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Jutta "Utah" Burden

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Why Is My Home Not Selling?

by Jutta "Utah" Burden

 

When you first listed your home with your real estate agent probably he or she gave you some advice, that the market is tough, that buyers are picky, and that you'll have to do some work to get your home to "show" well. Maybe you didn't have the time or the money to do the repairs and updates your real estate agent suggested. Now, it’s three months later, and you've had few showings and no offers. So what can you do to help the situation?

You overpriced your home

You didn't listen when you were told that you're asking too much money. Sit down with your real estate agent and have a new price strategy to attract more buyers.

Repaint your home.

Pick a nice neutral paint color. Take everything you can out of the rooms to be painted, Put back only what is sleek, new looking, and in great condition. Anything else doesn't need to be seen by buyers, it will only drag down your home's value.

You’ve got too much stuff.

Buyers don't like overstuffed closets, and toys strewn everywhere, it just makes your house look smaller, dated and storage-deprived. So pack anything that isn't absolutely necessary for daily living and put it in storage.

Clean everything

Cleaning is essential to remove the daily odors and stains of living. Kitchens and baths are the two areas where eat-off-the-floor cleanliness is called for. Scrub tiles of mold and mildew stains, and remove hard water deposits. Clear  counter tops and polish appliances to shiny brightness.

Do those repairs

Nail down loose boards, trim bathroom drawers that stick, brighten the rooms with higher watt bulbs, and fix that leak and anything else that got you negative feedback from previous showings.

Stage the house.

Set a nice tone for showings by lighting a candle in the bathroom, putting out pretty place settings on your dining table, adding fresh flower arrangements, opening the curtains, and lighting a fire in the fireplace. Having a room do too much confuses buyers and makes the home look inadequate.

HOW TO FIND A GREAT HOME FOR SALE IN THE WOODLANDS, SPRING AND MAGNOLIA

by Jutta "Utah" Burden

How to Find Great Homes for Sale in the Woodlands, Spring and Magnolia

When you are house-hunting with kids in the ever-changing landscape of the real estate world of homes for sale in the Woodlands, comfort and security should always take precedence over other aspects, such as a big backyard or modern amenities like dishwashers and microwaves. What should be far more important is the neighborhood your children will be growing up in and the services that are nearby, most importantly the school.

All of this can be extremely stressful for most parents, but this article will help to alleviate your stress and give you a good starting point from which to start looking for homes for sale in the Woodlands.

1. Start at the bottom. The most important thing for your child is the school that they attend; your house should always be within the schools area. Keep in mind that your children's education will have a significant effect on their future, which means that it would be best for you to pick the schools you’re interested in and then aim to find homes for sale in the Woodlands near that area.

2. Tour the grounds. Before you commit to the school you’ve picked, it’s always a good idea to have a look around the campus of the prospective schools. Taking your child along will also give them an idea of which school they would like to go to and often enough, the deciding factor that determines which house you pick is based on which school you pick.

3. The area. It’s always a good idea to get a feel for the area before you move in. Take a weekend to go look around the areas that you’re interested in and get a hands on feel for the area. Pay attention to cleanliness, the state of the buildings, and the types of homes you’ll be near, is everything neat and tidy? All of these factors will help keep your houses value up.

Learning the area where your child could be growing up is of crucial importance, so take a wander through on a school afternoon to see the environment your child will be living in, as well. Are there other kids playing in driveways that could be potential friends for your child? And last but not least, make it a point to come back at night; this will help you to get a truer feel for the neighborhood. Is it full of loud parties, hooligans and drugs? Does there seem to be an inordinate amount of activity going on, with people walking the streets, or loitering on street corners? Or is it a quiet peaceful area where you can raise your child in peace?

Despite your stringent screening process, (which is entirely necessary) there will still be an abundance of homes for sale in the Woodlands within your price range. At this point, it all comes down to personal preference. Review all the information you’ve gathered in order to decide which neighborhood is best to raise a child in. After all, your child's happiness - and your own - are paramount to create a happy home.

How to Stop Paying Rent Forever... And Own a Home of Your Own!

by Jutta "Utah" Burden

 

Paying rent is like pouring money down the drain. But it's true, buying a home can be a "hair-raising" experience.. It can be a roller coaster of emotions... finding the right place.... securing the loan._ moving in. And if you're like most of us, your home will be your largest investment The emotions over such a large and personal purchase can often cloud good business judgment..
Many home buyers do very little research before "diving in" and investing their hard-earned money. Before doing that, it make sense to be as informed as possible. That's what this report is all about.. It's designed to help you avoid 10 common, critical mistakes many home buyers make. If you follow these 10 suggestions, with the help of the right real estate professional, you'll stop paying rent and make a good sound business decision that you'll be happy and proud of for years to come.


1. Inspect, Inspect and Inspect- Go over the inspection report with a fine tooth comb. Make sure the report was done by a professional organization. For condo purchases, go over the by-laws, and association fees. Don't take anything for granted.... inspect everything!


2. Imagine the Property Vacant- Your furnishings and decorations will be the ones fining this new residence.. Don't be swayed by beautiful furniture .„. it leaves with the owner..


3, Income Plus Lifestyle Equals Mortgage Payment- Sit down with a competent real estate professional and honestly discuss your income level and living expenses. Take into account future considerations like: children, add-ons, amenities or fix-ups.. Your dream home is certainly worth a sacrifice but don't mortgage your entire future..
 

4. View Several Homes- See at least 3-5 properties Don't move on the first property you see but...... don't move too slowly either. With your agent's help, you'll be able to view enough properties to get a good overall perspective of your market.. And when you find the right property, all the legwork will be worth it.

5.  Utilize Your Team- By aligning yourself with the right real estate professional, you'll have an entire team working for you, Top real estate professionals have lenders, title reps, inspection teams - an entire group of trained professionals making the whole buying experience simple and easy for you..

 

6.  Check out all your costs and expenses before you sign: utilities, taxes, insurance, maintenance and homeowner dues, if applicable.. Make sure all utilities are on (gas, electricity, and water), so you can inspect everything in working order Ask lots of questions and be very detail conscious.

 

7.  Do a Final Walk-Through- Visit the property after all the furnishings have been moved out to be sure there are no surprises Be absolutely positive the property was left exactly as you had agreed upon in the contract. Many times, things are unintentionally overlooked that could have been spotted in a final walk- through.

 

8.  Plan For Flexibility- Closing dates are not written in stone.. Allow for contingencies and have a back-up plan. If you or the sellers need a little more time to conclude the final agreement, don't let these delays upset or frustrate you.. These types of circumstances are not uncommon in a real estate transaction.
 
 

9.      If It's Not In Writing, It Doesn't Exist- All promises and discussions are to be in writing. Don't make any assumptions or believe any assurances. Even the best intentions can be misinterpreted. Have your real estate professional keep an ongoing log (in writing) of all discussions, and get the seller's written approval for all agreements.

 

10.   Loyalty Breeds Loyalty- Be open, honest and up-front with your team.. Bad feelings and disloyalty will cause headaches, delays or may even keep you from getting into the home you worked so hard to locate. Take the time to select the right team in the beginning and your first home purchase will be a simple, easy and profitable experience you'll have fond memories of.. for years to come.


Go ahead, pick up the phone and give me a call.. I'd love to hear from you!
Check out homes for sale in The Woodlands and surrounding area at http://www.listingthewoodlands.com/

Buying or Selling in The Woodlands Real Estate

by Jutta "Utah" Burden

If you want to buy or sell the Woodlands real estate, you have to work with a great agent in the area. It would probably be best for you to pick somebody that has been referred to you by somebody you trust, so you will know what to expect from the experience. If you can't find any referrals, though, here are the basics.

Good realtors should know about the laws of real estate, as well as the details and forms that each transaction entails. They should know how to negotiate well, as well, so you can get the best price possible on the piece of property that you want.

When talking to an agent, make sure you find about his previous experience, his specializations, and how long he has been working in real estate. Try to find somebody with a lot of knowledge in the Woodlands real estate. Then, check out their references and, most importantly, check out their listening skills. After all, it would be vital to find somebody who actually listens to what you have to say.

Now, one thing you have to determine before anything else is whether you feel comfortable around your agent of choice. How is your communication with each other? This is vital because you will be talking to each other during negotiations and he has to represent your wants and needs in the Woodlands real estate.

Another thing to keep in mind is that every state has its own licensing boards, so get the agent's license number and look for any record he might have. This way, you can find out whether he has any disciplinary actions or complaints against him.

In general, somebody who is a top producer is worth working with. To find people with these endorsements, you can look through local newspapers in the beginning of the year. Such agents tend to be judged by their own peers, so they can definitely be trusted. Try to pick somebody with credentials you actually care about. Several agents might have taken extra training to become a specialist in a particular market, so look into a market that is very important to you.

You can also visit various open houses to meet more agents. Doing this will help you see how various properties are marketed and you will be able to speak to various agents, as well. Just make sure you always check how long these agents have been working in the Woodlands real estate, too.

Kitchen Trends

by Jutta "Utah" Burden

Kitchens today are continuing to evolve into family rooms which can accommodate multiple cooks, family dining, and entertaining. 

Here are just a few of the major design trends emerging in luxury multi-purpose kitchens as 2010 begins. 


Countertops
Kitchen countertops are increasing in mass – think thick – and demand is enlarging for new surface materials.  As granite wanes in popularity, crackle glass, concrete, and wood (with decorative edges) are all moving to the fore as popular countertop materials. One of the most contemporary counters combines glass with LED lighting.  The result is a glowing glass countertop which can be set up with most any color to match your mood of the moment. 

Counters in new kitchens may also differ in height to add visual excitement and to create work zones for special purposes and for both short and tall cooks.  Counters and islands are also increasingly designed to double as serving and dining areas.

Work zones
As more activities precipitate to the kitchen, designers are building in special purpose areas.  A quick food prep station makes simple meal preparation and cleanup simple.  A baking center offers ingredient storage within reach and a counter height designed for chopping, mixing, and rolling.  A coffee bar or a wine tasting and beverage center are other trendy special purpose work zones. 

Sinks
Extravagant farm sinks are a favored trend and multiple sinks continue to be in demand.  Water saving faucets are part of a trend toward eco-friendly kitchens.

Cabinetry
Mid-height cabinetry is a major trend in contemporary kitchens and beginning to develop in traditional kitchen designs as well.  Shorter cabinets may “float” on the wall or incorporate European-style legs and even be used as room dividers.  In-demand cabinet materials include stainless steel, environmentally-friendly bamboo, pecan or alder wood.  Cabinets are customized with interior fittings for efficient storage. Horizontal cabinet doors (sometimes motorized) are another emerging kitchen trend.  

Although the all white kitchen is still fashionable, cabinetry is also showing up in a variety of finishes and colors to give a kitchen the look of a furnished room.

Appliances
Forget the concept of a cooktop, double oven, microwave, dishwasher and a refrigerator creating an adequate kitchen.  Today’s cooks want more.  Additional dishwashing drawers, elaborate coffee making appliances, warming drawers, additional ovens, wine coolers may all be part of a luxury kitchen and several of these appliances may be hidden within cabinetry. 

On the other end of the spectrum, forget subtle, some homeowners are using the refrigerator as kitchen art.  Coolers, an Italian company will silk screen a refrigerators with a bold animal print, your favorite photograph or most any other image.  The range hood or cabinet fronts can be silk screened to match. 

Electronics
The kitchen is now home to televisions, computers, and sound systems.  With friends and family coming together in the kitchen, entertainment and information need to be convenient. 

Multiple kitchens

Luxury homeowners often want multiple kitchens.  In addition to the primary gourmet kitchen, a catering kitchen – where preparations occur for dinner parties and other entertaining – may be on the must have list.  A mini-kitchen in the master bedroom and another in the primary guest suite create a comfortable place for a midnight snack or that first cup of morning coffee.  Of course, what was once the barbeque grill has morphed into a full outdoor kitchen with ice maker, dishwasher, dining area and more.

The kitchen is the heart of the house and this decade begins with trends which focus on making it more practical for a variety of lifestyle purposes and more enticing as an entertaining center. 

10 Tips to Save Energy and Money in Your Home

by Jutta "Utah" Burden

A whopping 46 percent of home energy use is, umm, energy loss! In other words, no productive energy use at all! Here are simple ways of reversing this, mostly by changes of habit.

1. Each degree you turn down the heat saves 3 percent of heating costs, while each degree you raise the temperature of your air conditioner saves 3-4 percent of cooling costs. By changing the temperature by 2 degrees all year, you can save about 2,000 pounds of C02 a year.

2. Cook with a slow cooker or a toaster oven (or even a solar oven!) to reduce electrical use from kitchen appliances. For a meal that requires one hour to cook in an electric oven, and which uses 2.7 pounds of C02, a crock-pot uses 0.9 pounds of C02 for seven hours, a toaster oven takes 1.3 pounds of C02 for 50 minutes, and a microwave only 0.5 pounds of C02 for 15 minutes of cooking. A solar cooker requires NO C02!

3. Switch to a laptop instead of using a desktop computer and cut three-quarters off your electrical use. Turn off the laptop at the end of the day.

4. Switch to cold water washing and save 80 percent on energy used for laundry and save an estimated $60 a year. Hang dry your clothes instead of using the dryer and save 700 pounds of C02 a year.

5. Plug anything that can be powered by a remote control or that has a power cube transformer (little black box) into a power strip, and turn it off, and/or unplug, when not in use. (Power cubes are 60-80 percent inefficient.)

6. Turn off the lights when you aren’t using them and reduce your direct lighting energy use by 45 percent. Stop using heat-producing halogen lamps (they can also be fire hazards). Install occupancy or motion sensors on outdoor lights.

7. Switch to compact fluorescent from regular incandescent bulbs and use 60 percent less energy per bulb and save 300 pounds of C02 a year.

8. Wrap your water heater in an insulation blanket and save 1,000 pounds of C02 a year. Insulate your hot water pipes.

9. Use public transportation whenever possible, carpool, shop locally, and ideally switch to a hybrid or energy-efficient car (if you haven’t already).

10. Keep your tires inflated to improve gas mileage by 3 percent. Every gallon you save also saves 20 pounds of C02 emissions.
 

 

Home Owners who unwittingly give invitations to Robbery.

by Jutta "Utah" Burden

Here’s how thieves thank you for your generosity.

You come home to an open front door, a ransacked house, and missing valuables. How did a burglar know you’d be gone? How did they get in? Your friendly neighborhood burglars share advice on how to stop lending them a helping hand.

1. Thanks for the ladder!

Call me a social climber if you will, but I did discover a ladder in your back yard. Thank you for leaving it where I could lean it against your home and easily reach a second-story window. I really love it when upper story openings aren’t wired to a home security system! 

So, if you want to keep me out, store your ladder in the basement or a locked garage. And call your security company to wire upper-story windows into your alarm system.

2. Loved your trash

Can’t tell you how much fun I have driving around neighborhoods on trash day (especially after big gift holidays) when the empty boxes on the curb reveal what wonderful new toys you have. Your thoughtfulness made it possible for me to land a new laptop and a flat-screen television in one easy trip to your home!

Next time, break down the boxes and conceal them in the recycling or trash bins. 

 

3. Dear Can’t-Get-Around-to-It

Recently, I noticed you hadn’t trimmed trees and shrubs around your home, so I knew I’d have a wonderful place to hide while I worked to break into your home. I really can’t thank you enough for all the great new things I grabbed.

Next time, trim back bushes and trees near windows and doors. Make sure entry points to your home are easily visible from the street — I much prefer to work in private! While you’re at it, install motion-sensor lighting. I’m scared of bright lights!

4. Su casa es mi casa!

I was sincerely relieved to find your back door was a plain wood-panel door. I had no trouble kicking it in (my knees appreciate how easy that was!) Imagine how silly I felt when I discovered that your windows weren’t locked anyway.

You may want to take a cue from your neighbor and install steel-wrapped exterior doors with deadbolts on all your entries. And be sure your windows are locked when you’re away. 

5. Bad reflection on you.

You’d be surprised how many home owners position a mirror in their entry hall so I can see from a window if the alarm system is armed. (Yours wasn’t, but I’m guessing you know that by now!) Thanks for taking a lot of pressure off of me. 

A little free advice: Relocate the mirror so your alarm system isn’t visible if someone else would peer through a window.

6. The telltale grass

Wow, isn’t it amazing how fast the grass grows these days? I swung by now and then and noticed your lawn was uncut, newspapers were piling up on the front steps, and your shades were always closed. To me, that’s an open invitation. 

Next time, hire someone you trust to mow regularly, pick up around the doorstep, open and close various window shades, and turn different lights on and off (or put a few on timers). One more thing: Lock any car you leave in the driveway, or I can use your garage door opener to get in quickly.

 

7. Getting carried away

many thanks for putting your valuables into an easy-to-carry safe that I could carry right out your back door. (Nice jewelry, and thank you for the cash!) 

You may want to invest in a wall safe, which I rarely attempt to open. Or, rent a lock box at your bank.



8. Dear BFF

Thanks for alerting a professional acquaintance of mine via your social network that you were away for the week in Puerto Vallarta, having the time of your life. Me? I enjoyed a very relaxing visit to your home with no pressure of being caught.

If only you had known that posting comments and photos of your trip on social networks is fine — but do that after you return so you won’t broadcast your absence!


9. Tag, you’re it!

Where are you? When you use popular geo-tracking apps, such as Foursquare and Glympse, I might know if you’re not home. Web sites such as www.pleaserobme.com help me keep track of your whereabouts. 

If you prefer that I not visit your home, be careful about geo-tagging. But, otherwise, thank you for the loot! 


10. Thanks for the appointment

Thanks for inviting me into your home to view the laptop you wanted to sell. I do apologize for the scare I gave you when I took it (and your purse).

Did you know that some large U.S. cities are averaging one so-called “robbery by appointment” per day? If you want to sell high-ticket items to strangers, I suggest you arrange to meet at the parking lot of your local police station. I definitely won’t show up, and you’ll still have your valuables (and your purse!)


Credits to: Jan Soults Walker

Seller's Tips to help your home show its best.

by Jutta "Utah" Burden

The condition of your home will have a huge impact on how fast it sells, and its eventual selling price. Preparing your home for sale can pay you huge dividends. Many fix ups cost very little and consist mostly of time and some elbow grease. Here are some simple tips to help your home show its best.

INDOORS:

1. Clean the entire home thoroughly. Shampoo carpets, wash walls, clean sills, window screens and blinds. Clean out light fixtures and dust shelving. Get detailed here.

 

2. Clean the clutter from all closets, cupboards and cabinets.

3. Make your rooms look as spacious as possible. Store unnecessary furnishing items that make your home look crowded.

4. Arrange furnishing so that it is easy to walk through your home.

5. Scale down the number of photos, pictures, portraits and posters hanging on walls. Make sure you patch all nail and screw holes.

6. Keep your curtains and draperies open as a rule. You will want your home to show very light and bright. Find ways to screen any unappealing views.

7. Make your kitchen shine. Remove clutter from counter tops and cabinets and store it. Keep your sink clean and clear of any dirty dishes.

8. Clean your refrigerator, inside and out. Make sure that you do the simple things like putting an open box of baking soda in your fridge. Also, remove unnecessary clutter from the door.

9. Clean your oven. Degrease it and keep it looking as good as possible.

10. Keep scented candles burning in the kitchen and bathrooms. Pleasant fragrances will entice buyers to stay longer in your home.

11. Keep bathrooms scrubbed and tidy with fresh soap and neatly hung towels. Try to color coordinate your bathrooms.

12. Keep all sinks in the home clean and repair leaks or slow drains.

13. Go through your entire home and touch up paint. Pay close attention to corners where there is traffic wear. Touch up baseboards, trim and cabinets and cupboards.

14. Place plants or flower arrangements in strategic parts of the home. A splash of color from plants, flowers, pillows or small rugs can give your home some real flair.

15. Make sure that your home is well lit. Put higher wattage bulbs in dark areas or corners. Keep all lights on during showings, even in mid day.

16. Use mirrors on walls if necessary to reflect light and make rooms look larger.

17.Make sure that all door knobs and keyed entries are working. Replace any worn knobs or handles.

OUTDOORS:

1. Clean up all around the house. Remove any debris piles such as wood, firewood and landscape trimmings. Trim all hedges, bushes and shrubbery away from the house. Keep all garden beds weeded and mulched.

2.Put some color by your home's entrance with potted flowers. Keep them watered and looking attractive.

3. Keep all walkways clear, clean and in good repair. This includes your driveways and any parking areas.

4. Keep all outdoor furniture clean and in good repair.

5. Clean your gutters and roof. Keep moss or algae from growing on, in or around them.

6. Keep your yard and lawn areas clean and in good health. A green lawn makes a home look great. Keep your lawn edged and free from weeds.

7. Repair any broken windows, screens, shutter or awnings.

8. Clean your garage area. Remove clutter and make it look organized and as spacious as possible. Try to have nothing in your garage but cars.

10 Tricks in Selling Your Home

by Jutta "Utah" Burden

 Play the agent field- Make sure you have a broker who is totally informed. Find a broker who embraces technology – a tech-savvy one has many tools to get your house sold. A secret sale killer is hiring the wrong broker!

Pricing it right- Find out what your home is worth, shave 15 to 20 percent off the price. It takes real courage and most sellers just don’t want to risk it, but it’s the single best strategy to sell a home in today’s market. You’ll be stampeded by buyers with multiple bids — even in the worst markets — and they’ll bid up the price over what it’s worth.

The first impression- No matter how good the interior of your home looks, buyers have already judged your home before they walk through the door. It’s important to make people feel warm, welcome and safe as they approach the house. Entryways are important. make it welcoming by putting in a small bench, a vase of fresh-cut flowers or even some cookies.

Always be ready to show- you never know when your buyer is going to walk through the door. You have to be available whenever they want to come see the place and it has to be "show-ready" at all times make sure there are no dust bunnies in the corners.  Don’t leave dishes in the sink, and the bathrooms sparkling 

Take the home out of your house- The more personal stuff in your house, the less potential buyers can imagine themselves living there. Get rid of a third of your stuff – put it in storage. This includes family photos, memorabilia collections and personal keepsakes. One of the most important things to do when selling your house is to de-personalize it. 

The kitchen comes first-  Use a neutral-color paint so you can present buyers with a blank canvas where they can start envisioning their own style. You’re not actually selling your house, you’re selling your kitchen – that’s how important it is. The fastest, most inexpensive kitchen updates include painting and new cabinet hardware.

Don’t over-upgrade- You probably won’t get your money back if you do a huge improvement project before you put your house on the market. Instead, do updates that will pay off and get you top dollar. Quick fixes before selling always pay off. Clean the curtains or go buy some inexpensive new ones. Replace door handles, cabinet hardware, make sure closet doors are on track, fix leaky faucets and clean the grout.  Get a new fresh coat of paint on the walls.

Conceal the critters- Not everybody is a dog- or cat-lover. Buyers don’t want to walk in your home and see a bowl full of dog food, smell the kitty litter box or have tufts of pet hair stuck to their clothes. It will give buyers the impression that your house is not clean. You might think a cuddly dog would warm the hearts of potential buyers, but you’d be wrong. 

Light it up- good light is the one thing that every buyer cites that they want in a home. Take down the drapes, clean the windows, change the lampshades, increase the wattage of your light bulbs and cut the bushes outside to let in sunshine. Maximize the light in your home.

Empty your closets- Storage is something every buyer is looking for and can never have enough of. Buyers will snoop, so be sure to keep all your closets and cabinets clean and tidy.

First Time Home Buyer: Buying What you Want But You Dont Need

by Jutta "Utah" Burden

 

You may not be able to afford the house of your dreams first time at bat, but you will want a few of the amenities you've been yearning for. While you're making a wish list of features to share with your real estate agent, check it twice, literally, to make sure that the options you have in mind make monetary and practical sense, too.

A Big Yard

It’s natural to want your first home to be a sprawling property with plenty of yard space. Kids love big yards and pets do, too. Yards have curb appeal and are a nifty spot where you can enjoy an occasional barbecue with friends and neighbors. When scoping out potential homes, do yourself a favor and look for a rectangular, level lot. It'll be easier to maintain your lawn and easier to resell the property later. If you do invest the time and disposable income maintaining a large lot and well-developed landscape, don't expect to recoup all that money when you sell 

A Fireplace

Everyone loves a roaring fire for the holidays, but what do you do with dead space the rest of the year? If you're thinking a fireplace will keep you toasty warm and safe when the power goes out on a cold day, consider the fact that most of the heat from burning fireplace logs, more than 80 percent, goes up the chimney and not into your room

Stainless Steel Appliances

No matter when you shop for a home, there'll be items that are considered "in" that'll push your buttons. Often, these deceptively enticing elements are in the kitchen. From stainless steel appliances to all wood cover-ups that completely conceal your refrigerator, dishwasher and other conveniences from view, there's always a new trend to tempt you. As popular as these refinements are today, in a very few years, they'll be replaced by other latest, must-have styles. Worse, last year's "in" thing looks dated and drab once it goes out of fashion. Plain white is the most common refrigerator color sold every year in the United States, and there's a lot to be said for staying with classics that weather wacky fads and still look fresh. Seriously, have you tried keeping fingerprints off stainless steel?

Outdoor Kitchens

Who knew that dragging your stove and sofa outside would one day be a design trend? Employ your patio or deck as a kitchen cum family room combo when the weather's good, and you can keep the mess, cooking smells and heat outside. If you live in an area that experiences great weather for at least three seasons of the year, some indulgence may be warranted. Otherwise, keep your major assets indoors where you can give them the protection they deserve.

Formal Dining Room

Formal dining rooms have style and undisputed grace, but unfortunately, most folks use them infrequently If your family is into eating in front of the television, and Sunday dinners at your house are courtesy of the nearest drive-through restaurant, a formal dining room may be relegated to monthly bill paying duties and little else. When you're shopping for your first home, put your money into square footage that will serve your needs and add some convenience, like an extra bathroom, a large laundry room or plenty of walk-in closets.

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