Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Spring Cleaning De-Cluttering Tips for Your Home

How many winters do you imagine yourself spending the cold, rainy days inside, de-cluttering and deep cleaning your house. Then those cold, rainy days arrive and you have a million other things to do and never get around to the De-Cluttering Extravaganza you envisioned. If that sounds familiar then take the bull by the horns and get it together. Use the "Spring Cleaning" excuse to de-clutter your closets and your house, making them perfectly presentable for your summertime socializing.

Clean the Closets. It's time to pack up your sweaters and cold-weather gear and make way for spring and summertime clothing. That means, you can multi-task and throw in a little de-cluttering action while you're at it. Rules of thumb:
  • If you haven't worn it in the past year and you don't LOVE it, donate it.
  • If you haven't worn it in the past year AND it doesn't fit, pass it on.
  • If you haven't worn it in the past year and it's stained or damaged, toss it.
Using those three rules of thumb, will get rid of a surprising amount of clothing and shoes. If your pass-it-on pile is big enough, have a clothing swap party with some friends.

Just Say No to Piles. Are there visible pile ups in your house? If so, tackle these next. Choose a pile and stick with it until it's gone. Use boxes or paper bags to divide it into "trash", "recycle", and "put away" piles and then deal with those when the pile is gone. If there are papers and/or magazines you keep meaning to read but don't get to, recycle or donate them. Cancel subscriptions to magazines you never read. It will prevent further clutter and you can often access them online anyway. Be ruthless. Nobody wants to become a hoarder, but piles are the first step in the wrong direction. 

Eliminate Junk. One way to minimize those piles is to stop receiving all the junk mail, and non-junk mail you don't want to receive. You can use online sites, such as DMAchoice.org. When you pay $1, they reduce your junk mail by 75% in just three months. It's a pretty good deal. You only need one phone book. Call the publishers of the others you receive and ask to be taken off their list. Contact catalog companies and ask to be removed from their lists as well. It may take more than one phone call but it will be worth it.

Buy Organizers
. There are so many stylish organizers available. Plastic crates, wood baskets, stainless steel shelving, etc. Use this year's tax refund and finally purchase the organizers you have been talking about. It you go the plastic tote route, we recommend using clear plastic so that you can see what is in there, in addition to labeling them clearly. 

Once your home is de-cluttered, take a deep breath and look around. Make a commitment to take one minute every day (that's 6 hours a year!) to keep clutter in check. Here's to a clutter free spring!


Monday, March 25, 2013

9 Tips For Updating Your Outdoor Living Space

While our day- and nighttime temperatures can still tend towards the cooler side of the thermometer, now is the time to update your outdoor living space for the upcoming "Outdoor Entertainment Season". As the "Staycation" becomes more popular, the backyard patio is becoming an extension of indoor living space, including swanky outdoor designs, lighting schemes, outdoor kitchens professional chefs would envy, and stunning landscapes.

Here are 9 ways to update your outdoor living space this spring and summer.
  1. Consider Existing Space. If you weren't a part of your outdoor design, make sure it works for the lay-of-the-land. Is sun and shade balanced? Are you protected from wind? Does it drain well after a storm? If not, first things first. Consult a local architect or interior designer (they do exteriors too!) and create a functional outdoor space. Then you can move onto the fun stuff.
  2. Seating. If a grand outdoor living space is your goal, don't skimp on outdoor seating. Find a mixture of couches, chairs, and benches to accommodate social gatherings. The furniture should be comfortable enough to enjoy a long read, or a satisfying nap, on a lazy afternoon.
  3. Outdoor Kitchen. Kitchen remodels have been a hot interior design feature for some time, but now they have a rival - the outdoor kitchen. Things to consider: grills, smokers. sinks, refrigeration, and peninsula or bar seating.
  4. Landscaping. Just as your paint colors, wall paper, flooring set the tone for your interior design, planting flowers, plants, trees, and even an edible garden will set the backdrop for your outdoor aesthetic. Consider using drought and fire resistant plants for an extra "Green" bonus.
  5. Succulents. If you haven't experienced the joys of container gardening with succulents, head on down to the local nursery. Succulents are hardy, beautiful, and colorful. Plus, they can be planted in just about anything from tea cups to pots and wreaths.
  6. Lighting. While we love our outdoor spaces during the day, there's nothing better than whiling away summer evenings, sitting outside and enjoying star-lit skies. Your outdoor lighting can be a couple of traditional patio lights OR you can create a magical wonderland by selecting a combination of artistic and unique hanging, twinkle, and lantern-esque lighting for a more ideal nighttime ambiance.
  7. Water Feature(s). It's a rare human that doesn't have a natural affinity towards water. Patio fountains come in all different shapes and sizes. A large enough fountain can become home to water plants and a few goldfish. Try building your own fountain using a wine barrel and a water pump. Water sounds are a pleasant addition to any backyard.
  8. Fire. From small, low-profile fire pits to large, ornate outdoor fireplaces, most fire features require minimal room but provide maximum enjoyment. They also make your backyard usable in cooler weather.
  9. Screens and/or Cover. One way to maximize your outdoor space is to make one section an outdoor room. Screens and overhead cover will create a year-round outdoor space.
Once your outdoor living space has been transformed, your backyard will be the go-to spot for summertime garden parties and BBQs.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

The Importance of Safety Around Swimming Pools

As the spring and summer seasons are just around the corner, sparkling blue waters will look increasingly inviting. Whether you're a residential pool owner, or spend hours at your community pool, it's critical that you and your family recognize the importance of safety around swimming pools. While pools are a place where summertime memories are built, one minute of absent-mindedness can bring disastrous consequences. 

Make sure members of your family are on the same page about pool safety, as well as how to help someone who is drowning. Taking a few minutes throughout the season to refresh your pool safety skills could save a life.

General Pool and Spa Safety Tips
  • Never let children into the pool or spa area without supervision.
  • Do not let children run in the pool area.
  • Never allow children or adults to dive in the shallow end.
  • Teach your children to avoid the drains, exposes pipes, and other opening to avoid being trapped.
  • Make sure there is a phone close by in case of an emergency.
  • If you notice a child is missing, always check the spa or pool first.
  • Review your family's pool safety rules and procedures with friends and neighbors who use your pool/spa.
Helpful Pool Safety Tips

Learn how to swim. If you don't know how to swim, you will be devastated in the event that you aren't able to help someone else. Check with your localYMCA or Parks & Rec to sign up for adult swim classes. The more comfortable you are in the water, the more comfortable you will be helping someone else.

Teach Your Children to Swim. Whether you opt to teach your children to swim yourself, or enroll them in swim classes, learning to swim will provide a lifetime of safe and enjoyable water fun. During swimming lessons, your children will learn water safety and rescue tips, as well as floating- and water survival skills that can help them should they get into trouble.

Take a First Aid & CPR Class. Basic First Aid and CPR is a handy thing to know in general but it is especially important if you have a backyard pool or spa. Your first aid and CPR knowledge can help keep a drowning victim alive until professional medical attention arrives.

Safety Equipment for Your Pool and Spa

Having the right equipment in and around your pool or spa area can go a long way towards pool-related injury prevention. Here are things to consider:
  • Have a four-foot enclosure with self-latching gates around your pool and/or spa. Ask your neighbors to do the same.
  • Use lockable covers to prevent children from entering the water without your permission/supervision
  • Install childproof latches on doors and windows on residential walls that serve as the "fourth barrier" of your pool or spa area. You may also want to install an alarm (and use it!) on the door that accesses the pool.
  • Make sure your pool and spa covers are in good working order
For more information about pool/spa safety, visit www.poolsafely.gov. Attention to safety will ensure that good memories are the only memories made this summer.


Wednesday, March 20, 2013

These Backyard Pool Design Ideas Will Make Your Neighbors Jealous

Can you feel that change in the air? A slightly warmer feel in the sunshiny patches? Have you noticed the days are growing longer by the...well...day? This means spring and summer are right around the corner. It's time to dust off the winter doldrums, get out the sketch book, gather the family around and begin planning a stellar backyard pool design that will make your neighbors green with envy. 

WARNINGIf you don't like spending long, luxurious afternoons poolside or having friends and family over for amazing backyard BBQs, this blog post is not for you!

Like everything else in life, pool designs revolve around current trends. There was a time when all pools were rectangular. Then they were kidney-shaped. Now, modern technology and exuberant landscaping plans are merging to create backyard pool designs that are worthy of an upscale resort. Here are a few of the hot pool design trends for 2013.

The Infinity Pool
. If your backyard overlooks a stunning cityscape or wide-open vista, you will probably want to incorporate at least one infinity edge. An infinity pool gives the impression of being completely wall-less, so the edges appear to drop off into "infinity." In reality, the water gently spills over the edge into a reclamation trough where it is filtered and recycled. The pool we linked to also incorporates another new pool trend, which is using a much larger shallow walk-in area, great for kids or those who want to lay out sans excessive heat.

FountainsFountains are a simple addition that provide multiple benefits. They are visually pleasing, the sound they produce is lovely when you're inside and acts as a sound-privacy barrier when you are outside. Fountains also help to aerate and clean your pool water, which is good for your overall pool health.

Waterfalls. Waterfalls have always been a hot item in boutique and resort homes. They would occasionally make their way into hip backyard pool designs. But with landscaping trends becoming more popular than ever before, you now have a wide variety of waterfall styles to add to you pool's ambiance. Stunning mosaic tile work, rocky bottomed faux-creek beds with foliage, or greek-inspired spillways, are all available for the average homeowner. 

Less is More. Have a smaller backyard and/or don't want your entire backyard space to be consumed by a pool? No problem. Backyard lap pools have become more popular - and aesthetically pleasing - than ever. You can add a pool that's big enough to swim daily laps, soak with friends, or let the kids cool off in the summertime without breaking the bank. As long as you're at it, you can even add a spa on one end for nighttime and cooler weather soaks. Even a waterfall is an option for lap pools. You can have a luxury resort feel for a more modest size/price.

So, take these ideas and begin designing a backyard pool that's just right for your family. All we ask is that you invite us to the first pool party of the summer.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Universal Design Principles: Providing a Comfortable Home for Decades to Come

Universal design principles are a relatively new concept. As modern homes have become bigger, taller, and more complex, aging seniors and those with disabilities find themselves at a distinct disadvantage: they love their home but can no longer inhabit it comfortably. More and more clients are approaching interior designers and architects with a simple request: I want a home that will serve our family's needs for decades to come. This request has led the design industry to implement universal design principles - meaning designs that accommodate a variety of living needs.

For the homeowner, this provides security that with time and the expected - and unexpected - life progressions, adults and children will be able to enjoy a home that accommodates everyone's needs. It also add significant value to your home, making it marketable to a wider range of potential buyers. Here is a list of space-by-space considerations for  more universally functional home, while maintaining a luxurious and aesthetically pleasing interior design.

The Kitchen

Kitchens can be one of the trickiest places to navigate when mobility becomes an issue. Wheelchairs, walkers, and arthritic joints can transform a high-end kitchen into an inaccessible obstacle course.
  • Cabinets: Consider cabinet drawers, as opposed to doors, with heavy-duty sliders. They can be designed to stack dishware, include spice racks, slide-out trash receptacles, etc. No more bending/reaching into the far recesses of your cabinets.
  • Room to maneuver: Leave enough space between the island, peninsula, and between counters, appliances and in corners to allow a wheelchair or walker to pass and/or turn comfortably.
  • Side Access Appliances. Ensure appliances can be easily approached, opened, and utilized from the side. Consider a separate stove-top with space for knees underneath.
  • Drawer pulls. Small nobs and artsy drawer/cabinet pulls aren't always the easiest to access for weak or stiff hands. Think about using large nobs or handles which can accommodate the whole hand in order to be pulled open.
The Bathroom

Some of the ideas from the kitchen will translate to a universally designed bathroom. Other features to consider include:
Foot-operated or levered faucets for easy utilization
  • Grab bars in the bath/shower area
  • Hand-held shower faucets that can be used in a bathing chair if necessary
  • Room for knees under the sink
  • A Raised toilet 
These features can be added without detracting from your overall design.

General Living Space


While you may desire a multi-level home, it's a good idea to ensure the first level includes a living area, bedroom/bathroom, laundry room and kitchen so those with limited mobility have a comfortable, spacious habitat, even if other areas of the home are more readily accessible to the rest of the family. Additional universal design elements would include things like:
  • Wider hallways
  • Front loading washers/dryers
  • Pocket doors to seal unused areas of the home off from unnecessary heating/cooling
  • Raised Electrical outlets
  • Lowered light switches/dimmers
  • Step-free entrance and exits from main entrance and/or patio areas
If you are considering a renovation or remodel, give a second thought to implementing at least a few universal design elements. They will improve your home's resale value and will create an attractive space that will allow you to age comfortably.


Friday, March 15, 2013

Spring Time Events in Redwood City: Fun for the Whole Family

This time of year can get a little crazy for families. Kids have been cooped up all winter long and although the sun may shine more often, that doesn't always mean its warm enough to be outside. If you are looking for things to do with your family in and around Redwood City, here are a few suggestions for you. 


Connect with your inner artist. If you haven't been to Laurel Street Arts in San Carlos, you are in for a true treat. This place is chock full of potential for kids, teens, adults, and even your co-workers. Whether you choose to drop-in and paint your own pottery, or sign up for one of their many classes and activities, there is a little something for everyone. Laurel Street Arts teaches classes ranging from jewelry-making and fused glass to pottery and general craft classes. You can also make arrangements for parties and a host of group events as well. This is a perfect way to spend a weekend day or two before our summer season begins to kick off.

Reading Time
. Have you taken the time to check out the variety of reading time and/or book club opportunities hosted by our public library system? We are so fortunate to have a library staff who are so inspired and committed to running programs for Redwood City residents of all ages. Among other events offered by the Redwood City Library system, you children can read a book to specially trained dogs from the Humane society, learn to make origami, and/or participate in multi-lingual learning opportunities.

Seaside Story Time. Speaking of the public library, sometimes local experts visit the  main library to speak and educate the public about their exciting fields. O Saturday, March 23rd, the library will host experts from the local Marine Science Institute to teach the public about "Sharks of the Bay."

Been to the theater lately? We mentioned the Fox Theater in our previousThings to So and See Do in Redwood City post, but our local school theater productions deserve equal attention and support. For example, the weekend of March 15-16 you can catch Woodside High School's live production of "Legally Blonde." This is a great way to support the arts and remind yourself of why prioritizing arts and music in our public school system is so important.

After school programs
. Did you know Redwood City offers vibrant After School Programs? Whether you need a safe place for your children to go until you are home from work, or your children need help with their academic pursuits, you can find the right spot for your child. The Sandpiper Youth Clubalso offers After School Programs, ranging from preschoolers through adolescents, as well as Summer Camp programs your children will love.

It's easy to get caught in the hustle and bustle of "things-you-need-to-do." Once in while, make sure to get out and about Redwood City with the family. It's a wonderful way to make memories and enrich your family's dynamic.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Nature Inspired Home Designs for Your Pacific Place Home

There is a fascinating article published by the Oxford Journals titles, Healthy nature healthy people: ‘contact with nature’ as an upstream health promotion intervention for population. It summarizes how important nature is to the human mind, body and spirit. In the cosmic picture, humans have only been living as "urban dwellers" for a very short amount of time. From the biologic perspective, it seems we all crave contact with nature and an absence from that connection affects us on multiple levels. Why not let nature inspire your Pacific Place home design?


How about a forest floor? This stunning Forest Floor floor tapestry is the creation of east coast-based Angela Adams. Adams is a home furnishings designer and each of her pieces is named for favorite people, places and things. Her furnishings and tapestries are functional art and every piece is infused with elements of nature.

Logs and Stones. While hardwoods and natural stone have long been a popular choice for flooring, innovative flooring manufacturers have created materials that are even more rustic and natural in their  appearance. For example, this Logs and Twigs flooring is available in pine and oak. Your bathroom or shower can be transformed into a soothing river bed using easy-to-install river stone mosaic sheets.

Birds and Butterflies. Who doesn't find pleasure watching winged creatures in flight? While you can plant bird and butterfly friendly gardens to attract them to your outdoor living space, why not create an interior design that's bird and butterfly friendly as well? You can use framed art pieces or upholstery and accent pillows to add color to pay homage to your feathered friends. Abandoned bird's nests are another artistic way to decorate your home. Unique metal wall art adds an ethereal quality to any wall - the butterflies seem to be in passing right through the living space. Hunt for vintage and antique framed butterfly taxonomy illustrations that can be set on hearths, hung on walls, or propped on book cases and dressers.

Natural colors
. It's true that earth tones and neutral colors can be used to mimic nature's background, but sometimes the best way to infuse your home with nature's energy is to mimic her more vibrant colors. This Atlanta loft space uses a vital mossy green, bright blues, and other warm energetic tones that look like a meadow fairy flew by with her paint palette and brush.

Curves and soft angles.
If you are considering a remodel, why not take some of your more angular spaces and grace them with natural curves, softer lines, and gentler forms. This amazing Ojai house is a testament to nature inspired design and influences.

Indoor Landscaping
. With the right amount of natural lighting or special grow lights, you can create indoor landscaping of all shapes and sizes. From simple cut flowers and floral arrangements, to full fledged terrariums and indoor trees, a few living additions can make a world of difference.

Imagine the pleasure you'll receive when you can get back to nature right in your very own home.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Work From Home? 3 Interior Design Ideas for Your Home Office

The term "home office" has taken on an entirely different meaning in the past decade. Having a room, or space, in the house where you stuffed a desk, a computer, and some basic home office supplies is nothing new. Your kids did their reports, you paid bills, and the space was occasionally used for catch-up work on weekends. Now that telecommuting and freelance work opportunities are more common, home offices are undergoing amazing transformations. If you need more from your home office space, here are some interior design ideas to make the space professional, efficient, and aesthetically pleasing.



3 Interior Design Ideas for a Home Office Renovation


The first step is determining what design style you are going for. Will you be meeting clients in your office? Do you Skype or video-chat, which provides clients, colleagues, and/or superiors a view of your space? If so, it's even more important to choose a design that matches the image you want to present in the professional world.

Most designs fall into three categories: traditional, modern, or transitional. We'll share examples of all three types.
  1. Traditional. When you think "traditional," think lots of dark polished woods, deep, rich furnishings, and stately decor. A traditional home office will most likely have floor-to-ceiling wood book cases or oversized secretaries that serve the same purpose. With all of the darker and heavier furniture, you may want to consider lighter, neutral wall colors or wallpaper in order to balance it out. This is especially true if you consistently work on a computer. Natural light is important to prevent your eyes from strain. Have a small space? Or prefer lighter colored accents? No problem. Lighter colors can keep your small traditional office space from feeling too cramped. Smart desk and shelving designs prioritize efficiency.
  2. Modern. If you like the look of a modern office, you have a wide variety of options. Anything goes these days. If you'll be hosting clients/colleagues in house, you will want to incorporate a comfortable seating area, while still having space for you to work at your own station. Bold colors, clean lines, and funky accents are all a part of creating a contemporary look. You can also design a contemporary office with a traditional ambiance by keeping the dark wood idea but using modern furniture and furnishings. Have a small space? You're in luck because modern design is all about minimalism - less is truly more.
  3. Transitional. Most of us probably fall the transitional category. We like a little of this and a little of that. You may enjoy the look of lots of wood, wall to floor shelving and a decorative area rug, but the unvarnished wood ceiling and clean lines in this transitional home office design give it a modern look. Small office spaces can still maintain a contemporary look with a few vintage accents.
A few modifications to your existing home office space can get it in the professional, functional, and attractive shape you need to do your best work from the comfort of your very own home.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Amp up Your Curb Appeal Because it's a Seller's Market Again!

If you've been hedging on whether or not to sell your home, here's the advice you've been waiting for: Sell Your Home! The positive energy of increasing real estate sales, continuing record-low interest rates, and a lack of product are making it a "seller's market" again. What does this mean for you as a seller? A seller's market usually translates to multiple offers, getting more than your asking price, and a relatively quick close of escrow.

So start your spring seller's landscaping, amp up your curb appeal, and get ready to sell your home to the highest bidder.



The Energy of Increased Real Estate Sales. If you remember your elementary science classes, you may recall Newton's First Law of Physics: an object at rest stays and rest and, conversely, an object in motion tends to stay in motion. In real estate, you can translate the word "energy" for "motion." Real estate buyer traffic is up 40% from last year, and it's continuing to trend in an upward motion. In addition to increased sales rates, the houses-for-sale are holding steady. This means there are more buyers than houses - thus it's a "sellers market" There is almost a tangible energy around sales trends.

Record Low Interest Rates
. The interest rates for those with good credit continue to remain low in an effort to improve the economy. In fact, according to Freddie Mac's chart on 30-Year Fixed Rate Mortgages, interest rates these last few years have been significantly lower than they have in the past 30 years. Unfortunately, things can't last this way forever. You can begin to see very slight increases from 2012 to 2013, and we wouldn't be surprised if these increases continue, even if at a slower pace. This can motivate buyers to buy their new home before rates begin their inevitable upward climb.

Supply and Demand.
As mentioned above, a seller's market occurs when there are more buyers than sellers. When there is more demand than  supply in the housing market, buyers are competing for the same desirable goods. If you make sure your goods are desirable, there is a really good chance you will become the subject of a bidding war. In the best case scenario, a desirable house in a desirable location will end up selling for considerably more than its asking price. Another benefit of a seller's market is that buyers are less confident about a "contingency sale" (where their home has to sell before they can buy your home). In a seller's market, buyers are more apt to use a bridge loan to ensure they get the house they want while they concurrently deal with their own housing issue. Wouldn't it be nice if you were a seller reaping the benefits of a seller's market?

Ready to sell your home? If so, find a reputable real estate agent, get your house ready to show, and watch the steady stream of interested buyers line up at the door. The "sold" banner will be up before you know it.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Three Ways to Gain Energy Savings in Your Bay Area Home

Sustainable building trends are beginning to dominate the building industry. Modern architectural design and innovative home appliances have allowed homeowners to live in significantly larger homes using a fraction of the energy consumed by their parents' and grandparents' more humble dwellings. While some energy saving solutions such as Energy Star appliances and energy efficient windows are more obvious, there are other things you can do to save on monthly utility bills.


With summer right around the corner, this is a great time to evaluate three ways your family can reduce overall energy consumption and save hundreds (potentially thousands) of dollars on annual utility spending.

3 Hidden Ways to Save Money and Energy

These tips are even more valuable if your home was built prior to the mid-1990s when energy efficiency wasn't a mainstream priority.
  1. Seal the Envelope. You would be amazed at the amount of energy that is literally sucked out of your home when it's not properly sealed. Before the weather gets much warmer, take a walk around your house and assess potential energy leaks. On a cool morning or evening, move your hand around the edges of exterior doors and windows, exterior plumbing penetrations, and electrical outlets on exterior walls. Do you feel any cool air? Do a walk-around the exterior of your home to look for any visible cracks/holes/or obvious penetrations. You'll want to check your attic as well. Sealing leaks is a pretty simple DIY project or you can hire a local contractor to do the work for you.
  2. Insulation. Does your home have sufficient insulation to maintain comfortable indoor temperatures without using excess energy on heating/cooling? Unless your home was built in the last decade, or you've done a major renovation, there is a good chance the answer is no. Your home can lose a significant amount of energy through the attic and exterior walls if they aren't adequately insulated. Take a look in your attic and verify:
    • The R-Value of your insulation. Does it match the recommended R-Value(s) on this Energy Star map?
    • Quantity. Does your insulation come to no more than an inch below your attic floor joists? Ideally, you want insulation be almost equal or even a little higher than your joists.
    • Gaps. Make sure there are no visible holes or gaps. If there are, these are areas where your home is leaking energy.
    If you decide your home would benefit from added insulation, make sure to hire a licensed insulation contractor or read these detailed instructions for a relatively simple DIY insulation project.
  3. Duct Design/Maintenance. Again, if your home was built prior to the mid-1990s, your duct design is probably poorly designed and/or inadequately sized. Hire a licensed HVAC contractor to inspect your ducts and make sure they are providing appropriate air flow, have adequate air intakes and returns, and are adequately sealed and insulated. These simple fixes will keep conditioned air where it belongs: in your home!
Paying attention to these "invisible" items will make your home much more energy efficient, not to mention result in valuable utility savings.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Use Drought Resistant Plants for a Bird and Butterfly Friendly Garden

One of the best ways to attract birds, bees, and butterflies to your garden is to use native plant species, which provide the natural nectar, berries, and pollen our native wildlife prefers. An added benefit to creating a landscape design that incorporates native plant species is water conservation. Most of the plants native to California are considered drought resistant, which means that in addition to creating a garden that is interesting year round, you will gain significant savings on your monthly water bill.

Native Plant Species for a Drought Resistant Landscape


The key to a well designed landscape is creating visual interest year round. Using native plant species is a wonderful way to do that. With the right combination of plants, you will benefit from a landscape design that is attractive in all seasons. The birds, bees, and butterflies will also thank you as native plants provide the natural nourishment to get them through their seasonal life cycles. Here is a list of plants that do well in our native California. Once they are established, many of them need minimal watering and all of them are attractive to wildlife.

California natives to attract hummingbirds


Golden Currant (Ribes aureum)
- These bushes form a small thicket, about 3 feet tall and 6 feet wide. The lush green leaves contrast with the yellow flowers. They bloom from October through March, which makes them a wonderful addition to your landscape through the fall and winter. Their blooms are favorites with hummingbirds and the berries will attract multiple birds to your yard through the winter.

Yellow Bush Snapdragon (Keckiella antirrhinoides)
. Also called Yellow bush Snapdragon, these perennials are not only a favorite for hummers and bees, they're also deer resistant. They bloom from late winter through early spring, which serves as a reminder that spring it on its way. Not only are they cheerful to look at, their blooms add a delicious fragrance to your garden.

California natives to attract butterflies

Desert Indigo (Amorpha fruticosa) - While desert indigo isn't as drought resistant as other plants, if you plant it in a mostly shady area with a healthy covering of mulch, you should be able to keep them happy without an abundance of water. In the meantime, you can set up your chair and watch a variety of butterflies do their work.

Sunset Manzanita (Arctostaphylos)
-  This is a colorful sprawling shrub - about 3 feet tall and 6 feet wide, although you can prune it to 2 feet if you like. The bark is red, the leaves green, and the flowers are white with a pink tinge. It is lovely, and at least a dozen species of moths and butterflies can be seen at any one time on an established plant. They grow well against a wall, or fence, in well draining soil.


The list of flowering and fruiting plant that attract birds and butterflies is extensive, so visit your local nursery and strike up a conversation with their staff. They will be pleased to help you plan a native plant garden for all seasons.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Latest Availability and Pricing Info for Pacific Place

We've got the latest pricing and availability info for phase 1 of the Pacific Place project! We've only got 4 units left that are as of yet unspoken for, and we expect them to get snapped up quickly. If you're interested, make sure you visit our sales office for info.

For all the details, see http://www.pacificplacerwc.com/sales_sheet.pdf


Friday, February 22, 2013

Protect Your Home with Fire Resistant Landscaping

As California and the Southwest continue to experience drier than normal conditions, it is important for homeowners to be "Firewise" in their landscaping choices. Maintaining a fire resistant property entails careful planning and regular maintenance. By paying attention to what you plant, removing dead and dry plant materials, and keeping a defensible space around your property, you will lower the chances of becoming a fire season victim. Plus, the more actions you take to protect your home, the more likely it is that local fire fighting units will be able to extinguish a fire on your property.

Monkey Flower

5 Tips For Creating a Fire Resistant Landscape
  1. Use Fire Resistant Plants. The good news is that many of California's native plant species are both fire resistant and drought tolerant. This means that in addition to protecting your home from the threat of fire, you will also be conserving water. Another benefit to using native drought resistant landscaping is that birds, butterflies, and bees will be attracted to your backyard as they prefer the pollen, nectar, and berries from native plants. There are no "fire proof" plants, but fire resistant plants retain more moisture than other varieties, which makes the more resistant. Examples of fire resistant plants include
    • Monkey Flower (Mimulus)
    • California Lilac (Ceanothus)
    • Sage (Salvia)
    • Common Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)
    • Coast Live Oak
    • California Sycamore
    Bring this list to your local nursery and discuss your plans for a fire resistant landscape. The employees will be able to help you design a landscape that is both attractive and fire conscious.
  2. Maintain Defensible Space. Before wildfires became more prevalent, most experts recommended maintaining a defensible space of about 15 feet. Currently, most cities - including Redwood City - recommend maintaining a 30 foot boundary. If your home is close to tall grasses and trees, which are more difficult to contain once ignited, it is recommended you keep a defensible space of 100 feet around your home.
  3. Prune Regularly. Hire a professional landscaping maintenance company or an arborist to keep trees and shrubs properly pruned and cleared of dead branches and leaves. Not only will this enhance the health of your landscaping, it will minimize its ability to burn should sparks make their way into your yard.
  4. Keep Roof and Chimney(s) Clear. Make sure your roof and chimney are free of tree branches. Always clear fallen debris, such as leaves and twigs, from your roof and gutters. This dry material can act as tinder during fire season.
  5. Create Fire Resistant Barriers. Use rock gardens, rock walls, and heavily mulched flower beds - which retain moisture - to create additional fire barriers around your home. Also, when upgrading your home, ask your contractor(s) about fire resistant building materials, such as siding, insulation, and roofing products.  
In addition to creating a more fire resistant landscape, we recommend you and your family have a fire evacuation plan in place. Rehearse your evacuation plan every quarter to ensure everyone is on the same page. With a little planning and preparation, your family will be able to minimize fire damage, preserving your home and its valuable contents.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Tired of Bleary Winter Weather? Brighten Your Interior With Color

We humans may not hibernate, but winter is still a season for hunkering down, catching up on reading and indoor hobbies, and planning the upcoming year. While there is beauty in the harsh winter landscape, the lack of color can become dreary. Winter light and cloudy skies can make your home's interior seem darker than normal. Combine that with a lack of sun and your interior decor may seem downright depressing.

If the winter doldrums are a reality for you too, you don't need to do a complete remodel, but it might be time to look at how bright colorful home design accents will cheer you up and add vibrance to your interior space.



Colorful interior design ideas that will cheer up your winter days

Winter is when home furnishing stores begin to show off their upcoming colorful spring lines. Take advantage of this by picking up interior design accents that will add color to a dark corner or room.

Feng Shui. Use all of that indoor time to learn about the art of Feng Shui home design. Winter days provide the perfect opportunity to study up on how to increase the positive energy flow of your home using the ancient principles of Feng Shui. By the time you welcome spring, your home will be ready to embrace a new season with a positive and harmonious outlook.

Vases: Talk about versatile accent pieces - vases are small, easy to store, and can be mixed, matched, and rearranged for different effects. Visit your local florist and pick up some seasonal bouquets to liven up your living space even further.

Lamps
: A bright and colorful lamp is a great way to literally light up a dark corner. You'll appreciate the pop of color and the extra interior light. Try using colorful light bulbs or switch your normal lamp shades for something with more color or a decorative pattern. This article from HGTV shows how you can repurpose an old garage sale lamp with a little imagination, a coat of paint, and a new shade.

Accent wall. Papering or painting an accent wall is a great way to use up a dreary winter afternoon and completely transform a space. If you aren't interested in making a permanent commitment, try using a bright, cheery, piece of fabric or a batik to temporarily add a bright spot. Check out these ideas for adding color to your home using temporary wall paper or fabric starching.

Pillow Shams. Rather than purchasing a collection of cheap accent pillows, try buying high-quality throw pillows and finding deals on versatile pillow shams. In one box you can store a year's worth of seasonal shams. Simply change the old for the new and voila! It's like a brand new pillow.

Beat the winter blues by finding ways to bring spring into your home a little early. Having a project to work on, and enjoying the visual fruits of your labors, will make the winter doldrums become a thing of the past.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Innovative Kitchen Appliances are Smarter Than Ever

Did you ever watch The Jetsons when you were a child? Cars that flew, robots that cleaned the house, and kitchens that made meals and cleaned up on their own. Who didn't fantasize about that futuristic lifestyle? While the world of innovative kitchen appliances isn't quite there yet, you would be amazed at what modern appliances are able to do these days.

Today's modern kitchen appliances are more energy efficient, attractive, and smarter - yes, smarter - than ever before. We thought we would take the time to highlight the must have appliances for this year's kitchen remodelers.


The World's Smartest Appliances


Invisible Dishwashers. We thought it was pretty impressive when dishwashers became "whisper quiet." And when we saw the first models that utilized cabinet facing to help the dishwashers blend into the kitchen design, we thought, "brilliant!" But just look at some of the amazing features new dishwasher models can offer.

The Bosh dishwasher is more than just the quietest dishwasher in North America. It also won the Energy Star award for distinguished excellence due to it's water and detergent sensing features, multiple which adjust the water/detergent according to the dish load, multiple wash cycle options, and a high efficiency heating element. Like to entertain? Bosh claims you can wash the dishes from a dinner party serving 14 in just a single load. That is something worth investing in.

Smart Refrigerators. Here is where kitchen appliances really start to get Jetsonesque. There are several refrigerators on the market that are energy efficient - using as little energy as a single 100-watt light bulb! But we are über impressed with the LG Smart ThinQ. It can tell you what's in the fridge, what's going to spoil if you don't use it soon, and potential menu options based on the ingredients stored inside. All of the information can be accessed using your SmartPhone App. So our question is, "what's for dinner?"

Built-in Coffee Station. A built-in coffee station, such as this coffee hutch, are becoming a standard installation for modern luxury kitchen designs and remodels. They allow you to brew a traditional cup o' joe, or step it up and notch and create gourmet coffee drinks in your very own kitchen. It's hard not to want one when you see one.

Wine Storage. Everyone loves a nice glass of wine, but those of us who live in the Bay Area have to admit we are a bit spoiled by having the Sonoma and Napa wine meccas right in our own backyard. Need a place to store your collection but don't have room for a cellar? No problem. The SubZero Wine storage options are high-tech, attractive, and can be built-in to your kitchen. Say arrivederci to over-chilled whites from the fridge, and lukewarm reds from your room temperature wine rack. Now you can offer your guests - and yourself - wine bar-worthy pours.

It's hard to imagine where kitchen appliances will be headed from here but for now, your modern kitchen can be as well designed as a professional bistro kitchen. Bon Appétit!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

What to Look for When Shopping for Energy Saving Appliances

Energy efficient appliances are all the rage these days and for good reason. In addition to reducing your carbon footprint, and improving outdoor air quality, they also save home owners considerable money in annual energy costs. There are several things to keep an eye on when you are in the market for a new appliance. Those are the Energy Star label, SEER or AFUE ratings, and the WaterSense label. Each of these will provide you with information about how a prospective appliance or plumbing feature compares with standard counterparts.



Energy Star

The Energy Star label was created by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as a way for homeowners to easily spot appliances that will save them money - in addition to improving the health of our planet. Although Energy Star appliances may be more expensive than other models, the government-backed program guarantees they will earn the extra money back - and then some - via energy savings over a "reasonable amount of time." Because it requires high-quality engineering and craftsmanship to build exceptionally energy efficient appliances, homeowners often reap the additional benefit of lower maintenance costs over the lifetime of the appliance. The Energy Star website is an excellent source for information about everything "green" and energy efficient in the world of home improvement.

SEER and AFUE

Heating and cooling equipment are labeled with a SEER or AFUE rating, depending on the type of equipment you are evaluating. AFUE stands for Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency. You should see an AFUE rating on any fuel-burning heating appliance. The higher the rating, the more efficient the appliance. SEER stands for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating. This measurement is visible on the packaging of cooling equipment. As with AFUE, The higher the rating, the better the energy efficiency. If you opt not to purchase a heating or cooling appliance with an Energy Star label, try to purchase one with the highest SEER or AFUE rating possible.

WaterSense

The WaterSense label is to plumbing fixtures and faucets as the Energy Star label is to appliances. Manufacturers of products with the WaterSense label guarantee their products are at least 20% more efficient than their standard counterparts. That is a pretty significant savings. In fact, the site advertises that even simple changes, such as adding a WaterSense aerator to your faucets or replacing your faucet with one that has a WaterSense label, can save your household as much as 11,000 gallons of water over the lifetime of the faucet! Visit the WaterSense website to learn more about how you can save water, to calculate your average water consumption, and to learn more about how you and your family can do your part to help conserve one of the planet's most precious resources.

Many municipalities are beginning to offer rebates to residents who purchase energy and water efficient appliances and plumbing fixtures. Hooray for us because Redwood City is one of them. Before you purchase your next appliance, keep your eye on the Star - the Energy Star that is, and begin to save multiple times over.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Top 5 Trends in Kitchen Design

If you're considering a kitchen remodel, you most likely scour home design websites, determining which features and functions will work the best in your kitchen. While designs and trends are important, especially in terms of resale value, never lose sight of the fact that you and your family spend the most time living in your kitchen. Make sure to prioritize kitchen options that work with your lifestyle. That being said, it's on to the fun stuff.



Top 5 Kitchen Design Trends

Sustainability. Green building is an overarching design trend and kitchens are no exception. Today's homeowners are interested in style and function, but they also want to know the features they add to their home are energy efficient and as minimally toxic as possible. You will want to consider how the choices you make during your remodel will effect indoor air quality quality. Are you using low-VOC paints, installing energy-efficient appliances, and ensuring gas appliances are well ventilated? What about energy efficient LED Lighting? Cabinet refacing is a more affordable and eco-friendly way to update cabinets, and countertop surfaces such as Quartz and Corian meet top green building certification requirements.

Open Floor Plans. There's no doubt that the open floor plan, including an open kitchen space, is still hot in the design world. While it may leave a few unwashed dishes exposed, today's hosts and hostesses want to be in on the action. Plus, with home design being more popular than ever before, homeowners want to share (dare we say show-off?) their brand new top-of-the-line updates with friends and family. In most cases, open floor plans also mean creating a feeling of space and extra square footage, which is desirable for older, smaller, floor plans. Opening up your kitchen space means opening up your living space.

Countertops. First it was Laminate. Then it was 4.5 x 4.5 tile (talk about a grout cleaning nightmare!). These days, kitchen countertop selections can be agonizing. There are so many options to choose from. Although granite is still one of the most popular choices, Quartz and Corian countertops are pulling ahead. Aforementioned sustainability is one of the reasons why. If you are a budget-conscious remodeler, ask your countertop vendor to show you their newest laminate samples. It has come a long way in the past two decades.

Cabinets. Cabinet options depend much more on the type of look you are going for than modern trends. Country kitchens usually opt for white and bright, or distressed. The modern kitchen may opt for darker finishes or bold paint colors. Either way you go, talk to your cabinet vendor about whether cabinet refacing is an option. It's affordable, will make your cabinets look like new, and saves landfills from thousands of tons of wasted cabinet materials. Consider using cabinet facing to cover appliances, such as the fridge and the dishwasher, to keep your kitchen lines clean and uninterrupted.

Good luck with your upcoming remodel. And remember, at the end of the day, trends are only guideposts to creating a functional and aesthetically pleasing kitchen your family will love.

Tell us what you like in a kitchen in the comments!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Ensure A Good Experience Hiring A Contractor

Whether you're considering a small remodel or are building a home from scratch, it's important to find a licensed and certified contractor who is experienced and trustworthy. You need to know they are adept at sticking to a budget and are experts in the area of construction they practice. Most of all, take the time to check their references, potential complaint history, and work portfolio. It's worth the time and effort to uncover important details so you can make sure to hire the best contractor for your job.

Here are some tips on how to go about hiring a contractor who you can trust.



Find a Contractor You Can Trust
  1. Ask Around. Online references and reviews can be helpful but they aren't always accurate.  Who's to say if the comments are posted by honest customers or a contractor's friends a family? The best references are people who have had work done by a contractor in the past five years. Know any friends or neighbors who have had recent remodels? Ask them about the pros and cons of the contractors they have used. Honest word of mouth, from people you trust, is a valuable resource.
  2. Verify Their State License. Once you've narrowed the prospective field to a few companies, make sure you're getting bids from licensed contractors. Verify they are listed on the California Contractor's State License Board website. This will give you information regarding their license and whether it is active or expired. It is best to check by license number, as names can be similar. Most contractors display their license number on their business card. If not, just ask for it.
  3. Investigate their Professional Complaint History. Always check with two agencies: The Better Business Bureau and the California Attorney General's Office to see if any complaints have been filed. This might take a little time and effort on your part but it's much better than finding out the hard way when you are filing the complaints!
  4. Examine Their Work. Ask for lists of recent and current projects so you can take a look. If the contractor has current jobs it can be a good idea to see their work in action. Ask for a list of subcontractors they use and call around to get references from the individuals your contractor employs. This can be another way to gain insight into the contractor's work ethic, and to see if they have long-standing relationships with their subs. If the concrete sub says, "Yeah, I'm the fifth company he's used in 2 years..." it's not a good sign.
  5. Trust Your Instincts. Don't dismiss your gut instincts. If a contractor comes highly praised but you don't get a good feeling during your initial interviews, do not hire him/her. Or, perhaps a contractor is lesser known in the community but you like his/her work and feel confident about how they communicate - then honor that.
Hiring a contractor requires due diligence.  However, the time and effort you make now into researching the potential candidates will be well worth it.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Feng Shui Decorating

Feng Shui is a metaphysical design concept which originated in China thousands of years ago. When feng shui is used effectively, your home and life will be characterized by harmony and balance. The foundation of positive feng sui design begins with the understanding of the feng shui bagua map. Once you understand how this map corresponds with the layout of your home in terms of particular life aspects and natural elements., the sooner you can begin decorating with feng shui flair.



Simple Steps to Feng Shui Decorating
  1. Feng Shui Bagua Map. The first step to incorporating feng shui decorating into your home is to have a basic understanding of the feng shui bagua map. Print out a map that corresponds with your home's foundational layout and you can work from there. You will also want to print a copy of an elements map, which can help with choosing the right colors and textures for decorating with an eye on balancing the elements.
  2. Light. Another key element in good feng shui is light. Light is energy so it is important that all of the rooms in your house are well lit in order to keep your interior space infused with energy. Overlighting or underlighting can create blockages and bad energy. Energy efficient full-spectrum light bulbs are the ideal lighting source if natural light isn't available. Crystals can also be used to help bring light into a space, or diffuse light into an area in which light sources are limited.
  3. Clean and declutter. Dirt, filth, and clutter are the enemy of good feng shui. In the tradition of feng shui, you can only be balanced in a clean and organized environment. Do all you can to keep clutter out of your living space. Buy organizers, build shelves, and train family members to pick up after themselves.
  4. Flow. It is important that energy - or chi, to be specific to feng shui vocabulary - can flow freely through your home. Furniture should be arranged in a way that doesn't obstruct or block the flow. So take a look at your furniture arrangement and see if there are areas that form obstructions or barriers. Rearrange to find a way that energy can flow freely while maintaining comfortable and cozy areas for relaxing or entertaining. Remember that windows, or doors that are directly opposite one another, can be a way for energy to be sucked out of the home. Placing a round table or a plant along the pathway can serve to slow down energy enough to allow it time to nourish your interior space.
  5. Colors, mirrors, and other features. Each of the elements - fire, water, metal, earth, wood - have specific colors and sentiments attached to them. Once you learn these, you can work with ways to decorate your home while balancing these elements and qualities.
So whether there's anything to it, that's really up to you as a matter of faith... but getting your home organized with nice light and decluttering is never a bad thing! Do you have any experience with feng shui? Let us know in the comments!

Monday, January 28, 2013

A Quick Guide to Credit Repair

If you have a credit score at room temperature, good credit may seem like an impossibility. However, repairing your credit is especially important if you are looking to buy a home. Hopefully, the era of predatory lending is over but unfortunately the recent housing collapse has forced lenders to tighten the reins in terms of who they approve for mortgages. By improving your credit score, you will be more likely to qualify for a mortgage and benefit from the lowest interest rates available.



Simple Steps to Repairing Your Credit
  1. Print a report. Remove your hands from in front of your eyes, take a deep breath, and print a FREE copy of your credit report. Then get in the habit of viewing your report every four months to make sure it is accurate. Each of the three major credit bureaus is required to provide you with one free report per year:
    If you see anything that is inaccurate, you can proceed via the credit bureau's instructions to report it and begin working to remove it. Also, remember that credit bureaus are not the enemy. They are simply the middleperson. They know nothing about your accounts or history, only what is reported to them by various creditors.
  2. Payment Plans. Did you know payment history is the number one contributing factor to your overall credit score? You may be surprised how willing creditors are when it comes to working out a payment plan. Rather than missing payments, which will constantly ding your credit report, try to work with all of your creditors to arrange payments you can afford on time.
  3. Automatic Debits.  If you usually have the money but often forget to make them, start going online to set up automatic debits. You can log in to the creditor's website and add your checking account or you can use online banking to set up recurring payments. Either way, this can help to get you back on track and make sure your payments are made consistently from here on out.
  4. Secured Credit Card. No credit can be as equally detrimental as bad credit in the eyes of prospective lenders. Or, if your debt was so heinous you cut up all your cards in a fit of frustration, it's time to obtain a secured credit card. Ask your bank if they offer one. These cards require a "deposit" which is used as your credit line for a certain term. Once you have established a regular payment routine, the bank will refund your deposit amount and begin to increase your credit line, which then boosts your credit score. You are often able to "upgrade" to an unsecured card at this point.
  5. Don't cancel old cards. If you haven't canceled your old cards, that's a good thing. Length of credit history is important. If you want to eliminate cards, cancel new cards and keep the old ones active as you pay them down.
Repairing your credit is definitely a one-step-at-a-time process, but once you have good credit again, your diligent efforts will be worth it.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Fire Safety Tips for Your Home

Did you know fires kill as many as 2,500 people per year, and injure approximately 12,600 annually? Fortunately, fire related deaths and injuries can be prevented! Two of the most important things you can do to prevent becoming an fire statistic is understand the risks, and create a clear plan of action to be rehearsed by your family bi-annually. The more you are prepared to confront the reality of a house fire, the more likely you and your family are to escape quickly and safely.


Be Prepared for a House Fire and Then Help to Spread the Word

The following information was gleaned from Ready.gov's Home Fires page. We recommend spending more time reading their detailed information and instructions in order to be as Fire Ready as possible. Are you a member of Neighborhood Watch or an alternative community safety group? Consider spreading the news to friends and neighbors by participating in FEMA's Pledge to Prepare program.
  1. Understand the Basics. Many people assume escaping a fire is simply a matter of hearing a fire alarm, or seeing flashy orange flames, and then getting out. Unfortunately, it's not that simple. Fire is:
    • Fast
    • Hot
    • Dark
    • Deadly
    These are the poignant words used to remind people it only takes about 30 seconds for a small fire to get out of hand. The hot smokey air is usually more deadly than the flames themselves. Simply breathing scorched air can be fatal. Rather than the bright flames people anticipate, fire is usually covered by black, dark, smoke which makes it difficult to see and breathe.
  2. Fire Escape Plan. Make sure your family has a solid "Fire Escape Plan" in place. This should include things like:
    • Establishing a primary route out of each room
    • Coming up with a secondary plan in case rooms/exits are blocked by fire
    • Purchasing fire escape equipment which has been safety tested by a reputable third-party agency, such as UL (Underwriter Labs).
    • Ensuring windows open freely and screens are easily popped out, even by young children
    • That everyone can escape by feel - with eyes shut - in case the smoke is so thick it prevents clear vision
    • Make sure all security bars have a quick release option and that every family member knows how to operate it
    • Prepare children for firefighters in full uniform and/or masks. They can often look scary so children need to learn firefighters are there to help and to approach them without fear.
    By practicing your fire escape plan two times a year, your family is much more likely to remember what to do, especially as everyone's roles will change as children grow older and larger.
  3. Install smoke alarms. There should be a smoke alarm located in every bedroom, the hallways outside of sleeping areas, and on each level of your home. Test the alarms monthly and change the batteries twice a year to ensure alarms will function properly in case of a fire. Never disable a fire alarm while cooking.
These three simple tasks may end up saving the life of you or someone you love. Click Here for information on preventing house fires.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Are You in the Market for a Specialty Mortgage?

When it comes to mortgages, there are traditional loans and non-traditional loans - also called specialty mortgages. These mortgages are used for situations such as remodeling, buying a second home while you still owe money on your first, and other real estate scenarios which don't fall into the traditional mortgage categories.

Here's a quick overview of some specialty mortgage loan types which may be of benefit to you at some point in your real estate career.

Five Specialty Mortgage Loans
  1. Piggyback Mortgage Loans. These loans are sometimes called combo loans. They're a way for home buyers to save a little money by avoiding private mortgage insurance (PMI) fees. PMI is required by mortgage companies when home buyers put less than 20% down on their home. By getting two smaller traditional loans, buyers have a first and second mortgage, and get out of paying for PMI.
  2. Streamlined K-Mortgage Loans. This is a loan offered by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA). It's available to qualifying home owners who need to update or remodel their home. While the HUD's 203K program helps people qualify to buy fixer-uppers and renovate them, the Streamlined K-Mortgage Loans assist current homeowners in obtaining loans to rehabilitate their home. There are "price restrictions" so to speak on how much money can be spent on particular repairs and updates but the loans are an affordable way for middle- to low-income earners to make valuable improvements and all of the funds are included in one loan.
  3. Bridge Loans. Are you relocating, or wanting to purchase a new home but you haven't sold your old home yet? You may be the perfect candidate for a Bridge Loan, also called a Swing Loan. These loans are created to act as financial "bridges", allowing home buyers to continue making the mortgage on their old home while beginning to pay the mortgage on their new home. They can also be used to finance a down payment for the new home. In most cases, the loan terms are between two weeks and three years. The equity from your old home is used as collateral for the loan. Once your old home is sold, the bridge loan is repaid.

  4. Equity Mortgage Loans. If your house has accrued equity, you can usually qualify for a loan in order to gain access to a certain percentage of those funds. Your house becomes the lender's collateral and you get a check and begin paying the loan back. In many cases, these loans are an affordable way to remodel your home, put children through college, etc.

  5.  Reverse Mortgage Loans. These are available to home owners 62-years and older who have significant equity in a home. There are fees involved, of course, but ultimately the lender pays the borrower money every month or in a lump sum. The borrower maintains the title to the house. The loan is repaid when the house is sold.
Now it's up to you to put your newfound specialty mortgage information to good use. You never know when you might need it.