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How Many Men Does it Take…

In my latest batch of photos, there were three that seemed to cry out for this caption. 


How Many Men Does It Take to Light the Candles on a Birthday Cake?

In the first, you see three generations of Woda men taking on the serious task of lighting all the candles on my daughter-in-law’s birthday cake.  Left to right:  Larry, Tim and Tim, Jr.  This wasn’t staged as a photo op… it really did take all of them to accomplish this.  

How Many Men does it Take to Light Christine's Birthday Candles? 

Installing the fan





How Many Men Does it Take to Install a Ceiling Fan?

In the second, we have three contractors plus my husband installing a ceiling fan after J&D Contracting finished removing wallpaper from the stairwell and painting the walls and ceiling.  Dave Ramsey at the top, Jimmy Furr holding the ladder, my husband Larry supporting Jimmy, and Buck (sorry, I don’t know his last name) holding the light.




How Many Men Does It Take to Install a Railing?

Left to right:  Larry, Buck, Jimmy and Dave.  You really couldn’t stage this… I was lucky to have my camera handy!

Installing the railing


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White Really Does Make Your House Look Bigger

Thinking of selling your Crofton home?

Yes, white DOES make a room look larger… but color, even neutral color, makes the white trim look whiter.  Ahhhh, so many choices… no wonder you’re procrastinating on painting your home interior!  (‘Speaking from experience here because that’s exactly what Larry and I did, when it came to our living room.)  How’s a homeowner to decide… Is there a right or wrong choice?

The 2008 Cost vs. Value Report focuses on major upgrades like kitchens,  bathrooms, basements, and even attics in weighing the cost of making a home improvement vs. the return on investment when you sell your home. Yet a far less daunting and less expensive project that will pay off for you in resale is painting (and wall paper removal).

Gotta remove old wallpaper to sell your home!“Neutral sells” has been my standard advice to home sellers through most of my real estate career, but HGTV has helped change that a bit.  Homebuyers have a new appreciation for color that doesn’t necessarily impede a sale.  Yet a neutral color paint and carpet with bright or dark accents is still the better choice for home sellers because any buyer can imagine himself or herself moving in and using their own furniture and window coverings without having to repaint.

So why did I say that “White really does make your house look bigger,” you ask.  Nothing scientific to my answer… I’m just sitting in my living room the day after off-white paint was applied to the stairway, replacing neutral striped wallpaper.  I can’t believe how much bigger it makes the whole living room look and feel!  And, I might add, I never realized how claustrophobic that stairway felt until we opened it up with off-white walls.

Let me say that the best home-improvement investment I ever made was to hire someone else to remove wallpaper in the stairway of our home.  It took three professionals three full days!  Larry and I never would have had the patience to do it as well as they did.    

If you’re thinking of selling your home in the next six months, or before you paint again, consider sticking with neutral for your walls.  And remember, white DOES make it look bigger.  If you simply must have red or another strong color, try to discipline yourself to limit that decorator paint color to one room and go heavy on the white accents in that room. 

(Remember, I’m talking about resale here.  Feel free to enjoy all the color you want while living in your home… just plan to neutralize before you put it on the market.)

I’ve seen paint color mean the difference between a home sale and a price reduction for many home sellers during my four decades of real estate sales in Crofton. 

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Our Area the First to Get Mobile T.V.

Classic “good news / bad news”…

It’s official.  WUSA Channel 9 is going mobile this summer.  So are the D.C. affiliates of NBC and PBS.

Cell phoneYou’ll be able to watch everything from the evening news to CSI or Law & Order to your favorite soap operas and game shows – anything these local network affiliates broadcast, including the ads.  Good news for T.V. fans!  But there’s another side to the story…

It seems that wireless carriers have no plans to offer “Mobile T.V.” because they already offer their own subscription-based TV services.  

D.C. was reportedly chosen as a test market for Mobile T.V. (DTV) because of the area’s “tech-savvy viewers” but two dozen other cities can look forward to the new service by the end of 2009.  Perhaps by that time the wireless carriers will get on board – particularly if their customers communicate a desire for it.

Cell phone carriers could drop the ball on this opportunity, but computer manufacturers are scurrying to develop mobile DTV receivers.  In fact, Dell reportedly plans to show a prototype of a laptop with built-in mobile DTV this week at a Las Vegas trade show for the National Association of Broadcasters.

Stay tuned for more information as it unfolds…

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From Pink to Done in Days

The bathroom renovation in our Levitt-built Crofton home took 12 years to start and 12 days to finish. 

Updating the baths, kitchens, flooring, interior doors, and trim of the 60’s and 70’s-built Crofton homes is either already “done” or on the to-do list of everyone I know in Crofton and Bowie.  Doors and trim are inexpensive, if done over time, and fairly easy to do yourself (as we have) – but kitchens and baths are another story.

As a real estate agent, I know better than most how important these rooms are in resale.  According to the 2008 Cost vs. Value Report, the return on investment is about 75% – but that’s assuming you pay their quoted cost of about $16,000+ for your bath update and $56,000+ on your kitchen remodeling.  We haven’t spent half that, in either case, which means our profit should be about 25%… and we get to enjoy it in the meantime. 

Our bathroom project involved a home improvement contractor moving walls and framing new doors to extend our downstairs bath more than two feet into the hall – not just replacing fixtures and tile – and it still didn’t cost us half of the amount quoted in the report and used for estimating the return on dollars spent.

By the way, if you’re a first-time homebuyer in Crofton, that $8,000 tax credit could be enough for a complete bathroom update in your home.

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How to Save Money on Updating Your Crofton Home

Instead of selling your home in today’s market, why not make your current one better by updating it, as we’re doing with our home.

Pink bathroomDo-it-yourself is the obvious way to save money, but we’ve “been there, done that” over the years.  As first-time home buyers when we bought a brand-new Crofton home in the 70’s, we couldn’t change out the pink bathroom, tile floors, hollow-core doors and other typical Levitt home features fast enough.  And yet we have lived with the original baths in our current home for a decade.

My husband Larry and brother Mike re-did our kitchen, but we decided to hire a contractor for updating the obnoxious pink bathroom (photo on the right).  The choice of contractor was easy for us, since I always recommend J&D Contractors to my clients, who LOVE their work.  Still, paying someone to do home improvements is something new for us, so we wanted to save money another way – possibly the cost of materials and fixtures.

RestoreWith that in mind, we headed to Pasadena to the Habitat for Humanity Re-store that I heard about from my friends Lisa and David Webber.  You’re probably aware that Habitat for Humanity builds homes in partnership with the home’s new owners, with labor performed by volunteers and using donated materials.  But not all donated materials are used to build homes – some are sold for profit in the re-stores.

Larry measures the doorsWe spent a lot of time at Lowe’s and Home Depot in the past month,
making preliminary selections of a vanity, lighting, tile and fixtures. In fact, we created a budget based on those selections so we immediately recognized the tremendous values we spotted at Renovation Station, the Anne Arundel County re-store. 

Larry and I were both surprised at what we found:  brand new items still in boxes (and used items, as well) – even toilets, plumbing supplies, lighting fixtures, towel bars…  We ended up finding nearly everything necessary for our bathroom update, and paying less than half of retail.

Instead of paying $260 or more for a vanity, we paid $104 – and we had our choice of several, still in their cartons.  In fact, we found one the same finish as our kitchen cabinets.  According to the volunteer working at the cash register, these vanities were donated by a contractor who purchased them in quantity for updating hotel baths but had a few more than needed for the job.

164Our cost for a granite vanity top and bowl was $60, not the $199+ we had budgeted – and the style/color were similar to what we liked at Lowe’s and Home Depot.

We purchased door knobs for the project at just $5 each – I priced the same brand at Home Depot yesterday for $15.

We returned two doors to Lowe’s when we got home because we were able to get two new pre-hung doors exactly like them for $50 less at the re-store.

And the list goes on…

If you want to save money when you update your Crofton home,
I highly recommend you visit a Habitat for Humanity Re-Store.  There are several in Maryland, and they each will have different inventory at amazing prices.  If you don’t find what you want at one location, chances are they’ll have it at another.  (Use the link in this post for a list of locations.)  We were lucky…  we saved a bundle shopping at that one re-store!

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Copyright 2009.  All rights reserved.  “How to Save Money on Updating Your Crofton Home”  – Margaret Woda

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