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Sunday, March 11, 2018

Marble Maintenance: Sealing Marble Is No Big Deal

Cadogan Hotel, London, Via Hotels Combined   
When I designed the bathroom in our 1940s home, I wanted it to look classic, timeless. Not a slavish devotion to 1940s era bathrooms, but a good fit with the period of our building. In short, I wanted it to feel as if it had always been there. My inspiration was a bathroom in the Lillie Langtry suite at the Cadogan hotel in London, where I'd recently stayed. It had an old cast iron deep soaking tub, trimmed in marble. When I started to show people my design, I was surprised at all the horrified reactions. "Oh the upkeep!" "You'll be sorry!" "You'll have to seal it every year." So, I'm here to set the record straight: Sealing marble is no. big. deal.

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Fixer Upper Friday: A 2BR for $399k in the Wilshire House in Jackson Heights

This week's Fixer Upper find is a 2BR located at 34-15 74th Street, 6E in the Jackson Heights neighborhood of NYC listed for just $399k. Renovated 2BR/1BA homes in this neighborhood are going for upwards of $600k, so there's a good $200k of instant equity on the line for some lucky buyer to tap and renovate a home exactly to your taste. Let's take a look.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Financing Your Renovation: What a HELOC Appraiser Is Looking For in a New York City Co-Op Home

Whether you're renovating to resell or to stay in your home and enjoy your design upgrades for years to come, a HELOC can be a good way to finance your renovation. Though it doesn't come with as rigorous a screening process as a first mortgage, a HELOC does require a bit of paperwork. And once you're pre-approved, the lender will order an appraisal. This won't be exactly like the appraisal when you sold your last home — so put down the grout cleaner. Here's what a HELOC appraiser is looking for.

If you've come this far, you've already jumped through some hoops. The lender asked questions about properties you own, your income, and expenses. They ran a credit check and you passed with flying colors. Now the appraisal.

Though hired by the lender, a HELOC appraisal can be viewed as safeguard for both borrower and lender. By providing an up-to-the-minute, accurate valuation of the equity you have in your home, it protects you from borrowing too much against the value of your home (and getting into financial trouble) and it protects the lender from loaning too much.

The Basic Calculation
Banks will generally lend 75-90% of the value of a home for a HELOC — after subtracting the amount you still owe on your mortgage.


A home appraises for $500,000.  The owner still owes $100,000 on the mortgage. Subtract what's still owed from the appraisal value and there's $400,000. The bank will lend at least 75% of that, or $360k.

So, what is the appraiser looking at in a NYC co-op?

Location and Size
What neighborhood is the home located in, how many square feet of living space, what floor it's located on, and what are the views. These can all come into play. Also, if there's any outdoor space, such as a terrace, rooftop deck, or yard.

How old is the unit and how old is the building? Are there signs of deterioration in the building? Is there work being done that could mean an assessment for the shareholders. Have renovations and upgrades been made recently, and if so, have features been added since the last appraisal?

Design and Quality of Fixtures
Once inside your unit, the appraiser will be evaluating the quality of construction and finish work that have already been done. They'll look at the makes and models of the fixed appliances, and any defining features in the current home, such as the view from the windows or architectural details like hardwood floors, cove ceilings, plaster, stone, moldings, and original woodwork.

Is the building a doorman building? Is there a parking garage, bike room, fitness room, or communal garden or rooftop?

Preparing for the Appraiser
You really don't need to do any prep work to meet your appraiser, and you can also strike most DIY tasks off your list. The number one thing on your plate is simply to tidy up the place. A clean house makes it easier for the appraiser to see the beauty and improvements in your home.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Scherr's Versus Semihandmade White Shaker Doors That Fit IKEA Sektion Cabinets

There's a growing trend in homeowners choosing IKEA cabinet boxes and organizational inserts but sourcing their doors elsewhere, and it's dominating Houzz discussion boards lately. If you're looking for doors made to fit, with the bored holes for IKEA's European style concealed hinges already carved out and ready to go, there are several companies providing custom doors for IKEA. I've looked at all of them, and with samples in, I'm proclaiming the winner in the category of already-painted white Shaker is Scherr's. Here's why.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Free Kitchen Design Apps to Make Your Floor Plans, Mood Board, and Renderings

As your kitchen plan comes together and you start speaking with vendors and interviewing contractors, it's really helpful to have something to show them that's more than just a collection of inspirational photos you saved on Houzz or Pinterest. Contractors, especially, can get overwhelmed by too many photos. So, I like to boil it down to just one inspirational photo, floor plans, and a drawing — and I keep them on me at all times, just a click away on my phone or in dropbox. It's not difficult, and a lot of the apps you need are free. 

Sunday, February 4, 2018

What Lenders Look for in a Renovation Appraisal

This kitchen renovation, for so long just a gleam in my iPad, is becoming a reality, and that's exciting. I'll be paying for a good deal of it out of pocket, but I'll need to borrow additional funds. Let's take a look at the number-one thing a lender looks for to approve renovation financing: Will the current value of the home support the current mortgage loan amount plus the renovation amount you want to borrow.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Financing and Return on Investment for a Major Kitchen Renovation

Via Berkshire Green
The kitchen renovation I've been dreaming of has finally arrived, and I'll be paying for a good deal of it out of pocket. But adding up cost estimates so far for cabinets, countertops, and appliances, I can see I'll need additional funds. Financing a renovation isn't a topic many home blogs cover, so I thought I'd share my discovery process. Let's take a look at the cost of a major kitchen renovation and the estimated return on investment (ROI).

Saturday, January 27, 2018

IKEA Kitchens: Planning Your SEKTION Cabinet Organizers

When you're planning your kitchen, don't stop at the exterior design. It's helpful to sketch out exactly what you'll be storing in each cabinet. It's a tedious mental exercise that you'll be tempted to put off until after installation, but that would be a mistake. Planning the interior organization will help you anticipate your family's needs and design a kitchen that fits the way you really live. Here are some things that I changed my mind about that would have been expensive mistakes to correct.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Can You Open a Wall in a NYC Co-op Renovation?

Via Fontan Architecture
Our renovation has hit the wall — figuratively speaking. I've been in a holding pattern these past weeks, uncertain of how to move forward. Every step seems to bring me back to this wall that separates our kitchen from the living room. Scary stories about co-op renovations abound, from restrictive board rules to labyrinthian city permit processes to costly paid expediters, and the like. It's enough to put off even a seasoned renovator. But finally I see my way clear. Yes, you CAN open a wall in a New York City co-op building, with just a few mitigating factors.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Why I'm Minimizing the Range Hood in My New Kitchen

Via Houzz
Is it just me, or have range hoods gone over the top? Sometimes it seems as though a Rolls Royce has been parked in the kitchen. Granted, if I lived in a manor house, I'd probably be coveting a custom steel hood like this, that puts Cornue to shame. (I certainly love that cut marble backsplash.) But here in New York City, co-op living prevents most homeowners from venting our range hoods to the outside, and this brings things into a sharp new perspective, where range hoods stand on their design merits alone. Here's a look at what I see.