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Fabulous Front Porches

by The Hat Team


When driving around looking at houses one of the first things you will notice are the front porches.  They are a reminder of the “good old days” and evoke feelings of nostalgia and comfort.  Front porches foster a sense of community, enabling neighbors to spend time out from behind closed doors where they can get to know each other.  There’s nothing better than summer evenings spent on the shady front porch with an ice-old beverage, listening to the crickets chirp and enjoying the gentle twinkling lights of fireflies.  Big front porches are great gathering places, providing an “outdoor living room” where neighbors can join you and impromptu parties can take place. But they can also be private; the perfect spot to snuggle into a comfy chair and read a good book…or even take a nap out in the fresh air.  And if you’re planning on selling your home, a well-appointed front porch provides fantastic curb appeal and is a big draw for potential buyers!

Perhaps you have a front porch that needs a little update, or maybe you are looking for a home that has one. Either way, here are some ideas for creating your own personal outdoor haven or gorgeous gathering place on your front porch:

  • Use a Bold Color Palette

Bold tones and bright hues can brighten up a dreary front porch and turn it into vibrant, delightful space. Outdoor rugs, painted furniture, or colorful cushions are all items that can add a pop of color to your front porch. 34 Colorful Porch Ideas

  • Think “Comfy”

It’s nice to have a beautiful front porch, but if it’s not comfortable, you probably won’t spend much time there.Use overstuffed cushions, add extra pillows, and be sure to have tables close to seating so you have a place to set your drinks.

  • Add a Lighted Ceiling Fan

Ceiling fans pull double duty on a front porch. They not only provide the much-needed function of moving air, but they also provide illumination as the sun goes down and dusk turns to dark.Add to the charming aesthetic of your porch by choosing a unique fan/light fixture. Outdoor Ceiling Fans

  • Hang Artwork

Most porches offer a lot of wall space that often goes unused; the perfect spot for some artwork.Use your imagination and add paintings, framed photos, or sculptures that bring you joy.

  • Decorate with Flowers

Flowers and plants serve multiple purposes when used on a front porch.They provide color with beautiful blooms, create a soft transition from landscape to house, and if you plant the right flowers and plants, they will help to keep pesky insects away.Use window boxes on your railings, containers on your floor, and/or hanging baskets from the ceiling. 12 Plants that Repel Unwanted Insects

Spring is the perfect time to update and decorate your front porch so you can enjoy it during the warm seasons.  If you’re looking to purchase a home that has a desirable front porch contact Sandra Nickel and her Hat Team of professionals and start your home search today. Give them a call at 334-834-1500!

Photo Credit: pinterest.com

Incorporating Eco-Friendly Features into Your Home

by The Hat Team


Today’s homebuyers are much more environmentally conscious and they are looking for homes that are eco-friendly.  Luxury homebuyers especially want design elements that support sustainability.  The National Association of Realtors' 2018 Report on Sustainability stated that 71% of members noted that promoting energy efficiency in listings was valuable to them.  In addition, millennials are big proponents of “green” living and with millions of them reaching the age where they will be buying homes in the next couple of years, there will be a large desire for eco-friendly homes that will play a part in protecting the planet.

So, how do you make your home more eco-friendly?  It’s surprisingly easy to upgrade your home with green features, while keeping it aesthetically pleasing. Here are some ways to get started:

  • USE ENERGY-EFFICIENT LIGHTBULBS

While they have been around for many years, lots of homeowners are just now beginning to use energy-efficient lightbulbs. They have many benefits, including reducing electricity use and extending the life of the bulb. Per , if each American household exchanged one lightbulb for an energy efficient one, the country would save enough energy to light up to 2.5 million homes each year, and save $600 million in energy costs! One of the most common types of energy efficient lighting are LED bulbs. They come in all kinds of colors and styles and fit into current fixtures, making switching to energy efficient bulb one of the easiest ways to go green.

  • MAKE YOUR HOME A “SMART” ONE

Many people may think having a “smart home” is out of reach; that it’s something only luxury homeowners can afford. But truthfully, it’s one of the best ways to make your home eco-friendly and in the long run, it will save money. Home automation allows appliances to run with the lowest amount of energy required, thus creating lower bills for the homeowner. Automated controls save money, time, energy and reduce your carbon footprint. It’s a win for everyone to add smart home technology! How Smart Home Systems Reduce Your Footprint

The desire to eat healthy has many people participating in home gardening. With that in mind, urban homeowners have started installing green roofs, if you don’t live in a designated local historic district. There are many benefits to green roofs; they don’t require a backyard, they provide natural cooling, and they are aesthetically pleasing. But most importantly, they are energy efficient. During the summer a green roof protects the building from direct solar heat. When winter arrives, it minimizes heat loss thanks to the extra insulation on the roof. And finally, thanks to the energy conservation it provides, there are fewer greenhouse gas emissions.

If you enjoy gardening and desire to be environmentally friendly, consider creating a living wall in your home. Not only is a living wall a beautiful, organic addition to your living room, entryway, or terrace, it is also very eco-friendly. It provides natural insulation, reduces energy consumption, and aids in humidity level maintenance. They are especially popular in hot climates because they require less energy to cool your home. 30 Breathtaking Living Wall Designs for Creating Your Own Vertical Garden

If you are in the market to sell or buy a home, let Sandra Nickel and her Hat Team of professionals assist you with all your real estate needs!  Call them today at 334-834-1500!

Furnishing Your First Home - Choosing Pieces that Will Last

by The Hat Team

Congratulations! You are a first-time home owner!  Now it’s time to furnish your new space.  While you may already have furniture from your previous home, if you are moving into a larger place, chances are you will be looking to add to it.  When deciding what to purchase, it will pay to think long-term so that you can choose pieces that will last, both in quality and in style. Here are 5 pieces of furniture that will stand the test of time;

  1. A SIMPLE BUT STURDY DINING TABLE

A small, well-built table is a great starter piece for your dining room or eat-in kitchen.It doesn’t have to be ornate; you can use table cloths to spruce it up.What’s nice about it…and what makes it lasting…is that when you upgrade to a larger dining room table down the road, you can use this table in your breakfast room, sunroom, craft room, or even as a desk in your office.


Photo Credit: etsy.com

  1. INDOOR/OUTDOOR CHAIRS

When looking for chairs to go with your dining table, avoid upholstered ones and instead look for durable materials that are suitable for both indoor and outdoor dining. Why? Because your dining set of today can be your patio furniture in the future.Look for chairs made of metal or with slats in the seat or back so that they can withstand being outdoors in the rain.


Photo Credit: pinterest.com

  1. A KING-SIZED HEADBOARD

An elegant headboard can dress up a bedroom. It might not be a priority to have one right away, but if you choose to purchase one, go big.Maybe you are sleeping in a double bed right now and you are wondering why you would buy a king-sized headboard for that.Well, down the road when you upgrade to a queen or king-sized bed, you will already have a headboard ready to go! So, choose a wall-mounted or freestanding headboard that will give your double bed a luxurious look now and you will still be able to use it when you get that king-sized bed later!


Photo Credit: pitus.info

  1. A SMALL LEATHER SOFA

You don’t necessarily need a large sofa right away, but it’s still important to have a quality, comfortable one.The family room is often the heart of the home and you will spend a lot of time sitting on your sofa. So, it should not only be comfy, but also made to last.The nice thing about a leather sofa is that while providing a cozy lounging spot for one or two people now, it will age well and become a great accent piece as part of a larger family room later.It will coordinate easily with colors and patterns in a larger seating arrangement.

Top 7 Benefits of Leather Furniture


Photo Credit: livingspaces.com

  1. A CLASSIC SIDEBOARD

A sideboard may not provide a lot of storage, but it adds a lot of style and function to just about any room in your home.Choose a warm, wood unit that will last through years of style and décor changes.It is such a versatile piece that can be used as a storage space/server in a dining area, as a media stand in a family room, as a bedside table in a bedroom, or as the perfect place to display treasures in a foyer or living room.


Photo Credit: pinterest.com

If you are in the market to sell or buy a home, let Sandra Nickel and her Hat Team of professionals assist you with all your real estate needs!  Call them today at 334-834-1500!

Smart Home 101: A Guide for Beginners

by The Hat Team


I remember watching The Jetsons when I was a kid and being fascinated by the idea of being able to actually see somebody when talking to them on the phone. And a robot maid? Who wouldn’t want one of those?!  I had no idea that in my lifetime, the things I saw on that cartoon fantasy would become a reality.  FaceTime and Skype allow us to see our loved ones no matter how far away they are. And while we may not have live-in robot maids (yet), things like Roomba have made house cleaning a breeze.  Technology moves fast and sometimes it’s hard to keep up with all the options available to make life easier and safer.  If you’ve been thinking about turning your house into a “smart home”, but you don’t know where to begin, here are the basics to get you started:

    - Create your command center with a voice-controlled smart speaker.  Smart speakers come equipped with smart assistants and they usually come with an app that will be a hub for all your smart-home devices.  The speaker allows you to control them all with voice commands without having to log in to different apps.  You want to be sure that you use the right type of speaker based on the other technology services you use. For example, if you use an Apple HomePod, it will only work with Siri and iTunes and is only compatible with other iOS smart products. The Best Smart Speakers for 2019

    - If you feel like setting up your smart home is going to be too expensive to do all at once, then smart lighting is a good place to start.  It’s relatively inexpensive and is one of the best applications for voice control.  By using Smart Bulbs not only will help save energy, they can create a more secure home because you will be able to control your lighting remotely.  You can also turn basic light switch into a dimmer…think romantic ambiance!  Once you make the one-time purchase of a small hub that is plugged in and connected to your router via Ethernet, all you have to do is replace your current bulbs with smart bulbs.  The whole process just takes a few minutes, and since the hub can accommodate up to 50 bulbs, you will only need one.  When purchasing the smart bulbs, make sure they are compatible with the smart assistant you are using in addition to making sure you are buying them in the correct size to replace the ones you have.  Some brands, like Philips Hue offers starter kits that are compatible with Alexa, Google Assistant and Siri.

    - Invest in smart plugs. They will make almost everything easier! Smart plugs are adapters that turn simple appliances into smart appliances.  With a smart plug you can control many of your devices from anywhere by simply using an app. 

    - Smart home-security devices are a little more challenging to install, but are worth it for the security they provide. A smart doorbell is a good place to start. It lets you monitor who is coming to your door whether you are home or somewhere else.  It uses a camera and an in-app calling feature that utilizes two-way audio and one-way video.  The Best Smart Home Security Systems 2019

    - A larger expense comes into play when you desire large smart appliances such as washers, dryers and refrigerators.  Smart plugs cannot be used to control them.  So, that means replacing current large appliances with new smart ones. And as you can imagine, that can be very costly.

    - Set up an IFTTT app.  IFTTT stands for “If This, Then That”, and it adds an extra layer to your smart home.  Available on the App Store, Google Play and in a desk top version at IFTTT.com, this app will help you connect your smart home features in creative ways based on your personal needs.  35 Amazingly Useful IFTTT Recipes to Simplify Your Life

Keep in mind that this is a simple guide to begin the process of turning your house into a smart home. There are a lot of products available, so do your research and find the one that is the best fit for you and your family!

If you are in the market to sell or buy a home, let Sandra Nickel and her Hat Team of professionals assist you with all your real estate needs! Call them today at 334-834-1500!

Photo Credit: pcmag.com

Wallpaper - It’s Back!

by The Hat Team

Wallpaper has been out for a long time, but as most trends do, it is making its way back into homes everywhere.  Wallpaper designs have changed a lot and unlike the dark floral prints of the 80s and 90s, new wallpaper looks more like murals or custom wall art.  So, if you’re thinking about a new look for a room (or several rooms) in your house, you may want to consider using wallpaper instead of paint.  Here are some current popular wallpaper trends to choose from:

  • Eastern Influence - Think Japanese and Indian designs with hand finished patterns; the perfect backdrop for classic decorative designs and geometric prints.


Photo Credit: pinterest.com

  • New Retro - Everything old is new again! Geometric patterns such as chevron, honeycomb, and zigzags are back in vogue in retro colors like orange, teal, and mustard.  Use as the backdrop for your funky mid-century modern furnishings.


Photo Credit: wordpress.com

  • Traditional Florals - Florals inspired by watercolors and oil paintings have been given a more modern look with oversized prints. Plain linens and lush velvets create a beautiful contrast to floral prints.


Photo Credit: archiexpo.com

  • Modern Rustic - Influenced by mother nature, modern rustic wall décor is a beautiful collection of faux textures. Cover your walls with paper that represents the natural beauty of the untamed wilderness and features raised patterns that mimic elements like brick, bamboo, limestone, cork, rock, and wood.


Photo Credit: blackforestdecor.com

  • Quiet Patterns - Create a peaceful, calming landscape with nature-inspired prints in the modern-country style featuring layered designs in a color palette that includes pale tints of gray, taupe, pink, and blue.


Photo Credit: pinterest.com

If you are in the market to sell or buy a home, let Sandra Nickel and her Hat Team of professionals assist you with all your real estate needs!  Call them today at 334-834-1500!

New Year’s Resolutions for Homeowners

by The Hat Team


The holidays are winding down and the new year is upon us. Chances are you are thinking about some personal goals you would like to achieve in 2019, but if you are a homeowner, you might want to add some resolutions to your list regarding your home.  Here are some homeowner resolutions for you to consider in 2019:

  1. Do a HOME INVENTORY and put together a DISASTER KIT for your home.  You never know when disaster may strike, and while it’s no fun to think about, it’s important to be prepared.  Include your home inventory and financial documents in your disaster kit so that you will be ready should the unthinkable happen.  Make sure that your kit is stored in a fireproof, safe place that will be easily accessible if you need it.
     
  2. Think about getting a HOME WARRANTY.  If your appliances are nearing the end of their life cycles, a home warranty could possibly help prevent high costs for replacements.  Just be sure you do your research and read customer reviews regarding different home warranty options.  And always read the fine print so that you don’t get blindsided by exclusions.
     
  3. Thoroughly examine your HOMEOWNER'S INSURANCE You likely got a standard homeowner’s insurance policy to satisfy the lender when you purchased the home, but that does not assure that you are adequately covered. Each policy has unique coverage options and exclusions that you may not be aware of.  Look it over and find out what it does and does not cover and then decide if it is adequate for you or if you need to purchase a different one.
     
  4. Make saving for an emergency a priority.  Sometimes homeowners are blindsided by unforeseen expenses.  An EMERGENCY SAVINGS FUND can be a life saver when that happens!  Think of it as a safety net for your home.  An idea emergency fund will be able to cover several months of expenses.  Don’t let that overwhelm you.   You have to start somewhere.  Just start setting aside a small portion of your income each month and before you know it, you will have a sizeable savings for emergencies.
     
  5. Start building your equity. If you financed your home mortgage, it will be years before you own your home outright.  But there are ways to BUILD EQUITY  faster, which will enable you to enjoy the benefits of homeownership sooner.  Home equity is a valuable asset that can be used to pay for things like home improvements or student loans. 6 Ways to Build Home Equity (and Savings) Faster

If you are not a homeowner yet, but would like to become one in 2019, let Sandra Nickel and her Hat Team of professionals help you find the perfect home!  Call them today at 334-834-1500!

Photo Credit: success.com

Design Trends that Will Make Your House Shine in 2019!

by The Hat Team


With new trends endlessly popping up, it can be challenging to decide what home design projects are worth your time and money.  It will serve you well to research what trends are timeless and what trends have gone by the wayside before investing in updating your home, especially if you are getting ready to put it on the market.  To simplify that process for you, here is a list of five of the hottest home design projects for 2019!

  1. Vintage Lighting - Think less exposed lighting and more pendants and sconces. Brass and copper finishes will also be popular.  Changing light fixtures is a great way to change the whole look and feel of a room.
     
  2. Millennial Pink - Already a hit in the fashion world, this trendy hue is making its way into home décor in unique and creative ways in 2019.  This serene color softens any room and mixes well with other colors and metals.  15 Millennial Pink Accessories for Your Home
     
  3. Copper Accents - Say goodbye to rose gold - popular in 2018, and hello to copper for 2019.  The red and orange tones of copper add an earthy hue to any space. Copper Accents
     
  4. Bucket Sinks - Sometimes called a “trough sink”, the bucket sink is another vintage design trend that designers believe will make a huge comeback in 2019.  Farm-house inspired, these sinks will add a touch of nostalgia and personality to your kitchen and/or bathrooms.
     
  5. 70s Chic - You may have heard the saying “everything old is new again”, and that is so true for 2019!  Along with many other old design trends coming back in style, such as velvet and geometric patterns, the 70s era is going to be well represented in the new year.  Warm palettes, funky textures and abstract silhouettes will make your home feel groovy!

These are just a few of many Home Design Trends that can give your home a whole new aesthetic, and if you’re selling, make it more desirable to buyers in 2019!

If you are in the market to sell or buy a home, let Sandra Nickel and her Hat Team of professionals assist you with all your real estate needs!  Call them today at 334-834-1500!

Photo Credit: trenddesignbook.com

Refinance Now and Save!

by The Hat Team



Sadly, one of the best mortgage programs in our country will cease to exist at the end of December, 2018.  An extremely generous government refinance program called HARP (Home Affordable Refinance Program) is in its final days. It was launched by the US Government during the Obama administration in an effort to assist middle class home owners by offering lucrative access to lower interest rates and reduced payments amidst the Great Recession. Through HARP, you can not only get a lower interest rate, but you can also get a shorter loan term, or change from an adjustable to a fixed-rate mortgage. And guess what?  There is NO minimum credit score required!  

Take advantage of this fantastic program now, before it’s too late…and here is why: the savings you will gain from participating in this program could rival your best investment. Talk about a great deal! Here are some numbers for you: if you are younger than 50, you are restricted to $18,500 in annual 401K contributions.  A contribution in that amount would yield around $2775 in tax relief for the average American.  But HARP could save you $2400 per year - which would leave you with more cash to invest in your 401K.

This program is geared toward America’s middle class.  Only mortgages under $625,000 qualify.  But if you want to take advantage of it you must apply immediately before time runs out.  Reach out to lenders and find out if you qualify by just answering a few questions. The LendingTree platform will allow you to receive quotes from multiple lenders.

Give yourself the gift of extra cash in your pocket this holiday season!  Check out HARP today! 

If you are in the market to sell or buy a home, let Sandra Nickel and her Hat Team of professionals assist you with all your real estate needs!  Call them today at 334-834-1500!

Photo Credit: Zillow.com

A Handy Guide to Hosting Guests During the Holidays

by The Hat Team

It’s that time of year again.  A time for friends and family to come together to celebrate the holidays.  Many of you will be hosting guests in your homes over the next two months and while you are surely delighted to spend time with your loved ones, it can be a stressful time as well.  If you are opening your doors to family members or friends this holiday season, here are some ideas for prepping your home so that you’ll be ready to welcome them with open arms.

Tidy up the house.  Use this as motivation to thoroughly clean your house.  Get rid of clutter, make small house repairs and complete that decorating project you’ve been putting off.

Stock up on food and drinks. Make sure you have different types of beverages and snacks that your guests enjoy. It’s nice for them to be able to easily grab a quick snack whenever they want. Check with your guests to see if they have any food allergies or dietary needs so that you can provide safe and healthy choices for them.

Have activities planned for your guests. Depending on how long they are staying, you may want to plan some special events or activities for your guests.  Whether it’s a shopping excursion, a day at a museum, a holiday concert or just a nice dinner out, your visitors will appreciate your thoughtfulness in keeping them entertained. Click here for a list of fun events happening in the Montgomery area this holiday season: Holiday Events

Be mindful of the little ones. If your guests include children, be sure to plan for them as well.  If you don’t have children, you may want to pick up a game or some arts and crafts to have around for them.  Find out their food preferences prior to their arrival so that you are prepared to accommodate them at meals. 

Provide comfortable sleeping spaces. Be sure to have nice, clean sheets, pillows and extra blankets.  If you have a guest bedroom that has not been used in a while, strip the bed and wash the bed linens so that they are fresh for your guests. 15 Tips for Turning Your Guest Bedroom into a Retreat

Provide toiletries.  The guest bathroom should have soap/body wash, shampoo, conditioner and lotion available for guests. 

Give instructions for electronics. If the guest room has a television, leave written instructions for how to use the remote.

By following these tips and prepping your home ahead of time, you will be able to offer a warm welcome to your guests and enjoy the time you have with them!

If you are in the market to sell or buy a home, let Sandra Nickel and her Hat Team of professionals assist you with all your real estate needs! Call them today at 334-834-1500!

Photo Credit: frugalandthriving.com.au

Choosing the Right Flooring for Your Home

by The Hat Team

Have you been thinking about redoing the floors in your home?  There are so many flooring options available that it can be confusing and overwhelming trying to decide what you want.  Floors are a significant part of what defines the style and function for every room, so it’s important to make sure you choose something that you not only like, but that will hold up and look good for years to come.  Here are some current flooring trends you may want to consider:

  • BAMBOO

Bamboo flooring has been around for a couple of decades now, but recently advances in manufacturing have strengthened its durability and diversified its appearance.The introduction of super-dense “strand-woven” bamboo means that it can be made into boards that are two and a half times as hard as red oak.Various wood-look styles are available in bamboo as well, meaning there are many options for style.Since it is made from a natural plant, bamboo is eco-friendly. So, if you are environmentally conscious it is a good choice for you.

  • LARGE FORMAT TILE

For a modern style, consider large format tile.Whether you want a rustic stone look, a minimalist, industrial feel or a sleek, high-gloss finish, you can find what you are looking for in large format tile.It can make a small space look larger and can give a more streamlined look to a large space.And with fewer grout lines, it is easier to clean. Large Format Tile Images on Pinterest

  • LUXURY VINYL

When you think of luxury, vinyl is probably not the first thing that comes to your mind.But luxury vinyl is worth looking in to.It’s nothing like the peel-and-stick flooring that people used to install back in the day.It is a new type of flooring that combines a high-end look with the durability of vinyl. Unlike wood, it stands up well to moisture and is therefore great for kitchens, bathrooms and laundry rooms. comes in a variety of looks - from hardwood to stone - and looks so real that people will be surprised to discover it is vinyl!

  • CUT & LOOP CARPET

If you love the comfort of carpet, but want a different look, then cut and loop carpet may provide just what you’re looking for.Using a technique that combines both loops and cut loops, manufacturers can create a carpet with eye-catching patterns that add depth and style to your floors. And, with new technology, carpeting is being produced with softer fibers than in the past.Carpet padding has come a long way as well and offers more protection that it used to.

  • CONCRETE

If a sleek, industrial look is what you’re after, concrete is the way to go. This durable flooring comes in a variety of textures, colors and finishes, so it can complement almost any décor. Concrete floors are long-lasting and easy to clean and maintain.But they are also hard and cold, so you want to keep that in mind when choosing where to use them.They are not going to be comfortable to stand or walk on all day long.

  • AMERICAN HARDWOOD

For beauty and durability, you cannot go wrong with American hardwood.It’s also a great choice for the environmentally conscious.Since it is made here and not shipped from the other side of the world like bamboo, you are reducing your carbon footprint a bit by purchasing wood from trees closer to home.In addition, the United States takes the issue of deforestation seriously, and replenishes forests as they cut trees down. With choices like oak, hickory, maple or heart pine, you can fill your home with warmth and allure while also being environmentally friendly.

If you are in the market to see or buy a home, let Sandra Nickel and her Hat Team of professionals assist you with all your real estate needs! Call them today at 334-834-1500!

Photo Credit: consumerreports.org

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