Buyers looking for smaller and smarter homes




Forget the McMansions!  Buyers are leaning toward “sensible”, smaller homes.  The dream of having a showplace home with the emphasis on two stories and big public spaces, is not as it was 5 or 6 years ago…even if you can afford it.   I am finding that when it comes to the priorities of buyers, less is more in some cases.

According to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), to save on square footage, the living room is shrinking in size.  Builders are merging the living room or formal sitting room with other spaces.  The NAHB also reports that “in addition to floor plan changes, 68% of builders surveyed say that homes in 2015 will also include more green features and technology, including low-E windows, engineered wood beams, joists or tresses, water efficient features such as dual-flush toilets or low-flow faucets, and an Energy Star rating for the whole house.”

“We’re definitely seeing more Americans downsizing due to the current state of the economy”, said Chairman and Founder Sharon Asher.  “But as more homeowners rethink how much space they need, I think we’ll continue to see more innovative approaches to living well and sustainability within a smaller footprint”.

Price, energy-efficiency, organization and comfort seem to be the top priorities of potential home buyers.  The expansive homes of the boom era are losing their appeal and the swing is towards buyers looking for compact and usable square footage with rooms that can serve more than one purpose.


Warm up with Chicken Taco Soup


With the chilly temperatures we’ve been having the last few days a big pot of soup is the perfect dinner. It seems to just make your home all the more warm and cozy.  This is on my menu for tomorrow, and is one of my absolute favorites.  I usually double the recipe – and it freezes well…that is if you have any left over! (you can make it as spicy…or not…to please your crowd)


2-3 chicken breasts, bone-in

1 medium onion, chopped (about 1 c.)

2-4 garlic cloves, crushed

2-3 T. olive oil

1-2 cans chicken broth  (start with 1 and add more as needed)

1 can yellow corn, 15 ounces, drained

1 can black beans, 15 ounces, drained

1 can light red kidney beans, 15 ounces, drained

2 cans (10 ounces each) diced tomatoes with green chilies

2-3 T. taco seasoning

1-2 T. ground cumin

hot sauce (to taste)

Serve with shredded cheddar cheese, crushed corn chips, sliced avocado or sour cream if desired.


Boil chicken breasts until cooked through, drain, cool, and shred meat from bones. In a large saucepan/soup pot, over medium heat, cook chopped onion and garlic in olive oil for 3-4 minutes.  Stir in taco seasoning and cumin, cook for another 1-2 minutes.  Add chicken broth, black beans, red beans, corn, green chilies,  and chicken.  Simmer for at least 45 minutes.

Stay warm… $ave money

By using the following strategies and reminders, it is possible to save energy during the cold winter months and stay warm!  Some of the tips below are free and can be used on a daily basis to increase your savings; others are simple and inexpensive actions you can take to ensure maximum savings through the winter.

* Open curtains on your south-facing windows during the day to allow sunlight to naturally heat your home, and close them at night to reduce the chill you may feel from cold windows.

* Cover Drafty Windows.  Install insulating drapes or shades on windows that feel drafty.

* Adjust the Temperature. You can save around 10% a year on your heating and cooling bills by turning your thermostat back 10-15 degrees when you are asleep or out of the house.  When you are home and awake, set your thermostat as low as is comfortable (don’t forget to put on socks and sweaters – and add a few warm throws or quilts in the room where you hang out at tonight.)

* Find and Seal Leaks. Seal the air leaks around utility cut-throughs for pipes, gaps around chimneys and recessed lights in insulated ceilings.  Add caulk or weather stripping to seal air leaks around leaky doors and windows.

*  Maintain Your Heating Systems. Schedule service for your heating system to keep it operating efficiently. Replace your furnace filter once a month or as needed.

* Reduce Heat Loss from the Fireplace. Keep your fireplace damper closed unless a fire is going. Keeping the damper open is like keeping a window wide open during the winter; it allows warm air to go right up the chimney. If you never use your fireplace, plug and seal the chimney flue.

*  Lower Your Water Heating Costs.  Water heating can account for 14%-25% of the energy consumed in your home. Turn down the temperature of your water heater to the warm setting (120°F). You’ll not only save energy, you’ll avoid scalding your hands.

Many of these suggestions you have probably heard before, but this may serve as a reminder – especially if you’re surprised by your first utility bills of the winter!

Outdoor Lighting – Safety, Security and Style

With cold weather forcing us inside for the next few months, it’s a great time to research and consider improving the appearance of your yard and gardens with outdoor lighting.  As I was out walking my dogs tonight, (and with the time change – yes, it was dark!) I admired the homes with a planned lighting scape. This can truly make a dramatic change to your yard – without a huge dent in your budget. An added benefit is that it can also provide safety and security to your home.

Outdoor lighting products can be used to help accentuate gardens, fountains and landscaping so you can enjoy the beauty of your outdoor living space. Plus, a lit pathway can help show the way through the yard and keep you from trampling your garden or from tripping and falling.

Different types of landscape lighting serve different purposes – whether used for functional or aesthetic use.  The two main categories include low voltage lighting and solar lighting.

Low voltage lighting. This type of lighting is available in a variety of brightness levels and emits enough light to be used for nighttime activities. A power pack supplies the electricity and can be controlled by an automatic timer. Low voltage lighting is shockless and safe to use around children and pets. It’s also cost effective and easy to install.

Solar lighting. This type of lighting requires no wiring and is the most energy-efficient because it converts the sun’s energy into electrical power. It costs nothing to operate and is easy to install. It should not, however, be used to illuminate large areas brightly or for activities such as grilling and socializing. It works well to highlight pathways and features in the yard.

Begin by looking for ideas in magazines, online, and at your library.  Then visit your favorite home improvement store.  They can direct you as to how to begin a do-it-yourself project, or provide names and resources to help.  You will be amazed at the difference outdoor lighting can make – and provide years of enjoyment for your yard and garden.  (Also, if you’re thinking of putting your house on the market in the near future, this can add huge curb appeal!)

Source of photograph unknown. If you know please contact me so I may add it.

Get organized for the New Year



At the beginning of a New Year, we all want to clean out and organize our homes and start with a clean slate.  The decorations are put away, and if you are like me – looking at many areas of my home that badly need some attention. It would be wonderful to go through our entire house, but realistically most of us don’t have the time.  These 3 target areas will make a huge impact to your living space, your frame of mind, and enjoyment of your home.

Home office.  With more of us conducting business in our houses, organizing your home office is essential.

  • Sort and pack up last years bills, papers, and purge what is not needed.  Use a file box, group together, label, and store it.
  • Have a system for your snail mail and papers: a recycle bin; a “ TO DO” basket, and a “TO FILE” basket.
  • Clear your desk off and only return items that 1) will be used on a daily basis, and 2) need to be within reach.

Tackle the garage.  Consider installing peg boards, bicycle racks and ceiling or wall mounted shelving to take items off the floor of the garage.  Organize into separate groups:  gardening tools, workshop tools, sports equipment, cleaning products, etc.

Organize your point of entry into the house.  Whether it’s a back, front or garage door, this area accumulates most of the shoes, backpacks, work bags, etc. from your family.  Use cubbies, hooks, baskets and shelving to give everything a home.  It will prevent much of the clutter from going throughout the house.

De-cluttering and organizing your home does not have to be an all day chore. As you have the time, pick an area and concentrate your efforts.  And don’t forget, as you’re tackling those areas – keep a box handy for Goodwill!

Photo from Home Storage Idea Book, by Joanne Kellar Bouknight