Exterior Remodeling Offers Largest Return on Investment in 2014!

For those homeowners who are looking to take advantage of the sellers market to obtain a profit on a property, exterior remodeling is one of the best ways to increase leverage. People today are looking for houses with curb appeal, and if you have one, then you should be able to move it quickly at a premium price.

Some of the more cost-effective, high ROI exterior modeling projects are as follows:

Siding – Getting your siding done adds a look of luxury to any home. For those buyers who are looking for the details, it is very important. It shows that you care for the house and that you are not only trying to sell it by making huge, ornate changes or distracting people with a good staging effort.

Replacement windows – It has been proven that one of the first things that buyers look at when judging the health of a home are the windows. Replacement windows are relatively inexpensive and can give you a great first impression.

Garage doors – Your garage is a large, easily visible part of your home that everyone will check out. Get the doors done so that you will make a good impression for your buyers.

Decks – A great deck will attract a higher quality of buyer, especially if you’re looking for a family. Having a good deck make sure home more move-in ready, which will appeal to people who do not have the time to purchase a fixer-upper. The more comfortable you can make buyers feel immediately, the more likely that they are to give you a premium for the home.

Patio – Similar to the decks, the patio is the place in which your families will be spending most of their time. Make it look good, and you will certainly reap the rewards in the buying price.

Front door – This should be self-explanatory. The first thing that your buyers will see will be your front door. Do not give them the opportunity to cross your home off of the list before they even step inside because of cracking wood and misplaced joints in your door.

Tips to Select the Right Outdoor Patio Materials

Patio materials provide a wide array of choices. It is hard to concentrate on just a few colors and styles of patio materials when there are so many to choose from. The following tips will help narrow anyone’s focus so they can move to the designing stage of a Concrete Patio or other selection more quickly.

Creative Concrete

A concrete patio is popular because it is inexpensive when compared with other options. Its appearance can be changed from a boring, unassuming grey slab to brick like shapes, decorative colors with chips of glass, or an exposed aggregate. It works best in frost-free zones where the soil is free from heaving. Mandatory maintenance includes coating reapplication every two years to maintain the color. Surface cracks and faded colors in areas with heavy traffic are other problems with this choice.

Decorative Stone

The beauty of natural stone overcomes the expense of quarrying, transportation, and installation. Slabs of flagstone or limestone vary in thickness and must be placed on an individual basis. Reduce the stress of making a decision by choosing the same stone that adds beauty to the house. Trouble-free maintenance and the long life of a stone patio compensate for the cost.

Beautiful Brick

The warmth and appeal of a brick patio is quickly doused when homeowners discover its problems. The porous material holds moisture, causing cracks when the temperature drops below freezing. It also causes ice and adds the danger of slipping. Maintenance includes replacing broken bricks and frequent scrubbing to kill the slippery moss that grows on the bricks in both sunny and shady areas.

Perfect Pavers

Beauty and affordability are the mark of today’s diversified patio materials. Manufactured pavers are available in many colors, shapes, and patterns. Identical thickness reduces the cost and time of installation. They have a long life, with easy to replace individual pieces in the event of breakage or staining.

Hardscaping is a fascinating part of landscaping that includes projects like retaining walls, ponds, decks, and patios. Professional guidance and installation is the best way to get the patio that fits a person’s home and expectations. For more information about patio materials, costs, and styles, contact Tri-County Exteriors at www.tricountyexteriors.com today.

Stone Veneer Advantages for Residential Developers

Residential construction is trending toward warmer exteriors with unique designer touches, moving away from the predictable uniformity of all-brick or sided homes. Creating attractive, one of a kind exterior facades can be challenging for residential developers, but the use of stone veneers offers intriguing options. Manufactured stone veneer products allow the natural look homeowners desire, while avoiding the expense of natural stone.

Because these stone veneer products are manufactured by hand, they also display the craftsmanship highly valued by today’s new construction clients. They perfectly echo the look of slate, limestone, or mixed stone arrays, with the depth and texture to add real interest. Another significant reason developers are choosing to include these innovative materials in their designs is the impressive range of colors and textures homeowners can select to personalize the appearance of their homes.

Having the ability to offer multiple textures, colors and ways of incorporating these highly desirable building materials into a home’s overall design can be the advantage a developer needs to secure new construction contracts. Today’s veneers are suitable not only as exterior finishes, but can also add warmth and charm to kitchens, baths and hearth rooms.

Although the weight of these veneers with the appearance of stone is much less than their natural stone counterparts, they are highly durable. During the construction phase of a residential development, builders will appreciate the ease of installation allowed by the reduced weight, as well.

An additional selling point for developers is the increase in curb appeal and, therefore resale value, when the homeowner is ready to sell again. Stone accents and borders are the type of finish details that create the perception of exclusivity in a buyer’s mind. Offering new construction clients a look into the future and the increased value of their homes adds value to the developer’s services.

Whether used as an accent in brick exterior facades or as a major design element on its own, manufactured stone has captured the attention of discriminating home buyers. Residential developers are encouraged to contact Tri-County Exteriors to discuss how stone veneers can increase return on investment and cement the bond with their new construction clients.

How Much Will That Patio or Deck Cost?

From piers to patio pavers, there’s a lot that goes into pricing your suburban oasis.

If you’re a homeowner with nothing special outside your back door, you’ve probably felt the pang of patio or deck envy. You go to a friend’s house, and he has an incredible layout in his backyard. Someone is grilling, and friends and family are lounging in comfortable chairs on the patio. Everyone’s laughing and having fun, and you remember your own place and think: I want this.

So how much does a patio or deck cost? And what should you know before building one? Here are some basic blueprints to go over before you get too deep into daydreaming and planning.

A low-frills patio or deck is pretty cheap. Everyone’s definition of cheap is different, but decks can be had for as low as $1,000, according to Jessica Piha, a spokeswoman for Porch.com, a website that helps homeowners find the right contractor. But the average deck costs $8,300, Piha says.

And how much is a cheap patio? The cost to install a 200-square-foot concrete patio is about $740 to $840 on average, according to HomeWyse.com, an online reference for home projects.

But here’s why you probably won’t buy a cheap patio. If you’re pining over someone’s patio, you presumably don’t want a concrete slab. You probably want something like attractive patio pavers (flat stones) or rocks to tread upon.

Home improvement chain stores sell the patio pavers for around a buck and upward. If you need, say, 800 inexpensive patio pavers for a 200-square-foot patio, that will generally equate to the price of a concrete patio. Not too bad, until you factor in the price of hiring someone to put them in the ground and any other extras your patio might need.

HomeWyse.com places the average cost of a 230-square-foot patio that uses patio stones from about $2,850 to $3,540. Want flagstone instead? Expect to pay between $3,530 and $4,440.

Don’t go too cheap on the deck. If you install a cheap patio, someone could stumble on a loose rock, but at least you’re unlikely to have any guests taken away in an ambulance.

As Marc Barnes puts it, “No one ever fell off a patio, no patio has ever collapsed under the weight of guests and no one has ever turned a turkey fryer onto a patio and set their house afire.”

Barnes works in public relations, and it isn’t surprising he feels this way. One of his clients is on “team patio.” He represents Pine Hall Brick Company, which makes brick veneers as well as pavers for patios, driveways and other hardscapes.

His point underscores why you want someone competent building your deck. Even if it isn’t made of wood but, say, plastic lumber or a wood-plastic composite, and you aren’t worried about your deck suddenly catching on fire, it will still be at least several feet, and maybe a lot of feet, off the ground.

“A contractor who is proud they do only ‘code-quality work’ is proud they do the minimum allowed by law,” says John Mease, who owns John Mease Home Inspections in Roswell, Georgia. He warns that you’ll need a building permit to have a deck installed. It’s also a project you want to wade into very carefully, he adds.

“Different areas have different requirements,” Mease says. “if you just moved from the Northwest to the Southeast, do not build your new deck like you did back home. There’s a reason there are different requirements for different climates.”

For instance, if you live in a cold climate, you might find that the pier is required to extend below the frost line of the house so that a frost heave doesn’t occur. For those who don’t speak deck, a pier is a component that supports a deck, and a frost heave happens when ice causes your soil to swell during freezing conditions.

Of course, if you don’t know what a pier is or a joist (boards that offer support to the deck), you should hire someone to build your deck rather than doing it yourself. Mease recommends looking at your neighbors’ decks, and when you find your favorite, ask who constructed it – then give the builder a call.

Duane Draughon, a design specialist at VizX Design Studios, an outdoor living and home improvement design firm in Naperville, Illinois, says loose regulations in cities and communities have hurt his industry. “Getting a patio and a deck has become very easy to obtain nowadays … too easy,” he says.

He adds: “With any and every company installing patios, the design and quality has become very poor, which could be regressing property values and consumer trust.”

It’s the extras that kill your wallet. “Most of the time, it isn’t just the patio or deck homeowners want,” Draughon says. Extras include “the fire pit or fireplace, the outdoor kitchen or bar … the pergola, water features and all that good stuff,” he says.

How much can that cost? According to the service Mr. Handyman, here are a few price ranges homeowners can expect to pay for patio and deck features:

  • Landscaping: $4 to $19 per square foot
  • Patio warmer: $150 to $400
  • Fire pit: $500 to $5,000
  • Concrete stamping: $10 to $15 per square foot
  • Seating for your guests: $500 to $1,500

Not planning could be a deathblow to your wallet, too. You don’t want to build a patio or deck and then realize that while it’s safe, it’s not very functional. So when designing your backyard retreat, Barnes suggests first building a mock patio. (You could also do the same for the deck you’re envisioning.)

“Arrange your patio furniture, grill, children’s toys in your yard as if you already have a patio,” Barnes suggests. “Put everything in this space that you can envision having on your patio. Then, using a garden hose or spray paint on the grass, outline this area. This is how large your patio should be. Keep in mind that square or rectangular patios are more formal. Patios with curved sides are less so. “

A contractor or another professional should offer their own input as well, in case you’ve missed something.

For instance, Adam Green, president and principle engineer at Crosstown Engineering, a firm with offices in Tampa Bay, Florida, and the Dallas-Forth Worth area, points out that “the barbecue is typically the worst-placed item on a deck. Remember, the gas line needs to run to the ideal barbecue location, not the other way around.”

He adds that you might want to consider sun exposure. If you burn easily or too much heat isn’t your thing, you’ll want to make sure you have some shade – but probably not so much that your deck and patio are constantly covered.

But it’s worth the money and time to get it right, right? A new or revamped patio or deck could increase your home’s resale value and also enhance your household’s quality of life.

That last part is particularly important, especially if you and your family will get ample use out of a deck or patio. Because to do this right, you want to end up with a special place to waste a lot of time – without having wasted a lot of money.

Williams Geoff (2014 June 30) How Much Will That Patio or Deck Cost? Retrieved on July 3, 2014 from usnews.com

My House Is Worth What?!

The appraisal industry has a long, sordid history of discrimination, and bias still creeps into almost every step of the property assessment process today. Nonetheless, appraisals have been virtually invisible in recent fair housing and fair lending debates.

Those families and communities that have long been subject to discriminatory (and often predatory) behavior continue to pay a high price for inaccurate appraisals.

But so do many who have not traditionally been victimized by these practices. Discriminatory appraisals, for example, often punish institutional actors who have long been engaged in their own wrongful fair housing behavior, including mortgage lenders and real estate agents, who generally depend on accurate appraisals to do their work.

Ironically, both arbitrary under-appraisals and strategic over-appraisals are a problem.

When properties have been under-appraised, deals entered into by willing buyers and sellers for more than the low appraisal cannot go through.  Those buyers and sellers lose out as do the real estate agents, mortgage lenders, and home insurers who attempted to close the deal.  But so do area residents whose home values are depressed by such systematic under-appraisal and its adverse effect on those markets.  Opportunities to accumulate wealth are undercut as properties are devalued.

More recently, when subprime lending leading to the foreclosure crisis was peaking, the opposite problem occurred.  Real estate agents, mortgage originators, and others in the home sales pipeline pressured appraisers to come in with numbers to meet the inflated price buyers and sellers agreed to even when objective analysis indicated the homes were not worth the agreed upon price.  Appraisers who did not meet the price often lost business with those lenders who simply wanted an appraisal that would permit the deal to go through even at the artificially high price.  Just before the housing bubble burst, 90 percent of appraisers in a national survey reported they were pressured by real estate agents, lenders, and consumers to increase their valuations.  In many cases appraisers did meet the number so the deals could go through only to result in foreclosure a few years later.

A common element in both the under- and over-appraisal phenomena is that these practices were concentrated in minority neighborhoods.   Compounding these problems has been the fact that the appraisal industry has had relatively little experience with, and simply does not know how to value property in, non-white communities.

This was demonstrated by the Appraisal Process Task Group, created by the Cleveland Federal Reserve Bank in 1994, when it asked four different appraisers to appraise the same property in the predominantly black Hough neighborhood of that city.  The appraisals varied from $36,000 to $83,500.  Regardless of what the property was actually worth, this experiment suggested that the appraisal industry was not able to fairly and objectively develop valuations for properties in this community.

Several factors could account for these results.  There may be few “comps” (similar properties in the same neighborhoods) in this area that would facilitate more consistency in the appraisals.  Perhaps there were few appraisal firms that knew the community so suburban appraisers had to be brought into the test who were unfamiliar with the area.  Whatever the explanation, it is another factor that makes it more difficult to sell homes in an African-American community, leading to lower property values and wealth accumulation for area residents.

It is time to replicate this research. A provocative and likely enlightening test would be to have a select group of firms appraise properties in an African-American community and other similar properties in a white neighborhood in several metropolitan areas.  Ideally these would be homes that have sold recently so there is some reasonably reliable estimate of the market values of the properties.

The issue would not be which home was valued more highly (homes in white neighborhoods are almost always valued more highly than similar homes in non-white communities) but rather the consistency of the appraisals and how closely the appraisals matched the recent sale price.  That is, the variation in appraisals rather than their average valuation would be of interest.  If there was significantly greater variation in the appraisals in the African American neighborhood than in the white neighborhood, that would constitute strong evidence of at best arbitrary, and more likely, discriminatory treatment of the former.  Assuming the recent sale price of these homes reflected their true market value, it would also be possible to assess the extent to which properties are over- or under-appraised in different neighborhoods.

Such tests would likely require the assistance of a financial institution.  They are the entities that generally commission an appraisal.  But some lenders have entered into cooperative arrangements with fair housing advocates.  And presumably they would perceive a self-interest in eliminating such randomness, if not discrimination, from the appraisal process in order to assure that their borrowers can afford the loans.  This would particularly be the case where originators must retain some “skin in the game” as required by the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.

What could be done if the findings revealed ongoing problems?  One policy implication would be to encourage lenders to use local appraisers when they are available since they would  presumably know the neighborhoods better than more distant suburban appraisers.  A longer term recommendation would be for real estate agents, lenders and appraisers to work with their trade associations and local educational institutions to train more local residents to enter this business.  In those cases where appraisal firms consistently engaged in such practices and refused to take corrective action, sanctions could include fines and, in particularly egregious cases, terminating their license and prohibiting them from engaging in this business.

Arbitrary and discriminatory appraisals are costly to many communities and many housing and related financial service industry providers.  Artificially high or low appraisals can be equally devastating.  We know there are costs, but we have little sense of how steep they are.  It is time to find out.

Squires Gregory (2014 July 1) My House Is Worth What?! Retrieved on July 3, 2014 from rooflines.org

A Sequence of Experiences

While most examples of architecture are static objects, when it comes to thinking about the experience of design, most designers tend to think about architecture in a very dynamic way. How the architecture feels when you move through it is just as important as the object itself. It is this movement that produces curiosity and wonder. The experience of architecture can build on itself to create a sequence of moments which weave together a narrative. When successful, this narrative is much more than the sum of its parts.

For us, there is no better place in design to develop this sequence of experiences than the approach of a house itself. This sequence might begin with how a house feels from the moment you spot it down the street, to how it opens and unfolds as you move through the landscaping, to the serendipity of the front door, and finally culminating in a pleasant moment of arrival inside.


A recent project of ours in Magnolia provides a nice example of this philosophy and today’s post shares the sequence of experiences along with some of our design thinking behind the scenes.

This particular neighborhood has an urban “hard-edge” and most properties incorporate a solid fence or brick wall to maintain privacy around the site. We felt it most appropriate to continue this massing along the property line while using a staggered fence geometry that softens the wall a bit. The entry to the home is distinguished by a break in the fence for the garage and pedestrian entry. Lighting and the address display also encourage the way-finding.


Upon closer proximity to the fence, the staggered horizontal cedar boards allow subtle peeks into the landscaping beyond. The light gray stain of the cedar was chosen, in part, to compliment the vegetation beyond. It’s also a fence construction that keeps a finished appearance on both sides (as opposed to a front and a back).
Once the gate is open, further architectural moves, like the trellis, reveal themselves. The walking surface becomes articulated with gravel breaks at the interior landscaping to align with the trellis supports and lend a more human scale to the ground plane.


Further along, an etch-matte glass cover is added to the trellis and the walkway opens up to a lush yard. The stone of the existing house was maintained and painted dark gray to provide a backdrop to the vegetation. The twisting limbs of two Southern Magnolias provide a canopy to the yard and give the house a comfortable scale. The garage entrance tucks in under the covered trellis so that a smooth (and dry) transition is established between the house and detached garage.

Passing the yard and proceeding under the shelter of the covered trellis, the first portions of the house can be viewed. A transparent wall housing the home office can be fully opened on nice days via an eight-foot accordion door. The first indications of the interior of the home are apparent here.


Opposite the accordion doors, the walkway opens up to a courtyard space. When the accordion doors are in the opened position, the office and courtyard become an indoor-outdoor space for entertaining or a refuge from the direct sun in the warmer months.


The courtyard includes informal seating, an outdoor dining table and a fountain for acoustic white noise in the background. In the evenings, the cedar wrap of the house and wall-wash lighting envelop the courtyard in a warm glow.

Moving up to the front door, it becomes clear that the exterior cedar walls carry through to the interior and the abundance of natural light alerts the visitor to something special awaiting inside.


The entry area of the house is bookended in a continuation of the cedar walls which create an axis ending in a wonderful view of a park, the Puget Sound, Bainbridge Island, and the Olympic Mountain Range beyond (not to mention some spectacular sunsets).


Whether a visitor is aware of these deliberate architectural moves is less important than creating a pleasing experience of moving from one discovery to the next. While good architectural design concerns itself with the behind the scenes mechanics, good architectural experiences allow people to enjoy the design without forcing them to work through the technicalities.

This sequence of experiences was a pleasing one to design, build, and share. Thanks for coming on the adventure with us.

Cheers from Team BUILD


Staff Writer (2014 June 24) A Sequence of Experiences Retrieved on July 7, 2014 from Buildllc.com