Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Outdoor living and selling your home

Survey: Outdoor living plays larger role in selling new homes

As the average size of new homes continues to shrink and more people choose to entertain at home, demand for outdoor living features grows, according to a survey of Professional Builder readers.
November 18, 2011
Outdoor living, professional builder survey, outdoor living trends
As the average size of new homes continues to shrink and more people choose to entertain at home, demand for outdoor living features grows, according to a survey of Professional Builder readers. Photo: KitchenAid

Next to energy efficiency, perhaps no other market trend is changing the landscape of new-home design than outdoor living. Long a key part of the residential design vernacular, outdoor living has gotten renewed focus in recent years as homeowners look to maximize living and entertainment space without dramatically impacting overall costs.
The home-building community has taken notice. Many builders now offer a full line of outdoor living options, from traditional features like decks, landscaping, and fully sodded lawns to contemporary options like outdoor fireplaces, fire pits, and kitchens. Some builders are even using the trend as an incentive to get potential buyers in the door. For instance, Atlanta-based Edward Andrews Homes is offering free upgrades like brick-paver patios, screen-in porches, and outdoor kitchens to entice buyers.
According to an October 2011 survey of more than 230 Professional Builder readers, 60 percent of builders said they had expanded their lineup of outdoor living options during the past 12 months (Chart 3), and more than half said that, when it comes to selling new homes, outdoor living is more important today than two years ago; only 10 percent said it is less important (Chart 1).

Moreover, nearly half of respondents (46 percent) said they are seeing increased demand for outdoor living features than a year ago, while only about 9 percent said they are seeing less demand (Chart 2).

“The bottom line is people are staying home and entertaining more, and they want to have inviting areas to attract their friends,” said one respondent. Another builder said, “I now include patio-deck spaces off of as many major living areas as possible. Outdoor space is cheaper to build than enclosed space and it increases the livable area of the building in my clients’ eyes at a lower cost per square foot without posing zoning issues.”
When asked to select their top three best-selling outdoor living features, the largest number of builders identified decks, outdoor fireplace/fire pits, and landscaping, followed by screened-in porches, stone/brick patios, and exterior lighting. More than one in three respondents said decks are a major seller, while 29 percent cited outdoor fireplace/fire pits. Surprisingly, more than 16 percent said fully equipped outdoor kitchens were a best-seller — a luxury item traditionally seen in only the highest end of the housing market (Chart 4).

One reason for the growth in outdoor kitchens, said one survey respondent, is the emergence of outdoor-specific appliances and systems for kitchens and entertainment areas. “Just a few years back, appliances and electronics designated for outdoor living areas were really made for interior applications and were not very effective,” said the builder. “Now manufacturers are making useable products for the outdoor environment, such as TVs with glare-free screens.”
What are builders offering as standard? Landscaping, decks, exterior lighting, and fully sodded lawns top the list of outdoor living features that are included in the base price of a new home, according to survey respondents. Almost half of builders said they offer landscaping as a standard feature with their new homes, while about a third said they provide features like decks, exterior lighting, and fully sodded lawns in the base price. Fenced backyards, sliding/folding patio doors, and stone/brick patios were also frequently cited by survey respondents (Chart 5).

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

How to research a company

How To Research a Company

job interview 150x150 How To Research a CompanyIt’s all very well for the BBB to tell you: Do your homework. But how can you, if you’re not sure what to do?
Last week I was looking for some freelance writing work (with the full permission of my CEO) and came across a job posted on a blog board. It  asked me to click a link. I didn’t.
I emailed the company instead, pointing out that I’m hardly going to click on an unknown link on an unknown site. I’m sure you understand, I said. They did.
I got an email that appeared to come from a real person, with a phone number and address in Arizona. It was grammatically correct and the spelling was perfect. The lady in question said she would contact me for a telephone interview—another point in the column of Probably Not A Scam.
Of course, the very FIRST thing I did was to run the company name, website, and phone number through www.bbb.org. Unfortunately, we had no information on them. That happens sometimes. But I didn’t stop there.
I entered the phone number in an online telephone directory and it came up in the state it was supposed to. I looked for an online map of the location. Yes, there is an occupied office building there. I went to the Secretary of State’s page and verified that the company is properly registered. I double-checked the address. It was the same. I went to www.irs.gov and found the company yet again.
Finally, I went to their website. In addition to triple-verifying whatever information I could there, I read that the company was started by a grant from a non-profit foundation. I wrote down the name of that foundation and went to their webpage. Check.
I’ll probably take this contract job, providing that the telephone interview goes as I expect: 1) They will want to know my qualifications 2) They will not ask for personal information such as my SSN unless I actually get the job and 3) They will expect me to have questions for them.
Remember, if you find a job offer online and you’re not sure what to do to verify its legitimacy, you can always call or email your local BBB office.
To summarize. Doing your homework on a company can include:
  • Checking with www.bbb.org and other trusted sites
  • Googling the company name plus the word “scam”
  • Verifying with the IRS, and the Secretary of State where the business is located
  • Asking your state Attorney General’s office if the business is on their radar for any reason
  • Searching the Internet for the company’s physical location or checking with the Post Office to see if this is a legitimate address
  • Never click on a link from an unknown sender, and never give out your personal information to strangers unless you can verify their legitimacy

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Outdoor Room Exterior design ideas

Outdoor Rooms: A Growing Business

For the past four  years that we have  been in business, Garrett Outdoor Living has seen firsthand how the design and installation of outdoor living space has advanced over time. ''Back when I started 14 years ago, no one did outdoor rooms.  We first started out doing some yard additions, but then people began to ask for more. We started going back and then doing open beam patio covers, no fireplaces, occasionally fire pits and outdoor barbecues.  But then fourteen years ago, fireplaces started showing up in the model complexes so people wanted them, and then outdoor solid cover roof pavilions became more common, and those morphed into outdoor kitchen and outdoor living room seating areas.
High quality is the hallmark of Zsuzsanna Garrett and her company, a fact that is reflected by the design awards and honors that our company has received. We pay particular attention to top details to the finished product.  We at Garrett Outdoor Living make sure all the finished work is nice and complete, and that the finished product is the highest standard possible.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

ASLA Residential Trends Survay for Outdoor Living Spaces

WASHINGTON--(BUSINESS WIRE)-- Homeowners want function, efficiency and fire pits in their outdoor space, according to the 2011 American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) Residential Trends Survey. The survey asked residential landscape architecture professionals to rate the expected popularity of dozens of different outdoor living and landscape features for this year.

For 2011, the top outdoor living features are some of the most basic: light, fire, food and a place to sit and enjoy it all. Overall, 96.2 percent of respondents rated exterior lighting as somewhat or very popular for this year, followed by fire pits/fireplaces (94.2 percent), seating/dining areas (94.1 percent), grills (93.8 percent) and installed seating like benches or seat walls (89.5 percent).
While the most popular outdoor features reflect an enduring sensibility, the interest in modern technology like stereo systems (58.3 percent), Internet access (46.3 percent) and televisions (45.4 percent) adds to the growing trend of taking what we enjoy inside to the outdoors – up to a point. Only 10.4 percent of respondents thought outdoor sleeping areas would be popular this year.
“Despite the economic climate, homeowners continue to reconnect with their outdoor space. However, expect many households this year to either phase in projects over time or carefully select fewer features,” said ASLA Executive Vice President and CEO Nancy Somerville, Hon. ASLA.
When it comes to landscape elements, efficiency and sustainability reign supreme. The most popular for 2011 include low maintenance landscapes (94.2 percent), native plants (87.2), water-efficient irrigation (83.1 percent), ornamental water features (81 percent) and food/vegetable gardens (80.3 percent). Other popular sustainability features for 2011 include permeable paving (77 percent), reduced lawn (72.6 percent) and rainwater harvesting (63.6 percent).

Monday, January 3, 2011

To build Outdoor Fireplaces

Outdoor Fireplaces

By Tim Carter
©1993-2011 Tim Carter
Summary: Outdoor fireplaces are popular simply because man has always liked gathering around a warm, inviting campfire. But a modern outdoor fireplace can rival fancy ones inside homes. Outdoor gas fireplaces are very nice as you get instant heat and beauty. Check your local codes when making your outdoor fireplace plans.

DEAR TIM: Outdoor fireplaces seem to be popular and I have the perfect patio to place one on. What do I need to know before I go shopping? I have seen them in all sorts of shapes and sizes, but am unsure as to what would work best for me and my family. The fireplace will not be used for cooking, just warmth and appearance. Should I build my own fireplace? Beth A.,
DEAR BETH: Anyone who has enjoyed the pleasure of warming themselves in front of a campfire on a cool evening knows why outdoor fireplaces have exploded in popularity. I am convinced there is a deep psychological pleasure trigger in our brains that is activated by fireplace smoke and the orange glow of the embers in a real fire. My guess is that programming goes back millions of years when fires provided needed heat for survival, cooking and a great place to have a conversation.
I really like my own outdoor fireplace as it allows me to enjoy the exterior of my home earlier in the spring and later in the fall. My own patio is treated as a room of our home even though it is outdoors. I can't tell you how much I enjoy sitting around a crackling fire just after sunset on an October night. That experience really recharges my mental batteries.

Now this is a gorgeous outdoor fireplace. How would you like to be sipping some fine wine and toasting your toes next to this work of art?
Outdoor fireplaces come in a variety of sizes , styles and price points. There is an outdoor fireplace of one type or another for every person. The first thing to check are your local codes and laws as some municipalities have real concerns about outdoor air quality. Traditional wood-burning fires can create air pollution problems when certain weather conditions create an inversion which traps smoke particles in the air. If local laws prohibit wood-burning fireplaces, look for approved models that may be fueled with natural gas or propane.
If you want the satisfaction of building your own fireplace, I suggest you find one that is prefabricated. Unless you are a serious do-it-yourselfer with great skills, you will struggle building a traditional masonry fireplace. Be aware that the actual design and construction of the firebox, smoke chamber, flue and chimney is a precise science, not speculation. If you do not size all of the components correctly, the fireplace will not burn properly and it may send clouds of billowing smoke towards you and your family as you sit near it.
The first thing I would look for in an outdoor fireplace is one that will satisfy your most important needs. If warmth is what you are looking for, I would urge you to get an outdoor fireplace that resembles a traditional campfire. This device will allow many people to gather around and bask in the radiant heat that is sent out in all directions by the fire. Traditional fireplaces reflect heat in a small cone in front of the firebox, so only a few people can enjoy the warmth as they sit in front of the fire.
If appearance is more important to you than warmth, then I feel sorry for you. There are so many gorgeous outdoor fireplaces, I can't imagine how you will begin to make a decision which one to purchase. Be sure to consider how the fireplace materials will withstand the elements in your location. An outdoor fireplace that might perform flawlessly in the southwest may fall apart in several years in the harsh, wet, winter-weather of the northeast.
Some of the magnificent outdoor fireplaces are fairly large and can not only take up valuable space on your patio, their weight may stress the patio and cause a crack. I urge you to create an imaginary fireplace on your patio and arrange your chairs and side tables so they are a minimum of four feet from the fireplace location. You want to take the time to do this to ensure you will have enough space for all to enjoy the new addition to your outdoor living space
Do not underestimate the amount of room some of the larger outdoor fireplaces will consume on the average patio. These structures can be up to 3 feet in depth and 8 or 9 feet wide. It is also important to position the fireplace so that any smoke and embers do not pose a risk to your home and any nearby vegetation. The hot flue gases billowing from the chimney can toast nearby trees. You also do not want the fireplace to block any vistas from the patio.
Be sure to use common sense around wood structures.  Some people place outdoor fireplaces on wood decks. Burning embers can sometimes find their way onto and under a wood deck and start a fire after you have gone inside for the evening. It is an excellent idea to consult your local professionals to construct your outdoor fireplace’
We at http://www.garrettoutdoorliving.com/ love to help

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Outdoor living trend 2011


The recession has undeniably hit the country hard and has had many effects, including slowed development, job loss, and simpler design.  The current American home is smaller, simpler, and low maintenance. There are simpler designs because I feel that’s becoming more appealing -- harkening back to a more family-cantered, stay-at-home lifestyle. People don’t need as many possessions, and their house is a reflection of who they are. So simpler designs, less materials seems to be a better expression of how we live and where we are in this economy. Smaller is just more economical, more energy efficient, easier to maintain, and practical.” As the old adage goes, time is money -- and when money is tight, low-maintenance becomes important.
We still see a lot of clients trying to make very rational decisions when selecting their outdoor living space design.. We see people putting money into their outdoor kitchen, but we see them willing to pay a premium if they know that something is going to be more efficient, easy to maintain, and have a longer lifecycle. It seems as though consumers are getting much more conscious of that decision-making, as they are more practical, but at the same time more efficient, and get the most for their money. We at Garrett Outdoor Living have seen a clear trend in preference for smaller spaces.  I think the economy might be part of it, and what I think was most appealing was that they like the detailing -- you don’t really need big spaces, but customize the space to you. I think people are thinking more about how they are living in their home, and creating just the outdoor spaces they need rather than the spaces they think they need for resale. We also see a rise in the interest in more contemporary outdoor living spaces with cleaner lines and less ornate detailing on the exterior.
The simplicity of the outdoor space, of course, results from a variety of factors. Smaller homes encourage energy efficiency in terms of cost savings, as well as a continuation of the sustainable design we’ve seen over the course of the last few years. It seems, however, that Americans are focusing less on stuff and more on quality and are certainly getting the most bang for their buck.