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Not all home sellers are completely truthful about the condition of their property. It is unfortunate that if you were to hire a professional inspector for each viewing, it would get incredibly expensive. Thus, here are a few things that you can spot yourself, telling you to avoid the purchase.

The first thing is that you must get to know the neighborhood. This is of absolute vital importance. Is it a growing community, or is it in decline? If there are many foreclosed homes and businesses, the community is going through tough times. Make sure you visit the area on two different occasions. In doing so, you will also become aware of traffic. Do also come at least once at night, so you can see whether the streets are safe and quiet at night or not. Speak to the police and ask for statistics on local crimes.

You should now look at the property itself and how it was treated. Signs of regular maintenance are hugely important. If it looks run down from the outside, it is likely that the inside isn't in a much better condition either. Always look at the wiring too. Although you probably won't be able to identify all of the problems yourself, some red flags are easy to spot. If you spot that outlets are warm or that lights flicker, there is likely to be a wiring problem. Similarly, if you notice that there is a single wall, or just a few walls that have been painted very recently, where others haven't, the owners may be hiding something. Also inspect the windows. Look at whether the windows have mold or condensation or are hard to open; this could be a sign of expensive problems.It goes without saying that if there are any rooms that the sellers don't want you to see, you should avoid the property completely. If there have been any structural changes to the original property, you need to check whether these were done in accordance with various building regulations.

At the end of the day, only you can decide whether or not you should purchase a property. Additionally, if you find that there are certain problems, you could use this as a negotiating point to drive the price down. You do have to ask yourself whether that bargain is worth the potential financial hassle you are putting yourself through. Whether you purchase a property as an investment or as a home, it is always going to be a building that somebody will live in, and you need to make sure that the quality of life in that property can be pleasant and enjoyable. It goes without saying that checking the condition of the property itself is very important, but the area it is in must be focused on as well. To check on the actual property, all you really need to do is hire the services of a property inspector. When it comes to the neighborhood, however, you need to have a personal feel, something that cannot be achieved by a check box list.


There’s a reason that so much money is pumped into the remodeling and repair industry: it increases the value of the property. However, often an investment into an upgrade won’t make sense in terms of what you’ll be able to make back on it over time, so careful consideration is definitely needed. That’s especially true for basic design decisions such as the flooring. So, if you have a rental property, why exactly would you want to put in new floors? And then, how exactly do you figure out which type of flooring fits the situation? Here are a couple of reasons why you may want to put (or at least think about putting) in new floors. 

To breathe new life into an apartment. Switching out to a different type of floor makes the ambience completely different. If a room had dirty carpet, a vinyl floor that was tearing or commercial tile that was coming up. Changing the floor will give the space a clean, well maintained feel.
To drive up the value of your property. You can see increased value provided you make wise choices, such as switching to hardwood floors or fresh kitchen and bathroom tile.
To give a sense of spaciousness. Making the flooring uniform creates a perception that the apartment is bigger.
Decrease the heating bills. If you are in a northern city, it sometimes makes sense to use carpet, because it can bring down your heating bills. Tile or wood floors, on the other hand, don’t absorb the heat nearly as much, so they are often preferable in southern environments. 
Prevent future maintenance. You can avoid the need for repairs in the future by putting in floors that resist damage in the public parts of the building and other areas of substantial use. But do you know which flooring type is right for your situation? Well, the type of flooring you put in should definitely be based on what the property is worth, where it is, and how a given area is used.

How do you determine what the property is worth?
Well, the fair market value will play a huge role in determining the quality of flooring that should be used in the property. You do not want to spend a ridiculous amount on the flooring compared to the value of the home. Luxury homes should feature luxury flooring:

Skip laminate and go for real hardwood. It’s a good idea to invest in a high-end carpet rather than a standard one. Use marble or a similarly sought-after stone for tiles. When the property is not high-end and might have more people moving in and out, you want your floor to withstand the many transitions: 

Tile that’s designed for heavy use so it is less likely to be damaged. Carpet is probably not the best bet in a typical rental. It often must be replaced frequently because of staining and bad odors it absorbs. Do you want wood or a wood alternative? There are many options including laminate, engineered hardwood and solid hardwood that will make sense for this price range.

Is location important?
Your location in the country determines your climate, and that’s critical to flooring.
When you live in locations with significant humidity or high temperatures, you may want to go with tile rather than carpet or wood. It helps lower the temperature and doesn’t require frequent replacement. Hardwood floors will expand when it gets humid, sucking in some of the water vapor in the air, resulting in cracking and warping.

Carpet, similarly, has a couple of problems in those environments: retention of heat and moisture (with the potential for mold growth). Within the property, looking at a specific area, you need to consider how that space will be used. Bathrooms typically use tile because there isn’t a moisture or heat issue related to that flooring type. The kitchen is often in tile for the same reason. Carpet would never make sense in a room where food is prepared. Some buildings now use hardwood, but it’s a questionable choice since the wood can buckle from heat and moisture.

Is carpet bad?
Carpet isn’t all bad, though. On second floors, where you are trying to reduce noise, carpet could be an option as it absorbs sound better than most other flooring materials; it also helps insulation.


Interior designers are often called upon to give input about lighting in residential environments. In trying to tackle a lighting dilemma, many fixtures get specified in living areas, kitchens and baths that waste energy and do not get light where it is needed most. These ineffective specifications are often repeated as homeowners are unsure of lighting solutions and tricks of the trade. But sometimes, knowing what not to do can help make you look like a pro. Below is a list of common lighting mistakes, so that you can avoid them from the get-go, and attain the perfect lighting for your home. 

Kitchen Mistake 1: Installing recessed downlights everywhere. This is one of the most common errors that lighting design professionals see. Builder spec versions of can lights can be very inexpensive, and people often assume that laying them out in a regular grid gets light everywhere. Unfortunately, this is not so. With an array of cans, we might waste nearly half our watts and still have a space that feels like a cave because the walls are dark. The kitchen should have the perfect amount of layered light over the island, as general overhead light and for task lighting under cabinets

Kitchen Mistake 2. Forgetting task lights in the kitchen. There are many better ways to light the counter, and one of them is to use fluorescent (T5), xenon or LED task lights under the upper cabinets. If your kitchen design lacks upper cabinets over some work surfaces, don't worry. This is a situation where wall-mounted or ceiling recessed adjustable fixtures with the right lamp make all the difference. Adding several low voltage halogen fixtures with a narrow flood beam distribution and focusing them on the task area will do the trick. Remember to choose your fluorescent or LED color temperature wisely.

Kitchen Mistake 3. Neglecting to control different types of light separately. For maximum efficiency and flexibility, each type of light should be controlled separately, and any incandescent or halogen light, or dimmable LED's should be dimmed. Controlling multiple sources can be achieved by multiple light switches, but there are many more sophisticated ways to achieve control. From a simple programmable wallbox system for single room control with preset scenes, to wireless controls that generate their own power and can be reprogrammed from a laptop or phone, controlling the lighting yields energy savings combined with the right amount and type of light for different times and uses.

Bathroom Mistake: Using downlights over the vanity without adding lights on the side. Standing directly under a downlight, without any light at the sides of the face, creates exaggerated and unflattering shadows. In the bathroom, using a downlight over the sink is fine to accent the expensive polished nickel faucet you've specified, but it's insufficient for tasks like shaving, tweezing, and applying makeup. For this, we need light at the sides of the mirror at eye level to minimize shadows and provide even distribution. This can be achieved with sconces flanking the mirror.Mirror sconces and overhead cans on a dimmer create the right effect.

Hallway Mistake 1: Using incandescent or halogen sources without dimming. While we are all finding ways to retrofit lighting with more efficient, longer lived light sources than incandescent, it is still a viable and important part of lighting in a residence, provided it is dimmable. By dimming, we decrease energy and heat output, and we lengthen lamp life. Hallways should have dimmable wall washers and overhead lighting creates a mood while lighting a pathway.

Hallway Mistake 2: Forgetting to incorporate ambient, task AND accent lighting. Lighting designers understand that all well-designed spaces incorporate different types of light. Ambient light is general lighting for walking around, conversing, and identifying objects. Task lighting provides higher, more concentrated lighting for tasks such as chopping vegetables, shaving, or reading. Accent light is used to highlight artwork or architectural features, such as the beautiful glass tile you’ve specified in the bath or the ceramic collection your client will showcase in open shelves in the kitchen. Combining all three types of light gives greater functionality, interest, and likelihood that you will have sufficient lighting. Hallways should highlight show pieces, read a book and illuminate a hallway. You simply know it when lighting is done right. 

Ceiling Mistake: Putting recessed downlights in a high ceiling for ambient light. This results in a lot of wasted light and a very dark space. Light originating at high ceilings needs to have a very focused, tight beam spread with enough center beam candle power, such as that from a ceramic metal halide or high wattage halogen source. Better yet, using wall-mounted or pendant sources to reflect light off a light, matte ceiling surface often provides much better illumination than punching a lot of holes for recessed downlights.

Lighting Fixtures Mistakes In General: Decorating with light. Lighting designers think about light as an actual dimension, imagining the distribution and output from each fixture, as well as the quality of the light and color. Decorating with light fixtures, or choosing fixtures based on how they look rather than their light output, performance, and distribution often results in a waste of energy and less than optimal light output. For assistance with architectural light fixture choices, consider hiring a professional lighting designer who can transform your space through light, while providing adequate task lighting and often saving energy.


In-law suites have been popular in homes for decades, and are becoming even more popular day by day. Basically, what a mother in law suite is, is a small secondary building on your property, traditionally used either as a guest house or a scaled-down home for elderly relatives. 

Due to our uncertain economy and the fact that many people have become responsible for caring for an aging parent, these additions are becoming more popular than ever. In-law suites can also be an excellent source of income if rented out, especially for people who need additional cash flow in retirement. For parents, building an in-law suite can allow them to offer a helping hand to a grown child’s family without having to move themselves.

They’ll be right on hand to enjoy spending plenty of time with grandchildren, and to help out with babysitting when needed. For those whose elderly parents can no longer manage living alone, in-law suites offer a way to let your parents live with you without having to sacrifice their privacy and independence.

In-law suites consistently add value to the properties they’re built on. If you’ve considered adding one, it’s probably one of the best investments you could make in your home, as well as having plenty of practical benefits. However, before you begin building an in-law suite, there are several things you should know. There are several different types of secondary dwellings, and the laws may differ for each from county to county. The basic types of secondary dwellings are: 

• An apartment over a garage
• A basement apartment
• A unit attached to the main house
• A unit detached from the main house

The type of secondary dwelling you build will, of course, depend on many factors. If your property is relatively small, a garage or basement apartment is probably best, since they won’t take up additional space. However, if you’re building an in-law suite to house an elderly relative, a basement or garage apartment probably won’t work, since your relative would likely have difficulty with the stairs necessary to enter and exit and/or access shared areas.

If you have a limited construction budget, a garage or basement apartment might be best, since you don’t have to build an entirely new structure, only update an existing space. If you’re planning to move an elderly parent or yourself into your new in-law suite, you’ll also want to consider the fact that this will likely require you to do some significant downsizing to enable you or them to live comfortably in a smaller space. 

If you’re planning to rent your secondary dwelling, as you decide what type to build you’ll want to consider where your tenant will park, whether you’ll allow them to use your laundry facilities, whether you will be furnishing the apartment and/or providing appliances, in addition to how well appointed it should be for the rent you plan to charge.

Secondary dwellings are looked on favorably because they offer an easy and practical way to broaden the tax base, while also alleviating problems like housing shortages and the hardships of elder care. However, while most municipalities do allow homeowners to build a secondary dwelling on their property, there are, of course, many zoning laws to take into consideration before you draw up your plans.

In most cases, secondary dwellings must have access to off-street parking. In nearly all cases, secondary dwellings must have water and sewer systems that are separate from the main house. They must also have access to a septic system, although this can generally be shared with the main house, provided the system can handle the addition. 

Some secondary dwellings must have a locking door separating it from the main house and its own outside entrance. Some areas may limit who can live in a secondary dwelling. For example, only relatives of the homeowner, only a single tenant, etc. However, in most cases, the owner of the property must continue to live on the property, whether in the main house or the secondary dwelling. You cannot move away and rent out both buildings.

So, when making the decision to build an in-law suite, be aware that some of your neighbors may protest. However, as long as you’ve obeyed all the appropriate zoning laws there’s not much they can do other than give you the cold shoulder.



If you're remodeling and looking to add a new bathtub to your bathroom, find out what options are available for bathtub types, installation options, and materials to find the perfect tub for your bath and budget

Some tubs are all function, while others focus on indulgence. Let the primary use dictate your selection as you determine what works best for your household.

Standard: This affordable, built-in basic is often found in an alcove installation and doubles as a tub-shower combo; it can be purchased at your local home improvement center.

Whirlpool & Air Tubs: Think of it as an on-demand therapeutic massage in your home. A whirlpool forces water through strategically placed jets, and an air tub pushes a soothing, steady stream of air into the water. With the extra plumbing required, whirlpools tend to be more expensive than air tubs. Visit a showroom or chat with your designer to determine which option best fits your preference and space. 

Extra-deep dimensions allow the bather's body to be completely submerged. It can be either built-in or freestanding. Climbing in and out of a slippery tub can be dangerous, but a walk-in tub is great for those with mobility concerns.

A new tub can transform a once purely functional space into a stunning focal point. If you're starting from scratch on a brand-new bath, select an installation method that works best with the space you have to showcase your new soaking spot.

Commonly referred to as a recessed tub, this installation is used for rectangular tubs adjacent to three walls. Need to replace your standard tub? Take note of the drain location as you face the accessible side. This is how you determine if you need a left-hand or right-hand installation to match up with existing plumbing. 

Tubs made for platform installation drop into a deck structure usually built into its own enclosure, often adjacent to the shower. This method works well with whirlpools and air baths, since space below the deck can house and hide pumps, plumbing, and hardware, which remain accessible with a removable panel.

The difference between a platform tub and an undermount tub is mostly a matter of aesthetics. An undermount's rim is covered with a deck top; usually stone or tile that coordinates with surrounding materials -- and it gets its support from underneath, rather than hanging from the deck as a platform does.

As the name implies, this tub stands on its own on the bathroom floor without additional support, creating a stunning visual impact and focal point. Such an installation must be placed close to plumbing lines, so ask your designer if this option could work in your space.

Different tub materials offer different perks at different price points. Not all tubs come in all materials, however. 

Acrylic: This plastic material has a high-gloss look similar to enameled cast iron but weighs much less. Its easy-to-form nature makes it a perfect choice for whirlpools and air tubs. Repairs are much easier than those that must be made to a porcelain surface.

Fiberglass Gelcoat: Also referred to as fiberglass-reinforced plastic, or FRP, the gelcoat creates a glossy, easy-to-clean surface. It's not as expensive as acrylic, but it's also not as durable and can crack if something hits it hard enough.

Composite: This engineered material coated in enamel offers the heat retention of a cast-iron tub at a third of the weight, which makes it a top contender for second-story bathrooms.

Cultured Marble: Comparable to quartz countertops, this solid-surface material is produced from crushed marble set in resin and then covered with a clear gelcoat. Scratches can be buffed out of this material, but cracks can't be repaired.

Porcelain on Steel: Get the look and heat retention of cast iron at a lighter weight with a porcelain-on-steel tub. Like its heavier counterpart, it's susceptible to chipping and rusting.

Cast Iron: A tub fashioned from cast iron is one of the most durable and long-lasting fixtures in the home. When its hefty weight is combined with water, structural reinforcement may be necessary.


Whether you're remodeling a kitchen, building one from scratch or just ready to give yours a face-lift, countertops are a central part of the look. And you may be daunted by the wealth of options on the market; countertop surfaces range from well-known butcher block to less common materials such as glass and terrazzo. Here are some of the most common countertop options out there today: 


Pros: Granite's beautiful mottling and the host of colors and patterns found in nature make each piece one of a kind. It stands up well to splashes, knife nicks, heat and other wear and tear.

Cons: Like most stone, granite must be sealed every so often to avoid stains. And its heaviness means you'll need very sturdy cabinet boxes to support the weight.

Solid surfacing

Made primarily from acrylic and polyester, solid surfacing first was sold under the brand name Corian, which is often used as a generic term for it. Today, it's made by a host of manufacturers and has enjoyed steady popularity over the years.

Pros: Because solid surfacing is nonporous, it's virtually maintenance free. This means there is no sealing or special cleaning required. Although it can be susceptible to scratches and burns, those are easy to sand out. Color and pattern options are extensive, and because you're not trying for the look of a natural material, you can experiment with vibrant hues such as turquoise or tomato red. Seamless installation means there are no cracks to trap dirt and debris.

Cons: Solid surfacing can have a patently artificial look and feel, yet can approach the price of natural stone. As mentioned above, it doesn't stand up to hot pans or sharp knives as well as other materials. 


Crafted of resin and quartz chips tinted with color, quartz surfacing (also called engineered quartz or engineered stone) is a good compromise between the beauty of stone and the easy care of solid surfacing.

Pros: Quartz surfacing has the same advantages as solid surfacing with regard to maintenance. As an engineered product, it's available in a far greater range of colors and patterns than natural stone.

Cons: This material doesn't have the natural variegation of granite, so it may be evident that it's an engineered product. It's relatively pricey, although its durability can make it a worthwhile investment. 


Is there anything that looks and feels more glamorous than a marble countertop? Peerless in terms of its luminescence and distinctive veining, it's an ultratraditional choice.

Pros: Nothing beats marble for sheer elegance. It stands up to heat well, and because it remains cool, it's a traditional choice for pastry and baking stations.

Cons: Marble is very susceptible to stains, even with sealing. For that reason, it's not often used throughout an entire kitchen; most homeowners limit it to one or two small areas. It can also scratch and chip.

Ceramic and porcelain tile

Modular and inexpensive, ceramic and porcelain tile offers nearly limitless options for colors and designs. Tile works with almost any kitchen style, from country to majestic Old World.

Pros: It holds its own against heat and sharp blades, and resists stains. If one or two tiles chip or crack, they're fairly easy to replace.

Cons: Tile's uneven surface can make it difficult to balance a cutting board or roll out a pie crust. Unsealed grout is prone to staining; standing moisture can damage it and contribute to bacterial growth.


Made of paper blended with resins and fused to particle board, laminate has been a kitchen mainstay for decades. In the past, it hasn't always had a reputation as stylish, but that's changing: The latest designs on the market mimic stone, butcher block and other pricier surfaces.

Pros: Laminate is one of the most affordable countertop materials, so it's a good choice if your budget is tight. It's low maintenance and easy to clean. Its light weight doesn't require the support of a thick cabinet base. 

Cons: Laminate is prone to scratching, burns and, in some cases, staining. With wear and moisture exposure, the layers can peel. Because of the raw particle board core, you can't use laminate with undermount sinks, and it's also difficult to repair if it gets damaged.


Although it's in no danger of overtaking granite, soapstone has come into its own as a countertop material. It offers subtle, nuanced beauty yet feels humbler than granite or marble.

Pros: Soapstone has a natural softness and depth that fits very well with older and cottage-style homes. Although it usually starts out light to medium gray, it darkens with time.

Cons: Soapstone needs polishing with oil to keep it in top shape. It can crack over time, and it can't handle knife scratches and nicks as well as some other types of stone. The natural roughness of its surface can scuff glassware and china.

Stainless steel

Once found mostly in commercial kitchens, stainless steel has slipped into vogue within the past two decades. These countertops are custom made to fit your kitchen, so you're guaranteed a tailored look.

Pros: There's a reason stainless steel is used in restaurants and other high-traffic kitchens: It's nearly indestructible, and it resists heat and bacteria. It also provides a very distinctive look that feels appropriate in contemporary and industrial-style kitchens.

Cons: Fingerprints show and must be wiped off frequently, and stainless steel can also dent. It can be loud as pots, pans and dishware clang against the surface. Chemicals can affect its color and cause unwanted etching. Stainless steel is extremely expensive due to the custom fabrication.


Think concrete is just for floors? Think again. Slightly edgier than other materials, concrete countertops have an industrial chic that fits right into a loft or adds interest to an otherwise traditional space.

Pros: Concrete is extremely versatile: It can be cast in any shape and custom tinted any shade you wish. You easily can add unique inlays, such as glass fragments, rocks and shells. Concrete stands up well to heavy use, although it isn't as heat resistant as some other surfaces. 

Cons: Because it's porous, concrete will stain without frequent sealing. With time and settling, small cracks can develop. Concrete is extremely heavy and will need strong support beneath. Like stainless steel, its custom creation ups the price tag.

Butcher block

Butcher block has a classic appeal and always looks fresh. It's especially fitting for traditional, country and cottage-style kitchens.

Pros: Many homeowners like butcher block's warm, natural appearance and variegated wood tones. Although knives scratch it, many people like the shopworn look it develops; after all, it's what chopping blocks have been made of for years. But you can also sand scratches down with ease.

Cons: Wood swells and contracts with moisture exposure, and butcher block is no exception. It harbors bacteria and needs frequent disinfecting. Oiling is a must to fill in scratches and protect the surface.