Creating the Perfect Guest Room

download (85)As premier tourist destinations, several towns offer top-class recreational activities all year round. From swimming, boating, fishing and waterskiing in the summer to skating and cross-country skiing in the winter, the serene waters and surrounding rural environment mean there is always something for visitors to do.

For those who have bought property in the towns and enjoy lakefront living, the local amenities may take on a further significance.

As the number of reasons to visit increases, there’s a fine chance that the number of people who wish to do so will too. Whether friends or family, hosting guests is a pleasure that many people enjoy. The main stumbling block for most is knowing where to put them.

To be able to share the joy of lakefront living with as much company as possible, a thoughtfully designed and fully-equipped guest room is ideal.

Laying out the layout

Keeping the guest space separate to the homeowner space is essential in maintaining a harmonious home. This means, if possible, providing your guests with all the amenities they need in a self-contained guest room.

For those with space enough to do so, providing a lounge area to relax, read or watch TV is a good idea. Smart use of an oversized chair can make a partition between the lounge and sleeping area should children wish to rise early or parents choose to stay up later.

As a space saving exercise, it’s also worth remembering that most short term guests won’t bring many clothes; especially those who have come to enjoy summertime lakefront living. Closets can be eschewed in favour of more floor space for luggage, fold-out beds, and anything else your guests may find more useful than a redundant empty wardrobe.

Break up the bathroom

Although there may be numerous guests sharing the one guest room, providing any more than one bathroom will be in most cases impractical. However, that’s not to say a few design features can’t make things more convenient for those who have come to experience lakefront living.

Placing a separate sink and mirror outside the bathroom will help multiple guests to freshen up or prepare for bed more quickly while maintaining privacy.

As another measure to keep the guest space separate from the homeowner space, this can reduce the temptation to use other bathrooms throughout the house.

The appliance of convenience

While fitting anything like a full kitchen in a guest room is out of the realm of reality for most families, certain appliances can be added if the space is there.

A small coffee machine and a microwave will help your guests to feed themselves should they wish to, but a mini-fridge would arguably be the most useful addition to those enjoying a taste of lakefront living.

Being able to refrigerate snacks, drinks, baby milk and even medications will cut down massively on trips to the fridge in the main kitchen, which is especially important should the guests’ sleep patterns be out of sync with their hosts’.


America’s Most Haunted Vintage Homes

images (15)According to a “Haunted Housing Report,” 35 percent of homeowners claim they’ve had paranormal experiences in their vintage homes, or in a home that they have previously owned. While an individual’s perception of what is “haunted” is subjective, that percentage might be just high enough to cause you to think twice about that noise you heard in the basement yesterday.

Certain factors increase the likelihood of homeowners experiencing paranormal activity in their new vintage homes. These may include whether a house is located on or near cemetery property; if the property is over 100 years old; if there were numerous transitions between owners; and whether the house is built near a battleground or other area where multiple deaths occurred, thus creating negative energy.

Joshua Ward House, Salem, Mass.

The name “Salem” conjures up images of witch hunts and accusations. These are what took place in this vintage home. The brick mansion was built for Joshua Ward in the 1780s; however, the home’s previous owner, Sheriff George Corwin, also known as “the Strangler,” killed many women accused of witchcraft. Their souls are said to sulk through the corridors of the home.

Farnsworth House, Gettysburg, Pa.

The famous Civil War battle at Gettysburg was one of history’s bloodiest combats. The Farnsworth home was dedicated to Confederate sharpshooters and acquired at least 100 bullet holes over the course of the war. The home is rumored to still house deceased souls of misery-ridden Confederates.

The house is still in use today as a bed and breakfast. Visitors claim there is a spiritual presence in the house that isn’t quite alarming, but still noticeable.

LaLaurie Mansion, New Orleans

If you’ve watched American Horror Story, you’ll recognize the LaLaurie Mansion in New Orleans as the same mansion depicted in the show. Located in the city’s French Quarter, the mansion was where the family of Dr. Louis Delphine LaLaurie resided in 1832. They were an affluent family with a dark secret-Madame Delphine tortured slaves in the attic. Supposedly, the souls of the deceased slaves still torment the home.

Visitors are continuously attracted to the spooky home and reputation of Madame LaLaurie.

Villisca Ax Murder House

The final house contains a tragic history similar to the tortures that took place in the LaLaurie Mansion. In 1912, six children and two adults were murdered with an ax wound to the skull. The Moore family’s death was never solved, and little evidence was found to determine who murdered them. Reports by people who have spent time in the house claim that there are sounds of children crying, ladders moving, and doors opening and slamming shut all on their own.

It is clear that these homes are filled with rich history. Those with an interest in the dark arts or haunted abodes will likely find great pleasure in continuing to research these vintage homes and their murky histories. Others may need more convincing.

Real Estate Trends – The Most Popular Home Styles

download (83)Year after year, trends change in what the most popular home styles are. In the early 20th century, small homes that looked like little pill boxes dominated many American cities, while mid-century developers used ranch homes predominantly. So what are the current trends in home styles today? Read on to learn more.

Craftsman homes are still the most popular design in home styles, and have been for a long time. They are well laid-out homes with reliable designs inside. The homes tend to be a bit boxy, but they are classically styled and often feature a fine porch to relax on. Eaves are deeply overhanging for increased shelter from the sun – and the rain. You will find Craftsmans throughout the country and they allow for great air flow from room to room wherever you are. They often feature a mix of materials like stone and wood and cherish the work that goes into building them – hence the craftsman name.

Traditional homes are the most common in snowier areas like the Rocky Mountain west, the Midwest, and the Northeast. They look a lot like the homes built in the colonial period by European immigrants. They have a specific floor plan and a particular layout of windows. You will often have two windows next to the door, one on each side, and the upper floor has five front facing windows, with one immediately above the door.

Second, and sometimes third, floors will feature dormers. Kids love those as play areas, and parents like to set up their home offices in these niches. They often have big porches and lots of details like shutters and trim.

Out west you’ll find ranch styles, particularly in the Southwest. Ranches were set up to be on true cattle ranches in the west, but they became popular all over. Ranch homes are single-story dwellings, which makes them great for families with small children or elderly parents. They can be small, 1,100 square feet, or they can be huge rambling homes that cover over 2,000 square feet. Current developers don’t often use ranch styles as much any more, but they certainly hold a place in many people’s hearts.

Then there are the grand homes of the European style. Think of the big houses of France and Germany, with the stone work and high walls trimmed by large wood beams. Floors are often made of stone or marble, and metallic trims are common.

Farming is not as common anymore as it used to be, but farmhouse style homes are as popular as ever. The house plan is usually a simple rectangle with perhaps a sunroom or a porch on either end. Windows are tall and narrow allowing for gentle breezes to cool the home naturally. Siding is almost always done in wood, while the roof is made of either wood, composite, or metal.

Whatever style you like best will often be the one that speaks to you. Not every home style is meant for everyone, which is why there are so many out there. One of the ways to find the one you love is to look through architecture books and design magazines. Part of the joy in finding the home you love is the process, so have fun dreaming!


The Myths and Truths Regarding the Colombian Real Estate Bubble

images (14)As an increasingly bigger number of visitors, investors and business people arrive in Colombia and see the all of the countless new constructions happening all over the place, one of the first questions everyone asks is, “is there overbuilding in Colombia? Is there way too much inventory? Is the real estate market overvalued? Could this be a real estate bubble?” The answer to all of the above is no (or, more precisely, not yet).

Colombia has had many beneficial international publicity since 2007, five years after former president Alvaro Uribe’s administration, who went to great lengths to ensure urban safety concerns that had been that bane of Colombia’s existence during the 80’s and the 90’s.

As a matter of fact, since 2002, real estate prices soared everywhere in the nation. Just that year alone they jumped up to 20 or 25%. From 2003 to 2007 many regions in Colombia saw annual gains along the lines of 10 to 15%. During the global recession, during which many countries from the western world were experiencing real estate prices sinking at the tune of 30 to 50%, Colombia basically remained status quo. Part of Colombia’s coming out relatively unscathed was due to the fact that it had been hiding from international economy for so many years.

In Medellin, for example, there was basically a side market from 2007 to 2009. Sales stayed normal for a bit and did not really move upwards or downwards at this point. But then 2010 saw a price spike of 5.8% followed by 6.2% in 2011 and 5.9 in 2012. This is by no means an occurrence exclusive to Medellin.

So is there an impending real estate bubble?

This is one of the questions that people ask the most around Medellin, since there is a lot of pre-construction high rise development right now, everywhere in the city, particularly in Medellin’s version of Beverly Hills, El Poblado. More often than not, people visiting ask “how is it possible to continue building up this inventory? It can´t possibly sustain itself so prices have to collapse”.

Here are some of the reasons why many experts believe that not only is there no bubble in Colombia, but that right now is the absolute best time to buy real estate, especially in Medellin:

· Real estate bubbles have a number of characteristics some measured by numerous financial indicators such as price to income ratio, affordability index, deposit to income, housing debt to income, etc. For Medellin, and I feel many parts of Colombia, we are seeing a reduction in poverty levels and an emerging middle class. Thus more people can afford homes and demand is going up.

· Plus wages are pegged to the annual inflation rate which from 2002-2008 ranged from 4-8% and from 2009-2012 ranged from 3-4%. Thus more than 50% of each year’s price increases in real estate are offset by higher annual wages that are pegged to the national inflation rate. So there are no signs of runaway price increases by this measure.

· The five characteristics of a real estate bubble are displacement, boom, euphoria, profit taking and panic. Colombia is just now moving into the boom phase. It has many phases left to go before the bubble occurs.

. And again the “wild card” – what happens when the world wakes up and learns the truth about this great country and why it is wise to invest here and own assets denominated in Colombian pesos and not declining U.S. dollars?

Some experts, based on the reasons above and many others, believe that the “impending Colombian bubble of doom” is nonsense. Demand for real estate that surpasses the ability for inventories to meet the demand actually seems likely to grow, given that the country has a strong emerging economy, a top-performing stock market, Foreign Direct Investment growing to the tune of 20 to 30%, exporting gold, silver, oil, gas, coal, hydro-electrical power and important agricultural commodities, an yearly GDP increase of 4-6%, a low inflation rate and an expanding middle class.