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5 Container Garden Designs

by Jutta "Utah" Burden

Don't limit greenery in your home design to only your outdoor garden. Container gardens are the newest trend in home design that can be implemented just about anywhere in your home. Not only do container gardens add a touch of nature to your home, they also create unique and intricate designs that don't require a lot of maintenance. Take a look at these container garden designs to add to your home for spring.
 
Mint Chandelier
Grouping together different containers of mint plants will create a mint chandelier for just about anywhere in your home! The smell of mint is sure to give your home a feel of nature, you can snip the mint leaves to create a refreshing garnish for spring and summer drinks, and the chandelier keeps the herb within arm's reach!
 
Lush Succulents
Succulents are lush and striking but many are small, making them hard to notice and appreciate when planted in soil in the ground. By planting a mix of beautiful succulents in a hanging sphere, you can enjoy these beautiful plants in a new light. First, work from a wire form with soil, then press down each individual succulent into holes no deeper than the roots. You will need to make sure to hang the hanging sphere securely in a place where the spiky silhouettes and colors and textures can be enjoyed closely. As the new offshoots begin to grow, they should be pinned to the surface with a hairpin or bent paper clip to keep the tight, compact profile intact.
 
Fern Container
Take a trip to your local flea market and pick up a few old-fashioned milk pails to add greenery with rustic charm. Sword ferns can be placed in 10-inch pots inside the milk pail to give your kitchen or dining room a rustic look with a touch of green!
 
Modern Container
Purchase steel utility boxes from your local hardware store to create a sleek and modern container for your plants. You can select a range of shapes and sizes and turn them so that the side with holes is at the bottom and plant low-growing succulents, then top with gravel. To create a unique and exotic centerpiece, arrange several succulents in a tray full of grit.
 
Go for the Green
You can transform a run-down atrium, like Chip and Joanna Gaines did on the "Fixer Upper" television show, into a plant-centric greenhouse that is busting at the seams with herbs and other plant life. Line the walls of the atrium with cedar planters and white chalkboard labels to keep all of your rows recipe-ready.

7 Buying and Selling Secrets Before You Relocate

by Jutta "Utah" Burden

The secret to a successful relocation is timing. Good timing takes some advanced planning to put you in control. Here are 7 more relocation secrets to make your move a little less stressful. 

1. Sell First 
Ideally, you should sell your current home first in order to have all your financial resources available to purchase your next home. You want to avoid waiting until the closing on your new home forces you to sell your old home under the gun. Note that in some markets today, houses are moving so quickly that sellers will not even consider a contingency clause that postpones their sale until the buyer's home sells. Setting the right price for your home and having a customized marketing plan are your best bets for bringing about a quick sale. 

2. Find Out What You Can Afford
While your house is on the market, look at what's available to buy within your price range and in your desired location. Your perfect house is out there, but take as much time as you need to find it. You'll want to find out about the neighborhood, schools, proximity to shopping, etc. before you commit to your next home. 

3. Shop for a Loan Before You Shop for a House
Try to lock in the best rate you can find. Get pre-approved for financing so you have more bargaining power when you bid on a house. With a pre-approved loan, you'll be able to go to closing on your new house faster.

4. Coordinate Settlement and Moving Dates
Try to move directly from the old home to the new one. Sometimes you can rent back the old property for a few days or weeks if closing on the new one is delayed. Another alternative is to rent an interim apartment while you wait to close on the new house. 

5. Begin Fix-ups and Presale Improvements Early
Complete any repairs on your home before it goes on the market. Consider having a home inspection done early so that you know what needs repairing or replacing before you set the sale price for your house. 

6. Work Closely With Your Agent
Make sure every "i" is dotted and every "t" crossed on time for both closings. You may save your buyer time and money by referring him or her to the previous providers of inspections, surveys, title insurance, etc. The information is in your settlement papers. 

7. Avoid the Last-minute Rush
Call us early. We'll gather information and provide it to you quickly so you can make informed decisions and workable plans.

 

7 Quick Ways to Live Greener at Home

by Jutta "Utah" Burden

Greening up your lifestyle at home is relatively simple when you take the time to consider choices. Two central approaches are reducing your energy consumption and reducing consumer byproducts, such as waste.
 
The bonus to living with greener habits is you could end up cutting your electric and grocery bills.
 
1. Clean green. Swap out chemical cleaning products for more eco-friendly versions. Look for cleaning agents like Simple Green and Mrs. Meyers, and similar ready-made concoctions that will put the shine back on your countertops without harmful side effects.
 
Simple Green is available in a few different strengths and is appropriate for just about any surface and level of cleaning. Save money by using this all-purpose formula to pretreat laundry, degrease your stove or remove grime from the bathtub.
 
Mrs. Meyers is also a natural cleaning combination and it comes in a variety of fragrances. It uses essential oils and vegetable protein extracts to cut through dirt and film. Because there is no chlorine in the mixture, you can spray the multisurface everyday cleaner on carpet, bedding and door handles without damaging anything.
 
Side note: Natural household staples are also good grime tacklers. For example, baking soda plus vinegar will help unclog a bathroom or garbage disposal drain. The combo produces a fizz that helps move along particles stuck in the pipes without damaging the metal or plastic plumbing.
 
2. Disconnect. Unplug chargers when you're not using them. Any appliance, lamp or device charger connected to an outlet will cause a phantom charge. It's a small amount of electricity, but that current is continuously engaged. 
 
3. Change the lights. LED lights reduce heat and energy consumption, and are now available in shades other than fluorescent terrible. That's not a color, just an opinion. Replacing daily-use lightbulbs with LED lights as the regular bulbs expire will help keep the room cooler, use less electricity and contribute to your efforts toward green living.
 
4. Reuse and repurpose. Recycle all that you can, and buy products made from recycled materials. Trash dumps are an ecological ordeal, and the less we contribute to the mountains of waste, the better off we all are.
 
5. Use the sun. Go solar when possible for accessories like outdoor lighting and decor. You'll save money on landscaping costs, materials, labor and electric bills when you choose solar lights over traditional electric lamps.
 
6. Change power habits. Buy rechargeable batteries and a good charger. Batteries are not biodegradable, but if you buy the right kind, they can be recharged repeatedly.

7. Be clever with appliances. Run heat-producing appliances at night during the summer and throughout the day (if possible) in the winter months. Clothes dryers and dishwashers use a lot of electricity and produce a lot of heat. Use those side effects to your advantage.

Getting Divorced And NOT Selling the House? Here’s What You Must Do

by Jutta "Utah" Burden

When you get divorced your home is often one asset that needs to be divvied out between the two sides. In many cases today, ex-spouses will continue to own their former homes together even after one has moved out.

This can make it tricky for the non-resident ex to qualify for the valuable capital gains exclusion when the house is eventually sold.

To avoid paying capital gains on the profit from a home sale, you typically have to live in the home for two out of the past five years. But if one ex lives elsewhere and the home is sold for a profit years later, the non-resident ex’s share of the home sale profit can be fully taxable. 

You can avoid this problem if you prepare beforehand. 

If you are the non-resident ex, insist the divorce papers state that, as a condition of the divorce agreement, your former spouse may continue to live in the home until the children leave for college or for any other agreed amount of time. Once the agreed upon time to sell the home is reached, the home will be sold (or your ex-spouse can buy out your portion). 

The use of this language allows the non-resident ex to earn “credit” for the continued use of the property. This way the non-resident ex will likely still pass the two-out-of-five-years use test, qualifying them for the $250,000 capital gain exclusion privilege. 

It’s the little things that may be overlooked that can end up making the difference in situations like this. If you have any other questions feel free to contact me and I will help you out in any way that I can. 

Tax laws and tax rules are constantly being updated and interpreted. This article contains general information, so please discuss your individual situation with a trusted tax adviser before making tax decisions.

6 Ways to Incorporate the Farmhouse Style in Your Kitchen

by Jutta "Utah" Burden

Farmhouse-style kitchens have long been popular, borrowing from styles that go back to the 19th century. Their simple beauty and functionality make them a great choice for busy families all over the world. Your farmhouse kitchen can be French- or Tuscan-inspired, or it can trend more toward an American prairie feel. From classy to rustic, the farmhouse kitchen can be adjusted to suit any style. Read on to learn some of the staples of the farmhouse kitchen.
 
Pastoral paintings. While it may or may not actually include cows, the artwork found in many farmhouse kitchens includes livestock, peaceful country landscapes or a combination of the two. Even if you live in the middle of a city, a painting of a farmyard can help create the farmhouse impression that you're going for.

White-painted cabinets. Nothing says farmhouse kitchen like white cabinets with metallic fixtures. One benefit of white cabinetry is that it is simple enough to go with almost anything, which means that intricate handles and hinges or complex molding can be incorporated seamlessly into your kitchen.

Farmhouse sink. One of the defining characteristics of a farmhouse kitchen is a farmhouse sink — defined as being large enough to bathe a baby in. These oversize sinks often have an "apron" that sticks out a bit farther than the edge of the countertop. While you may not actually be giving a baby a bath in your kitchen sink, this extra overhang offers plenty of space for all the cooking and canning that you might aspire to do in a farmhouse.

Countertop display. When storing baking ingredients on your countertops, consider using mason jars or large, glass canisters. This is a functional as well as an aesthetic choice — see-through containers are more practical when you are taking stock of your pantry.

Open shelving. On a similar note, open shelving or cabinets with glass fronts offer a great balance of style and practicality. The visible stacks of clean dishes can help give the illusion that you are ready for company to come over and eat. This is a throwback to the time when nearly all kitchens had open shelving, but this design element can help give your kitchen the historically rustic feel you desire.

Large central island. The farmhouse kitchen is a gathering place for the family, so it would stand to reason that you need plenty of places to sit. An island with a breakfast bar fits that bill perfectly. A large kitchen island also has the added bonus of providing extra counter space on the days when you are cooking large meals or freezing foods for later use.  

UPDATE: Taste of Houston Festival has had to move to October 14 & 15 due to Hurricane Harvey. The event is now a benefit for the victims. All ticket proceeds will be donated to the fund set up by JJ Watt for Harvey Relief.Tickets are $5 at the gate but if you can bring a can of food for Montgomery County Food Bank you can take $2 off that ticket price! Proceeds from the Carnival rides will go to first responders affected by the Hurricane. 

This event is produced by Spark Productions, please contact then directly for event information:
https://www.facebook.com/SingleSparkEvents/
(832) 708-9478
info@singlesparkevents.com

For two wonderful days in October, Town Green Park in the Woodlands will be filled with some of the best that Houston has to offer! Food Trucks, eateries, artists crafters, boutiques, and more will fill over 200 booths ready to serve you. In addition, there will be live music and performances from over 20 of the best musicians and performers the Houston area has to offer! Bring the whole family! There will be a huge kids zone filled with rides, activities, a petting zoo, inflatables and more.

A TRUE TASTE OF HOUSTON

Taste of Houston Festival will feature over 200 artists, crafters, boutiques, eateries, craft beer brewers, food trucks, shops and more unique to the Houston area.

AN ECLECTIC MIX OF ENTERTAINMENT

Over two days Taste of Houston Festival will feature performances from around 20 of the Houston area’s best bands and performing artists. An eclectic mix of pop, r&b, country, rock, indie, zydeco, acoustic and blues artists will keep you on your feet and enjoying the day. There will also be performances from local dance academies, martial arts dojos, comedians and more. It’s all about Houston!

FOOD TRUCKS, EATERIES, CRAFT BEERS & MORE!

You may not want to eat before you come out to Taste of Houston Festival, as there will be over 20 food trucks, restaurants & eateries on hand to keep your belly full and your taste buds happy. In addition, there will be craft beer and wine tastings featuring exclusively Houston area crafts. (Yes there will be some non Houston based drinks for the unadventurous palette.

Houston Symphony: Hocus Pocus Pops 2017 October 13, 2017 7:30 pm

by Jutta "Utah" Burden

OCTOBER 13, 2017
7:30 p.m. / Doors: 6 p.m.
Lucus
Waldin, conductor

Tickets: $20 Orchestra/ FREE Mezzanine & Lawn seating  

Get ready for tricks, treats and lots of family friendly fun at The Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion’s Hocus Pocus Pops featuring the Houston Symphony Friday, October 13 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $20 for orchestra seating. Mezzanine and lawn seating are free. Tickets are not required for free seating.

Lucus Waldin conducts the Houston Symphony in a mesmerizing performance of horrifying horns, bewitching bassoons and chilling cellos. Everyone is gravely encouraged to dress up in their Halloween costume for a chance to walk on stage during the concert. The first 100 boys and “ghouls” to check in at Hocus Pocus Central in the North Plaza, fully costumed, get the chance to march in the Goblin Parade. Wristbands are required to participate in the Goblin Parade.

Haunting the plazas before dusk are pre-concert activities starting when the gates open at 6 p.m. Enchanted events to win spooktacular prizes at BOOths offered by H-E-B, The Pavilion Partners, Texas Children’s Hospital The Woodlands and others. If you dare, hop onto the Great Pumpkin Express and carve out some great (or gruesome) memories on The Pavilion’s haunted grounds. Train rides begin at 5:30 p.m. in The Pavilion’s Gold Lot.

Feel free to pack a picnic to sink your fangs into, but keep in mind that outside potions (drinks) cannot be brought into The Pavilion. Sitting on the hill? Lawn chairs also are provided free for this event!

Don't Break the Bank: How to DIY Your Home Bar

by Jutta "Utah" Burden

There's nothing more suave or double-o-seven than having your own wet bar in your own home. Think of how cool you'll look asking your guests "Scotch on the rocks?" while standing over a wet bar just outside your lounge.

Here's the thing though: Wet bars? They're expensive. Well, they are if you have them designed and constructed by the so-called professionals. DIYing can leave you – and your wallet – looking debonair as ever.

Here's how to DIY your new wet bar.

Save your wine corks
There are actually a crazy number of things you can do with wine corks. You can save them, making sure to write the occasion and date that made you strike at wine o'clock – even if it's just a Tuesday. Collect them in a vase or ceramic, patterned bowl and – voila! – suddenly you're fancy. You can also cut them nearly in half and make them menu holders.

Arrange them in a circle, and hang them on your wall for a dartboard. Cut them width-wise into small circles, and secure them to the bottom of your bar stools so they don't scratch your wood floors.

We mean it. You can do anything with these little guys.

Repurpose your beer caps
Remember what we told you about wine corks? (If you're having a hard time recalling, scroll up.) The same thing applies to beer caps. Beer caps can be art: You can arrange them into any shape, hot-glue them to literally anything flat and hang them on your wall. You can arrange them into a fun, creative backsplash for your wet bar.

You can collect one for every craft beer you've consumed or one for every state you've had a beer in. Bring a little culture to your wet bar.

Pop some tags
Remember that Macklemore jam from a while back – the one about going thrift shopping? Take the message to heart, and run out to your nearest thrift store. Or garage sale. Or yard sale. You get the idea.

Any reusable item has amazing powers, including being able to transform into almost anything else. You can make vintage bottles into handsome light fixtures. Buy old wooden barrels and turn them into creative bar stools or a cabinet or even – if you're even craftier than we thought – a sink.

Don't have a counter? Get some wooden pallets and stack them on top of each other. Now you have a place to rest your chalice when your hand gets tired. This wet bar is Shabby Chic at its very finest.

DIY wet bars make your home that much more attractive to home buyers. The best part? You get to keep it when you move out. For help with next steps, give us a call.

3 Creative Ways to Hide Power Outlets in Your Home

by Jutta "Utah" Burden

Most building codes require outlets to be spaced out along each wall of your home. While this means that you will always have a convenient place to charge your phone, it also means that you might end up with unsightly outlets located in inconvenient spots. Fortunately, there are a few creative ways to hide your home’s power outlets. This way, you will not have to sacrifice functionality for aesthetic reasons.
 
1. Underneath Your Kitchen Cabinets

At first glance, you will see a smooth, unbroken backsplash. This is undoubtedly an attractive way to design a kitchen, but you will still need a convenient place to plug in all of your kitchen appliances. This issue is solved by mounting the outlets on the underside of your upper kitchen cabinets. This keeps the outlets out of sight but still easily accessible when needed.

You can purchase cabinets with outlets built in or design your own for a fraction of the cost. Adding an electrical box to the underside of your existing cabinets can provide you with a place to tuck away all the wires and an extra-long cabinet door can make this addition appear as though it is a part of the existing cabinetry. 

2. Cover It Up

This might seem obvious, but a well-placed cutting board leaning up against your kitchen wall can cover up all kinds of unsightly switches and outlets. This is an instant solution that will not cost you anything, but it is admittedly not the most elegant approach. 

3. Outlet Covers That Blend Into the Wall

One of the main reasons your outlets stand out from their background is because they are usually a different color than the wall, cabinet or backsplash that they're mounted on. Choosing an outlet cover that blends in with the background can be a quick and affordable way to make your outlets less noticeable. 

Many tile manufacturers sell matching outlet covers that can be included in your backsplash rather than being placed on top of it. Having the outlet lay flush with the rest of the tile can make it nearly invisible at first glance.

Another similar idea is to choose outlets that lay flush with your wall. These outlet covers can be painted over or covered with wallpaper, making the outlet cover appear to be a continuous part of your wall rather than an obtrusive eyesore.

Think about the space you are designing and choose one of these clever solutions to help camouflage your outlets and make your space appear sleek and uncluttered.

Is This Your Situation: Ready to Purchase Your Next Home?

by Jutta "Utah" Burden

If you've decided it's time to move up to a bigger home or a home in a more coveted area, your next challenge will be getting there financially. It's likely you'll need more cash, a larger income and, perhaps, better credit than you had when you purchased your current home. Putting all the pieces in place for the move up could take some time and detailed planning.

1. Credit Clean-Up

Although your credit rating may have been sterling as a first-time home buyer, years of credit card and utility accounts, car payments and consumer loans may have scuffed up that financial image a bit. Late or missed payments have a negative effect on your credit profile, as do large, long-term balances on your accounts. Your credit score, a rating system many lenders use to evaluate your financial situation, may prevent you from borrowing as much as you'd like for your next home or getting the lowest interest rate currently available.
 
The wise buyer will take stock of his or her credit standing and debt status well before attempting the next home purchase. You may need some time to reduce your debt, catch up on any delinquent accounts, remove inaccuracies and blemishes from credit reports and make other adjustments to increase your credit score.
 
2. Loan Shopping

A quick way to sift through these issues is to contact a lender who can pull a credit report to see if there are any glaring spots on your record. If nothing needs immediate attention, you can continue with a complete application, providing the financial information needed for loan pre-approval. The loan officer will determine the maximum loan amount you qualify for based on your income and debt profile.
 
You may want to shop around at this point, comparing loan programs and interest rates. Consider how well your current loan has worked for you and remember that rates aren't everything. The lowest rate may be accompanied by high points. If so, you'll have to keep the mortgage long enough to justify paying the steep up-front cost of the loan.
 
Consider whether a non-traditional mortgage program could meet your needs. An adjustable-rate mortgage may be a good choice if it looks as though interest rates will be falling. A 40-year mortgage might reduce the monthly payment enough so you qualify for a larger loan.
 
3. Collecting Cash

An important factor in the equation that determines your buying power will be how much cash you have for a down payment and closing costs. The best mortgage interest rates are available to buyers with down payments of 20 percent or more. If you make a smaller down payment, you may have to take a higher interest rate or pay for private mortgage insurance, both of which will reduce your buying power.
 
Unless you're a prodigious saver, chances are the equity you have in your current home will provide the largest source of cash for your next home purchase. Equity, of course, is the difference between the market value of the home and the balance on any mortgages secured by the home.
 
We would be happy to conduct a comparative analysis of your home to determine the right sales price—at no obligation to you. By determining the value of your home and subtracting out selling costs (paying off the old mortgage, marketing fees and settlement expenses), you'll have the basis for a down payment on your move-up property.
 
4. Fine Tuning

After taking stock of your financial situation, you may find it necessary to delay your move in order to get the type of home you've targeted. Perhaps you need to save more cash for down payment and settlement costs. You may need to pay down outstanding debts to improve your credit score and qualify for a larger mortgage or a lower interest rate. Remember, it's likely your home's value and your equity in it will continue to grow as you get yourself in a position to move up successfully.

Give me a call and I will help get all of your finances in order before you start shopping for your next home.

Displaying blog entries 1-10 of 508

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