.  


4. Give floors an update
If your wood floors can't withstand another round of expensive refinishing, or if you can't bear the look of stain for another minute, consider painting them instead. You'll need to rough up the boards with sandpaper, damp-mop, cover up with a few coats of porch, floor or marine paint, then seal. 


5. Give cabinets and bookshelves a lift
Add a shot of color to any room by painting the backs of cabinets or bookshelves. The boring white backs of these dining room cabinets got a rousing shot of aqua. I love how that ties in with the dining room chairs. 



Until next time,

la chasse au bonheur

Special thanks to Tanya Lochridge for introducing me to paint 30 years ago! 

Friday, March 12, 2021

signs of spring

Outside I hear the birds chirping and notice tiny buds on the bare brown branches. Could it be? Is spring really here? After the year we have all had, these are welcome signs, indeed - the beginning of nature's renewal, including our own.


For me, it signals the rebooting of garden parties, Sunday brunch and long chats with friends and family on the terrace, flowering white hydrangeas, vibrant green grass and, oh yes, a ton of work to get the gardens ready!


We're funny here in the Pacific Northwest. The moment we see the sun, we pull on the shorts and sandals (even if it's a balmy 45 degrees), and head outside. That might be why I find myself gravitating to my yard work and my 'to do' list rather than my real work. Here's my list so far:

Schedule pressure washing of drive, walkway, backyard patio and patio set
Elevate Property Services is fabulous! Connor 206.355.1524

Schedule window washer
Crystal Panes always takes care of my old, old glass! 206.284.5183

Clean gutters and downspouts
AA Window and Gutter Cleaners are the bomb! 425.821.3814

Service lawn mower
Who am I kidding? I have a service....but if I didn't, I'd be on this!

Pull out dead plants that didn't make it over winter and plant to fill holes.

Clean the fountain, service the motor, turn on, enjoy the birds playing

Change the furnace filter and smoke alarm batteries (every spring and fall)
Greenwood Heating is great for annual maintenance. 206.202.2633

Clean the BBQ grill and cover, pull out BBQ utensils and cookbooks

Test the water hose and spray nozzle front and back 
I like the FitLife Flexible Hose with nozzle 

Clean and condition teak bench
Starbrite Teak Cleaner works really well!

Locate and wash outdoor accessories like lanterns, linens, outdoor ware

Wash outdoor cushions and pillows, spray with a mildew protector
AllerTech No More Mildew is great. Honest makes a good one as well!

Fluff up front porch urns with new plantings
City People's is getting some great new color spots in.

Clean front porch ceiling and wax front door hardware

Pull out front porch screen and have repairs made prior to installing in June
Dunn Lumber is very helpful if you need to replace the mesh.

Well, work is calling and obviously I have some calls to make to make this all happen. If you need a copy of my preferred vendor resource guide, pop me an email with your address and I will send one off.

Happy (oh so close) spring, everyone!

Until next time

la chasse au bonheur

Friday, March 5, 2021

Springtime Curb Appeal

Whether you are getting your home ready for market (improving curb appeal has shown to increase not only your property's value, but also the property values of your entire neighborhood) or just itching to shake off the winter doldrums, these five tips will help you welcome spring and beautify your home.

1 Sidewalks and Driveways



This may be the first part of your property that your guests or prospective buyers step foot on, literally.

An affordable, virtually maintenance free option for sprucing up your paths is concrete stain. This do-it-yourself project can cost around $30 a gallon and requires very little prep work. Consider picking a color that is in the same color family as that of your home. A blue home could be happily complemented by a gray drive.

Another tip: fix cracks and uneven sections of your sidewalk and pathways. This project may require a bit more professional attention but will give buyers the right impression - that your entire home has been maintained.

2 Accent Door


It has been called the lipstick on the lady. It's inviting and it draws visitors, or buyers, in to your home. A plain door tends to recede into the background.

Consider a contrasting color to your home's exterior. On the color wheel, green is opposite red and yellow is opposite blue. Don't be afraid to be daring. Just a pint of paint can cover most doors and if you don't like the result you can try another color!

3 Trimming Trees


Before

Stand in front of your home and take a close and fresh look at your trees and bushes. Are there branches that have become overgrown and now obstruct the view of your home? You want your landscaping to complement your home, not hide it. Trees, shrubs, bushes should just frame paths and entries, not obstruct them.

After

To trim tree branches yourself you can buy a pole pruner or chain saw. Or you can hire a professional who has experience in shaping trees. Keep in mine, however, that spring is NOT the time to prune flowering trees or maples. These types of trees should be pruned in late Summer or early Fall.

4 Early Spring Planting



The last frost date varies by area. It also varies from year to year. If you feel that your home will not see another frost then you may be safe to plant a few hardy annuals to add some pop of color to your yard. Even if a frost catches you by surprise, you can cover the plants for the evening to save them from succumbing to the cold.

Some plants that can give you an early burst of color:
     Pansies - these bolts of color can even survive Winter
     Calendula - these "pot marigolds" are a versatile plant
     Violets - heart shaped petals create vibrant color spots
     Other options - cornflower, foxglove, larkspur, sweet alyssum, dianthus

Cleaning out your garden beds also adds an element of neatness that conveys the right message!

5 Outdoor Lighting


Low voltage (12 volt) and solar lighting are good options for improving curb appeal. There are hundreds of designs of solar lights. These small fixtures generally sit on stakes in the ground and can be used to accent paths or gardens and are a great do-it-yourself option.

Also, consider using uplighting on trees to create night-time focal points. This is a great way to showcase your home for those driving by after work.

I better get busy!

Until next time,

la chasse au bonheur

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

The benefits of Townhome living

The Townhouse is design's answer to the demands of individuals looking for comfort, proximity to work and ease of maintenance. It merges the convenience of a condominium with those of a single-family residence to address the changing lives of many homeowners.


Living in a townhome is the perfect answer for many people who are looking for convenience, ease of maintenance, security and a feeling of community. These homes are similar to typical homes, but unlike single-family houses, they are connected to each other on either side of the unit. Townhomes bring the best of condominium and single-family living together.

For many, these advantages make buying a townhome a wise alternative to buying a single-family home -


MORE HOUSE FOR THE MONEY
For home buyers worried about square footage, a townhome offers a perfect solution. Generally buyers are able to afford more living space in a townhome than in a typical stand alone, single-family home. The townhome occupies a much smaller amount of real property, and builders use vertical space to get lots of square footage between the walls. Townhome builders design compact stairways and efficient hallways to give homeowners the greatest amount of square footage possible. The result is usually a much more convenient, comfortable, and spacious living area than would be achieved by purchasing a similarly priced single-family home.


LESS EXTERIOR MAINTENANCE
COMPARED TO A SINGLE-FAMILY HOME
Townhome living offers the benefits of limited responsibility and cost of upkeep for the property and yard. Since a townhome is attached to another dwelling, the exterior maintenance is drastically reduced. Most townhomes have smaller yard areas so yard work is minimal. To maintain a consistently well-manicured landscape, the front areas are typically maintained by homeowner association fee. The homeowner association bylaws spell out what the HOA is responsible for and what is expected of homeowners. At the end of the day, less exterior maintenance translates to money saved.

NO NEIGHBORS ABOVE, OR BELOW
Even though the units are connected, each unit remains separated from the rest due to a private entry to each property. The noise reduction provides a welcome benefit, because even though traditional town homes are built with neighbors on one, or both sides, no residents live above, or below you.

OWNERSHIP INCLUDES THE LAND AND A PATCH OF GREEN
You own the land on which your unit is built and any outdoor living space attached to your home.

INCREASED SENSE OF SECURITY
With neighbors close by, it is difficult for a burglar to go unnoticed. Most town home developments are well lit and the close proximity brings neighbors together. Often a sense of protectiveness between residents exists and many residents find meeting people and making new friends easier.

VALUABLE TIME SAVINGS
A townhome is the perfect alternative for people with busy schedules. Less maintenance is ideal for homeowners who lead fast paced lives, travel extensively, and who cannot dedicate time to the many chores associated with single-family homes.

For first-time buyers and retirees, or those who travel a lot, townhomes offer an affordable alternative to single-family homes.

Until next time,

la chasse au bonheur

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Top Ten Homeowner Tax Breaks

At tax time, it pays to be a homeowner. Whether you're buying or selling a home, fixing one up, or using it as collateral, there's an associated tax break. In fact, there are so many federal tax incentives that homeowners often fail to take advantage of at least one or two - which can add thousands of dollars to your tax bill. What follows are 10 of the best.


1 Home loan 'points' deduction

If you purchase "discount points" as part of your home loan (fees paid to a lender in order to lower your mortgage interest rate), you may be eligible to deduct 100 percent of that cost from your taxes. The same is true for a home-improvement loan. However, to qualify, the loan must be for your main, full-time home, not a second home, a vacation place, or a rental property. Points purchased as part of a refinancing loan also qualify for this tax deduction, but those have to be deducted over the life of the loan, and not all at once.

For all the details, search for "Topic 504"on the IRS website (irs.gov).

2 First-time homebuyer/long-time resident credit

You may be eligible for a first-time homebuyer credit. In fact, under the "long-time resident" clause, you could qualify for this credit even if it wasn't your first home.

For all the details, search for the article titled "First-Time Homebuyer Credit" on the IRS website.

3 Mortgage-interest deduction

In most cases, all the interest you pay on your home loan (your full-time home and any second home) is fully deductible on your federal taxes. What's more, if your loan includes private mortgage insurance payments, those are also deductible.

For all the details, search for "Publication 936" on the IRS website.

4 Mortgage interest credit

The mortgage interest credit is intended to help lower-income individuals afford home ownership. However, you must contact your state or local housing finance agency about the credit before you obtain a mortgage and buy your home. If you qualify, you may be able to subtract a set amount (a maximum of $2,000) from your mortgage interest payments every year you live in that house and owe money on the loan.

For all the details, see the section titles "Mortgage Interest Credit" of "Publication 530" on the IRS website.

5 Property tax deduction

Any state, local or foreign real estate taxes you've paid on your primary and/or second residence are also deductible on your federal income tax return.

NOTE: Many states and counties also impose local benefit taxes for improvements to property, such as assessments for streets, sidewalks, and sewer lines. Those taxes cannot be deducted. However you can increase the "cost basis" of your property by the amount of the assessment.

For all the details, search for "Topic 503" on the IRS website.

6 Home office deduction

If an area of your home (a room or other "separately identifiable space") is used exclusively as your principal place of business, you can deduct a portion of your total home expenses. How much you can deduct depends on the size of your home office.

For all the details, search for the article "Home Office Deduction" on the IRS website.

7 Home loan interest deduction

You may also be able to deduct a portion of the interest paid on a home-improvement loan, a home-equity loan, or a line of credit.

For all the details, search for "Publication 936" on the IRS website.

8 Capital gains reduction

When you sell a home, the federal government taxes you on any profits (the difference between what you bought the house for, and what you sold it for). That's the capital gains tax. You are allowed to deduct many of the costs related to selling your home from the associated capital gains - which reduces your capital gains tax - but reinvestment deferrals are no longer allowed.

For all the details, search for "Publication 523" on the IRS website.

9 Capital gains exclusion

Related to number eight, if the house you sell was your principal residence for two of the last five years, you can exclude up to $250,000 from your capital gains or $500,000 for married couples filing jointly.

For all the details, search for "Publication 523" on the IRS website.

10 Moving expenses deduction

If you move more than 50 miles to take a new job, you may be able to deduct a portion of your moving expenses - including lodging expenses, transportation costs, and any storage fees.

For all the details, search for "Publication 521" on the IRS website.

A final note

Before implementing any of these ideas, be sure to research them thoroughly on the IRS website (irs.gov) and/or consult with a certified public accountant or tax professional.

Until next week,

la chasse au bonheur

Monday, February 8, 2021

Factors affecting the sales price of your home

Pricing a home for sale is not nearly as simple as most people think. You can't base the price on what the house down the street sold for. You can't depend on tax assessments. Even automatic valuation methods (AVMs), while useful for a rough estimate of value, are unreliable for purposes of pricing a home for sale. 

AVMs like those used by Zillow and Eppraisal, have been used for many years by banks for appraisal purposes. They are derived from algorithms based on past sales. But producers of AVMs agree that they are not accurate indicators of home value. For example, Zillow.com states, "Our data sources may be incomplete or incorrect; also, we have not physically inspected a specific home. Remember, the Zestimate is a starting point and does not consider all the market intricacies that can determine the actual price a house will sell for. It is not an appraisal.

So what does Zillow recommend sellers do instead? The same thing the real estate industry has been advising for decades: Ask a real estate agent who knows your neighborhood to provide you with a comparative market analysis. 

Here's what I consider when determining the value of your home:

Location
The location of your home will have the biggest impact on how much it can sell for. Identical homes located just blocks apart can fetch significantly different prices based on location - specific conditions unique to each, including: traffic, freeway-access, noise, crime, light, views, parking, neighboring homes, vacant lots, foreclosures, the number of surrounding rentals, access to quality schools, parks, shops, restaurants and other services all affect the value of your home. 

Market
Another major factor that also can't be controlled is your local housing market (which can be quite different from the national, state or city housing markets). If there are few other homes on the market in your local area (a situation known as a "seller's market"), you may be able to push your price. However, if there is a surplus of homes like yours for sale (a "buyer's market), your pricing will have to reflect that. 

Condition
The majority of buyers are not looking to purchase fixer-uppers, which is why any deferred maintenance and repair issues can also significantly impact the selling price of your home. When your home's condition is different than the average condition of homes in your location your price takes a hit. 

Widespread appeal
If you want to sell your home quickly and for the most money (and who doesn't?) you have to make it as appealing as possible to the largest pool of prospective buyers. The more universally attractive your home is, the greater the interest and the faster (and hopefully, competing) offers will come in. 

Comparable homes
The only neighboring homes that should be used to estimate the value of your home are those that have been carefully selected by a real estate agent with access to all the information and an in-depth knowledge of your neighborhood. 

In this highly competitive and quick-changing market is it critical to be priced correctly. With a comparative market analysis in hand, you can be confident that all of these factors, and more (I can't divulge all my pricing strategies) have been considered, and the recommended sales price for your house is both fair and competitive. Ultimately, this will garner you the highest possible price for your home. 

Until next time,

la chasse au bonheur


Sunday, January 31, 2021

pied-à-terre

I first ran across this term in Madame Lautrec's French class my freshman year of high school. Translated, the term means 'foot on the ground'.


Pied-à-terre. It was (and is) a fun term to pronounce, but back then I didn't quite get it. Mme Lautrec explained that a pied-à-terre is a small, rather compact unit located in the heart of the city, ideally just steps to everything, and used quite often as a second home. I grew up in suburbia Portland in a small lake community. We had large homes on large lots. At 14 I couldn't figure out why anyone would need a second home in the city, especially when my city was only 20 minutes away.

Paris
After traveling the world on business, I understood the 'necessity' of having a small unit in the city. Due to my length of stay and/or lack of any hotel rooms, I stayed many times in charming pied-à-terre in Luxembourg, Paris and Manhattan.

Perhaps the sweetest part of a pied-à-terre is how beautifully appointed they tend to be. I am not sure if it has to do with the modest size of these units (less square footage to decorate well) or the fact that the owners tend to be in the social-economic stratosphere. Either way, they are jewel boxes of (first, second or third) homes.

Here are some of my favorites from around the globe. These wee homes pack a punch way above their weight in size.

DC
Philadelphia
Chicago
London
Paris
Paris Left Bank
Paris Right Bank

Monaco
NYC
Manhattan
Barcelona
Frankfurt
Sao Paulo

Pied-à-terre have many similar characteristics.
  • The city center is on its doorstep
  • Small in size ... Big on style
  • Lots of windows maintaining the illusion of lots of space
  • Lovely city views
  • Compact and well appointed
  • In a secure building
These characteristics combine to make for an ideal second home (simply lock-and-leave) or as a flip key (short term vacation/business rental). 

But let's not forget the beauty of living large in a small space. Less square footage to clean, decorate, heat and pay taxes, mais oui! Many books have been written on the health and benefits of living in smaller homes!

Until next time,

la chasse au bonheur