What to Look For When Buying a Home in the Winter


Purchasing a property in the winter can be a pretty chill idea. Buying in the wintertime can be advantageous for both home buyers and sellers—with a smaller buying pool, the (typically) off-season market can lend more serious offers from motivated purchasers who benefit from less competition. However, wintery weather can make it tricky to assess a home when you can’t fully see the condition of the property under layers of ice and snow.

Paul Rushforth, broker of record at the Ottawa-based Paul Rushforth Real Estate Inc., and Roger Travassos, a Toronto sales representative with Keller Williams Portfolio Realty, tell us what to look for when buying a home in the winter.

Don’t overlook the home’s exterior

home’s first impression from the sidewalk is always important to consider when buying, and it’s no different during the winter.

Travassos and Rushforth agree it’s crucial to inspect the outside of the home in the winter time. Travassos notes you want to make sure the property’s driveway, outdoor stairs, and sidewalks are shoveled so you can clearly see their condition. A blanket of fluffy snow can also make it a challenge to gauge the property’s roof and grading to see if water is running away from the house correctly.

“Sometimes it can be difficult to see the condition of the roof or the shingles if they’re covered in snow, and then if all of the other roofs [in the neighbourhood] are covered in snow and yours isn’t, it means there’s probably not enough insulation—heat is getting out of the house that shouldn’t be,” explains Travassos.

Image via James Bombales

Landscaping costs for trees and grass can add up, so it’s best to get a sense of the condition of the back and front yards, too. Rushforth says a buyer should ask for pictures of the home in the summertime to assess the state of the yardgardens, and any outdoor structures such as pools.

“You want to know what you’re buying, and the problem with [the winter], everything is covered,” said Rushforth. “You don’t know if there’s grass, if there are weeds, if there’s interlock, if there’s not interlock. Trying to get some recent summer pictures is absolutely key.”

Examine the interiors from floor to ceiling

When touring the inside of the property, you’ll want to keep your eyes peeled for any wintertime red flags that could indicate issues within the house.

Rushforth says to look for any signs of drafts, fogging, or condensation in the windows that could point to broken seals, allowing cold air to enter the home. 

“Looking in the wintertime, you get to see if there are any drafts in the windows,” said Rushforth. “Can you feel cold air coming through? Do you see any leaking? Are you seeing any water stains?”

Image via Unsplash

As colder weather tends to dry out rooms, Rushforth explains a buyer will want to look for gaping or splitting in hardwood floors, which can speak to the home’s humidity levels. Dryness can cause things to shrink slightly, so a purchaser should inspect the home to ensure interior doors and cupboards can close properly. By feeling the interior walls, you can also assess if they are cold to the touch and therefore poorly insulated—Travassos points out some homes may be double bricked and not insulated.

When viewing a home in the winter, Rushforth notes purchasers should monitor for big differences in temperature between rooms, a sign there could be ventilation problems to address.

“You’re looking for signs of chilly rooms, drafty rooms, or even rooms that are really warm,” said Rushforth. “Why are they really warm in the winter time unless the heat is punched up? You’re looking for differences in rooms that will be a tell-tale sign as to whether there are issues.”

Inspect your home utility systems and out-of-season amenities

The winter often calls for homeowners to shut down seasonal home amenities like pools and cooling systems, but this shouldn’t mean a buyer should skip on investigating these features.

Travassos and Rushforth explain a buyer won’t be able to turn on and test the home’s air conditioning in the winter to confirm if it’s working properly or not. Because of this, it’s important for the buyer to do their due diligence and ask the seller and their agent questions about the state of home systems such as the furnace, septic, pool parts, and other property features. 

“Quite often, additions aren’t done with permits and pipes were not insulated properly, so in really cold months, they freeze a little bit,” said Travassos. “So you want to run the water on all of the taps and make sure you’re not seeing any of that.”

Image via Pexels

For pools and hot tubs, you may want to request copies of receipts, maintenance reports, and proof of professional services to ensure they—as well as all of the other home systems—are in good working order when you purchase the property. As always, opting for a home inspection can be a way to ensure a professional can get a deeper understanding of the property, including in areas like the basement and attic.



SOURCE: https://www.realtor.ca/blog/what-to-look-for-when-buying-a-home-in-the-winter/22652/1361


Buying Your First House: Starter Home or Forever Home?


If you’re a first-time home buyer, you may be wondering: Should you purchase a small starter home to get into the market now, knowing you may grow out of it in a few years? Or, should you stretch your budget — or spend more time saving — to get a “forever home” that will take care of your long-term needs?

Here are some factors to consider as you weigh whether to get a home best suited for the short term or the long haul.

• Market conditions: Mortgage rates are historically low, but there’s no telling how long that will last. Also, many real estate markets nationwide are booming; consider whether to jump in before home prices get even higher, or whether they may weaken.
• Where you want to live: Consider if you’d be OK living for a few years in the suburbs, where you might be able to find something more affordable, or if you’d rather try to snag a home in a different area where you want to live long-term
• How much house you can afford: It ultimately comes down to how much money you have saved and how much you can afford to spend on a monthly mortgage payment. Use a home affordability calculator to see what’s within your price range.
• What kind of house you want: For a starter home, you might go for an apartment, condo or townhouse in an up-and-coming area. If you’re thinking forever home, a single-family detached or a house with land to build an addition later could be a better fit — but it’ll be more expensive.
• The costs of getting out early: If you do spring for a starter house now, and you end up getting married or having kids or needing to move quickly, you may face penalties, such as capital gains tax

Those are some of the big-picture considerations. Let’s dive into the details on what else you need to think about.

Starter home considerations

Your lifestyle: Do you want to be in the middle of a big city, or are you fine with the ’burbs if that means you can own a home? If you want to live centrally, where real estate is most expensive, you’ll probably have to start small. Dana Bull, a real estate agent in Boston with Harborside Sotheby’s International Realty, remembers when she bought her first condo at 22, she could afford only one well outside of Boston, and she had some regret as she missed being in the city near her friends. Consider what you’re willing to sacrifice, both in terms of location and size.

Your future needs: Bull says many first-time home buyers assume they’ll be in a home much longer than they actually are. She says young, single people sometimes don’t realize how quickly life can change. A job switch, new relationship or new baby can alter what you need in a home.

Zachary Conway, a financial advisor with Conway Wealth Group LLC in Parsippany, New Jersey, adds that selling a house can be stressful — especially if you’re in the midst of major life changes such as having a baby.

So, if your life is full of flux and you think you would stay in your starter home for only 1 1/2 to three years, it may be less stressful to keep renting until you’re ready for something large enough to meet longer-term needs.

Capital gains taxes: If you set out to buy a starter home for the short term, be careful, Bull says. If you sell soon after moving in, you may owe capital gains tax on your profit from selling the home.

According to the IRS, individuals are excluded from paying taxes on $250,000 ($500,000 if married) of gain on a home sale as long as the house was used as your main residence during at least two of the five years before selling it. That means you may want to think carefully about buying a home you’ll grow out of in less than two years. Consult a tax professional to see how this could affect you.

Consider an exit strategy: If you’re considering going the starter home route, you should think through from the start how you’ll offload it when the time comes to move, Bull says. For instance you might buy a property that you could rent out to cover your mortgage, especially during times of economic uncertainty, she says. This helps ensure you can cover your mortgage payment if you need to move ASAP, or if the market is weak when you hope to sell but you don’t want to take a loss.

You should also carefully research the area in which you’re looking to buy, Conway says, and confirm “there’s enough resale potential to make sure that even in a market that’s heading downward, you still have a likelihood of being able to get out of where you are.”

Forever home considerations

Interest rates: Conway says that if you decide to wait so you can afford a forever home, there’s a chance interest rates could increase from their current historic lows. “You might be able to scrape together some additional funds in the next few years, but maybe at that point, we may be closer back to historical norms of interest rates, and your mortgage is more expensive,” Conway says. Nobody can predict what will happen, but it’s important to keep a pulse check on mortgage rates.

Hot markets: In many major cities such as Boston, property values are rising rapidly, Bull says. There’s also a lot of uncertainty as to whether home values will plateau or keep going up, leaving first-time home buyers wondering if they should give in to the “feeding frenzy,” she says. If you wait in hopes of saving for a larger home, it’s possible prices will rise faster than you can save, she says.

Your cash flow: Considering your lifestyle and life events is certainly important, “but really at the end of the day, it comes down to the math of do we have the cash flow,” Conway says.

If you want a forever home, you have to ask yourself whether you can afford the larger down payment, and whether your salary supports a higher monthly mortgage payment. Conway says it’s key to create a budget and to carefully track what you save and spend, and to be sure you can afford a more expensive home. Don’t assume your salary will be higher in a few years and go for a bigger mortgage, he says. And don’t forget to factor in higher ongoing expenses like property taxes and homeowners insurance.

» MORE: Calculate your monthly mortgage payment

Don’t stress too much

While making the decision between a starter home and forever home is a major move, Bull says don’t fret too much about making the wrong decision. Remember, she says, “there are always options — you can sell, you can rent, you can put yourself in a position where you can go out and buy another house.”

Conway adds that if you decide you’re not ready to buy for a while, that’s OK too, and you shouldn’t look at rent as throwing away money. “I wouldn’t jump into buying something for the sake of the fact that’s what we were told we should do,” he says. “It really comes down to what you’re comfortable with from a cash flow standpoint and what you want in your life. There’s nothing inherently wrong with paying rent.”

The article Buying Your First House: Starter Home or Forever Home? originally appeared on NerdWallet.

How to Handle Your Urge to Overspend on a New Kitchen

It's all about figuring out where to splurge and where to save

Ask 10 people what to splurge on in a kitchen remodel, and you’ll get 10 different answers. What constitutes an ideal space is highly subjective, and every kitchen remodel is a circus-worthy balancing act of money and priorities. Start by knowing what’s important to you, and then spend strategically.

Look to Your Layout

If you are happy enough with your kitchen’s existing footprint, leave it as is. “Keeping your layout is a surefire way to save money,” says Melanie Burstin, an interior designer from Los Angeles. One of the biggest ways to drive up spending is by tearing down walls and reconfiguring the space, which usually requires expensive professionals to move plumbing and electrical work. Keep outside labor costs low and don’t shift the sink, lighting, and appliances without good reason. That said, if your biggest pet peeve is staring at a wall for hours while you wash your household’s endless stream of dishes, then a new open floor plan with an island sink might just be worth it to you. Pay more for the change, then take money from elsewhere in your budget.

But don’t break out the sledgehammer without investigating less expensive and invasive options first. While remodeling her own dark, cramped galley kitchen (which cost under $20K), designer Velinda Hellen chose to replace a solid-core exterior door on the far wall with a glass option, which visually opened everything up, and let in more sunlight. If you can swing it, adding “larger windows can make a kitchen,” she says.

Material Matters

Well-constructed, durable materials that better withstand the heavy wear and tear of meal prep, cooking, and cleaning are almost always worth the extra money. Avid cooks, in particular, will want to spend more on items that get a lot of use—particularly those that are fixed and hard to replace down the line. While it’s relatively easy and cheap to swap out a pendant light, tearing out and reinstalling an entirely new countertop requires a lot more money and effort. Choose a quality work surface the first time and you won’t have to turn around and shell out more cash in a couple of years when the original one chips or stains.


One of Velinda’s regrets is the cheap $200 eBay faucet she installed in that same kitchen five years ago. Since then, the metal corroded and shoddy threads cause it to spin around at the base. A plumber recently quoted $500 just to replace it, making her yearn for the nicer $650 faucet she originally considered. It would have been a better deal in the long run, without the added hassle. “Although it sounded like a boring thing to invest in on my small budget, I had to learn the hard way that quality plumbing fixtures make a difference,” Velinda says.

Consider Cabinets

Few things cause more sticker shock than new custo m kitchen cabinets. One strategy is to use existing cabinetry wherever possible, especially when it’s made of real wood and still in good condition. Fresh paint and new hardware go far for just a couple hundred bucks, if you tackle the work yourselves. (In fact, the more you knowledgeably DIY, the more you save, whether it’s demo, painting, or even plumbing.) For non-handy types, refacing is also an option, which updates the outwardly visible parts of an existing cabinet framework, namely the doors, side panels, and drawer fronts. It’s not as cheap as a couple of coats of paint, but can make old, outdated cabinets look like a completely new and different animal, without the custom price tag.

Sometimes cabinets aren’t salvageable. Enter IKEA, the best-known brand in the world of ready-to-assemble budget alternatives. Their SEKTION line features modular units with a lot of flexibility and good quality European-made hardware for the price. Save money by going the IKEA route, then skip their doors and upgrade to semi-custom ones from Reform or Semihandmade to substantially elevate the look. You can also powder coat any RTA cabinets, says Velinda, and get picky about exact tones of paint, just as you would with a custom build. “I’m all for that splurge rather than trying paint yourself,” she says. Plus, the finish is easier to clean and will hold up longer, with fewer scratches.

Treat Yourself

After successfully saving your pennies elsewhere, consider at least one decent splurge to take your kitchen to the next level. “Lighting is an easy way to upscale your project, without a huge price tag. Look to Etsy for reasonably-priced, but handmade, pieces that will bring a touch of something special to your room,” says Velinda. “You’ll support makers along the way, so it’s a win-win.”

Melanie herself loves good minimalist design that streamlines everything, and panel-ready appliances—fitted with custom covers that match the rest of the kitchen’s cabinetry—are one of her favorite ways to supercharge the end result. “It's crazy how much more expensive this type of fridge is, but, the cool thing is, once the cabinetry is done, it completely goes away.”





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3 Big Real Estate Myths

There are many real estate 'rules' that aren't absolute truths across the board! Take a look at these three big ones and get a better idea of what does and doesn't apply to you and your home.

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ROI under 100% = A Bad Remodel

It’s rare that a remodeled kitchen or bathroom will result in a complete return on investment, but that shouldn’t necessarily be a deterrent. What people don’t seem to factor into the equation is the fact that, until the day you sell your home, you’ll have the benefit of enjoying the remodel yourself! Let’s say that you get 75% ROI on a remodeled kitchen, but you got to enjoy that kitchen for a year before selling. I’d chalk that up to a win.

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Swimming Pools Make It Harder to Sell a Home

No home is going to appeal to every market, but that’s not the point! The point is to find one perfect buyer. If swimming pools don’t appeal to older home buyers, such as empty nesters, then they’re simply not part of the market for that particular property. Families with young kids looking for a home to grow into, a pool could be a huge selling point, especially in warm climates. The point is, and this applies to all features, not just pools, unique features may cut down the number of potential buyers, but that’s ok; it only takes one.

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”They just remodeled, we don’t need an inspection.”

Some buyers are under the impression that, if a house was recently built or remodeled, it must have been done correctly, making an inspection unnecessary. This is simply untrue. At the end of the day, you can’t be too careful when making the biggest investment of your life. The exterior and surface may look great, but if the core of the home has issues, you need to know about it.

Oh, Baby! What You Should Always Baby-Proof at Home

- Brittany Stager

Bringing a baby home is a magical moment and, once that baby is placed in your arms, there’s an undeniable urge to keep them as safe as possible—especially in your own home. So how do you keep your baby happy, safe, and away from mischief? Baby-proofing!

The best time to baby-proof a home is before your newborn has arrived—trust us, there will be very little time to dedicate to the task once they’ve arrived! If you’re moving into a new house with baby in tow, have a plan mapped out for what things you’ll need to baby-proof once you take possession.

Cutting the clutter and eliminating hazards around the home is not only important for the safety of your baby, but for you as well. There may be many sleepless nights during the first few months, so make it easy on yourself to navigate your home safely during the wee hours of the night or on little sleep. Slippery floors, unstable furniture, or inconveniently placed home accessories can quickly turn into an unsafe situation when holding a baby.

If you’re getting ready to welcome a new bundle of joy into your life, here are a few items you should always baby-proof to ensure your home is safe for newborns, toddlers, and parents.


There’s no lack of cords in the everyday home. From blinds to electrical, cords are an easy and important thing to baby-proof. Remove, cut or mount any long cords from blinds, drapes, or shades so they’re not within reach. Use cord holders to manage the cables in your media centre or computer cords in your home office. Consider taping down any extension cords or tuck them under furniture so they aren’t easily accessible. And don’t forget the cord on your baby monitor! Make sure it doesn’t hang over or behind their crib.


If the nursery needs a fresh coat of paint or wall treatment be sure to finish the project at least eight weeks before the baby is due. This will help reduce their exposure to volatile organic compounds (VOC) and other fumes. If your home was built before 1976 it’s best to have a professional come look at any paint that’s flaking or peeling as it could contain lead, which is harmful if ingested.

Heavy furniture and décor accessories

A functional piece of furniture to adults looks like a fun climbing challenge to toddlers! Bookcases, cabinets, dressers, media units, and other top-heavy furniture should be secured to the wall to prevent tipping. TVs should also be tethered or mounted to the wall away from reach. If your nursery features a gallery wall above the crib, ensure the frames are mounted securely to the wall. In addition to the standard picture hanging hardware, 3M command strips can be used to ensure those frames aren’t going anywhere! Remove and store any décor accessories that might be unsafe, such as glass candle holders, vases with beads, tabletop picture frames, or sharp objects.   


There are so many benefits to keeping plants in your home, but once your baby starts crawling around the house, be sure you know what types you’re growing. Peace Lily, Philodendron, Pothos, Oleander, Ivy, and Arrowhead are all toxic if ingested, so if you have these plants either give them away or place them out of reach.

Pet food and toys

No, you can’t baby-proof a cat or dog, but you can be conscious and aware of how your baby or toddler interacts with them! Even the friendliest dogs can become possessive of their food and toys when an unpredictable guest is in the vicinity. Move your pet’s food and toys into another room or corner, away from grabby hands and curious mouths. Never allow your pet to sleep with your baby as they can smother them unknowingly. Lastly, no matter how comfortable your pet seems around children, never leave them alone with a baby or toddler. It takes mere seconds for a cat to scratch or a dog to nip delicate skin. 


Pools are great for families, offering hours of fun and exercise, but if you don’t take pool safety seriously, tragic accidents can happen. If you have a pool, install a self-locking fence at least four feet tall. You’ll also need to consult your local bylaws to see what safety protocols are mandatory for your area. Hard pool covers or nets can also prevent a baby or toddler from accidentally falling in. Alarm systems on doors or pool gates can alert you if your child (or an intruder) has entered your pool. Keep the pool clear of floaties, toys, and other objects that can be a temptation for children to reach in and try to grab. Lastly, if you own a pool, take a CPR course. It’s something you hope you will never need, but it could save a life if you do.

Doors and drawers

Imagine the joy and excitement you would feel every time you opened a door or drawer and found something new inside! For your baby or toddler, exploring those doors and drawers is endless fun, but if you don’t want pots and pans or the contents of your freezer scattered around the kitchen, it might be best to invest in a variety of locks! And don’t stop at the kitchen—lock-up cabinets in the bathroom, mudroom, dining room, and bedrooms.  


We know, baby gates can be a bit of an eyesore, but they do prevent your little one from taking a big tumble. Install baby gates at the top and bottom of stairs, or in front of any room you don’t want your baby exploring. There will also come a time when your child will start climbing the stairs on their own. If you have wooden treads that can become slippery, try installing a carpet runner, making it easy for them to gain traction.

Without a doubt, kids will find a way to grab, pull, poke, stand on, and touch anything in their little paths. If you’ve baby-proofed your home but are still unsure of what hazards could lie ahead, get down on your hands and knees and crawl around. Seeing the world from your baby’s point of view might help you identify hidden dangers and address them before accidents happen. 

Enjoy your newly baby-proofed home!


Source - https://www.realtor.ca/blog/oh-baby-what-you-should-always-baby-proof-at-home/21758/1363

15 Expensive Decorating Mistakes Designers Won’t Make Again (and How You Can Avoid Them, Too)

white modern kitchen island bench with high chairs and terrazzo floor
Credit: Jodie Johnson/Shutterstock

Let’s face it: Some lessons in life are learned the hard way. Often, making a mistake is the best way to figure out what not to do in the future. When the stakes are high and the outcome is costly, you tend to remember an experience and grow from it, with the hope (in theory) that you’ll never repeat it again.

Well, this same sentiment applies to decorating your home. Seemingly trivial design decisions can turn into expensive issues fast—and often, these things could have been avoided with a little bit of planning, prep, or research. Curious about what rookie mistakes might cost you major moolah in the long run? Here, a handful of interior designers are sharing their insight on the pricey decorating mistakes they’ve made in the past. Hopefully, you can vicariously learn through them—I know I will!

1. Not checking out big-ticket furniture items in person

It might seem like a hassle or an extra step in the decorating process, but it’s always worth taking the time to visit a furniture showroom or a brick-and-mortar store (once they’re open) to see a piece in real life before buying it, if possible. “Products don’t always look like the pictures online,” says designer Anna Filippova of Hyphen & Co. “Seeing a product in person or requesting a [fabric or finish] sample can prevent this mistake from happening. Samples are specifically helpful in the situation of visualizing the product with the rest of the elements in the space before the purchase.”

Many companies often charge restock fees and won’t pay for return shipping either, so it’s always a good idea to know exactly what you are getting before it shows up on your doorstep. You could save yourself a substantial amount time and money in the long run this way, even if you have to shell out a little cash upfront for a sample or waste an hour window shopping.

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Credit: Rawpixel/Getty Images

2. Forgetting to test paint colors in different lighting situations

Whether it’s sunlight streaming into your windows or the color of your light bulbs, designer Rachel Cannon of Rachel Cannon Limited Interiors says lighting can alter the color of your paint. “On one of our projects, after painting the walls of a room a nice gray color, their contractor installed pink LED bulbs throughout,” says Cannon. “The bulbs completely changed the look of the gray paint and made the walls look pink, to which our client expressed great concern and even thought repainting the entire house was necessary!”

Ultimately, Cannon bought the right temperature bulbs, and all was well. For best results, however, you should test paint on all of the walls you plan on painting in a given room or rooms before committing to a color. Remember to look at swatches at different times of day, too, so you can see how the sun and artificial lighting will impact the look of the shade.

3. Using small-scale wallpaper designs in big rooms

Make no mistake about it: designers Tavia Forbes and Monet Masters of Forbes + Masters say that installing wallpaper with a small-scale texture or print in a large room can be a costly mistake. “Beautiful textures and prints wind up getting lost in the space and read as solid color from a distance,” Forbes says. “Small-scale wallpapers are better suited for powder rooms or small entryways,” adds Masters. 

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Credit: Katarzyna Bialasiewicz/Getty Images

4. Not measuring furniture before buying it

If you ask designer Linda Sullivan of Sullivan Design Studio, nothing is worse than falling in love with a furnishing only to discover that it’s the wrong size for your home. “Take out that measuring tape and blue painter’s tape and map out the exact dimensions of your desired new purchase to help you understand how it will work in your space,” she says. “Informed decisions save money (and the hassle of returns)!” 

Better yet, measure twice just to be sure you have the right dimensions. Consider recording those numbers in a note on your phone to reference later. If you don’t have a specific piece in mind, measure the spot on your floor and wall you’d ideally want to fill. That way, if you’re shopping for a piece at an outdoor tag sale or later at a store, you won’t have to guess at what a proper sized piece would be.

5. Leaving your design plan up in the air

Sure, you may be head-over-heels in love with an expensive sofa, but designer Justin Q. Williams of Trademark Design Co. believes blowing your entire decorating budget on a single piece of furniture isn’t a very smart idea—particularly if you haven’t taken the time to make a design plan before your start shopping. “There’s nothing worse than walking into an empty room with a stunning sofa and nothing else,” he says. “Make a plan and budget for your space before you start decorating.”

Your design plan doesn’t have to include a fancy drawing or mood board. It can be as simple as a Pinterest board, a list of items you need, and a figure that you need to stay under for the entire project that’s itemized out for particular furnishings, give or take a bit.

6. Cheaping out on window treatments

Although it might seem savvy to buy inexpensive window treatments up front,
Haley Weidenbaum, interior designer and founder of Everhem, says it could cost you in the long run. “As a designer, I’ve realized that every window has different dimensions, thus, you can’t buy one size to fit all your windows,” she says. “Investing money in custom window treatments, versus prefabricated panels, ensures you get the perfect look and fit so you won’t have to replace them later.” 

white living room and kitchen
Credit: Cavan Images/Getty Images

7. Buying white or pale upholstered furniture

If you’re thinking about ordering a sofa or armchair upholstered in very light colored fabric, designer Danielle Fennoy of Revamp Interior Design says you might want to reconsider. “My biggest design mistake to date has been ordering an egg chair in white wool fabric,” she says. “Within a very short period of time, it was a hot mess. Moving happened, then a baby, and eventually the chair was unrecognizable. Save yourself the headache and always go with something with a little color or pattern.” 

Four white wire sculpture Bertoia chairs around an Eero Saarinen style Tulip Table in a bay window PREMIUM ACCESS  Extra small  Small  Medium 1415 x 2126 px (4.72 x 7.09 in) 300 dpi | 3.0 MP  Large DOWNLOAD AGAIN Notes      Editorial use only DETAILS
Credit: Andreas von Einsiedel/Getty Images

8. Overdoing designer goods

If you aren’t mixing both high and low budget furnishings into your decor scheme, designer Erin Hackett of Hackett Interiors says you’re missing out on an opportunity for true variety in your space. “People oftentimes make the mistake of thinking that in order to get a luxurious feel in their homes, they have to splurge on every item within each room,” she says. “The best way to create balance in your home—and your budget—is to purchase one or two statement pieces in each space such as a sofa, bed, or dining set, and then you can add in playful, personal accent details and accessories that won’t break the bank such as art, vases, greenery, and pillows.” 

9. Failing to pad a wallpaper order

When it comes time to dress up the walls of your home, designer Anne Carr says not ordering enough wallpaper can be a simple but expensive mistake. “Even if you order more of the exact same wallpaper, sometimes the colorways won’t match,” she says. “Always have the installer give you an estimate, as they typically do this for free.”

In addition, a good rule of thumb is to order about 10 to 20 percent more wallpaper than you actually need to complete your job. That way, your dye lots will definitely match should you have measured wrong, and you’ll have extra paper should a mistake be made in install. If all goes perfectly, having an extra roll or so means you’ll also have the ability to replace a panel or two, if need be, in the future.

10. Ignoring your room’s scale

When investing in quality furniture, designer Liles Dunnigan of The Warehouse Interiors says it’s essential to make sure the scale of a piece is proportionate to the size of the room. “A huge sectional in a small room will feel cramped, no matter how luxurious or beautiful the piece of furniture may be,” she explains. “On the other hand, if you have a spacious room, do not skimp out on a small sofa or loveseat. It will feel as if it’s floating in a sea of emptiness. Furniture pieces need to be proportional as they relate to one another.”

11. Not measuring the legs of your dining chairs

Nothing ruins a dinner party faster than a dining chair that won’t fit at the table. “Always measure to make sure the legs of your dining chairs fit between the legs of your table,” says designer Marika Meyer. “In my rookie days, I neglected to measure for the ‘extra’ chair that would be added when a client’s dining table was fully extended. We got a call on Christmas Eve from the client because the extra chairs wouldn’t fit—now I always remember to measure twice!”

While you’re at it, be sure that the chairs you are picking are also high enough for the table—and not too high either. Generally, chairs fall into a standard range, but sometimes there are outliers. Measure twice here, too, since it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Minimalist home working space with green plants
Credit: Morinka/Shutterstock

12. Filling up a space quickly just to “finish” it

No matter how enticing the price tag on an inexpensive piece of furniture may be, Sullivan says investing in a bunch of poorly made furnishings just to complete your room almost always ends in regret. “We suggest pausing on the cheap chair or lamp if it is not absolutely necessary for your space and waiting to save up for the dream one you want to carry with you to all your future homes,” she says. “This will not only save you money, but you will start to curate a collection of items you adore.”

13. Using “postage stamp” sized rugs

If you thought buying a bunch of small rugs—instead of one large area rug—was a smart way to save money when decorating a room, designer Kendall Wilkinson says you’re mistaken. “Rugs serve to anchor the entire room’s design and unify the overall aesthetic,” she explains. “When the rug is too small, it feels like a postage stamp, and the scale as a whole and proportion of the space will suffer.”

According to Wilkinson, a cluster of too-small rug screams “mistake” and is often a costly fix. Typically, the only option is to purchase an entirely new rug in the proper size, since it’s also tough to layer similar smaller rugs without a larger anchor rug underneath them. You’d be better off buying a cheaper, less fancy large rug than trying to make something more decorative but smaller work in your space, even if you have multiples.

14. Not double-checking natural materials before installing them

If you plan on using any natural finishes in your home, such as stone tile or countertops, designer Ashley Moore of Moore House Interiors says to make sure to inspect everything prior to installation. That way, you are sure that materials you have received are what you actually had in mind. 

“For one project, we installed natural stone in the shower without checking the tile beforehand,” she explains. “Since natural stone varies, as opposed to man-made materials, there can be major differences in color and detail [of individual pieces]. It ended up having so much variation that it didn’t look cohesive and had to be completely redone. That’s a mistake we won’t be making again—it’s always better to send back or reorder before something is installed!”

15. Not measuring your elevator—or doorways

While you may have double checked the dimensions of the sofa you ordered to ensure it’s the right size for your living room, designer Megan Hopp advises you to measure your doorway and elevator (if applicable), too. “Early on in my career, I ordered not one but two oversized velvet sofas for a loft space I was working on in Manhattan—no question the sofas would fit the space perfectly—but did I think about the elevator ride up?” she says. “No, and it wasn’t even a close fit: There was no way I was getting those sofas in and up. They immediately needed to be loaded back on the truck and returned to the vendor with a steep restocking fee.”


That’s a mistake in the world of elevators that Hopp will never make again, but even if you don’t live in on a high floor of an apartment building, something like this could happen with your doorways. To cover all of your bases, it’s best to think about the process of physically getting items into your space as much as their fit in the spots that will ultimately be their final destinations.

Caroline Biggs





Selling your home takes some preparation! Here’s some things you can do to minimize the last-minute chores and tasks that come with selling:

  1. Figure out how much cost you may incur for repairs and upgrades so that you can either budget for it or know how much would be appropriate for buyers to knock off the sale price, if you want them to take on those costs.
  2. Deep cleaning is not fun, but it’s very necessary when you’re getting ready to sell. Don’t want to pay for a cleaning crew? Depending on how large your home is, you may want to recruit a squad of friendly volunteers. Just offer some delicious food and perhaps a future ride to the airport.
  3. Make sure your yard is at its peak! This is something you can and should start improving a few months before you actually list. Yard work and gardening can hardly be drastically improved overnight.
  4. The majority of homeowners have a lot of stuff, nothing in particular, just stuff. Pack the non-essentials and store it elsewhere when it’s getting close to listing time. Uncluttered floors appear larger, cleaner, and more attractive. Don’t worry, your go-to recliner will be waiting for you in your new home, I promise!
  5. You know what gets pretty dirty and needs a checkup from time to time? Chimneys and fireplaces! If you have one or more, get them cleaned and inspected by experts to make sure they look pristine, and to prevent a nasty repair surprise!

What Every First-Time Home Buyer Needs for Their Pet


First-time home buyers usually have a long list of things they're looking for in a home. But there's one family member a lot of people forget about when they're house hunting. Your pet.

Here's how to find a home that works for you and your furball. 

Check out the yard

The yard is your dog's de facto domain, so you'll want to make sure it's appropriate for him.

Think about the things that might be a problem down the road. Is it big enough? If all you have is a little patio, you can still make it work, but it's going to mean a lot more walks to help keep your pup in shape.

Do you need a fence in your yard? Does it need to be high because your dog is an acrobat? Remember, not having a fence isn't necessarily a dealbreaker for the house as long as you're allowed to add one later.  

Make sure there are pet-friendly spaces

It's not just your yard you need to look at through your pet's eyes.

Make sure your potential home is set up to accommodate your pet. That might mean a laundry room or closed off the kitchen where your pup can stay safe and contained when you're out of the house or it might mean a sunroom where your indoor cat can monitor the outdoors. 

Look for a neighborhood that's friendly to first-time buyers and their pets 

Look for a neighborhood that's close to the types of things you like to do with and without your pet.

If your perfect Saturday is walking to the dog park and then heading over to the local coffee shop, then be sure to let your Realtor know so she can look for neighborhoods where that's possible.

If you have a dog or an outdoor cat, you should also be sure to check that some of your neighbors are also pet owners. Those people will likely be more understanding when they see your cat outside or when your dog decides to chase a squirrel across the street.

While you're thinking about the neighborhood, you should also check to see if there are any restrictions on pets. Some cities have breed-specific bans or only allow a certain number of pets in a home. Even if your city is pet-friendly, your HOA might have a few other restrictions on your pet and the last thing you want is to have to decide between your first home and your furbaby. 

So, start revising your list of things you're looking for and get ready to find a home for the whole family.