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By Lance Marrs

The list of things to do to prepare your home to sell can be long and boring. Organizing closets, servicing the furnace, cleaning gutters etc., may not be fun tasks, but they are all important things to do. As a seller, you want to present your home in the best light to generate interest with buyers.

A home that is immaculate, well maintained and thoughtfully presented will create more buzz and get you top dollar. If your home is already in tiptop shape, consider these cosmetic upgrades to kick it up a notch and create that “Wow” factor. They may require a bit more than elbow grease, but will no doubt provide you a return on investment.


1. Paint the front porch

An attractive entry matters. Painting the front porch and porch ceiling creates that first impression pop. Blue porch ceilings are traditional in the south, and are said to ward off evil spirits, but feel free to have fun with color! Adding a new fixture to the porch ceiling is another way to curate the home buying experience from the moment they walk up.


Image source: Zillow


2. Doll up the yard

Weeding and mulching are must dos. Adding colorful plants and flowers in beds or containers takes it up a level and boosts curb appeal. Lighting up a pathway with solar fixtures adds ambiance and is a safety feature buyers will appreciate.


Image source: BHG


3. Paint kitchen cabinets

If your kitchen cabinets aren’t in excellent condition, have them refinished or repainted by a professional. You can’t go wrong with white. White cabinets are elegant, timeless and make a space feel open and airy. White cabinets can really update a space as you can see in these Before & After photos on Elle Décor.


Image source: Nicole Gibbons Style

4. Buff wood floors

Hardwood floors are a desirable feature for buyers. If your wood floors look worn and dull, have them professionally buffed and polished. It’s easier and cheaper than having them refinished and your floors will look as good as new.


Image source: Pats Color


5. Neutralize the palette

Strong colors or patterns can be a turn off for potential buyers. A neutral palette inside the home is calming and classy. It enables buyers to see past distracting patterns or colors to focus on the house and its lovely features. Replace carpets that are worn, stained or not neutral in color. The same goes for strong colored tile, whether on the floor or backsplash.


Image source: Spade and Archer


6. Go stainless

Today’s buyer wants modern appliances. Stainless steel is the hottest amenity on buyers’ wish lists according to data from To instantly breathe new life into a kitchen, replace dated appliances with stainless steel.


Image source: Pinterest


When it comes to selling your home, all of the details, whether large or small make a difference to potential buyers. Making necessary repairs and deep cleaning shows buyers you’ve put care and maintenance into your home. Adding thoughtful updates will make your home more than memorable, sell faster and for more money.


Lance Marrs has more than 20 years of real estate experience and is a principal broker at Living Room Realty in Portland Oregon.



Photo: Mosaik Design


Sustainability is much more than a hot topic and trendy buzzword. Here in Oregon, one of the greenest states in the US, sustainability is becoming a way of life. Yet, we still have a ways to go when it comes to protecting the environment and promoting social and economic development on our planet. Making a positive change in the world starts in the home.

There are many ways to support sustainability in the home–and all of them are really exciting from a design perspective. Not only does sustainable home design provide some much-needed relief for mother earth, it also looks fabulous, is relatively simple to implement, and will give you more pride in your home.

Below I’ve compiled 7 practical and beautiful ways to promote sustainability in your home.


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  1. Replace Your Bulbs

Making the switch to light emitting diodes, or LEDs, is an easy yet effective first step toward a more sustainable home.

A traditional incandescent light bulb turns just 10 percent of its consumed energy into light, the other 90 percent is wasted. LED bulbs, on the other hand, covert 95% of energy into light. LEDs also utilize much less power than traditional lighting and last for 6 times longer.

Another reason for switching to LEDs is their lack of toxic elements. Fluorescent lights, for example, contain harmful mercury chemicals and thus require special disposal procedures. Not only do LED lights make a positive move toward a healthier environment, they also help you avoid the time and money required for compliant light bulb disposals.

Beyond environmental implications, LEDs simply look better in your home. LEDs have a similar appearance to traditional bulbs but emit a cleaner, whiter light. In fact, the light is so much better, it often results in needing fewer lights in your home, overall.


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  1. Put Your Windows To Work

If you have old windows in your house, it’s likely some of your heating and cooling costs are floating right out those windows. The most effective way to ensure your windows are hurting your energy consumption is by installing new, energy-efficient windows.

However, If you’re not up for an expensive undertaking, there are other, more affordable ways to combat drafty old windows.

Improving the energy efficiency of your existing windows can be achieved through a few simple methods:

  • Caulking and weather stripping around your windows will reduce air leakage.
  • Curtains and blinds can help reduce heat loss in the winter and keep your house cooler in the summer.
  • Storm windows reduce air leakage and improve comfort during the winter months.

A final note about your windows–make an effort to keep your electricity use to a minimum by utilizing natural light from your windows as much as possible. Keeping your lights off and your curtains open when possible is a great eco-friendly habit to adopt in your home.


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  1. Install Low-Flow Shower Heads

Did you know showers account for 17% of residential indoor water use? That adds up to nearly 1.2 trillion gallons of shower water a year! By swapping out your shower head with a low-flow option, you can save a considerable amount of this water.

Some people worry switching to a low-flow shower head will ruin their showers!. Avoid this by choosing a high pressure, low-flow shower head. While you’ll likely notice a decrease in overall water flow, it won’t take away from or hurt your overall shower experience.

When shopping for a new shower head, look for a WaterSense label to know you’re getting a eco-friendly option. You’ll probably be surprised by how many options you have!


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  1. Use Non-Toxic Cleaners

Today’s modern home is full of toxic and air polluting cleaning solutions. The Environmental Protection Agency ranks indoor pollution–much of which comes from common cleaning products–among the top environmental dangers.

Luckily, there are alternative ways to keep your home fresh and sanitary. Try creating homemade cleaning products. Not only is a homemade solution more affordable, it will also protect the environment and cut down on packaging waste.

If making your own cleaner isn’t in your future, stay away from products with the following ingredients:

  • Ammonia
  • Butyl glycol, ethylene glycol, and monobutyl
  • Chlorine bleach
  • Petroleum solvents
  • Phosphates
  • Phthalates

The cost of these chemicals on your health and on the environment just isn’t worth it.


Photo credit: Mosaik Design



  1. Move Your Fridge

This sustainability idea is probably more suited to someone who is remodeling their kitchen, but if you have the option, evaluate the location of your fridge. If the sun is directly hitting your fridge, it will have to work harder (use more energy) to keep itself cool.

If possible, situate your fridge in a shaded area of your kitchen without much direct sunlight. You’ll save on energy costs in your home.

Other energy-saving tips for your fridge include checking the seal to make sure the doors can close properly, waiting until a dish has cooled down before putting it in the fridge, and limiting the number of times you open your fridge during the day.


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  1. Use Paint Low In VOCs

Conventional paints typically include formaldehyde, heavy metals, and a class of chemicals known as volatile organic compounds–VOCs for short. As expected, VOC chemicals have short and long-term negative health effects on you and your family. The worst part is, those VOCs can linger in your home for up to five years after you’ve painted your home!

Whether you’re about to redesign or remodel your home or are just thinking of freshening up your house with a new coat of paint, consider using eco paint. Eco paint has lower VOC levels and is a much safer option for your home.

Eco paints can be used pretty much anywhere you would use conventional paint and come in a wide range of finishes. Eco paint also tends to perform just as well if not better than other brand leaders.


Photo credit:


  1. Use Smart Irrigation Techniques

Here in Portland, we’re no strangers to rain. Even so, keeping your plants and yard looking great during the warm summer months can require a costly amount of water.

Finding the balance between not wasting too much water, but maintaining your landscaping can be tricky, but there are a few eco-friendly ways to make it happen.

Use A Hose

The most efficient way to water your garden, plants, and yard is manually, with a hose. Doing so will result in 33 percent less water usage than an automatic irrigation system. If you have a large yard, this probably isn’t an option. In that case, make sure you choose water-efficient sprinkler spray heads.

Install Rain or Soil Sensors

Rain sensors are a great idea here in Portland. These sensors prevent your sprinkler system from turning on when it rains. Another option is soil sensors–these activate your sprinklers only when the soil is feeling dry and needs to be watered.

Rainwater Collection Barrel

Installing a rainwater collection barrel can be a great solution during the summer months. You’ll have to hire a professional to redirect your gutter into the barrel. From there, you can attach a hose to the barrel for easy watering.


Photo credit: Mosaik Design


Is Your Home An Eco-Friendly Oasis?

What are your tricks and tips for encouraging sustainability within your home? Let us know in the comments below!

Erin Davis is owner of Mosaik Design & Remodeling in Portland Oregon. For more information and tips visit or contact her at


I left my previous job, and began flipping houses in Portland, Oregon in 2010. Having a love for architecture, renovation, and real estate in general, was necessary. It can never just be about the money, or it won’t last. That being said, it wasn’t until my first house sold, on the first day on the market, for the full asking price, that I was convinced I made the best decision. Here are the four things you’ll want to get right.


First, work with a Realtor who really knows the local market that you’re looking in. Hire a savvy agent who demonstrates they’re in the know of what’s happening in the neighborhood, what houses are selling for in terrible condition, but also the ones in great shape. Your Realtor should also know what houses people are flocking to right now. When I first began, I got my real estate license at the same time and I searched the MLS database for local houses that sold within the first seven days on the market. I wanted to discover some common characteristics. One of those was that in 2010 in Portland, Oregon, about two thirds of houses had white kitchen cabinets. Interesting. When it came time for my first flip, guess what color cabinets I chose? J Find a Realtor who gets it.

Second, come up with a great investment and profit plan, or just use mine. When figuring out how much money I should pay for a fixer house, I use this formula: 0.75(ARV) – Cost of Repairs. What that means is take 75% of the “after repair value” or how much the house will sell for fixed up, then subtract the estimated cost of repairs. That is the most I should be paying for the house. For example, if my savvy Realtor shows me comparable houses that have sold for $300,000 fully fixed up, and the fixer house I’m looking at needs about $30,000 worth of work, then the most I should be paying for it is: 0.75($300,000) – $30,000 = $195,000. After all of the agent, interest, and listing fees, this would leave about a 15% profit on the sales price, or about $45,000 in this example.

Third, hire a great crew. On that first house I flipped, my husband, father in-law, step-dad, and even friends had a hand or two in helping make it profitable. Let’s be honest, when you flip your first house, it can be a bit unnerving. For that first one, I am all about having a little sweat-equity in there to ensure you don’t spend too much money. But I always recommend hiring licensed professionals for the big stuff. And after you gain some confidence from successfully flipping your first house, for the next ones, hire it all out. When I’m looking for new people to work with, I first ask for personal referrals from friends and family. If your best friend has a great heating and cooling person they have been working with for 20 years, start there. If no referrals are coming your way, go to a trusted source online where consumers rate their experience with contractors. Either way, I recommend having at least three people come out to the house to talk with you about the scope of the project, and give you an estimate. It’s also a great time to set up expectations with these potential contractors to make sure you and your project are a good fit for them. Ask them for references, and call those references! One of the things I always ask is: What was the best part about working with this contractor, and if you had to pick something, what could they have done better? Don’t let them off the hook. Have them tell you something.


And lastly, create a project calendar and tight timeline. The calendar should include all the work happening at the house, and how many days each project will take. I let the contractors know they will be working with others each day they’re there. There is no reason you can’t have a water heater replaced in the basement, at the same time kitchen cabinets are being installed, and the exterior of the house painted. Most of the projects I take on, ranging from $25,000-$150,000 remodels take about 4-6 weeks. The three main reasons for tight timelines are: 1. Buy and sell the house in virtually the same market. The housing market can change quickly. I want to make sure that ARV I calculated before buying the house hasn’t changed by the time I sell it. 2. There’s a great energy generated when there’s so much work happening at once, especially with a great crew. Momentum builds, and with each week that passes, the house transforms. That’s great for morale. 3. The less time you own that house, the lower your expenses are. Most of us don’t have $200,000 in the bank to buy a house for cash, so we pay a lot of interest, fees, taxes, and bills the longer we own the house. Lower those by being efficient and having a tight timeline.

I have been flipping houses since 2010, and have done well on each one. Does luck play a role? Maybe, but having tested guidelines certainly helps. For me, there really aren’t any secrets. If there are flipping secrets out there, I don’t know them. I’ve learned these four things will get you moving in a successful direction.

Bobby Curtis is a serial renovator and principal broker with Living Room Realty in Portland, Oregon.



When it comes to choosing personal photographs to display in the home, no two people think exactly alike. Some like to adorn their walls with family photos, creating a living reminder of the important people in their lives. Others prefer to have fewer personal photographs on display. At the end of the day there’s no right or wrong answer, there’s only what’s right for you.

Here are some helpful guidelines to keep in mind when hanging personal photos in your home:


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Regardless of where you stand on the topic of more personal photos versus less, it’s important to display the images that are most meaningful to you. This may sound obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people shy away from their favorite photos out of worry for how they’ll be perceived.

This isn’t to suggest that you should put an embarrassing or compromising photo on display for all to see. It simply means that you shouldn’t let fear drive your decision. The whole point is to bring important memories into your daily life, so be sure to display the photographs that do that best.


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To ensure your photographs not only look great but also age well, it’s important to make sure they are properly printed and framed. This is an area where cutting corners can end up costing you in the long run. There’s a huge variety of printing techniques and papers available, so it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Simply going with inkjet printing on a premium luster paper is your best bet. It’s the most common printing method, and the prints themselves are durable and look terrific. Also be sure to use archival mats that are custom cut for your print. It will not only help to enhance the overall look and feel of your photo, it will help to keep it looking great for a long time to come. And finally, go with a quality moulding for your frame. It’s an important accent piece in your home, and the difference between a ready-made frame and a custom, high quality frame is significant. Feel free to go with either glass or Plexi for the front. Plexi is more durable, but it’s also more costly.


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Today’s digital cameras, even those found on smartphones, are amazingly powerful. In fact, a photo from the current iPhone can be used to make large format prints with no pixelation or blur to speak of. So without this constraint, the focus on size should be on your photographs relationship to its environment. If a framed photo is too large, it will overwhelm the space it’s in. Too small and it will look unnatural.

While the rules aren’t necessarily etched in stone, there are guidelines that will help to ensure your framed photos are in harmony with the rest of your room. The first thing to be aware of is the three-eighths rule. What this means is that the empty space on the wall should be equal to three-eighths the width of the frame. Put another way, simply measure your wall and multiply it by 0.57, and this will be the ideal width for your framed photography. As an example, if your wall is 120 inches wide, the width of your frame should be roughly 68 inches (120 x 0.57). It’s important to note that if, for example, your wall has two windows, and you’re hanging your work in between the two windows, then that’s the distance that you measure (as opposed to the width of the entire wall).

If you’re hanging a frame above a piece of furniture, the three-eighths rule applies, but it’s less rigid. Again, the three-eighths rule would be in relation to the piece of furniture, not the wall itself. And if you’re placing a frame above a fireplace, the width should be roughly equal to the opening of the fireplace (regardless of the width of the mantle).

If you wish to hang multiple pieces as a group, treat all of the framed photographs together as though they were one large piece. Do remember to include the space in between the frames when making your calculation, however. And the space in between the frames should be anywhere from 1-3 inches, with larger pieces spaced slightly further apart.


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The height at which you place your framed photograph is critical. There is a tendency for people to hang their work too high, which creates a disconnect from other furnishings in your room. The frame should be centered at eye level. So, as a rule, the center of the frame should be 58 inches off the ground. (Keep in mind that if the center of the frame is at 58 inches, the hook will be higher.)

When hanging work above furniture, the bottom of the frame should be 6-8 inches above the top of the furniture. This can come into conflict with the 58-inch rule, but it’s important that your art be a natural part of its surroundings. This can be an issue with low, modern furniture. If you run into this, you may want to consider going with a larger frame or a grouping of smaller ones.

While the rules on hanging framed photos in your home aren’t fixed, by following a basic set of guidelines you can go about displaying your framed photography with confidence. This is important because few things contribute to making a house a home like personal photos. They’re a living reminder of the people and experiences that are most important to you.

 Mike Malone is founder of Livestock Framing, an online platform for custom printing and framing digital photos. Follow Livestock Framing on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Spring is a great time to get a head start on preparing your home for warmer temps. Below we’ve provided a simple checklist to help you stay on top of home maintenance.


  • Replace batteries in smoke and Carbon Monoxide detectors (use the equinox or “spring forward” time change date as your annual reminder).
  • Dust ceiling fan blades.
  • Replace (or remove and clean) furnace air filter on the following schedule:
    • High-efficiency and electrostatic filters need to be replaced once per quarter.
    • Simple fiberglass or paper filters should be replaced quarterly.
    • Reusable mesh filters should be cleaned monthly (do not reuse filters unless they are specifically intended for it).


  • Spring is a great time for a thorough exterior review… Walk around your house and inspect the following:
    • All vents (dryer vents, exhaust fans, furnace intakes, attic and crawl-space vents, etc) – remove any debris or obstructions, repair any tears or damage.
    • Siding and trim – check for loose boards and peeling paint, repair as needed.
    • Foundation – inspect for cracks. If any are found, take photos for future comparison. if cracks are over 3/16” wide or have increased in size since your last inspection, consult a professional.
    • Roof – check for leaks, missing or damaged shingles, rusted flashing, or other visible deterioration, repair as needed. We recommend using a professional here for safety, consider using someone from our Marketplace.
    • Gutters and downspouts – make sure there are no areas where water pools, and that all draining water flows away from your house.
    • Check exposed wood for deterioration. Poke with an awl or screwdriver to determine if wood is softening and may need to be repaired or replaced.
  • If you remove your storm windows and doors, clean and repair them before putting them away for the summer.
  • Clean windows and reinstall window screens if stored in the fall.
  • Clean gutters of any accumulated debris.
  • Remove weatherproof covering from outdoor air-conditioning units and clear away debris.
  • Have air conditioner serviced and coolant levels checked.

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There is something truly charming about attics. If you happen to possess one, you should consider yourself lucky! Even though they are usually small, attic rooms are cosy and easy to clean. In addition, they can be transformed in all sorts of creative ways. Here are five great ideas you could use to turn the attic space into a lovely sanctuary at home.

  1. Office Room

One of the best advantages of attics is that they are separated from the rest of the rooms at home. Thus, they can provide you with privacy and independence. The attic space would be sufficient for your computer, folders and office materials. One good trick is to pick white color for the ceiling, walls and furniture, so that the room looks brighter and bigger. In addition, pay good attention to the windows during the office cleaning. You need a good source of natural light in order to have a healthy work environment.

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  1. Relaxation room

Have you ever dreamt to have your own meditation or yoga room? You can easily transform your attic into one. Just think about all the objects that have a relaxing effect on you: candles, crystals, pyramids, plants, incense sticks – just use your imagination. Remember that it is important to keep this room clean and well aired for your breathing exercises.

  1. Home library

If you are a true book lover, you are probably suffering from lack of space for your books. The attic could turn into a lovely home library for all your books and magazines. You can buy extra shelves and even arrange books by type or author. Get yourself a comfortable sofa and a coffee table. And be careful! Once you have that cozy library ready, you might end up moving in the attic.

  1. Home movie theater

Just like book worms, cinema lovers dream of some space of their own. The attic room could be the best place for the purpose. There they can gather with friends, eat popcorn and watch movies for hours. Keep in mind that this room is likely to be quite messy! It would need regular cleaning…or at least spring cleaning.

  1. Games and crafts room

One great option is to turn the attic into a room for leisure activities. Think about your favorite games. Playing cards, chess, monopoly and all sorts of board games would be ideal for the purpose. In addition, you can bring and practice there your favorite crafts, such as pottery, knitting, jewelry making and painting (a lot of carpet cleaning here!). The attic could be your personal sanctuary for creativity and relaxation, or a place for noisy entertainment with your family and friends.

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Protect Yourself and Your Investment

Bad things happen. That’s just the way of the world sometimes. But when bad things happen to your home, will you be protected? If you’re a homeowner, you likely already have a homeowner’s insurance policy in place, especially if you’re paying a mortgage. Homeowners insurance covers damage to your home’s structure from certain events such as fire, wind, and water. It also covers theft of personal property from inside the home, and for additional fees you can add protection for more exotic items like art or jewelry collections. If you’re robbed or your home suffers damage from a fire or a windstorm, your homeowner’s insurance policy provider will help make you whole again.


But what happens when your refrigerator breaks unexpectedly or your heat pump goes on the fritz? Will a homeowner’s policy help you then? Unfortunately, repair to household appliances and systems aren’t covered by most policies, and those costs can easily run into the thousands. If you do face those major repairs, and you’re uncovered, your savings could take a big hit. This is where a Home Warranty comes in handy.

Home Warranties Explained

A Home Warranty is a service contract separate from your homeowners insurance that covers your home’s major appliances and systems. Providers often have a standard list of covered items, and some, like American Home Shield, allow you to personalize your policy by picking your own set of covered appliances and systems. When one of your appliances or systems breaks, your warranty provider will send a qualified repair contractor to fix your problem in exchange for a low, one-time repair fee.

A Home Warranty offers several benefits above and beyond a typical homeowner’s insurance policy:

  • Added Peace-of-Mind: You can never predict when you’ll face unexpected repair bills. A home warranty will protect your budget and your savings from the unexpected costs associated with repairing or replacing expensive household items.
  • Protection for New Buyers: If you’re in the market for a new home, or have recently purchased one, the reliability of its appliances and home systems can be a mystery that’s not always revealed through traditional home inspections. A home warranty offers new buyers a guarantee that unexpected costs from these new-to-you items won’t catch you unprepared.
  • Seller Benefits: When you’re selling your home, you want to differentiate yourself from the competition in every way possible. Telling potential buyers that your home has a current home warranty in place will show your home has been well maintained and instill greater confidence in their buying decision.
  • Greater Flexibility – Unlike a homeowner’s policy, home warranties can be canceled at any time, so you can choose the level of protection that best fits your needs.

For most Americans, a house is the single largest investment they’ll ever make and the source of the majority of their personal wealth. To best protect that investment, it makes sense to have an array of coverage that will keep every corner of your home in its best possible condition. Adding a home warranty to your insurance portfolio is a great way to maximize that protection.