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Posted on March 2, 2012 at 11:23 am
Randy and Christy Oetken | Posted in Home Improvement, Save Money | Tagged , , ,

ON THE LEVEL: Finding Solutions for your Storage Needs

Here is another helpful and informative article from Hibbard Construction‘s Newsletter, “On The Level”

Is the solution to your storage problem consist of adding shelves, installing cabinets, and buying wardrobes and armoires?  Well that might be a temporary fix, but the best way to address your storage issues is when you are remodeling your home.

Adequate storage in the home has become a hot topic among designers and remodelers recently.  More and more clients are finding themselves squeezed into homes with smaller square footage and lacking adequate storage space for todays active family lifestyle.

Rest assured there are ways to gain extra storage space that you didn’t even know you had, and the cost of doing it wont break the bank!

Build High Ceilings

If you can’t build out, try going up! Tall ceilings can be used to gain more storage in several rooms. In your closets, higher shelves can be placed above your normal rod for items that are seasonal. Kitchens and Great Rooms can also benefit from higher ceilings because taller cabinets can be installed. Don’t forget the open area above the wall cabinets, which can house anything from a basket of books to speakers.

Add Space in the Walls

Have a recessed cabinet installed! Recessed cabinets are designed to fit between the 16” studs found in most homes. A recessed cabinet can be installed in just a few hours and designed to match the trim already in your home.  Recessed cabinets come in an array of types and styles. Price and quality of materials vary, but the goal is the same: Utilize that space inside your wall.

Add Storage Under the Stairs

If you have stairs, putting deep drawers or cabinet style doors on the side can help you get the most use out of an otherwise waste of space.  You will be surprised at the amount of storage available when you utilize this area.

Plan for Attic Storage

If you are going to have a steep roof or have one already, take advantage of this extra storage space. When you build, make sure the ceiling joists are sized large enough to carry any extra load created from your storage items. ONE TIP – If you install “real” stairs instead of pull down stairs, getting those Christmas decorations down every year will be much easier!

Create Built-in Seating

A mudroom is the perfect place for built-in seating. If you build the seating with a hinged top or deep drawers, you get the perfect place to store your shoes. In a bedroom, you have the perfect place to read a book and hide extra blankets at the same time.

Add an Island

Islands can be great in a kitchen for extra storage, but have you tried one on wheels? If you need more room in the kitchen, you simply roll it out of the way. Have you thought about an island in your closet? If you have a large walk-in closet, why not take advantage of that extra floor space? A small island makes a perfect place for extra storage and you may be able to free up some floor space in your bedroom by not having an extra dresser.

Don’t Skimp on the Garage

With the popularity of SUVs and mini vans, it is important you make sure your new garage will be big enough to hold the family car. For example, the GMC Yukon has a length of 198.9 inches and the Yukon XL has a length of 219.3 inches. If you plan on walking around it after you park, that garage had better be deeper than 20 feet.

An over sized garage will also allow for shelving units to be installed.  This will give you an abundance of storage for your seasonal decorations, camping equipment, and lawn and garden supplies.

All in all, there are numerous ways to gain more storage.  It just takes some creativity and a contractor who can help you identify ways to utilize the space you didn’t know you had!

Posted on September 21, 2011 at 3:18 pm
Randy and Christy Oetken | Posted in Build Your Custom Home, Buyers, Holidays, home, Home Improvement, New Construction, Real Estate, Remodeling, Save Money, Staging | Tagged , , , , , , ,

Building or Remodeling? Study of Life Expectancy of Home Components

– What is the longest-lasting Deck for the back yard?

– Are Granite Counters worth the high price tag in the long run?

– How long will it be before we really MUST paint the house again?

– Should we spring for the Hardwood Flooring or go with the Laminate?

– Is the  “50 Year Roof” only the stuff of legend?

Find out what materials stand the test of time, and which ones bite the dust too quickly.

If you’re thinking of building or remodeling your home, you might appreciate the information included in this study by the National Association of Home Builders & Bank of America Home Equity.



for a thorough evaluation of the life expectancy of various home components.

Posted on August 26, 2011 at 12:44 pm
Randy and Christy Oetken | Posted in Build Your Custom Home, home, Home Improvement, Home Ownership, New Construction, Remodeling, Save Money | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

ON THE LEVEL: 12 Popular Kitchen Trends for 2011


Here are some popular kitchen trends for new or remodeled kitchens this year, from our friends at Hibbard Construction.

Popular Trends to Consider

Maximize food prep and dining space. Dual islands, tiered islands and island/peninsula combinations provide space for preparing meals, dining and storage. Pull-out cutting boards and tables can also help to extend food prep space.

Plan functional storage space. Kitchen storage details are important. Add pull-outs to ease organization of your dishes, pots, pans and bake wear. Pull-out pantry units organize cans and dry goods. Drawer storage is the key for keeping utensils in their place.

Use cabinets to create interest in the kitchen. A trend that we’re seeing more in homes is the use of two tone cabinetry in the kitchen. For example, white cabinetry may be installed around the perimeter of a kitchen and dark wood-stain cabinets are used for an island or peninsula. Add glass door cabinets to quickly spot items stored and for display. Open-shelving can be added to your cabinet configuration for both display and storage.

Add under-counter appliances for convenience. Microwave ovens, wine coolers, small refrigerators for beverages and additional cold storage and drawer dishwashers add function to a kitchen. Think about “universal design” when installing appliances for convenience, and place appliances where they can be accessed by all users.

Think “Green”. A simple way of helping the environment is to purchase Energy Star appliances. If you’re interested in a “green kitchen” consider using sustainable products like bamboo flooring, concrete counters, recycled glass back splash areas and recycled wood.

Add a backsplash. Glass tiles, especially those made from recycled glass, are being used more in kitchens for an easy to clean aesthetic backsplash behind sink and stove areas. Backsplashes are also made of solid surface materials, porcelain tiles, laminate and metal. Plan your backsplash to accentuate your style – modern, traditional, cottage, country, Tuscan, or eclectic.

Consider crown molding. Adding crown molding to a kitchen provides a “finished” look to cabinetry. Also, it adds architectural interest to the space.

Combine your kitchen and dining room areas. A dining room is often one of the least used rooms in a home. If your floor plan permits, tear down a wall that separates a kitchen from a dining room. This will open up the space and add function to your home. The expanded space may allow you to add more storage to the kitchen or even an office area.

Trends in Decorating Your Kitchen

Kitchen Lighting. The latest lighting trends this year will include statement lighting and hidden lighting fixtures. Your new kitchen should receive enough natural light during the daytime. You might want to consider the installation of additional windows or perhaps a skylight to make this part of your home sunnier and inviting. Artificial lighting will continue to be hot this year as recessed lights and track lighting fixtures over sinks and cabinets create that soothing glow. Statement lighting fixtures will also make it big this year. Pendant lighting items or chandeliers in wrought bronze, iron and other deco styles will make for a brighter kitchen and, at the same time, add a touch of elegance and glamour. Lampshades are also getting into the kitchen scene this year. Select lampshades with bold colors or graphic prints to make this lighting centerpiece stand out from the rest. This works best for white or neutral colored kitchens.

Kitchen Décor Gets More Natural This Year.

The use of natural materials such as granite, bamboo, or hardwood, is the materials of choice this year. More and more homeowners are shifting away from synthetic materials and stainless steel. From their lighting fixtures, cabinets, kitchen counters, and other accessories, natural materials are the preference. These natural materials not only create a warmer and more inviting space, but they are also more sustainable and durable.

Glass is also slowly making its way into many kitchens this 2011. Glass tiled backsplashes and glass cook tops are expected to dominate this year’s market. Glass tiles are easier to clean, replace and come in a wide variety of styles and colors. Moreover, glass containers, glass spice jars and glass water containers, will also remain in the trend as they more durable and airtight.

Color Trends Will Turn Up the Heat.

This year’s color trends will be bold and spicy. Think faded copper, burnt oranges, mottled reds, rich coffee, buttery yellows, warm cinnamon, punchy apricots, and other rich tones. These fiery yet subtle hues will add comfort and depth into your kitchen area. Warm colors also help stimulate appetites. If you are not that into red hues, then try to go for plumy purples, soft greens and even soft pinks.

Contrast is also a big thing for kitchen colors this year.

Posted on June 1, 2011 at 6:00 am
Randy and Christy Oetken | Posted in Build Your Custom Home, Buyers, home, Home Improvement, New Construction, Photographs, Real Estate, Staging | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

On The Level: Hire the Right Contractor!

Here’s another great article from our friends at Hibbard Construction, offering 
valuable advice on on hiring and working with contractors.

Considering a home remodel in the near future?  If you are thinking of hiring a contractor to do the job for you, it is important to have a plan before you embark on your home improvement journey. 

It is no secret that the success of any home remodel project will depend significantly on qualified craftsmen, quality materials and an experienced contractor that can adequately deal with the unforeseen obsticals that almost always arise during these projects. 

To ensure the most affordable and succesful outcome, it is vitally important to hire the best contractor for your project. Follow these steps to help you select the right contractor for the job.

Do your homework…
Start by getting written detailed bids from three reputable contractors. When comparing bids, make sure you are comparing apples to apples and not apples to oranges.  It is in your best interest to ask lots of questions. This is where you will flush out the details that are most important in identifying the specifics of your project and the scope of work the potential contractor can perform. 

Don’t assume that the lowest bid is the best deal.  Differences in materials will have a huge impact on the price of your project.  Make certain your bids are based on the same quality materials.  Also take into consideration the time frame it will take to complete the project.  There is nothing more frustrating than a project that takes longer to complete than originally anticipated.

Verify that the contractor’s license is active and check to see that the contractor is in good standing with the Bureau of Occupational Licenses. You can visit the web site at www.ibol.idaho.gov to see if your contractor is in good standing or has had complaints, liens or other derogatory claims filed against them.

Ask for and then check references. Look at other jobs the contractor has completed. Ask if you can speak directly to past clients.  Are they current with their vendors?  How long have they been in business?  Longevity is a good indicator that a contractor is good at what they do and that they conduct business with honesty and integrity.

Ask the contractor questions…
Do they have the experience and expertise to do the work you want done?  Ask for past examples similar to the type of project you are considering.  What makes them qualified to do this type of work.

Who will do the actual work: the contractor, subcontractors, or employees?  Desirable results are most often achieved if the contractor has his own employees on the job site.  Quality control is easier achieved in this manner.  If some of the work is to be performed by a subcontractor, ask how long that contractor has been doing business with the sub.  Be sure to ask for references and check to see if the subcontractor is in good standing with the Bureau of Occupational Licenses.

Other important questions to ask are: who is responsible for obtaining any necessary building permits?  Are architectural plans necessary for this project? How many other jobs will the contractor be working on at the same time as yours? 

It is important to know what written warranties are offered.  These can vary from project to project. If you plan on purchasing appliances, tubs, sinks and miscellaneous hardware for the project, are warranties available for those items, too? 

Lastly, it is important to know who you can call if you have questions or concerns during the project.  Is there a foreman or superintendent that can address concerns and is easy to contact?

Ask yourself…
Can I communicate with this contractor? Communication is vital during the project.  If the contractor cannot communicate before a contract is even agreed upon, the likelihood of having successful communications during the project is pretty slim.  Important decisions will be hard to make during the project process.  This can lead to a stressful home life during the project, and the overall project outcome may be less than desirable.

Does this contractor seem honest and forthright?  Is he looking out for your best interest?  A good contractor will tell you if your home improvement project is an over-improvement.  They will keep in mind that a good return on investment is key to keeping the value of your home in line with the surrounding homes in the neighborhood.

Do I have reasonable expectations, including being prepared for unexpected costs and delays?  This is a tricky one — Depending on the age of your home and the scope of work being performed, the unexpected can take a project in an entirely different direction.  It is important that a contractor keeps this in mind and communicates any unusual circumstances immediately and thoroughly to the homeowner.

A carefully written contract includes at least…
A list of materials to be used including quality, quantity, weight, color, size, brand names, etc. It is important and it needs to be concise in order to clarify the scope of work to be performed. 

A list of allowance items and the budgeted amount should be included as well. An allowance is a specific amount of money to buy items not yet selected. When these items (such as light fixtures) exceed the allowance, the homeowner pays the additional amount.

Agree in advance to a payment schedule that coincides with work as it is completed.  Be sure that your contract contains an agreement that the contractor and the homeowner will sign all “change orders”.  Each change order should be dated and include the nature and cost of the change. The change order will include who is responsible for any additional cost.

Workmanship warranties and specifically what they cover are also important to have outlined in your contract.  We live in an imperfect world and sometimes things don’t always work they way in which they were intended.  If it’s a manufacturing defect, does the manufacturer cover it?  A reputable contractor will use materials that have these types of warranties and provide warranties for work performed by his crew.

Start and completion dates are also important to include in your contract.  This is your insurance that the project will be completed in a timely manner.  If the completion date changes because of unforeseen obstacles, a change order should be created depicting the change.  Then a new completion date should be set.

And finally, the total price of the project should be clearly outlined in the contract as well.  A thorough contractor will create a budget for the entire project and operate within those amounts.  A detailed list of all expenses is important in understanding the entire scope of work being contracted. It helps both the homeowner and contractor keep the project on track financially.

With our extensive knowledge of the building industry, impressive list of professionals whom we’ve come to trust over the years, and expertise in guiding our clients through all kinds of Real Estate transactions, we are uniquely qualified to help you build your home.  

As REALTORS®, we’ll help you through every phase of building your new house, so you can build your life.  We can help you find Builders, Floorplans, and Land for your Dream Home or Estate.

Put us to work for you!

Posted on January 27, 2011 at 11:57 am
Randy and Christy Oetken | Posted in Acreage, Build Your Custom Home, Coeur d'Alene Listings, Hayden, Hayden Listings, Home Improvement, Home Ownership, New Construction, Our Listings, Rathdrum, Rathdrum Listings, Real Estate | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

We LIKE This Basement Remodel!

Thinking of remodeling?  This project was done very well, but it makes me tired just thinking about it!

Posted on January 19, 2011 at 12:25 pm
Randy and Christy Oetken | Posted in Activities, Home Improvement, Video | Tagged , , , , , , ,

ON THE LEVEL: Save Money on Utility Bills This Winter

Here’s some more great stuff from our friends at Hibbard Construction.

Our summer tans have long since faded, the patio furniture and BBQ grill have been stored and the first winter snowfall has already hit the Treasure Valley.  It is safe to say winter has officially arrived and for many so have enormous heating costs.

The television and web are full of great ideas on how to save money on energy costs, but more often than not it takes money to save money. Over the course of building homes for the last 40 years, Hibbard Construction employs building practices to ensure the energy efficiency of our homes.

In 2009, we conducted a survey of our past clients from the last 15 years and inquired about the energy costs of their “Hibbard Home”.  We were delighted to learn that our homes are still some of the most energy efficient homes built and that our customer’s energy costs are still well below the average cost of most homeowners with similar sized homes.

For many, making the initial investment on an energy efficient new home or on major home improvement projects to make a home more energy efficient just isn’t in the cards this year.

But, that doesn’t mean you are out of options. There are some simple things you can do to cut your heating costs. Below you will find nine tips on how to save money on energy bills without breaking the bank. Each tip should cost from nothing to very little. With a little ingenuity you can reduce your heating bills this winter.

1.      Bundle up! Running around with shorts and a tank top in the middle of winter just doesn’t make much sense. Winter is winter because it is cold, so act like it even if you’re just sitting around the house. Put on a sweater or sweatshirt; wear socks and fuzzy slippers (who isn’t more comfortable in their favorite sweats anyways?). Place a soft, comfy blanket on the couch to cuddle up in while watching TV, reading or chatting with friends. Put throw rugs on hardwood and tile floors to eliminate the shock of the ice-cold surfaces. It doesn’t cost anything to wear warmer clothes inside and by doing so you can keep the temperature inside the house a few degrees cooler and save big.

2.       Not all doors and windows are created equal and not all are used in the winter, so plastic up the windows and doors that are going to go unused. There are window kits for sale for about $5 per window. These can help to eliminate drafts to keep in the heat! 

3.      Turn the heat down at night and when no one is home. This doesn’t mean turn the heat to 40 degrees, but turning it down to 60 overnight or while you’re away can make a big difference. Think about it; why keep it 70 degrees when you’re either sleeping (add an extra blanket to your bed) or out of the house for more than 12 hours a day? You can adjust the thermostat manually for free, but if you want to spend a few bucks a programmable thermostat is a great investment.

4.      After baking cookies or making dinner in the oven, leave the door open a crack. There’s a lot of heat in that oven, so letting it escape puts the heat to good use by warming up the kitchen and surrounding rooms.  This means the furnace has to run a little bit less.

5.      Use a space heater only in the current room you are occupying (remember to use caution with space heaters, as they are a very common source of home fires). This will take the nip out of the air to make you feel more comfortable without heating all of the other rooms in the house and wasting energy.

6.      Use silicone to fill any cracks in doors, windows, etc, including the basement floor and walls. You would be surprised at how much heat is lost through cracks that seem insignificant. A tube of caulk or silicone will only run you a few dollars and, it’s an easy weekend project.

7.      Close any vents going to rooms that are not used regularly. That guest room that sits empty when you don’t have any guests? Close the door and the vents. Doing so, can easily cut 100-200 square feet off of your energy footprint.

8.      Put weather stripping around windows and doors. Weather stripping helps quite a bit, especially in older homes. You’d be surprised how the seals around your doors and windows can deteriorate over time.

9.      Cover up the attic entry with plastic, pieces of insulation, old blankets, weather stripping, saran wrap, painter drop cloth, or even a few old shirts. Any of it will help to slow, if not, stop, the drafts and warm air from floating away through your roof. Heat rises and may be getting pulled right up through the attic so you may not notice a cold draft even though your expensive hot air is floating away.

These tips won’t save you thousands like installing all new energy efficient windows would.  But they will help you to save as much as possible and make a noticeable difference on your heating bill and take but a few minutes and maybe a few dollars to implement.

We would look forward to hearing from you regarding questions you may have or discussing ideas and developing a plan that would fit your budget if you are looking to make energy efficient improvements to save more money in the long run.

Posted on December 22, 2010 at 1:38 pm
Randy and Christy Oetken | Posted in Free, home, Home Improvement, Home Ownership, Idaho, Save Money | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Most Bang for Your Buck: Replace the Front Door in 2011!

Daily Real Estate News  |  December 16, 2010  |  

Owners Recoup More with Exterior Home Projects
As part of the 2010-11 Remodeling Cost vs. Value Report, Realtors® recently rated exterior replacement projects among the most cost-effective home improvement projects, demonstrating that curb appeal remains one of the most important aspects of a home at resale time.

“This year’s Remodeling Cost vs. Value Report highlights the importance of exterior projects, which not only provide the most value, but also are among the least expensive improvements for a home,” said National Association of Realtors® President Ron Phipps, broker-president of Phipps Realty in Warwick, R.I. “Since resale value can vary by region, it’s smart for home owners to work with a Realtor®through the remodeling and improvement process; they can provide insight into projects in their neighborhoods that will recoup the most when the owners are ready to sell.”

Nine of the top 10 most cost-effective projects nationally in terms of value recouped are exterior replacement projects. The steel entry door replacement remained the project that returned the most money, with an estimated 102.1 percent of cost recouped upon resale; it is also the only project in this year’s report that is expected to return more than the cost. The midrange garage door replacement, a new addition to the report this year, is expected to recoup 83.9 percent of costs. Both projects are small investments that cost little more than $1,200 each, on average. Realtors® identified these two replacements as projects that can significantly improve a home’s curb appeal.

Curb appeal remains king – it’s the first thing potential buyers notice when looking for a home, and it also demonstrates pride of ownership,” said Phipps.

The 2010-11 Remodeling Cost vs. Value Report compares construction costs with resale values for 35 midrange and upscale remodeling projects comprising additions, remodels and replacements in 80 markets across the country. Data are grouped in nine U.S. regions, following the divisions established by the U.S. Census Bureau. This is the 13th consecutive year that the report, which is produced by Remodeling magazine publisher Hanley Wood, LLC, was completed in cooperation with REALTOR® Magazine.

Realtors® provided their insight into local markets and buyer home preferences within those markets. Overall, Realtors® estimated that home owners would recoup an average of 60 percent of their investment in 35 different improvement projects, down from an average of 63.8 percent last year. Remodeling projects, particularly higher cost upscale projects, have been losing resale value in recent years because of weak economic conditions.

According to the report, replacement projects usually outperform remodel and addition projects in resale value because they are among the least expensive and contribute to curb appeal. Various types of siding and window replacement projects were expected to return more than 70 percent of costs. Upscale fiber-cement siding replacement was judged by Realtors® the most cost effective among siding projects, recouping 80 percent of costs. Among the window replacement projects covered, upscale vinyl window replacements were expected to recoup the most, 72.6 percent upon resale. Another exterior project, a wood deck addition, tied with a minor kitchen remodel for the fourth most profitable project recouping an estimated 72.8 percent of costs.

The top interior projects for resale value included an attic bedroom and a basement remodel. Both add living space without extending the footprint of the house. An attic bedroom addition costs more than $51,000 and recoups an estimated 72.2 percent nationally upon resale; a basement remodel costs more than $64,000 and recoups an estimated 70 percent. Improvement projects that are expected to return the least are a midrange home office remodel, recouping an estimated 45.8 percent; a backup power generator, recouping 48.5 percent; and a sunroom addition, recouping 48.6 percent of costs.

Although most regions followed the national trends, the regions that consistently were estimated to return a higher percentage of remodeling costs upon resale were the Pacific region of Alaska, California, Hawaii, Oregon and Washington; the West South Central region of Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Texas; the East South Central region of Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi and Tennessee; and the South Atlantic region of the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia.

The regions where Realtors® generally reported the lowest percentage of costs recouped were New England (Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont), East North Central (Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin), West North Central (Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota), and Middle Atlantic (New York and Pennsylvania).

“It’s important to remember that the resale value of a particular improvement project depends on several factors,” said Phipps. “Things such as the home’s overall condition, availability and condition of surrounding properties, location and the regional economic climate contribute to an estimated resale value. That’s why it is imperative to work with a Realtor®who can provide insight and guidance into local market conditions whether you’re buying, selling or improving a home.”

Results of the report are summarized in the January issue of REALTOR® Magazine. To read the full project descriptions, access national and regional project data, and download a free PDF containing data for any of the 80 cities covered by the report, visit www.costvsvalue.com.

Source: NAR


Posted on December 16, 2010 at 2:45 pm
Randy and Christy Oetken | Posted in Curb Appeal, home, Home Improvement, Market News, Market Value, Sell, Staging | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,