5 Ideas to Increase the Value of a Basement


Photo courtesy Shannon Dittmann

Article Submitted by Fixr.com

The basement doesn’t just have to be a space to throw all of that extra storage. Show it as usable space, and it may even help you increase the value of the home. Basement remodels typically recoup about 70 percent of their costs at time of resale, which can add a tremendous amount of value to your home.

Making it the coolest room in the house may not be too difficult either. After all, basements tend to stay cooler during the summer months, making this an ideal place for the family to hang out when the weather heats up outside.

Photo courtesy Shannon Dittmann

1. Create an In-Home Theater

Basements not only are typically cooler than the rest of the home, but they’re also usually darker. For that reason, they’re an excellent place to add a theater to watch movies on those hot summer nights. Best of all, you don’t have to do a complete basement remodel, with costs around $50,000, to gain this space. A TV mount costs around $250, while built in seating costs around $840 – $1,680. (Just be sure for safety to completely waterproof the room before running wires through the basement.)

2. Make a Children’s Play Area

Basements are often neglected areas of the home, used primarily for storage and not much else. So why not turn your unused basement space into a new playroom for your kids?

Start with the staircase. Most basements have only partially finished staircases so installing a new one will help make the space more comfortable as well as safer. Next, ensure that you have egress windows installed, and that the basement is fully waterproofed. From there, you can carpet the floors to make the space more comfortable, and move your children’s toys downstairs to make more space in their rooms.

3. Create an Adult Entertainment Space


Photo courtesy Shannon Dittmann

If you love to entertain, consider building a bar into your basement. Basements are already the ideal place to install a wine cellar, so why not take it a step further and put in an entertainment area and bar for parties as well? Basements that walkout onto patios can be the ideal place for summer entertaining, giving guests a way to get in out of the heat or a summer rainstorm. Consider putting in a tile floor to give the room a finished look and keep the floors easy to clean. Match the bar countertop to the color of the floors for a fresh, stylish appearance.

4. Create a Garden Utility Room

If you spend any time out in the garden, you probably know about the dirt, tools, and pots that accompany this hobby. Basements are a great place to install a utility sink and counter, and to store all of your garden paraphernalia. Installing a french drain and a hose will make cleanup a snap, while shelving placed just beneath the windows will give your plants a place to sprout before you take them outside for the summer.


Photo courtesy Shannon Dittmann

5. Create a New Family Room

Family rooms often get even more use than the more formal living room, so family rooms in a cooler basement can get a lot of use during the summer months. Basements finished as family rooms may be coveted by homebuyers too, giving you the maximum return on investment. This includes not only tiling or carpeting the floors, but also putting up drywall to complete the walls as well. Consider adding a suspended acoustic ceiling to help insulate the basement from the sounds above, while making the rooms more attractive at the same time.

To find out more about projects to tackle around the home, be sure to visit the Cost Guides.

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Home Price Change Expectations Flat

Many homeowners have enjoyed a return to positive equity in recent years, with home prices on a consistent upward trend in most markets. How high will values go?

Potentially not much further, according to consumers in the June 2017 Survey of Consumer Expectations by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, who held firm on their expectation of a 3.5 percent change in prices—the same expectation given in May.

Consumers, in addition, anticipate the median inflation rate to be 2.5 percent in one year and 2.8 percent in three years. The likelihood of finding a job, based on their perceptions, grew to 59.2 percent in June, and the likelihood of losing a job shrunk to 13.5 percent. The share of consumers surveyed with improved finances over the last year soared to 34.8 percent—a record.

Source: Federal Reserve Bank of New York

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Water Woes: Tips for Reacting Quickly to Summer Flooding

Editor’s Note: This was originally published on RISMedia’s blog, Housecall. See what else is cookin’ now at blog.rismedia.com:

Living in areas prone to summer flooding means you must take quick action if and when flooding occurs. Why? Because all that moisture can ruin your home and your belongings. While awaiting a call back from your insurance company and maybe a visit from a professional mold mitigation company, you can get started cleaning up.

Water and summer heat are breeding grounds for mold that can grow in any areas left damp after a flood. So, it’s important to follow a few tips to help ensure your home does not become a petri dish.

Think Safety Always
You should begin cleaning up and drying out your home right away, but don’t let this urgency mean you skimp on safety. Remember, flooding means there could be mold or other bacteria growing in and on items in the home. Keep your children and pets out of the house during the cleanup process to avoid making them sick.

If your HVAC ducts got water in them, do not turn them on until you can have them inspected. They’ll need to be cleaned to remove bacteria from floodwater. Before entering your home, make sure your electricity isn’t on if you believe electrical wiring was affected by water. You should not enter the home until you’re sure there is no risk of electrocution.

You must wear a mask, gloves and some good water-resistant footwear to keep yourself and anyone working with you safe. Depending on the extent of the flooding, you may want to wear hip- or waist-high boots or waders. Don’t touch any items in the home without wearing gloves, and throw out any food that has come into contact with floodwater.

Drying Out the Home
Do you know mold can start growing in as little as 24 hours? It’s important to get in there and launch the drying process. This includes opening doors and windows to let air in and using a wet/dry vacuum to begin sucking water from carpets.

You should also invest in the equipment needed to help dry out the home. Carpeting is hard to dry out and is often an area where mold can grow quickly. Investing in a portable fan that is stackable, lightweight, and easily portable can make drying out a carpet a little quicker and easier, especially if you live in a coastal area that floods often. The key is to get air flowing through the home in order to dry out wet basements, too. You can also place fans around the house to help circulate air.

Get Damaged Items Out
Depending on the amount of water in the home, you may have water damage in the basement—but sometimes the water rises into the first floor of the house, as well. Unfortunately, this means you’ll need to throw out water-soaked belongings. This includes many items in your home, such as:

  • Carpeting and padding
  • Pillows and mattresses
  • Baby toys
  • Stuffed animals
  • Books and other paper products
  • Upholstered furniture
  • Rugs
  • Cosmetics
  • Wall coverings
  • Food items
  • Anything made of foam rubber
  • Insulation and drywall

You can usually salvage clothes — but wash them in hot water—and upholstered furniture may be salvageable if it can be professionally cleaned. Wood furniture may be saved if you quickly take it outside and remove any drawers or shelves to allow it dry out. However, keep in mind that wood does soak up water and can become moldy and unsalvageable.

Always take photos of items damaged by floodwaters for insurance purposes. To decide what to keep and what to save, consider the monetary and sentimental value. If it’s valuable to you, check with mold mitigation specialists to determine if you can properly clean the item.

Disinfect the Home
Once the home is drying out and you’ve removed all the damaged items, you can begin the disinfection process. Clean walls and floors using disinfectant cleaner and warm water. You can also use a solution of one cup of bleach mixed with five gallons of water.

Go over these areas more than once to make sure you’ve removed any bacteria and germs that may have come in with the floodwater. Sometimes floodwaters are contaminated with sewage that can make your family sick.

Prevent Future Damage
Once you’ve been through a flood, you may want to consider what steps you can take to reduce the damage next time, especially if you live in a flood-prone area.

Store your belongings up high. Instead of storing items in your basement, place them in the attic. At the very least, move them up off the floor and keep items in plastic storage bins.

Get rid of any items you no longer use. The less clutter you have, the less you’ll have to clean up should your home flood again.

While there’s not much you can do to stop acts of nature, you can jump in right away and begin cleanup to make your home safe, clean and livable as soon as possible. Have a plan in place and invest in any equipment you might need so it’s on hand and ready to clean up your waterlogged home.

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Typical U.S. Home Worth More Than $200,000 for First Time

Home values across the country are up 7.4 percent over the past year, to a median home value of $200,400, according to the June Zillow Real Estate Market Reports Continue Reading →

Home Safety: How to Protect Your Family at Every Stage of Life

Editor’s Note: This was originally published on RISMedia’s blog, Housecall. See what else is cookin’ now at blog.rismedia.com:

We all want to keep our families as safe as possible, but home safety requirements change as your family grows and evolves. From newborns to pets, a variety of different strategies can ensure your home is as safe and accommodating as possible for your family. Here are some simple tips to help keep your family safe through every stage of life.

Getting Your Home Ready for a New Baby
Babyproofing a home is largely about protecting them from their own curiosity. Once a baby learns to crawl, anything in reach is fair game to be grabbed, touched, or chewed on.

  1. Install baby gates to keep certain rooms off-limits. This is especially important near stairs.
  1. Fill unused electrical outlets with plastic plugs. Outlets are like magnets for babies.
  1. Store breakable items out of reach.
  1. Keep small items out of reach, as well. Small objects that could be put into mouths are a major choking hazard. A good rule of thumb is if it can fit in an empty toilet paper roll, it is small enough for a baby to choke on.

Home Safety for Toddlers and Elementary-Age Children
Toddler-proofing is a little different from babyproofing in that a toddler is usually more resourceful about getting into things they shouldn’t be. Toddlers will climb, open doors and drawers, and generally get themselves into trouble.

  1. Move anything small or breakable up higher now that your child is walking and climbing. You’d be surprised at what they can reach.
  1. If you have a pool, build a fence around it. You’ll want a barrier at least a few feet high to make it harder for your toddler to climb over.
  1. Secure drawers and cabinets with childproof latches.
  1. Place safety locks on windows and doors to prevent them from being opened.
  1. If you don’t have a home security system, install one for added safety. Choosing a system with the right features, like motion sensors and security cameras, can help you know if your curious toddler runs out the door or it can help you keep tabs on things while the babysitter is over.

Safety During the Teenage Years
As your child grows into their teens, the focus moves further from physical safety and more towards online safety and general home security. Online safety is extremely important with teenagers in the house.

  1. Set clear boundaries and expectations with your teen regarding potentially dangerous situations. These could involve simple subjects like safe driving or complex topics like drinking and drugs.
  1. Keep alcohol, firearms, and any prescription or over-the-counter drugs locked up in a safe place.
  1. Educate your teen about safe internet usage. This includes avoiding malware, being smart on social media, and using privacy settings.

Pet-Proofing Your Home
Pets make great additions to the family, but they come with their own safety needs. In many ways, pet-proofing is similar to babyproofing. Pet-proofing involves keeping harmful items out of their reach and making sure that they can’t escape the house or yard and run off.

  1. Keep cleaning products, chemicals, and medications in high places or locked where pets can’t stumble upon them.
  1. If your pet likes to chew on (or eat!) household items, make sure that you don’t leave anything lying around. It can be helpful to do a quick walkthrough of your home a couple times a day, such as when you leave and return from work.
  1. If you have a home security system, make sure the motion sensors are capable of detecting and ignoring your pets.
  1. If you have a fenced yard, check it for weaknesses or small gaps that a pet could squeeze through.

Getting Your Home Ready for Your Parents to Move In
As our parents get older, it’s not uncommon for them to move in with us. This can help ensure their safety and prevent the loneliness that often comes with old age. It can also present some unique challenges when it comes to home safety.

Depending on your parent’s age and their physical and mental well-being, you may need to make small home improvements for their convenience or physical safety. In general, you’ll want to try to minimize the potential for falls and make sure that help is always within reach.

  1. Install grab bars in the bathrooms near the toilet and shower. These bars can help support a person as they move in and out of the shower or tub, both making this task easier and helping prevent falls. Make sure they can support the weight of the person who’ll be using them.
  1. Walk through your home and check for objects that might make tripping hazards. Throw rugs, children’s toys, and pet toys can all be dangerous for people lacking the eyesight or reflexes to maneuver around them easily.
  1. Set up a medical alert system. This is a wearable device that essentially functions as a panic button—if a person falls or has a medical emergency, they can push the button to get instant access to help.
  1. Learn which foods are hazardous for senior health. As your parents age, their immune system weakens, making them more susceptible to food poisoning and health risks. Prepare meals at home that won’t threaten the health of your aging parents.

Your family grows and changes as time goes by, and so should your home safety plans. If you want to keep up with each of your family members, continually assess their needs. These tips should give you a great starting point towards building a safer home for your family.

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5 Movie Homes in Real Life


Editor’s Note: This was originally published on RISMedia’s blog, Housecall. See what else is cookin’ now at blog.rismedia.com:

Movie fans, looking to lurk around some of your favorite film locations? You’re not alone. Stalking cinema hot spots is an obsession for many, and we’re no exception. Below are five iconic movie homes in real life.

Gone Girl’s Missouri New Build

Image Credit: Alexandrea Morrow

Much of 2014’s nail-biting thriller “Gone Girl” (based on the best-selling novel of the same name) took place in this massive Missouri new build. The home used in the film is truly located in Missouri—a Hollywood rarity. The five-bedroom, six-bathroom home stretches over 4,413 square feet and was last estimated at $559,528.

Cher Horowitz’s Mega Mansion

Image Credit: Blogspot

This Los Angeles home has been featured in several Hollywood productions, but in one of its most well-known appearances, it served as the setting for Cher Horowitz’s lux pad in the cult darling “Clueless.” With that famous staircase (perfect for kissing your step brother), seven bedrooms and 10 bathrooms, this private palace is a cinema gem in Encino. The home, currently off-market, has an estimated value of $4,649,217.

Pulp Fiction’s Seedy Drug Den

Image Credit: ItsFilmedThere.com

Quentin Tarantino fans likely remember Lance’s low-lying ranch home in “Pulp Fiction.” Most infamous for the scene in which Lance resuscitates Uma Thurman—er, I mean Mia Wallace—after her drug overdose, this Los Angeles home has two bedrooms, one bathroom, and was most recently valued at $700,318.

The Tenenbaums’ Harlem Home

Image Credit: Pinterest

Wes Anderson fans can rejoice at the sight of this Harlem townhouse, the location of the Tenenbaums’ family home in his 2001 gem “The Royal Tenenbaums.” With four bathrooms and no listed bedroom count, Anderson and co. apparently rented the home for six months during production. The home is currently valued at $4,286,169.

A Home to Crash a Wedding In

Image Credit: Strawberry Milk

This gorgeous waterfront Maryland property, featured in the 2005 comedy hit “Wedding Crashers,” is actually an inn, so while you can’t live in the home Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn debauched in, you can pay to stay. The Greek Revival, built in 1816, overlooks the Chesapeake Bay and was originally used as a private residence.

*All estimates are based on Zillow at the time of publication.

Zoe Eisenberg is RISMedia’s senior content editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at zoe@rismedia.com.

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Gen X Homeowners Lag Behind in Building Equity, Showing Scars from Housing Crash

Zillow’s new report examines equity across generations and markets, revealing how the housing recession and recovery affected homeowners across the country. Continue Reading →

How to Avoid High Auto Insurance Premiums

Editor’s Note: This was originally published on RISMedia’s blog, Housecall. See what else is cookin’ now at blog.rismedia.com:

High insurance premiums are a reality for many consumers, but they needn’t be for all consumers. High premiums are sometimes paid for by consumers who don’t realize they’re paying for them. Other people who overpay have no idea they have the power to lower their premiums using a number of tried and true techniques. It’s not impossible to find lower car insurance premiums, but it’s also not something most people know how to do without a little guidance. These tips can help you avoid paying high premiums, save you money, and make your life just a little more affordable.

Check Your Credit
The most important thing you can do before you sign any insurance contract is check your credit. Most insurance agencies use your credit to determine your risk as a customer. If your score is low, they figure you’re a risky customer. They think you’re more likely to file claims you can’t afford to handle on your own, and they charge you more than they charge other consumers. Now is the time to check your score, figure out if there are any mistakes on it you can fix to help raise it, and then apply for new insurance premiums.

Don’t Drive a Risky Car
It all depends on what you drive if you want to avoid high premiums. You’re going to get the best rates on newer cars that are large and filled with safety features. You’re also going to see better rates on cars that have easy-to-find parts, that hold their value well, and that aren’t sporting big engines that use a lot of power. It’s better to drive a safe car than a sports car.

Know the Crime Rate
There’s not a lot you can do about where you live, but you should know it can affect your premiums. If you’re shopping for a new home, check the crime rate to see if it’s high or low. People who live in areas with a high crime rate pay more. This is because they are more likely to see damage occur to their car in the form of vandalism or theft, and they’re more likely to get into an accident with someone who doesn’t have insurance of their own if the neighborhood isn’t as financially stable as others.

Know What You Need
Cheap auto insurance is entirely possible to have if you know what kind of coverage you need. If you drive a brand-new car, you need a lot more coverage than someone who drives an older car. If you drive a car that’s paid in full, you might not need as much insurance as someone who has a car with a loan on it. It’s all dependent on what you drive and if it’s paid for. Lowering your coverage to complement your needs is a good way to save money and avoid paying high premiums.

Know How to Pay
Did you know you can lower your premiums by allowing your insurance company to automatically debit your fee each month from your bank account? When they feel they’re more likely to get paid, they’re going to offer you a discount. When you pay your premium up front rather than paying monthly, you’re also eligible for bigger discounts. Know what you can save when you pay up front, and you might just avoid a much higher deductible.

Where you live and several other factors all play into what you pay for car insurance, and you should know these things in advance. It’s easier to save money on insurance when you’re aware of what you’re looking for and which factors affect your rates. Ask what discounts you get with your policy, and don’t be surprised when your agent begins listing what you might qualify to receive for being a long-time customer.

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Hot Home Trend to Watch: The Two-Toned Kitchen

By Melissa Dittmann Tracey, REALTOR® Magazine

Two-toned colored kitchens are gaining popularity this year. White and gray painted cabinets are dominating kitchen color schemes, according to the 2017 Kitchen & Bath Design Trends survey conducted by the National Kitchen and Bath Association.

Particularly gray-toned kitchen cabinets are seeing a surge in popularity lately.

Other colors are getting mixed in too, adding a little more pizzazz to kitchen design. For example, the surrounding kitchen cabinets may be white and then the center island may feature gray cabinets. Or, white cabinets may be on the top and then gray cabinets on the bottom.

Other materials are getting mixed in the kitchen too. The combinations, however, are mostly muted and simple. “Clean lines with no fussy moldings or trims,” one NKBA survey respondent said. “White kitchens are never going away, but I’ve recommended mixed countertop materials, mixed cabinet colors and frequently use lots of light/dark materials for contrast.”

That said, for the more daring, blue or black-toned cabinets as well as high-gloss finishes are gaining popularity in kitchen designs too, according to NKBA’s survey.

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Survey: Housing Came out on the Other Side—Mortgage Market, Not So Much

Most homeowners are content with the current status of the housing market, believing not only that they made a smart choice by owning, but also that conditions in their area have gotten better since the recession, according to the results of a new survey.

Ninety-one percent of homeowners and 83 percent of renters surveyed recently by Digital Risk perceive homeownership as “a good investment,” with 87 percent of homeowners seeing their home’s value hold or rise—some more than 20 percent.

Homeowners believe there is room for improvement, however, when it comes to obtaining a mortgage. Although 75 percent of those surveyed report that they supported “efforts over the past decade to make the mortgage process safer and more consumer-friendly,” just 22 percent of homeowners and 13 percent of renters think progress has been made.

“There’s no question that the housing sector continues to be a major driver of growth and recovery in the U.S. economy,” says Jeff Taylor, co-founder and managing director of Digital Risk. “It’s important to remember how far we’ve come in a decade. The fact that the American Dream of owning a home is once again considered a smart investment suggests the housing market has years of strong performance ahead of it—provided that more borrowers clearly understand the criteria and ‘pathway’ to obtaining a mortgage.”

“It’s no secret that Americans support a healthy housing market with clear rules and procedures,” says Rose Bogan, senior vice president of Governance, Risk and Compliance at Digital Risk. “Still, lenders and borrowers alike recognize that consumer protections can be accomplished in a more straightforward, efficient way. The challenge moving forward is for lenders to smartly use technology and procedures to adapt to shifting regulatory requirements as seamlessly as possible.”

Source: Digital Risk, LLC

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