Home Prices on a Steady Track By RISMedia Staff

 
Growth in real estate shown on graph

Home prices again appreciated nationally quarter-over-quarter, rising 0.9 percent, according to the Clear Capital Home Data Index™ (HDI™), a monthly report. Appreciation was highest in the West, where prices climbed 1.2 percent quarter-over-quarter.

Regionally:
Midwest
Growth quarter-over-quarter in the region came in at 0.9 percent, with prices in Detroit, Mich., appreciating at a 1.72 percent rate; prices in Dayton, Ohio, appreciating at a 1.28 percent rate; and prices in Columbus and Cleveland, Ohio, appreciating at a 1.24 percent rate.
Northeast
Growth quarter-over-quarter in the region came in at 1.1 percent, with prices in Providence, R.I., appreciating at a 1.51 percent rate; prices in New York, N.Y., appreciating at a 1.24 percent rate; and prices in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, Pa., appreciating at a 0.43 percent rate.
South
Growth quarter-over-quarter in the region came in at 0.7 percent, with prices in Memphis, Tenn., appreciating at 1.75 percent; prices in Tampa, Fla. appreciating at 1.38 percent; and prices in New Orleans, La., appreciating at 1.29 percent.
West
Growth quarter-over-quarter in the region came in at 1.2 percent, with prices in San Jose, Calif., appreciating at 2.28 percent; prices in Las Vegas, Nev., appreciating at 2.01 percent; and prices in Seattle, Wash., appreciating at 1.51 percent.
Source: Clear Capital

PIECES OF FURNITURE INTERIOR DESIGNERS WISH PEOPLE WOULD STOP BUYING

Let’s just say, bar carts aren’t a great idea.
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Buying a sofa or dining room table is a huge investment, which is why you always want to do your homework first – and we want to help. We asked a few of our go-to designers which pieces they always recommend people pass on and some of their answers seriously surprised us.
EN SUITE BEDROOM SETS
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You know, the sets that come with the bed, nightstand, dresser and more. Caitlin Murray of Black Lacquer Design says they just end up feeling uninspired. “You could get a much more interesting room, for a comparable price, with a couple of trips to local flea markets and thrift stores,” she says.
BAR CARTS
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When done right, designer Lindsay Pennington says these pieces can be flattering and useful. But they sometimes have the same issues as open shelving: “If you’re the least bit inclined to untidiness, it’s not for you,” she warns. After all, it’s critical to keep glasses, bottles and utensils dust-free.
HUGE ENTERTAINMENT CENTERS
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Even though you can’t beat the storage in these pieces, they end up dominating the room and lack flexibility, because they’re too big to rearrange, says Kristina Leigh Wiggins, author of Building Your Home: A Simple Guide to Making Good Decisions. Even worse? “When you grow tired of them, they can be very hard to sell,” she says.
MASS PRODUCED PIECES
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Whether it’s a couch or a faux antique side table from a super store, designer CeCe Barfield says to stay away. “Furniture should have a soul!” she says. “A room can be just as comfortable and just as functional with antiques.” Barfield says you should view furniture purchases as investments.
SOFA AND LOVESEAT COMBOS
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While Mark Riddle, a lead design associate at Room & Board DC, admits these sets are quick and easy to pick out, they’re also often bulky and matchy-matchy. “Let your personality come out when choosing other pieces to complement your sofa,” he says. “It might take more time, but it’ll speak more to your personality.”
GLASS TABLES
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“People often gravitate towards glass items, because they are easy to clean and wear well,” says Alison Davin of Jute Home. “However, reflective surfaces have little to no impact in a room.” Not to mention they can be dangerous. To lighten and brighten a room, she suggests using mirrors or metallic accents instead.
KIDS FURNITURE
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“I always advise families to not buy furniture for their children’s rooms that are styled for children,” says designer Ray Wheeler of The Paint Manager. “It may be cute when they’re six, but in two years they’ll have new and interests.” Instead, buy furniture that is neutral and can grow with your child.
FORMAL LIVING ROOM FURNITURE
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Fancy living spaces are (mostly) outdated, according to Sarah Fishburne, Director of Trend and Design at The Home Depot. Instead, open spaces that serves as a living room and family room is big. “This space can contain upscale furniture and doesn’t have to slack on comfort,” she says. Sounds like a win-win.
OVERSIZED FURNITURE
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Fishburne also says big statement furniture is out. “Instead, people are purchasing small love seats, coffee tables and armchairs,” she says. “This speaks to the trend of consumers veering away from large homes with too much space to smaller homes too.”
HUTCHES
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Making a room appear bigger and brighter has a lot to do with how wall space is used, says Cheryl Eisen of Interior Marketing Group. “Hutches are very old school and take up a large amount of vertical and horizontal space, so unless you have a massive room, the piece will swallow the whole room,” she explains.
PLEATHER RECLINERS
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Sure, these iconic chairs are the very definition of comfort (just ask Dax Shepard), but Eisen still isn’t a fan. “As far as I’ve seen in my career, there’s no real way for a pleather recliner to look aesthetically pleasing,” she says. She recommends a comfortable sofa for a home movie theater experience instead.
ROLLED ARM SOFAS
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Nothing personal, but interior designer Cecilie Starin isn’t a fan of this traditional design. “I think they’re really impractical, plus they just look so dated,” she says. She also says deep furniture pieces are impractical. “I work in San Francisco where space is at a premium, so those big pieces just don’t work.”

It’s not just you: ‘Smart’ homes are confusing

smart-home-start-building-1240x720-v2NEW YORK – Jan. 26, 2018 – You thought choosing a smartphone or deciding whether to buy an Amazon Echo rather than Google Home was hard.
Now try coming to grips with which smart light fixture, faucet or fridge to buy. Get past that, and good luck setting everything up.
Smart speakers such as the Echo and Google Home have helped give a prominent voice to Amazon’s Alexa and the Google Assistant. On Feb. 9, Apple will jump into the fray with its long-delayed HomePod smart speaker controlled by its own famous digital assistant Siri.
But the tech industry is on the clock to start making good on the near- and long-term prospects for other products and services inside our increasingly connected and artificial intelligence-driven society. These are the voice-driven devices, appliances and cloud-based products populating our kitchens, living rooms and bathrooms, not to mention outside and in the car.
It’s not hard to buy into this idea of ubiquitous virtual assistant-infused devices that get to know our routines and serve our needs, whims and passions. They’ll help us find something to watch on TV, warn us if we’re out of milk, signal there’s an intruder in the house or a pipe is about to burst.
“Our vision is if Alexa is truly your assistant, you can imagine her getting smart enough to say, ‘You left the lights on in the basement; do you want me to turn them off?'” Tom Taylor, senior vice president for Amazon Alexa, said in an interview. “That for us is where it is truly an intelligent assistant instead of a simple replacement for a switch.”
Samsung Electronics’ new South Korea-based president HS Kim wants the abbreviation IoT to connote “Intelligence of Things,” rather than the term currently used, “Internet of Things,” a nod at where the business is growing.
And yet for all the ambitions the industry has for the intelligent home, you are left wondering how to make sense of it all.
“We used to talk about computers being complicated. Now we’re talking about a whole new range of products. It’s mind-boggling,” says veteran tech consultant Gary Arlen, the president of Arlen Communications.
While there’s a degree of cooperation, big tech’s usual suspects – Amazon, Apple, Google, Microsoft and Samsung – all want to protect and expand their sphere of influence: to compile data on everything there is to know about you and ultimately to make gazillions selling you more things.
That’s partly why some of the people I talk to haven’t been persuaded yet to buy a connected washer, air conditioner or even smart bulbs.
“Each have their own business models and reasons to do what they’re doing. It’s not in their best interests to help their competitors be successful,” says Tim Bajarin, president of Creative Strategies.
The major tech companies are trying to streamline their own platforms, using artificial intelligence and cloud computing to get devices to talk to you – and each other. With Samsung, for instance, its SmartThings smart home platform connects with third-party-like products such as door locks and water valves, and you’ll be able to use one app to operate different household devices. Samsung products add one more voice to the mix: Bixby, a digital assistant that’s trying to catch up to rivals Alexa and Google Assistant.
“Our message to the market is that there is more complexity than necessarily is needed. We’re working to take complexity out of the process,” said Tim Baxter, president and CEO of Samsung Electronics North America.
The company spent $14 billion in the last year on R&D to fuel Internet of Things innovation and has declared its intention to connect and infuse all its devices with intelligence by 2020.
Amazon, Google and Apple have similar goals. At the huge tech trade show CES in Las Vegas this month, you didn’t have to go very far to find numerous products boasting kinships with Alexa or the Google Assistant, and to a lesser degree, Siri: Not just those smart speakers anymore, but bathroom mirrors, security systems, PCs and TVs, augmented-reality glasses and automobiles.
Google claims 400 million devices have the Google Assistant, though the figure mostly accounts for Android phones. In the home, the Google Assistant now works more than 225 brands and more than 1,500 devices. Amazon said more than 4,000 devices from 1,200 brands now work with Alexa.
Though Apple had no direct visibility at CES, more than a dozen announced products, from Moen’s smart shower head to Yale’s smart lock, are compatible with Apple’s HomeKit home-automation framework.
Smart home product sales should read $4.5 billion in revenue and 40.8 million units in 2018, up 34 percent and 41 percent, respectively, The Consumer Technology Association forecasts.
As the companies arm-wrestle for your affection, you’re left wondering whether you have to choose sides. And what if you choose wrong? Fortunately, many companies are gravitating toward more open systems.
The products that are compatible with Samsung’s SmartThings can respond to voice commands from Alexa, the Google Assistant, Microsoft Cortana and Bixby. Only Siri is notably absent.
Bixby is coming to select TVs and Samsung Family Hub refrigerators. But Alex Hawkinson, CEO of Samsung-owned SmartThings, says Bixby won’t get a home-court advantage over the other digital assistants when it comes to SmartThings.
Last year, Amazon and Microsoft reached an agreement in which Cortana and Alexa can team up. But Alexa, Siri and the Google Assistant still don’t directly talk to one another, and there’s no telling if they ever will.
Copyright 2018, USATODAY.com, USA TODAY, Edward C. Baig

INTERIOR COLOR TIPS FOR THE NEUTRAL-OBSESSED

Bold doesn’t have to be overpowering.
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There’s nothing wrong with erring towards beiges and greys at home, but the right amount of risk-taking color can take a room from safely chic to completely memorable. This move doesn’t even require committing to a bold red wall or a jewel-toned couch; smaller decorations, like a patterned ceramic bowl or a textured throw, can add just the right amount of pop. Color play can also be found in less obvious palette combinations, like melding cool blue accents with warm woodwork, or playing up a heavily neutral space with art that boasts energetic hues. Here, Elena Frampton, creative director of New York-based interior design firm Frampton Co, tells us how to bring color into our spaces, even for the most neutral-obsessed.
BALANCE WARM AND COOL
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“Spaces often go too chilly or too earthy. We love to play with cool and warm tones to achieve a sense of balance. We installed warm millwork to anchor the space and offset it with cool blue and lavender accents.”
TEMPERED EXTRAS
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ADD TEXTURE THROUGH WALL AND FLOOR MATERIALS
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“Texture brings depth and interest to neutral spaces, so you get the quietness without the boredom. Rugs are the perfect way to bring in texture for a layered look. Architecturally, stone and tile in various finishes like matte or polished create shadows and texture.”
TACTILE EFFECT
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INSTALL LARGE SCALE ART
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“The introduction of art is a chance to infuse color and personality into a neutral palette. Think large scale photography, paintings or even mixed media. When it comes to statement pieces, go big to go home.”
STATEMENT PIECES
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LET THERE BE LIGHT
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“Sculptural lighting in a variety of shapes, sizes and colors enlivens and activates a neutral space. Mixing lamps with sconces and chandeliers not only provides a nice light quality but also brings the je ne sais quoi. Don’t forget room corners, which often end up feeling dark. Create a moment out of an otherwise forgettable square foot.”
SHINE BRIGHT
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BRING IN PATTERN THROUGH ACCESSORIES
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“Dressing your space, like yourself, is transformed by a few finishing touches. Think about adding bold patterns through accessories. Pair unlikely objects in vignettes to create a story about your collections. Ceramics, bowls, trays, pillows and throw blankets offer pattern opportunity. Most importantly, don’t worry, get attached or be too exacting. Move things around every once and a while – it’s not a museum, it’s your home.”
PLAYFUL CERAMICS
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INJECT THE COLOR CAMEL
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“Our real neutral obsession is the color camel. It provides richness to a monochromatic palette without drawing too much attention. Its adaptability to several color palettes make pieces upholstered in it timeless. Whether you are introducing it through textiles, leather or various stains of wood–camel will translate well.”
RICH RESULT
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3 steps buyers can take to avoid wire fraud

Wirefraud Tips.inddCHICAGO – Jan. 23, 2018 – Scammers increasingly target real estate transactions, so the National Association of Realtors® (NAR) teamed up with the FBI and brokerage Realty Executives International to help the industry identify wire fraud schemes and help clients.
A particular cause for concern: Hackers who send fake emails with bogus wiring instructions to homebuyers on the cusp of closing on a property. Hundreds of millions of dollars have been stolen so far from buyers who fall prey to these scams.
Fraud Alert“We believe the way to stop these scammers in their tracks is by educating clients to identify, avoid, and report potential fraud,” says Alysia Heun, vice president of franchise services at Realty Executives. “By raising awareness in the real estate industry on how these scams are being carried out, we can create a united front fighting against and working to shut down this devastating trend.”
Three ways to help protect buyers from scammers

  • Pay attention to how wire instructions are sent. It’s best to only accept instructions that are secure and encrypted.
  • Before buyers wire funds to an individual or company, urge them to call to verify the wire instructions independently with the title company or closing agent.
  • Be on the lookout for changes. Tell clients that wire instructions rarely change, and if they receive an email saying that any wiring instructions have changed, urge them to confirm the validity with the real estate agent or title company.

“The best defense against this type of scam is having multiple checkpoints with your title company and agent to ensure everything you are being instructed to do is legit – and phone is best. Just make sure you’re talking to the right person,” Realty Executives urges in a blog post.
mortgage-wire-fraudWire fraud webinar
Representatives from NAR, the FBI and Realty Executives International are hosting a webinar “Wire Fraud: Educating Clients and Avoiding Scams in Real Estate,” from 12-1 p.m. Eastern Standard Time on Friday, Jan. 26, 2018. Click here to sign up.
Source: “Three Steps to Preventing Wire Fraud,” Realty Executives (Jan. 16, 2018)
© Copyright 2018 INFORMATION INC., Bethesda, MD (301) 215-4688

5 Ideas to Make Your Bedroom Cozy

146856_62b38f21Did you know that we sleep during one third of our life? In such a way, we spend in our bedrooms up to 30 years! Of course, this means that bedroom should be the coziest place in our home, filled with comfort and relaxing atmosphere. There are some details and secrets that will help to make your bedroom the most comfortable and nice place.
Carpet
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A warm carpet on the floor will protect you from cold and bring new notes into interior concept. You may choose a low-pile carpet with bright patterns or a high-pile carpet with dense soft fluff. It is also possible to combine these two options by placing a high-pile carpet upon low-pile one – a great decision for winter! A lifehack: if your bedroom has a lot of space, then a big fluffy carpet, covering a significant part of the floor, will make room much warmer. It is easier to get up in a chilly winter morning, stepping out of the bed and feeling touch of a warm and smooth carpet on your feet. To make your bedroom look more stylish, decorate it with carpet and pillow covers that have similar design.
Armchair near Window
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All of us need some special place where we can just sit and relax in a dreamy mood. Put a comfortable chair closer to a window, cover it with a warm blanket and enjoy sitting in it enjoying sunbeams and outside view. It is a special pleasure to sit in a cozy armchair by the window with a purring cat on your lap and a cup of delicious hot coffee or tea in your hand. You may read a good book or just dive into your thoughts, relaxing and refreshing your mind. In winter, sitting in a warm room on a soft chair watching snow landscapes and frost patterns on the window will make you feel like in a beautiful fairy tale.
Garlands with Lights
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Traditionally, we take out shining garlands with colorful lights only in the period of winter holidays in order to decorate Christmas tree. But there is a more creative way of using these bright lightbulbs: you may use them for permanent decoration of your bedroom, particularly for headboard, mirror or window (and whatever else you like). Just remember how cozy it feels to sit by the window framed by tens of little shining lights. Garlands will make the atmosphere of your bedroom much warmer and dreamy. A garland with many colorful sparkles will take you to the world of happy childhood, filling your heart with kind miracles of favorite holidays.
Soft Headboard
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Soft and beautiful headboard is an integral part of elegant bedroom interior design. It invites you to lay down on smooth pillows and to dive slowly into deep and relaxing sleep. There are some lifehacks that allow making your headboard unique and stylish. For example, you may hang a long pillow on the wall behind the bed or decorate headboard with soft colorful chair bottoms. Fixing a high sizeable headboard to the wall is another good option: it creates the feeling of safety and comfort, turning your bed into the coziest place in the whole apartment.
Nightlight
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We usually think about nightlight as an element of kids` bedroom, because children are often scared to sleep with all lights turned off. But a beautiful nightlight may also serve as a great addition for grown-ups` bedroom design as well. As we know, the light influences the perception of room interior in a great way, and smooth warm light of an elegant night lamp will make the ambience in your bedroom very cozy and calm. You may choose a nightlight of any shape, style and color, and place it just near your bed on a bedside table. Choosing an unusual salt lamp, which is beneficial not only for wonderful look of your bedroom, but also for your health, is one more interesting option.
Dive into the world of sweet dreams and relaxation in your coziest bedroom!

5 top home traits that make a good first impression

NEW YORK – Jan. 17, 2018 – It takes just 26 seconds for a guest to form an opinion of your home when they walk through the front door. What does your space say about you? While we try to resist the urge to judge, there’s no doubt that first impressions count.
Whether you’re expecting guests or you’re hoping to transform your spare room into a rental, experts agree there are five key areas that friends notice first about your house. Thankfully, it takes minutes to correct them. Here, Miranda Cresswell, brand director at OneFineStay, and Ariel Kaye, CEO of Parachute and the newly opened Parachute Hotel, explains the most effective ways to update your home before guests arrive. Got five minutes to spare? Make these simple changes for a home that makes a lasting impression.
 
A styled entryway
Entryway
“A clean and welcoming entryway is crucial in leaving a good first impression – it’s the first thing a guest sees!” says Cresswell. When transforming a home into a OneFineStay property, she says it’s crucial that the entrance introduces a design theme. “A good first impression – that moment when a guest’s breath is taken away – comes from stepping into a home with striking, deliberate design,” she says. “Think bright, organized and neutral. There’s a place for the eclectic or quirky, but the entryway is not that place.”
Instant fix: If you don’t have time to restyle your entryway, Cresswell says updating wall decor is a simple way to unify the space. “Rather than cobbling a bunch of different frames or odds and ends together, choose a few specific things that pair perfectly. A precisely placed mirror can make a space look much bigger and brighter.”
An uplifting scent
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If you only pay attention to the look of your home, you’re missing one of the most important factors that influence guests: fragrance. “Scent can be one of the most immediate factors in making a first impression, and it is often overlooked,” says Cresswell.
A Trulia study suggests it could also increase the value of your home; 30 percent of real estate agents said scent was the single most important sense during an open house and named vanilla and fresh scents as the most popular among house hunters.
Instant fix: Light a vanilla or citrus candle in the living room or near the entrance to infuse your home with an uplifting scent. If you’re turning your home into a rental, be sure to use a tall lantern to shield the open flame. “Flowers always add an elegant but subtle fragrance, and baking cookies is another great way to get a welcoming air on arrival,” says Cresswell.
A lack of clutter
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It’s time to address that discarded pile of magazines or strewn shoes – when it comes to first impressions, clutter counts: 73 percent of real estate agents said cleanliness is the most important sight-based feature during a viewing, possibly because unnecessary furniture and decor can make a space feel small.
“A foyer should have absolutely no clutter,” says Cresswell. “Everything, from decorative knickknacks to practical things like shoes, should have a designated place. Keys should be hung neatly on a key rack, and shoes should have a rack or boot tray. As for cleanliness, dusting and vacuuming go a long way.”
Instant fix: Use decorative baskets to mask mess. Position them by the doorway, under a coffee table, or beside a sofa to fake a cleaner-looking home without removing any items.
White paint
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The color you choose to paint your home can have a big impact on its value. A report by Zillow Digs found that slate gray was among the most disliked colors among guests and cut the value of a home by over $1000. If you’re painting a guest room, real estate agents told Trulia that white, ivory, and eggshell are the most appealing shades to create an inviting space.
Instant fix: If repainting your home isn’t an option, pay attention to lighting. A carefully chosen floor lamp with the right colored bulb can subtly change the intensity of paint and is a perfect way to make a slate-gray room feel bright and fresh.
Thoughtful touches
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To turn a good first impression into a lasting one, Kaye says personal touches matter most. “A well-made bed is the most important thing you can offer your guests. It is the key to making your visitors feel completely comfortable, cozy, and relaxed!” When creating the brand’s first-ever hotel, Kaye channeled five-star vibes with a few expert touches. “You should always provide at least two pillows of varying firmness per guest and dedicate a few sets of towels and sheets for guest use only. This will allow them to last longer than if you added them to your daily rotation of linens.”
Instant fix: Caught off-guard by unexpected guests? Try this hotel-approved towel folding method for a thoughtful guestroom touch. “First, lay the towel flat on a surface, and smooth out any wrinkles. Then, starting with the long side of the towel, fold the length in thirds,” says Kaye. “Grasp the short side, and fold the towel in half. Repeat this step,” and you should be left with a neat square.
Get the latest on home decor trends, design ideas, shopping guides and food news, and take a look inside your favorite celebrity homes on DomaineHome.com.
Copyright © 2018, Clique Media Inc., Sophie Miura Domaine. All rights reserved. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

First-timers shouldn’t shy away from housing market

NEW YORK – Jan. 8, 2018 – After the financial crisis, homes were on the market at a deep discount, and potential buyers were scared property values would drop further. Now the situation has flipped, and starter-home buyers fret that escalating prices mean they’ll never obtain a home.
“Housing inventories are still tight as a drum in the starter-home segment,” says Sid Davis, a veteran real estate broker and author of “A Survival Guide for Buying a Home.”
Will 2018 prove a more favorable time for first-timers? Will inventories swell? Will mortgage rates ascend from their near-historic lows? As Davis underscores, no economist can predict the future with certainty. That’s why he and many other real estate specialists urge would-be buyers not to postpone their quest for homeownership.
Svenja Gudell, chief economist for Zillow, which tracks real estate markets throughout the country, says saving for a down payment is a moving target for novice buyers in many communities.
“Sky-high rents and rising home prices are putting first-time buyers in a bit of a catch-22,” Gudell says.
In many metro areas, it now costs nearly as much to rent an apartment as to buy a reasonably sized condo, townhouse or detached property. That’s increased incentives for homeownership, despite the intense competition over scarce listings.
Real estate specialists say a well-planned approach to homeownership helps calm the anxieties of many novices. Here are a few common buyer fears and how to surmount them:
Fear of exposing your credit history to a mortgage lender:
Davis says many would-be homeowners worry how their credit histories will be viewed by mortgage lenders. But he says most such anxieties are usually baseless, even during the present period, when lending standards remain stringent.
Mortgage pre-approval – which lets buyers assess their borrowing capability before they head out to shop for a property – is now easily obtained over the phone. Even so, Davis says some first-timers prefer to go to the lender’s office for pre-approval.
Also, to ensure they’re being quoted a competitive rate for their mortgage, he encourages all buyers to shop lenders before submitting a formal loan application.
“One superb way to find a good mortgage is to go to a small community bank or a credit union. They might give you a better deal than a large bank,” Davis says.
Worry that your family will judge your home choice harshly:
On financial matters, many young first-time homebuyers still look to parents for guidance. But sometimes, the involvement of elders can backfire.
“It’s not unusual for the intervention of parents to blow up a deal for their kids,” Davis says.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with seeking help from your parents. But he says it’s wise to involve them early on – not after you’ve picked out the property and are about to seal the purchase.
“(Parents) tend to highlight the shortcomings of a property the kids like. And this can scotch a deal,” Davis says.
If you’re afraid to go forward without your parents’ help, he suggests you bring them along on your initial house-hunting trips. That way they can compare various alternatives and will likely give you more objective advice.
But Davis cautions young buyers against giving parents a veto over their final property selection, even if they’re helping fund the down payment.
“One approach is to involve parents in your early home shopping trips but then gracefully preclude them from the final decision making-process,” he says.
Fear of making a huge error:
Davis says many wannabe homebuyers become risk averse – worrying they’ll select the wrong property. And such fears are understandable in the aftermath of the housing crisis.
“New buyers often feel they’re walking through a swamp of unknowns. But a lot of their anxieties are needless,” Davis says. He says it’s not uncommon for young buyers seeking emotional safety to keep researching the market rather than make a decision. But in areas where sellers have the upper hand, buyers can forfeit the chance to buy a home they love simply by obsessing too long over the details.
Davis says the best remedy for home-selection anxiety is solid information. Work with an agent who can accurately advise on the true market value of any property you’re considering, thereby reducing your chances of overpaying.
Fear of lacking enough funds to reach the finish line:
Of course, it can be costly to make a housing change at any stage of your life. But Davis says many longtime renters overestimate how much cash they need to become owners.
Granted, low-down-payment conventional mortgages remain harder to obtain than they were before the last recession. But buyers can still get into a first property for little or no down through programs offered by the Department of Veterans Affairs (va.gov) or the Federal Housing Administration (hud.gov). Also, many state and local governments continue to provide first-time buyer assistance programs.
Copyright © 2018 Breeze Publications, Inc., Ellen James Martin. All rights reserved.

Christmas Time in Ukraine

So today I wish to share with you something that is close to my heart and to honor my girlfriend and her family. I am going to attempt to write about interesting things in how a special country Ukraine Celebrates Christmas time.
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Ukraine celebrates Christmas on Jan. 7th in accordance with the Eastern Orthodox religious calendar, though New Year’s Eve has been, because of Soviet culture, the more important holiday in Ukraine. So, for example, the Christmas tree that is decorated on Independence Square in Kiev doubles as a New Year’s tree. An increasing number of families celebrate Christmas in Ukraine, both because they want to return to this tradition that was abandoned after the Russian Revolution of 1917 and because they want to establish their own relationship with the holiday.
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In Ukrainian Happy/Merry Christmas is ‘Веселого Різдва’ Veseloho Rizdva (Merry Christmas) or ‘Христос Рождається’ Khrystos Rozhdayetsia (Christ is Born).
The main Christmas meal, called ‘Sviata Vecheria’ (or Holy Supper) is eaten on Christmas Eve (6th January). Traditionally people fast (don’t eat anything) all day but you might start the day drinking some holy water that has been blessed at church.
The family begins setting the table for the “Holy Supper”, first the table is strewn with a small amount of hay or straw in memory of the Christ Child born in the manger. A kolach (braided loaf of bread) is placed as a central table decoration.
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You can’t start eating the meal until the first star is seen in the sky. So people (especially the hungry ones!) go outside as soon as it start getting dark in the afternoon to try and spot the first star. The star represents the journey of the Wise Men to find Jesus and that Jesus has been born, so Christmas can start!
The meal normally has 12 dishes which represent Jesus’s 12 disciples. The main dish is often ‘kutia’ a type of a kind of sweet porridge made of wheat. Other dishes can include mushrooms, sauerkraut, red ‘borsch’, dumplings known as ‘varenyky’ (Pierogi), whitefish, ‘bigos’ (a meat and cabbage stew), cheese cake and bread.
Ukrainian Dishes
The room where Sviata Vecheria is eaten normally has a Didukh decoration placed in it. The Didukh is a made from a sheaf of wheat and symbolises the large wheat fields in Ukraine. It literally means ‘grandfather spirit’ and can represent people’s ancestors being with them in their memories. Sometimes people use some heads of wheat in a vase rather than a whole sheaf of wheat.
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After the meal, people love to sing carols or ‘Koliadky’. They can be sung around the table or you might go out caroling in the streets. People sometimes carry brightly colored stars on poles when they go caroling singing.
The Ukrainian carol ‘Shchedryk’ is where the popular ‘Carol of the Bells’ came from.
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Ukrainian Christmas with Sviatay Vechir and other celebrations connected with the festive season has a strong moral and cultural binding force that unites all Ukrainians no matter where they live. Khrystos Razhdayet’sia (Christ is Born) Slavite Yoho (Let Us Praise Him), celebrating the Birth of Christ the way Ukrainians honour and remember their ancestors and their rich traditions.

5 KITCHEN TRENDS THAT ARE POISED TO TAKE OVER IN 2018

Goodbye, monochromatic kitchens; hello, Ultra Violet.
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With a new year comes thoughts of how to renovate, refresh, and redecorate our living spaces. And where better to start than in the heart and hearth of the home, the kitchen? Check out the 5 kitchen trends poised to make a huge splash in 2018.
1 BLUE AND GREEN CABINETRY
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Expect kitchens to take on moody ocean-inspired shades.
“Blues and greens emerged as ‘go-to’ color choices for cabinetry in 2017. They are being mixed with other colors, complementing wood stains or even being used as the dominant color alone,” according to Stephanie Pierce, director of design & trends at MasterBrand Cabinets.
2 ALL-VIOLET EVERYTHING
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Pantone announced Ultra Violet as the color of the year, and it’s already shaping up to be a major trend in every aspect of home design.
Shannon Zapala, co-founder of glassware brand GOVERRE explains, “One of the popular kitchen trends for 2018 is using bold, unexpected colors […] such as Ultra Violet, Pantone’s color of the year! This dramatic color exudes a feeling of luxury and elegance.”
3 DARK COUNTERTOPS
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Dark, deep countertops are the order of the day, according to Renee Hytry Derrington, global design lead at Formica Group.
“Homeowners were intrigued with slate tiles that came in black, dark green and multi-colored rust tones. We wanted to design a slate option for countertops that had the same natural cleft detail— but combined with the growing interest in dramatic black stones. Basalt Slate is the result, and one of our most popular designs this year.”
4 MIX-AND-MATCH FINISHES
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The days of monochromatic kitchens are far behind us, according to Sue Wadden, the director of color marketing at Sherwin-Williams. She explains that, this year, it’s all about mixing and matching color, no need to keep it all the same:
“Using multiple colors in kitchens has become a popular trend this year. For example, painting base walls or cabinets in a dark charcoal tone and upper cabinets and walls in creamy off-white tones is something we’re seeing more and more of.”
5 HIGH-CONTRAST MARBLE
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“Step aside Carrara,” says interior designer Donna Mondi.
She explains that the newest ‘it’ look for the kitchen is dramatic marble that makes a statement, noting, “Marble countertops with high contrast bold veining are making quite a statement. It’s perfect for book-matching to create intense drama, or doing as a waterfall down the sides of the island. Either way this new trend is one to watch as I think it’ll be going strong for years to come.