Seller’s Tip: Take Care of Your Lawn

Listing a Home for Sale in Foster City or elsewhere?

A property that has a well manicured lawn has one of the best chances at showing pride in ownership than any other outdoor technique.  For one thing, there is a large upswing in the priority that homeowners place in their outdoor living spaces.

Therefore, the landscaping of your front yard (especially) as well as that of your back yard should look its very best when it’s selling time. Your landscaping will make a huge contribution to the resale value of your home, so make sure that it’s doing its best to help you out.

In fact, studies have shown that when the landscaping of a home is in excellent condition, it can sell for about 4 to 5 percent higher, while homes with landscaping in very poor condition can sell for 8 to 10 percent less. That’s a huge difference in the overall selling price of your home.

You might be wondering exactly how much time you should dedicate to sprucing up the landscape of your property. How much time and money is worth it for your sale? Even if you put a minimal amount of money, effort, and time in to your landscaping, it will help you in selling your home, and perhaps even getting a boost in the selling price. Every effort you make will help.

However, don’t overdo it. Remember that it’s not a selling feature; it’s only something to help the overall appeal of your property, so that the other selling features will be better appreciated. You should keep your lawn mowed so that it is even, and neatly short. Keep it well weeded, as these will only appear as blemishes to your landscaping. Make sure to use a weed eater to do the edges, as this gives your work a superior finish touch.

If there are any “bald” patches in your lawn, buy a small bag of seed and care for the spot, filling it in. This is especially important if you have a dog who digs or who leaves “pet damage” where s/he does his or her business.  After you fill in the dead spots that your dog has left, make sure to water the areas after your dog “waters,” to prevent new dead patches from forming. Watering the areas will dilute the urine to stop it from burning the grass.

This effort makes an immeasurable difference in the overall neatness of the house, and the impression that it will leave potential buyers.

See additional landscaping tips.


Plant Some Flowers

Flowers, especially bright flowers, can liven up the exterior of your home very inexpensively and easily. They needn’t be expensive or exotic. Even the cheapest, easy-care, low maintenance flowers will do just fine, such as:
sweet alyssum,
and bachelor’s buttons.

Your local garden center will be able to help you make the best choice for your location and purpose. Remember that annuals are cheaper than perennials, so they’ll suit your purpose perfectly. Keep in mind also that mixing bright colors like pink and yellow give a much happier appearance to the home than darker purples.

Flowers are an especially nice touch under windows, on porches, and in flower beds. They create a special level of warmth and depth, making your property appears cared for as well as enjoyed.

Tidy Up Outside

Take the time to walk around your property wearing good thick gloves, and carrying a garbage bag.  Pick up every bit of refuse, yard waste, and other unsightly things, and throw them away. When the garbage is gone, then do another lap and remove all of the clutter outside. This can include things such as:

  •   Kids’ toys
  •  Yard care tools (wheelbarrows, lawn mowers, weeding tools, garden hoses, etc.)
  •  Tools
  •  Bicycles

Depending on how you usually keep your property, this one effort can make a staggering  difference to the outer appearance of your home.


Trim Shrubbery  

Shrubbery and other greenery that has an unkempt appearance can often be misconstrued as a sign of neglect, and gives a bad impression of your house overall. Prospective homebuyers who see shrubbery that has not been well maintained may not even be aware of their observation, but it will have an impact on the way they view your property as a whole.

If they do observe the unkempt shrubbery directly, they may make the assumption that the rest of the home has not been properly maintained. Keep bushes and shrubs neat, and well-shaped, to give the overall impression that the entire property has been well cared for.

For that added touch, try to keep the shrubbery in line with the other greenery and outdoor decorations that you have on your property. This will be even more eye-pleasing from the street level, creating more interest.  Should the size of your shrubbery be such that it makes walking up to your home a challenge, you should consider taking them out. Shrubbery that is too large not only makes the home appear much smaller, but it also creates a hazard where safety is concerned. This may also make prospective buyers think of it as a hindrance because they’ll think of it as something that will need to be taken care of; this even before they’ve even entered your home. It’s a very inexpensive task that you can do yourself, and it shouldn’t take more than a couple of hours of your time to get done.

If you don’t have the time, the ability, or the inclination to trim the shrubbery, don’t just let it go. This can only risk losing a lot of time and money in the long run.  Instead, consider hiring a professional. This will cost approximately $35 to $45 per hour, but it will be well worth the small investment in the end.

With a bit of luck, you’ll only need to do it once before your home is sold – a one time effort that will go a very long way.


Decorating a Contemporary Dining Room

Decorating a Contemporary Dining Room

Home décor stores provide numerous options for decorating walls and horizontal surfaces, but buying ready-made works of art is not necessary when decorating a dining room or any space in the home. It is possible to come up with budget decorating ideas that look anything but budget priced. Consider the following budget ideas for a decorating a contemporary dining room, and come up with high-class contemporary dining room décor for far less than imaginable. Give the space a completely new look without spending a lot of money on overpriced overrated store-bought art and designer home furnishings.

Dress the Dining Room Walls with Color

To get the most bang for the buck when decorating a contemporary dining room, begin by decorating the walls with paint. Wall paint is by far one of the least expensive ways to change the entire look of any room in the home, and paint can fit into almost any decorating budget. Paint the dining room walls white for a clean crisp contemporary look, or add warmth and drama with color. Opt for walls of the same color, or create an eye-catching focal area by painting one dining area wall a different color. Use the focal wall for decorating with unique budget wall décor. If adding bright or bold colors or a combination of colors seems a little too daunting, play it safe with lighter shades. Bolder colors can be added to the dining room with the addition of budget priced contemporary art. This is a way to introduce color without commitment.

Create Contemporary Dining Room Artwork Using Whimsical Items

When looking for budget decorating ideas for a contemporary dining room, look no further than the kitchen drawers or buffet cabinets. Instead of buying overpriced oil paintings or other expensive works of wall art from a home décor store, opt for three-dimensional framed works of contemporary art. Mount colorful eye-catching items such as overturned plastic measuring cups of various sizes, interesting plastic utensils, or even an array of fun plastic party straws in various colors and designs. Using your imagination as a guide, and consider decorating with fun and whimsical works of homespun contemporary art. The aforementioned budget decorating ideas are only examples. Almost anything of interest can be framed behind tempered glass and mounted on a bare dining room wall.

Opt for Sleek New Contemporary Light Globes

When contemporary dining room lighting begins to look a little tired, give it a completely new and brighter look. One of the easiest ways of decorating a contemporary dining room on a budget involves reworking existing fixtures and décor, and dining area lighting is no exception. Opt for sleek new contemporary light globes rather than decorating with all new light fixtures. Colorful new globes with contemporary flair will make the fixtures look like new, and the cost of new globes will not break the decorating budget.

Accessorize the Table with Funky Flea Market Finds or Garage Sale Glassware

When the dining room is lacking table décor, do not search for new accessories in expensive home decorating stores. Stylish contemporary items are available for a fraction of the cost. Search for funky glassware at flea markets and garage sales. Look for colorful retro glass items from the 60′s and 70′s. Free formed colorful glass bowls of decades past make fantastic table centerpieces in a contemporary dining room, especially when decorating on a budget.

These are just some of the many ways of decorating a contemporary dining room on a budget. Some of the most impressive dining room arrangements are not expensive. Delve into your creative contemporary side, and come up with additional budget ideas for decorating a contemporary dining room. These options are only limited by the imagination and not the decorating budget.


Building the Perfect Home Theatre Room

Building the Perfect Home Theatre

There are plenty of companies ready and waiting to build your dream room, and they charge you tens of thousands of dollars to do it. However, if you want to save by taking on the project yourself, consider these five key elements of creating your media room, and the ways to exceed expectations without exceeding your budget.


Have you ever noticed how high-end audio stores always demonstrate their speakers in a special room? It’s no trade secret; the acoustics of your room have about as much to do with your perceived sound quality as the speakers themselves.

When you keep acoustics in mind for your room design, you can help contain sounds and minimize the penetration of outside noises by building a space that absorbs sound rather than reflecting or transmitting it. The key to incredible sound is how you cover the space, top to bottom.


Acoustic tiles are the ideal surface for your room’s ceiling. Visit any movie theater, and you will notice that their ceilings are covered with fiberglass panels much like the ones in the dropped ceilings you see in most offices. Fortunately, using these drop systems is the least expensive way to cover an unfinished ceiling.

Because of the low ceilings in my basement, I had to remove the existing ceiling first. Within the structure of the floor above, I added two layers of common fiberglass insulation. Two layers of insulation won’t retain much more heat than one, but packing in a second layer really helps to contain the sound. Though insulation is messy, it’s inexpensive and easy to install.

Next, I installed all of the hardware and wiring for the lights, speakers, and ceiling mounted projector.

Finally, I installed the drop ceiling made of standard fiberglass tiles. Most media rooms are black, to create a theater-like experience, and the hardest part was finding all of the tiles and hardware in black. I finally found a home improvement store that would special order it for me. If you are unable to find black panels, you can coat them with spray paint before installing them.

I completed the ceiling first so as to minimize the chances of damaging the walls or ruining the carpet. The total cost of our 150-square-foot-room was under $200.

Wall Surface

Most modern homes have walls made of drywall, while older homes like mine have plaster walls. Both materials have terrible acoustics.

To fix the problem, I added inexpensive, lightweight acoustic boards that almost any home improvement store will carry. I then had my carpet installer cover them with thin, indoor/outdoor carpeting, like the kind you’d find covering the walls of many movie theaters.

Again, you will want to complete the walls before you start on the floor in order to avoid ruining your floor’s carpet. My total cost was under $500 for the acoustic panels, the thin carpet, and the installation.

Window Coverings

If you have windows in your movie room, try to cover them to block out light. Room-darkening shades are a great option, especially combined with standard curtains. Alternatively, you can purchase heavier curtains that are lined to keep out light.

You can install room-darkening shades for about $30, and more expensive drapes can cost $100 to $200 per window.

Floor Coverings

For acoustic reasons, the floor of your movie room should never be wood, concrete, tile, or linoleum. Use a plush carpet if possible. I was able to have my carpet installer re-use carpeting that we removed from another room to expose wood floors, which kept costs at a minimum.


Most theaters use colors to control reflections of the light off of the screen and to make the room feel larger. We went with a black ceiling, dark navy blue wall covering, and an off-white floor carpet. This not only helps with optimal viewing but also has the effect of making a dark space seem larger than it actually is.


Lighting and Furnishings

Professional theaters invest a lot of time in creating the proper lighting system and seating plan to make the experience as enjoyable as possible. You’ll want your room to feel just as comfortable as a movie theater, if not more. As you plan your project, consider these five points:

The Right Balance

While you’ll want to be able to turn up the lighting before and after watching your movies, too much lighting during the film will hurt the picture quality and diminish your room’s overall ambiance. A windowless room may sound ideal, but you will probably still want just a little bit of light while you are watching your movie. The ideal solution is a dimmable lighting product.

Light Direction

Position your lighting equipment such that it lights up the room indirectly by shinning primarily on the walls and the floor. Avoid lighting the ceiling, as its darkness will make the room feel larger.

I found low-voltage lights and strung them on cables along each side of the room. These were available for under $100 at a home improvement store.

Remote Control

Once we are all comfy and ready to start the movie, it is nice to dim the lights without getting up. Likewise, it is no fun to stumble around in the dark looking for the light switch when you have to get up or when the movie is over.

To avoid this inconvenience, I wired my lighting to a dimmer switch with a remote control. Lutron makes these systems that are available for under $100.

Furniture Options

Specially-designed home theater seats are luxurious, but they come with a hefty price tag. The economical options are reclining chairs or a couch you already own. If you’re lucky enough to have the space and want to include two rows of seating, build a wooden platform six to twelve inches high to elevate the second row. Cover the platform with carpet and you’re all set.

Other Touches

We took the additional step of adding red curtains on both sides of our movie screen for about $100. They are strictly decorative, but it’s a great effect. Other people decorate their home theaters in the theme of a favorite film, while others decorate with a series of posters from popular movies.


The video system is the heart of the movie room, and it’s the focal point of your building plan. Still, you don’t have to blow your budget on the latest electronics.

Television vs. Projector

In our movie room, we replace the harsh light of a television with soft glow of a ceiling mounted HD projector. A projector is less expensive than a large flat-screen LED television, and you can easily get an astounding image of 100 inches or larger from an inexpensive model. You can find simple HD projectors for between $500 and $1,000.

Projector Screen

If you decide, as we did, to use a projector instead of a television, you will need a screen. Some people spend hundreds of dollars on a dedicated screen, while others save using their existing drywall. I chose the middle ground and built a 100″ screen for under $100 using off-of-the-shelf materials.

Video Source

Unlike a television, a projector does not necessarily include any means to tune programs, so if you want to watch regular TV in your media room, you’ll need an additional cable or satellite box. You can also enjoy free HD digital broadcasts with an antenna and a tuner. We use DVDs and Blu-rays as well as digital content streamed from our home media network. These days you can find a DVD player for under $50, and entry level Blu-Ray devices start at under $100.

Video Cables

To transmit the video signal from the source to the projector or television, you will need to buy cables. The best quality signal is transmitted by HDMI or DVI. Other standards include component video, composite video, and S-video. Just make sure that the formats used by your source are the same as that of your projector or television. Do not pay extra for premium versions of these cables: You can find low-cost cables that do the exact same thing from many distributors on eBay for just a few dollars.


You do not need to purchase the most expensive sound system for your home theater. In fact, the small size of most home spaces and their custom acoustics better lend themselves towards a small system rather than a larger one. You don’t want to overpower the room.


When you’re getting speakers, you might as well get a surround sound system, rather than a pair of stereo speakers. The most popular format is referred to as 5.1. This means there are five small speakers: two on either side of the screen, the center, and the two rear corners, plus one larger sub-woofer mounted in the corner to reproduce the lower frequency sounds.

There is a newer format called 7.1, which adds two additional rear speakers, but I find the difference to be negligible. Expect to pay $300 to $500 for an entry-level 5.1 speaker set.


Your receiver will allow you to accept audio from all of your sources and amplify the signal sent to your speakers. You will need a receiver that can play back surround sound in your chosen format. Fortunately, now that surround sound technology is mainstream, this capability is be standard on most receivers. Surround sound receivers are available for $200 and up.

Speaker Wire

Lastly, you will need to purchase wires to connect your receiver to your speakers. Do not waste your money on specialized wires sold as “speaker cable.” Simple electrical cords called bell wire are the exact same thing. Any hardware store you visit will sell these wires by the foot.


Once you have chosen all of the pieces of your system, you will then have to construct it. It doesn’t take expert skill, but some aspects will require professional help.

I wired the speakers and the lighting before I got to work on the ceiling. Then, I needed to hire someone to install the carpeting on the floor and as wall coverings for around $150. Finally, I connected the audio and video components myself.

Final Word

Our final total cost for building our movie room was approximately $3,000, split almost evenly between remodeling costs and electronics equipment. In the end, it was worth the investment for us. As parents of a young child, we do not have many opportunities to go out to the movies. While $3,000 seemed like a lot up front, it cost us about as much as it would have to buy movie tickets and hire a baby sitter every couple of weeks for the past few years. Plus, we use our theater far more often.

We end up saving in the long run, and furthermore, visitors who enter our movie room are so blown away by it that we are confident that it has added value to our home. If you have a space in your house that is suitable to a home theater, you can build a pretty impressive room for less money than you may think.

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Adding Granite to Your Luxury Kitchen

Adding Granite to Your Luxury Kitchen

How Much Do Granite Countertops Add to Home Value?

By Kharin Gibson, eHow Contributor

What you put into a home can magnify the value of what you get out of your home when you sell it. Installing high-end products such as granite countertops into a newly built home or remodel increases the overall marketability of the property. It also enables you to demand a higher dollar amount at sale time than comparables in your area. Adding detail and upgrades are definitely preferred options for increasing a home’s worth.

1.   Add Appeal

o        When shopping for a home, potential buyers look over every detail of a house. Buying a high-ticket item always encourages buyers to scrutinize craftsmanship. The buyer’s goal is to make sure he is getting his money’s worth. Using granite as a choice for countertops offers more than just beauty to a home, it adds dollar value. Kitchens and bathrooms are usually the main focal points for buyers. If they fall in love with either or both, it sways their decision into a more positive direction. Installing granite countertops is one way to add elegance and appeal to any home.

Add Sophistication

o        Over the years granite countertops have steadily been coming into vogue and are what a discriminating home buyer is expecting. Granite adds certain sophistication to kitchens and sleek style to bathrooms. Options abound when choosing granite. Assortment of color, vein variation, added flecks and thickness are some of the many distinctions found in granite. Granite can enhance and coordinate beautifully with different colors of cabinetry. It is a naturally occurring stone that varies in quality based on what part of the world it comes from. Making the investment to install granite over other countertop options is, by far, a wise choice.

Add Value

o        Not only is granite appealing to the eye, it is a stronger, more durable material than other more traditional laminate countertops. Granite is preferred by home builders and remodelers not just because of its sheer elegance but because of its overall durability. The value of the stone is tied into its longevity. It definitely outlasts other materials and with very low maintenance, granite countertops can last a lifetime. Granite offers a timeless appeal that only increases in value. It adds an elegance and lasting beauty to any room in a home.


o        Choosing granite for countertops will add about twenty-five percent of its retail value to the appraisal value of your home. That may or may not sound like much, but it is definitely a return on your investment.

Worth It

o        Coupled with the fact that it will not have to be replaced as often as traditional laminates, it’s definitely worth the investment. Not only can you increase the aesthetic appeal to your home, but you can add quantifiable value on the final sale price. Those are two things to smile about.
Read more: How Much Do Granite Countertops Add to Home Value? |