The best way to make your guests feel welcome and relaxed at this time of year is to create an indoor setting that emphasizes cozy seating, laid-back ambience and interactive group experiences. This Home Update will help you to create a holiday home by applying some of the same principles that luxury hotels are famous for that encourages everyone to relax, gather, interact and have fun.
Hot Drinks: Welcoming your guests with cups of hot cider or mulled wine will let the know that right away this gathering is going to be relaxed and cozy.
Holiday Decorations: For added color, and to put your guests in a festive state of mind, decorate select interior walls, shelves and tables with a few Christmas ornaments, wreaths, pine cones and garlands. Choosing carefully and limiting this decor to just a few areas helps keep the look tasteful and relaxing.
A Roaring Fireplace: Nothing exudes warmth and ambiance like a live fire. Children and adults alike can’t resist gathering around a fireplace, especially during the holidays. If you don’t already have a fireplace, an attractive, remote-controlled, gas -fired unit can be affordably installed in most any exterior wall without the need for major remodeling.
Floor Pillows: Oversized pillows arranged on the floor create a more intimate and relaxed gathering space that’s perfect for gift opening and younger guests.
Blankets for All: Be sure there are more than enough blankets and throws for your guests. There’s something about being warmly snuggled beneath a blanket that makes a person more willing to share stories, listen to the tales of others, laugh more and linger longer.
Small Seating Arrangements: Arranging the seating for your guests into small clusters encourages them to have deeper conversations with each other and bounce between groups (two accomplishments that would make any host proud).
Candlelight: Flickering candles not only create a relaxing, romantic visual, but they can also be used to punctuate the air with pleasing scents. Candles in containers are the safest option, especially for areas you can’t monitor closely.
Background Music: One of the best ways to establish the mood for a gathering is with music. If you have the time and inclination, consider changing the genre, style and tempo of the music throughout the gathering to create variety and manage the energy level of your guests.
Games: Games bring people of all walks together and give them a reason to interact. Video games are always an option, but traditional board games and other group games allow more people to play at once and bring players face-to-face for a more memorable personal experience. Choose games that are easy to catch on to and don’t require a long time commitment.
Puzzles: While jigsaw puzzles may seem old-fashioned, adults and kids alike can easily get hooked once they’ve found success fitting a few pieces into place. Plus, the solo nature of puzzles can be a nice complement to group activities. Look for holiday- themed puzzles that aren’t too difficult, and get it started before guests arrive.
Books and Magazines: For long-term guests, you’ll want to have a selection of books and magazines available to keep them entertained. Make sure the magazines are recent and try to match the subject matter to your guests’ interests.
Include the Kitchen: At holiday time, the kitchen is usually the primary focal point for much of the action. So be sure to outfit it with candles, music and holiday decorations, as well.
As an added bonus, create a Holiday Beverage Station! You know you’re going to be serving drinks at the holidays, so make the process more fun and festive. Once you’ve established a festive drink station, you can redecorate it for any holiday. Offer guests a variety of festive items they can use to self-garnish their drinks, let everyone choose a drink charm to mark their glass, use a specialty tray to create fun-shaped ice cubes, weave garland around the edges of the station, decorate with ornaments and get to mixing!
Source: Windermere Real Estate Home Update
It’s unfortunate, but studies show that burglaries and other property crimes increase around the holidays – for a multitude of reasons. Fortunately, lots of options are available today for protecting your possessions from some of the most common types of holiday crime. Following is a summary of the solutions that have proven the most effective to help keep your home secure at the holidays.
The Best Defense
Studies show that professionally installed security systems with 24-hour monitoring and guard-response are still the best against home burglaries. When an intrusion is registered, these systems send a real person to personally inspect and assess the situation. That’s what makes them so effective. Whole-house alarm systems without the guard-response feature are also very effective. Some, like the model from SimpliSafe, are wireless and easily self-installed. If the cost is holding you back, check with your property insurance company about discounts they may offer for protecting your property with one of these systems.
Doorbell cameras have become one of the most popular alternatives to traditional alarm systems, thanks to their low cost, easy installation and robust smart-phone compatibilities. Any time someone comes within range of the doorbell, you’re alerted via your smart phone, allowing you to easily see and speak to the person.
Sliding Door Security
Many homeowners have a high-security deadbolt installed on their front and rear entry doors, but their sliding doors are secured with nothing more than a standard hook latch. To better guard these entry points, consider placing a thick wooden dowel (custom-cut to the correct size) between the door frame and the slider when it’s not in use to prevent the door from being forced open or easily pulled off it’s tracks.
Secure the Garage Door too
Getting into most garages is as easy for a burglar as sliding a wire through the gap at the top of the door and unlatch the emergency release lever. Once inside an attached garage, they can not only steal what’s stored in there, but also gain entry to the rest of the house (and be protected from view the whole time). To guard against this, secure the garage door emergency release with zip ties, which can be cut or broken in an emergency. Also, carry the remote with you instead of leaving it in your car where it can be stolen and used to gain access to your home. And make sure the entry door between your garage and your home is solid (not hollow-core) and always locked.
Make your Home more Visible
While we all value our privacy, making your yard too private can attract prowlers. Instead, keep your bushes trimmed back and install low fences. The more exposed your home, the harder it is for a burglar to force open a door or window without neighbors or a passerby noticing and calling police.
Encourage Nosy Neighbors
Having a neighbor help watch over your home is another very successful strategy. Let your neighbors know when you’ll be on vacation, when you’ll be having contractors work on your home and when out-of-town visitors will be staying with you. That way, they’ll be much more likely to recognize unusual activity.
Put the Spare Key in a Lock Box
If you want to leave a spare key outside your house, install a lock box (like real estate agents use). Keys left “hidden” in the fake rock, under the doormat, on a ledge, or in a planter are easy to find for even amateur burglars.
Resist the Urge to Post Travel Plans
Wait until you return from your travels to post about them on social media – even if your account is in private mode. Criminals can use those online insights into your personal life to their advantage.
Source: Windermere Home Update
Preparing for Holiday Visitors
Take time now to ensure your home is properly prepared for the onslaught of family and friends who may be visiting during the holiday season this year. The secret to being a memorable holiday host is having a house that’s not only welcoming, but also safe and well-maintained. Following are some suggestions for quick, pre-visit improvements.
LIGHT UP THE OUTDOORS
Installing exterior lighting can quickly transform your house from a dark object to an evening oasis. For dramatic effect, beam lights along the sides of your house. To bring your landscaping to life, mount upward-facing lights at the base of large trees and bushes. Beckon your guests (and make their final approach infinitely safer) by posting lights along walkways and stairs.
PRESSURE-WASH THE WALKWAYS AND DRIVEWAYS
Mossy steps and walkways are very slippery at this time of year. And the best way to remove these organic build-ups is with a powerful pressure washer.
BOLT THE BOOKSHELVES
Bookshelves more than five feet high can be accidentally pulled or pushed over by the well-meaning guests – with potentially serious results. Anchor them to the walls with brackets and bolts specially designed for the task.
GIVE YOUR TOILET(S) A TUNE-UP
To ensure your loo can accommodate the additional users…
- Use a small, handheld mirror to see if the all-important water holes on the underside of the toilet bowl rim are plugged with mineral deposits and grime. If so, use a length of wire clothes hanger to clear them.
- Treat your toilet with one of the products that dissolves built-up paper and organic waste in the pipes (a product called “Toilet Care Tune-up” is sold at hardware stores, Walmart, big box home-improvement stores, and more).
- Make sure it’s still securely bolted to the floor: Grab both sides of the bowl and try to rock it back and forth. If there’s any movement, tighten the floor bolts (but not so tight that you crack the fragile porcelain).
CLEARN THE ENTERTAINING AREAS
If guests have to maneuver around pet food bowls, recycling containers, potted plants, piles of reading materials and other obstructions, there’s a very good chance someone is going to trip or slip.
HAVE THE CHIMNEY INSPECTED
If there’s even a chance you’re going to have a real-wood fire, and you haven’t had your chimney inspected and cleaned in a couple of years, schedule an appointment with a chimney sweep now.
CHANGE THE FURNACE FILTER
To help those guests who may have allergies to dust, pollen and pet hair, change your furnace filter.
If your current home is no longer satisfying your needs, including holiday hosting duties, take some time this winter to seriously consider your real estate options. Spring is a great time to sell. And I would be happy to provide some initial information regarding pricing, market trends and the state of the mortgage industry.
Source: Windermere Real Estate Home Update.