Bill Bieker's Blog
Whether you're environmentally conscious or just want to save a few dollars on your utility bills, there are simple ways to do both. One of the first steps to conserving electricity and water is to become more aware of when and how you're using it.
A major challenge for many parents is to get their kids to turn off lights, appliances, and water faucets when they're not using them. With persistence, you can hopefully get them to understand the importance of saving money, controlling costs, and conserving resources.
Dependable Old Appliances Are a Mixed Blessing
Toilets and household appliances can last much longer than their expected life span, but after a certain point, you're getting diminishing returns. If your toilets are more than 25 years old, for example, you're wasting gallons of water with every flush. Inefficient toilets from just a couple generations ago use as much as six gallons of water every time they're flushed. According the Environmental Protection Agency, recent advances in toilet design are now enabling families to use only 1.28 gallons of water per flush while still getting superior performance. In dollars and cents, families that replace old, obsolete toilets with Watersense-certified models can save more than $110 a year (and nearly 13,000 gallons of water). The EPA says utilities may even offer rebates and vouchers that can lower the price of a WaterSense labeled toilet. (As a side note, toilet use in homes accounts for nearly 30 percent of an average family's indoor water consumption.)
If your washing machine was manufactured before 2003, it's another source of wasted water and energy. The newer Energy Star-certified clothes washers can save about $45 a year in utility bills, based on typical usage patterns. They use about 25% less energy and 45% less water than the old, standard models. The EPA also says that if you have a dishwasher made before 1994, it wastes approximately 10 gallons of water per cycle. By switching to an energy-efficient model, an annual savings of $35 a year can be realized by the average family.
There's actually a wide range of Energy Star-certified products available that can save you money on utility costs and help conserve water and electricity. In addition to washers, dryers, and dishwashers, other energy-efficient appliances include dehumidifiers, refrigerators, freezers, air purifiers, water heaters, heating and cooling equipment, computers, televisions, pool pumps, and much more. Energy efficiency -- or a lack, thereof -- is one factor to consider when deciding whether to repair or replace old appliances, HVAC systems, or plumbing fixtures in your home.
Not only will you save money when your home is operating efficiently, but you'll enjoy the satisfaction that comes with minimizing waste and making the most of natural resources.
Have you ever visited someone's home and thought to yourself, "Their living room seems really cluttered" or "Those counter tops look like they haven't been updated since the 1960s!"
Many people quickly notice decorating flaws or home maintenance issues in other people's houses, but when it comes to their own homes -- well, that's another story!
Why is that the case? Two reasons: You're emotionally attached to your own home environment and you're also "too close to the trees to see the forest." It's hard to step back and see your home through a fresh set of eyes -- which is exactly the way prospective buyers are going to look it.
Curb appeal -- or a lack, thereof-- will be the first thing they notice, followed by positive or negative first impressions of your home's interior -- if they get that far! So if you're preparing to put your home on the market, you don't want to be like the person who tries to represent themselves in court. As Abraham Lincoln once said, they have "a fool for a client!"
Since first impressions are so vital when selling your house, it makes sense to confer with someone who really knows the ropes when it comes to home staging. Typically, that would be one of the following professionals:
- An experienced real estate agent: Real estate agents are in the business of helping people sell their homes as quickly and profitably as possible -- it's a win/win situation. In all likelihood, they've conducted hundreds of house tours and listened to a massive amount of feedback from prospective buyers. One thing they've invariably noticed is that a lot of people react the same way to the same issues. Based on experience and a trained eye, most real estate agents can quickly spot and point out cost-effective ways to make your home more marketable and visually appealing.
- A professional home stager: Although not all communities have access to professional home stagers, there are talented and knowledgeable experts in that field who can offer valuable advice. If you're working with an experienced real estate agent, however, it probably would not be necessary to pay extra to hire a professional staging consultant.
According to the National Association of Realtors, the median amount of money spent on staging a home is $675, so it doesn't necessarily have to be ultra-expensive. In a survey of its membership, Realtors ranked living rooms and kitchens as the most important rooms to stage. Also considered important are the master bedroom, dining room, and bathrooms.
Thirty seven percent of Realtors® representing sellers believe that buyers most often offer a 1 to 5 percent increase on the value of a staged home. A smaller percentage say the potential increase is in the neighborhood of 6% to 10%. However you look at it, you're tipping the scales in your direction when you make your home look its best prior to putting it up for sale.
When it comes to finding your dream home, your vision is going to be both unique and personal.
For many people, their idea of a dream home may be a composite of the home they grew up in and other mental snapshots they accumulated over the years.
In some cases, the house of your dreams may bear little or no resemblance to the image you conjured up in your mind. Sometimes, you just instinctively know the right home when you see it -- even if it's not exactly the one you originally envisioned.
A good starting point for launching your home search is to develop a detailed priority list. It should consist of both "must have" characteristics and "wish list" items. Hopefully, you and your spouse (or partner) will be in full agreement on most of the important features of your next home, such as whether you want a ranch house or colonial. Being on the same page in terms of location can also make a big difference in how satisfied you both are with your real estate purchase. As an example: Someone's going to less than thrilled if, let's say, you want a townhouse in the city, while your spouse has their heart set on a Craftsman-style home in the suburbs!
Trends in Home-Buying Preferences
If you're a member of the so-called "millennial" generation, your top priority in a new home would probably be the quality of the neighborhood. That's according to a "Home Buyer and Seller Generational Trends Report" (2015) compiled by the National Association of Realtors. In order of importance, factors influencing home purchasing choices are: the convenience of the home to one's job(s), overall affordability, access to friends and family, and the quality of schools in the district.
Many buyers in that same demographic are also leaning toward homes that are energy efficient, ones that offer "smart home" capabilities, and dwellings that include a space that can be used as a home office. Since nearly 40% of Americans telecommute for their jobs on at least a part-time basis, more and more home buyers are adding that requirement to their priority lists. Surveys have also shown that prospective homeowners in their twenties and thirties are opting for low-maintenance surfaces, such as flooring, counter tops, and backyard decks. Updated interiors are also a strong preference for many in that age group since they don't have the extra money, time, or inclination to get involved in major renovation projects.
Other factors which belong on house-hunting priority lists include square footage, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, and the size of the yard. If privacy and noise levels are concerns, then key factors to consider would be fencing, trees and hedges, and the amount of space between houses.
While it's not always possible to find a home that includes every single item on your wish list, an experienced real estate agent can help you find what you want and match your requirements with the available listings in your desired neighborhoods.
The bathroom is a room of sanctuary in the home. It is the one room where, for the most part, you can find cherished, quiet time all to yourself. Even if it means locking the door to keep the kids out for the best two minutes of your day.
Which is probably why creating a spa-like bathroom is a top trend at the moment. The best part about this trend is that it doesn’t have to be obviously trendy. It’s about subtle, minimalistic details that are both functional and visually appealing.
For those looking to invest in renovating their bathroom with a nod to both current and future styles to come here are six spa-like features that are fully functional and will transcend time.
A European-style walk-in shower is the epitome of a spa-like bathroom right now. Open any magazine or click through any Pinterest board and you would think this is the only style of shower available.
Not only does a walk-in style open up the room adding dynamic space but it is also incredibly functional. Especially if you plan to age in place. The walk-in showers lack a ledge or lip is ideal for those with limited mobility. So whether it be from age or a wild new move at your dance class you won’t have to worry about tripping.
A popular addition to the walk-in shower is a shower bench. Typically, tiled to match the rest of the shower area it offers a space to relax and the option to slow down and enjoy your You time. Wooden shower benches are another popular option cropping up in the pages of editorial spreads everywhere. A shower bench is also another great feature to have for future planning and certainly more stylish than those plastic chairs.
Due to the style of a walk-in shower, many homeowners are skipping having the addition of a tub altogether. Many people have found that after investing in a luxurious deep soak tub they just don’t make the time to use it. However, those who do enjoy a good soak opt for a free-standing tub. This separation of shower and tub allows for the tub itself to take a spotlight and emphasize the luxurious nature of your bathroom.
Another old favorite being ushered out is the medicine cabinet. Instead, homeowners are installing a large mirror that is a work of art and statement piece. The most popular shape of the moment is the circle. You may find that your new home already comes with a builder-grade mirror that just needs some creative details to spruce it up. Add trim board in your color and finish of choice to give it a whole new lease on life.
Want to get the sleek and stylish Scandinavian look in your new home? It’s much easier than you might think. And it doesn’t require buying all your furniture from Ikea. I’ve got a few tips for you to create a warm, welcoming home that could grace the pages of any home design magazine.
When attempting to recreate this look most go wrong by painting everything black and white. The real secret to this look, however, is in the details. Less is always more so a serious decluttering project will start you off on the right foot. And don’t think that the only way to recreate this look is to replace all your furniture. In fact, working with existing pieces will make the look feel more natural and unassuming.
You probably already know to reach for shades of grays, whites, and creams when choosing your color palette. But having some color is crucial. Blue is the perfect addition of color for this look especially for a sofa, some throw pillows or your kitchen table chairs. When adding other colors do so sparingly to really make a statement. For example, a yellow lamp in the kitchen, green chairs in the dining room or pink throw pillows on the couch.
To avoid a cold, sterile environment natural elements like wood, stone, and glass add warmth back into the room. Copper and gold accents also warm up a room while keeping a modern touch. Think a natural wood table top where the grain takes center stage or copper hardware that pops when placed against blacks and whites.
Give your space a welcoming homey feel by reaching for texture to create visual interest. Think furry pillows, woven textiles, and chunky knits. Monochrome artwork breaks up blank walls without looking out of place and furniture pieces are the main attraction. There’s no need for knick-knacks here, in fact, they’re best donated or stored away. To stay true to this look each piece you add to the room should have a function.
Another key to this look is lighting. During the day you want to let in as much of it as you can. While curtains and blinds are often skipped altogether pleated and roman blinds maintain privacy and a clean look. When choosing curtains stick to your neutral palette and avoid prints or dramatic drapery. For the night you can create perfect ambiance with string lights and paper lanterns. As a bonus, a paper lantern floor lamp pulls double duty by adding natural texture to the room.
The sleek clean lines of Scandinavian design, especially those you see in catalogs, can seem impossible to replicate. At least not without replacing everything you own. But the truth is it is easily achievable to recreate with your existing furniture. With a little creativity, a few cans of paint and a lot of decluttering you’ll have a cozy, modern home before you know it.