Make your living room a clutter-free zone


The living room is the center of comfort and the place everyone in your house gravitates towards. The worst thing about the living room is that it can also be the place everyone drops of their shoes, clothes, blankets and whatever else they with them. The mess eventually tends to pile up. Rest assured though, here a few tips to make and keep your living room a clutter-free zone.

Install storage space

The living room is known for piling up clothes, so prevent it from landing around the room by installing a rack or opening a closet where visitors can put their coats, hats and other belongings. Having a basket in a corner can also help be a designated drop off zone for footwear. Remind everyone in the home where things go to create habits.

Manage your coffee table

Your living room coffee table is part of what ties the room together, but it is also victim to forgotten mail, magazines, and newspapers. After a few days, a coffee table can rack up piles of unread papers. Go through your stack and get rid of the old and keep just a few of the important items and new magazine issues. Buying a small basket to store them in will help remind you when to flush out the old with the new.

Remove excess furniture

Although your furniture looks beautiful cramming too many things into the living room can take away from the overall look of the space. If you’re squeezing in or shifting your body to get past furniture it might be a good idea to find another place for it. Keeping furniture to a minimum will open up the living room and showcase the pieces you do have.

New Decorating Ideas for the New Year


As the new year is now upon us we like to change up our lives in preparation for the new year. Many of these changes or resolutions focus on the bettering of ourselves. To improve ourselves and our lives we must start with the home we live in. Having the right feelings about our homes is important to our inspiration and motivation. The holidays may have taken a toll on our bank accounts, making it hard to freshen up our homes for the new year. Here are a few ways in which you can easily change up your home for next to nothing.


Accents with Impact

There is nothing easier than sprucing up your home with accent pillows and throws. Buying new furniture for each easy is unrealistic, but adding pillows to a couch or chair can change the whole aesthetic of the room. These pillows can add a pop of color to a neutral colored couch. You can layer and add pillows to fit the dynamic of the room. Also being able to change of the look of the room with each season is a plus. Adding runners to the heaviest foot traffic areas will save on wear and tear of the flooring along with adding feng shui.


Deck the halls

Painting a room can also change the way a room looks. Even choosing to paint one accent wall can bring a room to life. When choosing a color, pick neutral colors that can easily be matched when you look for new accent pillows and throws. Warm, neutral colors usually go best with pops of color with accent walls. Wallpaper is not only for your grandmother’s house, today you can find any different, modern patterns. Wallpaper is an easy alternative to paint, which can make your home look like it’s straight out of a magazine. You can also use the wallpaper to line the backing of a bookshelf.


Turn on the Lights

Since the new year occurs in the dead of winter, sunlight is minimal. Proper lighting can transform a whole room. You decorated your home with a holiday light show, now it’s time to translate that into a year-round look. Add additional lamps to poorly lit areas. The trick is to incorporate various lighting techniques. A properly lit room may have lighting from above, along with a traditional table lamp and a standing lamp in the corner.  Watch what turning a few lights on can do for a room.


Decorate with nature

Replace the poinsettias and garland with fresh flowers or greenery. Some of the best home decorations come from nature. A new plant or indoor tree can add life to a dull room. If you have a history of killing plants opt for a cactus, which can be nearly impossible to kill, or silk arrangements. Nowadays they come in different arrangements and are indistinguishable from the real thing.

6 Truths You Need To Know About Buying a Home This Winter


Luckily for us here in Southern California, winter means a slightly lower temperature average and a bit more rain. Unlike most of the country, life doesn’t change much once winter months hit. This is true for the real estate market too. While it does tend to slow down a bit, winter is still a great or even better to buy a home, but there are a few things you should know first.

Here is what you need to know about the winter real estate market:

1. Slimmer pickings, but also less competition

It is true, there are fewer homes on the market in the winter than any other time of the year. But this should not deter you from buying this season. While the inventory may be down, so are the number of buyers out looking for a home. This means you, as a buyer, will have less competition.

2. Abundance of starter homes

For first-time buyers, this is the time of the year you should be looking. According to Trulia, the inventory of less-expensive starter homes actually increases by 7 percent during the last three months of the year.

3. FHA buyers are more likely to win a bid

FHA buyers tend to be less appealing to sellers because of their loose requirements compared to those with a traditional loan and bigger down payments. With less competition, sellers are more open to FHA buyers.

4. There go the open houses and bidding wars

A typical open house during the summer can attract 50-100 buyers with a listing often receiving more than 10 offers. In the winter, the opposite occurs. An open house may attract only a dozen serious buyers with one to two offers. If you’re looking for zero competition, stick to the few weeks right around Christmas.

5. Interest rates are still low

The last few years, we’ve been blessed with low-interest rates. Many experts believe that in the new year the Federal Reserve will raise rates. If you’ve been thinking of buying a home, now is the time to do so while rates remain low.

6. Deals are ready to be made

Sellers in the winter are often motivated by some other factor, such as job relocation. Also, homes that have been on the market since the fall are also more susceptible to accepting a lowball offer.

Low-Calorie Thanksgiving Recipe Alternatives


Mash potatoes, stuffing, yams, ham, turkey, and don’t forget the apple, pumpkin, olallieberry, and pecan pie! Just the mere reading of these foods make us salivate. We stuff ourselves until we hate ourselves, we pile our plate up with food, appetizers, drinks and desserts. This is the time of the year where our healthy food habits go right out the window! Not only are we overeating, but we are overeating high-calorie food.

To ease the guilt this year, here are a few lower-calorie Thanksgiving recipes you can create so you don’t gain that those holiday pounds.

Salads and Starters

California Spinach Salad
For a delicious and nutrient defense salad, try this spinach salad.

8 cups fresh spinach leaves
2 avocados
3 handfuls of alfalfa sprouts
2 bell peppers
For the dressing:
1/4 cup plain nonfat Greek yogurt
1 medium lime, juiced
1/4 cup chopped chipotle peppers in Adobo sauce (about 1/3 of a medium pepper)
1 tablespoon fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Pepper, to taste
What to do:
Pile on the desired amount of spinach leaves in a salad bowl or plate.
Slice up the avocado and the bell pepper, and add to salad.
Sprinkle a handful of alfalfa sprouts on top.
Make dressing. There are two ways to do this: If you have a small food processor or blender, throw all of the ingredients in it and pulse until well-combined. If doing things by hand, chop all ingredients very finely and stir until well-combined.
Drizzle over the salad and toss to combine.


“Vegan” Creamed Corn
For those who may be lactose intolerant or the vegans in your family, this is the perfect spin on a classic Thanksgiving favorite.

7 Ingredients
2 cups frozen corn kernels
1 can (15 ounces) coconut milk
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Handful flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon chopped scallions

Combine corn and coconut milk in a saucepan over medium heat, and bring to a simmer. Season with salt and pepper. Cook until coconut milk has evaporated a bit and thickened, about 15 minutes.
Once the mixture has reached the desired consistency, mix in parsley, red pepper flakes, and scallions.
Quinoa and Sweet Potato-Stuffed Mushrooms
Try adding a new dish to this year’s Thanksgiving feast that both vegetarians and meat eaters will love!

4 sweet potatoes, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
3 cups greens (spinach or kale work well)
2 cups cooked quinoa
6 portobello mushroom caps, wiped clean

Heat oven to 450 degrees and line a rimmed baking sheet with foil.
Toss sweet potatoes with oil and salt and pepper to taste on the baking sheet. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, flipping halfway through, until pieces are golden brown and cooked through.
Just before the sweet potatoes are done cooking, remove sheet from oven and add spinach on top. Place back in oven for the last 2 to 3 minutes. Once spinach has wilted, remove pan from oven and cool until veggies are cool enough to handle. Lower oven to 400 degrees.
In a medium bowl, mix quinoa, sweet potatoes, and greens. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
Brush both sides of mushrooms with olive oil, and place gills up on the baking sheet. Spoon quinoa and sweet potato mixture into caps, mounding slightly in the center. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and bake for 15 to 25 minutes, or until mushrooms are cooked through.


Quinoa Apple Cake

Made with whole quinoa, this hearty cake is both naturally sweet and filling.

1 cup quinoa
8 tablespoons salted butter, melted
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
3/4 cup raisins
2 apples, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 cup flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg (optional)
1 teaspoon ginger (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Combine quinoa with 2 cups water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Cook for 10 minutes, or until quinoa is tender. Drain well and set aside.
Dip a pastry brush in melted butter and use it to grease inside of a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan.
Put remaining melted butter in a large bowl, and mix with brown sugar and raisins until evenly distributed. Add apples and cooked quinoa, and stir to combine.
In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and ginger and nutmeg, if using. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and stir to evenly combine.
Scrape mixture into prepared pan and bake for 50 to 60 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean and top of cake is golden brown.
Let cool for 10 minutes in the pan, then turn out onto a cooling rack. Let cool completely before cutting to help cake maintain its shape.

What Today’s Homebuyers Are Looking For

Everyone’s preference is different when it comes to searching for the perfect home. Some care solely about location, while others are looking for a home with an open floor plan. But you may ask yourself, what is the most common selling point in today’s real estate market?

With data pulled from Trulia, we pinned a traditional selling point vs. a modern selling point to see what is more popular. Some may be obvious, while others may take you by surprise.


Soaking Tubs vs. Claw Foot Tubs

Soaking Tubs are actually more popular, according to Trulia.



Hardwood vs. Carpets

Hardwood – this was a bit obvious as most people prefer hardwood floors because they are easier to clean and are longer lasting.




Marble Countertops vs. Quartz Countertops

Quartz – while quartz countertops may initially be more expensive, marble countertops require more maintenance, which can add up.



White Cabinets vs. Dark Cabinets

White cabinets – these help create a bright, lighter, and bigger looking kitchen.

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Subway Tile vs. Basketweave Tile

Subway tile – these types of backsplashes have become very popular over the past few years.


Floor-to-Ceiling Windows vs. Bay Windows

Bay windows – although the numbers were close, bay windows were a more popular selling point.



Sub-Zero Appliance vs. Viking Appliances

Sub-Zero appliances – another close one, but sub-zero took the lead here.



Electric Stoves vs. Gas Stoves

Gas Stoves – This is another obvious one, but gas stoves save money over time and are far better for cooking.


How To Make An Offer That They Can’t Refuse


Let’s say you have found the perfect house and you’re getting ready to put in an offer. You’re starting to picture yourself in your new home and planning how you’re gonna pack up everything and move. Then, out of nowhere it seems, a second offer is placed on your dream home. What are you going to do? You are still going to make that offer, but you’re going to make an offer the seller can’t refuse and this is how.

Find out the seller’s motivation. Anyone who is selling their home has a purpose to do so and if you want to make an offer that is enticing, you’ll find out their motivation. There are three categories in which sellers’ motivations usually fall into, money, a rushed move, and emotional attachment. The best way to go about this is to have your agent call the seller’s agent to find out why the house is for sale. Although your agent may not be able to find out everything it’s worth a shot.

If the seller is motivated by money, be prepared to spend a little extra. Experts say that buyers should be prepared to spend about $100,000 above the asking price in some markets. If you’re the first to make an offer, work with your agent to find out how much homes have recently sold for on the same block. Some sellers today want a buyer’s best and highest offer, at that point, the buyer only has one, maybe two, chances to impress them.

If the seller is motivated by terms that means they want a quick and pain-free sale. In this case, you’re going to have to give up some contingencies, which can slow down the selling process. Many sellers who are looking for a quick sale will offer a home inspection report and if those reports are clean, sellers should waive their right for inspection.

If they are motivated by emotions that means the sellers are saddened by their move. If this is the case it would be best to write a personal letter to the sellers. They may feel better selling their beloved home if they know a little bit about the buyers, what they do for a living, and what their future plans in the home will be.

Now that you know the motivations behind the sale you should act quickly. The quicker the offer the better. If you’re not the first, you better make sure you submit a solid offer in a timely manner. Don’t get too cocky with your offers, submitting an offer that is significantly lower than asking price may irritate the seller and may no longer work with you.

Homeownership Rate Increases Amongst Millennials

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Despite paying for avocado toast, Millennials are actually buying homes and at an increasing rate. According to the Census Bureau, homeownership rose in the second quarter of 2017, with households under the age of 35 rising a full percentage point from the previous quarter. This may not sound like much, but this is the highest increase of any age group.

Millennials have been dubbed the “renters generation” due to the fact they are putting off settling down until later in life. Homeownership likelihood increases by three percent for those with a bachelor’s degree and another three percent for those with a graduate degree. With millennials being the most educated generation in the US, it is no surprise homeownership is up amongst them.

Marriage is another key determinate in homeownership. The rate of homeownership amongst married couples is 30 percent higher than non-married households. Millennials have put off marriage for higher education. It also has been found that homeownership is 1.7 percent higher for households with one or two children and 5.4 percent higher for households with three or more children. As millennials grow older, there may be an increase in homeownership demand.

Job growth and strengthening economy has also helped all generation (including Millennials) with homeownership. The bottom line is that millennials are buying homes at an increasing rate and that is only going to increase further.


Southern California’s Best Beaches You Have to Visit This Summer


If you’re anything like us, the beach is what gives you life. There is nothing like spending a warm morning sinking your feet into the cold sand while taking in the stunning views of crashing waves and scents of sea breeze dispelled in the air. We’re so fortunate to be surrounded by countless, world-class beaches along the coast of Southern California. People from around the world travel thousands of miles just to visit these beaches that sit in our backyard. Here are our top 5 favorite beaches located all within an hour. 

Table Rock Beach (Laguna Beach)


This southern Laguna Beach is only known by locals. Its seclusion is worth the trouble of finding it as it can be difficult if you’re not familiar with the area. If you turn west onto Table Rock Drive from the highway and go one block to Bluff Drive, it will be to your left.


Wood’s Cove Beach (Laguna Beach)


If you’re having trouble finding Table Rock Beach consider Woods Cove Beach, which is just 2 miles north. Nicknamed Lover’s Cove, this sandy cove is surrounded by rocky points and fancy homes. This beach is not for the swimmers due to the rocks but makes for great sunbathing and wave watching.


Dana Point Headlands Beach


Covered with rocks and boulders, Dana Point Headlands Beach is located below the cliffs. Even though the beach is not very far off the beaten path, it seems to be very remote. In order to gain access to the beach, you must go behind the Ocean Institute on Dana Point Harbor. Drive to the very end of the harbor road and park near the Dana Point Pier, you can then walk past the Institute and cross of the jetty. Here you can explore the sea caves until you reach the sand.


Alamitos Park Beach (Long Beach)


Alamitos Beach is located at the far south end of the peninsula next to the channel entrance to Alamitos Bay. There is a small grass area with picnic tables and palms trees, but that far down, there usually aren’t too many people. On the opposite side of the beach, across the bay, you’ll be able to see the Alamitos Bay Yacht Clubs and Ballast Point. To get here, drive south on East Ocean Boulevard to the end at 72nd Place.


Pirates Cove Beach (Malibu)


It wouldn’t be right if we didn’t include a Malibu beach. Although Malibu is a world-class destination, there are plenty of secluded beaches. Pirates Cove Beach is hidden in a small cove just west of Point Dume. You can access the beach from the southern end of Westward Beach (it is tricky during high tides). Westward Beach ends abruptly at a high rock wall with large boulders piled up. Behind the wall is the cove. Take the rugged path behind the boulders if the water is too high to safely walk through.

7 Home Maintenance Tasks You Should Tackle in June


Ah, June. School’s out, the days are long, and the weather’s getting toasty. We get it—your vacation is beckoning. (So’s ours.) But before you slather yourself with SPF 75 and reach for a piña colada, do yourself a favor and tackle a few maintenance projects. A little pain now means a big gain later—you’ll ensure your home runs smoothly through the dog days of summer.

Don’t worry: We’re here to make it as quick and easy on you as possible. With our handy checklist of home maintenance chores, you can knock ’em out and get back to that piña colada, pronto. (We’ll take ours with twotiny parasols, please.)

1. Check your AC

“The last thing you want is a busted air conditioner, so before a heat wave hits, give it a test run for 30 minutes to make sure it’s cooling properly,” says Dave Quandt, vice president of field operations at American Home Shield, a home warranty company.

Shortcut: To extend the life of your AC unit, adjust your programmable thermostat by only 2 to 3 degrees at a time.

Call in the pros: If anything seems off, call in a professional HVAC company. You’ll spend between $100 and $250 for service, which includes cleaning the condenser and lubricating the fan motor. When the outdoor temps go deep into the red zone, you’ll likely consider it money well-spent.

2. Stop mold before it starts

June kicks off a stretch of the hottest months of the year, especially in Southern states where heavy rain is also the norm. All that heat and moisture provide the perfect climate for mold to flourish, says Phil Kuczak, air-conditioning service and installation manager at Best Home Services in Naples, FL.

Shortcut: There’s an easy trick you can use to keep mold at bay: Lower your thermostat.

“Some homeowners try to save money by setting the thermostat at an unsafe high temperature, especially in high humidity areas,” Kuczak says. “The cost savings on the power bill could quickly be far outdone if you end up with a mold problem.”

Also avoid leaving your AC fan in the “on” position (instead of “auto”). This can cause rapid mold growth, especially in high-humidity regions. Here’s why: If your fan is running continuously, then any moisture that’s condensed on your AC’s evaporator coil during cooling doesn’t have a chance to drain off—and it can be blown back into your home.

Kuczak also cautions against trying to limit or increase airflow to certain rooms by shutting supply grills. That can cause condensation buildup, leading to mold growth around those grills and in the adjacent ceiling or wall.

Call in the pros: If you have a mold problem, expect to pay a small fortune for a pro to remove it. Homeowners spend up to $3,200 on average for mold remediation.

3. Prime your pool


Test your pool’s pH levels often to keep the chemicals balanced and your pool safe for swimming. Run the pump daily (one hour for every 10 degrees of heat in the water is a good rule of thumb) to avoid that swampy green color.

Shortcut: If you forget and come home to a green pool, a jug of liquid bleach will clear it up quickly, according to Quandt.

Call in the pros: Don’t want to bother with it? You can hire a pool maintenance company for an average of $243 a month.

4. Eradicate pests

Warm weather draws out all the creepy-crawlies. But you can give summer bugs the boot (or at least keep them at a comfortable distance).


  • Trim shrubs or bushes that touch your home’s exterior (which can harbor wood-destroying insects such as termites, carpenter ants, and powderpost beetles).
  • Swap mercury vapor outdoor lightbulbs with yellow sodium vapor ones, which are less attractive to insects such as mosquitoes, moths, and beetles.
  • Weed thick vegetation and pick ripe fruits and vegetables as soon as they’re ready.
  • Keep bird feeders at least 25 feet from your house—spilled seeds can attract rodents.
  • Stop mosquitoes before they hatch by eliminating all sources of standing water on your property.

Call in the pros: Above all, know when to seek professional help.

“Do-it-yourself pest control for a cockroach or occasional spider can be cost-effective, but it’s not going to stand up when you have a serious infestation,” says Ryan Michel, owner of Defense Pest Control in Mesa, AZ. “Pests can carry bacteria and disease, and some can do serious damage to your home. If you’re seeing pests pop up with frequency—especially if you notice them appearing in the same places—it’s time to call in a professional to help.”

It’ll cost you an average of $178 a month. But hey—you’ll sleep better, right?

5. Service your sprinklers

Service your yard’s irrigation system to save water, prevent damage to your landscaping, and reduce standing water.

Shortcut: Make sure your sprinklers are programmed to follow any local water rationing regulations, and program your system to optimal summer use settings to keep the landscape looking fresh.

Call in the pros: If you don’t know what kind of maintenance your sprinkler system needs, a pro will take it on for $95 to $123.

6. Keep your fridge frosty

It should go without saying that your fridge and freezer are most vulnerable in the summer heat. To keep them running smoothly, clean condenser coils—which help the unit stay cool by releasing heat from the compressor—and be sure to remove dirt, pet hair, and any nasty food that’s lodged there.

Shortcuts: Make the job simple by using a vacuum and coil brush, says Chris Granger, vice president of Sears Home Services.

While you’re at it, tackle the door.

“A leaky door gasket can result in your refrigerator trying to cool the entire kitchen,” Granger says.

Clean the gasket with a mild cleaner, and then check the seal integrity with a solution of soapy water—just like you would do with an inflatable mattress, he says. You can also use the dollar bill approach: Close a dollar bill in the door so it’s half in your fridge. If your gasket isn’t tight enough, it won’t hold the bill firmly in place—the dollar bill will fall out or slide down.

Call in the pros: Most appliance repairmen charge by the hour. Depending on the issue, a refrigerator repair could cost anywhere from $100 and $200 an hour.

7. Pimp your ride (riding lawn mower, that is)

Use compressed air or a leaf blower to clear grass, dirt, and debris that have accumulated in your riding lawn mower. Drain old fuel into an approved gasoline can, and follow hazardous waste disposal regulations to get rid of it. Then, change your oil and filter: Granger recommends letting the mower run for a bit before getting started. If you have a foam air filter, clean it with soap and water, and make sure it’s dry before reinstalling.

Finally, change the spark plugs. “This simple but crucial task will help the mower start smoother and run more efficiently,” Granger says.

Call in the pros: On average, professional lawn mower maintenance and repair will cost $35 to $90, but could increase depending on the complexity of the job and whether new parts are needed.


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Homeowner Tax Breaks to Prep Now to Save Money in 2018


We realize that April 15th has passed and for most of us, our taxes have been filed, but in case you missed it this year, here are a few tax breaks you should be preparing for now.

1. Set up your home office

If your workstation has been on your bed or the lazy boy chair in the den, it’s time you cleared out the guest room and set up an office. This way you can take care of the home office tax deduction in which the IRS will deduct $5 for every square space up to $1500. Remember, you must use this room regularly and exclusively for work.

2. Install solar panels

One of the remaining energy-efficient tax credits still available for homeowners is solar energy.

“You can take a credit of up to 30%, with no cap, on the equipment and installation costs of solar energy panels and solar water heaters you purchase in 2017,” says Jacob Dayan, partner and co-founder of

Just to qualify, solar panels must be used to generate energy or heat for you home or secondary home, not to heat pools and spas.

3. Pay property taxes early

If you have a big tax bill coming this year, one way to offset the cost is to prepay your property taxes. For example, if you receive a tax notice in December 2017 with a due date of Jan. 31, 2018. You should go ahead and pay it in December if you want to deduct the amount from your current year’s income instead.

4. Keep home improvement records

It’s important for all homeowners to keep detailed records of home improvements such as a new roof, new furnace, bathroom additions, or anything that will increase your home’s value. When the time comes to sell, the amount you spent on the home can save you greatly on capital gains taxes.

5. Pay Points

If you plan to buy a home in 2017 or refinance there is an opportunity to save on taxes in terms of points. Also known as a loan origination fee, loan discount, or discount point, it is basically prepaid interest that persuades lenders to give you a lower interest rate on the loan. You can deduct those points for the same year you buy a home. If you refinance, you can deduct them over the life of your new loan, both are good when it comes to tax benefits.