Thursday, May 30, 2013

6 Affordable Champagne Features for Your Beer Budget Home

Modest. Affordable. Starter. There is no shortage of words we use to describe a home that cost less than the average in an area. But no matter how “low-priced” your home is or was compared with others’, chances are good that you are spending a good chunk of your hard-earned dollars on it. Think about it: almost no one looks at their monthly mortgage statement and says “Wow - it’s just so cheap!!”

Every owner deserves to come home to a place that is beautiful, comfortable and suitable for the activities that are a part of their life - without going into debt to do it. And even if you haven’t yet become a dyed-in-the-wool homeowner, understanding the champagne-style creature comforts that can be inexpensively added onto a home after closing can provide powerful inspiration for sticking to your beer budget.

Here are a few of those little, affordable luxuries (with links to pics and inspiration throughout!):  

1.  Automation.  For your home to automatically anticipate your preferences and living habits, and conduct itself accordingly, is a serious luxury that no longer requires a serious investment. Easily programmable thermostats and smart home systems are now available at very low prices. Check out the Nest  “Learning” Thermostat for one of the most simple-to-use, inexpensive alternatives around. Created by the man who designed the iPod, it “learns” the temperatures you prefer without any complicated programming process, it can detect when no ones home and change the temperature accordingly and it is even remote controllable via wi-fi and mobile app.

In some areas, home cable companies are now bundling temperature automation and smart home features like remote-controlled lighting, temperatures and security systems and even smoke and carbon monoxide monitors right into the same online dashboard you use to pay your bill or order a movie on-demand.  Word of mouth raves from users of these sorts of systems often include delight at money saved on overall more efficient use of electricity, time saved coming home to check that doors are locked and other little daily assists beyond the expected convenience.

These next-gen automations are able to be had in the $200 or less range, up front, though the size of your home and number of devices you require can send costs upward. Look for whether your automation system has a mobile app that allows you to control your home from your smartphone - many do, and it’s a major plus. Shop around, read reviews and make sure you understand any monthly subscription fees, before you buy.

2.  Nature’s Niceties. 
Visiting my grandmother recently, I was reminded that there is nothing quite so luxurious as craving a piece of fruit or a particular meal and being able to walk right into your backyard and grab the fixings for it - cost-free, and chemical free. This doesn’t even factor in the beauty of a kitchen garden right outside your window, or the healthfulness of gardening as a habit. 

The range of cost for landscaping and creating what many now call outdoor rooms is vast. But there are also dozens of inexpensive projects that can level-up your own home’s nature factor:
  • installing raised vegetable beds in your backyard
  • hanging a vertical garden on your kitchen wall
  • putting in window boxes or outdoor seating
  • installing a bird bath or planting a new tree.

Lush, green anything is a luxury that can cost very little to enjoy for years on end.

3.  Delicious Details.  Customizing, sprucing and even adding little details to your home can make a tract home feel custom, a condo feel personalized and can even take a home with character and imbue it with your character.  These little projects can also be bizarrely high in the aesthetic impact and feeling of polish they add to a home vis-a-vis the relatively low investment of time and money they require. 

Walk through your place and see where you can add, improve or tweak the details - consider projects like:
  • Adding crown moldings or baseboards
  • Adding interior or exterior shutters
  • Painting moldings, baseboards, mantles and door trims a contrasting color to the surrounding areas
  • Replacing doors and lighting fixtures (I just replaced the pendant lighting fixture over my own kitchen table and have to say, it looks like a new room!)
  • Replacing dated faucets, sinks, toilets and hardware - even recessed lighting soffits and door handles
  • Painting exterior eaves, doors, trims and fences.

4.  Solar.  A recent survey by Sunrun revealed that over 40% of Americans believe a solar system cost more than $20,000.  And get this: eight out of 10 homeowners said they would install a solar system at home if cost wasn’t a factor.  Solar is not for everyone, and not even for every home, but in states with sunny, hot summers and energy bills to boot, installing a solar system can create the double luxury of allowing you to run your home on renewable energy and reduce your energy costs in one fell swoop.

Truth is, in some states, cost isn’t a factor. There’s a new generation of companies - solar power service providers - who will pay for a solar system, install it on your home for little or nothing, and pay for its maintenance. In turn, you pay them for the power you use, at a rate that is generally lower than what you were paying the utility. 

These arrangements are not available everywhere, but if you’ve always thought you’d go solar if you could afford it, it’s certainly worth investigating whether you can find a solar service provider in your neck of the woods.

5.  Built-ins (or faux ones).  Built-ins like desks, book shelves, closet systems and even kitchen recycling centers feel particularly luxurious because they offer a polished approach to efficient use of the space you have, and often eliminate the need for bulky pieces of furniture.  When you initiate the installation of built-ins, though, they have the added luxury of being customized to the way you want to use your home, the activities you prefer to do in a given room and even the gear you have to use to do it!

If you’re handy, DIY-interested or even have a good local handyperson or carpenter contact, you might be surprised to realize how affordable it can be to build a desk or closet organizer into your existing space. 

If you haven’t a handy bone in your body, or you’d prefer to keep the space flexible, you should get up to speed on all the off-the-shelf built-in alternatives that are on the market, like a kitchen nook dining set in lieu of a built-in banquette. Think creatively: placing a day bed under a window with a bookcase on each end is a fantastic alternative to building a window seat between built-in shelves. You might even be able to score the built-in alternatives on Craigslist or Freecycle, then have it painted or reupholstered, to get a luxe, custom look at a very low price.

6.  Dedicated spaces.  Like custom built-ins, dedicating a space to a particular favorite activity is a special luxury, even if your home is not otherwise especially luxurious. Why not let every member of the family custom-tailor a corner of your home to whatever they love to do, or spend a lot of time doing?  The idea here is to simply dedicate a space to an activity, painting it, installing the appropriate furniture and carving out a place for all the supplies that are involved in that activity.  At my house, I just painted the office in bright colors that researchers have found to boost creativity, installing new project tables and bookshelves to facilitate the organization and stand-up work style I prefer. My friend AG has turned one bedroom into a room for her menagerie of pets - dogs and birds alike! 

At your house, this could include:
  • carving out a mudroom with storage racks for your family’s sports equipment
  • doubling-down on kitchen area entertaining by putting up a pot rack and adding extra seating and serving spaces
  • turning a corner of your great room into a screened meditation spot or homework area for the kids
  • creating a 2-, 3- or 4-person office space out of your dining room, so every member of the family has a place for all their study, work and bill-paying tasks.
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  • Reposted by asktara@trulia


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