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Larry Malvin Photography

5 Hardwood Floor Finishes Do you need to refinish your hardwood floors? Here are five common types that are available. Getty

Flooring sets the tone of your home’s design. Before replacing it, among other factors, consider the level of upkeep it will require. Hardwood floors, for example, need to be sanded and refinished periodically.


Factors to Consider When Selecting Flooring


hen it comes to flooring, homeowners have a range of options. Popular choices include hardwood, vinyl, terrazzo, laminate, ceramic, cork, natural stone and bamboo. Here are four factors to consider when you need to update your floors. 1. Function Do you have kids or pets? Do you like to exercise in a particular part of the house? Opt for flooring that’s practical and suits your lifestyle. For instance, while blonde hardwood and white marble floors are stylish, they may not be the best choice if you have a cat or dog with dark fur. Additionally, you may want to avoid flooring that’s excessively hard in rooms where you spend a lot of time on your feet. 2. Atmosphere Flooring is an integral part of your home’s appearance, so make sure you choose a type that contributes to the style you want to create. For example, natural stone generally provides a Zen-like ambiance, whereas blonde hardwood will add warmth to a space. If you want a retro vibe, consider pastel terrazzo. For a more sophisticated look, opt for dark laminate flooring. When you visit your local stores and suppliers, make sure to compare different flooring samples and seek ad4 Your Dream Home | May 2021

vice from a qualified salesperson. It’s a good idea to bring along photos of the rooms you’re renovating. 3. Installation requirements Before you install new flooring, you may need to update the subfloor. This will usually be the case if you have heavy flooring that requires extra support. It will also be necessary if you choose to install electrical wiring, plumbing or radiant heating in the subfloor. A qualified professional is always the best choice to install new flooring. 4. Upkeep Some types of floors require maintenance that goes beyond simply sweeping and mopping. For example, you need to periodically apply a sealant to porous flooring such as unglazed tile, limestone and concrete. In the case of hardwood, you need to sand and varnish it every so often. Before you settle on a particular type of flooring, make sure you know what sort of upkeep it requires. Keep in mind there are professionals who can provide expert advice. Contractors, interior designers and the staff at your local home improvement and furniture stores will be able to recommend specific solutions for your home. –Newspaper Toolbox


Water-based polyurethane is ideal for floors in need of a quick-drying, clear finish. This is a product that’s low in volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and ages without yellowing. However, it does little to hide scratches.


| Oil-based polyurethane is best for floors in high-traffic areas. It’s highly durable and easy to maintain. On the downside, it’s slow to dry, high in VOCs and yellows over time.





Moisture cure urethane is well suited to floors that require a very tough finish. It resists moisture, scratches, stains and general wear. However, it has high levels of VOCs and applying it requires you to vacate your home.

Wax is great anywhere you want a low-sheen finish. Unfortunately, it’s not very durable and tends to darken over time. It can scuff and scratch easily and doesn’t mix well with water.


| Penetrating oil sealer is ideal for subtly highlighting the natural grain of wood, especially in a historic home. This product needs to be reapplied every few years and requires a wax topcoat. For top-notch results, consider hiring a professional to strip and sand your wood floors and then expertly apply the finish. –Newspaper Toolbox

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5 Kitchen Areas to Update oes your kitchen look like it’s from another decade? Here are five ways you can modernize it.

1. Flooring As the kitchen is often a gathering space in the home, its floor gets a lot of wear. If yours is faded, scratched or stained, you have two options. Either you can repair it— swap out cracked tiles or sand and varnish hardwood—or replace the entire surface. To help you make a decision that suits your needs and budget, seek advice from a pro. 2. Paint Whether the colors in your kitchen are outdated or the walls have faded over time, a fresh coat of paint is an affordable way to breathe new life into a space. Consider repainting the cabinets as well as the walls. You can easily add a modern flair to your kitchen by choosing a second, bolder color for the island or lower cabinets. 3. Countertops Even if the material is timeless, years of preparing meals on them can leave kitchen countertops looking a little worse for wear. Replacing them with a pristine surface can instantly change the look of the

room. Visit specialized stores in your area to discover the wide range of materials, colors and textures available. 4. Appliances The stovetop, oven and range hood, along with the fridge, microwave and dishwasher, are focal points in a kitchen. If yours are scratched, mismatched or outdated, consider selling or donating them so you can invest in newer models. To get the most out of your purchase, be sure to select Energy Star certified appliances or smart devices. 5. Decor A variety of accessories can be used to transform the look of your kitchen in the blink of an eye. Visit local home decor shops to find curtains, blinds, mirrors, light fixtures and more to provide the wow effect you want. Smaller items such as island centerpieces and plants can be rotated with the seasons to freshen up the space every few months. From upgrading the sink and faucet to replacing cabinet hardware and installing a new backsplash, there are plenty of ways to modernize your kitchen. For best results, enlist the help of an interior designer. –Newspaper Toolbox


Painting, replacing hardware and updating decor are among the simpler ways you can refresh your kitchen’s looking without spending the money for a complete remodel.

Why You Might Need a Hygrometer


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6 Your Dream Home | May 2021

he humidity level in your house can have a significant effect on your well-being. If there isn’t enough moisture in the air, you may develop dry skin, a scratchy throat and chronic nose bleeds. Excess moisture is also problematic as it can lead to water damage and mold growth. While condensation on the windows and other issues can be signs that the humidity level in your home is less than ideal, the most reliable way to assess the amount of moisture in the air is to use a hygrometer.

How it works A hygrometer is an affordable, user-friendly instrument that measures relative humidity, which is the amount of water vapor in the air expressed as a percentage. Since this device is hand-held, you can easily monitor the humidity level in each room of your home. Ideally, the humidity level throughout your home should be between 30% and 50%. To avoid inaccurate results, don’t use the hygrometer near a heat source.

If the humidity level in one or several rooms isn’t optimal, here are a few ways to add or remove moisture from the air: • Install a humidifier or dehumidifier. • Ensure your windows and doors are well-sealed. • Install ceiling exhaust fans. • Open a window. • Avoid air-drying laundry indoors. To purchase a hygrometer, visit any hardware or big-box store in your area. –Newspaper Toolbox

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Create a More Energy-Efficient Home


ere are some big and small changes that could help you boost your home’s energy efficiency and save money on bills.


Start with a solid foundation. If you’re adding an extension to your home, a pool to your backyard or are planning a custom-built dream home, choose sustainable materials that promote energy conservation. Instead of traditional wood-framing, consider insulated concrete forms from Nudura. The eco-friendly alternative features thermal mass walls that can reduce heating and cooling costs by up to 60% a year.

} Work on your windows. Did you know that about 15 to 20% of your home’s surface is windows? This means any issues with them can have a major impact on your energy consumption. Take time to caulk any gaps or air leaks, and consider upgrading to energy-efficient windows. Double-paned windows boost your insulation and help ensure your air-conditioned air doesn’t escape.

Older refrigerators can cost hundreds of dollars more to run annually than newer models. Keeping the fridge cleaned out will also make it less expensive to operate.



Switch to outdoor energy sources.

Take advantage of the gorgeous weather to spend more time outside. Instead of cooking meals in your energy-intensive oven that also heats up your home, break out the barbecue and enjoy dinner al fresco. You can also ease up on the clothes dryer by setting up a line and some pins in the backyard to use the wind and sun for drying power.


Install a smart weather station. Technology can help you make sure you’re consuming energy wisely. A smart thermostat is a great idea, but a smart weather station can work with it and other devices to go a step beyond, as you can program it according to current and predicted weather patterns. For example, it can ensure your scheduled sprinkler won’t go off in the middle of a downpour.

} Be mindful of your refrigerator. If you aren’t careful, your fridge can suck up a lot of energy. First, make sure the one in your kitchen (and basement) is a newer model, as older ones can cost hundreds more a year to power. Then, clear it out so the shelves and drawers aren’t overcrowded, which makes the fridge work harder to pump cool air throughout. –Metro

How to Prep for a Big Home Improvement Project The planning process is one of the most exciting parts of a home renovation project. Whether it’s a basement makeover, a pool addition or even building a new house from scratch, here are some tips to get started: 1 | Factor in your lifestyle. Think about your priorities. Do you work from home without a proper home office? Do you enjoy cooking and entertaining? Is your backyard living up to its potential as an extension of your home? Asking

these kinds of questions can help you determine the most beneficial focus for your next project. 2 | Educate yourself. Learn about materials, processes and new innovations. You can make smarter purchasing decisions by finding out the answers to key questions, such as: Is this material mold-resistant? How long will it last? Is this a passing fad or will it stand the test of time? 3 | Consider sustainability. Products and materials that reduce

8 Your Dream Home | May 2021


your carbon footprint don’t just help the planet—they’re often better for your wallet, too. When doing research, look for energy-efficient appliances, windows, walls and more to build

a greener home that will last longer and save you money in the long run. 4 | Disaster-proof your design. The pandemic has taught us that sometimes the worst can happen. With

natural disasters, fires and flooding, we need our homes to offer as much protection as possible. Whether you’re planning an extension to your home, a pool or spa for your backyard or a custom-built home, insulated concrete forms are a smart investment. An eco-friendly alternative to traditional materials like wood, ICFs are disaster resilient, designed to withstand wind, fire, tornadoes and more. 5 | Budget for smart splurges and savings.

Budgeting is one of the most important parts of the planning process so you spend wisely. You’ll want to splurge on items that will boost your property value, like energy-efficient features, creating more living space and a building a solid foundation. Upcycling and repurposing furniture, DIY-ing simpler projects like painting, and spending more on nicer hardware but less on cabinets are clever ways to save. –Metro

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How to Use Pantone’s Colors of the Year For 2021, Pantone announced not one but two colors of the year: Ultimate Gray and Illuminating. Here's how to incorporate these shades of natural, stony gray and warm, uplifting yellow into your home. In the bedroom Opt for bedding or pillows that combine both colors. For a more dramatic change, consider paint-

ing the walls gray and furnishing the room with a bright yellow bedside table, lamp or reading chair. In the living room Add touches of these trendy shades by replacing curtains, throws, cushions or rugs. You could also hang artwork that features these colors. If you want to use paint to make an impres-

sion, consider creating a gray or yellow accent wall, and provide contrast by placing a footstool, shelf or side table in the other color against it. Wallpaper in these shades can also wow. In the kitchen Find accessories or small appliances in gray or yellow. Look for serving dishes, oven mitts, towels,

toasters and more in these colors. You can also change chair cushions, tablecloths and table runners. Ultimate Gray and Illuminating can be integrated into any style. Consider bringing these colors that evoke fortitude and optimism into a space that could use a pick-me-up. –Newspaper Toolbox

orange energy From the soft hues of a sunset to the bright shades of the citrus fruit that bears its name, orange is a playful color that can add warmth and energy to a room. But how do you incorporate it into your decor? Find the right pairing. Combine orange with blues and greens to give the room a lively tropical vibe. Alternatively, a pastel orange paired with taupe or ecru will provide a calming effect. If you prefer a more monochrome design, blend beiges and browns with subtle orange hues, like pumpkin spice. Newspaper Toolbox

10 Your Dream Home | May 2021

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Benefits of Solar Shades From blinds and curtains to shutters and drapes, there’s no shortage of materials that can be used to enhance the look of your windows. One practical option is to install solar shades. Here are some of the benefits of these roll-up window coverings.

}They protect against harmful rays. Solar shades are made of a tightly woven fabric designed to block out the sun’s UV rays. The perforated material allows you to safely enjoy natural light in your home.

}They offer privacy with a view. Solar shades provide a decent view of the outdoors while preventing others from seeing into your home. They also reduce glare.

}They help conserve energy. Solar shades help keep your home cool on hot days, thereby reducing the strain on your air conditioner. This lowers your energy bills and helps protect the environment.

}Solar shades are available in a range of opaqueness levels, allowing you to select a loose or tight weave depending on what you use the space for and how much light you need. Visit stores in your area to find the right product for every window in your home. –Newspaper Toolbox Katarzyna Bialasiewicz

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5 Home Remodeling Trends By Carol J. Alexander of NerdWallet


fter a year of spending more time at home due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many homeowners are looking for ways to make their homes fit their new realities. Open floor plans are out. Dedicated spaces for remote work and learning are in. Yards are being transformed into entertainment spaces and walls are being repainted. At the same time, increased demand and safety concerns can make the remodeling process much longer than before. Here are five trends to watch for this 2021 home-remodeling season. 1. A focus on dedicated spaces At the start of 2020, “the most requested design concept was open space,” said Jimmy Dollman, principal of Dollman Construction in Roanoke, Virginia. “But now, we face a different set of design implications because everyone’s living conditions have changed.” Dollman noted that remote workers and learners need privacy and quiet. “A year ago, it was rare for one family member to work from home,” he said. “Now, (parents) and kids find it difficult to get work done because of the noise in the open design.” This year, expect to see homeowners spending less time knocking down walls to open up shared areas, and more time transforming spare rooms or nooks into dedicated spaces. That might mean adding a home office or home theater, for instance, or transforming a nook into a space for distance-learning.


Pools and fire pits (below) are popular additions to backyards this year, as many homeowners look to create an outdoor oasis after being cooped up during the pandemic.

2. Making room for home offices To add home offices to residences, “homeowners aren’t adding square footage,” said Doug King, owner of King Contracting, a design-build firm in St. Petersburg, Florida, and presiSee REMODEL 36 14 Your Dream Home | May 2021

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What to Know About

Outdoor Living Spaces


ome trends come and go. What was popular as recently as a decade ago may have lost some luster in the eyes of today’s home buyers. Though that’s historically been the case in regard to real estate, outdoor living rooms are one relatively recent home trend that figures to have a longer shelf life, especially in the aftermath of a global pandemic during which people were encouraged to stay home as much as possible. Real estate professionals and organizations like the National Association of Home Builders recognize the popularity of outdoor living spaces with prospective home buyers, and how that popularity has grown in recent years. Outdoor living rooms not only appeal to potential buyers, but they also serve as a means for owners to get more out of their properties. Those mulling outdoor living space projects should consider various factors before moving forward with a project. • Cost: The home renovation resource HomeAdvisor estimates that the average cost of an outdoor living space is around $7,600. That cost can easily go up depending on where homeowners live and the features they want. For example, including a built-in fire pit in an outdoor living space will cost more than purchasing a stand-alone fire pit that can be picked up and moved.


• Return on investment: A lot of conflicting data about the ROI on outdoor kitchens can be found online, but many trusted real estate organizations report that such additions do not mesmerize prospective buyers. Data from the American Institute of Architects indicates that outdoor kitchens are routinely ranked among the least desirable home features, which means homeowners should not expect substantial ROI when selling their homes. But that built-in fire pit?

Estimates from the National Association of Realtors suggest fire features recover around 67% of homeowners’ initial investment. In addition, 83% owners surveyed by the NAR who had installed fire features said they had a greater desire to be home after completing the project. • Space: An outdoor living space may only be as relaxing as the space allows. The proximity of neighbors may affect privacy levels, which can make it hard to enjoy

movie night outdoors or to curl up to quietly read a good book. In addition, landscaping also may need to be addressed if drainage is an issue in the backyard. That can add to the cost, and drainage concerns may limit the materials homeowners can work with. Outdoor living spaces are popular. Homeowners must consider various factors before deciding if such spaces are for them. –Metro

Foundation Cracks: When to Worry The best way to ensure a crack in your foundation doesn’t threaten the structural integrity of your home is to consult an expert. However, some general guidelines can help you determine if you have a serious problem.

}Hairline cracks Concrete shrinks slightly as it cures, and hairline cracks—about the width of sewing thread—are a normal result of it settling. They pose no structural threat and tend to appear within a year of construction.

16 Your Dream Home | May 2021

However, you should take steps to patch them. }Narrow cracks Vertical or diagonal cracks that can’t be classified as hairline but are no wider than a quarter-inch are unlikely to be a serious problem.

However, this is only the case if the cracks are stable and aren’t continuing to expand. Thin cracks can be filled with grout, and slightly wider ones should be filled with a caulk that’s compatible with concrete.

}Wide cracks Any crack that’s wider than a half-inch should be inspected by a professional. In particular, those with a bulge may indicate structural problems. Additionally, a crack in your foundation that’s horizontal rather

than vertical or diagonal presents more of a risk. If you have wide cracks, horizontal cracks or cracks that are getting worse, be sure to call a foundation contractor or structural engineer. –Newspaper Toolbox

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18 Your Dream Home | May 2021

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around the home

Patio Furniture That Lasts by Helen Carefoot


e’re seeing tremendous growth and demand for outdoor furniture earlier in the year,” said Ron Hilton, chief merchandising and operations officer at Overstock. Traditionally, the company gets a spike in demand “in the late spring and early summer, but we saw that happen 45 days sooner this year,” he said. If you’re thinking about buying new outdoor furniture, it’s time to move. The production delays of the past year are still a reality, said Tracy Morris, founder of Tracy Morris Design in McLean, Virginia. You might have to wait double the usual time to receive your items. But if you choose the right type of furniture—and treat it well—you won’t have to shop again for a long time. Finding the right match for your space The main culprit of wear and tear, experts say, is exposure to the elements. Water can seep into wood and fabrics and cause mold. Wind can blow furniture around and damage it (or your house or deck), and sun can alter its color. Marnie Oursler, president of Marnie Custom Homes, builds custom beach houses in Delaware, and she recommended taking stock of the environment the furniture will be in before making any purchases. Porous materials, such as wood, aren’t the best choice for spots that see a lot of humidity or rain, and painted pieces won’t last in sunny locations, where the paint can peel or crack. More delicate pieces made of raffia or wicker are better suited for a protected space, such as a screened-in or covered porch. The best protection is an appropriately sized cover—or, if possible, bringing your furniture inside if it will go unused for a long period of time.

20 Your Dream Home | May 2021

John Cole

A terrace designed by Anthony Wilder Design/Build has furniture by Brown Jordan and drapes from Perennials to control the sun.

Choose materials carefully Wood: Wood generally requires more maintenance than other materials because periodic treatment is necessary to maintain its color and finish. However, it can last a long time if properly cared for. Many outdoor wood products come treated with sealant; check how often it needs to be treated. “I wouldn’t do anything but teak. . . . Teak is really your main outdoor wood,” Morris said. Teak requires regular oiling to maintain its caramel color or it will weather to gray. Oursler loves that weathered look for the beach, but warns that buyers who don’t perform the required treatment could be disappointed.

Those seeking a wood-like look without the cost or maintenance should look into wood-grain furniture made of plastic composite, which requires little care. A set of aged teak furniture is a major investment that will last “forever” with proper care, Morris said. Teak is graded from A to C based on the wood’s age and quality; A-grade

woods come from the heart of the tree and have a closer grain, more protective oil and richer color and will be much pricier and more durable than C-grade, which comes from the tree’s younger, outer part. Inquire about the wood’s grade when buying. Acacia and eucalyptus are more budget-friendly hardwoods that work well outdoors, said Amy Wall, co-founder of custom furniture company BuilderChicks. (She suggested treating both yearly with a water-based sealer for maximum longevity.) Eucalyptus is naturally resistant to moisture and pests but doesn’t handle extreme cold well because of

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For outdoor rugs, Marnie Oursler, a custom-home builder, recommended Dash & Albert, including this handmade flat-weave indoor/outdoor area rug (from $54).

its high moisture content. Wall said well-cared-for acacia pieces could last for 10 years, and eucalyptus for 20. Cedar is another strong option, but Wall warned that it’s softer than teak, acacia and eucalyptus, so it’s easy to scratch or dent. Oursler and Keira St. Claire, lead interior designer at Anthony Wilder Design/Build, don’t recommend pine pieces—which are usually less expensive and pressure-treated—unless the furniture is in a covered area, because pine is prone to splintering. Those seeking a wood-like look without the cost or maintenance should look into wood-grain furniture made of plastic composite, Morris and St. Claire said, as it requires little care.

Metals: Metal furniture is popular and comes in numerous options, from inexpensive and lightweight aluminum to sturdier and more expensive stainless steel or wrought iron. “Most of your inexpensive outdoor furniture is going to be made of aluminum, which won’t last as long,” St. Claire said. Aluminum is hollow, so it’s lightweight and easy to move— though that also means it could be more easily thrown by heavy winds. Stainless steel is most resistant to rust. Wrought iron is extremely durable and heavy. Metals generally don’t require regular care, but they can rust over time if

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Climbing to New Heights Patience With Clematis Varieties Pays Off By Adrian Higgins


bout five years ago, I planted a clematis at the foot of my arbor and proceeded to forget about it. This is what is required of clematis; you plant it in fairly rich soil, you chop it back, then you let it slumber for at least two years. The gardener’s willful lack of ambition for the vine is rewarded in time. In the second summer, the flowering was scant but pretty amid the roses; in the third summer, it was upstaging the roses; and by the fourth year, it was sensational, forming a bower of violet-purple blossoms—hundreds of them—that persisted through most of the summer. This lag time is simply about letting the plant develop a robust root system before it turns its attention to top growth. It’s a trait shared with many aerial plants, including grapevines and rambling roses, but the clematis does it with aplomb. My variety is named Sweet Summer Love, and it stands not just as a symbol of the value of delayed gratification, but also of the quiet reinvention of the clematis in recent years. For more than a century, gardeners

have been drawn to large-flowered varieties, the sort that adorn mailboxes with star-like blooms of eye-popping size. In recent years, breeders and growers have developed small-flowered varieties, such as my Sweet Summer Love, which provide more vigor, a longer, later season of bloom, and greater resistance to a disease named clematis wilt. Early large-flowered varieties, in particular, seem most prone to the disease. There is no malady more deflating to the gardener; one evening you see the vine about to burst forth, and the next morning you are 22 Your Dream Home | May 2021

Brushwood Nursery

Solina is a viticella hybrid with large lilac-blue flowers. Viticella varieties can be cut back in late July after flowering to promote reblooming in the fall, then cut back again in late winter.

greeted with stems and unopened buds that have collapsed. Not every stem is always afflicted, but it’s enough to ruin the show. Jeff Jabco, president of the International Clematis Society, remains a big fan of large-flowering hybrids, including newer varieties, but he agrees that the clematis novice will find the small-flowered types, particularly those of the species Clematis viticella, more bulletproof. Viticella varieties of note include Etoile Violette, Betty Corning, Venosa Violacea, Little Butterfly and Burning Love. Some have blooms that are shaped more like a bell than a star, but that adds to the diversity.

I like these small-flowered varieties for two more reasons: You can cut most of them back hard in late winter without fear of getting it wrong (clematis pruning is notoriously convoluted), and I like the colors—deep, saturated reds, plums, blues and purples. Lighter tints are also available, along with that most novel clematis color, yellow. That would be Clematis tangutica and its varieties, which also have particularly eye-catching, fuzzy seed heads. Much of the new direction in clematis is being steered by a handful of well-known hybridizers and growers, notably Wim Snoeijer in

the Netherlands, Raymond Evison in the British Channel Islands and Szczepan Marczynski (the creator of Sweet Summer Love) in Poland. Evison and Snoeijer, in particular, have focused on shorter varieties suited to growing in containers. These potted clematis still benefit from some support, if only three bamboo stakes fashioned into a teepee. Container-grown clematis requires frequent watering and feeding in summer, but the pots must drain freely. Another group getting attention includes low-growing scramblers rather than clinging vines—useful See CLEMATIS, 34

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om a b oi nu tt ht heehm a rek e t

Looking to List Your Home? What Sellers Need to Know This Year By Elizabeth Renter of NerdWallet undefined


t’s a good time to be a home seller—homes are selling fast and for a premium—but that doesn’t mean you can jump into the market ill-prepared. Knowing what to expect can position you to make the most of this seller’s market. Roughly 1 in 6 (17%) homeowners plans to sell their home in the next 18 months, according to a new NerdWallet survey of 2,127 homeowners conducted online by The Harris Poll. Those listings will be a welcome sight to buyers currently competing for a limited number of homes commanding top dollar. The March survey found that this current market is playing a role in many of these home sellers’ motivations. Changes to the housing market, including higher asking prices and lower inventory, have spurred 45% of those surveyed to plan to sell in the next 18 months. If you’re among the homeowners preparing to be on the favored side of this strong seller’s market, here’s what you need to know. 1. You may be able to skip presale home improvements. In addition to cleaning your house for showings, preparing to sell your home often means doing minor (or major) repairs and upgrades. But home buyers are stalking real estate listings and jumping on those that even get close to checking all the boxes, so sellers could likely save some money by limiting or forgoing expensive projects altogether. More than 4 in 5 homeowners planning to sell in the next 18 months said they will spend money on major repairs or renovations to make their home more appealing to potential buyers prior to selling, typically budgeting about $2,000. But 17% of those planning to sell in the next 18 months who will

26 Your Dream Home | May 2021


In this seller’s market, the median sale price of a home in Frederick County was $407,000 in March, up $57,000 from March 2020, according to The Long & Foster Market Minute.

spend money on repairs and renovations prior to selling said they’ll spend $15,000 or more. “You really can get away without doing renovations and minor repairs,” said Holden Lewis, NerdWallet mortgage expert. “Unless the house has a major problem like a leaky roof, you’re probably better off selling as-is. Make it a priority to declutter and depersonalize the home so it’s easy for buyers to imagine themselves living there. The buyers can fix it up and renovate it on their own dime and schedule.” 2. It will all move very quickly. If you list your home in this market, there’s little question of the outcome. Barring any significant defaults or dramatic overpricing, it will sell and sell quickly. You could receive multiple offers over listing price. In March in Frederick County, existing homes were on the market an average of 16 days, compared with 41

days in March 2020, according to The Long & Foster Market Minute. That’s even fewer days than the national average of 20 days on the market reported by the National Association of Realtors. Single-family homes are in high demand, so selling now means you’ll sell faster and for a higher price than you would under other conditions. It’s ideal to have your next home already lined up, but that may be easier said than done. 3. You’ll face stiff competition shopping for a replacement home. The very things that make it a good time to sell make it a tough time to buy a house. Just 10% of those planning to sell in the next 18 months said one of their primary motivations is that they no longer want to be a homeowner, according to the survey. For the rest of these sellers, entering the crowded pool

of home buyers will present challenges. Whether it’s the location—such as moving closer to family, outside of the city or for a new job—or the home features, every item on your list of musthaves will make finding your next home a greater challenge. Given the likely ease with which you’ll sell and the difficulty you might have finding a replacement home, it may make sense to be under contract on a your next home when or soon after your current home hits the market. “The trickiest part of navigating today’s market is finding a home to replace the one you’re selling,” Lewis said. “You can make the buyer’s purchase contingent on your finding suitable housing. In other words, you can make your buyer wait. Normally, buyers are reluctant to accept that condition, but we’re in a seller’s market and sellers make the rules.” AP - This article originally appeared on the personal finance site NerdWallet.

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A New Focus on Buyer’s Agents by Michele Lerner


hen Stephanie Doherty bought her first home in August 2020, she was able to get detailed information from her agent about the commission that the agent would be paid, as well as what the seller’s agent would receive from the sale. That may seem like basic information, but not all buyers receive it. Until recently, many buyers assumed that the sellers paid the commission to both agents. Therefore, since the buyer had nothing to do with the commission, it was none of their business what the agents would get. But now there’s been a paradigm shift, with the recognition that since buyers are actually paying the commission, they have a right to know what it is. Doherty said that while she focused on her total closing costs, she knew the commission percentages the agents would receive from the proceeds of the sale. Buyer’s agent Marian Marsten Rosaaen of Compass real estate brokerage “spent about two hours with me going over all the possible paperwork involved with buying a home, explaining how commissions worked and what would happen if I found a place that she happened to be listing,” said Doherty, a congressional staffer in Washington, D.C. “She was completely transparent, so I understood from the beginning how the commissions worked.” There was speculation that as

most buyers moved to searching for home online that buyer’s agents would be less necessary. Yet most buyers (88%) purchased their home with the help of a real estate agent, according to the National Association of Realtors’ (NAR) Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers. 32 Your Dream Home | May 2021


Although most of these buyers hired an agent to help them navigate their real estate transaction, there were still some misconceptions about how agents serve clients, how they get paid and how buyers can make sure they’re hiring a reputable one. “Some buyers go to the listing agent of a home they like, thinking maybe they’ll have a better chance at winning a bidding war if they negotiate directly,” said Holly Worthington, a principal broker with Compass in Chevy Chase, Maryland. “But that generally doesn’t work because most listing agents want buyers represented, especially during a bidding war.” When a buyer initially consults with a buyer’s agent, the agent should discuss how representation works for buyers and sellers, the process of making an offer and

market conditions, said Worthington. Some real estate agents work exclusively as buyer’s agents, never for sellers. While contracts vary from one jurisdiction to the next, buyers typically sign an agreement with their buyer’s agent outlining the length of time they will work together, how the contract can be canceled and how the agent will be paid. Buyers have sometimes been

told that the services of their agent are “free” because commissions for both the listing agent and the buyer’s agent are paid as a deduction from the seller’s proceeds from the home sale. But since the buyers are the ones making the purchase, they are actually the ones paying the commissions. Sellers typically negotiate the commission with their listing agent

and decide how much of a commission to offer a buyer’s agent based on their agent’s recommendation about market practices. Since the commissions are deducted from the proceeds of the sale, it makes sense that sellers need to know the sum of the agent payments to estimate their personal profit or loss on the sale. Buyers don’t know how much the listing agent is paid and, until recently, they typically didn’t know how much their own agent would be paid, either. A 2020 lawsuit settled between the Justice Department and the NAR means that the amount of a buyer’s agent commission can be made publicly available on multiple listing services sites. Daryl Fairweather, chief economist for Redfin, anticipates the greater See AGENTS, 38

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Gardening tip:

Late-season perennials, such as asters, perovskia, chrysanthemums, buddleia, caryopteris, persicaria and Joe Pye weed, all benefit from chopping back now by one-third to one-half to promote a bushier habit that will look neater and prevent the need for staking.

Washington Post photo by Adrian Higgins

Sweet Summer Love is among a raft of new, small-flowered, summer-blooming clematis that have broadened the role of the vine in the garden, especially for garden novices.

of summer, but a native species. An easier native clematis to use is C. texensis and its cultivars, which have vines up to 10 feet and small red blooms, some tulip-shaped.

CLEMATIS, continued from 22

wedged among perennials. Jabco conducted a trial of more than 50 clematis varieties at the arboretum and two other public gardens in southeastern Pennsylvania. The top performers were Dutch Sky, with icy blue flowers; Bagatelle, with 5-inch blue blooms tinged with mauve; East River, with purple blooms on a 5-foot scrambler; Marcelina, with violet blooms; Samaritan Jo, which is compact with blue-white flowers edged with purple; the Countess of Wessex, which is compact and light pink with a darker stripe; and, hurrah, Sweet Summer Love. In addition, the clematis society lists recommended varieties by type, though recommendations vary by climate. Varieties of Clematis alpina and macropetala (called Atragene clematis) struggle in hot climates. The classy, early-flowering and vigorous C. montana is content in the Mid-Atlantic, but not much farther north (too cold) or south (too hot). The one to avoid is the sweet autumn clematis, which produces large, fragrant bowers of tiny white blossoms in late summer but seeds madly and invades natural areas. An alternative is Clematis virginiana, another big clematis with small white blooms at the back end 34 Your Dream Home | May 2021

Some clematis benefits from being planted deeper than when in the nursery container, but not all. If you’re not sure, keep it at the same level. What is important (and hard for the beginner to do) is to cut back the top growth to 12 inches or so at planting time, so the plant’s initial energy is put into the roots. Clematis likes moisture but not wetness, which is why organically enriched soil is good. A light mulch will help keep roots cool, but don’t pile heavy mulches on the stems. Clematis also benefits from feeding, especially the new hybrids that have more flower power. “It’s really important to have a very good trellis structure so these stems aren’t whipping around in the wind,” Jabco said. The vine needs supports that are no larger than the diameter of a pencil because it tethers itself with its slender leaf stalks, he said. If you’ve run out of arbors, trellises and walls to prop up clematis, there are many other supports: shrubs, hedges, trees and rambling and climbing roses. Just make sure the root competition isn’t too fierce. Brushwood Nursery

Chatsworth is a viticella hybrid with three-inch blooms.

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PATIO, continued from 21

they aren’t kept dry and covered. For durability, look for powder-coated finishes; the color and finish have been repeatedly sprayed and baked during production, so the surface won’t chip or fade. Plastic: Plastic furniture doesn’t have to be unattractive and cheaply made. High-density polyethylene plastic is sturdy and easy to clean. It comes in numerous colors and finishes that can convincingly mimic other more expensive or finicky materials, such as raffia, wicker or wood, and it won’t fade in the sun like paint. Morris likes the Lollygagger lounge chair ($595) from Loll Designs and Room & Board’s Emmet lounge chair ($449), which are made out of recycled materials. Oursler likes the selection of composite Adirondack chairs at Lowe’s, including the Seaport classic white plastic frame stationary Adirondack chair ($153.17) by Trex. Fabrics: Fabrics add comfort and offer endless customization options, but they won’t last unless they’re made for outdoor use. “If you don’t invest in cushions, you’re replacing them every year, or every time it rains you’re running out trying to cover your furniture,” Morris said. Look for cushions made of reticulated foam, which wicks away moisture instead of absorbing it. PVC mesh, marine-grade vinyl or solution-dyed acrylic covers are durable options that are protected from moisture and UV damage.

Remodel, continued from 14

dent of the National Association of the Remodeling Industry. “Rather, they’re taking out rarely used closets, like in the hallway, and moving interior walls to make space.” The home office trend isn’t going away anytime soon, he noted. “Even when the pandemic is over,” King said, “there’ll be a lot of people still working from home.” He noted that because of this trend, use of home technology is also increasing as homeowners install items like ethernet cables for computer networks and Bluetooth speakers. 3. More outdoor living One cure for that cooped-up feeling is outdoor living areas. “People want their backyards to be 36 Your Dream Home | May 2021


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Outdoor rugs should be made of solution-dyed acrylics or plastic fibers to wash easily and avoid mold. Morris recommended Sutherland’s Perennials collection, which is sold at Restoration

Hardware and Williams Sonoma; Oursler and St. Claire liked fabrics from Sunbrella, which can be found at stores such as Ballard Designs, Crate and Barrel and Pottery Barn. For outdoor rugs,

Oursler recommended Dash & Albert, including the watermelon striped handmade flat-weave indoor/outdoor area rug ( from $54). –The Washington Post

“Even when the pandemic is over, there’ll be a lot of people still working from home.”

4. Longer wait times Besides shifts in design trends, homeowners can expect a continued slowdown in the industry. Safety concerns may have changed how contractors and workers approach projects. For example, earlier this year, Dollman had suspended all work in occupied residences to avoid exposure to COVID-19 “to protect the homeowners and our crews,” he said. Getting permits can also take much longer than usual as demand increases and those who approve the permits adapt to new working conditions—for instance, working at home rather than in the office, or working with a limited staff.

A sign that bold colors and color combinations could be gaining favor: They featured prominently among Color of the Year winners for 2021 announced by brands including Sherwin Williams, Pantone and Benjamin Moore. Sherwin Williams selected Urbane Bronze (a dark brownish-gray), for instance; Benjamin Moore selected an Aegean Teal (a blue-green color); Pantone selected a color duo: Ultimate Gray and Illuminating (a gray tone alongside a bright yellow color). For homeowners, striking paint colors like these could be an appealing low-cost way to add depth, excitement and personality to a room without overwhelming it. -AP - This article originally appeared on the personal finance website NerdWallet. Carol J. Alexander is a contributing writer at NerdWallet.

–Doug King, owner of King Contracting

their oasis,” King said. In his area, he said pools are the No. 1 thing being added to backyards. Outdoor kitchens and fire pits are the next most popular. Homeowners spending more time at home may also start to seek out remodeling projects that bring beautiful outdoor views inside by installing larger windows or glass doors that let in more natural light.

5. Bold colors Do-it-yourselfers looking for affordable ways to make rooms more welcoming this year should consider a colorful fresh coat of paint.

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transparency around commissions could lead to lower commissions for real estate agents. The average commission that sellers offer to buyer’s agents has declined in recent years, according to a commission survey by Redfin. In the United States, the average commission offered to buyer’s agents in 2020 was 2.7%, according to Redfin. In 2012, the share of sellers offering 3% or more to buyer’s agents was 59.7%. That share dropped to 44.8% in 2020. “The commission comes out of the proceeds of the sale, but in practice many sellers increase the price of the house to cover the commissions,” Fairweather said. “It can be confusing to buyers, which is why it’s better to be transparent about agent fees.” In theory, if buyer’s agent commis-

sions drop further, it could trigger more agent requests to have the buyer pay the difference, Fairweather said. “It’s very important for buyers to read the agreement with their agent and ask if there are any circumstances when they would be expected to pay

the commission directly,” said Worthington. “It’s not typical at all, but in some cases a buyer’s agent could write into the agreement that they must be paid 3 percent of the home price. If they’re offered 2.5 percent, in theory a buyer would have to pay the difference, but that is extremely rare.” Fairweather said buyers can simply hire another agent if one requests direct payment in the initial agreement, which makes it less likely that a buyer’s agent will make that demand. Some jurisdictions, including Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia, allow buyer’s agents to provide a rebate of some of their commission to buyers, said Stephen Brobeck, a senior fellow with the Consumer Federation of America in D.C. “Buyers should discuss their agent’s compensation when they hire them and ask about a rebate, especially in areas like D.C. where the purchase prices are high and commissions are therefore large,” Brobeck said. “Asking about compensation can also be a good way find out how transparent an agent will be with you throughout the transaction.” –The Washington Post


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