Curb appeal is the first impression that any potential buyer receives, so you should ensure that the front of your home, from the curb to the front door, is in the best shape possible—even if you don’t have the budget to splurge on huge upgrades and services.

Follow these five easy and cost-effective suggestions to improve the curb appeal of your home:

1. Glam the Front Door

Adding pizzazz to your home’s front entrance is an easy, low-cost way to up your home’s curb appeal. Try painting your door a pretty hue that coordinates with your home’s color. “Make sure there is a contrast between the front door and the facade of the home,” says Kristine Ginsberg, owner of Elite Staging and Redesign in Morris County, N.J. If your house is gray or white with black shutters, consider painting the front door red, she suggests. Other ways to beautify your home’s exterior are adding appealing house numbers to your entrance and hanging a pretty wreath on the door. For extra pop, place a potted plant or two by the front entrance.

2. Manicure the Lawn

Tending to your lawn is a do-it-yourself task that can add instant curb appeal to your home. Get out the lawn mower, cut the grass regularly and conquer those weeds. “I think it’s always a great idea to edge your lawn for a professional look,” Kristine suggests. If you need to green your lawn in a hurry for an open house or for showings to potential buyers, you can spray your lawn with a green lawn spray paint that’s especially formulated for grass, is nontoxic and is environmentally safe. You can do it yourself, or hire a professional lawn painting service.

3. Wash Off Dirt

Turn the nozzle on your garden hose to its strongest setting and use the water to blast dirt and debris off sidewalks, your driveway and the front of your home. Be careful not to dislodge or get any water underneath your home’s siding. You could rent a power washer at an extra cost, but you probably don’t need to go to the trouble — a simple garden hose can do the job, and a power washer can be too powerful and could damage siding. “If you do use a power washer, don’t put it close to windows or doorways,” suggests Stephen Boehler, owner of Mr. Handyman of NE Monmouth County in New Jersey. “The pressure can remove caulk and other materials sealing your home.”

4. Tidy Up the Driveway

Buyers won’t be impressed by your garbage or recycling containers, so store those on the side of the house (preferably behind a bush, a small fence or a screen) or in the garage. Take care of minor cracks in your driveway by patching or resealing it yourself. Determine how much sealant you’ll need by using the length and width of your driveway to calculate its square footage. Then match that up against the product’s use recommendations. “Plan on getting 10 percent extra because some areas will absorb more than others,” Stephen says. “You can always return unopened pails of sealer.” Stash your car in the driveway or down the block to give your driveway and the approach to your home a neater appearance.

5. Trim Trees and Bushes

Your home needs to be visible from the curb in order to have curb appeal, so cut overgrown bushes and trees, removing branches that block walkways, windows, the driveway and views of the home from the street. “People need to see the front of the house,” says Kristine. Except for very large tree limbs, you most likely can use a pair of hedge or pruning shears for the job. If you don’t have your own pair of shears, look into borrowing a set from a friend or neighbor to keep costs down.

Implement these simple and cost-efficient ideas to help spruce up your home’s exterior and attract potential buyers.



New tax laws will affect income taxes filed in 2019, so it is important to be aware of what changes could potentially affect you.

The Mortgage Interest Deduction:

  • For mortgages taken out after December 15, 2017, only interest on up to $750,000 in acquisition debt is deductible ($375,000 if married filing separately)- includes primary and second homes

  • Interest on up to $1,000,000 in acquisition debt incurred on or before December 15, 2017 is still deductible ($500,000 if married filing separately)

  • The $1,000,000 limit ($500,000 if married filing separately) will still apply to anyone who refinances existing qualified residence debt that was incurred before December 15, 2017 to the extent the new loan does not exceed the old loan

  • Acquisition debt is ANY debt incurred in acquiring, constructing or substantially improving a qualified residence and is secured by the residence

The interest deduction on home equity debt is eliminated

  • This is any debt that is secured by a qualified residence other than acquisition debt

  • Interest on HELOCs used to purchase a qualified residence is deductible to the extent that the loan is used to purchase the property (making it acquisition debt)

No changes will be made to the current law that excludes capital gains on the sale of a home.

The standard tax deduction will nearly double for single files from $6,350 to $12,000, for joint filers from $12,700 to $24,000, and for heads of household from $9,350 to $18,000.

The new law eliminates the deduction for personal exemptions and the personal exemption phase-out.

State and local income tax, property tax, and sales tax (in the aggregate) will now be limited to a maximum deduction of $10,000.

The current mortgage revenue bonds and mortgage credit certificates (MCCs) are preserved under the new tax law.

Source: IRS

The desert towns can seem dreadful to some. Sure, you can fry an egg or two on the asphalt in the summer (which you really should not eat if you ever try), and yes, you need sunscreen often through the year, but most people get quite shocked once they give desert towns a shot. Even the look of the buildings has a different, vintage and nostalgic look that you can’t find anywhere else. Everything down to the plant life can show people that different worlds are out there. Scottsdale, Arizona is one of those amazing towns that embodies and exceeds the example of a fantastic desert city. Located on the eastside of Arizona, there are so many fun things to do in Scottsdale that will capture your attention and have you coming back for more! Here is just a tiny list of the commodities Scottsdale can offer.

McCormick and Stillman Railroad Park

The nostalgia of the town will hit you right away when you visit the McCormick and Stillman Railroad park. Prepare to have your interest in trains re-invoked from when you were a kid. Operated by the city of Scottsdale Parks & Recreation department, this 30-acre park will offer more train joy than one can handle. Try out their centerpiece of the park: the Paradise & Pacific Railroad. It is built and operated as an exact 5:12 reproduction of a Colorado narrow gauge railroad! You can also take it slow with the Scottsdale Charros Carousel.  If you are looking for a real awesome experience, on Saturdays and Sundays from October to May, they will allow guests to ride the Arboretum Train. This will run right through their desert arboretum to make for an incredible experience.

Camelback Mountain

Camelback Mountain might just be the perfect getaway if you are looking for an outdoors seclusion from the world. Be warned, the trails can get steep. I’m sure you are wondering why they call it Camelback Mountain. It’s as simple as you can guess. The mountain resembles a kneeling camel with its hump and head protruding up. It really is quite the sight when you look at it, but nothing is more beautiful than the view it offers. If you decide to take its 1.2-mile summit trail, you will find yourself reaching an elevation of 2,707 feet. This is known as one of the most scenic hiking spots in the city! As rewarding as it is, make sure to be prepared. The hike can be quite steep.

Big Surf

Say you hit the hike in the morning, you might be a little worn out from the heat. You might want to cool off. What better way than with a gorgeous water park? Located about 6 miles from Scottsdale is Big Surf Waterpark. Big Surf is known for being the first water park in the United States to have a wave pool. All you need to do is gather up the family and hop in your weekend rental car or family-owned vehicle and drive about 15 min south. Obviously, they have done something right because know it is widely adapted everywhere! Find yourself zipping through their abundant choices of water slides or relaxing on the grassy areas getting some sun. No matter, you will find it refreshing to soak in the sun and take a dip in the water.

OdySea Aquarium

Okay, maybe jumping into the water gets old after a while, but one thing that never gets old is observing sea life. In Scottsdale, there is the OdySea Aquarium. It just happens to be the largest aquarium on the Southwest of the United States, holding in more than 2 million US gallons of water! You can see all types of marine life and explore their Aqua lobby. It is incredible to see nine massive 1,000 pound globe-shaped aquariums hanging overhead. It really is something that will drop your jaw to the floor. IF you are over the age of 21, you can even check out their Nightlife after hours adventure under the sea event. Bring your friends, or a special date, and enjoy live music, a five-course dinner, cocktails, behind the scenes tours and much more during this amazing nighttime event.

Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art

Come explore your interpretation of art by yourself or with friends at the Scottsdale Museum of contemporary art. With more than 40 years of experience, the museum is completely dedicated to exhibiting modern art, design, and architecture. Sounds like a perfect place to wind down after an eventful weekend. If you really want to dive in, the museum offers a great selection of educational classes that can teach anyone from young and old about art and creativity. It really is a good way to get out there and make some friends that share the same interest in you. You might take it more seriously when you find out there are more than 50,000 children and adults that the museum engages with.

Scottsdale, Arizona is a magnificent desert city filled with very creative and explorative things to do. Whether you live there or are just visiting for the weekend, you will find yourself falling in love with the desert more and more as you traverse the weekend and it’s desert glory. Have fun!


By: Jeremy Alderman, ZOG Digital



Is your bathroom looking a little outdated? Although we all love to drool over images of gorgeous designer bathrooms, we may not have the budget to go all-out when the time comes to spruce up our own washrooms. Fortunately, giving your bathroom a new look doesn’t require a complete overhaul. Take a look at some ideas for remodeling that will help revive your bathroom without breaking the bank.

1. Paint

A fresh coat of paint can do wonders for a bathroom in need of an upgrade.  By choosing a completely different color palette, you can even make your old space feel like new. Whether you decide to play it safe or go bold, be sure that you use mold-proof paint. Because of the humidity, mold is the most common issue in every bathroom. You can also use new paint to refresh your dated bathroom cabinets. In addition to painting the bathroom, re-caulk the lines around the tub and sink and clean the grout between your tiles. This will make look your bathroom extra “fresh”!

2. Tile

Remodeling a bathroom often means replacing old tile with expensive new tile that looks gorgeous. But if you want to cut your budget, cutting the expensive tile is your first step.  Consider limiting the amount of tile in your bathroom by focusing on high-impact areas such as the floor and use a larger tile size and simple patterns first. Another alternative is to save by designing a “rug” with just a few square feet of something fancy and eye catching, and using large-format field tiles in a coordinating stone around it.

3. Countertops

If you have a limited amount of counter space, you won’t break the bank by installing granite or other solid-surface counters.  To save even more, consider looking at various color choices and slabs with imperfections. Consider alternative colors that will still look nice, but that you hadn’t previously considered.

4. Fixture Updates 

If you don’t have the funds to spend on a custom vanity, don’t fret. A simple model can look one-of-a-kind with some pretty hardware. While these changes may seem small or insignificant, they can make a huge difference to the look and feel of your bathroom. Try a vintage or specialty store to find hardware that is unique.

5. Bathtub 

Once a bathtub is installed in a bathroom, getting it out is usually expensive. Although a new tub doesn’t have to be pricey the process of removing the old one, hiring a plumber to reattach the pipes and installing the new bathtub can add up to $3,000. If your bathtub is in good shape but its beauty has faded, consider refinishing. You can reglaze a bathtub to a like-new finish for $200 to $300 or hire a professional for $500-700 to get it looking as good as new.


Having a home that supports your activities makes all the difference in hosting an event which you can enjoy along with your family, friends, and guests. No matter the size of your home, introducing just a few easy elements can transform it into an entertaining haven.

Here are five key features that make a home ideal for entertaining:

  1. An Inviting Entryway

The entryway is the first impression your guests have of your home, so make it inviting and functional. No need to be over-the-top, but make sure it’s sizable enough to allow guests to enter comfortably and to remove their coats and shoes. If you have room add a lovely bench and have a coat rack readily available for guest.

  1. An Open Floor Plan

Over the past decade, an increasingly popular home trend has been an “open floor plan.” Essentially, this means an open space in the heart of your home, which creates a sense of togetherness throughout homes and make it easier to communicate. This open space gives plenty of room for guests to mingle, while not feeling closed off from any part of the party. If your house doesn’t have an open floorplan, don’t worry. Just clear out larger pieces of furniture, such as side tables, to make room for your guests.

  1. Multiple Seating areas

Entertaining is all about creating a comfortable space for guests to mingle and converse. The best entertainment environments maximize seating, creating large group and intimate seating arrangements for all types of conversations.Some guests may prefer to be in the center of all the action, while others may prefer a quieter area to catch up with friends. Having more than one space to entertain creates an atmosphere of easy interaction with a variety of choices. A living room with a grouping of couches and comfortable chairs is a perfect fit. A versatile dining area with neutral furnishings work well with all types of decorations, while extendable tables accomodate parties of all sizes.

  1. A Powder Room

While you may not notice this feature on a daily basis, a bathroom becomes noticeably important when entertaining! You can transform any half bath into a powder room by adding a small basket that holds lotion, hairspray or anything else someone may find themselves needing during a visit to your home. Powder rooms not only provide guests their own comfortable space, they’re wonderful opportunities to play around with decor by adding candles and special occasion hand towels or by using a bold wall color or artwork.

  1. Mood Lighting

Good lighting is everything when it comes to making a home feel inviting and cozy. Proper mood lighting is about making your guests feel comfortable while still being able to see each other. Play around with different types of lighting for adaptable levels of light and don’t forget to add candles for that extra coziness factor.




The winter may bring darker and cloudier days ahead, but with the seven tips below you can make your home look brighter, more cheerful and inviting:

1 Take the Screens Off Your Windows

You’ll get 30% more sunlight shining indoors without screens on your windows.

Here’s the best part: Sunlight warms your room and saves you money on your heating bill. It’s solar power — for you!

Be sure to store your screens in your garage or basement where they won’t get damaged. In the spring you’ll want to put them back on so you can keep that 30% of the sun out and run your cooling system less.

2 Hang Outdoor String Lights Indoors

They don’t give off a lot of light, but they’re cheerful as heck.

Drape them around a window or a mantel, or hang a string of LED glimmer lights in a tall potted plant. They’ll add a layer of soft light to your room and remind you of fireflies, flip-flops, and patio parties.

3 Change Your Bulbs

Replace those incandescent bulbs and their yellowy light with LEDs, which produce a brighter, whiter light.

But get your bright right:

  • The higher the K rating on the bulb, the cooler and whiter its light.

  • For cool, white light, opt for a bulb rated 3,500K to 4,100K.

  • For blue-white light that’s closest to natural daylight, use a bulb between 5,000K and 6,500K.

4 Hang Mirrors

Make the most of that weak winter light by bouncing it around the room with mirrors.

If you don’t want the distraction of seeing your reflection all the time, use a large, convex one — also known as a fish-eye mirror. It will amplify light better than a flat one. Another option: Hang a gallery wall of small mirrors.

5 Replace Heavy Curtains With Blinds or Roman Shades

Fabric curtains, while quite insulating, block light and make a room feel smaller and more cramped, especially if they’re a dark color or have a large print.

Try Roman shades or a simple valance paired with blinds to let in the maximum amount of natural light.

6 Swap Your Solid Front Door for One With Glass Inserts

A solid front door can make your house look and feel as dark as a dungeon.

Get rid of it and install a half-light or full-light door that lets the natural light stream in. For even more natural light, add glass sidelights and a glass transom.

The median cost of a new door is $2,000 for steel and $2,500 for fiberglass, before any extras, but a new door will add curb appeal.

Curb appeal equals higher resale value. And coming home in the evening to the warm glow of light radiating out the glass panels in your front door is an instant mood lifter.

7 Add Plants

Putting pots of plants around your room will remind you that spring and green will return.

Match plants to the amount of light you have, because dead and dying plants are depressing. Tropicals that thrive in indirect light are usually the best choice. If you have a sunny window you’ve got more plant options.

Bonus points for adding a plant that blooms in the winter, like a kaffir lily or anthurium.


Source: “



Have you tried to sell your house before and it just wouldn’t sell? Or maybe you are thinking of selling your home and this is your worst fear? Having a house that has seen minimal movement on the market is especially frustrating. If your home doesn’t sell it is time to take a step back, asses the situation and think about what the problem is. Ask yourself: why would  a buyer choose your home over all the other homes for sale?

Here are 6 things you can do:

1. Understand the Market

It’s important to have a good understanding about the real estate market. Consult with an experienced real estate agent that knows your area to determine the sales price. Don’t rely on your emotions and sweet memories to come up with a price. Instead price by comparing your house with other homes that are selling, sold or just went under contract. A key factor to selling a house is to know if the current market favor buyers or sellers. Perhaps things just aren’t moving quickly in the current market. If the market is hot, your agent should discuss with you the next options.

2. Price Your Home to Sell

Beyond the temperature of the market and your marketing efforts, the most likely factor when it comes to a lack of offers on a home is price. Properties sell when they are priced correctly. If the price is too high, you won’t get any offers and your home will sit on the market. Obviously you don’t just want to give away your house, but the value of your home is determined by what a buyer is willing to pay for it.

3. Pump up the Marketing and Advertising

If you have had a lot of showings with no offers, it is most likely a pricing issue. However if you are having very little activity,  it can be a pricing or marketing issue. Check if your house is being marketed on all the major websites and a combination of different marketing efforts are used. Four-color postcards to surrounding homes in the neighborhood, Open Houses on the weekends, virtual tours and and lots of photos are the bare minimum! You want to let everyone know that your house is on the market and what gem it is, so spread the message in person with your neighbors and online through websites and social media.

4. Take Many and Quality Photos

Speaking of marketing: a major factor in buyers’ decision to go look at a house is quality pictures. Too often there are photos out there with too much clutter, reflections of people in the mirror, open toilet lids and dark rooms. Unless you are a pro, don’t take pictures yourself. Hire a professional photographer instead who can shoot wide angles pictures with plenty of light showcasing your home’s best features.

5. Improve Your Home

It might not be what you want to hear, but maybe people aren’t buying because they don’t like what you are selling. It doesn’t have to be a total make-over and huge repairs, but often just a little touch up can improve the whole vibe of the house. Fresh paint (neutral colors) and a clean, decluttered home would be your best bet. If your house is vacant and you can afford staging, go for it!

6. Interview Other Real Estate Agents

If your agent isn’t responsive or doesn’t have a good explanation for why your property isn’t selling, then you might want to consider a new real estate agent. Search for experience in an agent not only by who has been in the business for many years, but also who has sold a lot of homes. Ask your family and friends with whom they have worked with and had good experience before and they might be able to give you referrals.


By: Patricia Madigan


It’s Christmas time and that means decorations and lights everywhere all over America. While it is fun to make your house light up, higher energy costs are not. If you want to have a cheaper and greener holiday season, try the following:

  1. Decorate with LED lights for the holidays

To keep your energy consumption in check this season, try LED or energy-efficient bulbs for the holidays. New LED holiday lights use at least 75 percent less energy and last 25 times longer than older, incandescent lighting. Instead of using lights everywhere, go with wreaths, bows and lawn ornaments that don’t use energy instead. Make sure to always unplug your holiday lights before going to bed or leaving the house. Consider investing in a smart plug. Smart plugs monitor your energy usage and break it down into an easy report each month so that you know exactly how much energy your holiday decorations consume. Some smart plugs can also be programmed to run on a timer or manually from an app on your smart device.

  1. Use your Fireplace

If you have a fireplace, make use of it. Not only is it a great way to cut down on electricity, but it can also be an eco-friendly way to heat your home and it’s the perfect festive holiday accessory on top of that! Make sure to reduce heat loss, by keeping the fireplace damper closed when the fire isn’t burning and close doors that are leading into the room.  In order to use your fireplace efficiently, consider installing tempered glass doors and a heat-air exchange system that blows warmed air back into the room and purchase grates made of C-shaped metal tubes to draw cool room air into the fireplace and circulate warm air back into the room.

  1. Adjust the temperature

Adjust the thermostat at night. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, you can save about 10 percent per year on your heating bills by turning your thermostat down 10 to 15 degrees for eight hours. When you are home and awake, set your thermostat as low as is comfortable. When you are asleep or out of the house, keep your thermostat 7-10 degrees cooler than normal for eight hours and save around 10% a year on your utility bills. A programmable thermostat can make it easy to change your temperature as needed.

  1. Wear Warm clothes

One of the easiest ways to save on your heating bill is to bundle up with warm accessories. It’s sweater weather after all, so put on a cozy winter sweater and warm socks. Keep throw blankets on your couch, and add an area rug to insulate the floor. Use a warm comforter for your bed and buy flannel sheets.

  1. Use the sun for free heat

Don’t forget to take advantage of heat from the sun! Open the curtains on your south-facing windows during winter days to bring free heat into your home and close them at night to reduce the chill you may feel from cold windows.




Every day we are getting closer and closer to Christmas and many of us plan to host a holiday gathering. While this should be a pleasant time to spend with family or friends, it also can lead to slight panic attacks especially when gifts aren’t bought yet and the house could need a makeover. Event though now is not the time for the “remodel you were planning to do beginning of the year”, giving the house a little pampering by decluttering and cleaning it goes a long way.

Follow the plan below which provides you with a clear schedule when to tackle which room and tasks that you can attack in 5 days prior to the festive event to make your house shine:

Plan Before You Clean

Before you even start cleaning anything you need to have a plan and a date! Pick a date for the event, put it in your calendar and notify the guests in advance. Once you have a plan you know when to start the cleaning process, because cleaning is like the San Francisco bridge: once you are finished with painting the whole bridge, you have to start all over again. So don’t start cleaning too early (unless you love doing it all over again, then feel free to do so!).

Stock up on supplies: for the before and after cleaning, the actual party and possible overnight guests: garbage bags, toilet paper, paper towels, cleaning products, basic toiletries.

Don’t forget to ask for help before or during the event: this could be your partner, kids or a good friend. They can help organize, clean, greet the guests, create a playlist with some good tunes or make sure that everyone always has something to drink. Depending on the size of the event you might consider hiring a bartender for the party.

Let the countdown to a clean home begin!

Clean 5 Areas in 5 Days

There’s no sense in start cleaning too early. Wait until the actual week of the event, assign tasks to family members and get going with day one:

Day 1: Start with the porch, foyer, entryway and central closets.

  1. Organize clutter and clean up. Keep entry points of your home clear and easy to navigate for guests if they need storage.

  2. Wipe down the door, windows, light fixtures and doorknobs.

  3. Vacuum or sweep, mop if needed.

Day 2: Next clean up bedrooms, hallways and staircases.

  1. Dust ceiling fans, light fixtures, vents and all the spots that usually get ignored.

  2. Wipe down doorways and furniture

  3. Vacuum the floor (always vacuum after dusting)

  4. Lay out fresh linens and towels in the guest room.

Day 3: It’s time to clean the bathrooms guests will be using.

  1. Pull out all the towels and mats, run a load of laundry.

  2. Dust the light fixtures and vents.

  3. Clean the toilet, tub, shower and other hard bathroom surfaces.

  4. Wipe down doorways and cabinets.

  5. Clean the mirror.

  6. Vacuum or mop.

  7. Return freshly laundered towels and mats.

Day 4: Turn your attention to the living room and dining room.

  1. Declutter the space so that there’s plenty of room for guests

  2. Dust ceiling fans, light fixtures and vents.

  3. Wipe down doorways, the mantel, furniture, and cabinet exteriors.

  4. Vacuum the floor, furniture, and under the furniture.

Day 5: On the last day it’s time to focus on the kitchen.

  1. Dust the ceiling fan, light fixtures and vents.

  2. Clean stove, fridge and microwave.

  3. Wipe down the countertop, sink and cabinets.

  4. Clean the garbage can.

  5. Vacuum and/or mop the floor.

DONE! Congratulations! You finished all the prep-work, now it’s time to host your family and friends and remember: not every gathering goes perfectly. As long as your guests feel welcomed, your party will be great!

By: Patricia Madigan


Does your current job require you to move? There are many factors that influence a decision to relocate or not. The secret to a successful relocation is timing. Good timing takes some advanced planning to put you in control. Here are 5 more relocation tips to make your move a little less stressful.

1. Know The Market

Before you start seriously searching for a new home – or put your current home on the market – make sure you have a solid understanding of the housing market in your area. Is the market weighted toward buyers or sellers? Find multiple suitable options. You are less likely to find yourself in trouble if your purchase falls through when you price your old home fairly. Two extra months on the market because you did not want to lower the price means two months you’ll be paying double mortgages.

2. Plan and Strategize

Should you buy first, then sell – or vice versa? Both have their risks and rewards. Selling first makes getting a mortgage easier, but it also means you’ll need to find a temporary place to live. Buying first means moving will be easier, but it also skews your debt-to-income ratio,not to mention the difficulty of juggling two monthly house payments. When determining whether you should sell or buy first, think beyond “How can I make the move as easy as possible?” Instead ask: “Can I handle two mortgages? What if my home sells for less than its listing?” Whichever option you choose, make sure you are prepared to accept the consequences: having to store your stuff and rent temporarily, or undergoing the financial burdens of dual mortgages.

3. Shop For a Loan Before Looking at Houses

Before you even go out to look at houses, get pre-approved for financing first! That way you know exactly how much you are able to spend and won’t be disappointed later if you can’t afford the house you ended up loving.

4. Work Closely With Your Agent

Make sure every “i” is dotted and every “t” crossed on time for both closings. Work with an agent who has the knowledge and experience and will guide you through each process. Your agent will save you time and money and can refer you to the right lender, title and inspection company in order for you to have a smooth transition.

5. Contact The Aladin Group

Do you plan to relocate? Get in touch with us! The Aladin Group wants to help you, so don’t hesitate to call us under 480-359-6789 !

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