5 Reasons to Buy a Home This Fall


The days may be getting shorter, but the list of home-shopping benefits is getting longer.

Real estate markets ebb and flow, just like the seasons. The spring market blooms right along with the flowers, but the fall market often dwindles with the leaves — and this slower pace could be good for buyers.

If you’re in the market for a home, here are five reasons why fall can be a great time to buy.

1. Old inventory may mean deals

Sellers tend to put their homes on the market in the spring, often listing their homes too high right out of the gate. This could result in price reductions throughout the spring and summer months.

These sellers have fewer chances to capture buyers after Labor Day. By October, you are likely to find desperate sellers and prices below a home’s market value.

2. Fewer buyers are competing

Families who want to be in a new home by the beginning of the school season are no longer shopping at this point. That translates into less competition and more opportunities for buyers.

You’ll likely notice fewer buyers at open houses, which could signal a great opportunity to make an offer.

3. Sellers want to close by the end of the year

While a home is where an owner lives and makes memories, it is also an investment — one with tax consequences.

A home seller may want to take advantage of a gain or loss during this tax year, so you might find homeowners looking to make deals so they can close before December 31.

Ask why the seller is selling, and look for listings that offer incentives to close before the end of the year.

4. The holidays motivate sellers

As the holidays approach, sellers are eager to close so they can move on to planning their parties and events.

If a home has not sold by November, the seller is likely motivated to be done with the disruptions caused by listing a home for sale.

5. Harsher weather shows more flaws

The dreary fall and winter months tend to reveal flaws, making them a great time to see a home’s true colors.

It’s better to see the home’s flaws before making the offer, instead of being surprised months after you close. In fact, the best time to do a property inspection is in the rain and snow, because any major issues are more likely to be exposed.

Top photo from Shutterstock.

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Originally published October 2015.



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11 Fall Maintenance Tasks to Do This Weekend


Put down that pumpkin spiced beverage and take care of these maintenance to-dos before winter sets in.

By Shannon Ireland

The scent of pumpkin spice has begun to fill the air, sweaters are moving toward the front of the closet, and leaves are changing from their summer green to the vibrant hues of fall.

But before you cozy up with a fleece blanket and a cup of tea, take the time to tackle a few home maintenance projects.

Why is seasonal maintenance important?

The answer is simple: Seasonal maintenance can help keep your home looking and functioning properly, and save you money because you’ll catch problems before they get out of hand.

Plus you’ll get the added bonus of sleeping easier at night knowing you’ve taken all necessary precautions.

‘Tis the season to …

1. Rake it in

Few things are more beautiful than a yard speckled with crimson, gold and tangerine-colored leaves. But failing to dispose of them can kill your grass and inhibit growth in the spring months.

Grab your rake and enjoy the crisp temperatures of the season. You can always treat yourself to a pumpkin treat when the raking is done.

2. Clean the gutters

Speaking of leaves, when they clog your gutters, rainwater can’t flow through and will eventually spill over. So what, right? This overflow can damage your home’s siding, roof and foundation.

It’s better to remove the leaves from your gutters than to chance the buildup turning into a costly problem.

3. Check the roof

While we’re on the subject of the roof, fall is a great time to check that all shingles are in place and in good shape before winter snowstorms pop up on your radar.

4. Conduct a walking inspection

Take a walk around the exterior of your home, keeping an eye open for damage along the pathways leading to your doors. Cracks could mean loose cement or gravel, increasing the likelihood that someone could trip or slip and fall.

To ensure the safety of visitors, seal any cracks you see. Be sure to inspect the siding and foundation while you’re at it, and tackle any repairs as soon as possible.

5. Cracks and gaps can cause problems indoors too

When you shut doors and windows, make sure there aren’t any spaces allowing air to escape. If there are, seal them.

You may not think much of these little gaps right now, but you will when you open your heating bill and see how much you’re paying to keep the whole neighborhood warm, or when you find out that a mouse has made your cabinet his home for the winter.

6. Store summer staples

Patio furniture is susceptible to damage from winter weather. Since you probably won’t spend as much time outside — except for roasting marshmallows over the fire pit — move outdoor furniture, trampolines and other summer staples into storage.

7. Make it a clean sweep

Schedule a time to have your chimney and heating system cleaned and maintained, including swapping old filters for new ones. It’s important that everything is in good working condition to decrease the likelihood of house fires.

8. Pipe down

Shut off the water supply to exterior faucets and insulate your pipes before the weather dips below 32 degrees. This will help prevent pipes from freezing, bursting and flooding your home.

9. Take time to vent

Your dryer vent, that is. Cooler weather means more static electricity, which means lint buildup in your dryer can ignite more easily. Clean your dryer vent to help prevent this problem and keep it working more efficiently.

10. Testing … 1, 2, 3

Test safety devices, such as smoke alarms, and check the expiration date on your fire extinguisher. In case a fire ignites, it’s important to know that you and your family will be alerted and able to get out of the house quickly and safely, or able to extinguish smaller fires before significant damage is done.

11. Check your home insurance coverage

Can your insurance weather the storm? The final item on your fall home maintenance checklist should always be to call your insurance agent. Arrange a time to walk through your coverage to ensure your home will be protected, no matter what situation may arise.

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Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of Zillow.

Originally published October 2016.



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12 Tasks to Tackle This Fall


Cooler weather is coming — prep your home for its arrival while it’s still nice outside.

The days are getting shorter, and the nights are getting cooler. The kids are trudging off to school again with their backpacks, and leaves are falling from the trees.

Yep, it’s official: Fall is here. Now’s the time to finish up any pre-winter maintenance projects and get your home and yard ready.

Take care of these 12 tasks to get your home clean, warm and cozy for the cool days to come.

Exterior prep

1. Fix cracks in concrete and asphalt

Depending on where you live, these may be the last weeks this year when it will be warm and sunny enough to repair driveway and sidewalk cracks.

2. Clean out the gutters

No one loves this job, but we all need to do it annually. A few hours of work can prevent big problems later on.

While you’re up on that ladder, visually inspect your roof for damaged shingles, flashing or vents. You can also inspect the chimney for any missing mortar and repair it by tuck-pointing, if needed.

3. Turn off outdoor plumbing

Drain outdoor faucets and sprinkler systems, and cover them to protect them from the freezing weather to come.

4. Start composting

If you don’t already have compost bins, now’s the time to make or get some. All those accumulated autumn leaves will bring you gardening gold next summer!

5. Clean outdoor furniture and gardening tools

It may not yet be time to put them away, but go ahead and clean your outdoor furniture and gardening tools so they’re ready for storage over the winter.

6. Plant bulbs for spring-blooming flowers

Plant bulbs in October, as soon as the soil has cooled down, to reap big rewards next spring. If you’ve never planted bulbs before, select a spot in your yard that gets full sun during the day.

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Interior prep

7. Prepare your furnace for winter duty

If you didn’t already do it last spring, consider getting your furnace professionally serviced in time for the cold season. At a minimum, visually inspect your furnace and replace the furnace filter before you start using it on a daily basis.

8. Clean the fireplace and chimney

Clean out the fireplace, inspect the flue, and ensure the doors and shields are sound. Have the chimney professionally swept if needed. Now’s also the time to stock up on firewood!

9. Keep the warm air inside and the cold air outside

Inspect your windows and doors. Check weatherstripping by opening a door, placing a piece of paper in the entryway and closing the door. The paper should not slide back and forth easily. If it does, the weatherstripping isn’t doing its job.

Also, now’s the time to re-caulk around windows and door casings, if needed.

10. Light the way

Bring as much light into your home as you can for the colder, darker months. To accentuate natural light, clean your windows and blinds, especially in rooms that get a lot of sunlight.

Add lighting to darker spaces with new lamps. And consider replacing traditional incandescent light bulbs with energy-efficient bulbs.

11. Create a mudroom

Even if you don’t have a dedicated mudroom in your home, now’s a good time to think about organizing and stocking an entryway that will serve as a “mudroom” area for cold and wet weather.

Put down an indoor-outdoor rug to protect the floor. A fun and rewarding weekend project is to build a wooden shoe rack, coat rack or storage bench for your entryway.

12. Home safety check

Replace the batteries in your smoke alarms and carbon monoxide monitors. A good way to remember to do this is to always replace the batteries when you change the clock for daylight saving time.

Create a family fire escape plan, or review the one you already have. Put together an emergency preparedness kit so you’re ready for any winter power outages.

Once you finish with your autumn home checklist, you can enjoy the season in your warm, comfortable home.

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Originally published September 2016.



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How to Throw the Perfect Pumpkin-Carving Party


Gather some gourds, and invite your favorite witches and ghouls over for a little Halloween fun.

Nothing says Halloween like carved pumpkins, festive treats and fun costumes. Try these tips for throwing the perfect pumpkin-carving party with all your friends.

1. Create a casual atmosphere

Head out to the backyard, set up a few long folding tables with tablecloths and let the fall atmosphere be your decor. Play some music to get the party started.

2. Assemble a self-serve buffet

Don’t worry about serving a full meal that creates a lot of work for you. Instead, set up a self-serve buffet stocked with enough goodies for the evening, so you can enjoy the party. Think of a few simple savory dishes, add some fun and festive sweets — you’ve got it covered. Include a drink station with a few options in dispensers. Label them, set up a stack of glasses and let your guests enjoy.

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3. Set up carving stations

Arrange a simple but structured carving station so your guests can enjoy the main event. Stock a table with an assortment of carving templates for those who want something other than the traditional jack-o’-lantern face. Don’t forget tape — you’ll need to hold the templates in place while you carve.

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On other tables, place cute buckets your guests can scoop the pumpkin seeds and pulp into. Then put out smaller containers to hold the carving utensils. Just add some pumpkins and you’ve provided everything your guests will need.

4. Hold a carving contest

What good would pumpkin carving be without a little friendly competition? Have some judges and a variety of prizes on hand for the event. Think outside the box with the awards and go beyond just the “Best Pumpkin.” Think in terms of “Most Creative,” “Most Adventurous,” “Scariest” and so on.

5. Commemorate the evening

All that hard work should be documented! Make sure you gather up the carved masterpieces for a group shot at the end of the evening, and don’t forget to share the party photos with your guests after the fact.

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Get out those pumpkins, set the tables and crank up the music for the best pumpkin-carving party around.

Need some more inspiration? Check out our video tutorial for easy ways to make your space spooky in no time.

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Originally published October 2016.



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9 Tips for Achieving Maximum Coziness


Gray skies don’t have to mean a drab indoor life.

As winter plods along, you may wish you could just hibernate until spring. But there is, indeed, joy to be found in the quieter months of the year.

While the trend may have come and gone in the U.S., the art of hygge, that feeling of being ultra-cozy and content, is just part of everyday life in Denmark.

The thing is, the Danes know how to thrive in winter. You might already know they’re the happiest people on earth, but did you know a lot of them attribute their unseasonably sunny outlook to their home- and self-care habits?

When it’s cold and rainy out, you might hear the siren song of your favorite TV streaming service. Aah, sweet, solitary binge-watching! But if you’d like a more satisfying way to spend a chilly evening, here are a few ideas to channel the Danes and make an intentionally delightful day out of drab weather.

1. Set the mood

Candles are a key ingredient to a supremely comfortable atmosphere. Not only do they provide beautiful, soft lighting, they also add warmth and scent to your space.

Tip: Choose seasonal scents to inspire celebration, or choose a summery scent, such as coconut and floral, to help combat the seasonal blues.

2. Bake something

Cake is central to the cozy experience. But it doesn’t just begin when you eat the cake (or cookies or pie) — it begins when you buy the ingredients.

Go to your favorite market, choose your ingredients carefully, and mix them with great care, taking your time to enjoy the task at hand. It’s just a bonus that your baking will flood your space with delicious smells — and taste good too.

Tip: Call up a friend or family member whose recipes deserve appreciation, and ask if they could show you how to work out their spectacular skills. Baking together makes for a lovely afternoon, no matter the weather!

3. Add texture

Plush throws, sheepskins and cushions make for a much more inviting space. Cover your surfaces in as many luxurious fabrics and pillows as you can find and snuggle down.

Tip: Feel free to go faux, or if cost prohibits, find inexpensive alternatives.

4. Invite people over

Do you tend to hide from your friends as soon as the days get short? Fight the urge to retreat, and invite your nearest and dearest (or those you want to know better) over to share your coziness. Bonus: Ask them to bring a bottle of your favorite seasonal beverage!

Tip: Low on funds but want to host a dinner party? Ask everyone to bring an ingredient for soup, and make it together, or just plan a casual potluck.

5. Get out the board games

If they’ve been gathering dust, this is the time to bring them out! Whether you go for the competitive strategy variety or laugh-out-loud social games, there are options for everyone. For the minimalists among us, even a deck of cards can offer plenty of entertainment.

Tip: Have long-distance friends and loved ones? There are many gaming apps you can play from all over the world. Start up a game and maintain your connections year-round!

6. Perfect your hot drink game

Hot cocoa, hot toddies, apple cider, mulled wine — pick your poison. Whatever it is, find your own special recipe that is so delicious you can’t wait to show it off. Then invite those friends over again!

Tip: Why, yes, you can put whiskey in those drinks. But it’s usually a good idea to perfect a mocktail version, too, for friends who don’t imbibe.

7. Embrace sweater weather

If you don’t already have a favorite sweater, it’s time to find one. It should be something that makes you feel at home when you slip it on. Cashmere, wool, mohair — anything will do. Whatever you choose, pair it with thick socks!

Tip: Start a knitting, crocheting or weaving circle, and make your own sweater over the course of the winter. It’s easier to get through lengthy projects when you’re sitting beside a friend — and it’s a great excuse to get together every week, no matter the weather.

8. Curate your cold-outside playlist

Make yourself a mix of music that inspires you to do all those things that make you feel absolutely endeared to your space. Put it on shuffle, relax, repeat.

Tip: Instrumentals are classics for a reason — they can work as background for just about anything. When in doubt, most music services have premade playlists, some of which you can filter by mood.

9. Do seasonal activities

Making caramel apples? Check. Working on (or giving up on) your New Year’s resolutions? Check. Canning, puddle jumping, snowball throwing, signs-of-spring spotting? Check!

Tip: Whatever your favorite seasonal activities might be, create a plan to make them happen — put it on your calendar, set a reminder on your phone, or find an “accountability partner” (a friend or family member who will give you the nudge you need), and feel the magic of even the most blah weather wash over you.

Originally published October 2018.



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4 Ways to Cozy Up Your Kitchen for Fall


Grab your hearty soup recipes, decorative pie plates and favorite cookbooks. Fall is here, and with just a little effort you can get your kitchen ready to make the most of it.

The season has changed, and so follows your home decor. Decorating for the chillier fall months means incorporating warm and inviting colors and textures into your home’s interior design, specifically in the kitchen.

Try these four tips to create a cozier kitchen for fall.

Weave in dark textiles

Fall means decorating with gorgeously textured throws, pillows and table linens. Introduce your kitchen to an autumnal palette using dark, natural window coverings and similar table linens for a cozy effect. This look juxtaposes raw texture with soft details like fresh fruit, warm place mats and smooth surfaces.

Bank on butcher block

Found most often in farmhouse-style or rustic homes, butcher block is great for countertops and tables because it’s durable and looks better the longer you have it.

If you’re thinking about switching out your countertop, consider butcher block for a warm, inviting feel. If you don’t want to commit to a full countertop, try a large cutting board or table to add earthiness to your kitchen.

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Photo from Zillow listing.

Add pops of color

If your kitchen has a blank space or accent wall, consider painting it for an inviting scene. For the fall season, you can choose to use warmer, darker colors like a deep red, warm orange, or olive or brown tone.

Don’t want to paint an entire wall? Select a piece of art or two featuring deep and rich colors to create a cozy ambiance. You could even paint your cabinets or counters.

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Photo from Zillow listing.

Nurture indoor plants

Houseplants are always good go-to decorations because they require little upkeep and add a touch of freshness to any space. They are particularly useful in the fall because they can double as herb gardens or unique decor.

Install a small indoor garden on your window sill or on a shelf near a window to have easy access to fresh rosemary, sage, and basil, even when the weather might not call for gardening.

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While these suggestions may seem small, they are great touch-ups to boost your festive theme this fall season. Add one or two, or mix all of the design tips for a home-sweet-home feel.

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Originally published October 2015.



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