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There’s a lot written out there about your best return on investment (ROI) when it comes to home remodeling. As most of us know, a kitchen or bathroom remodel and updated flooring earns you the most bang for your buck.  Kitchens generally fetch you about 80-90% ROI, depending on whether you go with new or refinished cabinets, type of counter tops (slab granite or other hard, natural surface vs. tile or laminate) and appliances. For the bathrooms you can earn about the same (80-90%) if you go with higher end finishes which include cabinetry, countertops,fixtures and floors.

After bathroom and kitchen remodels, the numbers begin to drop off precipitously. Room additions (which you don’t see a lot of here in Ahwatukee given our overall lot sizes) only return about 50% on your investment unless you add general living space like a family room, that will get you closer to 70-80% ROI. If you repaint your exterior then put your house on the market immediately, that can earn you about 60% ROI.  Swimming pool additions are very low on the list. That’s why I always encourage buyers who say a pool is a must-have to purchase a home that already has one. A basic pool will cost you $30,000 at a minimum and you’ll never get it all back.

Smaller items on the remodeling list include closet organization (i.e. Classy Closets), epoxy garage floors and outdoor landscaping. All of these certainly add quality of life to our living in the home but won’t get you much of a return on your money.  However, in a market that’s slow (as we are now) these special touches may set your home apart when it comes to that buyer choosing between your home to purchase and another one.

Contact us if you have questions about your remodeling plans. We’re always happy to help and lend our suggestions!

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This morning I discovered a black widow folded up in the garden hose which immediately prompted a call to my bug man, Kevin. He’s the best. I only call him out when I see a critter I don’t want and he always cures the problem not only quickly but quite affordably.

When I asked if I should squish it while waiting for him to come spray he says sure, you can, but they do jump and if she jumps she will bite you. Apparently It’s rare to happen but they are capable of jumping up to 5 feet.

What? Needless to say I waited for Kevin. 

While he was here he taught me a trick to keeping scorpions out, too. He used window screening to cover the inside of my vent fans because that’s how many scorpions access our homes. They end up in bathtubs and sinks because they move across the walls and ceiling looking for water. 

The vent fan seen here is located in the laundry room, you typically have them in bathrooms, too. Just remove it, cut a piece of windows screen to fit and pop it back into place. Obviously they can’t get thorough the tight mesh so you can very easily (and inexpensively) cut off one of the main access points for a scorpion. 


As far as treating for pests, Kevin suggests you only spray when you see something. He sprayed the inside of my home about three months ago and he said it won’t need it again for quite some time. I like the idea of not having the expense of a monthly service.


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Sometimes it’s the simple things in life that can bring great joy.  When my last garden hose sprayer broke I swore I’d find a better design that wouldn’t douse me in water the first time I dropped it then tried to use it.  Now that I’ve done some researching online this design comes up as one of the best, but I happened upon this one at our local Lowe’s.

There’s no handle so there’s nothing to break off when you drop it (and you will!) and the grip makes it easy to hold.  You twist the nozzle to turn it on and off and control the spray. It also tucks away nicely when folding up your hose, it blends in with the hose vs. a handle sticking out.

I’ve been using it for a couple of months now and so far, so good!

 Garden sprayer

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Here’s the before and the after (again) of the built up counter idea for bathrooms.  This is in response to a reader request who asked how they are framed.  It’s a simple 2×4 frame construction that the contractor secured to the existing cabinets then put on the greenboard and then the granite.  I don’t have a photo of the work in progress though!


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This link will take you to Porter Barn Wood to see the steps taken to make a custom door for one of my clients. When they bought their dream home last year there was originally a solid wall in the foyer and you could only access the den from the master bedroom.  Their first step once they moved in was to create a doorway off the foyer and close off the den from the master bedroom, all done pretty easily with drywall, texture and paint.

From there it became a decision of what type of door to put on the den (now his office) because it’s one of the first things you see as you enter their home.  After much research they found Porter Barn Wood, a local company that makes custom doors made from reclaimed barn wood.  Their work is outstanding!  You can choose finishes that are more rustic or modern and lots of choices in between.

Check out this link to see the steps taken to make the door and the final installation in my clients’ home.  I’m trying to figure out a place in my home to put one of these, it’s truly a piece of (functional) art!



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Slab granite has become so affordable and it’s still a stylish choice for our Phoenix kitchens & baths. The secret however to making your investment work in the bathroom is this: you can’t put a pretty granite over short, old cabinets and expect it to pop. If the cabinets are in good shape but just need to be painted or stained, it’s well worth that nominal investment (of painting/refinishing them) and raising the height of them before investing in a new countertop.  This is also true if you’re looking to spruce up your house before you list it, you’ll get the money out of this investment if you do it the right way.

I’ve done this before with old cabinets, painted them and added tumbled tile to the top and sides to build up the height, but this time I tried it with slab granite in a rental property I recently purchased. Because my granite fabricator was so affordable I was able to not only re-do the kitchen but both bathrooms as well.  After one contractor sanded & painted the cabinets I asked the granite fabricator to build a frame around the top of each set of bathroom cabinets before installing the granite. Then he wrapped the frame in what would have otherwise been scraps of granite destined for the boneyard.  This raised the cabinet height by over 4 inches and the total cost to do the kitchen and bathroom counters (which also included the stainless kitchen sink and all four bathroom sinks) was $3,075.  And I LOVE the big stainless sink he got for the kitchen!  There are several levels of granite to choose from so prices may vary based on what you choose but this gives you a good frame of reference on cost.

Four of my clients have gone on to use William (granite contact) since seeing this project and all are very pleased with him.  I’ve also included photos from one of those clients who had two of their bathrooms re-done.  In their case the cabinets were in great condition so they merely added the granite and under mount sinks. I really like the edge they chose for their granite, much dressier than the edge I chose for my investment property.

Here are a few pics. If you’re a local and want my guys number let me know, he’s great.

IMG_7906 IMG_7890 IMG_7883 IMG_7843 Granite example, Davenport Granite example, Davenport2

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Here’s an easy recipe you can put together at home to remove the odor and stains related to dog urine.  Unfortunately I’ve had to use this recently thanks to my senior girl – and it worked! She christened my new area rug that was only two days old.  Grrrrr. Still love my old girl of course but I was thankful to come across this concoction. All you need is white vinegar, baking soda, liquid dishwashing detergent and hydrogen peroxide: http://www.dogchatforum.com/dog_urine_odor.htm

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Last spring I purchase an armoire and dresser at an estate sale for $50.  While I hated the color it had potential in the style, quality and capacity, not to mention the smokin’ price.  So the pieces have been patiently sitting in my bedroom, awaiting their face-lift for nearly a year now as the rest of the home was remodeled.  Not long after I purchased the pieces I also picked up a Rust-Oleum Cabinet Transformations kit which I finally cracked open about a week ago.

The product I used is designed for kitchen and bathroom cabinets but my experiment on wood furniture worked out well. After I bought the kit I noticed they sell one just for refinishing furniture but I have to believe they are quite similar, if not the same. It’s a four step process: First you “degloss” your cabinets.  Then you paint two coats of the primer/base color.  After that you can glaze it (basically brush it on and then wipe it off) to give it a more depth.  Finally, you paint on a sealer which is water based so there are no fumes and it’s easy to clean-up. The whole process took a few days because you have to let the different products properly cure but because there are no real fumes I actually did the work in my bedroom with some cardboard to protect the carpets.  It was pretty hassle-free.

Below are before and after pictures. I highly recommend the glaze and don’t wipe too much of it off.  I had to do a second coat because after the first one I wiped too much of it off and the look was definitely lacking in depth and shine.

Now it’s time to tackle the armoire and figure out accessories like lamps & wall hangings and wall color. I highly recommend this product, it’s super easy to use and the final product is better than expected.


This is the finished product.


The Before shot

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CoreLogic has released its March Home Price Index (HPI) report which shows that nationally, home prices, including distressed sales, declined on a year-over-year basis by 0.6 percent in March 2012 compared to March 2011. On a month-over-month basis, home prices, including distressed sales, increased by 0.6 percent in March 2012 compared to February 2012, the first month-over-month increase since July 2011.

Excluding distressed sales, month-over-month prices increased for the third month in a row. The CoreLogic HPI also shows that year-over-year prices, excluding distressed sales, rose by 0.9 percent in March 2012 compared to March 2011. Distressed sales include short sales and real estate-owned (REO) transactions.

“This spring the housing market is responding to an improving balance between real estate supply and demand which is causing stabilization in house prices,” said Mark Fleming, chief economist for CoreLogic. “Although this has been the case in each of the last two years, the difference this year is that stabilization is occurring without the support of tax credits and in spite of a declining share of REO sales.”

Including distressed sales, the five states with the highest appreciation were: Wyoming (+5.9 percent), West Virginia (+5.3 percent), Arizona (+5.1 percent), North Dakota (+4.7 percent) and Florida (+4.5 percent). Including distressed sales, the five states with the greatest depreciation were: Delaware (-10.6 percent), Illinois (-8.3 percent), Alabama (-8.0 percent), Georgia (-7.3 percent) and Nevada (-5.8 percent).

“While housing prices remain flat nationally, in many markets tighter inventories are beginning to lift home prices,” said Anand Nallathambi, president and chief executive officer of CoreLogic. “This is true in Phoenix, New York and Washington, for example, which all reflect higher home price values than a year ago. A continuation of this trend will be good for our industry across U.S. markets.”

Excluding distressed sales, the five states with the highest appreciation were: Idaho (+5.4 percent), North Dakota (+5.1 percent), South Carolina (+4.7 percent), Montana (+3.5 percent) and Kansas (+3.4 percent). Excluding distressed sales, the five states with the greatest depreciation were: Delaware (-7.6 percent), Alabama (-4.1 percent), Nevada (-3.9 percent), Vermont (-3.9 percent) and Rhode Island (-2.9 percent).

Including distressed transactions, the peak-to-current change in the national HPI (from April 2006 to March 2012) was -33.7 percent. Excluding distressed transactions, the peak-to-current change in the HPI for the same period was -24.5 percent.

The five states with the largest peak-to-current declines including distressed transactions are Nevada (-59.9 percent), Arizona (-48.6 percent), Florida (-48.1 percent), Michigan (-45.1 percent) and California (-42.7 percent). Of the top 100 Core Based Statistical Areas (CBSAs) measured by population, 57 are showing year-over-year declines in March, eight fewer than in February.

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Powder rooms are so fun, you can get really creative in a small space and take risks you might otherwise skip.

Here’s one that was a full gut job and evolved over time. The cabinets, toilet, sink, lights, mirror – even the floors – were all demolished. It sat vacant for a while after the floors were complete and over time become a sexy space.

The counter is poured concrete thanks to my buddy Ray at BC Coatings.  Ray did the floors as well, in this home and my previous home. Once the sink was done I felt it was a bit too contemporary for my otherwise more European or Old World style in the home. So over time the stacked stone was added to the back wall along with a square mirror (we tiled around the mirror so it looks built-in while saving about four square feet in tile), vessel sink (one of my least favorite picks in the remodel) and a glitzy light on a dimmer and metallic paint.

Still working on the right accessories but the lion’s share of the work is done, now it’s down to the easy stuff.

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