Author Archives: James Silver

How To Be Proactive & Position Yourself to Buy a Home in a Post COVID-19 World

 

Hello, and we hope that you are safe, at home, and healthy. The year 2020 will likely go down in history for countries across the world due to the COVID-19 Pandemic. Almost every industry has been touched by the effects of the virus, especially real estate. Not only are people hesitant to make large financial decisions given the state of the economy, but people quite literally can’t leave their houses to participate in the real estate process. 

However, the pandemic isn’t going to last forever—thank goodness—and if you are planning on purchasing a home, now is the time to prepare for it. Here are some tips to get yourself ready. 

Start Researching Homes in the Area

There are a lot of factors that go into shopping for a home. First off, different buyers have different motives. While some people want to move into a new space, others are more focused on the investment side of things. Either way, it’s prudent to purchase a home that will hold its value in case you decide to sell down the road. Basically: buy for now, plan for later. What we mean by this is that when you purchase a home or property, do so with the intent that it’s going to work well for you in the present moment, i.e. right size and feel. You should also keep in consideration what the house is going to be worth down the road in the event you decide to sell it.  Look up homes in the area that meet both standards.

Consult a Real Estate Agent

While the stay-at-home orders are hindering in almost all ways, we’re lucky enough to be able to telecommunicate with other professionals who are working at home, real estate agents included! Perhaps you originally thought you were going to buy this spring, but had to adjust plans due to having to stay home. Or, maybe you’re just getting around to laying down a plan of action for purchasing a new house. Either way, set up an appointment with your real estate agent to discuss the market and the best course of action. Have a conversation about top agent insights for Q1 2020 and your agent’s own input! 

 

Get Pre-Approved for a Mortgage

Getting pre-approval for a mortgage doesn’t mean that you need to take out a mortgage. What pre-approval does is shows you how much money you’d get for your mortgage as well as the interest rate tacked onto it. These figures can help you decide what houses are in your price range. During the outbreak, mortgage rates are lower than normal, and this is something to consider if you plan on purchasing a home anytime soon. Keep an eye on what lender’s rates are, but don’t act hastily in an effort to lock them in. What’s important during this current economic climate is to be diligent with any financial decisions you make. 

The James Silver Team in Metro Detroit wants to make sure that you, a potential buyer, feels confident in any real estate decisions you make during this pandemic. Please don’t hesitate to set up an appointment with us and we’ll help answer any questions you may have during this time!

 

5 Tips to Declutter Your Closet in a Day

 

Streamline your wardrobe, and help others at the same time.

I recently had a closet collapse. I came home from a day at the office to find heaps of what had been neatly hung, color-coordinated clothes in one giant, messy mound on the floor. Worse than picking up the pieces of chipped drywall? Admitting that maybe it was time to get rid of that favorite shirt of mine — from college. In the ’90s.

So I sought the help of style expert Darcy Camden to find out what she tells her clients. Camden has been cleaning out closets and styling men and women for more than a decade (read: she spends a TON of time in strangers’ homes). The busy fashionista (she’s a mother, too) insists there are easy ways to declutter that tangle of t-shirts or pile of old papers. And you can do it in as little as an hour.

A little goes a long way

Purge a little at a time, says Camden, who has helped more than 900 clients in her career.

“Most of my clients think that purging a closet is a huge all-day endeavor, but it often makes more sense to do a little at a time,” she says. “I encourage everyone to keep a Goodwill donation bag in their closet or bedroom, and add to it here and there as you discover items that don’t fit or have gotten worn out.”

If it doesn’t fit, you can’t wear it

“It rarely makes sense to keep something that physically doesn’t fit you — even if you love it,” Camden says. Put it in a pile to donate, and imagine how much joy the next person will get from that item.

New season = new chances

When the weather warms up or cools down, it’s a great opportunity to think about what you’ve worn — and what you haven’t. “If you didn’t wear it last winter, you probably won’t wear it next winter,” Camden says.

Use the “plus one, minus one” method

Fab new pants? Great! But only put them in the closet after removing a pair that’s collecting dust.

“I tell my clients to subtract one old item for every new item you purchase,” Camden recommends. “If you spend an afternoon shopping and come home with five new things, spend some time reviewing your closet. Remove five older things you’re no longer wearing.”

Finally, donate!

Think of how much you can keep out of the landfill by gifting your giveaways to a good cause.

“I’m constantly amazed that my clients are worried their castaways aren’t good enough for Goodwill,” Camden says. “Will they really want this stained old t-shirt? Or this single sock? Yes!”

“Working closely with Seattle Goodwill over the years has given me tons of insight into what happens to donations,” she continues. “Your smelly socks and stained clothing provide jobs and can be recycled or reused. Never throw away clothing to a landfill.”

Last year, Seattle Goodwill kept more than 53 million pounds of useful goods out of landfills. In addition to helping the planet, those donations also help fund job training and educational programs, adds Seattle Goodwill’s Katherine Boury.

Happy cleaning!

About the author

LINDSAY COHEN

Lindsay Cohen is an Emmy Award-winning writer, reporter, and on-camera host. She writes about unique homes, home improvement, and luxury real estate for Zillow.

The Best Advice for Homebuyers Considering a Fixer Upper

Image courtesy of Unsplash

Are you ready to put some elbow grease into your next abode? Stumbling onto a diamond in the rough can be a homebuyer’s dream come true – or it can be a nightmare. Whether you found a property that’s almost perfect or one that’s in need of a complete overhaul, here’s what you need to know before you invest in a house that needs your help.

Have Realistic Expectations

If you watch many shows about home remodeling, you might get the idea that a whole house can be transformed in a matter of hours. However, most renovations are more time-consuming than that. In fact, House Beautiful says some projects might take about 3 weeks, like a small kitchen or bathroom upgrade, while more elaborate projects can take several months. It’s not unusual to experience delays as well, and on top of that, better contractors tend to be busy, so you might be on a waiting list for a while.

Similarly, costs can vary greatly. According to some surveys, refreshing your kitchen will run between $25,001 and $50,000, and a bathroom remodel is in the neighborhood of $9,000 and $15,000.

Elbow Room and Interruptions

On top of costs, you need to remember you might be fully or partially displaced for a while. Big projects might mean temporarily living in a hotel or apartment. Homeowners making an addition can often live in the house during renovations, especially if the work is contained to a single room. However, remember that eating out while the kitchen is a wreck or using the kids’ bathroom while yours is torn up can get old if you aren’t prepared to manage it for weeks or months on end.

A space boon for many homeowners is a simple addition, whether it’s a garage or bath, adding useful square footage and improving home value. Those needing just a small space can often get by with a bump out. The national average cost to build an addition is $44,663, and some experts suggest planning on it taking at least one month.

Sensible Dollars and Cents

Covering the cost of home improvements can sound pretty daunting, but as Bankrate explains, homeowners have a broad variety of options available to them, both in terms of loans and lenders. In fact, a mortgage broker is just one kind of lender, and they have hundreds of loan options to tailor to your circumstances.

For example, you might go with a home equity line of credit, which is a bit like a credit card. Or you might get a home equity loan. These loans pay you up front and work like a traditional mortgage, minus the closing costs. There are also other options, like specialized loans for energy-efficient homes, loans insured by the FHA, and B and C loans.

Lenders will examine your credit score, income, and how much you want to borrow. Depending on the type of loan, they will also make comparisons with how much your home improvements will cost and what they expect the final property value to be.

If you have trouble qualifying for a loan, there are ways to improve your situation. For instance, you can improve your credit score by making timely payments on your debts, paying off debts, and paying routine things like your utilities before they’re due.

Who’s Doing the Work?

When you hire a contractor for a home renovation, bear in mind that you will live with the outcome day in and day out. Focusing solely on price can mean drawn out projects and shoddy craftsmanship, so it’s critical to find a qualified contractor to tackle your project. Develop a clear idea of what you want in advance, get some references, and get estimates priced out in writing.

Your home is your castle, and the last thing you want is for your fixer upper project to flop. Have realistic expectations, figure out your financing, and hire qualified help. A few plans and preparations can make the difference between a dream and a nightmare.

Written By: Hazel Bridges

5 New Year’s Resolutions That Can Help You Buy a Home

New year, new home? Whip your financial resume into shape to improve your home-buying odds.

Thinking of buying a home this year? We compiled five New Year’s resolutions that can help you keep your financial resume in tiptop shape.

1. Avoid job hopping

Employment history and income are two of the biggest factors lenders look at when evaluating a mortgage application. A new job may be a good career move, but if you plan to buy a home in the new year, know that job hopping can be a red flag to some underwriters — especially if you’re moving to a different industry.

A steady job history and few or no gaps in employment over the past two years are ideal, as it helps lenders more easily forecast your future income.

If you do get a new job while home shopping, let your lender know as soon as possible. It doesn’t mean you won’t qualify for a mortgage — just be prepared to show extra documentation.

If you’re moving from a commissioned or hourly job to one that’s salaried with equal or more compensation, it may help your application. Lenders often prefer borrowers to have steady, predictable paychecks.

2. Limit monthly subscription services

Monthly subscription services are certainly convenient, but they can add up. Even if you pay off your credit card every month, you could be dinged for high credit utilization if your credit report is pulled midcycle.

If you’re thinking of buying a home this year, consider keeping your monthly subscription services to a minimum.

3. Build a solid credit history

One of the first things a lender will look at is your credit history. Lenders prefer borrowers who have a history of paying off credits cards and other debts on time — because it signals that you’re a responsible borrower and less of a risk.

If you don’t have credit, securing a home loan may be significantly more challenging and time-consuming, but not impossible. Records of paying rent and utilities on time, as well as student loan debt or cell phone bills, can help show a potential lender that you have a history of managing monthly payments.

4. Check your credit

Your credit score can have a significant impact on your ability to buy a home. A low credit score can negatively affect how much money a lender is willing to loan you, as well as your interest rate.

Just a few percentage point differences in an interest rate can cost you thousands over the life of a loan. Monitor your credit closely, especially for fraudulent activity, to prevent any surprises that could delay the loan application process.

If you’re unsure of your credit score, many financial websites offer credit score monitoring, or you can get a full credit report once a year.

5. Avoid large purchases

Avoid taking on large amounts of debt — whether it’s buying a car or planning a large vacation — before buying a house. This is advisable even if you’re already preapproved.

Your debt-to-income ratio, or how much money you make compared to how much debt you have, can significantly affect how much money a lender is willing to give you. Keeping debts to a minimum can help make the home-buying process go a lot more smoothly.

Just like proofreading your resume before you apply for a job, cleaning up your financial resume can help improve your chances of buying a home.

Take advantage of online tools and resources, like our affordability calculator, which can help you determine how much home you can afford. Our mortgage calculator can also provide custom down payment estimates based on home price and interest rates. And as you search for your future home, check out our extensive lender and agent reviews, which can help you find the best real estate partners for your needs.

 

About the author

ALEXA FIANDER

Alexa Fiander writes about home improvement and trends for Zillow Porchlight.

Try These Tips for an Easier Time Downsizing into a Smaller Home

Image via Pixabay

Sometimes, less is more. This might seem a bit counterintuitive at first, but it’s especially true when it comes to housing for seniors. Of course, there’s something to be said for having plenty of room when you’re in the middle of those prime, family-raising years. But at a certain point, all the extra square footage becomes superfluous, and an excessively large house can start to pose safety risks, as well.

As we get older and mobility becomes a bit more difficult, things like stairs and extra rooms only add to the risk for things like falls and other accidents. At a certain point, it just makes sense to move into a smaller living space. Such a situation poses far fewer safety hazards and can also help to cut back on living expenses. Downsizing can be quite a challenge, but there are plenty of ways to make the job more manageable.

Finding the Perfect Home for Your Golden Years

As you go about choosing the place you’ll call home for your golden years, consider the things you’ll want and need as you get settled in. What kind of community do you see yourself living in? What kind of expenses do you have, and what will they allow you to afford? There are lots of details to consider, such as looking at your budget to determine what you can afford and consider what your future needs will be. It’s also smart to know that the decision might not be made in one sitting.

Decide What You’ll Get Rid Of

Part of downsizing always involves letting go of a few extra belongings that you won’t have space for moving forward, which is something that can be stressful for many seniors. Work with your family to decide what you’ll keep — keepsakes and memories can be passed down to family members, for example. You might even enjoy the experience of purging your home of old clutter you don’t need anymore!

One way to make the most out of this process is to see if you can’t make a few extra bucks by selling some of your things online. A site like eBay or Craigslist can be ideal for selling your stuff. You might not make an overwhelming amount of cash, but these extra earnings can still be helpful for paying other aspects of downsizing.

Consider Hiring Movers to Help with the Process

Moving can be an exhausting process, no matter how old you are. It might be smart to hire a moving team who can handle some of the more strenuous heavy lifting for you. This will help you avoid any potential injuries, and also make the whole process a lot less stressful in general.

One of the best ways to save some money when you’re moving house is to look into hiring a hybrid moving company, especially if you’re moving a significant distance. By breaking up the moving process and splitting it between different vendors, you could save at least 40% on the overall cost of your move. In many instances, you can hire local movers to load up your current home, then have another team haul everything to the final destination, where movers will unload everything for you.

Downsizing isn’t always a smooth transition, and leaving behind the home you’ve known for years can be an emotionally challenging process. Therefore, it’s best to make sure you have as much help as you can get. A few extra sets of hands can be instrumental when it comes to making the downsizing process more bearable.

Written by:

Hazel Bridges

hazel.bridges@agingwellness.org 

AgingWellness.org

5 Easy Improvements to Get Your Home Guest-Ready for the Holidays

This is no time for major updates, so stick with simple tasks to make for a festive celebration.

Hosting a holiday gathering can be a lot of fun, but perhaps a bit intimidating, too. You want your house to look its best, but now isn’t the time to undertake any major updates.

Chances are, you’re busy enough get ready for the event. So, focus on just the areas of your house where your guests will spend time.

Whether you’re a first-time party host with a few jitters or an old pro looking for some new ideas, these tips will help you ensure that your home is ready for any gathering.

Light the way

The sun sets early this time of year, so it’s important to make sure the entrance to your home is clean and well-lit.

If you have a large front yard, focus on the entryway and the path leading up to it. Install porch lights or replace the bulbs if needed. Cut back any shrubbery that is obstructing the walkway.

On the day of your party, open the blinds on the front windows so your guests can see into your warm, festive-looking home as they approach. It’s a great way to create a sense of welcoming anticipation.

Pro tip: The easiest way to create instant lighting for walkways and paths is with the solar lights that you just stick into the ground. The sun does the rest of the work!

Take care of the bottom line

Our mothers used to say this, and it’s true: If your floors are spotless, they make your whole house look cleaner.

Even if you’re unable to do an in-depth house cleaning before your gathering, make sure your floors have been cleaned before that first guest steps over the threshold.

Pro tip: If you have carpeting, clean the carpets a minimum of three days ahead of your affair so they have time to dry fully.

Brighten up your bathroom

If you’re bothered by grimy-looking grout in your bathroom, try this easy, inexpensive, and non-toxic method to get rid of it nearly instantly: Just spray on some full-strength hydrogen peroxide, let it sit for 10 minutes, and then wipe clean. That’s it!

Next, add some flowers, holiday decorations or pictures on the wall to further spiff up your powder room, and it will be ready for your guests.

Pro tip: Get the buildup out of a slow-moving sink drain with a Zip-It. This inexpensive tool looks like a giant zip-tie. You just work it down into the drain to pull up hair clogs — all the other gunky stuff will come up with it.

Tune up kitchen appliances

Your kitchen appliances will be the workhorses of your holiday party, whether you’re hosting a big family dinner or a cocktail party. You want them to be fully functioning and ready for action.

Make sure all stove burners are working. Now’s the time to clean the oven if you haven’t done that for a while.

Clean out the refrigerator, and check to see that the fridge and freezer are running at their optimal temperatures.

Make sure your dishwasher is in good working order. You can clean it easily with a dishwasher cleaner that you run through a cycle.

Pro tip: Sharp knives will make easy work of preparing the big meal. Make sure all your kitchen knives are newly sharpened, and also check the batteries in your electric carving knife, if you have one.

Make your space kid-friendly

If you make your home welcoming for children, you’ll ensure their parents have a great time as well.

If you happen to have kids that are the same ages as your young guests, you’re in luck. But if not, think about adding some considerate touches that will make parents more comfortable and alleviate kid boredom.

Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Turn a spare room or an upstairs bedroom into a private nursing/changing area for a new mom.
  • Toddlers and younger children will want to be near their parents, so a good idea for them is to set up a corner of your living or dining room with toys, books, a tablet for watching cartoons and some comfy pillows or throws.
  • One of our favorite strategies for older kids is to turn the dessert course into an activity. For instance, you could bake a huge batch of sugar cookies in holiday shapes, and then put out different colors of icing to let kids (and adults) go to town with decorating their own cookies.

Pro tip: If you don’t have children, or if yours are older, don’t forget to kid-proof your space. Put away anything expensive, breakable or unstable. Do some baby-proofing, if necessary. This way you and the parents can relax and not have to worry about safety hazards.

Want more DIY tips? Watch more of See Jane Drill’s home improvement videos

About the author

SEE JANE DRILL

See Jane Drill has been teaching and empowering homeowners to take care of their own homes since 2013. With easy-to-follow tutorials and detailed explanations on a wide variety of home repairs, they encourage everyone, including beginners, to become a DIY-er and save money! They produce a new DIY video every week. Follow See Jane Drill on YouTube and Facebook.

 

Four Options for Your Home After a Move to Assisted Living

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo via Pixabay

Making the decision to move into an assisted living facility is never easy; there are so many details to think about, from getting your finances in order to figuring out how the actual move will go. Not only that, but it can also be stressful or overwhelming to think about the lifestyle change that will inevitably come with a downsize. With all the considerations you have to make, the last thing you want to do is worry about what will happen to your current home. Fortunately, there are some options available to you, which we’ll explore below.

Prepare Your Home for Sale

Selling a home is a big job, but if it’s the best option for your needs, it’s important to find a realtor who can look at your space and let you know which changes need to be made in order to make a quick sale. Even if your home is sparkling clean and well-kept, there may be some updates that would attract more buyers or small repairs that could affect the sale price. So, create a to-do list that will be easy for your loved ones or professionals to follow, and remember that a good realtor won’t tell you what you want to hear; instead, they’ll let you know the best moves to sell your home quickly and for the best price.

Rent It Out

Turning your home into a rental is a great way to earn extra income, which could help you pay for your stay in assisted living or build up your retirement nest egg. If you live in an area that is close to attractions, such as downtown nightlife, the beach, or a well-known spot such as an arena, you might think about renting out your home to vacationers. Otherwise, you could turn your house into a rental for long-term tenants. Keep in mind that these changes will require different insurance and that you’ll likely need help from a close friend or loved one who can assist you with bookings and collecting payments.

Keep It in the Family

If your home has been in the family for a long time, or if you want to start new traditions with your loved ones, consider leaving it to a responsible party. There are some legal issues to consider, so talk to your family to ensure the details are ironed out before you move. You might create a living trust, or if you want ownership to transfer after your passing, make a note of it in your will. This is especially important if you are leaving the property to more than one person.

Make Decisions About Your Belongings

No matter what you decide to do with your home, you’ll likely have many belongings that won’t fit in your new place, or there might be a few things that you simply don’t need anymore. To start decluttering, go through your items and think about which ones can be donated, trashed, or sold; those things with sentimental value that you’re just not ready to let go of can be taken to a storage unit for safekeeping. This way, you don’t have to make a decision right away, and if you decide later on that you want to keep them, they’ll be in good hands until. Keep in mind that the overall average price of a self-storage unit in Troy over the last 180 days was $84.52. Also, keep in mind that if you have any large items, you may need to hire movers to transport them to your storage facility, which could easily run you between $90 and $120 per hour.

Making decisions about your home can be emotional and difficult. Even if you feel ready to make a move, it can be overwhelming to think about making such a big life change. So, look for support from your family members and friends during this time, and start as early as possible so the transition won’t be so jarring.

7 Perfect Kitchen Upgrades for a New Look Without Remodeling

Take your kitchen forward without setting yourself back too much.

Kitchen renovations require time and money, often taking several months to complete and costing tens of thousands of dollars. If you don’t have the financial resources for a full-on renovation, there are a variety of ways you can give your kitchen a new look for a lot less. From refacing cabinets to replacing lighting, a few cosmetic tweaks can give you the kitchen you’ve always wanted.

Cabinets

Many homeowners are turning to kitchen refacing as an easy way to update their cabinets. Refacing involves replacing the doors, drawers and hardware and covering the entire exterior of the cabinets in a brand-new veneer. If you’re happy with the layout and function of your kitchen, but aren’t so keen on the aesthetic feel, consider cabinet refacing.

“It’s for people who have kitchens from the ’70s and ’80s that have solid wood cabinets,” says interior designer Anna León, who has a background in kitchen refacing with Home Depot. “They can take off the original doors and put on modern doors.”

The cost, which typically starts at around $6,000, depends on the size of the kitchen and the materials used. With an array of options available — such as woodgrains, painted wood and pressure-fused laminate doors like Thermofoil — you can transform a kitchen’s facade easily. Contemporary Thermofoil doors also come in a variety of fun looks, including glossy, matte and woodgrain.

While a full kitchen gut and renovation may take several months to complete, cabinet resurfacing typically takes three to five days.

Painting cabinets is more affordable than refacing, costing around $3,000 to $5,000 for a professional to do the job, according to León.

Or, you can always DIY, which is the most affordable option, but it’s laborious and takes a great deal of time.

“Painting cabinets is great, but it’s all about the prep work,” says Richmond, VA-based interior decorator Lesley Glotzl. “You have to prep and paint them perfectly or they’re going to chip or peel. You can’t cut any corners.”

Photo from Zillow listing.

Backsplash

Creating a new backsplash is an easy way to freshen up your kitchen. Be sure to choose a timeless material that will complement your cabinetry, and avoid mixing styles and periods. For instance, if you have ’70s-era cabinetry, you won’t want to pair that with something trendy like subway tile.

If you’re a confident DIYer, tile your backsplash. Or for $20, you can paint it in a bold high-gloss paint that you can easily wipe down after cooking.

In Glotzl’s home, she installed a beadboard backsplash and painted it in a high-gloss blue.

Shiplap is an affordable and durable option as well, and it’s not difficult to DIY. Glotzl also recommends using vinyl wallpapers from companies like Osborne & Little as a backsplash, as they come in an array of fun textures, colors and patterns.

Photo from Zillow listing.

Countertops

For countertops, head to your local stone yard and choose a granite at the lower end of the price range. Formica — a more affordable option than natural stone — has a lot of cool countertop options in patterns like Greek key or textures like barn wood or grasscloth.

If you’re short on counter space and aren’t looking to add more cabinetry, consider buying a premade island or bar-height table that you can float in the center of your kitchen.

Or, if you have a more contemporary kitchen, consider purchasing a stainless-steel food prep table from a restaurant supply company. Just make sure you have at least 36 inches between the cabinets and island on all sides for easy traffic flow, advises Glotzl.

Photo from Zillow listing.

Shelving

If your cabinets don’t have lip molding on the interior, remove cabinet doors to create open shelving and show off your beautiful serving dishes.

Or, if you have an empty wall, create your own shelving system with floating shelves from a retailer such as Pottery Barn or IKEA. Just be sure you install brackets underneath the shelves if you plan on loading them up with dishes and cooking wares. Glotzl recommends Van Dyke’s Restorers for shelving support.

Photo from Zillow listing.

Lighting

Lighting can dramatically change the look and feel of any room. Tear out harsh fluorescent lighting and replace it with can lights.

Make food prep easier by having an electrician install under-cabinet halogen fixtures or ambient Light Tape. Over the kitchen sink is the perfect place for a statement piece like a sculptural pendant light.

Photo from Zillow listing.

Pulls and knobs

If you’re going the cabinet-refacing route, you’ll have plenty of new pulls and knobs to ponder. You can find them at online retailers or local shops.

If you’re painting your cabinets — or even if you’re not — new pulls and knobs can go a long way toward creating a new look in your kitchen. This simple solution is one that works particularly well for renters.

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

Appliances and plumbing

Dated appliances paired with updated cabinetry will make your kitchen feel incomplete. New stainless-steel appliances are the finishing touch. For less than $500, you can get a new stainless-steel electric range; for less than $700, a brand-new top-freezer refrigerator.

“Compared to everything else you have to do, it ends up feeling like pocket change,” says León.

You can easily update your faucet for under $100 (although, of course, you could spend a lot more). And a new farmhouse sink could be yours for less than $400.

Photo from Zillow listing.

About the author

MARISSA HERMANSON

As a freelance writer who spends most of her time working from home, Marissa Hermanson has a deep appreciation for the household and the time and effort people put into personalizing their spaces. Her stories have been featured in Cosmopolitan, Forbes Travel Guide, The Knot, Ski Magazine, Southern Living, among other publications. You can follow her on Twitter at @MarissaMoomaw or her website.

How to Throw the Perfect Pumpkin-Carving Party

Gather some gourds, and invite your favorite witches and ghouls over for a little Halloween fun.

Nothing says Halloween like carved pumpkins, festive treats and fun costumes. Try these tips for throwing the perfect pumpkin-carving party with all your friends.

1. Create a casual atmosphere

Head out to the backyard, set up a few long folding tables with tablecloths and let the fall atmosphere be your decor. Play some music to get the party started.

2. Assemble a self-serve buffet

Don’t worry about serving a full meal that creates a lot of work for you. Instead, set up a self-serve buffet stocked with enough goodies for the evening, so you can enjoy the party. Think of a few simple savory dishes, add some fun and festive sweets — you’ve got it covered. Include a drink station with a few options in dispensers. Label them, set up a stack of glasses and let your guests enjoy.

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3. Set up carving stations

Arrange a simple but structured carving station so your guests can enjoy the main event. Stock a table with an assortment of carving templates for those who want something other than the traditional jack-o’-lantern face. Don’t forget tape — you’ll need to hold the templates in place while you carve.

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On other tables, place cute buckets your guests can scoop the pumpkin seeds and pulp into. Then put out smaller containers to hold the carving utensils. Just add some pumpkins and you’ve provided everything your guests will need.

4. Hold a carving contest

What good would pumpkin carving be without a little friendly competition? Have some judges and a variety of prizes on hand for the event. Think outside the box with the awards and go beyond just the “Best Pumpkin.” Think in terms of “Most Creative,” “Most Adventurous,” “Scariest” and so on.

5. Commemorate the evening

All that hard work should be documented! Make sure you gather up the carved masterpieces for a group shot at the end of the evening, and don’t forget to share the party photos with your guests after the fact.

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Get out those pumpkins, set the tables and crank up the music for the best pumpkin-carving party around.

Need some more inspiration? Check out our video tutorial for easy ways to make your space spooky in no time.

 

About the author

LINDSAY JACKMAN

Lindsay Jackman is the stylist and designer behind The White Buffalo Styling Co. She believes that beauty can be found in the everyday and encourages her readers to continue on their personal journeys of style discovery! On her blog, she shares all things from entertaining and styling tips to simple DIYs and renovation advice, all with a daily dose of style.

12 Tasks to Tackle This Fall

Cooler weather is coming — prep your home for its arrival while it’s still nice outside.

The days are getting shorter, and the nights are getting cooler. The kids are trudging off to school again with their backpacks, and leaves are falling from the trees.

Yep, it’s official: Fall is here. Now’s the time to finish up any pre-winter maintenance projects and get your home and yard ready.

Take care of these 12 tasks to get your home clean, warm and cozy for the cool days to come.

Exterior prep

1. Fix cracks in concrete and asphalt

Depending on where you live, these may be the last weeks this year when it will be warm and sunny enough to repair driveway and sidewalk cracks.

2. Clean out the gutters

No one loves this job, but we all need to do it annually. A few hours of work can prevent big problems later on.

While you’re up on that ladder, visually inspect your roof for damaged shingles, flashing or vents. You can also inspect the chimney for any missing mortar and repair it by tuck-pointing, if needed.

3. Turn off outdoor plumbing

Drain outdoor faucets and sprinkler systems, and cover them to protect them from the freezing weather to come.

4. Start composting

If you don’t already have compost bins, now’s the time to make or get some. All those accumulated autumn leaves will bring you gardening gold next summer!

5. Clean outdoor furniture and gardening tools

It may not yet be time to put them away, but go ahead and clean your outdoor furniture and gardening tools so they’re ready for storage over the winter.

6. Plant bulbs for spring-blooming flowers

Plant bulbs in October, as soon as the soil has cooled down, to reap big rewards next spring. If you’ve never planted bulbs before, select a spot in your yard that gets full sun during the day.

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Interior prep

7. Prepare your furnace for winter duty

If you didn’t already do it last spring, consider getting your furnace professionally serviced in time for the cold season. At a minimum, visually inspect your furnace and replace the furnace filter before you start using it on a daily basis.

8. Clean the fireplace and chimney

Clean out the fireplace, inspect the flue, and ensure the doors and shields are sound. Have the chimney professionally swept if needed. Now’s also the time to stock up on firewood!

9. Keep the warm air inside and the cold air outside

Inspect your windows and doors. Check weatherstripping by opening a door, placing a piece of paper in the entryway and closing the door. The paper should not slide back and forth easily. If it does, the weatherstripping isn’t doing its job.

Also, now’s the time to re-caulk around windows and door casings, if needed.

10. Light the way

Bring as much light into your home as you can for the colder, darker months. To accentuate natural light, clean your windows and blinds, especially in rooms that get a lot of sunlight.

Add lighting to darker spaces with new lamps. And consider replacing traditional incandescent light bulbs with energy-efficient bulbs.

11. Create a mudroom

Even if you don’t have a dedicated mudroom in your home, now’s a good time to think about organizing and stocking an entryway that will serve as a “mudroom” area for cold and wet weather.

Put down an indoor-outdoor rug to protect the floor. A fun and rewarding weekend project is to build a wooden shoe rack, coat rack or storage bench for your entryway.

12. Home safety check

Replace the batteries in your smoke alarms and carbon monoxide monitors. A good way to remember to do this is to always replace the batteries when you change the clock for daylight saving time.

Create a family fire escape plan, or review the one you already have. Put together an emergency preparedness kit so you’re ready for any winter power outages.

Once you finish with your autumn home checklist, you can enjoy the season in your warm, comfortable home.

Originally published September 2016.

 

About the author

SEE JANE DRILL

See Jane Drill has been teaching and empowering homeowners to take care of their own homes since 2013. With easy-to-follow tutorials and detailed explanations on a wide variety of home repairs, they encourage everyone, including beginners, to become a DIY-er and save money! They produce a new DIY video every week. Follow See Jane Drill on YouTube and Facebook.