Go Green By Faking It With Artificial TurfThe summer heat is starting to take its toll on you and your thirsty lawn. Homeowners spend hundreds of dollars every summer striving to grow healthy grass and keep it green.

If you’re sick of trying to maintain a manicured lawn, then you can go green another way. Install artificial turf.

The Grass is Always Greener

Today’s artificial grass is made out of polypropylene, nylon, or polyethylene threads that are sewn into a mesh backing that allows for water drainage. This is then usually laid on top of compacted gravel and tied down at the perimeter.

Modern artificial lawns can mimic many varietals of grass and some even have a thatch layer to give it a more realistic look.

Sick Of Maintenance

Homeowners have many reasons for wanting to be free of their demanding lawns, such as high summer water bills and the constant use of pesticides. With a fake lawn, you won’t have to water, which is especially good for high-heat areas, you won’t have to mow and you can quit worrying about how the weather will affect it.

Considering The Costs

While installing artificial grass can cost a bit up front, it’ll be maintenance free for the next 15 to 20 years. You won’t have to worry about water bills, purchasing grass seed, buying fertilizer or getting gas for the lawnmower, which can add up to a couple hundred dollars every year.

Potential Drawbacks

While a maintenance-free yard does have some appeal, there are a few drawbacks to take into consideration. Fake lawns don’t absorb pet waste, so you have to hose them off regularly.

They can also heat up in direct sunlight. Planting shade trees will help with this issue. And, artificial lawns cannot be recycled, which is an issue that the industry is looking to remedy.

Saving water and reducing the use of pesticides is great for the environment. However, you have to like the look of artificial grass and make sure you’re ready for the investment.

If you’ve been considering going green by switching to year-round green grass, talk with a local installer for grass options and cost comparisons.

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7 Smart Tips To Painting Your Own Home This SummerWinter may have taken a toll on your home’s exterior this year. You’ve been noticing the cracking paint for months, but you don’t want to shell out the big bucks to hire a professional painter.

Don’t fret! With the weather warming and the nice summer weekends, it’s the perfect time to tackle that project of painting your home.

While this might seem like an insurmountable task, especially if you have a multi-story home, it’s not. It just takes the right tools and a bit of hard work. Below are step-by-step instructions to having the outside of your house looking shiny and new.

Test For Lead

Homes built before 1978 could have used lead paint, so be careful if you have an older home. They make kits that test for lead paint. If your home tests positive, then ensure you take the necessary precautions to keep yourself and your neighbors safe.

Scrub It Up

You need to wash the exterior of your home before painting. Mildew thrives under new paint, so kill it with a solution of water and phosphate-free cleaner.

Scrape And Sand

Take a scraper to your home’s exterior to remove any peeling paint. Spraying water under the paint as you scrape helps speed up the process. Then sand down any rough spots, so that you have a smooth canvas.

Apply The Primer

Paint on the primer immediately after you’ve prepped the wood. This will provide and even base for your topcoat of paint.

Buy Some Caulk

You’ll need to caulk all the joints to prevent water penetration and air leakage. Plus, caulk does a great job of filling in blemishes in your siding.

Pick Out Your Paint

Choose a water-based latex paint. It’s easier than applying oil-based paints. However, if your home already has an oil-based paint, you’ll have to stay with it. Once you’ve selected your favorite paint color, just grab a brush or rent a sprayer to start painting your home.

Maintain your exterior.

Be sure to check your home annually for any potential problems. Replace cracked caulk, remove mildew and patch any peeling paint before it spreads.

Utilize the beautiful summer weekends to get started on painting your home. Understand that this process normally takes two weekends, so be patient. Plus, by not hiring a professional, you’ll save a significant sum of money and have bragging rights when you receive compliments on the condition of your home.

 

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Planning For Your Next Year Tax Deductions

Filing your taxes can be a complicated and confusing process. If you are a home owner you may have many different home tax deductions and credits to consider.

Since we recently passed the filing date for 2012 taxes, it may be a good time to plan for next year and get your tax tracking systems in place. Check carefully to make sure that you are not making any of these common homeowner tax mistakes – which could cost you money or get you in trouble with the IRS.

Miscalculating Your Home Office Tax Deduction

If you work from home, you will be able to deduct a percentage of your housing costs for your home office. However, most people don’t know how to calculate this and don’t realize that it also has to be recaptured when you eventually sell your home. You will only want to claim it if it is worth it, so make sure you know exactly what you can write off.

Failing To Keep Track Of Home Expenses

Don’t forget to keep a record of home maintenance, repair expenses and any other relevant documents as you go along.   The money you spend on improving your property can help offset future capital gains tax. Keeping good records will save you a lot of headaches when tax time comes around.

Forgetting To Pay Tax On Capital Gains

If you have sell your primary residence this year, you will need to pay capital gains tax on any profit that you have received. Capital gains are the amount that you gained on the property’s value – so if you bought it for $150,000 and sold it for $300,000, your capital gains are $150,000. You may be able to exclude $250,000 of any profits for taxes, or $500,000 if you are a married couple if this exclusion stays the same as in 2012.

Deducting The Wrong Year For Property Taxes

Remember that you must take the tax deduction for your property taxes in the year that you have actually paid them. No matter what the date is on your property taxes bill, you should enter the amount that you paid in the calendar year. If you confuse this part, you might end up claiming the incorrect amount for the year.

These are just a few of the common mistakes that home owners can make when filing their taxes. Avoiding these mistakes will ensure that you pay the right amount and avoid any hassle from the IRS.  Also, please double-check all of these suggestions with a qualified, licensed tax preparer in the Richmond  area.

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What Does The Future Hold For Home Security SystemsImagine walking into your home and turning off the alarm, locking your doors, opening the windows and starting your coffee maker, all with a few taps of your finger on your smart phone?

What if you had a home security camera that you could monitor from anywhere and a motion sensor that would send you an email when your kids come home from school? What if you could open your blinds or unlock your home for a visitor, even from halfway around the world?

The technology that powers our home security systems is getting more and more sophisticated and in the future, our homes will be more responsive than we could ever imagine.

Rather than a simple line of defense that keeps out burglars, it will be a completely integrated and custom designed automated system that responds intelligently to your needs.  

Here are a few of the upcoming technology innovations:

Smart Home Technology

At the moment, prototypes are being developed for integrated home security systems that have individual Internet protocols that can address everything from a fridge to a window to a door.  Even your home appliances, like your refrigerator, air conditioning systems and lighting systems may be able to be managed remotely through a smart phone.

This connectivity essentially gives everything in your house an Internet address, so that you can control them and monitor them digitally. Once the system is linked up it can be controlled remotely by Blackberry, Apple or Android.

The 2013 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this year showcased a number of smart phone apps and devices designed to control everything within your home so that you can master the household with the click of a button.

The Future Is Still On Its Way

Although the technology is being developed, there is still a long way to go until we all live in automated houses like on The Jetsons. One underlying and yet unsolved issue is the security systems inability to function in a power outage or with bandwidth and connectivity challenges.

There are also many different conflicting operating systems, setups, standards and approaches that will need to be worked out before the dream of a fully automated Henrico home can become a reality. 

Even so, the technological advances being made in home security and management systems are impressive and exciting to learn more about.

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Ceiling Update OptionsIf you’re absolutely sick of looking at the popcorn ceiling of your 1980’s home – it’s time for a change.

However, behind the facade of a ceiling is a mess of plumbing, wiring, joists and structural beams, so you have to be careful and creative when updating your home.

Whether you’re dealing with an older home, a tricky duct system or an unfinished basement, below are several ceiling solutions to brighten up the space above your head.

Bring Back Wood Paneling

The 70’s are making a comeback. If you have a flat or slanted ceiling, wood paneling is easy to affix and can create a cozy cabin-like feel. This works well in living rooms, bedrooms and basements where you want generate a warm, comfortable atmosphere. 

Create An Industrial Vibe

If you like the look of a modern home, then this might be the most cost-effective solution for you. If there’s an existing ceiling, remove it and then buy a paint sprayer and coat everything except the duct work in one dark color. Many converted lofts and urban spaces use this technique.

Drop It Like It’s Hot

These aren’t your parent’s drop ceilings. Today’s drop ceilings come in pressed metal, compressed wood panels and other attractive designs. They’re affordable, simple to install and allow easy access to the plumbing and electrical systems.

Go Back To The Basics With Drywall

Whether you’re looking to get rid of a popcorn surface, fixing water damage or finishing your basement, it might be prudent to minimize the cost and work involved by using drywall. You can purchase drywall for as little as 50 cents per square foot and it’s easy to paint once installed.

Utilize Soffits

Duct work and plumbing that cut through the middle of a room can be an eyesore and hard to work around. Utilize soffits to create ceilings of different heights, called tray ceilings, or use them to blend uneven surfaces into corners along a wall. They’ll help hide obstructions and make it easier to cover with drywall and paint.

Don’t let an unattractive ceiling get you down. Use one of the solutions above for an eye-catching ceiling that will keep you looking up and improve the value of your home at the same time.

For additional advice on updating your home for top-dollar, just give your trusted Henrico real estate professional a call!

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5 Spring Decorating Ideas To Spruce Up Your HomeWith spring just around the corner, now is a good time to begin decorating your home for the upcoming season.

Whether you enjoy chic decorations that are budget-friendly or easy changes to create a fresh look, below are five quick ideas to brighten up your home for the season.

Add a Pop of Color

Spring is a good time to add color to your décor. Switch your tablecloth in the dining room for one with lighter colors.

Cover decorative pillows with pastel pillowcases to lighten a room.

Adding decorative centerpieces to tables that contain a pop of spring colors is also a simple way to get your home ready for spring.

Find A Spring Wreath

Wreaths are usually hung during the Christmas holiday, but other seasonal wreaths are becoming a popular trend.

You can purchase a floral wreath to hang on your front door or get creative and make a spring wreath using flowers, plastic eggs, fabric or a variety of other materials.

Place Flowers Around The House

Flowers are perfect to use when decorating for spring. Place lilies or tulips in a colored vase to sit on the table or hang floral prints on a bare wall to add color.

Whether using fresh flowers or floral inspired pieces, nothing says spring like brightly colored blooms.

Hang Up Mirrors

Putting up mirrors around your house will help brighten your home by reflecting light into every corner. Don’t be afraid to add more than one to a room, and choose looking glasses with fun frames to light up your space — and your mood.

Remember, Less Is More

Spring is also a time when people clean out their houses and de-clutter. Spring is thought of as the season of fresh starts or new beginnings.

When decorating for spring, get rid of items you no longer need. Too many nick-knacks end up being dusty objects that constantly need cleaning.

Decorating your Richmond home for spring should not be expensive or time consuming. Making a few simple changes and adding bright colors will give your place a fresh feel and make it ready for spring.

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Create an Outdoor Living Space for Your HomeAs the weather gets warmer, the desire to get outside and enjoy the fresh air begins to take hold. Having a place to entertain or just unwind can add a new dimension and enjoyment to your home.

First, you have to decide what type of space you want to create. Whether you want to have an outdoor living room, a vacation-like spot or a place to meditate and enjoy nature, how you extend your living space is limited only by your imagination — and possibly your budget.

Start with your vision and make a list of the things you want to have there. Then go for it!

Choose a Theme

  • Vacation spot – Decorate with bright colors for a festive, tropical look.
  • Zen garden – Add a water feature, such as a fountain, for a calming effect.
  • Nature hideaway – Surround a patio or porch with plants and trees to bring nature closer to your home.

Find Elements to Enhance Your Space

  • Furniture – If your outdoor zone isn’t completely under cover, then make sure to choose all-weather furniture. Comfortable seating is key, so add pillows or cushions for extra luxury.
  • Lighting – String lighting throughout the trees, under umbrellas or around fencing to create atmosphere. It also helps to make sure you can see where you’re going once the sun goes down.
  • Outdoor kitchen – Bring the food with you! Keep it simple with a BBQ grill or add other elements like a refrigerator, sink and food prep area. And, don’t forget the beverages!
  • Fireplace – Extend your outdoor evenings into the fall by adding a fireplace for friends and family to gather around.
  • Borders – Define the borders of the area to increase privacy and separate the space from the rest of the yard or neighbors.

Your Richmond home is an extension of your personality. Creating an outdoor oasis can give you an opportunity to find your inner child, Zen master, or beach bum!

Make it as simple or elaborate as you desire, and open it up to friends, or keep it all to yourself. Follow these simple tips and create a wonderfully relaxing place right at your home for the summer.

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Simple Tips To Help Your Flowers Flourish This SpringFlowerbeds can be a very attractive addition to any Henrico home — if you have the time to set up and maintain them. Flowerbeds don’t necessarily require a profusion of costly flowers that need to be fertilized, mulched, covered during severe weather, and possibly re-planted on a yearly basis.

So put on your green thumb and brave the outdoors this spring. With the tips below, you’ll keep your flowerbeds filled and your house looking cheery without a huge money or time commitment.

Weed Eradication

Before you even start picking out roses and tulips, take care of the weeds. Gardens get weeds because there are already pesky roots hiding below the surface.

Dig up the soil and weeds before you plant. It will save you hours of maintenance in the long run and keep your flowers healthy.

Perennial Wildflowers

Wildflower mixes native to your area are often a good choice if you want an array of flowers, but don’t have the time or the motivation to take care of them.

These flowers can grow back easily every year and are well adapted to the climate and soil conditions in your area. Native wildflowers may need little more than watering and the occasional weeding.

Decorative Rock

Filling the beds with attractive decorative rock provides maintenance-free curb appeal to your home. Several colors of decorative rock are available and can be chosen to off-set the color of your house.

Planters may also be placed amongst the rocks to add live plants to your flower beds, and those plants can easily be moved inside before the weather gets too cold for them.

Low-Growing Shrubs

For low-maintenance ground cover in your flowerbeds, plant low-growing shrubs, such as various strains of boxwood or juniper.

The main issue with this option is that the shrubs take a while to grow and fill in. But once established, the only maintenance required is the occasional trimming of overgrown branches.

Vacant flowerbeds detract from the overall look of your house and contribute to an air of neglect. Attractive fillers do not have to be either expensive or difficult to put into place.

If you’d like additional tips on how to spruce up the outside your home, please call your trusted real estate professional for the best advice!

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Benefits of Owning a Green HomeGoing green is not just a new trend; it is a way of life that benefits not only the environment, but also your health — and your pocketbook.

Green living cuts down on carbon emissions and creates a healthier environment both inside and outside of a home. While green structures sometimes cost more initially, the money (and environment) saved in the long run is well worth the investment.

Health Benefits

Owning a green Richmond home has significant health benefits. Many conventional buildings are not properly ventilated and indoor air quality is often more polluted than the air outside.

Poor air quality is bad for your health and can aggravate asthma and allergies. Certified green properties tend to have excellent airflow and ventilation. They also use toxin-free materials in building and may have fewer problems with mold and mildew.

Environmental Benefits

Homes are responsible for a significant portion of the carbon emissions on earth. A green home has a smaller carbon footprint since it is built with better insulation and fitted with energy-efficient appliances.

Green structures are built from sustainable or recycled materials that are meant to lower the impact on the environment. Proper green buildings also take advantage of natural lighting and airflow to reduce the use of electricity to light and to help warm and cool their interiors.

Financial Benefits

Green buildings are constructed to use less energy, which means you should pay less in energy costs. Ventilation systems in green structures are better insulated to reduce air leakage.

Builders also install fixtures that conserve water and are energy efficient. The initial cost might be slightly higher, but the monthly bills can be cut almost in half in many cases.

There are even more financial, environmental and health benefits to owning a green property. Living in a green home can allow you to save yourself money and help the earth, all while living in a healthy environment.

If you’re looking to purchase a new house, consider a green property. If you have any questions on current green properties available in the local market, please call your trusted real estate professional right away.

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