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More Home-Sellers are Dropping Their Prices Than in Previous Winters as Buyers Seize More Control of the Market


More Home-Sellers are Dropping Their Prices Than in Previous Winters as Buyers Seize More Control of the Market


More than one in five homes for sale nationwide dropped its price in the last month. In Fresno it was two in five.

More than any time in the past few years, 2019 is shaping up to be a good year for homebuyers. One way the market has shifted to buyers: More price drops. As of mid-February, more than one in five homes for sale had a price drop—the largest February rate in at least 10 years.

Over One in Five Homes For Sale Has Dropped the Price

Price drops are a highly cyclical measure, typically peaking late in the year and falling dramatically to start each new year, and this year is no different. However, even though the share of homes with price drops is down quite a bit from the fall and isn’t up year-over-year as much as it was then either (+5.5 points then vs. +3.6 points now), it is starting 2019 at a much higher level than the past several years.

Share of Homes For Sale With Price Drops Starts 2019 at a High Point

There are still a few markets where as many as one in three homes for sale have seen a price drop. Among metro areas with at least 500,000 people, Fresno, California leads the pack with 40.4 percent of homes having dropped the price. Here are the top ten.

Table: Top 10 Metro Areas with the Largest Share of Homes for Sale with a Price Drop

RankMetro AreaShare of Homes for Sale with a Price Drop in the prior 4 Weeks as of Week 7 2019Share of Homes for Sale with a Price Drop in the prior 4 Weeks as of Week 7 2018
1 Fresno, CA 40.4% 40.1%
2 Tampa, FL 33.3% 28.3%
3 Indianapolis, IN 32.4% 24.9%
4 Bakersfield, CA 31.4% 30.8%
5 Phoenix, AZ 30.7% 23.2%
6 Cape Coral, FL 30.2% 28.5%
7 Denver, CO 29.6% 19.0%
8 Orlando, FL 28.8% 21.4%
9 Deltona, FL 27.2% 25.8%
10 Sacramento, CA 26.6% 22.3%

(Among metro areas with a population of 500,000 or more)

While many of the areas with the largest share of price drops have been at high levels for a while, there are some metros where price drops are on the rise and are much more common than they were are a year ago. Las Vegas (+13.6 points), Seattle (+12.8 points) and Albuquerque (+12.2 points) saw the largest year-over-year increases in the share of homes for sale with a price drop.

“Many sellers listed their homes late last year just as rising prices and mortgage rates were starting to price out their core pool of potential buyers,” said Las Vegas Redfin agent Jennifer Brockman. “Meanwhile, some buyers are starting to think that waiting to purchase a home could pay off, especially as listing inventory continues to rise. In this new market reality, buyers may have negotiating power now that they won’t have in the spring and summer.”

Table: Top 10 Metro Areas with the Largest Increase in the Share of Homes for Sale With a Price Drop

RankMetro AreaPercentage Point Increase in Price Drops 2018 to 2019 (Week 7)Share of Homes for Sale with a Price Drop in the prior 4 Weeks as of Week 7 2019Share of Homes for Sale with a Price Drop in the prior 4 Weeks as of Week 7 2018
1 Las Vegas, NV 13.6 24.9% 11.3%
2 Seattle, WA 12.8 25.7% 13.0%
3 Albuquerque, NM 12.2 26.5% 14.3%
4 San Jose, CA 11.1 17.9% 6.8%
5 Denver, CO 10.6 29.6% 19.0%
6 Palm Bay, FL 9.5 20.4% 10.9%
7 Atlanta, GA 9.0 22.4% 13.4%
8 Phoenix, AZ 7.5 30.7% 23.2%
9 Indianapolis, IN 7.5 32.4% 24.9%
10 Orlando, FL 7.4 28.8% 21.4%

The Most Important Questions to Ask Before You Invest in Real Estate

For many investors, real estate is coveted, highly attractive — and uncomfortably unfamiliar.

Although it’s widely accepted that a strong real estate investment has the potential to generate considerable wealth, until recently relatively few investors had the chance to acquire first-hand experience with the asset class. And despite its many advantages, real estate can be a complex investment. With today’s wide availability of opportunities, it’s as important as ever to know how to approach all types of real estate investment methods — both active and passive, from rental properties to public REITs to Fundrise.

Shrewd investing starts with knowing how to ask the right questions. That’s where this article can help. No matter which method you plan to use to put your first dollar toward real estate, these are questions you should consider beforehand. By studying the points and potential pitfalls outlined here, you can learn some of the crucial ways to assess an investment before committing your hard-earned cash.

Questions to Ask Before Any Real Estate Investment

Let’s start with questions that every prospective real estate investor should think about, no matter what kind of investment model they’re considering.

  • Do you have the time and expertise to invest actively, or would it make more sense for you to invest passively?

There are major differences between active and passive real estate investing, and most investors will have a clear inclination for one over the other. However, if you’ve just started to think about real estate generally, you might not have figured out exactly where your preference lies. Once you do, you’ll likely identify which option best suits your situation — or you might recognize that one model is simply not feasible or economical for you. For example, love the idea of being a landlord? Look at active options. Alternatively, simply don’t have the time to deal with properties and tenants first-hand? Consider passive investments. Those decisions can have an immediate impact on the specific investment you pursue, and how much it costs for you to get started.

Read More: REITs vs. Rentals: What’s the Best Way to Invest in Real Estate?

  • What’s your investment timeline? And, how important will liquidity be to you in the future?

Defining a timeline, or investment horizon, is crucial for any investment, though some kinds are particularly illiquid (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing!). That makes identifying a comfortable timeline even more important when it comes to real estate investing. Make sure you know if and when you’ll need liquidity and, if so, whether the investment can support your particular needs.

Read More: The Benefits of Illiquidity

  • What are the potential tax benefits?

Both active and passive real estate investments can offer tax advantages, but the exact tax benefits available to investors depend on the investment.

For example, on the passive investing side, thanks to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, income earned from pass-through structures, such as REITs, can qualify for a 20% tax deduction.

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act also established the Opportunity Zone Program, which allows both active and passive real estate investors to invest in Opportunity Zones through Qualified Opportunity Funds. Opportunity Funds offer many capital gains tax incentives to investors, including a way to defer and reduce capital gains taxes for funds invested into Opportunity Funds – and they provide a way to eliminate taxes for any capital gains earned from Opportunity Fund investments.

On the active investing side, a 1031 Exchange offers investors a way to defer capital gains taxes on their initial investment indefinitely. While a 1031 Exchange doesn’t let an investor reduce their capital gains tax liability, it can offer a step-up in basisupon inheritance. This feature has made it a useful tool for estate planning for some active real estate investors.

Each set of tax advantages can help an investor achieve a different goal. That’s why it’s important to determine which tax advantages best help you meet your investment goals.

Read More: A New Tax Code is Now Law and Presents Opportunities For Real Estate Investing Nationwide

  • How will real estate affect your overall portfolio?

One of real estate’s most renowned benefits is its capability to diversify a portfolio. But not all diversification is equal. Make sure you understand exactly how the addition of a new investment will impact the overall risk and earning potential of your investment situation. For example, whether an investment is in the public or private market can play a huge role in its power to diversify.

Read More: Bringing Portfolio Theory into the Age of the Internet

  • What makes a particular real estate investment attractive to you? How would you define success?

“Money!” might seem like the obvious answer, but responses can differ as much as people themselves. For some, an adrenaline-pumping fix-and-flip is their first choice real estate scenario, while others want to stay as far away from hands-on work as possible. Knowing what matters most to you in an investment will help you determine a clear view of what success in this investment can look like. It will most likely involve a return goal, but will it include any other aspects, benefits. or responsibilities?

Read More: How do you define wealth?

Build a more perfect portfolio. Get started here.


Before You Invest in Real Estate: Active Investments, Doing It Yourself

Think you might be interested in taking out a mortgage and buying a rental condo in that buzzing new neighborhood across town? Have you seen a coworker fund their summer vacations with a dedicated AirBnB — and now you want to set up your own? In other words, are you ready to become a landlord?

These are the questions to consider before initiating an active real estate investment, on your own, where you’re personally responsible for decisions that will impact the success of the investment.

  • How much of a down payment and mortgage do you need to get started? How much additional capital will you need in the future?

This is the first and probably most obvious consideration for an active real estate investor. A traditional, active real estate investment involves buying a property directly — land, building, and all — either for rental or resale. For many investors, that’s an expensive prospect. Additionally, investing in real estate is rarely a static enterprise, consisting of simple buy-and-sell transactions. Often you need to do some value-add work in the form of renovations or repairs. And those additional tasks cost money beyond your initial investment. On top of those, you need to consider ongoing costs like property taxes, home insurance, and mortgage insurance. When analyzing the price of an investment, don’t forget to take into account soft costs along with hard costs.

Read More: Should I Buy an Investment Property?

  • Depending on your risk tolerance, liquidity needs, and desired return, should you choose a debt or equity investment?

This question illustrates how entering an investment on your own can occasionally require much more specialized knowledge. On one hand, deciding between debt and equity implies a considerably advanced level of investment that many people will never encounter directly. But on the other hand, if you consider the full gamut of real estate, there’s the chance you might face these distinctions, and understanding the pros and cons of each of these structures can be crucial for maximizing potential performance and minimizing risk. Making the right choice requires you to have comfortable command over each one and how they work together, such as how the “cap stack” works. Investing in real estate directly can offer obvious upsides — any return earned is yours and yours alone — but it also means you shoulder all responsibility to understand any nuances.

Read More: The Capital Stack Explained

  • What asset type and strategy are right for you in your given market?

The most obvious real estate assets for direct investment are residential — houses or condos. But are there any other variables that might make another asset type a more promising option? Retail or office space? Maybe there’s been a new influx of young professionals, thanks to a change in local laws, and office buildings are increasing in value. But, with a change in real estate class, there’s also a change in expertise required. Assess the options and make sure your money is doing the most it can in any obvious circumstances.

Read More: How Investing in Commercial Real Estate Works

  • How well do you understand the specific city where you’re planning to invest? What are the local opportunities and risks?

“Location, location, location” is a saying as accurate as it is cliché. A warehouse in Brooklyn might have an altogether different outlook from an identical structure in Akron. How can you expect the area you’re eyeing to develop? You need to make sure you account for as many location-specific variables as possible, ranging from natural disaster risks to noise pollution, all of which can make it difficult to secure tenants. For example, maybe the building next door is a school. That can have a major effect on how you’re able to develop and use the property. Be honest with the fidelity of your expertise — try to know what you don’t know and fill in the gaps.

Read More: 3 Rookie Real Estate Investing Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

  • How much time do you have available to devote to your real estate investment?

For some investors, time is a more scarce commodity than dollars. Likewise, some investment models inherently apply far more of a time strain than others. If your investment requires a landlord, can you spare the hours? If not, can you afford to hire a property manager? Unlike other investments, which require attention only trading hours, an investment property requires constant administration as long as you own the investment.

Read More: How to Invest in Real Estate Without Buying Property

Before you Invest in Real Estate: Passive Investments, Through a Fund, Service, and/or Platform

Purchasing real estate directly might be the most widely-known way to invest in the asset class, but it’s far from the only method. Today, there’s a wealth of options for accessing the market, for investors of all kinds. With “hands-off,” passive investment methods, the acquisition and management of real estate is left to dedicated and experienced professionals. Public REITs and online platforms can considerably streamline the investment process. However, these models also come with their own list of crucial questions, equally important to review if you decide this is the approach that’s right for you.

  • Do you qualify?

Again, we recommend leading off with one of the most basic but relevant questions. Before spending too much time envisioning your future with a particular service, be sure to check and confirm which kinds of investors it admits. For example, some funds provided by famous private equity real estate companies, like Blackstone, have a history of only admitting investors that meet certain salary thresholds, while newer platforms, like Fundrise, allow anyone to invest.

Read More: Why Your Dollar Was Worth Less Than a Millionaire’s (But Isn’t Anymore)

  • What is the investment manager’s historical performance?

You should always remember that past performance doesn’t and can’t guarantee future results — but looking at a service’s track record is one way to develop an idea of the organization’s expertise and character. How has the manager that you’re considering fared in prior years? Have they shown responsible custodianship over investors’ funds in the past? Each of these factors can help you determine what your investment experience will be like with a particular service.

Read More: Fundrise Historical Performance

  • How will the service behave if the market enters a downturn?

Does an advisor give an indication of how they’ll behave if the market changes its behavior from how it looks right now? Successful, knowledgeable investors will cite the fact that the market is fundamentally unpredictable – which is absolutely true — but that doesn’t diminish the importance of preparation. Be sure you know that your advisor has a plan for the next financial crisis, no matter how likely it is to come around the corner today, tomorrow, or in five years.

Read More: How to Prepare for the Next Financial Crisis

  • Do the expenses and fees make sense?

A real estate investment has a number of built-in expenses, whether it’s done actively or passively. These are a simple, inescapable byproduct of the asset type itself: in order to generate dividends, for instance, a property requires a certain amount of ongoing costs. The bottom line is to make sure you understand a service’s fee structure and confirm that it makes sense, given the value that the investment manager is creating for you using your capital.

Read More: Fundrise Fees

  • How well can you track and manage the investment through the service?

One of the big advantages of investing in real estate directly is that you never have any doubt what your money is up to or how to track it. On the other hand, when you invest using a service, you can only track those things into which the service gives you visibility. What does that access look like? Is the information easy to access and understand? Now that most services are online, there are expectations for dynamic reporting and easy management. Be sure you understand how you’ll interact with your investment after your capital is handed over to the investment manager.

Read More: Introducing your new recent activity feed

  • Would a public market fund or private market fund better serve your portfolio?

One of the biggest reasons people turn to real estate is to improve their portfolios’ overall diversification. Often, something like public REITs will appear satisfactory, as they can expose you to up to a hundred distinct properties, seemingly providing broad diversification. In reality, however, the public trading of these funds can seriously compromise how well they diversify beyond other public market assets, like the stock market — a publicly traded fund will often correlate closely to other public investments in your portfolio. On the other hand, platforms that invest in private real estate can provide exposure to dozens of properties in the private market, which, in total, can represent significantly deeper diversification.

Read More: How to Invest in Real Estate Without Buying Property

What’s next if you want to invest?

In many cases, nobody but you can answer these questions, based on your financial circumstances, your personal preferences, your experience, and the particular opportunities to which you have access. But don’t let an abundance of options intimidate you into not choosing anything at all — there’s a great chance that real estate can benefit your investment portfolio in many ways.

Depending on whether you decide to invest in real estate, and the investment model you think is best for you, you might find that Fundrise represents a truly revolutionary opportunity: accessible to everyone, investments of virtually any size, truly passive, and with minimal fees.

We built Fundrise to make investing in private market real estate faster and easier than it’s ever been. Ready to start answering a few of the key questions above? You can read about Fundrise’s investment plans and opportunities here.

Planting annuals gives you a dizzying array of garden choices. Here's how to select varieties that will thrive in your yard.

You can always count on annuals to bring a seasonal pop of color to your flowerbeds and containers. But with all the annuals on the seed racks and in the garden center, which ones should you choose?

The options are seemingly endless. Some grow tall, while others spread out in a mat. Some wilt in the sun, and some drop dead at first frost. There are annuals that reseed to the point of becoming weedy, and others are so vigorous that they seem to crowd out everything else.

Then you have to choose from a rainbow of colors, and decide whether you’ll grow flowers from seed or buy them as plants.

Whatever you’re looking for in a flower, this guide will help you pick the right ones for your garden.

Cool season vs. warm season

The first thing to consider is the season. If you’re approaching the first frost of fall or winter, choose a cold-tolerant annual that can take a light frost or two, thus giving you at least a few more weeks of color.

Some frost-tolerant annuals include petunias, pansies, Johnny-jump-ups, violas and violets. These are also good choices for early spring. If you live in a warmer climate (zones 8-11), grow these all winter. Some annuals are also better suited to the heat of summer, particularly Angelonia, salvia, pentas, lantana and tropical milkweed.

Sun vs. shade

Almost all annuals prefer full sun (at least eight hours of direct sunlight), but some will still do well in part shade. Coleus, New Guinea impatiens, torenia, alyssum and polka dot plants are all good choices for parts of the garden with four to eight hours of sun per day.

If you have a spot with full shade and the danger of frost has passed, consider growing houseplants in the garden as well, digging them up in fall to overwinter indoors.

Moist soil vs. dry soil

front yard garden
Considering factors such as soil type plays a key role in establishing a successful annual garden.

In general, annuals prefer a soil that is rich in organic matter, moisture retentive and well-drained. In other words, they like the black and crumbly stuff that looks like Oreo crumbs.

However, there are some annuals that handle drought or poor soil quite well, including coreopsis, Madagascar periwinkle, portulaca, Mexican sunflower and zinnias.

If your soil is sometimes a little too soggy, try growing violas, pansies, forget-me-nots, impatiens and cleome.

Seeds vs. plants

Some annuals, like petunias, verbena and snapdragons, take a long time to get started from seed and are best purchased as plants from the nursery.

However, most annuals are so easy to grow from seed that it would be ridiculous to buy a tray of marigolds or zinnias when you can grow many more from a single inexpensive seed packet.

You’ll get a bounty of blooms from just one packet of marigold seeds.

Exceptions to the rule are ‘Snow Princess’ Alyssum and other hybrids, selections and cultivars that are only available as potted plants. Many of these have special qualities, such as heat tolerance or no need for deadheading (that is, the removal of spent flowerheads), and are well worth the extra money.

Colorful vs. restrained

When picking out annuals, rest assured that you don’t need a color wheel to select a good palette of colors. Find inspiration from favorite outfits, paintings or, better yet, the existing plants in your garden, so you know you’ll absolutely love the colors you choose.

The main consideration is that you don’t end up with too many different hues competing for attention. Stick with plants of only two or three colors, and only add more when you’ve found a good balance.

Height vs. habit

It can be frustrating to spend a lot of time arranging and planting flowers, only to find that some are so tall or rampant that they cover up the shorter ones.

At the garden center, it can be tough to judge how tall the annuals will get or how wide they’ll spread, but those on the seed rack will be clearly labeled with their height, width and even habit.

Generally speaking, plant tall and upright flowers at the back of the border, medium and bushy ones in the middle and low-growing ones in the front. This will allow you to see all of the flowers in one sweeping view.

Re-seeding vs. well-behaved

Many old-fashioned heirloom annuals release their seeds into the garden so you can enjoy them each year without worry. However, some gardeners would consider those generous plants weedy, and might prefer something more restrained and well-behaved.

Poppies reseed themselves, so you’ll get lots of flowers for your effort.

Some annuals that do reseed themselves are Indian blanket (Gaillardia), cosmos, larkspur, poppies and zinnia.

If you’re looking for annuals that don’t reseed, some plants at the garden center will be patented, and less likely to reseed themselves. These are also good picks because they’re less likely to need deadheading to keep them blooming.

Annuals vs. perennials

Finally, decide if you really want to grow annuals, which last for only a few seasons. Perennials, on the other hand, can come back year after year if their needs are met. This can be a great approach if you’d rather not go through the hassle of replanting annuals every year, or if you would like to get more value in the long run.

annual choices small
Planting annuals allows you to create a new garden look every year.

Annuals, however, are fast-growing, easy, and offer new creative possibilities each year. You can give them an entire flowerbed or plug them into gaps among perennials for an injection of color. The answer to this debate, of course, is to plant both annuals and perennials!


Thinking of setting up a backyard chicken coop or building a guesthouse? Make sure local laws allow it, or you could be looking at a hefty fine.

By Stephanie Reid, Avvo attorney and NakedLaw contributor

Land use law is a huge library of legal doctrine dating back centuries, covering everything from water and mineral rights to real estate planning and zoning. But how do these laws impact the average urban, suburban or rural homeowner, and what sort of liability could someone face if they accidentally or purposefully violated local land use laws?

What exactly is land use law?

The term refers to the body of real estate law that regulates the development and conservation of privately owned land. Government properties are not subject to land use restrictions.

Land use laws are controversial because the U.S. Constitution guarantees our liberty, which has always been interpreted to include the free use and control of one’s land. However, land use regulations have become increasingly necessary to curtail the environmental impact of growing populations, and to maintain order in certain urban and suburban areas.

What is an example of a land use law?

While many land use regulations are complex, interwoven labyrinths of local, state and federal laws, planning and zoning legislation is one type of land use law familiar to most people. These laws ensure that businesses are built in one area, residences in another — and that gentlemen’s clubs stay on the outskirts of town.

Are land use laws different from deed restrictions?

Land use laws are imposed by the government, whereas deed restrictions are defined by community associations. However, the two sets of laws can, and should, overlap on common issues, with deed restrictions possibly imposing greater regulations than the local government.

A violation of local land use laws could result in criminal fines or penalties, while a deed restriction violation is a purely civil matter.

What should urban residents know about farming and land use regulation?

Urban farming has become a hot topic within the realm of land use law, and local zoning laws are of significant importance when planning an urban farm. Depending on the location and size, an urban farm may be as small as a patio garden or as large as a city block, and it may encompass both produce and animal production.

The first type of zoning ordinance an urban farmer should consider pertains to the commercial aspect of urban farming. In other words, can the urban farmer sell crops, meat or eggs for money and, if so, where?

Secondly, farmers must be aware of zoning regulations related to raising animals, primarily those rules concerning neighborhood safety, noise ordinances and cleanliness standards.

Every local jurisdiction maintains its own unique set of zoning laws and conditional exceptions to those laws. For urban farmers interested in starting a community project, the first step is to meet with the local zoning and planning board to present your ideas and determine whether urban farming is feasible in your neighborhood.

Am I allowed to add a mother-in-law suite to my home?

A mother-in-law suite, or an accessory dwelling unit, will likely require a permit from the local municipality prior to construction. In many jurisdictions, this suite is actually considered a separate dwelling unit and, as such, requires issuing notice to the community prior to assembly. While some jurisdictions require a simple explanation of the proposed building, others need to see official building plans prior to approval.

Failure to obtain the proper permit to add an accessory dwelling unit can result in major fines — up to $500 per day or more — for each day the building remains unapproved.

What does the term ‘attractive nuisance’ mean?

An attractive nuisance is any sort of structure, manmade or natural, on your property that may entice children to trespass and play, putting them at risk of injury.

To avoid injuries, many localities have enacted attractive nuisance ordinances to prevent landowners from leaving swimming pools, ponds, trampolines or other known attractions open for danger.

Nuisance abatement ordinances generally impose common-sense regulations on homeowners, including mandatory fencing around pools, safety measures around wells or excavations, and rules against abandoned or vacant buildings.

What are the penalties for ignoring land use laws?

For violators of land use laws, local governments can impose daily fines ranging from a few dollars to several hundred dollars. If the violation presents a major safety issue for neighboring residents, the city may also seek an injunction, or legal order, against the property owner.

If fines and penalties add up past a certain point, the city may initiate a civil lawsuit against the homeowner, which could result in the loss of the property by government reclamation — a drastic, but realistic outcome in certain circumstances.


Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of Zillow.

About the author


Avvo helps people find and connect with the right lawyer through industry leading content, tools and services. A free Q&A forum with more than 9 million questions and answers, along with on-demand legal services that provide professional counsel for a fixed cost, make legal faster and easier.

Organization expert DorothyTheOrganizer helps you tackle your storage spaces.

When I think of attics and basements, I remember growing up in rural Wisconsin. We had an attic and a basement in our circa 1800s farmhouse, and I recall the antique furniture — and, yikes, bats! — in the attic, along with the mildew, dampness, and water seeping from the ground in the unfinished basement.

My parents stored sports equipment, the lawnmower, gardening tools, empty soda bottles and more in that basement. It never would have dawned on them to create an official storage space with shelving.

Things are different today, and we look to grab every inch of storage space. Here are five steps to get you on the right track to improving your garage, basement or attic storage experience.


Clear stairs and doors

Removing the frustration of getting down the basement stairs or through the garage and attic doors will make your organization project easier to accomplish — and, more importantly, ensure your safety.

Before you begin working in your storage area, set aside time to clear the stairs and doorways as the first step in this organizing project.

Increase your lighting

One of the reasons many people avoid organizing their garage, attic or basement is that the spaces don’t have sufficient light. We’re already generally uninspired to visit those spaces, and if we can’t see much when we’re in there, we give it up as “too difficult” — and the organizing project is over before it started.

To create a well-lit work environment, find or borrow a very long extension cord and place a bright lamp in the space. Take off the lampshade and roll up your sleeves. And as a bonus: Bugs (especially roaches) don’t like the light. They’ll run from the spotlight, and leave you alone to get down to business.

Assess your space

No matter what you need to store, look for the pitfalls before you begin your work and see which issues you can solve. You can evaluate your storage area by rating your space.

On a scale of 0-10, with 0 being no problem at all and 10 meaning it’s a major issue, assign your basement, attic or garage a rating for each of the following factors.

  • Flooding. Floods mean lost possessions.
  • Ventilation. Trapped air can cause stale odors.
  • Extreme temperatures. Too hot or too cold can deteriorate the integrity of items.
  • Rodents. Droppings can impact respiratory systems throughout the home.
  • Spiders. Spider bites can be dangerous.
  • Mildew. Foul smells and stains render belongings unusable.
  • Dampness. Wet conditions create extra work to clean, and can damage items.

The more high ratings your space has, the more work you can expect to get the area into shape. More low numbers means the job will be considerably easier.

This assessment helps you gauge whether you really have the time, money or interest needed to take on organizing your storage area. By rating your space, you can avoid wasting time and energy on a project you’ll abandon part way through.

Determine what you can store

If your space has high ratings in several categories, be cautious about what you store. Ask yourself, “If I lost this item due to mildew or a flood, could I easily live without it?”

Here are the types of items you might decide you can safely store in less-than-ideal conditions:

  • An additional fridge or freezer
  • Bulk food, canned goods and paper supplies
  • Seasonal decorations and supplies such as party platters, card tables, oversized coffee makers, and holiday lights
  • Picnic supplies like a grill, charcoal, picnic baskets and coolers
  • Craft and hobby items
  • Office and school supplies
  • Luggage, duffle bags and backpacks
  • Outdoor gear for camping, fishing and snow sports, as well as sporting goods like tennis racquets and horseshoes

If you gave your space low ratings in most categories, you can store more personal or delicate items there, including:

  • Clothing
  • Photos
  • Memorabilia
  • Paperwork
  • Home decor and accessories
  • Pillows and blankets

Make a place for everything


No matter the rating of your space, you can always increase your usable storage space by using these three organization tricks:

  1. Take the vertical challenge. The higher the shelving, the more space you have for storage.
  2. Roll with it. Storage racks and tables with wheels keep items off the floor and make it super easy to access your belongings. You can tuck a rolling rack under the stairs or into a back corner, then roll it out into a more well-lit area when you need access to it.
  3. Get hooked. From simple nails to stylish decorative hardware, hooks bring items up to eye level in an organized way. Use them for skates, brooms, dustpans, cords, bikes, helmets, and more.

Get inspired and make the most of your attic, basement or garage storage areas.


About the author


DorothyTheOrganizer (Dorothy Breininger) is America’s most innovative organizer and can be seen weekly on the critically acclaimed, Emmy-nominated show “Hoarders” on A&E. She also appears on The Doctors, The Dr. Phil Show and The View. Creating organization solutions that change people’s lives is her passion. Follow DorothyTheOrganizer on Facebook and Twitter.