Getting Your Home Ready for Trick-or-Treaters


Consider these tips to ensure a fun and safe Halloween night.

As we settle into fall, many of us start looking forward to Halloween. It’s a holiday adults can enjoy as much as kids. But, homeowners do have one serious obligation on this fun night: If you expect trick-or-treaters, you must make sure the path to your door is a safe one.

Take no trips

Inevitably, some giddy ghosts and ghouls will race excitedly to your door. Be prepared.

In the full light of day, inspect your lawn, driveway and front path for trip hazards like exposed tree roots, cracks in concrete or missing pavers. Make repairs where possible, or, at the very least, cut off access to unsafe areas.

Meanwhile, if you’ve decorated the front yard with decorations like light-up pumpkins and animated figures, keep electrical cords away from your walkways.

Light the way

Make sure the path to your house is bright enough for trick-or-treaters to approach safely.

You don’t need to install a full suite of year-round landscape lighting simply to accommodate visitors on Halloween night. There are plenty of temporary and affordable options for illumination, from glow sticks to tea lights.

And although it may seem more in keeping with the mood of this spooky night to switch off your porch light, it’s much safer — not to mention more inviting — to keep it on.

Resist flammable decor

Whether vandals or accidents are to blame, there are many more fires on Halloween than a typical October night, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Holiday decorations are often quite flammable, involving materials such as paper, hay and dried cornstalks.

If you can’t resist adorning your home and yard with such potentially dangerous items, then be sure to keep them away from candles and other heat sources. If jack-o’-lanterns or luminaries figure into your celebrations, illuminate them using LED tea lights, not open flames.

Curb your dog

Chances are yours is a friendly dog. But if some Halloween costumes are convincing enough to frighten small children, those same get-ups could be equally disturbing to your pooch — particularly on such a high-energy night.

It’s good sense to contain your dog in an indoor space that’s comfortable and secure.

A festive parade of goblins and ghouls, princesses and superheroes will soon be marching to your house. Do your part by clearing the path and lighting the way. Be safe out there, and have a happy Halloween!

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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 2014.



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6 Things You Shouldn’t Ask A Real Estate Agent Over Thanksgiving Dinner


Inner Circle members: Share a personalized version of this article from the members area.

It’s probably just making small talk, but there are certain questions people seem to always ask real estate agents at holiday gatherings, cocktail parties, weddings, and even funerals. So, with Thanksgiving just days away, here are a few of the questions that seem to be commonly asked… and why you shouldn’t ask them.

#1 “You still doin’ real estate?”

I know it doesn’t sound like a horrible question. It probably isn’t a question people think twice about asking… just making conversation. But it’s essentially saying you never expected the person to make it in the business. Like you’d be somewhat surprised if they say yes. It also inadvertently suggests that you don’t view it as a true career. It’s a hard business. It takes a lot to make a go of it. People do come and go quite quickly and often. So it helps when agents feel the love and support of people close to them. And even though this question seems so innocent, it’s also one that cuts kinda deep without anyone even knowing. I doubt many agents even think twice about this question. But I also bet it affects them more than they are aware. But it certainly isn’t as bad a question as…

#2 “Why don’t you try and get a real job?”

Being a real estate agent may not be a job in the sense many people are used to. It certainly isn’t one that you just show up to from 9 to 5 and collect a paycheck at the end of the week. People who are used to a “normal” job probably can’t fathom why anyone would be a real estate agent instead of working for a company that gives them a steady paycheck, vacation days, and sick time. But being a real estate agent is a career. Again, it is a tough career to succeed in. Agents are often doing everything they can to stay positive and focused. And if they’re focused, they probably won’t have an answer for the next question…

#3 “What’s your back-up plan?”

At this point, you get it. Just. Don’t. Ask.

#4 “Do you have any listings that are good deals?”

Probably another question people are just asking to make conversation. But it implies you’d be interested in buying a house, if the agent happened to have a listing that was a good deal. If the agent has a listing, they can’t (or at least shouldn’t) be telling you it’s a good deal, or help you buy it at a price that’s a good deal. They should be representing their client’s best interest and getting the highest price they can for them. But this question may just be a matter of not understanding what it means when one asks, “Do you have any listings…” Just know that the agent can, and certainly will, help you find a great deal that they are not the listing agent on. They can and will show you listings of other agents, just probably not their own. (Probably better that way…)

#5 “How’s the market?”

This is too broad of a question. The market is never entirely good, bad, or somewhere in between. It’s always good for some people, bad for others. How the market is depends entirely upon you and your needs and circumstances. Not a bad question really. But it certainly isn’t one that an agent can or should just answer flippantly. So if you ask it, maybe you should be prepared to get into your specific scenario so they can accurately answer it. Too many people get flippant answers from agents and base their perspective on the real estate market, and overall economy, on off-handed answers to questions like this.

#6 “How much is my house worth?”

This one goes hand in hand with the one above. Most agents will have a fairly decent range in mind for what your home is worth if they know the area and know your house. But I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sat with someone to go over an analysis of their home’s value, and then they tell me they were told by several agents that their home is worth “$XXX,XXX”. When I dig a little bit, it often turns out it was just in casual conversations at a get-together. No analysis was done. A number was just shot out of an agent’s mouth. It’s funny how often people don’t trust or believe real estate agents. Yet when given a casual answer to what seems like a casual question, a homeowner often holds onto that “value” as if it was absolute truth. In turn, homeowners often have a false sense of what their true equity is in their home, which in turn directly affects their perception of their wealth and net worth.

The Takeaway

There’s nothing inherently wrong with these questions, but just know that if you want an accurate answer you should ask the agent to truly roll up their sleeves and give you a good analysis and explanation. And that just can’t be done as they pass you the gravy. Check back tomorrow for a list of really good topics and questions you should ask a real estate agent. You’ll be amazed at how much better of a conversation you can get going with those.



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11 Things Agents Would Love This Christmas


Inner Circle members: Share a personalized version of this article from the members area.

If Santa had a real estate agent sitting on his lap, he’d probably be pretty surprised at what’s on his or her wish list! A lot of things an agent wants don’t cost much (if anything!) and couldn’t be made by even the craftiest elf. Let’s take a look at eleven things that would make this Christmas one to remember for practically every real estate agent.

1. For telemarketers promising “high quality leads” to lose my number already.

via Tenor

2. Wine. LOTS of wine.

via Tenor

3. For a regularly scheduled nap time every day… with all communication devices disabled… and with full understanding and compassion from all clients.

via Tenor

4. For a freakin’ weekend off every now and again.

5. For people to respect our time.

6. For all homebuyers to understand they need to get pre-approved before viewing homes.

 

7. For the public to watch HGTV for entertainment purposes only… kinda like professional wrestling.

 

8. For homebuyers to be more decisive.

9. For more opportunities to do THIS…

10. Referrals

via GIPHY

11. For my own secret stash of clever, personalized real estate marketing content.

Editor’s note: How convenient! That’s exactly what the Lighter Side of Real Estate provides! 😉 It’s called our “Inner Circle’ membership…

Go here to learn more (and to take advantage of our holiday offer)!

 



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How to Decorate Simply for the Holidays (With Big Impact)


Focus on these three areas to maximize your decor efforts.

You may have dreams of decorating your home like it’s a display window at a fancy department store, but then reality strikes: You’ve still got gift shopping and wrapping to do, holiday parties to attend and host … not to mention your everyday life to live.

Don’t get overwhelmed. Go for intentional minimalism. Some years, less is more.

Simple decor can still have a big impact — not the least of which is relieving you of some holiday hustle and bustle. All you need to do is hone in on sprucing up three key areas in your home.

Target your tree

The most obvious place to start is your Christmas tree. For an easy, fuss-free tree, go with a monochromatic color scheme.

tree_2
Metallic ornaments give your tree extra glitz and seasonal sparkle.

Another option is to use all neutral colors so you don’t have to worry about balancing a color palette or tree placement — it will coordinate with any room’s normal decor.

Make your mantel magical

If you have a fireplace in your home, the mantel is an ideal spot to bring a little holiday cheer, but don’t make it too complicated.

mantel_4
Cotton branches intertwined with silver artificial garland.

Choose a statement-making garland to hang or drape across the top. Place some candles on the mantel to light at night, and you’re good to go.

Top off your table

The holidays are a prime time for entertaining, hosting and gathering around the table. So bring seasonal flair to your table with a beautiful garland, which can go a long way as a table runner.

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A garland made of magnolia leaves and evergreen creates a dramatic table runner.

Make the decor as simple as placing a lush garland in the center of your table and mixing in candles for added ambiance.

Decorating for the holidays doesn’t have to be a chore. Focus on these three spots, and your home will feel magical and holiday-ready in no time.

Photos courtesy of White Buffalo Styling Co. 

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Originally published December 2016.



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The Secret to No-Fuss Holiday Decor? Use What You Already Have


Holiday decorating can be as simple as dusting off your flower vases, unrolling a spool of burlap and polishing your silver.

Hold your holiday decor horses! Before you purchase gobs of tinsel and piles of twinkle lights, take another look at items you already have — they may be the holiday embellishment you’ve been looking for.

By hunting through your cabinets and closets, you can easily repurpose common household items into yuletide decor for your abode. Need a little inspiration? These design experts share how they style up everyday objects into festive flourishes.

Dig through the craft closet

“Bust out the burlap! I’ve been known to use burlap for anything from tablecloths to a Christmas tree skirt. It’s so versatile and lends an organic, rustic vibe.”
— Brooke Wagner, Brooke Wagner Design

“Roll out brown or black butcher paper on your table like a runner. It somehow elevates everything you set on it. Plus, you can write your guests names on it in black marker (or chalk marker for black paper) instead of place cards.”
— Jenn Muirhead, Jennifer Muirhead Interiors

“Paint a wall with chalkboard paint. It’s the perfect themed accent wall that’s fun and creative, and it gets the kids involved, too.”
— Melissa Martin Molitor, MMM Designs-Interiors

Photo courtesy of Melissa Martin Molitor.

“Tie ribbon on everything! Thread it through chandeliers or banisters. Or put festive printed fabric in picture frames and scatter them throughout the house.”
— Katie Schroder, Atelier Interior Design

Scour the kitchen cupboards

“Place a set of teacups on a pretty tray, and fill each cup with a succulent or small flower arrangement. Or create a centerpiece by placing candles on a serving tray or cake stand.”
— Gita Jacobson, In The Deets

“Fill a large glass serving bowl — or maybe a punch bowl or trifle bowl — with whatever seasonal item you want. Just use the same thing so it looks purposeful and pretty.”
— Jenn Muirhead, Jennifer Muirhead Interiors

“Take an ordinary flower vase, and stick glass ornaments inside with a string of white lights. It’s a pretty display that’s simple and creative!”
— Wendy Berry, W Design Interiors

Ransack the fridge

“Dried fruit garland is still classic and sweet. Take a needle and thread to some popcorn, cranberries or dried sliced oranges, and string it up wherever you want to!”
— Jenn Muirhead, Jennifer Muirhead Interiors

“Cut up fresh fruit and put it in a pitcher before adding flowers for a centerpiece. Throw in some cloves and cinnamon sticks for added flair. For a dash of festivity, use oranges with cloves in them for place card settings.”
— Christine Estep, Jackson Thomas Interiors

Sift through the closet

“Use a vintage plaid throw as a tablecloth or runner. Or decorate a small tabletop tree with jewelry or ribbon.”
— Katie Schroder, Atelier Interior Design

“Repurpose one of your favorite scarves as a cozy centerpiece runner.”
— Gita Jacobson, In The Deets

Forage in the yard

“Instead of placing a star at the top of my Christmas tree, I’ll take a handful of fallen sticks and tie them together at the top of the tree with a raffia bow. I’ll also layer pine cones throughout my tree to balance out the glass ornaments for an organic, natural feel.
— Wendy Berry, W Design Interiors

“I gather sticks cedar branches, along with magnolia, holly, boxwood and pine. I spread them around the bases of containers or arrange them in colorful tea tins. It’s an easy way to bring in greenery without spending too much money.”
— Susan Jamieson, Bridget Beari Designs

“I love to add a garland of fresh greens around my dining room chandelier and hang ornaments from it. The fresh scent mixed with holiday cooking is wonderful.”

— Jennifer Stoner, Jennifer Stoner Interiors

Look everywhere!

“Scatter some festive items that aren’t necessarily holiday themed. For example, we’ll set out some naturally shed antlers in the fall or a tuxedo hat around Christmas. I’ll mix in a few of these types of things that feel seasonally appropriate but aren’t necessarily traditional holiday decor.”
— Summer Thornton, Summer Thornton Design

“Give a corner of your home a holiday touch with just a handful of tweaks. We made a sitting area more festive by adding new pillows (they needn’t have an overt holiday motif – a wintery look works just as well), some evergreen cuttings from the yard (with a few sprigs of berries), a stack of wrapped gifts, a scarf and bow for our deer, and a teddy bear found in the attic.”
– Chris Stout-Hazard, Roger + Chris

Photo courtesy of Chris Stout-Hazard.

“Gather objects with a similar color scheme. I pull out all of my white and silver anything and group them together — candle holders, vases, pots, ribbon. Then I go to my neighbors’ yards for magnolia and holly cuttings and get laurel out of my own yard. I just keep everything green, white and silver — jumbled together it works.”
— Lesley Glotzl

“Repurpose a metallic vessel into a vase for displaying rich greenery or arrangements of holiday objects. A brass champagne cooler, a bright silver trophy cup or even small copper mugs could work perfectly. Add fresh pops of red with cranberries, pomegranates, deep-red apples or even a few red roses.”
— Kerrie Kelly, Kerrie Kelly Design Lab

Photo courtesy of Kerrie Kelly.
Top photo from Zillow listing.

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Originally published November 2017.



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Fragrant Herb Chandelier and Custom Treat Bags


Easy handmade decor and trimmings set the scene for a festive holiday get-together.

Holiday entertaining is all about one-of-a-kind decor, and we’ve got some show-stopping looks that you can make yourself. You don’t have to be an expert crafter to accomplish these easy DIY projects. Creating a custom hanging herb chandelier and dessert takeaways will really impress your guests at this year’s seasonal get-together.

Create a rustic vibe by wrapping the dining table in brown kraft paper. Arrange leaves, loaves of bread and open bottles of wine along the center of this setup. Lovely butter knives atop neatly placed cloth napkins seal the deal.

Serve tea or coffee with your homemade treat bags after the meal to brighten everyone’s day. Taking the little bit of time to make this thoughtful goody that your guests can break into right away or take home really makes visitors feel special. Taffy, cookies or a slice of pie are all great sweets to bag up for later.

Hanging Herb Chandelier Materials

  • 3-foot cut of wood (or desired length, depending on your table)
  • Cup hooks
  • 5-foot length of multi-purpose rope
  • Baker’s twine
  • Ribbon
  • Herbs/flowers

Stamped Paper Bag Takeaways Materials

Videography and photography by Mikal Marie Photography. 

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Originally published December 2015.



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