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Displaying blog entries 31-36 of 36

Go Green with Eco-friendly Outdoor Living Spaces


Warmer weather means days spent in the backyard with barbecues, pool parties and neighborhood gatherings. This year, create a more satisfying and sustainable outdoor living space that you'll feel extra good about by going "green." With some expert advice, it's easier than you think.

Here are four easy tips from the experts at Trex to help homeowners transform the backyard into an eco-friendly escape.

Reduce, reuse, recycle
Gone are the days when it was difficult to find eco-friendly products constructed with sustainable manufacturing processes. Today, it's easy being green, especially when it comes to outdoor living. Among the "greenest" products available for the home is composite decking. Case in point, in the past nine years, Trex - the world's largest manufacturer of wood-alternative decking - has salvaged more than 2.9 billion pounds of plastic and wood scrap, keeping these materials from landfills and transforming them into beautiful, high-performance and sustainable outdoor living products made of more than 95 percent recycled materials.

Minimize maintenance
Maintaining a wood deck can be a chore with all that scrubbing, bleaching and staining - not to mention the work and harsh chemicals required to repair or replace weathered, splintered or deteriorated boards. Wood-alternative decking and railing is low maintenance and designed to withstand wear and tear from weather, outdoor furniture and foot traffic. High-performance composite decking offers superior durability and long-lasting good looks. Its exclusive composite formula brings together the best qualities of wood and plastic to create a superior alternative to wood, resulting in decks that require only a periodic cleaning with soap and water to stay looking and performing "like new" for years without sanding, staining or painting.

"High-performance composite decking allows homeowners to create the dream outdoor living space they've always wanted while being mindful of the environment," says Adam Zambanini, vice president of marketing for Trex. "We are extremely proud to offer a product that is as easy on the earth as it is to maintain."

Illuminate efficiency
Deck and landscape lighting are ideal for adding ambiance and safety to any outdoor space. For maximum energy efficiency, forego conventional lighting systems that use incandescent bulbs - which waste energy by producing heat as well as light - for more energy-efficient LED fixtures. For instance, fixtures featuring Cree LED components use 70 percent less energy than traditional incandescent lighting and deliver up to 40,000 hours of light, so homeowners can enjoy their outdoor spaces long after the sun goes down.

Finish with eco-friendly furnishings
Refresh your deck with sustainable and stylish all-weather outdoor furniture. Look for pieces made from durable composites or recycled steels. These materials are weather-resistant, ultra-durable and long-lasting. Composite furniture also is extremely eco-friendly made primarily from recycled polyethylene sourced from discarded plastics such as milk jugs. Like composite decking, composite furniture doesn't require painting, staining or waterproofing to keep it looking like new for years to come.

For more information on the latest in "green" outdoor living products, visit

Seven Touch-Ups to Help Sell Your House


1. Door Detail
If you want buyers to come rushing to your door, make sure it's well painted. A fresh coat of paint will make a great first impression.

2. Enticing Entrance
Next up is the entrance hall, where prospects get their initial glimpse of the interior. At the very least, clean every surface and touch up areas where the paint shows marks or nicks. Better yet, put on a fresh coat of neutral-colored paint throughout.

3. Bathroom Brush-Up
Bathrooms and kitchens get special scrutiny from prospective buyers, so give extra attention to these rooms. Touch up as needed and put plenty of effort into the powder room, which many will visit during their tour of your home.

4. Classy Kitchen
Size does matter when it comes to the kitchen. If you want to make your kitchen look spacious, then paint the kitchen white or off-white. At the very least, remove food stains from the walls and conceal water spots by applying a coat of primer followed by some touch-up paint.

5. Wow-Worthy Woodwork
Check your woodwork. You can quickly touch up chipped or marred paint on chair rails and floor molding.

6. Sweat the Small Stuff
Inspect areas that come in frequent contact with soiled hands―especially window frames, door frames, edges of doors, and walls around light switches. If the areas are dirty, you may be able to clean them, assuming you used a glossier paint. If that doesn't work, then do some touch-up painting.

7. Smooth Ceiling
Water stains on the ceiling from old roof leaks are a huge red flag for prospective buyers. After making certain that your roof is sound, be sure to prime and repaint these potential deal breakers.

To learn more about paints and painting, visit

Eventually almost everyone faces the task of selling their home. During these transitions, many people wonder if they should save some money and list their house for-sale-by-owner (FSBO) instead of using a real estate agent. In reality, using a qualified agent can simplify the process and save you thousands of dollars in the long run. Here are seven perks that a qualified real estate professional can provide:

1. Multiple Listing Service (MLS) Database
This is the digital age and buyers no longer rely solely on their agent to identify possible homes. In fact, many buyers become obsessed with searching the easily accessible online MLS database both before and during the actual home-search process.

2. Marketing Plan
The MLS database is a great place to begin, but savvy real estate agents develop comprehensive marketing plans that go beyond the database. In this recovering real estate market, a combination of selling tools is often necessary to reach your closing date quickly. A variety of advertising strategies is important, but so is networking with other real estate agents.

3. Attracting Buyers' Agents
Many buyers' agents are wary of showing a house without a listing agreement even if the FSBO advertising promises a reasonable commission. There is great risk involved when an agent works without the usual contracts. Since most home buyers have an agent, listing your home FSBO excludes a large portion of your customer base.

4. Faster Results
Real estate agents know how to price homes correctly. Also, having a professional marketing plan accelerates the traffic to your home, increasing your odds of a quick sale.

5. Security
When your home is FSBO, you must choose between leaving strangers inside without any accountability and showing the home yourself. Since leaving people alone is not a safe option, FSBO homes are usually shown by the owner. Naturally, when you show the home yourself, your potential buyers will spend less time discussing the pros and cons of your property. They don't wish to prejudice negotiations by telling you what they like, or offend you by telling you what they don't like. This silence leaves you unable to encourage the pros and reasonably discuss the cons―a finely honed skill of quality real estate agents.

6. Negotiations
Sometimes negotiating can get a little sticky. Buyers may want repairs that weren't in the sellers' budget, or they may try to "test the water" with lowball offers. Real estate agents can work with each other rather than directly with buyers and sellers, distancing themselves and keeping emotional clients focused on the big picture. The result is often a compromise that pleases everyone.

7. Closing
The buying and selling of property is one of the largest business transactions most families face. Sometimes closings are not simple affairs. They can become clouded by chain-of-title issues or conflicting survey results. Even homeowners' association disputes can complicate the closing process. It just makes sense to use a professional when dealing with complex legal documents.

4 Steps Toward Greener Living


Living a greener lifestyle isn't just about conserving natural resources, it's also about saving money. Whether you're renovating your existing home, or building from the ground up, you can create a home that's more efficient, cost effective and "green."

1. Insulate against air.
In terms of heating and cooling, a well insulated home conserves the most energy by creating an airtight seal, locking out any potential hot or cold air drafts. To properly insulate, replace old windows and doors with more energy efficient options and add extra insulation to the walls, roof and basement.

2. Make energy-efficient choices.
Inefficient appliances can cause a spike in your gas, water and electric usage. For a simple change, choose LED bulbs for all your light fixtures. To conserve even more energy, opt in for high-efficiency upgrades for your larger appliances, like refrigerators, dishwashers and clothes dryers, and install water conserving bathroom fixtures to help cut down your home's overall water usage.

3. Maximize natural light.
When you're able to rely on natural light for most of the day, the cost of your electric bill decreases. If you're renovating, think about ways you can incorporate new window openings to increase the amount of natural light your home is currently receiving. If you're building, think about incorporating an open floor plan with lots of windows to maximize the flow of natural light from room to room.

4. Design it to last.
Trends come in and out of style quickly. For the larger architectural features of your home, choose design elements that will stand the test of time — reducing the likelihood of another renovation. Leave the trendy design choices to smaller decor pieces that can easily (and inexpensively) be switched out when it's time for a change.

To learn more about energy-efficient windows or for more design inspiration, visit Pella Windows and Doors on Houzz.

Having a unique, well-designed living space doesn't have to be expensive. With a little creativity, you can repurpose old items into new furnishings or art pieces. Here are four ways you can incorporate repurposed items into your decor. 

1. Antique Trunks
A repurposed trunk that serves as decorative storage is a whimsical look that can add a rustic feel to your home. If you have an antique trunk from grandma, or if you find a great piece at a garage sale, use it in your living room as a unique coffee table. It can double as easily accessible storage for extra pillows and blankets.

2. A New Use for Vintage Ladders
Everyone needs a few house plants to add greenery to their home. A vintage wooden stepladder can become a tiered plant stand and add a creative touch. This impromptu plant stand will let light in at varying heights, but won't take up too much space. And it can be easily moved to help your plants get the sun and shade that they need.

3. Pick a Cohesive Color Scheme
Paint isn't just for walls. If over the years you have collected various types of coffee tables, end tables, and frames, then eventually you're house might start to look a little too mishmash. Pick a paint color that you love then update all pieces by sanding and refinishing them. This paint job will make your furniture look more like a cohesive set with very little effort—and money! If painting seems like too much work, try spray paint. There are durable spray paints available that will help ensure you don't miss any of the nooks and crannies.

4. Unique Wall Art
Hanging the things you love, whether it's a guitar, record albums, or maps, can bring a personalized artistic touch to your home without additional costs. If you don't want to invest in new artwork, turn your favorite items into art by displaying them. Make sure that items are safe behind sturdy frames, or if mounting instruments, that you're using the appropriate wall hangers.

Whether you are buying a new home or selling your old one, "comps," or comparable sales, are important. As a seller, they can be used as benchmarks to properly price your house. The last thing you want to do is undervalue it, which could end up losing you money, or overvalue it, which could make your property sit on the market for way too long. As a buyer, comps provide a ballpark figure that you can expect to pay in the current real estate market and, thus, help prevent you from overpaying for a property. The following are three things real estate agents keep in mind when looking at comps:

Look at the Location
As a seller, one of the first things to consider when looking for comps is location. This means looking at homes sold in your neighborhood. The same goes for buyers, who should compare nearby houses for sale to determine their house's value. If you can't find comps from the same neighborhood, then keep other boundaries in mind, such as school districts.

When Was the Home Last Sold?
The real estate market fluctuates a lot over the years, which means values can rise and dip substantially over time. If you can, look at houses that were sold within the last six months for a good comp. Even better, look at pending sales. Pending sales are deals in place between buyers and sellers that haven't gone through yet, which means they are the most up-to-date comps you'll find. Obviously, pending sales are something you don't have access to on your own, so it's helpful to have the assistance of a real estate agent who does have access to that kind of information.

What Are the Home's Features?
Location and time frame are huge factors in finding a good comp but so are the home's features. A one-bedroom, one-bathroom home is a bad comp for a three-bedroom, two-bathroom home. These aren't the only features that should be compared, though. A house with a luxury kitchen full of updated, energy-efficient appliances may sell for more than a house with a normal kitchen full of outdated appliances. Obviously, the odds that you'll find a perfect comp, whether you're a buyer or seller, are pretty slim when you consider that most houses have different features. It's something you should keep in mind, though, when evaluating comps to get a better understanding of how the home you want to buy or sell compares in terms of value.

Displaying blog entries 31-36 of 36

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Contact Information

Photo of Tom Smith Team Real Estate
Tom Smith Team
Coastal Properties Group International
423 Mandalay Ave., #102
Clearwater Beach FL 33767
(727) 776-3375