Mind your party petiquette — don't leave your furry friends hanging.
Whether you throw a housewarming party or a backyard barbecue, it’s important to understand that your pets may not share your enthusiasm for entertaining.
Despite the term “party animals,” many dogs and cats don’t like raucous gatherings with strangers invading their space. Some pets get really spooked by unusual activity in the home — even moving furniture around can upset them.
Try these tips for keeping your pets calm, cool and collected come party time.
Prevent great escapes
Party guests often leave front doors and outside gates open and unsupervised, which means that pets can slip out and run away. And by the time you notice their absence, several hours may have passed. This can happen during party setup too — especially if you have caterers or delivery people coming in and out.
Both cats and dogs, even if they are microchipped, should wear a collar with an up-to-date ID tag on it. And before the party, check that your pet is wearing its collar. Often the collar comes off for a bath or a grooming session, so double-check to be safe.
Give pets a private “party”
Many pets will be much happier and safer if you sequester them in a designated room or portion of your house, away from your guests. It’s a good idea to do this during setup too.
Give them their own “party” with lots of distraction toys and treat puzzles in the area where you’ve decided to confine them. Include food and water — and a litter box if you have a cat. Take your dog for a long walk beforehand so it can have a potty break.
Once they’re settled in their playroom, put a note on the door telling guests not to open it because there are pets inside.
Tricks to reduce stress
If your pets are particularly anxious around noise and people, it may be a good idea to use a pheromone plug-in to help them relax.
Pheromones are a substance that mother dogs and cats produce to calm their young. They help alleviate stress-induced behaviors, such as inappropriate marking, chewing and barking. Plug-ins need time to allow the pheromones to circulate in the room, so do this a couple of days in advance. They usually last a month.
Another alternative is to consider a ThunderShirt for your dog or cat. They come in all sizes, not to mention some fun patterns and colors too. They work by the swaddling principle that mothers use to calm babies and small children, and many animal behaviorists recommend them.
“Please DON’T feed me!”
If you’re entertaining on a small scale and don’t need to keep pets contained, make sure they don’t eat any food you may have put out in advance.
It’s OK to politely ask your friends not to feed your pets at the table or outside — even if your four-legged pal begs. Some foods, such as onions and grapes, are toxic to cats and dogs. And it’s not cute to give your pet a glass of beer. It can make them really sick.
When you’re barbecuing, watch those bones and corncobs. They’re choking hazards for pets.
Hazards of post-party cleanup
Don’t let your guard down once your guests leave and you let your pets back out — they might clean up too! Make sure they don’t get into the kitchen when your back is turned and help themselves to leftovers or raid the trash. Or, even worse, get into that box of chocolates a guest brought as a gift.
Speaking of gifts, if you’re planning to entertain, it’s a really good idea to give your pet a new toy. The novelty of something new will keep your dog or cat engaged while you’re with your friends.
Taking proper precautions helps ensure that everyone enjoys the party, including your pets.
Summer is peak season for home selling—but also for barbecues, vacations, and long, lazy beach days. In other words, there are lots of things to distract even the most diligent would-be buyers. And that’s not even counting those dog days when it’s too hot to even venture out to view homes.
But for home sellers who are eager to drum up an offer before Labor Day, having their sale sidelined isn't an option. And luckily, there's plenty you can do to lure buyers through your door. Check out these five smart tips for getting buyers to brave the heat and squeeze your house into their summer schedule.
1. Embrace 'rush hour' traffic
Long weekends out of town are the stuff summer dreams are made of. But they're also the reason many Saturday and Sunday afternoon open houses end up nearly empty. Choosing an alternative time frame may turn that around.
"During the summer months, I've found holding 'rush hour' open houses to be hugely successful," says Lindsay Bacigalupo, Engel & Völkers Minneapolis. "For example, Minnesota is full of lakes and so many residents here go up north for the weekend to enjoy time at their cabin. That's why I hold open houses on Thursdays from 4 to 6 p.m.—it creates an opportunity for buyers to view it during a time that might be more convenient."
2. Turn your open house into a summer party
Let's face it: Heading to a barbecue or pool party sounds a whole lot more fun than an open house. If you can't beat 'em, why not join 'em?
"Advertise it as a party instead of simply an open house," says Brett Fischer, associate broker at Lee & Associates Residential in New York, NY.
In other words, put together a gathering that feels more like a celebration than a sales pitch. Try serving up refreshments outside like lemonade and iced tea on trays, or fire up the grill to serve summer-themed appetizers or sliders.
Timing can make a difference here, too: Rather than holding your soirée in the middle of the day, wait until the evening when the temperature's bearable and people are ready to venture out and kick back at a house party.
3. Shine a spotlight on the outdoor space
Nothing's more appealing on a scorching summer day than a backyard pool. Play up this feature and other outdoor amenities to convince buyers this is the warm weather oasis they deserve.
"The long days of summer make for the perfect opportunity to highlight the exterior living spaces of the property," says Than Merrill, a real estate investor and CEO of the real estate education company FortuneBuilders. "Make additional effort to keep patio areas, the pool, and outdoor furniture extra-clean. Incorporate tasteful props such as cushions, towels, lanterns, and string lights to help spur the imagination of your guests."
Mark Cianciullli, a real estate agent at the CREM Group, recalls how setting the stage paid off by getting potential buyers to envision themselves enjoying the amenities he's featured.
"It was a hillside home that had a beautiful view of the city below, especially at night when the city was lit up. So I decided to have a 'summer nights'–themed open house where I set up bistro lights in the backyard and floating candles in the pool and served wine and cheese," he says. "It was such a charming atmosphere that the ultimate buyer wanted the house so bad so she could re-create those kinds of settings for parties or just hanging out with her family and friends."
4. Create a community event
Sometimes getting a home sold is a matter of enlisting the help of those who already live in the neighborhood. Merrill recommends hosting a summer block party at the front of the property, rather than in the backyard, to invite more attention and foot traffic from neighbors and others passing by.
"Prepare a theme, such as a luau or a summer barbecue, with entertainment for kids," he suggests. "Make sure to design and pass out event fliers around the neighborhood days in advance. Consider renting food trucks, including a snow cone or ice cream truck, to help serve your guests. As you mingle with guests, invite them to take a tour of the property and ask them to spread the word to friends and neighbors."
This concept translates to urban areas as well.
"New York City is famous for its residents fleeing the city on weekends, so real estate professionals have to get creative," explains Mable Ivory at Engel & Völkers in New York. "So this week, I hosted a community event called 'Sunset Soiree in the South Bronx.' Attendees could preview my listing, a penthouse on the Grand Concourse, while enjoying Bronx and Manhattan skyline views at sunset. We provided live music from Bronx native Pernell Walker, custom-designed 'Bronx Bomber' cocktails and bites, and had a raffle for 'The Bronx Rox' gift basket. It was more than just an open house, but a way for the community to get together and celebrate their neighborhood."
5. Advertise early, often, and offline
Spreading the word about an open house is always key to getting people in the door, but never more so than that stretch between Memorial Day and Labor Day.
"Summer is a crazy season, and often people become unplugged from their devices," says Jennifer Brownhill, regional marketing manager of CLV Group. "So advertising online well in advance will help give people the heads-up to clear their schedule for this day."
To capture more eyeballs offline, plant signs on roadways headed toward the beach, campgrounds, and other popular summer destinations. Add extras like balloons to draw even more attention.
"Buyers know that it doesn't take long to tour the home," says Alex Hubler of Keller Williams Premier Realty Lake Minnetonka, MN. Advertise how your home's just five minutes off the highway, and "people can pop in quick if they're on their way somewhere, rather than taking the whole day to tour homes."
Because summer vacations aren’t complete without a trip to the beach, the idea of owning real estate along the coastline is a very compelling consideration. And why not? A beach home is real estate gold; it can serve as both a getaway for anybody inclined to get some sand beneath their toes and an investment property to obtain secondary income. While owning your own personal Margaritaville may seem like an expensive proposition, there are still bargains to be had at the beach — believe it or not.
RealtyTrac, a comprehensive housing data company, has released a special report ranking the top 10 best bargain beach towns for summer, analyzing more than 1,400 cities in coastal counties. The list, which only used cities bordering the ocean and with a population of 50,000 or fewer, was filtered down based on a bargain beach index composed of median home prices including prices relative to the home price bubble, average summer temperatures, air quality and density of registered criminal offenders, and . Cities were then given an index score from 0 to 500 with 500 being the best possible score.
“Buying a second home or investment property in a beach town can help families save on summer vacations for years to come and also potentially generate vacation rental income,” said RealtyTrac Senior Vice President Daren Blomquist.
“While real estate close to the ocean tends to be pricier, bargains are still available particularly in smaller towns off the beaten path where home prices have been slower to bounce back from the housing downturn. We picked the highest-ranked bargain beach town from each state to provide a good sampling of the diverse beach town experiences available across the country,” said Blomquist.
Best Bargain Beach Towns: Summer
The latest rankings doesn’t represent the name-brand beach towns most people think of, but rather their affordable counterparts. (A good option when buying a home in summer.) According to RealtyTrac, these are the 10 best beach towns to buy real estate in:
10. Bethany Beach, DE
Located in the incorporated town in Sussex county, Delaware, Bethany Beach is one of the more underrated beach towns on this list. Although typically only home to a population of 1,060, Bethany Beach during the summer months is a hotbed for visitors — receiving approximately 15,000 vacationers per year.
9. Florence, OR
Named after a sailing vessel that wrecked along the Oregon Coast in 1875, the town of Florence is a coastal city in Oregon situated between Coos Bay and Newport.
8. Madison, CT
This beach community was incorporated in 1826 and named after President James Madison. Madison was once an epicenter for fishing, shipping, shipbuilding, farming, and crayon manufacturing.
7. Dauphin Island, AL
Known as the sunset capital of Alabama, Dauphin Island is located in Mobile County on a barrier island at the Gulf Of Mexico. The town has become a major vacation spot, offering an authentic taste of the Gulf Coast.
6. Emerald Isle, NC
Emerald Isle is a secluded and tranquil slice of heaven located in Carteret County, North Carolina. Located on the Bogue Banks, Emerald Isle is also part of the Crystal Coast, making it a great place to live, work and play.
5. Palm Beach, FL
Palm Beach needs no introduction. This incorporated town in Florida is lined with palm trees and legendary resorts, mansions and historic landmarks.
4. Riverside, RI
3. Crisfield, MD
Situated in the southernmost town in Maryland, Crisfield is a beach-lover’s real estate dream. With a good part built on oyster shells, Crisfield boasts one of the largest marinas on the East Coast, and hosts various events including the annual National Hard Crab Derby.
2. Mastic Beach, NY
For those searching for low-cost beachfront property, Mastic Beach in New York is your answer. With a median home price below $100,000, this coastal town located in the southeast part of the Brookhaven in Suffolk County is a bargain.
1. Keansburg, NJ
Complemented by an astounding skyline view of New York City, Keansburg is a bayside community situated in Monmouth County, New Jersey. In terms of home prices and style of living, Keansburg is the best bargain beach town in America.
Fewer new homes were sold in December than the month before—but it's not something that those looking for the home of their dreams should be too worried about.
There was a 9.3% monthly drop in newly constructed home sales, totaling 625,000 in December, according to a joint report by the U.S. Census Bureau and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. December sales were up 14.1% year over year.
The monthly decline is thanks to a blockbuster November. Because of the shortage of homes on the market, buyers who couldn't find their perfect abode in summer, when buying typically peaks, extended their searches and finally closed in the fall. So fewer home shoppers were out during the holidays.
"Sales were unusually high in the previous two months, which means that sales dropped in December because people had [already] bought their homes," says Joseph Kirchner, senior economist.
The most sales were in the South, at 331,000, and they were down 9.8% from November. They were up, however, 15.7% from the previous December.
That region was followed by the West, at 190,000. They were down 9.5% month over month, but up 18.8% year over year. In the Midwest, there were 63,000 sales, down 10% monthly and showing a 3.1% annual drop. There were only 41,000 sales in the Northeast. They were down 2.4% from November, but up 10.8% from the previous year.
Nationally, the median price of a new home was $335,400 in December, according to the report. That's up nearly 0.15% from November and almost 2.6% over the previous year. And it was nearly 35.9% higher than the $246,800 median price tag of an existing home, according to data from the National Association of Realtors®.
“Affordability continues to be a problem," Kirchner says. "In general, new home construction is focused on more expensive homes.”
That's because builders are contending with construction labor shortages, rising land and materials costs, regulatory delays, and difficulties obtaining financing.
Just 4% of the new homes sold in December were $150,000 or under. An additional 13% were between $150,000 and $199,999. The bulk of the sales, about 47%, were of residences costing $200,000 to $399,999. About 11% of homes sold went for $400,000 to $499,999. New homes costing $500,000 and up made up the second-largest chunk of sales, at 25%.
Winter has yet to officially arrive, but if you're anything like us, you're probably already feeling twinges of cabin fever. If the thought of spending the next several months inside is too much to bear, know that you can still reclaim your outdoor space—as long as you're willing to shell out some cash or get a cold-weather workout.
A few surprisingly simple design tweaks and heating elements are all you need to use your outdoor space well into the winter months. And you'll be part of a growing trend, architects say; homeowners are already treating their outdoor spaces as extensions of their homes. With winter-proof patios, homeowners are getting more bang for their buck.
“We are designing a greater number of outdoor living spaces that can be used at least nine months out of the year and, on occasion, the full year,” says Thomas Wall, owner and architect of Mitchell Wall Architecture & Design in St. Louis.
Ready to transform your patio into an all-season wonderland? We've got your instructional manual right here. We'll admit: Some of these projects could take some heavy lifting, and might have to wait until spring. But there are a few tips that can get you warm and toasty al fresco in no time.
1. Raise the roof
Winter snow sure is pretty to gaze upon. But if you don't want to be sitting in it, you should consider covering your patio.
"Adding an overhead shelter to an existing deck is one of the most common requests I see in outdoor living," Wall says. "This can be anything from a simple, detached pergola to a full roof with fans, heaters, and speakers coming off of the main residence."
The cost and timeline for this can vary greatly, Wall cautions, depending on your current structure and wish list.
However, he adds, "in the world of architecture, adding a covered deck is a relatively simple process. If there are no circumstances to complicate things, it can be done quickly and on a budget."
2. Plant coniferous trees
Snow, unfortunately, isn't the only element to contend with. Keeping out winter winds and minimizing humidity can mean the difference between being comfortable outside and running indoors for cover.
To win the battle with Mother Nature, Wall recommends strategically planting certain kinds of trees around your space.
“Coniferous trees not only prevent wind four seasons a year, but they have the added benefit of taking away some of the moisture,” he notes. "The drier the air, the less you feel extreme temperatures."
But before heading to the plant store, take note.
“Spend time outside before you enter into the project, and know which direction the wind comes from,” Wall recommends. “Get to know your outside before you make it change. That way, you can be sure the changes you make will be money well-spent.”
3. Bring the heat
Of course, no winter-friendly outdoor space is complete without a heat source. Make a warming station the focal point of your patio and you'll not only be toasty, but you'll have a design that's ideal for entertaining as well.
“Many homeowners now are requesting outdoor fireplaces, fire pits, and Mexican-style chimeras,” notes Austin-based designer Pablo Solomon. “These are wonderful for gathering around and having a warm drink with friends.”
While a built-in or custom fire feature can set you back thousands, you can find budget-friendly fire pots or chimeras for under $200. One option is the Sun Joe Classic Stone Fire Pit ($132), which has the look of natural stone, without the hefty price tag. And if you're feeling industrious, you can build your own fire pit. It's a relatively simple process, as long as your ground isn't frozen.
Love to entertain? Take San Francisco–based designer Gina Gutierrez’s advice: “I like to use pits that have a large enough rim to lay down snacks and drinks while keeping warm by the fire,” she says. Try the CobraCo Diamond Mesh Fire Pit ($167), which has a 5-inch-wide edge that’s perfect for holding your winter ale.
If your patio isn't covered, be sure to check that your fire pit comes with a cover, which can keep it safe in inclement weather.
4. Seat smart
Buying outdoor furniture is kind of an art: You want something that looks rich, but is also built to last. There's enough to worry about with sun, rain, and heat during warmer seasons. But if you're making your patio winter-friendly, you'll want to make sure you invest in furniture that can withstand winter elements as well.
“Investing in quality outdoor furniture means having furniture that will last for years to come, versus furniture that you’ll place at the curb in a year,” says Deborah Holt, marketing and e-commerce specialist at Sunnyland Patio Furniture in Dallas.
When it comes to furniture that can take a beating from Mother Nature, Holt recommends looking for Sunbrella fabrics, weaves with UV inhibitors, powder-coated finishes, and extended warranties.
Still cold? Heated furniture takes this outdoor environment to next-level warm. Options include the sleek Galanter and Jones Helios Lounge($7,900), which you plug in, or the more budget-friendly and battery-powered Chaheati MAXX Heated Chair ($120).
Finish off your winter patio design with warm accessories so everyone can stay snug.
Blankets such as the Pendelton Motor Robe with Leather Carrier ($100) are designed for camping, but they’d also look amazing slung over an Adirondack chair. For an even more chic look, try all-white pillows like the Serena & Lily Montecito Floor Pillow ($228) and furry throws such as the West Elm Faux-Fur Ombre Throw ($49).
Finally, don't forget the simple touches. Adding cushions to your cold-prone Adirondack chairs, for example, will make them more inviting. Pro tip: Buy a waterproof deck box to store everything during extreme inclement weather.
6. Light it up
One of the best parts of spending time on your patio in the summer? Staying outdoors late, especially when the sun doesn’t set until 8 or 9 p.m. But the fun doesn't have to end even when it's dark at 5 p.m.
“Lighting is key when it comes to setting the mood, especially during dark winter nights,” Gutierrez says.
Ideally, you'll use heat lamps that keep you warm while lighting up the space. Try AZ Patio Heaters Portable Glass Tube Heater ($128), or go big with the Lava Heat Italia Triangular Commercial Flame Patio Heater($959).
For a more festive setting, string up some white twinkle lights across your yard. Then light some larger candles and keep lanterns on your patio, like the San Rafael II LED Solar Mission Lantern ($19), for the final touch.
Transaction Coordinator - Virtual Assistant
It is possible to rest while you work this winter season
Some real estate agents make the mistake of thinking they can’t work during the holiday.
They think that people don’t want to be bothered or that working will interfere with taking some much-needed time off.
That’s simply not true. Here are three things you can do that your clients and sphere will love — all while recharging and getting the rest you deserve.
Sharpen the saw
If you’ve read Dr. Stephen Covey’s, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, you know that sharpening the saw refers to preserving and enhancing yourself physically (eating or resting), socially (making meaningful connections), mentally (learning and reading) and spiritually (being with nature, music, people or quiet).
Let’s say you decide to sharpen the saw mentally by reading or watching videos that help you improve your real estate business. This is something you can do leisurely as you rest over the holiday, while still working on your business.
As you read above, sharpening the saw also includes making meaningful connections.
Picture yourself lounging in the comfort of your home, with a warm cup of your favorite winter beverage, as you make the easiest call of the year — sending warm greetings and catching up with your clients and sphere of influence.
This is another leisurely way to work your business while you rest and make meaningful connections.
Simply take your database list of clients and sphere, search each person on Facebook, and do the following:
As you can see, it is possible to rest during the holiday while you “work.” The truth is, connecting with people, feeding your brain and sharpening the saw in the other above listed ways, will nourish you and contribute to a restful holiday.
The side effect is you’ll be working your business — but it’ll hardly feel like work.