Home renovation trends are constantly evolving. Many homeowners struggle to find the perfect balance, because the rules are always changing. Between creating a home that will sell for top dollar to living in a space that reflects their taste now, it’s a difficult balance to strike. Following home trends just because they offer more profit isn’t relevant if you’re not thinking about selling, right? Conversely, if you’re about to sell it’s not beneficial to ignore home trends in your market in favor of your style. It’s all about where you are in the process. Additionally, as we pick up the pieces of a global pandemic as a society, we are also redefining what home means to each one of us individually – what we want from the spaces in which we create our lives.

The pandemic has forever changed how we look at our homes. Now more than ever, the desire to create an inviting, relaxing, and versatile living area is our main priority. With most of us spending more time at home, we are learning to prioritize our space and customize each home renovation.

Here are the top 5 home renovation trends that homeowners are jumping on to increase the livability and character of their homes:

couple sitting on the floor with home renovation plans

Functional home offices

The most popular update by far has to be the coveted home office. Before the pandemic, you may have had a space dedicated to your computer or an old desk flooded with paperwork. After the pandemic? Creating an organized and inviting workspace has become more important than ever before.

When considering a home office addition or renovation, think of functionality first. (Don’t worry, we’ll get to the aesthetics.) How can you best utilize the space to maximize productivity and get the most out of your home renovation? Set up your office with every detail front of mind.

Ask yourself questions like:

  • Where do I get the best light?
  • Do I want my desk freestanding or against a wall?
  • What do I want my view to be from the chair?
  • What color walls induces creativity?
  • What background isn’t embarrassing when I Zoom with my co-workers?

Transforming a space into a home office that suits your needs is something you can have fun with! If you’ve worked well in coffee shops, maybe prioritize soft, moody lighting with optional seating locations. This also gives you a great excuse to invest in an espresso machine or French press! If you work well in the traditional office setup, perhaps you will gravitate toward clean, modern designs. Regardless of what office style suits you, you can be confident that designing a welcoming space for work will improve your home – and your productivity.

Enhanced outdoor living areas

Although this may be a home renovation trend – this is a tip that will never go out of style. No matter what part of the country you’re in: whether you have year-round sunshine or seasonal windows, investing in your outdoor space is a great idea.

Human beings, it’s proven, function better on a cellular level when we’re regularly exposed to nature. That doesn’t mean only those of us who live on farms or ranches get to enjoy this perk. Hints of green are everywhere! Oaks in your backyard, flower beds, agave plants, and herb gardens, they are all beneficial to your health and well-being. But they’re also great for your pocketbook.

So in order to give your plot of nature the audience it deserves, think about renovating your outdoor space. Larger projects could be the construction or addition of a deck. If you already have one, consider covering it with a trellis to afford more protection from UV rays. For smaller updates, investing in a patio set, outdoor fire pit, or enhanced landscaping are changes that will pay dividends to your happiness and your home sale.

Bringing nature in

While we’re on the topic, the great outdoors aren’t the only place you can enjoy… the outdoors. The pandemic pushed us all to cultivate our interior spaces in a much more thoughtful way. Enter, the biggest home renovation trend of all: the floor plant. We quickly learned a great way to create a calm, zen-like atmosphere inside your home is to emulate the outside of it.

Floor plants add drama and personality to rooms and look particularly striking against a white wall. Smaller vines, hanging pots, and accent plants all add character without breaking the bank. The pops of green are perfect if your taste leans towards the neutrals, but if you favor more colorful, playful designs don’t shy away from plants either!

We don’t need another reason to love indoor plants, but here’s one. They also are great at purifying the air in your home! Studies even show that certain types of plants placed in bedrooms induce better sleep. So what are you waiting for? Go get in touch with your green thumb.

Incorporated technology

Home tech is a great way to blend ease of use, sophistication, and functionality for inhabitants of any home. The best home technologies are ones you don’t immediately recognize because they seamlessly integrate into the home itself.

Although Rings and Alexa’s are now a fixture in most homes, there are many technologies that aren’t as popular and are guaranteed to catch the eye of future buyers. Smart home functionalities like smart refrigerators, smart picture frames, even smart toilets can elevate an everyday experience to an extraordinary one. Mainstays like surround sound and home security have seen wild innovation in the last few years and are practicalities many home buyers would be on the lookout for. But no innovation is in demand quite like energy-efficient homes. Dual toilets, solar panels, smart power strips and rain barrels are just some of the ways you can make your home more green. The more eco-friendly your home is, the more valuable it appears to a modern buyer.

Multi-use spaces

A home design trend that likely wouldn’t have emerged without 2+ years of lockdown is the multi-functional room. You know, the room that used to be a hybrid guest room/storage closet that became essential in the later months of 2020?

Those ‘bonus rooms’ are now anything but – buyers consider them essential to properties worth their investment. These spaces are a great place to get creative: you don’t have to choose between a home gym and a sewing station. Get both! A hideaway desk can hide your sewing machine and investing in sleeker, more practical gym equipment won’t add unnecessary bulk to a smaller room.

Most of us who aren’t Beyonce probably aren’t able to afford a home theater, but that doesn’t mean we can’t get cinema-quality at home! With a little creativity and a well-placed projector, you can fashion a home theater in just a few minutes! When you’re not curling up to watch the latest Marvel movie, use the room as a lounge, den, reading room, or anything else your heart may desire.

Although home renovation trends will come and go, rise in popularity and the disappear, many are classic enough to stand the test of time. None of these home updates will ever result in selling your home for less, so create the space that will attract the most buyers at the highest price point. Who knows? With all that profit, you may have room in your next home to give your indoor plants their own home theater.


For this and related articles, visit Curbio.com

When I started looking for a home during the COVID-19 pandemic, I thought I had a good idea of what I was up against. As a real estate reporter and editor, I was writing stories each week about home prices hitting record highs, inventory shriveling up, and bidding wars going insane—especially in the suburbs where my partner and I were looking.

As first-time buyers, we knew that finding a home outside of New York City wouldn’t be easy. However, we were done with paying what seemed like a fortune in rent for a small apartment in a city that had been largely shuttered and that no longer felt safe. So like many other first-time buyers, we naively believed that as two professionals we would somehow survive the process largely unscathed.

That optimism abruptly evaporated once we made our first offer on a house—and were promptly outbid by about $100,000.

8 Surprising Lessons a Real Estate Editor Learned Buying Her First House

Covering this housing market, I soon learned, was nothing at all like trying to navigate it myself. We suffered crushing disappointments and made more than our share of mistakes.

It took us nine months of scouring the market in three states, touring dozens of homes, losing multiple bidding wars, and rescinding another offer on a fixer-upper that would need more work than we could afford to put in, before my partner and I finally closed on our home late last year—a cute, renovated Cape Cod outside of New York City.

And, now that my homebuying odyssey is over, I wanted to share what I learned—things that no amount of writing about the housing market could teach.

1. Homebuying can take an emotional toll

I always assumed that my years as a reporter covering crime in New York City had made me tough. Someone I was particularly close with had to die before I would shed a tear. But each time we didn’t get a house, I would become a terrible cliche—curled up on the couch misty-eyed.

Meanwhile, my partner’s attitude was that if we didn’t get the house, then it wasn’t meant to be and that something better would come along. This wasn’t what I wanted to hear as I tried to find solace at the bottom of a pint of Ben & Jerry’s.

It wasn’t just the house itself I was grieving; I was mourning the life I thought I’d lost as well. The bright blue house with the big windows was close to one of my old co-workers and his family. If we had gotten that home, it would no longer be an epic trek to get out to his summer barbecues. But that home received 14 offers and was sold for about $150,000(!) over the asking price—a figure we couldn’t come close to competing with.

There was the Colonial with the stunning in-ground swimming pool where I imagined myself lounging by, on the patio with my laptop open, working all summer long. That one went to an all-cash buyer. Then there was the adorable, yellow Cape Cod that I fell in love with the moment I stepped across its Moroccan-tiled threshold. My partner, a trained artist, submitted an original illustration of the home with our offer in an effort to win the sellers over. But we were outbid yet again.

We submitted this original illustration of the home with our offer to show the sellers how much we loved it—but we still didn’t get it.

(Provided by Clare Trapasso)

Finally, another Cape Cod came up for sale in a town we both loved, where we had been renting an apartment until we found our house. The home was recently renovated, located in a great neighborhood, and offered at an attractive price, where we had room to offer more. So we put in our offer.

We waived the traditional home inspection and instead asked for one that would evaluate the structural and engineering components of the home, such as the roof, boiler, foundation, electrical, and plumbing. This meant we weren’t going to back out of the deal unless there was a big, expensive-to-fix issue. Our real estate agent found us a mortgage lender that could close as quickly as an all-cash offer. That helped our bid—one of six—to be accepted.

My takeaway: Don’t lose hope. It wasn’t until our fourth bidding war that we emerged victorious. Something better could be heading your way.

2. You’ll likely have to make some compromises

Finding a home that you and your partner agree on, that’s within your budget, in a desirable location, and where you could comfortably spend five to 10 years isn’t easy—particularly in a highly competitive real estate market with record-low inventory. Just be aware that if, like us, you’re a first-time buyer with limited resources who can’t make an all-cash offer, then the home you end up buying may not have everything you want.

I feel incredibly lucky to have snagged a move-in ready home within walking distance to a train station in an artsy town along the Hudson River. However, it doesn’t have a garage (which won’t be much fun when it snows), central air, or a big backyard for our dogs to run around.

Initially, not having a large yard had been a deal breaker. But the previous owners had turned a corner of the property into a flourishing garden, and there was room to put in a deck without losing much green space. So we compromised. We will eventually add central air and have already made a nearby nature preserve a staple in our dogs’ daily walks. Plus, mowing the lawn should be a cinch this summer.

My takeaway: Figure out your must-haves and would-like-to-haves. Then be open to readjusting your lists, especially if you can add or fix any perceived shortfalls down the line.

3. Buying a home can be terrifying financially

After I came down from the exhilaration of finally having a home within our grasp, reality set in. Everyone we spoke with who had bought a home said they had experienced a moment of financial terror. We were no exception.

Within a few days of our offer being accepted, we were handing an attorney we’d just met what seemed like an obscene amount of money for escrow. That money had taken us years to save. While we believed this house would be a smart, long-term investment, we weren’t wealthy and hadn’t received any family assistance. This cash represented years of sacrifices and side gigs on top of our full-time jobs. And the bulk of it was about to be gone.

Not only that, we were about to sign up for 30 years of fixed-rate mortgage payments. We had crunched our numbers and knew almost down to the penny what we could afford if we wanted to still go on vacation, save for retirement, and manage financially if one of us lost a job. While we would be paying less each month than we did for a previous rental apartment on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, we would soon be locked into a towering debt. We couldn’t just move to a cheaper apartment if something went wrong.

My takeaway: Don’t forget to breathe. As long as you’ve done your homework on finding a home within your means, the panic of laying out so much money will eventually pass.

4. Don’t settle for the first mortgage you’re offered

Once our offer was accepted, the clock was ticking on securing a mortgage, and interest rates were rising fast. So I wasn’t pleased when our main bank offered us only a so-so mortgage interest rate that our lender wanted us to pay thousands of dollars worth of points to secure. (Buyers typically buy points to bring down their mortgage rates.)

A friend had urged me to shop around, since mortgage lenders often match better deals from their competitors.

I found an online brokerage, with no physical locations, that was offering lower rates with no points required, so I applied. When the offer the brokerage came back with was higher than what it had advertised online, I took a screenshot of the ad and asked the brokerage to match it. Then I took that offer to three other lenders with brick-and-mortar locations.

It was stressful since we needed to lock in a lender quickly, but I knew this would save us thousands upfront and thousands more over the life of our loan. To my relief, two of the lenders were eventually able to match the offer. I liked the lender at our own bank so we ultimately went with them—with a far better deal than they’d handed us at the outset.

My takeaway: It can really pay off to shop around.

We were outbid by more than $100,000 on the first house, above, that we put a bid on.


5. Don’t move money around, close bank accounts—or buy a new iPhone

One of the most frustrating parts of the homebuying experience was the mortgage vetting process after we had been pre-approved. It felt like we were being stripped financially bare and then judged for every transaction we had made.

I knew not to open a new credit card or make a large purchase. But I didn’t understand that moving money around between bank accounts to come up with the down payment was problematic. I even made the mistake of closing one account at a bank I rarely used. This seemed to open up a Pandora’s box of dizzying inquiries, requests for documentation, and phone calls with our lender attempting to explain for the umpteenth time that we weren’t money launderers, the cash had come from a different account, and yes, we would include the bank statements to prove it. It was a vexing, blood pressure–spiking process that seemed would never end.

Then, shortly before the loan was approved, my 5-year-old iPhone died. So I bought a new phone through my carrier, agreeing to pay roughly an extra $25 a month until it was paid off. No big deal, right? Not according to my lender, who flagged this as a new debt. This kick-started a whole new debacle before we could get approved. The fact that I could afford my slightly higher phone bill seemed lost on the lender.

My takeaway: Before you even start looking for a house, consolidate the money you plan to use for your down payment and closing costs into one bank account (or two if you’re purchasing with a partner). And whatever you do, don’t finance anything, however small, before your mortgage closes.

6. Property taxes can add quite a bit to your monthly mortgage payments

When my partner and I started looking for homes, we were initially concerned with things like square footage, curb appeal, and living in neighborhoods within walking distance of restaurants, entertainment, and train stations. However, we quickly started paying closer attention to property taxes. We were shocked to learn that similarly priced homes could cost drastically more or less each month depending on those amounts.

The New York City suburbs are notorious for having some of the highest property taxes in the country. The taxes can easily add an extra $2,000 a month—or more—to a monthly mortgage payment for even a modest, older starter home on a small lot.

To put that in context, I have family in South Carolina who pay less than $2,000 in taxes a year.

Even more confusing: Many towns set their taxes differently. Some increase taxes only when homeowners make costly improvements to their properties. In others, taxes are more closely tied to the sale price of the home or appraised values. So when prices rise, so do taxes.

Just one town over from us, property taxes are about $700 to $800 more a month on comparable homes. (We immediately stopped looking there once we found this out.) And both towns share the same schools!

My takeaway: Don’t focus just on the sales price of a home. Factor in the entire monthly payments, which can make a more expensive home more affordable and vice versa.

We submitted the highest offer on the second home we put a bid in on. However, the sellers chose an all-cash offer instead of ours.


7. Set some extra cash aside for your first few months in your new home

Spending my adulthood in city apartments with superintendents who would fix whatever was wrong, I soon learned that owning a house was far more daunting. The home inspector we used explained that our dryer vents would need to be cleared out once a year so as not to start a fire. I had never thought enough about dryers to realize they even had vents.

We needed to have sealant applied to the roof. Our boiler would need to be serviced before winter. The chimney would need to be cleaned along with our gutters. The locks would need to be changed. All of that money was quickly adding up.

And then there was the not-so-little matter of the hideously overgrown bushes in front of our home that looked like they had been fed steroids until they swelled and seemed to take up the whole yard. They had to go. But the quotes we received didn’t mention it would cost an additional few hundred dollars to have the unsightly stumps removed. Sigh.

My takeaway: We hadn’t realized just how much we would need to shell out, upfront, on maintenance and other necessities. Set some cash aside for these unexpected expenses in addition to the ones you know about, like closing fees and furniture.

8. Expect the unexpected

After my partner and I had our closing date, we were feeling pretty good. Our mortgage had been cleared to close, and we’d made good progress on packing up our place.

And then our attorney called: Our closing was going to be delayed.

The sellers, it turned out, were purchasing a property from a couple getting a divorce. And one of the spouses had abruptly decided to blow off her own closing to fly to Spain—with her real estate agent! Our sellers couldn’t move out of their house until the purchase of their new home went through. And that couldn’t happen until this woman returned from Europe.

Our apartment had already been rented out and we needed to be out of it ASAP. The whims of a woman I had never met would determine whether we would soon be homeless. It was the worst possible situation.

After our initial freakout, my partner arranged for us to stay with family for a few days while I looked for a dog-friendly place on Airbnb in case the delay would be longer. I also reserved an inexpensive storage unit nearby for our stuff.

Fortunately, everything worked out. The woman returned and signed the paperwork, delaying our own closing by just a few days.

My takeaway: No matter how prepared you are, you’re not in control of this process. Have a backup plan in place.


For this and related articles, visit Realtor.com

Renovating a fixer-upper is not for the faint of heart. It takes money, hard work, and patience. But if you’re able to pull off a successful transformation, you’ll reap the benefits.

“Fixing up a house is an incredible opportunity, but should never be viewed as a TV show. It’s real life,” says Elizabeth Enright Phillips, a financial coach at Running Creek Properties in Lancaster, OH, who has renovated nearly a dozen properties.

Best-case scenario: You’ll end up building your dream home and increasing the value of the property. But fixing up a ramshackle house can cost a fortune. Unforeseen problems can surface that will make your fixer-upper a real money pit.

When looking at real estate listings, you’ll notice that no two fixer-uppers are the same. One may have sat vacant for a while, another may be in desperate need of a new roof, and another may have a mold infestation. Each of these scenarios will cost money to rectify, but some situations are more manageable than others.

To help you out, we tapped experts to identify the features and characteristics you should look for in a fixer-upper, to make the renovation go much more smoothly. On your hunt for that hidden gem of a fixer-upper, keep your eye out for the following signs.

What to Look For in a Fixer-Upper: Signs the Home Isn’t a Money Pit

Strong structural elements

A solid structure is ideal for any home, but it’s especially critical when you’re buying a fixer-upper. If the home has a crumbling foundation or serious roof problems, you’ll have to decide if you’re willing to pay to repair this type of damage.

These are the five important structural elements:

  1. Roof
  2. Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC)
  3. Plumbing
  4. Electrical
  5. Foundation

Mike Coughlin, owner of Summit Design Build in Stoneham, MA, says you can get a good idea of the house’s structure by exploring the basement, attic, and unfinished areas. Focus on those areas rather than the pretty, recent additions to the home.

“You want to look at the basement rather than the granite counters and new bathroom fixtures. All of that shiny stuff is really easy to fix,” says Coughlin, who is working on a nearly 300-year-old home that he bought with his wife, Francine. “The stuff behind the walls is what’s more important. As long as the bones are good, you can pretty much do anything.”

Only minor plumbing problems

There’s a good chance that your fixer-upper will need plumbing work. Depending on the scope of the project, the work will be either a quick fix or a significant undertaking that will eat into your budget. Some fixer-uppers may have low water pressure (fairly minor problem), while others may have pipes that need to be replaced (a big problem).

Before buying a fixer-upper, make sure you’re comfortable with the amount of plumbing work required to bring the place up to snuff.

That said, you shouldn’t immediately flee any fixer-uppers that need plumbing work. If you really love the house, it’s all about balancing costs and diverting money from one project to another.

A sound layout

A logical layout is important in any home (no one wants to walk down a long hall to get to the guest bathroom), but it’s especially critical when you’re looking at an old home. Older homes are often divided into small rooms, but many people in this decade favor an open floor plan.

“The entire family wants to be connected; no one wants to be stuck back in the kitchen when everyone else is hanging out. With an open floor plan, there is no separation between the zones of the house,” says Jean Brownhill, founder and CEO at New York City–based Sweeten, which matches people who have major renovation projects with general contractors.

If you envision needing to knock down walls to create a more open, airy interior, know that the job can be expensive, time-consuming, and dusty.

Little to no infestations

It’s not uncommon to encounter a fixer-upper that has an infestation, be it mice, termites, mold, dry rot, or asbestos. A minor issue such as mice can be resolved by putting out traps and filling holes in the house. However, severe termite damage could require a costly solution, including lifting the house (yes, right off the ground) to access the foundation and check for further damage.

A seller is required to disclose such infestations, but a home inspector will also uncover any issues during the inspection that may occur after the house goes into contract.

If you find any of these problems in your fixer-upper, it’s a good idea to get an estimate from a contractor to resolve the issue.

Recent occupation

Buying a foreclosed home that’s sat dormant for a few years might get you a low sale price, but it may also present a challenge when you start renovating it.

“You never know what’s going on with plumbing behind the walls,” Coughlin says of homes that stand empty for an extended period of time. Maybe the water wasn’t turned off properly in the winter, which can cause the pipes to freeze, split, and leak.

A home without humans can also become a refuge for critters such as squirrels and bats.

“We have found dead mice and rats and a live mother possum feeding her two babies in attics,” says William Begal, president of Begal Enterprises, a disaster restoration company in Rockville, MD.

All of these problems can be fixed—they’ll just add more to your bottom-line costs.


For this and related articles, visit Realtor.com

Q:Between the increases in mortgage rates and prices, it’s so hard to afford a home now. Should I max out my budget?

Don’t do it.

10,712 Mortgage Calculator Stock Photos, Pictures & Royalty-Free Images -  iStock

Granted, it’s hard not to buy a home at the top of your budget when prices have hit record highs and mortgage rates are climbing—especially if you fall in love with a particular property and get into a bidding war over it. But I urge you to think it through, because going all-in on a home at the edges of what you can afford is a big gamble. It’s a risky financial move at a time when inflation is soaring and the housing market appears to be shifting.

If you’re hit with an unexpected medical expense or your car breaks down, you might not be able to pay all those bills, along with the high mortgage. Even if nothing financially devastating happens, you don’t want to become house poor. You likely want to have enough left over every month to put some savings aside for emergencies, vacations, retirement—or even just those summer music festivals.

The rule of thumb that is buyers shouldn’t spend more than 30% of their income (before taxes) on housing. That includes property taxes and home and private mortgage insurance. Buyers with high child care, medical, or other costs might want to spend even less.

That means if you earn $100,000, you shouldn’t spend more than $30,000 a year—or $2,500 a month—on housing.

Keeping to your budget might seem impossible in today’s housing market where prices keep shooting up toward the sky and increasing mortgage rates are adding significantly to the cost of purchasing a home. Buyers might no longer be able to afford larger, turnkey homes in more desirable areas.

So what’s the inflection point? Some buyers will have to compromise on the size and the features they want in a home as well as where it’s located. They might consider moving to a more affordable market. Others might be forced to wait until prices or rates—or even both—come down. While this doesn’t look likely at the national level in the near future, the housing market is adjusting as the higher mortgage rates are putting a limit on just how high prices can go.

Those who aren’t in a rush may want to wait to see how the housing market shakes out. More homes are going up for sale, and some real estate agents report bidding wars are dying down. Some parts of the country are already seeing prices dip a little as the housing market may be entering into a correction.

Inflation is making it more difficult to budget your money

You’ve probably noticed that your grocery bills are higher, energy bills have soared, and you’re paying more to fill up your car.

It’s difficult to plan for inflation, which is eating into the bank accounts of just about every American. And that makes it harder to figure out a budget—and how much you can comfortably afford each month for a mortgage.

That’s why my advice is to give yourself as much financial wiggle room as you can. You may already know that if you’re moving from a small apartment to a larger house, you’ll be paying significantly more for electricity and heating and cooling costs. But energy costs are expected to rise 50% this year—and could be even higher.

And while homeownership costs are more fixed than rent, property taxes can rise (and likely will due to record-high home prices). Condo, co-op, and homeowners association fees can also go up.

Just because you can afford to make your monthly mortgage payments today doesn’t mean you’ll be able to do so next year if your other costs rise. So try to leave enough for rising costs when you’re putting together your budget.

Maintenance and repairs cost more than you think

Maintaining a home isn’t easy, nor is it cheap. If the roof springs a leak or your home develops a rodent infestation, you can no longer call your landlord to come over and fix it.

A week after my partner and I purchased our home, the boiler flooded a small area in our new basement. It was easy enough to clean up and fortunately didn’t cause any damage. However, it signaled there was a problem that needed to be fixed. Two days and more than $500 later, a part was switched out in the boiler and the problem was solved.

Two months later, a heavy, wooden closet door in our guest room fell off of its ancient rolling track and came crashing down in the direction of myself and my 13-pound dog. The dog ran behind a nightstand, and I stepped back just in time to avoid impact. We emerged unscathed. The nightstand wasn’t as fortunate.

Replacing those closet doors wasn’t cheap. Neither were the furniture, rugs, blinds, and everything else we purchased to outfit our modestly sized house. And then there were the tree removals, the gutter cleanings—and all of the things we never had to worry about before we bought a house.

Don’t forgo vacations and retirement, or forget about emergencies

Maybe you love (or aspire) to travel the world. Maybe you’d like to retire early (or at all). Or maybe you just want to avoid financial ruin if there’s an unanticipated emergency.

If you’ve kept your mortgage payments, and the rest of your expenses, at reasonable levels, then you’ll have a better shot of navigating the challenges—preferably while sipping something fruity as you lounge on a scenic beach in January.


For this and related articles, visit Realtor.com

A Victorian house sounds like it comes from the Victorian era. And the Victorian era conjures up images of women in corsets and hoop skirts lounging on fainting couches. But where? In a Victorian house, of course. But what exactly is a Victorian house? Even some people familiar with the term aren’t exactly sure what distinguishes this style of architecture.

Fancy, elaborate, and ornate are a few descriptions that may come to mind, but there’s a lot more history and highlights to this style. Allow us to elaborate on the pros, cons, and costs of these lovely homes and help you decide if this house style is right for you.

What Is a Victorian House? A Home Fit for Romantics

A brief history of Victorian architecture

As you may have guessed, Victorian homes were introduced during Queen Victoria’s reign (1837–1901) in England. Beauty over practicality was the prevailing design aesthetic of the time, and houses of the era reflected those same ideals.

It also helped that the Industrial Age had brought many innovations in architecture and construction to make such home decor possible: Power tools and mass production made fancy porch treatments and complicated trim widely available.

Although Victorian-era hoop skirts have gone the way of, well, hoop skirts, Victorian architecture has managed to maintain a steady appeal to this day. While this style is most popular in New England and the South, it can be found in all parts of the United States and around the world, appealing to anyone who’s bored to tears by spare, simple surroundings and longs for a more florid, precious, even feminine setting.

“Victorian homes almost have a dollhouse quality to them,” says Cheryl Zarella, a real estate agent in Bedford, NH. “There is so much architectural detail that goes into one.”

What defines a Victorian house?

There are various styles of Victorian houses, including Italianate, Gothic Revival, and Queen Anne. However, Zarella explains, these are some of the typical features in all Victorian homes:

  • Distinctive ornamental style
  • Lively color schemes
  • Asymmetrical shape
  • Extensively detailed woodwork
  • Ceiling medallions
  • Exquisite hardwood flooring
  • Copper and tin ceilings
  • Typically, three stories
  • A wraparound porch

While the floor plans for Victorian houses are highly varied, many have a central hall or an L- or T-shaped layout, which emphasizes rooms with special functions(e.g., formal dining rooms, parlors, and sitting rooms for entertaining).

While many have square or rectangular floor plans, they are often adorned with setbacks, wings, and bays that make the layout complex. Some Victorian houses were even built with octagonal or round floor plans.

Famous Victorian homes

If you’re still not able to picture what a Victorian House looks like, just watch an episode of “Full House.” Yep, the Tanner home is a perfect example of a Victorian home with its multiple levels and ornate features.

It’s just one of seven San Francisco Victorian home styles known as the “The Painted Ladies” for their colorful exterior paint colors. But there are actually quite a few groups of “painted ladies” in other cities, including Toledo, OH, and New Orleans.

Other famous Victorian houses include the Gingerbread House in Savannah, GA, and the Wedding Cake House in Kennebunk, ME. Some have been gorgeously restored and preserved, while others have been updated and modernized.

Pros and cons of Victorian homes

Victorian homes tend to be more expensive than other simpler homes such as Cape Cods and ranches.  They’re typically bigger in size, because they have more floors, and the architectural details increase the price as well.

Though bigger in size overall, Victorian homes do tend to have smaller bedrooms and smaller closets. Also, the upkeep and cost of repairs can add up. Lead paint and asbestos can also prove problematic, as they were both used widely during the Victorian era. Yet if this all sounds like more than you’d like to handle, take heart that plenty of Victorian-style homes are merely inspired by this old style of architecture but lack the problems of authentic Victorian homes. Consider it the low-maintenance option to this high-maintenance style.

Bottom line: While some may find them too busy or problematic, if you are a romantic at heart and want to feel a bit like royalty, a Victorian home could make you swoon.


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Older homes have plenty of charm, but they also have their inconveniences: drafts, slanting floors, closed-in kitchens, and tiny bathrooms. The way we live now is just different. So if you’re considering updating an older home to incorporate modern comforts, there’s something appealing about just doing a gut renovation and starting with a clean slate. Then you can finally create your dream home exactly as you see it in your mind.

But while in general you want to get rid of outdated, inefficient features, you should hold off when it comes to certain unique architectural details.

“Architectural features that give homes distinct character should be left intact,” advises Patrick Garrett, a broker and owner at H&H Realty in Trussville, AL. “There are home buyers looking for homes with unique features and older homes with character and charm.”

If you’re lucky enough to own a home with historic flair, here are some of the elements that you should endeavor to preserve.

1. Molding

Photo by Precision Homecrafters, LLC

The traditional look of molding is so popular that it’s even found in most newly built homes. If your older home already has these original elements, rejoice!

“On the inside of the home, the first things we salvage are the staircase, window trim, and crown molding,” says Thomas Kenny, co-founder of Scott Simpson Design + Build in Northbrook, IL. “The original molding, in particular, gives the home character and is usually crafted from high-quality materials that will stand the test of time.”

2. Exposed brick

Photo by Old Hillsboro Building Company

Before you take a sledgehammer to your exposed brick walls, consider this: Many homeowners are actually stripping away their bland drywall to expose the beautiful brick behind it.

“You should not remove exposed brick, because it lends a unique architectural element that brings texture and a rustic vibe to a space,” says Laurie DiGiacomo, principal designer at Laurie DiGiacomo Interiors in Ho-Ho-Kus, NJ. In many homes, the exposed brick serves as a focal point in the room.

3. Columns, exterior trim, and siding

Photo by Michelle Jacoby, Changing Spaces

There’s a lot of character in the exterior of an older home.

“When working on historic renovations, we always try to maintain the structural integrity, which means keeping a few elements like columns, exterior trim, and siding intact, because those are impossible to replicate,” says Kenny.

A historical porch with columns may be the home’s most notable exterior feature.

4. Built-in bookcases and window seats

Photo by Peterssen/Keller Architecture

These space-saving features add charm and functionality to a home’s interior.

“Built-in bookcases are highly functional, but they also allow one to artfully arrange objects and books,” says DiGiacomo.

And she considers window seats an amenity that could tug at future buyers’ heartstrings.

“They are one of those features in a home that instantly forces you to imagine living in that home,” she says. “The minute someone sees a window seat, they immediately fantasize about relaxing and curling up there with a good book.”

5. Stained glass

Photo by Shed Brand Studios
Upgrading windows is a usual part of any reno—but think twice if those windows are made of stained glass. Original stained glass is pretty rare, and that increases the desirability factor, according to Jonathan Self, a real estate agent at Center Coast Realty in Chicago.

“Once you come across [stained-glass windows], you will remember them for a lifetime,” says Anastasios Gliatis, CEO at Anastasios Interiors in New York City. “They also provide a spiritual, peaceful feeling, since they are identified with churches.”

6. Fireplaces

Photo by HSH Interiors

A fireplace used to be necessary to generate heat, but now it can help generate interest in your home.

“Fireplaces are always a great addition to your home, and older fireplaces come with rich details and rare stones,” Gliatis says. As a result, they create a focal point when walking into the room.

7. Solid core/paneled doors

Photo by HomeStory Doors of Chicago

The doors in your older home are nothing like the variety at the big-box store down the street.

“Old solid-core doors, and often their metal elements like doorplates, are real gems,” says Self. “You can’t buy these with any amount of money, because the craftsmanship it takes to make them doesn’t exist anymore.”

Paneled doors with brass knobs and hinges are definitely worth keeping, Gliatis adds, because this type of hardware can be hard to find and is quite expensive.


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Elaborate. Eclectic. Flamboyant. These are just a few of the words used to describe the Victorian era’s popular Queen Anne house style. When San Francisco’s iconic row of Painted Ladies along Alamo Square Park was pictured in the opening credits of TV sitcom “Full House,” it introduced wider audiences to these majestic homes. The “ladies” are among the city’s most popular tourist attractions. All hail the queens!

How can you spot a Queen Anne Victorian?

“Think gingerbread trim, towers, turrets, and wraparound porches with multi-angled roofs and fancy lead-glass windows,” says Tera Vessels of San Diego Vintage Homes.

Queen Anne homes come in varied sizes, shapes, and decorative styles, and can be found in cities, suburbs, and rural areas throughout the U.S.

What Is a Queen Anne Victorian? An Ornate Style of Architecture With Historic Roots

A brief history of Queen Anne Victorian architecture

Victorian homes are named for Queen Victoria, who ruled Britain from 1837 until her death in 1901. You may be wondering, how can an architectural style be named after two queens? Queen Anne ruled more than a century before Queen Victoria, from 1701 to 1714.

In fact, Queen Anne Victorian homes were built during the latter part of Queen Victoria’s reign, from 1870 to 1910. The style was developed by architect Richard Norman Shaw in the 1860s in England. But even he wasn’t quite accurate in naming the style, which took inspiration from the Elizabethan and Jacobean eras that predated Queen Anne.

In any case, in America, Queen Anne architecture really took off in the last two decades of the 19th century. American architect Henry Hobson Richardson built the first Queen Anne home in the U.S. in 1874—the Watts Sherman house in Newport, RI.

Characteristics of Queen Anne Victorian architecture

Queen Anne homes are asymmetrical, with highly ornamented facades and more than one story. The Queen Anne style is all about decorative excess, with a variety of surface textures and materials like patterned brick, stone, wood, and occasionally stucco. Sometimes more than one material is used.

The homes usually have varied rooflines and trims, different types of shingles, and colorful palettes. There are stylistic subcategories as well, which range from the gingerbread-like Spindled Queen Anne to the more formal Free Classic Queen Anne.

Since Queen Anne homes encourage freedom of expression and creativity, it’s hard to find two homes that are exactly alike. But here are some typical features:

  • Turrets, towers, and balconies
  • Steep roofs with intersecting gables
  • One-story wraparound porches
  • Windows designed in different patterns, sizes, and styles with leaded or colored glass
  • Rooms hidden in towers, bays, and dormers
  • A fireplace or two, typically in the center of the house, by the kitchen, or in the dining room

Famous Queen Anne homes

queen anne beach house
The Beach house is a Queen Anne Victorian in Escondido, CA.


In addition to the Watts Sherman house and the Painted Ladies, the Carson mansion in Eureka, CA, is considered one of the best examples of Queen Anne style in the U.S. The 18-room, three-story, fairy-tale house, completed in 1885, is said to have inspired the clock tower on the train station at Disneyland.

“There are a few really fine ones located in San Diego County,” says Vessels. “One very famous one is the Beach house, circa 1896, located in the Escondido Historic District.” It’s currently for sale for $2.5 million; it was previously listed at $3.3 million in January 2019.

The Beach House was originally built for real estate broker and insurance salesman Albert H. Beach and his wife. It is a 2.5-story house with four bedrooms and three baths.

Pros and cons of owning a Queen Anne Victorian

As beautiful as Queen Anne homes are, the eclectic style may not suit all tastes. Those in the market for a Queen Anne should consider the advantages and disadvantages of living in and/or owning this type of property.

Although the intricate detailing is part of the appeal of a Queen Anne home, the incredible level of craftsmanship means the cost of maintaining and/or restoring one can be considerable.

“It may be challenging to find a skilled craftsman familiar with the style of architecture,” says Jennifer Hibbard, co-owner of Twins & Co. Realty in Arizona.

Vessels says that some people may have issues with the house’s smaller rooms (the open floor plan was definitely not a thing back then), fireplaces located in the dining room, skinny and high windows, and doors that are taller than standard. But she advises homeowners to resist the urge to make major changes, adding that the worst thing a homeowner can do is to overly modernize a Queen Anne home.

“They are solid houses. Most remaining ones were built for well-to-do people and have wonderful history,” Vessels says.

However, she does believe in new foundations, modern plumbing, electricity, and functional kitchens.

“Just do it in a way that makes sense,” Vessels says. “Work with the house.”


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The real estate market has never been better for sellers. Over the past year, the low housing inventory and record-high prices gave most sellers the opportunity to make big profits quickly. Homes typically sold in one week and received full asking price, according to the National Association of Realtors®’ 2021 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers. And of course, bidding wars pushed up home prices.

But if we look at the other side of the coin, there are droves of buyers who are having to deal with a very competitive—and often frustrating—housing market. The same study from the NAR found that 35% of homebuyers purchased their home for above the asking price.

In times like these, it’s tough for buyers to compete—and even harder to stay positive.

“Homebuyer fatigue is very common right now,” says Chase Michels, a real estate agent for Compass Real Estate in Chicago. “My team sold 45 homes last year, and the most common buyer we worked with made offers on three to five homes and missed out on the first few.”

Things may seem especially hopeless for first-time homebuyers.

“As home prices increase, generally first-time buyers are hit hardest because they have no previous home on which to draw equity,” says Jessica Lautz, vice president of demographics and behavioral insights at NAR. “Furthermore, in the current environment, these buyers also face soaring rent prices and high student debt balances, which makes it extremely difficult to save for a down payment.”

Buying a home is already an emotional process, but having to deal with so much disappointment can be freakishly stressful. For a little bit of perspective, we turned to real estate experts with decades of experience who have seen crazy cycles like this one. They shared tips on how buyers can stay positive, make smart decisions, and get one step closer to landing the right house.

Homebuyers, Here’s How To Stay Positive in Today’s Crazy-Competitive Seller’s Market

Get pre-approved for a home loan

Your first order of business (if you haven’t already done so) to show you’re a serious buyer is to find a lender who will pre-approve you for a home loan.

“Get pre-approved for a mortgage,” says Nik Shah, CEO of Home.LLC in California’s Marin County.

In addition to helping you be realistic about your price range, it also shows you have a commitment from a lender to finance your purchase. When sellers review your offer and see that you are pre-approved, they’ll be more likely to accept your offer over another buyer who doesn’t have pre-approval.

Tell everyone you know you’re looking for a house

If you’re looking for a house, shout it from the rooftops.

“You should reach out to your personal network and even put out the word on social media,” says Bill Samuel, co-founder of Blue Ladder Development in Chicago. “You’ll be surprised how many potential homes you can find that way. And if you have a personal relationship with the seller, or know someone who does, it will improve your odds of getting your offer accepted.”

Be open to a rent-back agreement

An under-the-radar way to land a house is to be empathetic to the seller’s needs. Often, sellers are in the process of closing on a new home themselves, but that timeline might not align with your purchase of their house. Therefore, they might require a rent-back agreement, which would allow them to live in the house for a set amount of time after closing.

Essentially, they would be your temporary tenants and would have extra time to close on their new home and pack up.

“Often, just being flexible in the offer and allowing the seller a certain amount of time to close the sale can be very helpful,” says Marie Bromberg, a licensed real estate salesperson with Compass in New York City.

Invest your sweat equity

If the house needs work but has good bones, roll up your sleeves.

“Home prices are inflated, but there are still ways to find a really good deal,” says Jordan Fulmer, a real estate investor with Momentum Property Solutions in Huntsville, AL.

“Look for a house that needs some work. Even though most homes are selling for astronomical prices, houses that are not list-ready due to necessary repairs or updates may struggle to sell and allow you to buy them well below market price,” adds Fulmer. “By putting in some sweat equity into a fixer-upper, buyers can stay within their budget while still ending up with a beautiful home.”

Wait it out

You never want to make a hasty house purchase or buy any old home just because you’re sick of losing out to other buyers. If you’re having trouble buying a house right now, our experts recommend waiting it out. As painful as this may sound, if you can sweat out your current living situation, or rent another place for a year, you may end up with a better house in the end.

“This is currently the lowest supply of home for sale in history,” says Michel. “These are unprecedented times, so if you don’t need to move urgently, then don’t. In 12 to 18 months, things could look much different for buyers. If you have the option to rent, you should consider it.”


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The backyard landscaping ideas you choose aren’t just about keeping the neighbors from complaining about the mess. Your backyard should be an oasis, a place where you want to spend time. But while most homeowners pine for a green patch of land to call their own, once they’ve got it, they very rarely visit the place.

While outdoor living spaces topped the 2015 Home Design Trends survey by the American Institute of Architects, UCLA’s “Life at Home in the Twenty-First Century” study showed that adults spent less than 15 minutes per week out in their yards (even kids log in just 40 minutes).

Perhaps the reason you aren’t in your yard isn’t due to laziness; it might merely be because you have nothing to do there. That’s where an infusion of backyard landscaping ideas could help.

“You need a legitimate reason to go out there,” says Chad Bostick, a Huntsville, AL, landscape architect and member of the American Society of Landscape Architects. So before you start putting your backyard landscaping ideas into action, take stock of how you like to spend your free time. If growing green things is your passion, then your yard should be filled with vegetable and flower gardens. If listening to lapping water soothes you, then a water feature is a must. If you can’t take the sun, plant shade trees. If kicking a soccer ball around with your kids is your “together time,” create a level lawn where you can play. Build a purpose into your yard and suddenly you’ll be out there. All. The. Time.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, here are some backyard landscaping ideas to consider.

An outdoor room

If you’re more of an “indoor type,” never fear. Many of the things we once thought were possible only indoors can easily be brought to the open air thanks to the latest rage of creating “outdoor rooms.” We’re talking about spaces where you can enjoy the creature comforts of, say, your living room, only in your yard. So if you love to read, create a reading nook with a truly comfy couch and ample lighting for the evenings. If epicurean pursuits are your thing, keep reading.

Bring the indoors outside
Bring the indoors outside


An outdoor kitchen

Outdoor kitchens are the biggest thing since the McRib. And why not? No one wants to stay cooped up inside when everyone else is living it up in the great outdoors. And while having a whole kitchen might be overboard for many folks, more reasonable options might be just to have a minifridge and countertop next to your barbecue grill.

Get cookin'
Get cookin’

(Ozgur Coskun/iStock)

Fire up a fire pit

Yessssss. Who doesn’t love the idea of sitting around a blazing fire pit, the (literally) hottest new addition to your yard? This backyard landscaping idea is pretty easy to DIY, and it will extend your yard’s hours by keeping the area lit and warm long after dark. Break out those marshmallows and ghost stories for a good time.

Fire pit
Fire pit


Fountains, ponds, and water features

If you’re looking for the calming sound of running water, you can go small and install a solar-powered tabletop fountain in your garden or on your deck; or you can go all out and install a pond or pool in your backyard. Remember, all water features must have either a pump, aerator, or wiggler to keep the surface moving to prevent mosquitoes and other disease-bearing insects from breeding.

An aquatic garden
An aquatic garden


Grow some gardens

Gardens are a no-brainer in backyard landscaping. But ponder what you really want before you start landscaping: Do you want a four-season garden that provides color year-round? Or a cutting garden that fills vases with brilliant blooms during summer and spring? Think hard about what you want to grow, then pick an area of your yard that will be its best home. Some perennials, such as the black-eyed Susan, crave six or more hours of sun a day, while hostas that spike blooms in midsummer are happy in shade. You can even build a butterfly garden that will attract these winged creatures.

Ideas around a patio or deck

A deck is the perfect place to survey your backyard and kick back in it without even having to put on your shoes. Plus, a deck will generally net you a 75% return on investment when you decide to sell. If you go the stone patio route instead, just know that during the summer the stone can heat to pizza oven temps. So, think about where you’re placing your patio or deck before deciding on what material you’ll use. These days, porous pavers are popular on patios because they reduce runoff by allowing water to soak through, and keep the area cooler in summer.

Plant trees

Mature and well-maintained trees can add thousands of dollars to the value of your home. Also, placed correctly in your backyard landscaping plan, trees can keep you cooler in summer and warmer in winter, saving money on energy bills. Take time choosing trees. If fall foliage is your priority, select deciduous trees like sugar maples and sweetgums. If you want a windbreak, then plant evergreens like spruce. Silver maples make great shade trees. And saucer magnolias and weeping cherries make beautiful focal points in any yard.


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Good bathroom remodel ideas aren’t just about saving you money. They’re also about helping you start your day off right.

Let’s get real: The first room you stumble into in the morning—bleary-eyed, dazed, and yawning—should be a soothing oasis. A bathroom that achieves those lofty heights? That’s a bathroom you can love. That’s why these most special of rooms are second only to kitchens as the areas homeowners eagerly spend time and money renovating—and that catch a buyer’s eye when you’re trying to sell.

Here’s what you need to know about bathroom design, including ideas for tile, fixtures, and more.

40+ Green Bathroom Ideas - The Call Of Nature 2022

Bathroom remodel ideas: Where to begin

But exactly which upgrades are the best, in terms of both usefulness and return on investment—even in a small bathroom? Do you need to start knocking down walls and renovate the entire room, or you can you start smaller?

Before you go nuts with your remodel and install expensive tile, new flooring, saunas, and rain shower heads, check out this second installment in our series “Renovations That Really Pay Off,” for some smarter tweaks you’ll be very glad you made.

1. Reglaze, don’t replace, the tub

“No, no, no—do not put in a new tub,” says Rebecca Knaster, associate broker with Manhattan’s William Raveis. “It’ll cost thousands between the tub and the installation.” Instead, have the tub reglazed for “around $1,500,” which will make it look brand-new.

Matt Plaskoff, founder of One Week Bath, agrees that if the shower and tub area “is in decent shape,” it’s best to concentrate on the front part of the bathroom, which “sets the tone for the space.” 

2. Invest in a new sink

Face washing, teeth brushing, gerbil bathing—your sink sees a lot of use. It’s also the very first thing a buyer notices in a bathroom, says Knaster. A great-looking vanity is also a smart upgrade when considering a bathroom remodel.

“Step 1 for getting the most bang for your buck is a new, contemporary sink,” she says. “It will set you back a few hundred dollars and make all the difference.”

Just note whether the bathroom sink you already have is an undermount (where the edge is below the countertop to create an uninterrupted surface) or overmount (where the sink lip comes up over the countertop), says interior designer Randal Weeks, founder of Aidan Gray Home.

An undermount can be difficult to remove unless it’s under a Formica top. If the sink is adhered to the surface, the top will also have to go, which quickly drives up the cost of a bathroom remodel.

One easy and dramatic sink upgrade Weeks recommends for an inexpensive remodel is replacing separate hot and cold faucets with a sleek single-handle faucet that starts at $70.

3. Go for timeless tile

Bathroom remodel ideas in general should appeal to a broader range of people and provide better return on investment. While natural stone is hot, Weeks prefers neutral tiles on walls and the backsplash for this reason. Pricey stones are taste-specific, he notes, and can give a busy look that’s a turnoff regardless of expense.

In fact, Weeks says one of the biggest issues buyers consider when making offers is the cost of redoing other people’s “bad tile choices.” So go for crowd-pleasing features such as bright white subway tiles, which run a mere 21 cents each. The payoff for this tile remodel?

“You can add $10,000 of value to your home by selecting timeless elements that won’t date it.” 

4. Upgrade your lighting when you remodel

It’s not just Snow White’s evil stepmother and the Kardashians who spend lots of time staring into the mirror on the bathroom wall. For most of us, lighting and lighting fixtures are critical elements.

“Dated light fixtures are a turnoff,” says Knaster. “For no more than $100 you can buy a basic but nice bathroom light fixture.”

5. Install a double vanity

The last thing you need in the morning is a battle with your partner over who gets the sink. It’s no wonder “I’m looking for a double vanity” is one of the most common things heard by Will Johnson, a Hendersonville, TN, real estate agent and founder of the Sell and Stage Team

A double vanity typically costs between $200 and $800, with installation falling around $220, Johnson says—and it’s a wise investment when you’re undergoing a bathroom remodel.

Johnson has clients who “won’t buy a house simply because there’s only one sink in the master bathroom.” Even if you have a small bathroom, strive for this two-sink option.

6. Swap in new fixtures

“Old materials such as bronze can instantly date your bathroom,” says Johnson. To knock out this easy DIY update, simply purchase new door handles, drawer pulls, and towel bars for a bathroom remodel that’s quick, easy, and inexpensive. A nice chrome drawer pull can cost as little as $3, while a towel bar can average $30

7. Get a water-saving toilet

This may not sound like a bathroom remodel idea that will do much—it’s just the toilet. But beyond updating the look of the room, a toilet replacement could save you some serious green and it works whether you have a big or small bathroom.

Old toilets use 6 gallons of water per flush, gobbling up about 30% of all residential water in U.S. homes. Go green when you swap out your throne. New WaterSense models using only 1.28 gallons per flush (e.g., TOTO’s Carlyle II 1G toilet) conserve up to 18,000 gallons of water annually. The initial cost of $974 will shave more than $110 per year off a water bill and add up to almost $2,200 over the lifetime of the toilet.

Bonus: The latest water-saving thrones actually work.

8. Skip the bidet in your bathroom design

Bidets may be considered the Rolls-Royce of toilet upgrades, but most bathrooms simply don’t have room for them. What’s worse: Most Americans have no idea what on Earth these things are and may even be weirded out by them.

“My personal opinion is that our society is not accustomed to this practice and doesn’t see the extra value in them,” says Tracy Kay Griffin, an expert designer at Express Homebuyers, in Springfield, VA. “We haven’t renovated a home yet where we thought it would be a good investment to add a bidet.”

When it comes to your bathroom remodel, just say nay to the bidet.


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