Real estate over the last two and a half years can really be summed up by one phrase: Epic seller’s market. We’ve seen countless people list their homes and receive multiple offers over asking—all while doing the bare minimum to fix up or market their property. Home sellers, we have to be honest here: you’ve had it made in the shade.

And while the current real estate market still technically favors sellers, experts see a balance on the horizon that’ll put buyers and sellers on more even ground. The result? Home sellers can no longer bank on getting a bunch of offers over asking.

So if you’re about to list your house and want to maximize your profits (who doesn’t?!) there are plenty of strategies you and your real estate agent can employ. Here’s how to get a higher price for your home—without spending a penny more than you initially planned for.

1. Price your home competitively

Few people are going to want to buy your house if the price per square foot is more than 10% higher than similar homes for sale in your neighborhood.

“You should base your home’s listing price on recent sales of comparable homes,” says Marty Ford, the president of BulletRoof Systems in Raleigh, NC. “If you overprice your home, you may miss out on potential buyers who are window shopping in your price range.”

Want to sell faster? You might also want to consider setting a price that’s lower than comparable homes.

“Many real estate brokers advise pricing the property slightly under market value,” says Tiffany Payne, chief marketing officer for a New York home repair company, iFlooded Restoration. “This can make active purchasers who are familiar with the market feel pressured to make a bid, and the likelihood of receiving multiple bids rises.”

2. Price your home strategically

It’s an old retail sales trick, but studies show that prices ending 9, 99, or 95 make things seem less expensive.

“Using a slightly lower price point—like $499,999—may create a sense of urgency and generate more interest in your home,” Ford says.

3. Market smart online

Are you putting your best foot forward online?

“The majority of purchasers will first view the home online before visiting it in person,” says Payne. “Buyers will assess whether your house is deserving of an in-person viewing with only a few mouse clicks.”

That’s why it’s important to only post top-notch, high-resolution videos and images online. Spend some money for professional photography to show off the house in the best possible ways—cellphone pictures generally look like casual (and poorly lit) snapshots.

4. Think like a buyer

Spend some extra time on the property details of your online listing. You want to spotlight the best parts of your home so you can attract a broad swath of buyers.

“You can get a lot of value from including key selling points in your listing, even if they’re not relevant to you,” says Martin Orefice, CEO of Rent To Own Labs in Orlando, FL. “A home that is close to a school, public transportation, park, or a major employer can be much more valuable. Likewise, make a point to mention if your home is pet-friendly because of a fenced-in backyard, or conducive to aging in place because it’s a single-story structure.”

5. Clear out clutter, closets, and personal touches

You’ve heard this before, but we can’t emphasize it enough: Minimize your presence in the home as much as possible so buyers can imagine themselves in the space when they tour it.

“It can be hard for new buyers to see themselves in a home if the space is overly personalized or full,” says Kristen Reyes, an interior designer and the CEO of Sey Interiors in Dallas.

Pack away bulky, personal, or unnecessary items. And focus on clearing out closets, she recommends—because buyers are sure to zero in on them.

“A great rule of thumb is to clear 75% of the items out of the closet,” Reyes says. This will show the utility of the closets while showing buyers how much space is in there.

“Depersonalize your home,” says Dennis Shirshikov, strategist at, a real estate investment company based in California. “Take photos of your family down; put away all the personal decorations you think look so great. Buyers don’t want to feel like they are buying someone else’s home. Leave the bare minimum in terms of furniture to help them understand the space—but that’s it.”


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Many homes across the United States are part of an HOA, or homeowners association. So what does that mean?

A Homeowner’s Guide to HOAs: Homeowners Associations, Explained

In a nutshell, an HOA helps ensure that your community looks its best and functions smoothly. If you’re buying a condotownhouse, or free-standing home in a neighborhood with shared common areas and amenities (such as swimming pools, parking garages, and security gates), odds are high these areas are maintained by a homeowners association.

The number of Americans living in homes with HOAs is on the rise, growing from a mere 1% in 1970 to 27% today, according to a recent National and State Statistical Review for Community Association Data.

Is buying a home with an HOA right for you? We’ll help you decide by laying out the pros, cons, and costs of an HOA.

What is a homeowners association?

What is an HOA?
WHAT is an HOA anyway?


Let’s say, for instance, that the pump in the community swimming pool stops working. Someone has to take care of it before the water turns green and toxic, right? Rather than expect any one homeowner in the neighborhood to volunteer his time and money to fix the problem, homeowners associations are responsible for getting the job done.

You can think of the purpose of an HOA as similar to real estate property taxes that a homeowner pays for city and state services—except that in this case, these fees go to pay for amenities and maintenance in your own community or condo building.

How much are HOA fees?

To cover these property maintenance expenses and repairs, homeowners associations collect fees or dues (monthly or yearly) from all community members. For a typical single-family home, HOA fees will cost homeowners around $200 to $300 per month.

HOA fees can be lower or much higher depending on the size of your house or condominium and the services provided. The larger the homeowner area, the higher the HOA fee—which makes sense, because the family of four homeowners in a three-bedroom condominium is probably going to be using the common facilities more than a single resident living in a studio condo.

Many HOAs pay property managers to oversee maintenance and deal with other real estate–related property issues. HOA fees might also include insurance payments to cover common areas.

HOA fees are usually divided into two parts: One portion goes toward monthly expenses, and the remaining money goes into a reserve fund. This reserve fund serves as a safety net, to be tapped for emergency expenses that arise when natural disasters or vandals strike—or just the unavoidable wear and tear. They’re also used to cover long-term repairs and replacements such as roofs, plumbing, and exterior paint.

It’s important to note that HOA fees do not cover property taxes. And taxes are not necessarily lower on a condo compared to a house.

What is an assessment?

Be aware that when your community is hit with extreme maintenance expenses—like a flood in the underground parking lot due to a broken water heater or a pipe bursting—homeowner insurance will cover some of it, but whatever’s left will have to be paid by your HOA.

Typically in these cases, the HOA will tap the reserve fund, which may become depleted as a result. Or the association may not have enough in reserve to cover necessary expenses. In either case, your HOA board may require you and your fellow homeowners in the community to pay a special assessment bill above and beyond your monthly HOA fee.

For example, if the elevator in your condo building goes out and it’s going to cost $15,000 to replace it—but the HOA reserve account holds only $12,000—you and the rest of the residents are going to have to pony up at least an additional $3,000 in dues, divided among you, to make up the difference. And yes, you as a resident still have to contribute your share of dues, even if your property is on the first floor.

Luckily, though, these assessments are typically temporary until the reserve is back up to a comfortable level.

HOA rules: What to expect

All HOAs have boards made up of homeowners in the complex who are typically elected by all homeowners. These board members will set up regular meetings where owners can gather and discuss major decisions and issues with their community. For major expenditures, all members of the HOA usually vote, not just members of the board.

In addition to management of the common areas, homeowners associations are also responsible for seeing that its community members follow certain rules and restrictions. These rules will be spelled out in the covenants, conditions, and restrictions, or CC&Rs.

What are CC&Rs? Common restrictive covenants

Simply put, CC&Rs are just the rules you’ll have to follow if you live in that community. Unlike zoning regulations, which are government-imposed requirements on how land can be used, restrictive covenants are established by HOAs to maintain the attractiveness and value of the property.

Restrictive covenants differ from community to community, but there are some you can expect to see:

  • Permissible colors for exterior house paint
  • Minimum property and landscaping standards
  • Types of fencing allowed
  • Types of window treatments allowed
  • Limitations on the type of security lights you can attach to the house
  • Controls on installing sporting equipment such as a basketball hoop in the driveway
  • Restrictions that limit vehicle storage or recreational vehicle parking
  • Curbs on property uses that generate noise or smells (e.g., raising livestock)
  • Rules on commercial or business uses of land reserved for residences


When to review your CC&Rs

After your offer to buy a home is accepted, you are legally entitled to receive and review the community’s CC&Rs over a certain number of days (typically between three and 10). Warning: Some CC&Rs can be hundreds of pages, but given these are the laws you’ll have to abide by, this is required reading that you skip at your own peril.

If you spot anything in the restrictive covenants you absolutely can’t live with, you can bring it up with the HOA board or just back out of your contract completely (and keep your deposit). It may seem extreme, but if this is the place you hope to call home, living with rules that seriously cramp your style may just not be worth the trouble.

Can you change restrictive covenants?

Restrictive covenants, however, aren’t set in stone. They can be contested and changed with a majority vote of the shareholders, aka neighbors in your development. This can work for or against you depending on where you stand.

Bruce Ailion, a real estate agent and attorney for Re/Max Town and Country in Atlanta, says he has seen neighborhoods tighten regulations by issuing fines for cars parked in the streets, bicycles left outside the garage, nonstandard mailboxes, and other potentially petty problems.

“Yes, restrictive covenants keep the appearance of the property up and can prevent eyesores such as wrecked cars, unkempt lawns, and oddball home colors,” Ailion says. But he admits there are times when CC&Rs can be so restrictive that they start infringing on the rights of their residents.

But even in that case, there are things you can do. In January 2016, for instance, when an HOA in Keizer, OR, wouldn’t allow a family to park their RV in their driveway—a necessity for their disabled child—the family fought back with a lawsuit (and won), arguing that the Fair Housing Act requires HOAs to make “reasonable accommodations” for people with disabilities.

The bottom line: Restrictive covenants are meant to protect residents, but they can be changed if they’re out of line.

What happens if you violate HOA rules or can’t pay your HOA fees?

First off, rest assured that most lending institutions take the HOA fee into consideration when they write up your mortgage. In other words, they evaluate your monthly income compared with your monthly expenses, and they won’t make a loan on the desired property unless they feel you can safely cover everything: your mortgage payment, taxes, and HOA fees.

But life happens. If you lose your job or are unable to pay your HOA fees, you might be able to work something out with the HOA board. Be sure to talk to the board before you miss even one payment.

If you break your HOA’s rules, the consequences could be severe, and potentially, HOA management could evict you from your property. Fall too far behind on paying HOA fees, and the penalty could be the same as if you fail to make your mortgage payments.

Bob Tankel, a Florida attorney specializing in HOA law, says the board may have the right to foreclose on your property.

Pros and cons of an HOA

Home shoppers weigh a laundry list of factors before purchasing a home. Location, price, size, and style are all taken into consideration. But for some, a home in a community with a homeowners association could either sweeten the pot or be a major deal breaker.

“I have had clients who specifically want this type of situation, and others who refuse to buy in a community that has one,” says Bill Golden, an independent real estate agent with Re/Max Metro Atlanta Cityside.

Want to know what makes buyers swing one way or the other? The following insights will illustrate the best and worst qualities of HOAs and help you decide if living in this type of community is right for you.

Pro: HOAs maintain common areas

HOA maintains common areas
HOA maintains common areas like the pool.


Your community’s HOA will be responsible for handling all maintenance of common areas and repairs for the amenities outside your home. It’s perhaps the biggest perk of living in an HOA community.

“Based on maintenance fees collected, an organized HOA maintains a comfortable balance in their fund to offset maintenance costs or unexpected issues that need to be fixed,” says Drew Scott of HGTV’s “Property Brothers” and co-founder of Scott Brothers Global.

An HOA’s level of involvement varies and might depend on the type and size of the community.

“The HOA will take care of the common areas like the pool, clubhouse, walking paths, or other amenities that provide value to the residents,” says Mark Ferguson, a Greeley, CO–based real estate agent and investor.

Sure, homeowners already taking on a mortgage may hate coughing up more money for HOA dues. But they actually let you off the hook for a ton of home maintenance work. So before you start kvetching, consider all that HOA fees can do for you.

Pro: HOAs help keep uniformity

HOA helps keep uniformity
If they were supposed to look different, they’d be built different…


Each HOA has its own declaration of covenants, conditions, and restrictions, or CC&Rs, which explain what homeowners can and cannot do—this includes streamlining the appearance of each property.

“Your neighbors can’t paint their house bright purple or put an unsightly addition on the front of their house,” Golden says. The CC&Rs make sure “the community retains the look and feel of the way it was built.”

Other common no-nos are parking vehicles on the lawn or keeping inoperable vehicles in the driveway.

“You won’t have to worry about that one neighbor that has decided to let his front yard grow into a wild jungle,” says Golden.

Pro: HOAs help homes retain their value

“Ultimately, the HOA helps the homes within the neighborhood retain their value,” explains Patrick Garrett, real estate broker at H&H Realty in Trussville, AL. “When there are rules and guidelines governing how homeowners should keep their property’s appearance, it helps keep the neighborhood looking desirable for the consumers perusing the neighborhood in search of a new home.”

Pro: HOAs mediate problems on your behalf

HOA can mediate disputes between neighbors
HOAs can mediate disputes between neighbors, like lawn care matters or who looks better in plaid.


An HOA can also reduce conflicts and unpleasant exchanges. If your neighbors haven’t cut their lawn in several weeks, or decide to turn their driveway into an auto repair shop, you don’t have to confront them, because the HOA will. When anyone is engaged in activity that violates the CC&Rs, the HOA sends a friendly notice and follows up with a stern warning.

“A reasonable HOA is like heaven,” says Ailion. Several years ago, he represented a builder of family homes that were sold to investors; with no restrictive covenants in place, the community looked terrible two years later. By contrast, a nearby community that had instituted an HOA to oversee lawn care and home exteriors was thriving.

“Those properties looked like new, and year after year, the gap in price between the two communities has grown,” he says.

But HOAs come with some distinct downsides, too:

Con: Those pesky HOA fees

If you move into an area with an HOA, membership is mandatory, and so are the monthly or annual fees. Plus, “the fees can change, based on decisions that you don’t have total control over,” Golden says. “Fees can also be a detriment to resale, if potential buyers don’t want that extra cost in addition to their house payment.”

Con: There’s a lot of red tape

Building that new second-floor addition will be especially difficult in an HOA community.

Any exterior modification—even a minor one like a play area for your kids—has to be approved by the HOA.

You must submit plans describing the height, colors, location, shape, and materials to the HOA board for approval.

“This can really slow down the process or limit the type of work you can do,” Scott says.

Ferguson says the approval process can be downright unreasonable.

“It once took my HOA nine months to approve a basketball hoop that had already been approved by them for the previous owners,” he says.

Con: HOAs can be overbearing

Remember those CC&Rs? While they come in handy for preventing rowdy college students from moving in, they also might be off-putting for homeowners who like their autonomy.

“Many folks believe that buying your own home should give you the freedom to make the changes you want to make and express your own individuality,” Golden explains. “They don’t want decisions about their own home made by a committee.”

HOA-mandated restrictions can be set on swimming pools (e.g., in-ground swimming pools can be built in the back of the house, but above-ground pools are prohibited), pets (e.g., they are allowed, but they can’t be bred or kept for commercial reasons; livestock or poultry are not allowed without permission), and rentals (e.g., you might be prohibited from renting out rooms or the entire home).

In extreme situations, some HOAs can evict the tenant and hold the homeowner responsible for any eviction costs or any damage caused by the tenant.

Just keep in mind that an HOA’s goal is not to meddle; it’s merely to maintain a neighborhood aesthetic. However, if you don’t like being told what to do with your home, living under the bylaws and rules of an association may not be for you. Make sure to read your CC&Rs carefully and weigh the pros and cons of any particular HOA before you buy.


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Hate cleaning your house? No one could blame you: There’s precious little fun in scrubbing toilets. Or wiping down grime-streaked windows to the point where your elbows are sore for weeks. And you probably cringe when you think about your living room’s floor-to-ceiling built-in shelves, whose upper levels haven’t seen a dust rag since Tony Soprano faded abruptly to black.

Enter the humble housecleaner—here to save you from yourself! You can hand over your most hated tasks and wash your hands of cleaning.

But if you’re hiring a housecleaner to do the hard work, don’t make the job even harder. Following these insider tips from cleaning experts will not only help ensure your status as a decent human being, they can also help you save some cash.

Here are seven tips for keeping your cleaning from turning into a dust-up.

How Much Does an Average House Cleaning Service Cost in 2022?

1. Precleaning will save you money

If you’re anything like us, you probably do a little precleaning for your housecleaner. And then, if you’re like us, you wonder how much of that is truly necessary—after all, that’s what the housecleaner is there for, right?

Here’s the deal: You should do whatever you can to help them help you. No, you don’t need to bust out the Clorox, the Shark vacuum, and the Miracle Mop, but you should tackle those dirty dishes, throw out the takeout containers, and pick up that pile of clothes. If you don’t, you may find that your wallet’s been cleaned out, too.

“Picking up clutter does make our job a lot easier,” says Megan Sentner, the manager at Greenapple Cleaning in Ottawa, Ontario. “That being said, we have no problem picking up clutter as long as the clients understand that it takes more time and costs more.”

Think it all comes out in the wash? Let us do the math for you: If your housecleaner charges you $30 per hour (the average rate) to clean, then a half-hour spent decluttering will cost you an extra $15—or $390 for a year’s worth of twice-a-month cleanings. Instead, straighten up the night before and save that cash for something else.

2. Give specific directions

Unless you’re ordering a top-to-bottom scrubbing every week, your cleaners need direction. Is the bathroom looking a little grungy? Ask them to spend extra time on the shower. Request extra attention to your baseboards. Sic them on your son’s room, now that he’s finally off to college.

“If they don’t leave full instructions, there’s a chance they’ll be disappointed,” Sentner says.

If you’re new to the world of professional housecleaning, you might not know exactly what your home needs most. Most maid services will happily stop by for a consultation so you can learn exactly how dirty you are.

3. Deal with your pets, please

Your dog runs in terror when you turn on your Dyson, so why would you leave it home alone when all the floors are getting vacuumed? Not all pups need to be boarded during housecleaning, but if you already know your pet hates strangers or loud noises, at least put it in the backyard or a comfy crate.

“We don’t mind having pets in the home while cleaning, but some pets don’t like having us there,” Sentner says. “It’s stressful for our team members to have a dog barking for three hours.”

Aggressive pets can also mean your house doesn’t get cleaned: Housecleaners aren’t expected to sacrifice their own safety to clean your home, and if they’re faced with an angry animal, they might have to bail on the job, Sentner says.

4. If you wouldn’t touch it, they won’t either

Yes, housecleaners will scrub away that nasty buildup around the bottom of your toilet seat. But they also have a limit: They won’t pick up your dog’s poop.

Or—and yes, Sentner says it’s happened—yours.

“Sometimes there are expectations that we can clean it, but we don’t,” she says. “We don’t expect our team to handle any waste above the usual cleaning of the bathroom or the toilet.”

4 Essential Etiquette for House Cleaning Tips

5. Allot the proper amount of cleaning time

Don’t feel ashamed if your house is in dire straits. Life happens. Work picks up, a kid or two comes along, and suddenly you have no time for more than the bare minimum. Cleaners (probably) won’t judge you—but you should expect the job to take a bit longer.

Be honest with your housecleaners about the home’s current state so they can allocate enough time on their schedule.

6. Use an insured cleaning service

Housecleaners can’t avoid touching your most valuable belongings—Grandma’s heirloom teapot needs dusting, too. But sometimes accidents happen.

The best way to ensure the safety of your precious possessions is by selecting an insured cleaning service. It’ll have provisions in place to quickly rectify the situation.

“If we made a mistake and caused damage, it’s our responsibility,” Sentner says.

Bu it’s your responsibility to make sure things are in line and prepared for your housecleaner’s visit. That includes removing any truly priceless valuables—and making sure your home (however dirty) is a welcoming environment.

7. You’re not entirely off the hook

Hiring a housecleaning service doesn’t mean you can skip all of the cleaning. Well, sure: You probably can, if you’re willing to pay for the service to do the basics every time it comes by. But if you want to cut costs, make sure you try to keep up your home’s appearance in between cleanings.

“Minor maintenance can be the difference between us cleaning for three or five hours every two weeks,” Sentner says.

Simple DIY tasks include wiping down the front of the cabinets after cooking, squeegeeing the shower, and sweeping the kitchen floor. Integrating them into your day-to-day routine can save you a few bucks on your bill.


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When you buy a home, there are usually a flurry of things you look forward to in your first winter season—like watching the snow fall through your living room window, snuggling up next to a crackling fireplace, and even making snow angels in the front yard.

But some of the things you may discover during your first winter of homeownership? Well they might just bring you crashing back to reality.

In my case, when we bought our 1920s suburban New York home, we had some pretty rude awakenings. Here are my four biggest takeaways to help new homeowners navigate their first winter without a hitch.

Brrr! 4 Nasty Surprises You May Face Owning a New Home This Winter

1. High heating bills

Don’t make the mistake I made and assume fuel costs will be equal to what the sellers paid.

“If the previous owner of your home was a senior resident, your heating bill might be significantly higher than advertised. In some areas, seniors get discounted energy rates,” says Erin Dunlap, a Denver-area real estate agent who specializes in flipping homes and blogs about home improvement at List in Progress.

How to prepare: “Call the utility company in advance to see whether past bills were discounted so you know what to expect when winter heating bills arrive,” suggests Dunlap.

If your new home’s heating bills are higher than expected, consider investing in a smart thermostat with additional room sensors.

“You’ll be able to adjust the zones of your house based on timing and usage, and you can easily adjust the thermostat when you’re away from home,” Dunlap says. “Plus, some energy providers offer rebates for switching to a smart thermostat.”

2. Frozen pipes, hoses, and other plumbing problems

“Having grown up in Southern California, winter freezes are not something that I ever worried about, so we used to leave our garden hoses hooked up year-round,” says Brittany Hovsepian, owner of The Expert Home Buyers, a real estate solutions and investment firm in North Augusta, SC. “After moving to a colder climate, we quickly found out that isn’t such a good idea when winter comes. Water can freeze in the hose and then back up all the way through the house, causing major plumbing damage.”

How to prepare: Research the typical winter weather in your new neighborhood (you’ll find temperatures and precipitation averages) and then act accordingly. This may mean changing some habits, as well as having items like snow shovels and ice-melt products on hand.

If you have pipes that could freeze, consider insulating them. And if you have one of those gorgeous long and winding driveways, finding a private plowing service may be a necessity to avoid being snowed in.

3. HVAC maintenance

You may believe that just because you had a home inspection prior to closing on your home, everything is running smoothly in terms of mechanicals. But your house’s heating system may still need some TLC. For example, dust can accumulate in ducts, and furnace filters need regular changing. All of this affects your home’s efficiency and safety.

How to prepare: “If your local HVAC company offers a tuneup of your heating system, pay the money,” advises Jameson Tyler Drew, president of Anubis Properties in Whittier, CA. “The motors and boards of heating units sit unused for months at a time, accumulating dust. This can clog fan intakes and short out controller boards, which can be more than $1,000 to replace.”

Plus, by getting an HVAC checkup, “you are eliminating a significant fire hazard,” Drew explains. “If dust and dirt stop a heating fan from moving while the controller continues to send electricity to the motor, you can at best blow out the motor.”

4. Fireplace flameouts

Apparently, I’m not the only new homeowner to be blindsided by fireplace issues. Although our home inspector recommended we get them cleaned,  it didn’t seem that urgent. As it turned out, they were caked with creosote—a toxic, flammable residue. Removing it required us to hire a chimney sweep.

“When new homeowners face the first winter in their new home, [one common issue that can arise] is a failed fireplace due to not having it inspected by a dedicated professional,” says Jason Gelios, a real estate agent with Community Choice Realty in Birmingham, MI, and author of “Think Like a Realtor.”

How to prepare: While your home inspection might not have made it seem urgent at the time, you can still get a dedicated fireplace inspection after you move. A professional chimney sweep will do what it takes to make everything clean and safe to use during the winter. So schedule service ASAP. You definitely don’t want to miss that first cup of cocoa by the fire in your new home.


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When you think of the most design-forward room in your home, does the bathroom come to mind? For most of us, the answer is a resounding NO. In fact, unless you’re lucky enough to have a spa space with a free-standing tub and a rain shower, rarely do bathrooms go down in history as the most meditative or creative spaces.

But bathrooms can, in fact, be creative works of art just as much as (if not more than) your other interiors.

That’s why, for this week’s Instagram decor lineup, we chose to highlight five beautiful bathrooms with distinctive decor touches that showcase the potential of these humble rooms.

Whether you’re hoping to bring some unique charm to a sterile bathroom or personalize your plain powder room, the following suggestions offer something for everyone. Here are five bathroom trends we’re loving right now.

1. Washed-stone backsplash

When the usual subway tiles aren’t cutting it, turn instead to a more rough-hewn natural tile like the ones seen in this washed-stone backsplash from @reallivingmag.

“A washed-stone backsplash embraces nature and its perfect imperfection,” says designer Lauren Byington, of Warren & Lauren. “This look is a synthesis of nature and modernity. Adding organic elements like a washed-stone backsplash can offer a soft yet impactful element to your bathroom.”

Get the look: Incorporate some impossibly sweet organic elements into your bathroom with this antique stone mosaic tile.

A gallery wall is often something we expect to see in an entryway or living room—not so much in a bathroom. But the unexpected quality of this look from @themaximalistdreamer is one of the reasons it holds so much charm.

“Bathrooms have moved far from bland and sterile,” says Byington. “Now they can carry a lot of personality and be a representation of who we are. Why do so many people get their best ideas in the shower? Bathrooms can be a place where creativity heightens. Pay homage to this notion with a bathroom gallery wall.”

Get the look: Follow this tutorial for tips to create your own bathroom gallery wall.

3. Wall-mounted faucet

Speaking of unique surprises, one of the best ways to achieve a custom look in your bathroom is by installing a wall-mounted faucet—just like we see in the look from @kerrieann_jones_stylist.

“I love the extra space on the vanity that these fixtures offer,” says designer Ana Cummings, of ANA Interiors. “Wall-mounted faucets can be both functional and highly decorative. They’re often paired with a show-stopping vessel sink and incorporated into the wall design. The number of metal finishes that these fixtures come in can really add to and elevate the design.”

In addition to the placement of this bathroom faucet, we also love the trendy brass finish.

Get the look: Create more usable space on your bathroom vanity with this Duchess antique brass wall-mounted fixture set.

4. Jute hamper

No stylish, well-designed room is complete without an element that adds texture and warmth to the space. This jute hamper from @bramleyandbear offers style and function. If you have the space, we recommend grabbing one ASAP.

Not only can a jute hamper serve as a catchall for laundry and towels, but it can also soften up the appearance of an otherwise shiny, cold bathroom.

Get the look: Soften up your space with this boho-style hamper.

5. Striped shower tiles

Looking to go above and beyond with the creative expression of your bathroom? Consider a shower tile arrangement like this one from

“Stripes stand the test of time,” says Byington. “Using them creatively, especially to define a space like the shower and add a decorative feature to the space, is brilliant.”

Get the look: Find shower tile in complementary colors, then follow this tutorial to create a perfectly striped shower.


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Do you ever wish your kitchen could be a bit more than just a functional, meal-prep room?

Sure, you want ample counter space and all the latest kitchen gadgets. But maybe you also want a dash of decor that feels authentically you—a perfect piece that conveys the same warmth and quirk as a professionally-designed kitchen (without the designer price tag).

Glow-Up Your Kitchen With These 5 Whimsical Looks Under $200

Enter the creative genius of Instagram’s biggest decor tastemakers, who can help you bring just the right amount of whimsy into your kitchen—all for under $200.

1. Hooded gold sconce

Great lighting is a key component to amping up the cozy factor of any kitchen. And there’s something about a metallic-finished sconce, like this one from @thekitchendesigngroup, that brightens up a space in more ways than one.

“Choosing a brushed gold finish for fixtures in kitchens is very on trend,” says designer Courtney Wollersheim of FLOOR360. “Homeowners continue to gravitate to warm neutrals, and nothing enhances a neutral palette like the glow of a golden light fixture. The hooded sconce is a classic element that exudes a vintage vibe and creates visual interest in a modern kitchen.”

Get the look: Bring on the warmth with a few of these ultra-affordable brass wall sconces.

2. Reclaimed kitchen rafters

If your kitchen lacks a bit of vintage charm, then adding in a few (non-structural) rafters like these from @carterfamilyranchhome might be just the thing.

“Reclaimed wood rafters are an excellent choice to add a touch of warmth in a sleek modern kitchen,” says Wollersheim. “Wood rafters hit two trends—bringing the outside inside and seeking out eco-conscious design solutions for the home. Deep wood grains and knots in a reclaimed look are the most desirable because they add the most character.”

Get the look: Follow this DIY to create your very own wood rafter look on the cheap.

3. Farmhouse sink

For a kitchen upgrade that truly checks all the whimsy-meets-function boxes, look no further than this farmhouse sink from @interioryesplz.

“The farmhouse sink, a classic design from long ago, is perfect for today’s kitchen,” says designer Susan Serra. “Its form adds a visual focal point to the sink area, an ’embrace’ of the sink itself. And its function allows for a deeper and wider sink. In addition, having virtually no ledge between you and the inside of the sink makes using the sink much easier.”

Get the look: Upgrade your sink with this classically designed farmhouse basin.

4. Sheer curtains

Whether you’re looking to enhance your kitchen’s privacy or amp the airy vibes (or both), these sheer curtains from @ekaterynagonchar are a great place to start.

“Finding ways to add softness to the kitchen is on everyone’s minds now as we spend so much more time in the kitchen than before,” says Serra. “Textiles soften all the kitchen’s hard surfaces and are exactly what’s needed for kitchens of every size.”

Get the look: Soften up your space with these gorgeous sheer curtains from West Elm.

5. Tuck-away table

Looking for another fantastic addition in form and function? This perfectly-sized pullout table from @my_homely_decor is just the kind of whimsical quirk we love to see in kitchens.

“Kitchens with multi-functional design elements are very much on trend,” says Serra. “A pullout table can function as a rest spot for a cup of tea, a chopping block, or a supplementary countertop. The pullout table looks lovely with its wood top and expands the function of the kitchen.”

Get the look: Add a little tuck-away table to your kitchen with this simple DIY.


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While homebuyers haven’t had much (or any) room to haggle amid the seller’s market that’s reigned for the past two years, a new report offers some indisputable proof that those days are officially over.

A recent survey by and HarrisX of 449 Americans who sold their home in the past 12 months reveals that sellers aren’t driving as hard a bargain today as they have in the past. In fact, they’re giving into buyers’ requests on a number of things that might have seemed unthinkable just months ago.

“Our survey shows that the overheated housing market of the past two years—which predominantly favored sellers—is beginning to regain a sense of normalcy, which is welcome news for homebuyers,” says George Ratiu, manager of economic research at “The combination of higher mortgage rates and prices have noticeably cooled demand over the first half of the year.”

There was a time, not so long ago, when buyers were afraid to even ask sellers for any additional terms in their favor.

“The sad truth is that during crazy bidding wars, if buyers asked for concessions, they risked losing the home to others who were willing to forgo term changes or contingencies,” says New Hampshire real estate agent Josh Judge.

That’s just not happening anymore.

While we never expect to hit a perfect balance, let’s take a look at some of the survey’s numbers that indicate the scale is evening out a bit for buyers.

Buyer Bargaining Power Is Back: Survey Reveals 5 Shocking Things Sellers Cave On Today

31% of buyers in July paid below asking price

Surprise! Research shows that almost one third of sellers in the last month actually dropped their prices below asking.

“As more homeowners have been listing their properties, rising inventory is motivating more of them to resort to price cuts in order to successfully close transactions,” says Ratiu.

As recently as March, the research shows that only 18% of sellers sold below asking price.

32% of sellers dropped the price because the home didn’t meet appraisal

Meeting appraisal” means your bank or lending institution does an estimate of the value of the home you intend to buy, and if that appraisal shows the house is worth what you offered for it, it will “meet appraisal.”

But if the house doesn’t turn out to be what you offered for it in your bank’s estimation, you have what’s called an “appraisal gap.” At this point, you must consider a number of options, including coming up with all cash so you don’t have to deal with the bank at all, or increasing your down payment so the bank only loans on what it considers the property to be worth.

A third option is for the seller to cut the price so it’s more in line with the bank’s view. But that didn’t happen very often a year ago, since there was almost always a cash buyer waiting in the wings to pounce.

The fact that almost a third of sellers today are dropping their prices to accommodate the appraisal is a very good sign indeed for buyers.

92% of sellers accepted some buyer-friendly terms

Buyer-friendly.” Don’t you love the sound of those words? Unfortunately, they’ve been used all too infrequently over the past two years.

So you’ll be pleasantly surprised to hear about some of the buyer-friendly terms sellers are now more willing to entertain. They include sellers agreeing to contingencies in the contract, such as the appraisal, home inspection, home sale, and financing. Sellers are also increasingly paying for some or all of the buyer’s closing costs; and are more flexible on the timeline for closing.

95% of sellers who sold in the past month reported that the buyer requested a home inspection

That’s up from 82% of those who sold 6 to 12 months ago. That shows that buyers are growing bolder, and they wouldn’t ask if they didn’t have some expectation of a seller accepting their requests.

A professional home inspection is always a good idea for homebuyers, but during the housing market’s peak, many waived this important step in order to be competitive with their offer.

100% of sellers offered to make at least some repairs when asked

A little over two-thirds, or 67% of buyers, asked for repairs, usually after the inspection came in and found the home lacking in some way. Only 31% of buyers dared to ask for repairs six to 12 months ago.

And get this: The average amount that recent sellers spent on repairs prior to listing was $14,163, according to the survey. That’s not peanuts.

Sellers still have some advantages

Despite this gradual shift in buyers’ favor, there’s still a degree of good news for sellers—such as some homes continuing to sell at lightning speed.

The survey reports that 22% of people who sold within the past month said their home went under contract in less than a week. That is up, believe it or not, from 14% of the people who sold six-to-12 months ago.

And don’t assume home sellers are unhappy with this turn of events, either. “At the same time, it’s worth noting that the majority of recent sellers are still satisfied with the outcome of their home sale,” Ratiu says.

In a perfect world, both buyer and seller are happy with their transaction, right?


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Okay, so it’s official. A lot of people want to move to the Portland suburbs. (Not to mention the ever-increasing number of restaurants within city limits that are opening up suburban offshoots.) Home prices, walk scores, days on market—all of that is a good indication of what a place is like, but to really get to the heart of the matter, you need a quick vibe check. We’ve already summed up Portland’s many neighborhoods in 25 words or less; now it’s time to give the booming burbs the same treatment. (Want more detail? Check out our handy neighborhood guides.)


Downsides: The traffic on 26, plus one of the most competitive real estate micro-markets in the region, but you get what you pay for, and in this case, that means worldly eatsNike’s world HQ, and the area’s best Trader Joe’s.


Saddled with that paper mill aroma and not ready for a Michelin starred chef’s food, but design-forward public schools, river breezes and views, and quick access to some of the best swimming holes in the metro area.


Best for those who need to commute to Salem but still want to live near Portland or those on the golf-and-retiree circuit; dahlias for days (at least in late summer and early fall, when they peak on Swan Island.)


If you want to live in wine country but can’t stomach the 99-E traffic; plus get first dibs on the crop at Unger Farms, among the state’s best berry farms. Bonus? Houses here are a little cheaper than the closer-in suburbs, and you’ll likely get more land to boot.


You won’t find many fans of so-called Portland creep around these parts but look past the Greater Idaho bandwagon crew to find a hippie, vegan-friendly bakery and an essential local brewery or two.


Low home prices make this one of the best places in the metro area to buy a starter home, but those sensitive to noise pollution should beware of the constant take-offs and landings at nearby Portland International Airport.

Forest Grove

The rural roots of this commuter town persist, even with the advent of Pacific University and a textbook “quirky downtown”; still, you’ve got easy access to Henry Hagg Lake and a slew of off-the-beaten path wineries via Route 47.  


Excellent Clackamas river access with a raucous—be careful!—party scene to match on hot summer weekends, plus less hoity and toity (and less expensive) than some of its cross-river neighbors (we’re getting to you, West Linn.)


This quintessential Eastside suburb copes with some very big-city problems, but it’s also super-diverse and on the come-up, given the destination library that’s about to get built within its boundaries; median home prices have risen 58 percent here in the last five years, so get in while you can.

Happy Valley

Despite the name, mandatory cheer is not overtly enforced in this sprawling, somewhat anodyne Portland burb; houses out here are generally of the new/newer variety (the average home to sell there in 2021 was built in 2009, according to research compiled for Portland Monthly by Portland State University), and median home price sales have hovered around the $600,000 mark of late.


The ’boro never quite lived up to the Silicon Forest hype, but its run-of-the-mill suburban presentation (it was once home to the world’s largest Costco), is pleasantly complicated by good transit access, some lovely parks, and lots of sleeper-hit food.

Lake Oswego

Affluent families flock to the burb that surrounds its titular man-made lake (sadly off-limits, unless you’ve shelled out for a coveted—and expensive—easement) for lauded public schools and a straight-from-Gilmore Girls downtown strip.

Maywood Park

A snug little city-within-the-city—there’s a mayor, but police and fire are outsourced—buyers are drawn to the stock of midcentury modern houses here (average year built of homes sold last year: 1947) and homes here get snapped up in about two weeks, give or take.


A bit of a stretch to call this a Portland ’burb, since the acknowledged capitol of Oregon wine country is at least an hour away in traffic, but in the new remote work era, you too can live near one of the state’s most hotly anticipated restaurants and among the vineyards and twisted politics of Yamhill County.


Buyers who are priced out of Sellwood often land here, just over the Clackamas County border; the city boasts excellent transit connections, the twee-ly named Trolley Trail bike path, and a very fine weekend farmers’ market.

Oregon City

Welcome to the OC! No? OK, fine, at least we can tell you that though median sale prices have cooled off here recently, that’s only after climbing a torrid 49 percent since 2016, with buyers drawn to bigger lots in what’s almost but not quite an exurb.

Sauvie Island

The closest you’ll get to a Kinfolk magazine spread come to life is in this pastoral slice of land surrounded by water and populated by bucolic farms, though good luck trying to get on or off the island during pumpkin patch season, when the roads resemble LA rush hour.


The ancestral home of former State Sen. Betsy Johnson, now helming a quixotic gubernatorial campaign, but is this small town—which feels like it belongs more in Douglas or Coos County rather than 45 minutes from Portland—ready for a turn in the spotlight?


Also known as the last traffic lights before you hit the open road to wine country, Sherwood is horse country, home to a surprising number of stables and equestrian centers (plus, a lot of homes out this way have enough acreage that people can keep their own horses).

St. Helens

Everyone knows this quiet little burg comes alive in October when it capitalizes on the runoff fame from having been the location of Halloweentown, but it’s also where you will find some of the lowest entry-level housing prices in the entire metro area, without the traffic-y commutes of the bigger westside burbs.


Twinsies with neighboring Tualatin, Tigard is best known as the home of the mammoth Washington Square Mall, where lurk soup dumplings via Oregon’s only outpost of Din Tai Fung; houses are on the larger end too, with the average square feet of homes sold in 2021 topping 2,000.


Last stop before you hit the Columbia Gorge’s waterfall corridor, Troutdale is a hot ticket for bargain seekers who hit its outlet malls and ski bums who want to cut the winter commute time up to Mount Hood.


See: Tigard. No, just kidding! Though this suburb has plenty of strip malls to its name, it also has one of the most peaceful stretches of river kayaking to be found in the metro area, and the market here is extremely competitive; in 2021, houses here were snapped up in an average of just 11 days, faster than almost anywhere else on this list.


’Couvites would just as soon not make this list, as they prefer not to be known as a Portland suburb, but a city in their own right, and fair enough—certainly, the shiny new development along the city’s Columbia River waterfront has enough bustle to rep a city coming into its own.


More expensive than Vancouver but cheaper than Camas, Washougal is a sweet spot for families, who do their best to avoid the beer-and-tube scene on the Washougal River during the dog days of summer.

West Linn

A perennial second placer behind Lake Oswego for the title of Portland’s toniest (read: most expensive) suburb, placid West Linn is known for well-regarded public schools and powerhouse high school sports teams, as well as straightforward views of a distant Mount Hood.


As Tigard: Tualatin, so is Wilsonville: West Linn; they are sister cities, though homes here are slightly less pricey, (they’re also more likely to be newer—the average home here was built in 1999, vs in 1974 for West Linn) and you’ll have to drive further to commute into Portland.

Wood Village

Yes, this is where you turn off of I-84 for the McMenamins Edgefield concerts, but it’s also one of the last affordable bastions of Eastern Multnomah County; the median sales price here in 2021 was $370,000, comfortably below the metro area’s level (though maybe not for long—homes here have appreciated 68 percent since 2016).


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