Category Archives: Uncategorized

The “Honey Do” List for Fall is Here!

Fall has officially arrived, and now is the time to tuck in your landscaping and prepare your home for the cooler weather ahead.  I have never really made a study of how to take care of the “green things” that live outside my house.  That job is delegated to someone else in my household.  However, I do believe that it is important to know what should be done this time of year, even if you hire someone else to do it for you.

Good landscaping adds value to your home (maybe as high as 10-15% according to some industry estimates).  And as a realtor, I have seen many a buyer pull up to the curb of the seller’s home and just keeping driving- ruling out the house without ever going inside!  When you are selling, curb appeal means a faster sale and more money in your pocket!

Here are some very good articles that will give you some tips on how to take care of things outside so that you can protect the value of your home!  

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<a href=”http://www.houselogic.com/home-advice/landscaping-gardening/landscaping-mistakes-wreck-curb-appeal/” style=”letter-spacing:normal!important;font-family:Arial,sans-serif!important;color:#16a8d3!important; text-decoration:none!important;”>
<img style=”border:0 none;” src=”http://c0263062.cdn.cloudfiles.rackspacecloud.com/content/images/sized/landscaping-mistakes-curb-appeal-bushes-deer_f757f446a977745ebe6eaecd9cb4ed5d_1x1_jpg_80x80_q85.jpg” alt=”Deer feasting on plants in a yard” title=”landscaping-mistakes-curb-appeal-deer” />
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<h3 style=”letter-spacing:normal!important;font-family:Arial,sans-serif!important;float:left;width:373px;margin:0; font-size:16px!important; font-weight:bold!important;”><a style=”color:#16a8d3!important; text-decoration:none!important;” href=”http://www.houselogic.com/home-advice/landscaping-gardening/landscaping-mistakes-wreck-curb-appeal/” target=”_blank”>7 Landscaping Mistakes That Wreck Curb Appeal</a></h3>
<p style=”letter-spacing:normal!important;font-family:Arial,sans-serif!important;margin:0;float:left;width:373px;”>Don’t let badly designed or maintained landscaping wreck your home’s curb appeal. Here are pitfalls to avoid. <a target=”_blank” style=”color:#16a8d3!important; text-decoration:none!important;” href=”http://www.houselogic.com/home-advice/landscaping-gardening/landscaping-mistakes-wreck-curb-appeal/”>Read</a></p>
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<a href=”http://www.houselogic.com/home-advice/plants-trees/tree-care/” style=”letter-spacing:normal!important;font-family:Arial,sans-serif!important;color:#16a8d3!important; text-decoration:none!important;”>
<img style=”border:0 none;” src=”http://c0263062.cdn.cloudfiles.rackspacecloud.com/content/images/sized/tree-care-pruning-yard_1x1_ea5977e447416c4e289ed0b61897559b_jpg_80x80_q85.jpg” alt=”Pruning a Bartlett pear tree in the early spring” title=”tree-care-pruning-yard” />
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<h3 style=”letter-spacing:normal!important;font-family:Arial,sans-serif!important;float:left;width:373px;margin:0; font-size:16px!important; font-weight:bold!important;”><a style=”color:#16a8d3!important; text-decoration:none!important;” href=”http://www.houselogic.com/home-advice/plants-trees/tree-care/” target=”_blank”>How to Properly Care for Trees</a></h3>
<p style=”letter-spacing:normal!important;font-family:Arial,sans-serif!important;margin:0;float:left;width:373px;”>When trees fail to thrive, they (and you) have a problem. Here are tips on how to care for your trees to prevent troubles. <a target=”_blank” style=”color:#16a8d3!important; text-decoration:none!important;” href=”http://www.houselogic.com/home-advice/plants-trees/tree-care/”>Read</a></p>
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<a href=”http://www.houselogic.com/blog/lawns/get-rid-of-lawn/” style=”letter-spacing:normal!important;font-family:Arial,sans-serif!important;color:#16a8d3!important; text-decoration:none!important;”>
<img style=”border:0 none;” src=”http://c0263062.cdn.cloudfiles.rackspacecloud.com/content/images/sized/how-prevent-weeds-sprouting-dandelion_e782af07aa9e06171e904ff1fd180678_1x1_jpg_80x80_q85.jpg” alt=”Dandelion growing in grass” title=”get-rid-lawn-dandelion” />
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<h3 style=”letter-spacing:normal!important;font-family:Arial,sans-serif!important;float:left;width:373px;margin:0; font-size:16px!important; font-weight:bold!important;”><a style=”color:#16a8d3!important; text-decoration:none!important;” href=”http://www.houselogic.com/blog/lawns/get-rid-of-lawn/” target=”_blank”>Should We Get Rid of Our Lawns?</a></h3>
<p style=”letter-spacing:normal!important;font-family:Arial,sans-serif!important;margin:0;float:left;width:373px;”>To some, a lawn is their yard’s crowning glory. To others, it’s a big hit on the pocketbook and the environment. Where do you stand? <a target=”_blank” style=”color:#16a8d3!important; text-decoration:none!important;” href=”http://www.houselogic.com/blog/lawns/get-rid-of-lawn/”>Read</a></p>
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<img style=”border:0 none;” src=”http://c0263062.cdn.cloudfiles.rackspacecloud.com/content/images/sized/lawn-maintenance-calendar-lawnmower-blade_1x1_cdadd70eb9975eed57d6a281c01b5151_jpg_80x80_q85.jpg” alt=”Changing the blade on a lawn mower” title=”lawn-maintenance-calendar-lawnmower-blade” />
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<h3 style=”letter-spacing:normal!important;font-family:Arial,sans-serif!important;float:left;width:373px;margin:0; font-size:16px!important; font-weight:bold!important;”><a style=”color:#16a8d3!important; text-decoration:none!important;” href=”http://www.houselogic.com/home-advice/lawns/lawn-maintenance-calendar/” target=”_blank”>Season-by-Season Lawn Maintenance Calendar</a></h3>
<p style=”letter-spacing:normal!important;font-family:Arial,sans-serif!important;margin:0;float:left;width:373px;”>Follow our season-by-season lawn maintenance calendar to get a barefoot-worthy lawn and ensure great curb appeal. <a target=”_blank” style=”color:#16a8d3!important; text-decoration:none!important;” href=”http://www.houselogic.com/home-advice/lawns/lawn-maintenance-calendar/”>Read</a></p>
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<img style=”border:0 none;” src=”http://c0263062.cdn.cloudfiles.rackspacecloud.com/content/images/sized/tree-fall-into-house_1x1_bda09b5d05d5808716eddd513ae15440_jpg_80x80_q85.jpg” alt=”Tree that has fallen into a house” title=”tree-fall-into-house” />
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<h3 style=”letter-spacing:normal!important;font-family:Arial,sans-serif!important;float:left;width:373px;margin:0; font-size:16px!important; font-weight:bold!important;”><a style=”color:#16a8d3!important; text-decoration:none!important;” href=”http://www.houselogic.com/home-advice/plants-trees/dangerous-tree/” target=”_blank”>Is Your Tree Going to Fall Over?</a></h3>
<p style=”letter-spacing:normal!important;font-family:Arial,sans-serif!important;margin:0;float:left;width:373px;”>Sometimes a valuable tree uproots without warning; but most often, your tree sends distress signals before it topples. <a target=”_blank” style=”color:#16a8d3!important; text-decoration:none!important;” href=”http://www.houselogic.com/home-advice/plants-trees/dangerous-tree/”>Read</a></p>
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<p style=”letter-spacing:normal!important;font-family:Arial,sans-serif!important;margin:0 0 12px!important; color:#000!important; font-size:12px!important;”>Visit <a style=”color:#16a8d3!important; text-decoration:none!important;” href=”http://www.houselogic.com”>houselogic.com</a> for more articles like this.</p>
<p style=”letter-spacing:normal!important;font-family:Arial,sans-serif!important;margin:0 0 12px!important; color:#000!important; font-size:11px!important;”> Copyright 2013 NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®</p>
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 When you are ready to sell your home, give me a call!   I can give you a more personalized curb appeal plan for your home, so that we can get it sold quickly!

Are You Thinking About Getting Flood Insurance?

With the recent flooding here in Colorado, you may be wondering if you should have flood insurance on your home.  Below are links to some articles on flood insurance that may help you decide:

 

Visit houselogic.com for more articles like this.

Copyright 2013 NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®

June 2013: Denver Metro Real Estate Stats

There were almost 12% more homes for sale in June 2013 than the previous month of May. Perhaps this is in response to the shortage of homes for sale compared to last year (number of home available this June was 16% less than June of 2012). But even with more inventory this month, we are still seeing homes “flying off the market” compared to last year (the number of days on market is about 43 days- which is 40% less time than last year in June). And good news for sellers- the average sold price of a home in the Denver Metro Area is still on the rise. The average sold price of homes sold in June was $349,339 for Residential Dwellings (Detached & Townhomes)- that’s up 7.66% over this time last year! For Condos- the average sold price in June was $198,040- an increase of 9.07% over last June!

 

Source: Denver Metrolist, 06/01/2013-06/30/2013.

May 2013: Sales in The Ranch & Ranch Reserve

Attached Dwelling Listings

  Type Price Status SqFt Style Beds   Address Office
  ATD $90,000 S 856 1 Story/Ranch 2   2978 W 119TH Ave MBGOL
  ATD $150,700 S 1275 1 Story/Ranch 2   2927 W 119th Ave 102 0RWST
  ATD $171,000 S 2031 1 Story/Ranch 2   11585 DECATUR St D 1HOME
  ATD $177,000 S 1396 1 Story/Ranch 2   2883 W 119th Ave 204 0153B
  ATD $213,000 S 2178 2 Story 2   2229 RANCH Dr CC123
  ATD $228,000 S 2178 2 Story 3   2285 RANCH Dr MBN61

Total Number of Attached Dwelling Listings: 6

Residential-Detached Listings

  Type Price Status SqFt Style Beds   Address Office
  RES $320,000 S 3616 Tri-Level 4   11224 QUIVAS Loop MBN17
  RES $332,000 S 2757 Tri-Level 4   2336 W 118TH Ave M1558
  RES $356,250 S 3670 2 Story 6   2657 W 118TH Ave KWR30
  RES $445,000 S 5520 2 Story 5   11420 QUIVAS Way MBN41
  RES $690,000 S 4529 1 Story/Ranch 5   2184 W 116TH Ave M1842

Total Number of Residential-Detached Listings: 5

 

Total Listings Reported (All Types): 11

Source:  IRES data 05/01/13- 05/31/13.  Properties above were listed or sold by the real estate brokerage offices shown.  Information is deemed reliable but not guaranteed.

Tips for a Successful Garage Sale!

ADVANCED PREPARATION:

  1.  Start a couple weeks in advance!  As you go through your home sorting out what you want to sell, designate a place in your home or garage for everything that will be in the sale.
  2. Clean everything that will be sold, and price items as you clean them.
  3. As your pile of stuff starts to grow, think about what you will need to display them: tables, racks, shelves, clothes lines, etc.  (borrow tables from your neighbors or friend if necessary, hang a clothesline or rod from a tree to display clothing, etc.)
  4. You may want to post a sign saying “All Sales are Final” (people have been known to come back wanting to return items they bought).  Also, consider having a receipt book, or print out a few “receipt forms” from your computer to have handy if people ask for one.
  5. Start saving plastic grocery bags, boxes and newspaper.  You can use the newspaper to wrap breakables, and have bags and boxes ready for customers that buy a lot of items from you.
  6. Most garage sale “pros” recommend that you do not use a cash box, but instead carry change and cash on you at all times (using a fanny pack, a carpenters apron or money belt).  Occassionally, pare down the amount of cash you carry, by storing some of it in the house when time allows.
  7. A day or two before the sale, go to the bank and get some cash to be able to make “change” for your customers.  The amount and type will depend on the price of the items that you are selling.  Small bills are best (nothing over a $20)- and more small bills than large.  If you are selling items for $1.00 or less, get a roll of nickels, dimes, & quarters.  I would recommend a starting “cash on hand amount” of maybe $50 total.  (If you have items for sale over $100.00 you may want to have more than that).
  8. Work with a partner, if possible to allow for a break, trips to the bank for more change, or to be able to assist more than one buyer at a time (also helps discourage theft).
  9. For safety reasons, I recommend that you not let anyone inside your house- not for the bathroom or to try on clothes.  If they ask to use your bathroom, I would suggest directing them to the nearest fast-food restaurant or public restroom instead.
  10. Having a calculator on hand can also be very useful for totaling up a bunch of small item purchases.
  11. Have a “free pile” of something (old paint/stains worked well for me in my last garage sale, maybe something like mismatched glasses/plates).  If prominently displayed and labeled, the free pile, acts like a “loss leader” in helping  you get more people to stop at your sale, and increase your chances that they will shop the rest of your sale and purchase other items.
  12.  Keep your pets (even the friendly ones) inside for the sale.  Even if they don’t bite, many people are afraid or allergic to animals.  This my prevent them from stopping at your sale.
  13. Decide in advance  whether you will accept checks (not recommended), or “hold” items for for shoppers that need to leave to get cash to pay for something at your sale.  If you do agree to hold an item for someone- give them a time limit before you will sell it to someone else.

PRICING

  1.  Some people use different colored labels (the little sticker circles you get at the office supply store), and then post a large chart defining the price associated with each label color.  Most garage sale websites, advise against this method, as it make more work for the buyer- also, if they don’t see the chart, they will just be asking you the price on everything anyway or find it annoying to have to keep looking back at your chart for everything.
  2. Tan painter’s masking tape is an inexpensive way to mark your items, without being too sticky.  Just be careful not to use ink on the price tag that will bleed through onto your item (some magic markers/sharpies will do this).
  3. Most garage sale “pros” suggest putting a price on every item, to make thing simpler for your buyer.  They also suggest, putting the price tag on the top of the item so that Buyers don’t have to pick up and handle everything (less chance for breakage).
  4. Recommended pricing on items should be about 1/3 to 1/2 the cost of new to start- depending on it’s condition (expect to haggle).  High-dollar items, may be better sold on Craig’s List, as people generally expect low prices at garage sales.
  5. Consider discounting everything that is left in the last hour of your sale.  (Or perhaps plan on arranging for a charity pickup for what is left over from the sale).

DISPLAYING ITEMS AT THE SALE:

  1. Display “like” items in the same area of your garage sale (e.g.- baby & children’s items, electronics, house wares, clothing, décor items in groupings).
  2. If you have small similar items that “go together”, consider bundling them together in clear plastic bags for your display and selling them as a set (think doll clothes, pet toys, action figures, etc).
  3. Try to have items off the ground (other than maybe children’s items).  Many adults cannot bend or squat down to pick up or sort through items that are low to the ground.
  4. Hang clean & pressed clothing on inexpensive hangers (people may ask to include them as part of the purchase).  Hanging the clothes makes it easier for buyers to see them and makes them more attractive than a rumpled pile of clothes.
  5. Place large items in the front of the sale space (gets people to stop).
  6. As you start to sell more and more items, consolidate your items and “tighten up” your display area, so that tables look fuller (people won’t stop, if it looks like you have nothing left to sell).  Move your tables closer in to your garage as you start to sell out (makes it easier to shut the sale down when it is over).
  7. If you are selling electronics at the sale, have an electric cord and/or batteries available so that buyers can see that they are working before they purchase.  If they do not work or need repair- let buyers know or make note on the item and price it accordingly.

OTHER TIPS:

  1. Greet your customers when they arrive, but don’t hover over them or talk about every object unless they express an interest in it.  (Sometimes and interesting history of the object can help it sell).
  2. Considering playing a little soft music in the background, to avoid awkward  silences (this is especially uncomfortable when there is only one customer at your sale at a time).
  3. On a hot day, consider offering cold beverages for sale and providing shade for your buyers, as this may keep them shopping a bit longer at your sale.

The Ranch Neighborhood Featured in “City Edition”

The City of Westminster publishes a small local newspaper every other month for the residents of Westminster.  The paper is called City Edition.  It is free, and citizens can subscribe to either a print version or an online version of the paper here: http://www.ci.westminster.co.us/News/CityEdition.aspx .

In the Dec 2012-Jan 2012 edition, the beauty of the homes, open spaces, Ranch Park, ponds & lakes, and beautiful vistas available in The Ranch and Ranch Reserve subdivisions was highlighted in a full-page “Featured Walk” article.  These subdivisions, as well as the open spaces, etc sit on a total of over 550 acres.  The subdivisions called The Ranch and Ranch Reserve contain homes built as early as the late seventies and as recently as the 2000’s.  As you may already know, these neighborhoods surround The Ranch Country Club, the only private country club in Denver’s  north metro area.  The Featured Walk article includes many opportunities to enjoy the views of the golf course and gives the reader/walker a nice bit of history about The Ranch development as well.

The article takes the reader on a nearly step-by-step, round-trip journey through the streets and  paths around the neighborhood.  The adventure starts and ends at 118th Ave & Zuni St.  The journey is approximately 3.66 miles of hilly terrain.  If you are not up for that level of physical activity, you may want to take the hike in segments.

I have driven or ridden my bike through many parts of the trip described in the article and it does not exaggerate the beauty of the views and some of the spectacular homes in The Ranch and Ranch Reserve.  After reading the article, I am looking forward to exploring the parts of the journey that I have not yet seen.

If you are interested in learning more about The Ranch and Ranch Reserve, or in taking a tour through these neighborhood, you can check out the article, on page 12, at:  http://www.ci.westminster.co.us/Portals/0/Repository/Documents/News/CEDec12Jan13FINAL.pdf.  

And, of course, if you would like to buy or sell a home in either of these beautiful neighborhoods, please contact me using the form below!

The End of “The Line”

Recently,my husband and I reluctantly let go of yet another link to the past.  We discontinued our land line phone service for our home. Now we rely on cell phones, texts, emails, and social networks for personal communications.  I must confess, that I was the last hold-out when it came to giving the land line the “heave-ho”.  Several years after my parents went wireless (they are in their seventies), I was still hanging on to the days of old.

Admittedly, my reluctance is just due to old habits dying hard.  Part of it is for nostalgic reasons. I am the kind of person that, even though I have the technology to read e-books (have used it many times and enjoy the convenience), I still like to read real paper books. I like the atmosphere and experience of going to the local library.  I like the physical experience of seeing, touching, and even smelling the vast array of books in the stacks of bookcases that reside in library. I find, there is almost a “reverence” for reading in libraries, and the good old days of “common courtesy” still is evident as people make the effort to speak in hushed tones so as not to disturb the other patrons. Something is lost in the leap to the higher technology of the e-book, with its reliance on batteries, staring at the same cold electronic display for every book, and the need to put on a noise-cancelling headset to drown out the sounds of the tv, radio, and conversations around you.

I feel the same about losing the land line for my phone.  Now, I have never had the “physical” experience of going to the telephone company to see and touch the phone lines.  And, unless something was terribly wrong with my handset, I never “smelled” a conversation on the land line.  However, something is lost/different in making the leap to the “wireless only” household.  Here are some of the reasons I wanted to keep the land line for so long:

1.  Okay, maybe I am being a little paranoid with this reason, but unlike conversations on cellphones, those on land lines are, at least theoretically, private.  Someone has to have a warrant to tap your phone and listen in without your knowledge.  When I speak on my cellphone, it brings to mind the early days of baby monitors, where if your neighbor had something on the same frequency, they could hear what was going on in your house through your baby monitor.  Now I don’t have any reason to think that someone is out there trying to listen in on my cellphone conversations (I am sure they are not that interesting), but there is something more appealing about the privacy associated with the land line. It just makes me feel more secure and “in control”.

2.  I used my land line for my business fax.  After “testing out” an online fax service for the past two-three years, I have decided that the online fax service is more trustworthy than my home fax machine in having copies and a record of faxes that are sent and received.  It can also be more convenient in that I can send files on my computer as faxes to other people.

3.  If I misplaced my cell phone in the past, I could always use my land line to call my cell phone.  The ringing helped me locate the cell phone.  The simplest way for me to address this problem without a land line, is to clip my cellphone to my waist and wear it everywhere (it makes quite the fashion statement).  I am sure there are probably other gadgets or technologies out there that also help you find your cell phone but I would prefer to keep it simple for now (“baby steps” please).  Right now, just losing the land line still feels a little like flying without a safety net!

4.  This is the reason that I think should be a concern for anyone considering “the end of the line” at their home.  Some cities do not have the capability to broadcast messages/warnings to its residents via a “reverse 911” to a cell phone.   They can do it for land lines, but not cell phones or internet-based phone numbers. Some reasons that a city might use a reverse 911 call out are:

  • Chemical spills
  • Natural Disasters
  • Fires
  • Missing or endangered child
  • Missing or endangered at-risk adult
  • Searches for armed and dangerous persons
  • Any other Emergency Management event that may affect the community such as a radiological release or homeland security threat

Several lives were lost this past summer in the wildfires in Colorado, because people did not have land lines and did not get the call to evacuate their homes.  Also, some emergency services available to residents also rely on your use of a land line when you call 911.  Some cities do not have GPS capability in finding out where you are when you call in an emergency on your cell phone (you have to be able to tell them where you are).  In terminating your land line, some of that lost functionality can be recovered by signing up for alerts from weather services or registering additional information with your city’s emergency services department.

The City of Westminster, where I am located, estimates that “more than 70 percent of 911 calls are made on mobile devices, making it difficult for emergency workers to determine the exact location of the call”.  Westminster has a service called “Smart 911”.  Citizens of Westminster are encouraged to sign up for the service and create a safety profile for their household.  The information you give is secure and kept private, and you can provide as much or as little information as you like.  With the service, you can describe the layout of your home, give medical information that might be needed in an emergency, give information on your vehicles, your family members and even your pets that might be relevant in case of emergency.

Smart 911 is supported by advocacy groups for people with autism, diabetes, epilepsy, hearing problems and people who are elderly.  For more information or to sign up for the “Smart 911” program, Westminster residents can visit www.smart911.com.  If you do not live in Westminster, Colorado, you will need to check with your city to see what the potential consequences are to not having a land line.

To sum up, although using only cellphones can be so much more convenient in some ways, something is lost at the “end of the line”- something valuable, that could literally be a matter of life and death.  For every technological convenience, there seems to be some kind of “equal and opposite” inconvenience at work behind the scenes.  To benefit from the cost savings of “cutting the cord” on the land line, I had to spend the time and effort to find other ways to compensate for the lost functionality and convenience. And I am not sure that doing all of those other things really replaced all the side benefits of the land line.

If you are thinking of discontinuing your land line service, or if you have already done so, I hope you will remember the “old timey” land line as fondly as I do.  Especially look into any lost safety services like those mentioned in item #4.  Looking at that list again, I think I want my land line back…

 

Merry Christmas vs Other Holiday Greetings

Every year, sometime after Thanksgiving, we start to give and receive a different kind of salutation.  Not just the usual, “Hi.  How are you”? , “Goodbye, see you later” or “Have a nice day”.  It’s something more special.  It sounds happier, more generous in spirit, more thoughtful and more sincere than the other greetings we use throughout the year.

So, I would think that a special greeting would be received in the same spirit in which it was intended.  But I have noticed growing controversy about which greeting should be used this time of year.  Should it be “Merry Christmas”, “Happy Holidays”, “Seasons Greetings”, “Happy Hanukkah”, “Happy Kwanza”, or something else?

In some cases, depending on which you use, despite your best intentions, the recipient of the greeting may be offended or hurt that you did not use the greeting that matches their specific culture, their religious beliefs, or lack of religious beliefs.  So, what are we to say that won’t ruffle anyone’s feathers?  Should we ignore the time of year, and just say the same thing we say all year round?  Does the “right” greeting depend upon whether the person offering the greeting is doing so in a personal interaction or in a business interaction?

In my personal life, if I knew absolutely that a person was of a specific faith or belief system, I would perhaps try to match up my greeting to fit that person.  However, I am not an expert or student of all religions and cultures of the world, so if I make an inappropriate choice of greeting, I expect that people who know me on a personal level, would probably forgive my ignorance.

But, what about in my professional role as a Realtor?  How do I greet the public during this time of year? What do I put on my advertising and promotional materials for the month of December?  This may seem like a silly question, but the answer could have serious consequences to my license and my business.  Realtors must comply with fair housing and anti-discrimination laws.

If I wished you a Happy Hanukkah in my December postcard mail out, how would you perceive that greeting if you were not Jewish?  Would you think that I was assuming that you were?  Or that I preferred only Jewish people for clients? Could that be interpreted as discrimination on the basis of religion?   If you were Christian, would you be insulted that I did not wish you a Merry Christmas instead?  Would you feel like an outsider, unacknowledged, or disenfranchised?  I would imagine that anyone might feel this way if the greeting were made specific to a religion or culture to which they were not a part.  Isn’t the intent of a special greeting to make the recipient feel good?

As both a Realtor and a human being (are those separate things?), my intention is to include everyone in my wish for a higher state of happiness, peace and goodwill toward mankind.  My “special greeting” at this time of year is not just for people who are “just like me”.  So, taking my personal beliefs out of the picture, here are some things I considered when making my selection of which greeting my business communications will use during this time of year:

1.  Merry Christmas:  Christmas is widely celebrated as both a religious and secular celebration.  For Christians, Christmas celebrates the birth of Jesus.  The secular component of Christmas includes a long history of symbols and traditions from many cultures & countries around the world.  (Check out this link for look at Christmas from a historical and cultural perspective- it may surprise you.    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christmas ).  While perhaps the majority of Americans identify themselves as Christians, many do not.  If someone is not Christian, how would they interpret a “Merry Christmas” greeting?  In the religious context, or the secular context?  Do they celebrate Christmas in either context, or would they just feel that the greeting did not apply to them?  Since there is the potential for misunderstanding and exclusion with this greeting, I have chosen not to use “Merry Christmas” in my business communications.

2.  Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanza, etc:  From what I can glean from internet searches and personal experience, these holidays/celebrations are religious and culture or heritage-based, without a secular component celebrated by a broader segment of the United States.  Since I am looking for a greeting that speaks to the broadest range of individuals possible, I have also chosen not to use these greetings for business.

3. Seasons Greetings:  While all-inclusive (in that everyone in the same geographic area pretty much experiences the same seasons at the same time), this greeting just seems a little lame.  Isn’t the season at this time of year just called “winter”?  Although winter is considered the “holiday season” because it contains several holidays, it is also the season I associate with bone-chilling cold, more hours of darkness in a day, stark landscapes, slipping on ice, driving difficulties, etc..   “Seasons Greetings” just does not even come close to conveying the imagery in a wish for the comfort & warmth of a family gathering, happiness, peace, goodwill, etc.   So, “Seasons Greetings” is also not my choice.

4. Happy Holidays:   Well, although it is a bit watered-down and generic, this one pretty much encompasses everyone that celebrates either a secular, religious, or cultural/heritage-based holiday at this time of year.  It also imparts a wish for happiness and who doesn’t want to be happy?  So, “Happy Holidays” is the greeting that I have chosen for business communications in December.  It is what I would consider the broadest, most inclusive greeting, with the added bonus of being concise and able to fit it on a postcard!

If you don’t celebrate any holidays in December, maybe none of the above may suit you, but you still have my very best wishes for a happy & healthy life, full of peace, prosperity, joy and goodwill!

I hope no one will take offense when I say:

Happy Holidays, everyone!  Na-nu, Na-nu!  Live long and prosper!  And may “the Force” be with you! (Okay, maybe those last few were just for sci-fi fans).

Indoor Halloween Party Decorations

Here are a few ideas for indoor decorations if you are planning a Halloween get together this year.  I usually have a “cheap & easy” rule when it comes to decorating the house for Halloween.  I try to have a focal point for each room- not a ton of little things spread throughout the house (fewer items are easier to put up and take down, and take up less space in my already burgeoning crawl space the rest of the year).  The biggest challenge for me, is reigning myself in to either make only very inexpensive purchases, or re-use things I already have in a different way.  This could be re-purposing the “normal” things around my home or re-using Halloween decorations from previous years.  Here are a few ideas…

Decorate your wine bottles!  Here I have used labels that I printed using clip art of a skull and crossbones that’s a lot less expensive than buying pre-made labels.  Also pictured, are two wine bottles are wrapped like mummies.  I used cheesecloth that I soaked in tea, to give it an aged look.   I found the inspiration and the “how-to” for these at http://www.marthastewart.com/264244/mummy-spirits.  You could glue on little “googly eyes” peeking out from the opening in the wrapping for a little added fun.  You can find those at a craft store.

Add these uninvited little guests (wired to the light fixture) above your food/appetizer table!  No party leftovers!

On the dining room wall, above the “buffet” cabinet, are a bunch of bats (a flock?, a herd? a gaggle?) – what ever you call them, they are flying this way.  In this case the bats are made from construction paper, folded at the wings joints to give it a 3-D look on the wall.  The bats are stapled to the wall (I used a swipe of black magic marker on the staples to eliminate reflection off the staple).  This was inspired by a project in Better Homes & Gardens magazine, Halloween edition.  (Could not find an online photo of theirs).  For my project, I added a full moon in the background.  I cut out a big circle on yellow poster board and painted it like  a “blood” moon.

This was the centerpiece for my dining table at a Halloween dinner party a few years ago.  The “tree” is a bunch of branches from my yard, spray-painted black.  The “shrunken heads” are made from dried apples that have a little faux fur glued to the top to simulate hair.  The inspiration for these came from here: http://www.marthastewart.com/268080/shrunken-apple-heads  Normally the drying process can take up to 2 weeks, but you could probably speed that along with a dehydrator or your oven.

Instead of just adding Halloween stuff to your room, try temporarily replacing the normal stuff with the creepy stuff.  In this case I have used a painting, painted by my mother (an artist in Phoenix).  It is given the prominent spot above the fireplace temporarily replacing the wall clock I usually have in that spot.  If you are not artist or have a friend who can paint something “Halloween-ish” for you, you could alway use a grouping of photos (either your own or some free stock photos online).  Maybe something like black and white photos of gnarly trees or Victorian head silhouettes.

Okay- so this one broke the “cheap & easy” rule this year.  But it was fun!  This is my Halloween tree, reminiscent of the costumes and the trick or treating of my childhood.  The tree is topped with a witch’s hat.  There are pumpkins and Jack-o-Lanterns under the tree. Feather boas act as a garland.  Masks, novelty head dresses, black birds, spiders, & miniature plastic pumpkins filled with candy corn act as ornaments.  There are strings of purple and “candy corn” lights to make the tree glow.  I also made colorful “crackers” filled with wrapped miniature candy bars.  Not only do they add a little color to the tree, they can also act as party favors for guests. Variations on the theme might include using a Halloween village or train set under the tree…  maybe next year.

Here are a couple of my favorite places to find inspiration for Halloween decor.  But I think it is always more fun to put your own spin on the projects inspired by others.

www.bhg.com, www.marthastewart.com, www.hgtv.com, and Lowe’s Creative Ideas magazine (fall editions)

Happy Hauntings!