‘American Dream Builders’ Episode 2: Before & After

Mid-century architecture is enjoying a resurgence, but it’s a home style that can look dated and dark if not updated. Such was the problem with the two homes that designers from NBC’s reality home renovation show American Dream Builders were tasked with.

The owners loved their “dream” homes, but were unsure how to make their homes modern and more functional. Designers and builders from Team Red and Team Blue tackled the homes’ small, dark living spaces and unused yard space and came up with designs that can be useful in any home.

What is mid-century modern?

Even if you don’t own a home built in the mid-century modern era — late 1950s through the 1960s — you can incorporate hallmarks of the look: clean lines, absence of visible hardware, perfect proportions and overall functionality. Furniture is usually a dark wood, designed to be streamlined and sleek. Accessories are minimal, but if they’re present, they’re geometric in metallics or natural materials. Mid-century homes are often one-story with exposed wood beams and slanted rooflines.

Look No. 1

Designer Lukas Michnik led Team Red this week, turning a small, cramped living area into an expansive and chic room that extended into the yard. The kitchen was updated and one spare bedroom was transformed into a chic, “Mad Men”-inspired den.

Den: Before

Den: After

The designers created a completely new function for the space.

Textured wallpaper, dark woods and accents create a comfortable space that even Don Draper would be comfortable in.

Designer Vanessa DeLeon explained that with this room, she wanted to create a “really sophisticated man cave.”

Rather than go the traditional route of big-screen TV or bar stools, Vanessa added subtle, masculine details.

“To give the room a real sense of masculinity, we painted the base molding black,” she explained. “That’s a nice detail that’s unexpected, but anybody can do it. It outlined the room and really tied it all together.”

To create some interest to the room, Vanessa added a statement wall behind the sofa. To make the statement wall a more neutral accent, she had the paint store match the base color of the wallpaper.

“It’s a very custom look for not a lot of money,” she said.

How you can get the look:

1. Baseboards don’t always have to be white — try painting them a rich black or brown.


2. Create a neutral statement wall — either with wallpaper or art.

This faux-food wall adds a rustic feel to this office.

3. Choose wood finishes and furniture.

The stools add a definite mid-century vibe.

Look No. 2

The first project for Team Blue, led by Andrew Flesher, was to open up the house and Darren Moore was assigned to update the outdoors into an extension of the living room.

Elaine Griffin led the charge on the living room, creating a layered look with lots of textures and of course, nods to mid-century classic shapes.

Living room: After

Rich wall color pairs beautifully with sleek furnishings.

How you can get the look:

1. Create a luxe look with rich wall colors or texture wallpaper.

Grasscloth walls add depth to a room.

2. Add mid-century modern furniture: streamlined, minimal pieces.


3. Accessorize with a few typical mid-century modern pieces: statement light fixtures, geometrical shapes and a shag rug.

A shag throw is functional and stylish.

Get more design inspiration from “American Dream Builders” contestants on Zillow Digs!


Erika Riggs, the Zillow Digs real estate manager, covers home design and trends. Read more of her work here

Source: http://www.zillow.com/blog/episode-2-before-and-after-147968/


7 Things Every Lease Agreement Should Include

Congratulations on buying your first investment property. Smart investors know the best way to safeguard their investment from potential tenant trouble is to craft a solid lease agreement that includes these key things:

1. The basic clauses. Every lease agreement must list the parties to the agreement, which would be you and the tenant, along with the property’s address. You also want to state the term of the lease, which could be month-to-month starting on the first with a particular end date or an automatically-continuing lease that remains in full force and effect.

2. Security deposit clause. Your lease should require the tenant to put up a security deposit that matches one month’s rent or more, depending on the value of furnishings and repair costs if something goes wrong. Some states require you to place the tenant’s security deposit in a separate interest-bearing account and, at the end of the lease, you must give the deposit plus interest to the tenant, less any damages. Make sure to check with your state and judicial regulations and, to save time and money over the long term, check with your real estate attorney to make sure your lease follows the law. Security deposits can be a problem if not handled correctly.

3. Maintaining the premises. The lease should tell the tenant that he is required to maintain the premises, abide by noise control rules and not change the locks without your written approval. You will want to itemize the appliances and furniture that are part of the lease, and note their condition and any other special considerations. Don’t expect a tenant to follow oral requests, such as not parking in the driveway. All requirements must be spelled out in the lease. Also note whether the tenant or landlord will be responsible for utilities. Take the time to clearly write out the details of your agreement.

4. Warning of concealed defect. In some jurisdictions you have a duty to warn of a concealed defect known to you, or a defect that it is reasonable for you to know about. If you know the deck is crumbling and you fail to warn your tenant, then you may find yourself explaining the situation to a judge. Better to disclose the known defect in the lease and, best of all, fix it before the tenant moves in.

5. Subleasing clause. At some point, most landlords have a tenant who wants to sublet the apartment to a friend or stranger. To avoid trouble make sure your lease includes a subletting clause that requires the tenant to obtain your written permission before turning the property over to someone else. When the tenant asks to sublet the property, you will be in a position to decline or accept their offer. But heed this caveat: If you want to agree to having the new tenant move in, then it’s best to end the original tenant’s lease and start the process from scratch with the new tenant. You should go through the entire background check with the new tenant, including a new security deposit and lease. Do not get stuck trying to enforce your original lease against a new tenant who was not a party to the original lease. That situation is a risk you cannot afford.

6. Termination. The best practice is to know your jurisdiction’s rules on terminating a lease and include those details in your lease so your tenant will not be surprised. Terminations occur at the end of a non-continuing lease and also when there is an eviction. Evictions are one of the most dangerous areas for the self-advised investor. You may think you know the rules, but if you improperly notify your tenant of a coming eviction and lock out, you may find yourself on the wrong end of a lawsuit. You can find free eviction paperwork online, but if you are planning to evict a tenant, you would be wise to consult with an attorney.

7. After the tenant leaves. Would you ever hold a tenant’s personal property for unpaid rent? In some states it’s against the law for a landlord to confiscate a tenant’s property and demand rent money in return. Other jurisdictions consider the property abandoned and allow the landlord to dispose of the items. Most states require a landlord to hold the tenant’s property for a short period of time and give notice to the tenant, and some allow the landlord to claim a storage fee for the hassle. The key is to check your local laws and spell out in the lease what you plan to do with personal property left behind by the tenant.

Include these important clauses in your residential lease agreement and you will be well on your way toward building a successful real estate investment empire.


Southern California-based Kelly Zinser is a real estate broker, attorney and legal analyst for Avvo.com.

Source: http://www.zillow.com/blog/key-clauses-in-lease-agreement-146965/

For Sale: Town Houses with 3 or more Bedrooms

Town houses are good “in-between” types of homes for those looking for a lifestyle that is: Not too big and maintenance-heavy like single-family homes, but not too small and prone to many people living in shared space like condos. Here are some town houses for sale across the U.S.

Charlotte, NC

1351 Killashee Ct #1061, Charlotte, NC
For Sale: $109,000

Charlotte, NC

Built in 2008, this 3-bedroom, 2.5-bathroom town house is conveniently located near downtown Charlotte, while offering the benefits of a quiet neighborhood. This 2-story 1,700-square-foot end unit has an open floor plan featuring a living room with high ceilings and a kitchen that includes a breakfast nook. Enjoy the outdoors on the backyard patio and or take a dip in the community pool.

Hurst, TX

133 Corinna Ct, Hurst, TX
For Sale: $175,000

Hurst, TX

With an astounding 4 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, and 2,235 square feet, this home’s measurements alone make it a great value. Built in 2006, this town house was once used as a model home and has been upgraded with hardwood floors, granite countertops, stainless steel appliances and a landscaped patio. Schools nearby are rated 7-out-of-10 and above by GreatSchools™.

Denver, CO

2788 Syracuse St Unit 114, Denver, CO
For Sale: $214,900

Denver, COThis 3-bedroom 2-bathroom town house offers a slice of urban living with a side of environmentally friendly features. The 1,147-square-foot home boasts high efficiency washers and dryers, Energy Star stainless steel appliances and eco-conscious carpet. Luxurious amenities include high ceilings, granite counter tops, range with convection and warming ovens and bamboo floors. Close to shops and recreation spaces, the home has a high Walk Score®. Assigned schools receive an impressive 8-out-of-10 and above by GreatSchools.

Elmhurst, IL

177 S York St Apt D, Elmhurst, IL
For Sale: $379,900

Elmhurst, IL

Located 18 miles east of Chicago, this 4-bedroom 3-bathroom town house is a short walk to downtown Elmhurst and the train. The 1,750-square-foot home is a desirable end unit with a gorgeous kitchen that is enhanced with stainless steel appliances. Relax in the master suite’s large soaking tub or take in the city views from the rooftop deck. Assigned schools receive a stellar 9-out-of-10 and above by GreatSchools.

Portland, OR

5314 N Borthwick Ave, Portland, OR
For Sale: $489,900

Portland, OR

With 4 bedrooms and 4 bathrooms, no one has to fight over who gets to shower first in the morning. At 2,333 square feet, this town house is roomy for city living. Ceilings soar to nine feet and a sound-blocking firewall ensures tranquility for you and your neighbor. Close to shops and attractions, this home received a Walk Score of 72-out-of-100.

New Rochelle, NY

23 Arbor Gln, New Rochelle, NY
For Sale: $569,000

New Rochelle, NY

Situated in New York’s Westchester County, this townhome has 3 bedrooms and 2.1 bathrooms. The 1,800-square-foot abode has many upgrades, including stainless steel appliances and custom molding. The master suite has a vaulted ceiling and a balcony. The ceilings overlooking the open floor plan measure up to 10 feet tall, and the assigned schools have ratings of 9-out-of-10 and above by GreatSchools.

San Jose, CA

1010 N Jackson Ave, San Jose, CA
For Sale: $699,990

San Jose, CAThis 4-bedroom, 4.5-bathroom home is divided into three levels, with a full bed and bath situated on the first. The 2,006-square-foot luxurious town house contains hardwood floors, a slate stone wall feature in the living room and surround sound. The kitchen has granite countertops with a center island, as well as stainless steel appliances. Nearby schools receive solid ratings of 7-out-of-10 by GreatSchools.

Source: http://www.zillow.com/blog/town-houses-with-3-or-more-bedrooms-148049/

Storybook Tudors for “American Dream Builders” Fans

If you caught Sunday’s premiere of NBC’s new reality home renovation show, American Dream Builders, you saw leading designers and home builders going head-to-head in the battle of storybook Tudors. Their challenge? To add improvements and style to two North Hollywood homes built in 1930.

Early 20th-century Tudor architecture — known for its charming pitched roofs and cross gables — remains a popular choice for homeowners across the country, but smaller Tudors tend to have chopped-up floor plans that can be problematic for growing families.

On the show, two teams of pros demonstrated how adding modern upgrades and opening up rooms is a great way to make a Tudor better suited for a contemporary lifestyle while preserving its character. After both renovations, the homes were not only were more functional; their Zestimate® home valuesalso increased by more than $100,000. While the Zestimate is not a substitute for an appraisal, it’s a great starting point for determining a home’s value.

Feeling inspired to renovate a Tudor of your own? We’ve rounded up a few standouts currently on the market in major U.S. cities. Click on the links below to see each home’s Zestimate, square footage, local school data and more.

Kansas City, MO

7220 Ward Pkwy, Kansas City, MO
For sale: $239,950

Kansas City, MO
Nicknamed after its famous Kansas City builder, this “Dible Tudor” is on the market in the Ward Parkway neighborhood. The interior, measuring 1,808 square feet, has been well preserved with gleaming hardwoods and original crown molding.

Chicago, IL

6043 N Marmora Ave, Chicago, IL
For sale: $395,000

Chicago, IL
This 2,000-sq ft Jefferson Park Tudor is just steps from the Indian Road Park forest preserve and bike trails. The exterior shows off classic, brick-wall cladding, while the interior mixes hickory wood floors and original kitchen cabinetry with new appliances and contemporary furnishings.

Nashville, TN

105 Cherokee Rd, Nashville, TN
For sale: $449,900

Nashville, TN
Measuring 1,876 square feet, this Nashville Tudor features a sunroom with crank-out windows, arched passageways and other vintage details. Updates include bathroom subway tile, contemporary kitchen cabinets and a gas range.

Dallas, TX

4441 Mockingbird Ln, Dallas, TX
For sale: $689,000

Dallas, TX
This inviting Dallas Tudor contains 1,965 sq ft and is located near top-rated schools in the Highland Park neighborhood. It’s also full of character with a cathedral ceiling, ornate chandeliers, turquoise bathroom tile, wooden built-ins and more.

San Jose, CA

1109 Garfield Ave, San Jose, CA
For sale: $729,000

San Jose, CA
While a modest-sized interior (1,026 sq ft), this Tudor has a great backyard patio for outdoor entertaining. Other highlights include original hardwood floors, a storybook fireplace and a spacious, finished attic.


Catherine Sherman, a real estate writer for Zillow Blog, covers real estate news, industry trends and home design. Read more of her work here.

Source: http://www.zillow.com/blog/episode-1-homes-146810/

Tips for Sellers in a Buyers Market

Selling your home in a market where there are more homes available for sale than there are buyers means that you really have to work at it. Buyers in a seller’s market are looking for value. They want the best house for the money. Buyers can be picky and simply won’t settle. You have to get in front of the buyers, have your home showing in its best possible condition and have the home priced right from the start. You must know the competition and see your home as a “product” listed on the open market. Make it stand out from the competition, either in how it is delivered to the market or how it’s priced.

Know the competition

It’s common that a would-be seller will receive “comps” from their agent around the time that they agree to work together. As part of the comparative marketing analysis, an agent will show a seller what is on the market, pending and sold. Oftentimes, it could be weeks or months before the seller actually lists his home. A slow market means more inventory and more competition for sellers. A seller must know what other homes are available and price their home accordingly. Hit the open house circuit the weekend before you list or keep a search going online of similar homes. Knowing the competition will help you decide how to price your home. You want to be the home that stands out from the crowd….in a good way.

Consider pre-marketing your home

A generation ago, buyers needed an agent to know exactly how long a home had been on the market. Why? Because that data was locked up in agent-only databases. Today, once a listing goes active, the days on market or DOM starts ticking for all the world to see online. The DOM is the best way for a buyer to gauge how your home fares in the market. If the DOM hits three months and your home is still listed, chances are slim you will get a full-price offer. These days, it’s smart to put out feelers before your listing goes live. Work with a good local agent and have them do some pre-marketing of your home to test the price and the market’s response to it. How does this work? In most communities, it’s not uncommon for agents to announce upcoming listings within their firm or on social networks. In some communities, there are entire websites dedicated to “pocket” listings.

Make sure your home is widely marketed

Buyers are everywhere today and your listing needs to be where they are. Most are online, specificallyon mobile devices at all times of day and night. If your home is not listed where buyers are looking, that’s one less opportunity. In a buyer’s market a seller can’t afford to miss one buyer. If your agent doesn’t understand the concept, you should be working with another agent.

Work with the right agent

Speaking of the right agent. Having the best agent representing your home will make the difference between selling and moving on or having your home sit on the market. A good agent is someone who actively sells in your local community. They know the customs and trends, not to mention governing laws. Agents like to work with agents they know. Work with an out-of-area agent or someone not familiar with your area and you risk being poorly represented.

Photos are key

A generation ago, a photo shoot wasn’t always necessary when selling a home. Today, it is potentially the most important part of the home-selling process. A buyer’s first impression of your home today will likely be online, via an email alert online or a text with the listing from their agent. You should spend as much time and attention on your photo shoot as you would for the first open house. Also, make sure that your listing photos are high resolution and optimized for the web and mobile.

Spend the right money to get the home ready

There is nothing worse than an eager seller spending a fortune to renovate their home prior to selling, only to do so in a manner that is not neutral or buyer friendly. A recent survey by Zillow Digs shows that the ROI on these projects isn’t high. If you want to get your home ready for sale, take a step back and spend money the right way. The best thing a seller can do is to clean and de-clutter. Investing in storage is one of the smartest things a seller can do. Also, smart cosmetic fixes like painting, cleaning and changing out some fixtures or finishes is money well spent when getting your home ready to sell.

Succeeding in a buyer’s market is not simply a matter of hiring an agent and listing your home. You need to do your homework: Know the competition and what is selling. Work with an agent who has relationships with the local community and knows your market. Don’t list your home with an agent who doesn’t have a plan to make sure that your home is widely marketed across the Internet and on mobile devices — that is where buyers are today. Be open to non-traditional means of marketing your home. One misstep in the selling process could set you back weeks or months.

Want to know whether you’re in a buyer’s or a seller’s market? Check out Zillow’s recent analysis.


For more insights into the important changes happening in real estate, read Brendon’s new book “Next Generation Real Estate.” Brendon’s practical real estate advice is regularly sought out by print, online and television media outlets including FOX News, CNBC, USA Today, Bloomberg, FOX Business and Forbes. A licensed Realtor and an active investor himself, Brendon owns real estate around the U.S. and abroad and is licensed to sell in California and New York. As a trusted real estate expert,consumers often call on Brendon for advice and to help them find a real estate agent. You can follow him on Twitter or Google Plus.

Source: http://www.zillow.com/blog/tips-for-sellers-buyers-market-147139/

The Do’s & Don’ts of Picking a New House Color

House with orange door
There’s nothing like paint to transform the look of your home’s exterior, but when there’s no shortage of shades from which to choose, it can be challenging to make a final selection. We’ve collected some essential do’s and don’ts to help you find a hue you’ll be happy and proud to live with for years to come.

The do’s

Consider colors.
 Many homeowners worry that a unique color scheme will end up costing more, but fortunately that’s not the case! Applying a little imagination to the selection process won’t stress your wallet any more than choosing a neutral shade would — so why not have a little fun?

Take a hint. Notice what colors exist on your exterior that cannot be changed — the dark gray flecks in your brick, for instance, or that blue cast in your roofing shingles. A cohesive color scheme will take into account these unchangeable shades.

Accent. Add character and charm by painting your window trim and architectural details in a contrasting accent color. And, don’t forget that you can also use color to emphasize your entryway.

Consider trends. Trends in exterior paint move at a snail’s pace. The color you choose today is very likely to still be in style tomorrow or 10 years from now. White used to be the “safe” choice, but more and more homeowners are experimenting with color and tinted neutrals. Tour a few neighborhoods to get a sense of what others are opting for.

Light vs. dark. Light colors make a house look larger and more inviting and if painted on a house set back from the curb, they can bring the structure visually forward. Dark colors, meanwhile, make a house look more substantial. Especially if applied to a home’s lower portion, they suggest stability and permanence.

The don’ts

Misplace the accent. 
Accenting is great, but only when used to highlight the more attractive elements of your home. Avoid drawing attention to drab features like gutters, air conditioning units or unevenly placed windows.

Ignore the neighbors. While it’s a good idea to get creative, it’s usually a bad idea to pick colors that will clash with your neighbors’ exteriors. You can always stand out but try to do so in an unobtrusive way!

Ignore the landscaping. Maximize curb appeal by ensuring your house and yard are in harmony. A green-painted house would get lost on a heavily wooded lot, while a bright color might appear too brash where landscaping is sparse.

Wing it. Exterior painting is a big deal so plan accordingly! Try painting a small amount of your main, trim and accent color choices next to each other on a hidden side of the house. That way, you can test how your scheme is coming together.


Bob Vila is the home improvement expert widely known as host of TV’s This Old House, Bob Vila’s Home Again, and Bob Vila. Today, Bob continues his mission to help people upgrade their homes and improve their lives with advice online at BobVila.com. His video-rich site offers a full range of fresh, authoritative content – practical tips, inspirational ideas, and more than 1,000 videos from Bob Vila television.

Source: http://www.zillow.com/blog/picking-new-house-color-146882/

How to Fix Squeaky Doors and Floors

Sure, squeaky doors and creaky floors are annoying, but if you’re trying to sell your home, they can actually scare away potential buyers who may wonder what other repairs you’ve failed to make.

There are numerous ways to try to silence these squeaks in your house. Some fixes are quicker and cheaper than others. And, pros warn, it’s unlikely any of these repairs will make the squeaks disappear forever; ongoing maintenance may be necessary to keep the peace – and quiet.

Subdue door squeaks

Oiling the hings of a door using an oil canThe cries that come from noisy door hinges are generally due to wear or settling. These squeaks and squeals can be quieted by squirting a few drops of oil into the offending hinge. This repair should stop the creaks for a little while.

If you are in search of long-term quiet, close the door and tap out one hinge pin at a time. Most hinges with removable pins are open at the bottom, so you can gently hammer a nail up, against the hinge pin to push it out far enough to grab it with your fingers or pliers. A bend in the pin could be the source of your squeak; place it on a sturdy surface and tap it straight with a hammer. (If straightening doesn’t work, you can buy replacement hinge pins at most hardware stores – just take along the original to be sure you’re getting the right size).

Once you’re sure the hinge pin is straight, use a piece of super fine steel wool to wipe away clean any dirt, rust or paint, then coat the pin with white lithium grease before tapping it back into place and moving onto the next pin. Once hinges are back in place, open and close the door to distribute the lubricant and wipe away any excess grease.

How to stop the squeak in your floors

Hardwood floors are beautiful, but after years of walking on them, they can become squeaky. Floor boards or subflooring rubbing against each other are generally to blame for the noise.

In order to squelch the sound, you need to know where it’s coming from. Walk around until you’re able to isolate the source of the squeak. The quick, easy fix is to Try sprinkling talcum powder around the offending boards. The powder will work to reduce friction between the boards and might temporarily quiet the squeak.

The long-term repair you choose will depend on where the squeak is in the floor and whether you can access the joists. Here are a few approaches:

  • Space between joist and subfloor from below: If you can, go to your basement or crawl space and locate the squeaky spot from below. Your goal is to remove the “give” in the floor; you can accomplish that by tapping a shim coated with carpenter’s glue into the space between the joist and the subfloor. Tap gently so you don’t end up raising the flooring. To add permanence to your repair, you can drive a one-and-a-quarter-inch drywall screw at an angle through the joist and shim and into the subfloor. Some pros also advise squeezing a a thick bead of construction adhesive into the crack along both sides of the squeaky joist and subfloor.
  • Fix floor boards rubbing from below: If the squeak is caused by floor boards rubbing against each other – not near the joist – you’ll need to screw the subfloor to the wood flooring from below. Drill a pilot hole about a half-inch shorter than the thickness of the subfloor plus flooring and use screws one-quarter-inch shorter than the floor’s total thickness. (Check the thickness by pulling a floor register and measuring the exposed floor.) Space your screws about six inches apart in the area of the squeak.
  • Fix from above: If you don’t have access to the underside of your floor, you’ll have to tackle the repair from above, basically by screwing the subfloor to the joists to keep them from moving around. The trick? How to do this without damaging your floor. Long finish nails can be used to pull the floor tight to the underlying joist. If the problem is caused by the floor pulling away from the subfloor, drive two nails into the floor at opposing angles. You’ll want to use a nail set to push the nails below the surface of the floor, then fill the holes with wood filler.

There are several products on the market to help with these repairs. Squeeeeek-No-More, for example, can be used to quiet squeaks on carpet floors laid over wood subfloors. The special screws are designed to break off below the surface of the subfloor so they can do their job without being seen.
Insert the screwhead into the slot, then rock the fixture back and forth until the screw breaks off below the surface. Similarly, the Counter-Snap Kit includes breakaway screws designed to stop squeaks in hardwood; once the repair has been made, you simply fill the hole with wood putty.

Source: http://www.zillow.com/blog/squelch-the-squeaks-144784/