Surviving A Seller’s Market


The housing market is on fire right now, but for sellers. This is because the demand for homes is high while supply is low. Shopping for a home can be difficult in any climate, but when it’s a seller’s market, it is especially difficult. Buying a home in this market is not impossible, but you definitely need to bring your A-game. Here are a few tips to surviving a seller’s market.

Commit to being on call

In our current market, things move fast. If you are serious about buying a home, it needs to be your priority. If you’re fitting house hunting in on the weekends or when it is most convenient for you, you’re wasting your time. Treat this as if it were your job and if someone calls about a viewing, meet at their earliest convenience not yours – and follow up promptly.

Show up with paperwork not promises

Talk is cheap in hot markets. In order to be taken seriously as a buyer, you need to show proof that you can afford the home by showing your pre-approval letters. This way the seller knows your mouth is where your money is.

Waive the what-ifs

Many offers are placed on contingencies, such as they’ll buy the home if the inspection goes well or if they can obtain financing. Be open to dropping a couple of these contingencies.

Don’t play hardball

In a traditional market, the buyer can put in an offer below asking price and then negotiate from there. In a seller’s market, there is no room for price negotiations. You’ll be wasting your time by putting in a lowball offer. Now, don’t go and blow your budget on your offer. Bid strong, but don’t financially overextend yourself.

Widen your search

In a seller’s market, it’s not unusual to feel that your favorite neighborhoods are overpriced. This just means you need to widen your search to other up-and-coming neighborhoods. Even in a seller’s market, homes still sit for extended periods of time. This scares off buyers because of potential “flaws,” but sometimes those flaws are simply that the home is actually an extra 15 minutes from the beach. Be prepared and open minded to all possibilities when buying in a seller’s market.  

Home Maintenance Tasks That Need to be Tackled in April

Unrecognizable gardener in green apron carrying seedlings in wheelbarrow, sunny summer nature, sunset

Spring has finally sprung! While we had a harsher winter than previous years, it was nothing compared to the rest of the country. Now that the sun is shining brighter and longer, it is time we focus our energy on maintaining what may have been neglected during the winter. April is the perfect window to tackle these projects because the taste of summer is on the tip of our tongues, but it is not quite fully here yet.

Some of these tasks may not require a lot of work, but should not be left unchecked. Here are the home maintenance tasks you should tackle in the month of April:

1. Check your yard for low spots

Task: After a spring shower, check for any areas in your lawn in which puddles form. This can kill the grass and is a mosquito breeding ground.

Solution: Stake the low spots while the water is still visible. Once you’ve marked the spots, fill them in with soil. Don’t worry about killing the grass, it will grow through the few inches of dirt

2. Check soil drainage around foundation

Task: Make sure the soil is sloped away from the foundation so that water does not collect around your foundation.

Solution: Use an 8-foot-long stud (two-by-four) and a level to determine how much slope the land currently has.

3. Clean out planting beds

Task: Those planters have probably been neglected for most of the winter, it is time to clean out any debris and weeds to make room for mulch and compost.

Solution: To avoid double work, place a compostable bag on a wheelbarrow or garden cart, and fill it with weeds and spent plants as you work through the beds. If the green matter is disease-free, empty bags into your compost pile. If you see fungi or bugs, tie the bags and toss in the trash.

4. Check sprinkler system

Task: Before summer hits, make sure your sprinkler system is still working and reaching all zones of your lawn. If you find any dry spots, re-aim the sprinklers in those areas.

Solution: Draw a quick diagram of your property, and sketch in sprinkler heads and supply line locations. Turn on each zone individually, and note any problems on your sketch. Then turn off the system and water supply to make corrections and repairs where noted.

5. Spot worn and chipping exterior paint

Task: Not all house painting tasks are major. This yearly job involves inspecting your siding and exterior trim for small cracks and chips and repairing spots before moisture can penetrate.

Solution: Store and label extra paint in airtight containers so you can spot-paint as needed. Keep paint identification numbers on file so you can replace paint if you run out.

Repair or Replace: Tips for Knowing Your Best Option

Owning a home provides many benefits and advantages for those who achieve it, but the burden of maintaining, repairing and replacing home appliances goes right along with it. The decision to repair or replace a broken or failing appliance is often made under pressure and without adequate knowledge or information about the nature of the appliance or its expected lifetime.

Water Heaters

Unless the water heater isn’t working properly because of a part that’s easy to replace, it’s almost never a good idea to repair it. The primary causes of water heater failure are tank leaks or corrosion, neither of which can be repaired.

HVAC Equipment

Sometimes replacing the HVAC equipment in lieu of repairing it is a cut-and-dried decision when the cost of repairing it, including parts and labor, exceed its value. Other times, the decision isn’t as a clear. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) recommends that homeowners take into account the age of the equipment, whether energy costs are rising for no apparent reason, or if repairs are becoming more frequent.

The DOE estimates that central HVAC systems last between 10 and 20 years, and as they run, they lose efficiency. Often it makes more financial sense to replace a system than continuing to pay rising energy bills or frequent repair costs. Because HVAC systems use the most energy in the typical home, it’s often in the homeowner’s best interest to replace an aging system. One with greater efficiency will pay for itself in lower energy costs each time it runs.

Some repairs may not make sense, such as fixing a heating system with a cracked heat exchanger or repairing the refrigerant leaks in a central air conditioner that uses R-22 or Freon. An HVAC contractor is the best source of advice for determining whether a repair or replacement is the best course of action.


Many repairs for refrigerators are easy and affordable to fix, especially if the problem is a bad motor, a refrigerant leak, or electronic controls. Door seals can fail, causing this appliance to run overtime or build frost in the freezer section. Between the cost of replacement door seals and the labor to install them, it often makes sense to replace the refrigerator instead of repairing it.


Mechanically, dishwashers are a fairly simple appliance that is easily repaired. Problems associated with the door seal or holes inside the tub often prompt a replacement rather than a repair, though.

Stoves and Ovens

Since stoves and ovens have few moving parts, they break down less often and replacement is often a matter of personal preference rather than necessity. However, stove and oven heating elements do fail, and unless the appliance is too old, replacement burners and elements are readily available. Newer ovens and ranges may have control panels built into them that can fail. Prices for parts vary, and it may be a better idea to replace the unit rather than the component, especially if there is an active home warranty.

Washers and Dryers

Water leaks and broken belts are common problems associated with washing machines and easy to repair. A burned out motor may prompt a replacement, depending on the washer’s age and condition. Clothes dryers create a good deal of heat, and when they malfunction, it can be dangerous if their safety switches malfunction. A dryer that overheats clothing is a fire hazard, and unless the breakdown results from a failed motor or timer, it’s probably a good idea to consider replacing it.

Major appliances do make life easier and more comfortable in homes, but they’re often a mystery to homeowners. The best resources for making a repair-or-replace decision come from the companies and their representatives who manufacture and service them.

5 Easy Ways to Update Your Home This Month: February 2017

Shadow Fire Arts

As February comes around we begin to settle into the new year. Our resolutions are usually centered around eating better, working out more, and becoming more organized. But, we tend to forget about our homes. Our homes need attention too. A beautiful, well designed, and inspiring home can help improve our lives by giving us positive energy and a feeling of accomplishment. Updating your home doesn’t have to be a big and expensive project. Here are 5 easy ways in which you can update your home.


Painting is the easiest and cheapest way you can transform a room. Re-paint your living room or bedroom this coming year for a fresh new look. Be bold and try new colors. If you decide against it later, you can always paint over it. If you’re not comfortable with bold colors, stick with warm colors, like gray or beige or greige the perfect combination of both colors.

Refresh your Accessories

Updating your furniture isn’t always an option as it can be very costly, but a more wallet-friendly approach is updating your accessories. Adding seasonal pillows and throw blankets make it easy to change up your decor to match the seasons. Also, sculptural objects and lamps are easy to add to the end tables to spruce up a room.

Rearrange your room

The simplest and cheapest way to update your selected room is rearranging the furniture. Try to think of ways in which you would not normally arrange your furniture. You never know, you could find a new layout that you really like.

Add new artwork

Artwork makes a huge impact on the overall decor of a room. Whether it be many chic pieces or one statement piece, changing up the artwork can make a dramatic difference. For affordable art pieces, check your local flea markets. You can also update existing art with new frames. There are also many websites in which you can gather art inspiration.

Swap out your rug

The biggest foundation piece in your room is your rug. A lot of decorators’ rule of thumb is to choose your rug first, then decorate around it. Changing up the rug in your room of choice will give a refreshed look without being too drastic. Also, stick with neutral colors, so any redecorating done after can be easily matched.

TOP 5 Home Decor Trends That Will Rule in 2017

Like most things, fashion, cars, technology – home decor evolves over the years. There are fads and then there are trends. Fads are a short-lived enthusiasm for something, while trends tend to last longer. Here we will look the trends that are expected to take 2017 by storm. You’ll be able to get a jump start on the latest home decor trends to show your guests that you know what is relevant and current while also providing a fun and comfortable home for yourself.

  1. Green
Frenchy Fancy

Green is making a comeback this year, from hues of green to lime green to emerald green. This color can be used in whichever fashion fits you; whether it’s a wall color, pillow, or couch. You can even add emerald green glassware to a white plate collection for a pop of color.

  1. Texture

Texture will be on the rise in 2017. This includes the mixing and matching of different fabrics and materials, such as a wool throw on a leather chair. It will create a more attractive and alluring home that builds connection, engagement, and depth for you and your guests.

  1. Tropical Prints

The fashion world and home decor tend overlap from time to time and this trend is no exception. We saw many tropical prints on last year’s runway shows, now they are making an appearance in your home. If tropical print is too “in-your-face,” try this new print on a throw pillow on a neutral couch. It’s like buying a classic outfit but changing it up with new accessories or shoes.

  1. Quirky Lighting
Vintage Industrial Style

Lighting is the accessory to your home. It can change the whole look of a room without you even knowing it. The perfect way to add a bit of character and texture to your home without going over the top is with retro lighting. It can spruce up your bedside tables or add a unique appeal to your dining room.  

  1. Artisan over DIY

The last couple of years we have seen tons of DIY projects, from art pieces to decor pieces to even furniture. This year will focus on uniquely crafted furniture that is more of an investment. Investing in antique furniture and then restoring it with a modern flare is a great start to this trend that will most likely stick around in the coming years.

Exterior Design Trends to Watch as 2017 Approaches

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Architecture, like any visual, design-centered element, has trends. Some themes resurface after a few years (such as the revival of mid-century modern), while other stylistic additions recede as improvements hit the market.

We also see elements of design that reflect larger social movements such as ecological preservation and renewable resources. Take for instance solar panels and roofing materials. New photovoltaic advancements allow for solar energy collection within a unique roof shingle. There are also roofing shingles made from recycled tire rubber.

What will the future bring? No one knows for sure, but as we near 2017, these are the exterior design trends to watch.

1. Porch details like you see on Craftsman-style homes are holding steady as a home addition. For those who don’t have a lot size or setup that allows for an expansive outdoor living space, a porch with a personalized design provides space for entertaining and everyday activities.

2. Minimal maintenance materials like fiber cement siding and fiberglass doors and windows. Hybrid or engineered building elements last longer without as much upkeep as their predecessors. A bonus to homeowners is a sturdier structural envelope that is more resilient to the weather conditions than traditional construction supplies are.

3. Universal design or barrier-free design that focuses on making a house safe and accessible for everyone, regardless of his or her age or physical ability. These features are plentiful, including handrails and guardrails, plus wider entry doors and slip-resistant paint, which assist residents in wheelchairs.

4. Natural light enhancers like transom windows harness solar power in a passive fashion. Architects in sunny cities like Las Vegas strategically position houses on lots and incorporate windows to maximize light without affecting the interior climate.

5. Building materials derived from sustainable sources. Some of these substances include construction techniques that are hundreds, if not thousands, of years old.

Rammed earth, for one, is making its way back into the spotlight. Using rebar or bamboo as reinforcing and safety components, contractors pack dirt into forms and then assemble the prefabricated parts to complete the house.

Manufacturers are also using recycled ingredients as additives to concrete. You’ll find plastic and even recycled glass as components in concrete mixes.

6. Eco-friendly landscaping. Droughts continue to affect vast areas of the United States, making water more expensive and decreasing its availability. Landscape architects now incorporate native species into their schematics, along with permeable pavement and reusable materials.

Rainwater harvesting systems to irrigate gardens and yards expand the renewable resource theme. One such system is a retaining wall that doubles as a rain catcher and is now available in the residential construction market.

7. Outdoor living areas are extensions of the home and seem to be here to stay. Porch swings are now platform beds, and kitchens are in the backyard.

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Island Living on the Mainland with Rancho Palos Verdes

Got lost on my way to an appointment so i pulled over and took a picture.

Many people do not know, but the Palos Verdes peninsula was at one point an island in the chain of Channel Islands. With falling sea levels and sedimentation, the island connected to the mainland. Today, Rancho Palos Verdes still tends to feel like an island getaway rather than a suburb of a major U.S. Metropolis.

The beautiful seaside land attracted prominent New York banker Frank Vanderlip to purchased over 16,000 acres of land in 1913. He initially wanted to design a community that reflected southern Italian Riviera cities. Although the community never got built, in the coming decades construction boomed. As residents came and resided in the newly developed southland, they didn’t want the area to be overdeveloped and incorporated the city of Ranchos Palos Verdes in 1973 to gain control.


The city now has control over some of the country’s most scenic oceanside treasures, such as Lloyd Wright’s Wayfarer’s Chapel, the Point Vicente Lighthouse, and the Portuguese Bend Beach Club.

Rancho Palos Verdes has all the vibes of island living without actually living on an island. The city also has some of the county’s best hikes where you can explore nature, tide pools, and whale watch. Tired and dirty from the all the exploration? Pamper yourself at the Terranea with a luxurious staycation or golf at that fabulous seaside Trump National Golf Club Los Angeles.


In addition to being a local destination, Rancho Palos Verdes has some of the best schools in Los Angeles County. It is also remote without being too remote; it is still very accessible to L.A. Although the city is known for its luxurious living, there is still a wide range of homes.

Signs A Home Buyer Isn’t Serious


When you first list your home, you may be overwhelmed with excitement, listening to all the buyer declarations like, “wow! This home is perfect for us,” or “I just have to live here!” If buyers were this binding, selling a home would be easy. Don’t get your hopes up with these buyer claims because you will be in a world of disappointment. So how can you spot a buyer who may not be as serious as they sound? Look for these five signs:

  1. The buyer is flying solo

If the buyer doesn’t even have a real estate agent yet, then you know he isn’t a serious shopper. According to a survey done by the National Association of Realtors, 87 percent of buyers used an agent to find their home. So, if they don’t have an agent, there is a small percentage they are serious.

  1. The buyer just began shopping

They say timing is everything, and that is certainly the case when it comes to home buying. On average, it takes people three months to find the home they eventually buy. So if the potential buyer is beginning their first day or week of house hunting, chances are they aren’t the ones.

  1. All promise, no action

A buyer may act seriously interested in your home, but if they are dragging their feet, they may not be as interested as they say. Typically buyers are interested, but are taking their time because they may be putting in another offer elsewhere. They may be weighing their options before they fully commit.

  1. A lowball offer

Buyers are going to try to get the best deal possible, but if they are placing an unreasonably low offer chances are they are not that interested in the property. Serious buyers know how quick the market can be and will place their best offer first.

  1. Lots of nitpicking

If the buyer has placed an offer and you have accepted, but they are still nitpicking the place, they may not be fully on board. If the buyer wants every little detail fixed prior to the buy, they may just be waiting for you to say “no, I’m not fixing that,” so they have an excuse to pull out.

4 Fall Yard Maintenance Chores to Tackle Now

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Now that Fall has arrived, the temperatures have cooled a bit making it bearable to get back in the yard to maintain it. This may or may not be your ideal way to spend a weekend, but there are few things you should do before the deep freeze of the Southern California winter. If you take the time now to prepare your yard, come spring, you’ll be sitting easy.

  1. Loosen the soil

Once every couple of years you should aerate the soil and since the last time you probably did this was never, now is a good time to do so. This prevents the soil from becoming compacted and covered with thatch, which is a thick layer of root, stems, and debris that blocks water, oxygen, and nutrients from reaching the soil. Aeration corrects the problem by breaking up the thatch and pulling up plugs of soil. This should be done before fertilizer is added.

2. Protect fragile plants

Newly planted trees or roses need a little winter coat. Although it does not get very cold in this part of the country, we still do experience rather chilly nights, sometimes dropping to freezing temperatures. Winter burn is also common in California, which is caused by sunlight and dry soil. Burlap is a great way to combat this. Pound three stakes in the ground and drape a double layer of burlap over and secure with twine or stables.

3. Plant and pack bulbs

If you want beautiful flowers to greet you in the spring, you best start now. Plant spring-flowering bulbs now, as many need several months with cooler temperatures to grow. But don’t stress out making sure you plant them before winter. As long as you can dig up the soil and plant the bulb, the bulb has it’s own energy source. Don’t forget to retrieve your old bulbs from the summer or before as these will rot in the ground.

4. Continue watering

Even though the fall and winter months typically bring more moisture (hopefully more this year than last) your garden still needs to be watered regularly. We don’t live in a climate that allows our yards to live off the weather. Also, aerate and seed your lawn. This way, by spring, your lawn will be greener than ever.


Don’t Fret!

  1. Don’t be a neat freak

When fall comes along, we think about all the yellow and red leaves that fall all over the place. Instead of being a neat freak and raking them up, let them sit there and shred them with your lawn mower. They will decompose and feed your lawn through winter and well into the spring.

How To Find An Interior Designer Within Your Budget


With the right interior designer, you can turn your home around, avoiding possible renovations you may think you need. The right interior designer can take any design dream and turn it into a reality.  Whatever your budget may be, here are some tips on finding the right interior designer.

Size up your project

Are you planning on redesigning one or two rooms, or do you need a full home renovation that may affect plumbing, wiring, or layout? Interior designers typically are trained for larger jobs; many have taken college courses on architecture, design, and project management. While they can help homeowners pick colors, fabrics, and furniture options, they can also oversee large renovations. If you are going for a smaller project, look into hiring a home decorator. They usually aren’t required to have formal training or licensing and charge much less than interior designers. Decorators are a better fit if you are looking to change your home’s color scheme or to enhance a few rooms.

Gather design ideas

Your designer is going to want to get an idea of your vision for your home. Start by pulling a few ideas from magazines, websites, or other finished projects. You can also provide fabrics or furniture you would like to see in your home. The designer can then quickly discover your style and start looking for your dream pieces.

Ask for referrals and check references

Check with your real estate agent for a list of interior designers they recommend. There are also many online resources that can help you find the right designer. Once you have the names of a few professionals, research them. An experienced professional should have an online portfolio with references. Don’t be afraid to contact past clients.

Communicate your budget

No matter the size of your project, this is probably the most important thing you can do. Let your designer know your budget upfront before you begin anything. This is also a good time to find out how much your designer charges, many charge anywhere from $50 per hour to $200. This may cover consulting fees, plus any time spent buying material for your home. Some designers mark up the cost of furniture they purchase on your behalf to cover the cost of their time. One option isn’t necessarily better than the other, just choose one that you are more comfortable with. You should also ask how often you’ll be billed. Some interior designers send a bill once a month; others charge as they reach different project milestones.

Some designers don’t charge for their services, but only work as representatives of specific furniture manufacturers. They may have good ideas for your home, but hiring one could limit your decorating options.