Oh, civility. It resides in some neighborhood, hasn’t arrived yet in others. Knowing city laws can take the sting, and emotion, out of an errant parked car, predawn noise and other annoying habits from the people next door. Oregonian archive photo used to add levity to the topic.

Most neighbors don’t mind neighbors feeding birds. The problem begins when too many birds and squirrels hang around the feeding structures. The city of Portland enacted an ordinance that all exterior property areas must be maintained in a clean and sanitary condition, free from any accumulation of rubbish or garbage.

Most cities make it clear if trees are public or private, based on the location of the trunk. If your neighbor’s branches are hanging over your yard, you can prune them to the property line as long as you don’t destroy the tree or go on your neighbor’s property without permission. Here’s Portland’s tree guidelines: www.portlandoregon.gov/trees/article/528110

Is there a law to stop the neighbor’s loud music from shaking the windows of your house? By city code, Quiet Time is 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. Families with young children especially need this quiet time on weekday nights during the school year.

Cigarette and fireplace smoke can drift into open windows across property lines. No laws regulate this. Neighbors should be considerate, especially in the summer.

What’s bugging you on your block? You can get free mediation and facilitation services to help find solutions to conflict at the Resolutions Northwest in Portland (503-595-4890; resolutionsnorthwest.org) or Beaverton’s Dispute Resolution Center ((503-526-2523; beavertonoregon.gov/562/Dispute-Resolution).

View the full article here at Oregon Live

London designer Mark Lewis knows how to conjure a world out of empty space: He began his career working on theater sets. So he was the perfect person for the job when a client wanted to transform a charming old garage into a guest room.

Above: Located in Hampstead, in North London, the garage stands alongside a 1905 house that the owners recently inherited and remodeled—they hired Lewis as a consultant midway through that process and gave him free rein over the garage, which has its original terracotta-tiled roof and glazed door with decorative strap hinges.

Above: Lewis stripped the interior to reveal the vaulted ceiling (now insulated and plaster-finished), left the old brick exposed, and laid a new floor of reclaimed pine. He placed the bed against the sealed-up garage doors. Shallow wall shelves serve as bedside tables (for something similar, see the Corbin Bernsen Handyman Special.)

Remodelista and Gardenista regulars know we have a weakness for garage makeovers: See, for instance, our own Michelle’s Grottage, Karen Montgomery Spath’s Airy Studio Apartment, and Model Carolyn Murphy’s Painting Retreat. These transformations are a recurring dream come true—the discovered room you never knew you had. Doll-house-like in their appeal, they’re filled with small-space solutions to be remembered and copied. In the case of Lewis’s project, the trickiest part was figuring out how to incorporate a bathroom—while maintaining peace with the neighbors (and, of course, securing a permit from the planning commission). Join us for a look at Lewis’s industrial-rustic results, dustbin WC included.

Lewis describes the style as “suburban Edwardian,” and says, “The space was being used for garden storage and junk. It had even been a chemistry lab at one point. It was unloved on the inside but externally in good condition.”
The space is just under 194 square feet and took six weeks to make over—the door on the left leads to the new loo. Note the wall lighting: It’s electrical conduit with sockets and bulbs from Urban Cottage Industries.

This half of the room has a flea market desk, a dresser (built to order to get the desired dimensions), and a clothes rack made from industrial hand railing: “It’s thicker than conduit and strong enough to hold heavy things; you can even hang from it”

In the back of the garage, new curtained French doors serve as the entrance: A short walk across the terrace leads to the main house. The concrete door surround is a detail Lewis also introduced around the bathroom door.



View full article here at Remodelista

Nearly a decade after the Great Recession, Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR), says concerns that the housing market has peaked and is headed toward another slowdown are purely speculative, regardless of recent sales declines in some regions.

What’s in store for the future? Markets should slow down; however, this is due in part to insufficient supply and swiftly rising home prices instead of weak buyer demand. Yun predicts existing-home sales will drop 1 percent to 5.46 million in 2018 (down from 5.51 million in 2017). Home price growth, however, should remain strong, increasing an estimated 5 percent nationwide. And with an anticipated hike in inventory supply come 2019, home sales should stay afloat—existing home sales are predicted to rise 2 percent with home prices estimated to increase by 3.5 percent, according to Yun.

“Over the past 10 years, prudent policy reforms and consumer protections have strengthened lending standards and eliminated loose credit, as evidenced by the higher than normal credit scores of those who are able to obtain a mortgage and near record-low defaults and foreclosures, which contributed to the last recession. Today, even as mortgage rates begin to increase and home sales decline in some markets, the most significant challenges facing the housing market stem from insufficient inventory and accompanying unsustainable home price increases,” said Yun in a statement.

 Low inventory levels, which have fallen for three consecutive years, along with bidding wars, are prevalent across the country. And while homebuilding has jumped 7.2 percent year-to-date to July, Yun says new construction is sorely needed to continue filling the gap. Carefully considered policy decisions should help alleviate the shortage.

“The answer is to encourage builders to increase supply, and there is a good probability for solid home sales growth once the supply issue is addressed,” Yun said. “Additional inventory will also help contain rapid home price growth and open up the market to perspective homebuyers who are consequently—and increasingly—being priced out. In the end, slower price growth is healthier price growth.”

“Rising material costs and labor shortages do not help builders to be excited about business,” added Yun. “But the lumber tariff is a pure, unforced policy error that raises costs and limits job creations and more home building.”

These smart upgrades pay off big in resale value and enjoyment of your home.

“For an immediate face-lift, update your light fixtures,” says Kim Howard, Realtor and co-founder of Howard Homes Chicago. You can buy a stylish ceiling fan for $100 dollars or less and updated semi-flush ceiling mount lights for about $60. Not only do buyers love the cohesive flow new lighting gives the home, but Howard also says new lighting easily increases the value of the home by 1 to 2 percent, which translates to $10,000 on a $500,000 home.

“Replacing your cabinets is a huge cost that is not completely necessary if the cabinets are less than ten years old, functional, and made from a high-quality wood like cherry, maple, ash, hickory, or oak,” says John Milligan, Product Development Manager at N-Hance Wood Refinishing. Refinishing generally costs between $3,000 to $8,000 and can potentially bump up the value of your home between 3 and 7 percent. Here are 13 more tricks to make your kitchen look expensive.

A fresh coat of paint instantly updates and transforms the entire interior of your home, and when you consider that the average price tag of a gallon of one-coat coverage paint is around $38, that’s about the biggest bang for your buck you can get. “Grays are back in vogue, and create a neutral palette that lets your decor really pop,” says Steve Frellick, licensed contractor and founder/broker of Yonder Luxury Vacation Rentals. Repaint your bathroom blue, and your house could fetch as much as $5,440 more than expected, according to a recent Zillow report.

Windows that stick or are warped or drafty aren’t doing your comfort level or your budget any favors. According to the 2018 Cost vs. Value report in Remodeling, vinyl replacements windows average just under $16,000 for ten 3-by-5-foot double-hung windows and have a resale value near $12,000. Plus, you’ll reap even more savings from your energy bill. Replacing the same number of wood windows is a bit pricier at around $19,000 with a resale value of approximately $13,500. Look out for these 12 hidden home expenses that are draining your bank account.

View the full article here at Reader’s Digest


Construction cranes are the most visible sign of where new homes are being built.

You know there is major construction underway when cranes tower above. And wherever they cluster, it is a good bet that there are new homes being built.

The recent RLB Crane Index, a report on the number of construction cranes in major American and Canadian cities, found that the vast majority are currently being used to build new homes. (The report dealt only with cranes fixed in place on construction sites, not mobile cranes attached to trucks.)

Paul Brussow, executive vice president of Rider Levett Bucknall, which provides project management and consultation to the construction industry, and which produced the report, said that of the 421 cranes in active use, 305 (or 72 percent) are being used for residential projects or mixed-use projects that include homes.

Of all the cities in the report, Toronto came out way ahead — both in the total number of cranes in use (97, up from 88 in January and 72 a year ago) and in the number being used to build homes (85).

Where else will you find a network of cranes? Here are the top 10 cities and how many cranes you’ll see there — building homes and other kinds of projects.
View the full article here at New York Times

A tweak to Portland’s zoning code will make it more difficult to redevelop mobile home parks, an effort to preserve the low-cost housing they provide.

The Portland City Council unanimously approved the change on Wednesday. It creates a new zone for 56 of the city’s mobile home parks, which house about 3,000 households.

Six of the city’s 62 mobile home parks have closed in the past two years, leaving residents scrambling to find a new place to live. Those who own their mobile homes are often unable to move them elsewhere, but they might still be responsible for a mortgage, turning a financial asset into a liability.

While it would be more difficult for owners of mobile home parks to sell or redevelop the land, the proposal would allow them to sell unused density to developers building elsewhere.

Residents of mobile home parks turned out Wednesday to show support for the proposal, saying it would help preserve communities and maintain families’ access to schools and services.

Gloria Contreras, speaking through a translator, told the city council she has lived at Cedar Shade Mobile Home Park in Northeast Portland for more than 12 years.

“For my family, this is home,” said Contreras, who lives with her four children. “We take care of each other, our homes and we take care of strangers. There are elderly people who know that if there’s any kind of time of need or emergency, we will be there to support them and help them.”

Mike Connors, a land-use attorney representing North Portland mobile home operator Hayden Island Enterprises, said the policy could open the city to claims under Measure 49, which would require the city to compensate property owners for the loss of property value. He also said it could restrict park owners’ access to financing.

“As a result of that, they’re either not going to upgrade or maintain the parks at the level they do currently, or it’s going to result in an increase in rent,” Connors said.

View the full article here at Oregon Live

Interior design might seem as straightforward as choosing a paint color and coordinating your furniture, but the truth is, the devil’s in the details. Those last few finishing touches can really pull together a room and make it your own.

Since we’re in the business of adding accents to homes, we were curious to know what finishing touch people like to use the most when decorating their homes. To get the answer, we first built a list of the most commonly purchased home decor items by reviewing the home decor item categories on popular retailers’ websites like Restoration Hardware, Pottery Barn, West Elm, and Target. Once we had a list of popular home decor items from these sites, we used Google Shopping search data to determine which item each state in the U.S. had searched for most often over the past year. This gave us a comprehensive view of the types of items people are most interested in according to their search history. Based on search volume, we identified the most popular home decor item in each state, as well as the top item overall- and the results might surprise you.

Top Searched Home Decor Item by State

The competition for the highest search volume in each state was fierce. The range of options was so wide that there were very few states that had the same item as their highest searched home decor item. In fact, in both the West and the Northeast, every state had a unique top searched item.

There were a few states with unsurprising results. Alaska’s most popular home decor item was hearths, consistent with the frigid weather in that area throughout most of the year. Similarly, Connecticut favored throw blankets, presumably to ward off those long New England winters, and Tennessee, famous for their whiskey, had the highest search volume for bar carts.

America’s Favorite Home Decor Items

In spite of the varied results, one item continued to pop up as the top searched home decor item throughout our analysis. People in five different states are very interested in the use of trays as a final home decor touch. Trays have become a trendy item over the past couple of years, and people often use them to create small displays in their homes.

Coming in right behind trays are mirrors, a great way to create the illusion of more space and natural light in rooms that might not have as many windows.

Finally, 12 states searched home decor items related to their walls: wallpaper, wall decor, wall art, wall shelves, and window treatments. It looks like while trays are the most popular individual item, people like to use their walls as a canvas to add a pop of color or extra visual interest to finish off a room’s design.

Small items are a great way to add some personality to any room in your home. They can be inexpensive and are easy to change around and swap in and out as your tastes evolve. For more permanent items like window treatments and wallpaper, it’s a good idea to look at all of your options before making a final decision, since it’s a look you will probably have to live with for an extended period of time. The good news is, whatever your interior design taste might be, there are certainly options out there for you to create the perfect interior design aesthetic in your home.

View full article here at Next Day Blinds

For New Yorkers — a city of renters with apartments that are usually just barely big enough to accommodate their lives — a vacation home is not always just a house.

Sometimes, it’s more like a long-distance lover, the kind you only see when the weather is nice and no one has to go to work in the morning. Or maybe it’s a favored child, lavished with attention and worry.

If you don’t own the place where you live during the week, the vacation retreat becomes the final destination. A proper dining room, even one that’s two hours away, means you have space to host Thanksgiving dinner, plus you have enough rooms for your in-laws to spend the weekend. Soon enough, that scrappy cabin in the Catskills starts to house not just the trinkets collected during three-day weekends, but the memories that make a life.

“Because we live in small places, this is where we sleep, this is where we work, but it isn’t where we live,” said Kathy Braddock, a managing director of the New York City office of William Raveis. “We Live, with capital letters, in our country home. It’s where the kids spread out. It’s where they can run. It’s where we can actually live like, quote unquote, normal people.”

Which is how you might find yourself driving from your co-op loft in SoHo to your three-bedroom farmhouse in Cold Spring, N.Y., to retrieve a pair of misplaced tap shoes the night before your son’s dance recital. When your life is spread between two worlds, “nothing is where you put it, and in this case it’s 70 miles away,” said Jennifer Keller, who drove upstate to fetch those taps for 11-year-old Max Schoenstein last spring.

It’s not always love at first sight, though. Ms. Keller, a stay-at-home mother, wasn’t even looking for a vacation house romance when her partner, Richard Schoenstein, a lawyer, suggested the idea a decade ago. She had grown up in the city; to her, Central Park was all the open space anyone could need.

But Mr. Schoenstein, who grew up in the suburbs of Cleveland, couldn’t imagine raising children on concrete and splash pads alone. “We had a baby and something in him said, ‘If you have a baby and you don’t own grass, then you’re not doing a good job,’” Ms. Keller said. (The couple has since had a daughter, Audrey Keller, 5.)

So they bought the house and Ms. Keller, despite herself, fell in love as the house grabbed hold of not just misplaced shoes, but family memories. Now she worries about what will happen when they eventually leave the farmhouse — because love affairs do end. (Let’s face it: The long-term commitment is with the apartment in the city, which comes with a super who handles all the repairs.)

“It’s just a little bit heartbreaking,” Ms. Keller said. “Emotionally, the story is: I didn’t want you, now you’re here, and when I sell you I’m going to be sad.”

Sometimes a country house is the fun extrovert in your life, the one everyone wants to be around. Kathy Kemp lives with her husband, Tom Hughes, and their 12-year-old son, Jack Hughes, in a tiny rent-stabilized apartment in the East Village. The old farmhouse, with a barn overlooking the Delaware River in Halcottsville, N.Y., that they bought in 2005, is where the family can exhale.

“Our son is over six feet tall, our dog is over 35 pounds,” said Ms. Kemp, a clothing designer who owns Anna, a store on Christopher Street. “Everything is much larger, much faster than we expected.”

Mr. Hughes, 53, a writer, spends summers upstate with Jack, and Ms. Kemp, 53, comes up for the weekends. In the country, neighbors drop by unannounced and city friends come up to stay for long weekends, a luxury that isn’t possible in a tiny apartment where even the art on the walls has to be curated so as not to “take up too much visual space,” Ms. Kemp said.

The first few years they owned the house, as they would drive up from the city Ms. Kemp would wonder what had happened while she was away, like the house had a secret life. “Was it still there? Did we have heat?” she recalled. “Would there be a ghost?”

There was no ghost, and instead the family’s life migrated north. Years spent at summer camp means Jack has a circle of upstate friends. And a few years ago, the parents of one of his city friends coincidentally bought the house across the street in Halcottsville. “We have different lives in the city and the country,” Ms. Kemp said.

A second home is ultimately an escape hatch, the fun alternate existence where there is no daily grind and you can imagine a life of sleepy Sundays with birds, not car alarms, chirping in the morning. It can be tempting to shower it with attention and money.

Tom Postilio, 48, and Mickey Conlon, 42, rent a one-bedroom apartment in Midtown Manhattan that Mr. Conlon describes as “just a nice hotel room.”

Rather than buy a more inviting apartment, the couple, Douglas Elliman brokers who have a roster of clients that includes Barry Manilow, Joan Collins and Liza Minnelli, decided to splurge on a weekend house.

After six years and almost $6 million, they are nearly finished building an 11,000-square-foot house on a two-and-a-quarter acre parcel in Nissequogue, N.Y., overlooking the Long Island Sound. The lavish spread has six bedrooms, five fireplaces, a library, a banquet-style dining room and a conservatory with a Murano glass chandelier from the 1940s. Mr. Conlon describes the space, with its antique black-and-white-tile marble floors and a carved wood ceiling, as “Gatsby-era Long Island.”

Their extravagant investment begs the question: Why spend six years building a weekend palace when you could buy a pretty nice apartment in the city, where you actually live? It comes down to what you get for the money.

“In an urban market where space is at a premium, I think the second home, in terms of its personal attention, is distorted,” said Jonathan J. Miller, the president of Miller Samuel Real Estate Appraisers and Consultants. “You’re making up for the shortcomings of your primary residence by being perhaps more aggressive in modifying your second home.”

Or maybe you’re just never home in the city. Mr. Conlon and Mr. Postilio work long hours and mostly use their apartment as a way station to eat and sleep between other engagements. It’s not a space they care about much. The house on the North Shore of Long Island, though, is the opposite: a glamorous fairy-tale destination.

“We think of our lives in New York as a stream of consciousness,” Mr. Conlon said. “And this house adds punctuation.”

View full article here at NY Times.

As a homebuyer, it’s easy to understand the appeal of investing in an older home. After all, it’s the perfect opportunity to tackle a few DIY projects and renovations to give the place the custom touch you’ve always imagined. Although this can seem like an exciting endeavor, new owners may get ahead themselves without realizing their house may be harboring toxins from decades ago.

It’s important to understand the dangers of asbestos during home improvement projects and how to reduce exposure risks.

Measuring Your Risk

Asbestos is a natural silicate mineral that was revolutionary for the building trade until its carcinogenic nature was discovered. This toxin was once widely-used by the construction industry due to its resilience and ability to withstand chemicals and high temperatures. Although its health risks were discovered as early as the 1920s, the United States continued producing, importing and manufacturing asbestos-containing consumer products for decades.

Researchers concluded in 1960 that asbestos exposure could cause a wide range of long-term diseases, including asbestosis, lung cancer, and the often fatal form of cancer known as mesothelioma. As more tradesmen came forward with asbestos-related illnesses, this mineral became known as a primary source of occupational cancer.

The mineral is heavily regulated today, but millions of people are still vulnerable to exposure due to its expansive use in residential homes and buildings.

Asbestos is only considered dangerous when contaminated materials have been worn down or damaged which unfortunately, is a standard part of most renovation or remodeling work.

Any sanding, grinding, sawing, drilling, buffing, or physical impact may cause these fibers to become airborne and easily ingested or inhaled by anyone in the general proximity.

What Homeowners Need to Know

Asbestos is nearly impossible to identify on your own because it’s often mixed within building products, but it is possible to identify a hazardous situation and take appropriate preventative action.

Before getting involved with any sort of home improvement project, you should always double-check that your property has been recently inspected by a trained professional. This simple step is especially important if you reside in a home built more than 40 years ago and has visible signs of aging. This bit of precaution could save you from developing an asbestos-related illness years later.

You should be aware of common products that have a history of containing the toxin and monitor their condition for any sort of wear and tear. Keep an eye on old insulation, ceiling tiles, vinyl flooring, joint compounds, door gaskets, furnaces, roof shingles, electrical wiring, fireproof products, and more.

Asbestos is known to be a significant threat when it is “friable,”  meaning it can be easily crumbled or crushed by hand. Spray-on insulation and spray-on ceiling textures are prime examples of products that once contained friable asbestos and have been found within residential homes today.

Unlike floor tiles and cement that must endure long-term deterioration before asbestos fibers are loosened, the slightest amount of pressure can instantly release these fibers, allowing them to be carried throughout the air and dust indoors.

Do not panic and try to remove any materials you think are toxic, as this will only do more harm than good.

Instead, block off the area and avoid any activity, including sweeping or vacuuming, which can exacerbate the situation and cause toxic dust and debris to travel even further throughout the house.

Restrict anyone from going near the area until a professional can take samples to confirm it contains asbestos. If the toxin is present and appears to be hazardous, the licensed professional can safely remove the toxin from your home.

You’d be forgiven if the phrase “Portland goes green with innovative water pipes” doesn’t immediately call to mind thoughts of civil engineering and hydro-electric power. And yet, that’s exactly what Oregon’s largest city has done by partnering with a company called Lucid Energy to generate clean electricity from the water already flowing under its streets and through its pipes.

Portland has replaced a section of its existing water supply network with Lucid Energy pipes containing four forty-two inch turbines. As water flows through the pipes, the turbines spin and power attached generators, which then feed energy back into the city’s electrical grid. Known as the “Conduit 3 Hydroelectric Project,” Portland’s new clean energy source is scheduled to be up and running at full capacity in March. According to a Lucid Energy FAQ detailing the partnership, this will be the “first project in the U.S. to secure a 20-year Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) for renewable energy produced by in-pipe hydropower in a municipal water pipeline.”

As the video explains, Lucid Energy’s system isn’t affected by the sort of external conditions (namely: the weather) upon which other renewable energy sources–like solar and wind power– are reliant. Nor does the technology, completely ensconced within a pipe, have adverse effects on a surrounding environmental ecosystem, as an exposed hydroelectric dam might.

Fast Company points out that, in order to be cost and energy effective, Portland’s new power generators must be installed in pipes where water flows downhill, without having to be pumped, as the energy necessary to pump the water would negate the subsequent energy gleaned. However, Fast Company also notes that the system does more than simply provide electricity: It can monitor both the overall condition of a city’s water supply network as well as assess the drinking quality of the water flowing through it.

According to Lucid Energy’s FAQ, the partnership between the company and the city of Portland is currently finishing its “commissioning” phase, in which the system–particularly the aforementioned monitors and sensors–is put through rigorous final-stage testing. Once fully operational, the installation is expected to generate $2,000,000 worth of renewable energy capacity over twenty years, based on “an average of 1,100 megawatt hours of energy per year, enough electricity to power up to 150 homes.” The money generated will be split among the project’s investors, as well as will be used to recoup the cost of construction, and ongoing upkeep of the system. After 20 years the Portland Water Bureau will have the right to own the entire project and all subsequent energy and profit generated by it.

Using green tech to generate power and revenue from an existing municipal resource? Now all Portland needs to do is put a bird on it.

Read the full article here at Good Money