These ideas for perimeter planting can boost your home’s curb appeal with more color, personality and seasonal interest

 June 10, 2019
Houzz Contributor. Landscape designer, a former garden editor for Sunset Magazine...More
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It’s easy to forget about planting areas that fall outside of what we typically think of as a front yard. However, planting the skinny street-side area beyond the perimeter fence, or the parking strip next to the sidewalk, can both boost your home’s curb appeal and act as a gift to the neighborhood. 

If you’re searching for inspiration for sidewalk plantings, take a look at these nine gorgeous gardens that extend all the way to the street, welcoming visitors and greeting neighbors with colorful plantings and seasonal blooms.

Eager to reduce scrubbing time? Get expert advice on making easy maintenance part of your kitchen plan

 June 10, 2019
Editor, Houzz UK and Ireland
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The kitchen tends to be the room in our home that needs the most cleaning. The good news is that, with a little planning, you can have a design that makes cleaning a breeze and allows you to spend less time mopping and more time enjoying your space. Check out these expert tips from Eva Byrne of Houseology; Nicolle Whyte, designer at Harvey Jones; and Louise Delaney, design manager at Cameron Interiors.

Jeff Bezos Has Reportedly Bought Three Condos In New York City For $80 Million. Here's A Look Inside The Penthouse


Amazon founder and billionaire" style="box-sizing: border-box; background-color: transparent; cursor: pointer; color: rgb(0, 56, 145); text-decoration: none; -webkit-tap-highlight-color: rgba(0, 0, 0, 0);">Jeff Bezos has reportedly purchased three separate condos in New York for a combined $80 million, according to" style="box-sizing: border-box; background-color: transparent; cursor: pointer; color: rgb(0, 56, 145); text-decoration: none; -webkit-tap-highlight-color: rgba(0, 0, 0, 0);">reports in the" style="box-sizing: border-box; font-style: italic;">Wall Street Journal.

The three units include a three-floor penthouse, plus the two units directly underneath for a combined 17,00 square feet with at least a dozen bedrooms. The final sales price has not been disclosed for the penthouse, though it was recently on the market for $58 million after a high of $73.8 million in 2017, as I" style="box-sizing: border-box; background-color: transparent; cursor: pointer; color: rgb(0, 56, 145); text-decoration: none; -webkit-tap-highlight-color: rgba(0, 0, 0, 0);">recently reported. According to public records, the remaining two units sold for a total of $28.5 million.

The sale would be the most expensive sale on record south of 42nd Street, as appraiser Jonathan Miller told the Journal. Plus, it is the second most expensive on record for the year, only bested by the" style="box-sizing: border-box; background-color: transparent; cursor: pointer; color: rgb(0, 56, 145); text-decoration: none; -webkit-tap-highlight-color: rgba(0, 0, 0, 0);">$238 million purchase by Ken Griffin at the beginning of the year.


The building, at 212 Fifth Avenue, was built in 1912 and was largely used for manufacturing purposes, but developers Madison Equities turned the old building into about 50 condos, all of which are under contract or sold. To create the three-level penthouse they added two floors to the top of the building, which also allowed them to reserve 5,000 square feet of space for an outdoor private pavilion, including a partial glass floor to provide a skylight to the floor below.

Here's a look at the upper level with skylight.

And here's the kitchen that has an attached butler's pantry at one end. With interiors by Pembroke and Ives, the palette largely relies on neutral colors and marble accents throughout the unit.

One of the bedrooms still has the clerestory windows that overlook the NoMad neighborhood.

One of the dining areas has a herringbone floor pattern with wood floors. And this corner of the unit shows its unobstructed views.

Here's another gathering spot, with a working fireplace, lightwell and full wall of windows.

An upstairs living room has sliding glass doors that open nearly all the way to create and indoor/outdoor living space.

Follow me on Twitter" style="box-sizing: border-box; background-color: transparent; cursor: pointer; color: rgb(0, 56, 145); text-decoration: none; -webkit-tap-highlight-color: rgba(0, 0, 0, 0);">" style="box-sizing: border-box; font-style: italic;">@amydobsonRE


I'm a third generation real estate pro who has lived and breathed this subject ever since I started working in my family's construction business at a young age. That's h...

History Of American Real Estate Bubbles

Antique USA map close-up detail: Los Angeles, California

Antique USA map close-up detail: Los Angeles, California


Long before the last Los Angeles real estate bubble when real, inflation-adjusted house prices nearly tripled from 1997 to 2006 but then fell nearly in half by 2011...

And long before the S&L bubble when real Los Angeles house prices fell over 40% from the peak in 1989 to 1997...

There was the Los Angeles real estate bubble of the 1880s when real land prices increased 10-fold from 1882 to 1888 and then fell by one-third in one year, the next year, 1889. Even though the population of Los Angeles was skyrocketing at the time, real estate prices got way ahead of themselves and then busted hard.

From land speculation in New York state after the Revolutionary War, to a huge bubble in Chicago in the 1830s, to our 21st century bubble, the United States has always been a nation of real estate speculators, according to Edward Glaeser of Harvard University in his" style="box-sizing: border-box; background-color: transparent; cursor: pointer; color: rgb(0, 56, 145); text-decoration: none; -webkit-tap-highlight-color: rgba(0, 0, 0, 0);">brief and" style="box-sizing: border-box; background-color: transparent; cursor: pointer; color: rgb(0, 56, 145); text-decoration: none; -webkit-tap-highlight-color: rgba(0, 0, 0, 0);">papercalled, “A Nation of Gamblers: Real Estate Speculation and American History,” from 2013.



In addition to the bubbles mentioned above, the paper also covers bubbles in cotton farm land in Alabama in the early 1800s, and wheat farm land in Iowa and New York City housing in the early 1900s.

One of the conclusions of the paper is that some busts trigger financial crises but others don’t.

Los Angeles Bubble - 1880s

For example, in the Los Angeles 1880s bubble, sellers were often the “banks” for their buyers. Many sellers would take down payments and then let the buyers pay the rest of the money to them over time in seller “carryback” mortgages. When that bubble burst, Los Angeles didn’t have a banking crisis because sellers absorbed a lot of the losses instead of banks.

Chicago Bubble - 1830s

On the other hand, the Chicago bubble of 1830-1841 contributed to a large financial crisis. Real land prices in the Chicago loop increased 400-fold from 1830 to 1836 but then fell by almost 90% by 1841. The Illinois legislature had sponsored the Bank of Illinois to finance infrastructure projects like the" style="box-sizing: border-box; background-color: transparent; cursor: pointer; color: rgb(0, 56, 145); text-decoration: none; -webkit-tap-highlight-color: rgba(0, 0, 0, 0);">Illinois and Michigan Canal but the legislature also pushed the bank to support real estate. That Bank of Illinois money chasing real estate played a role in the boom. The year after the bubble peaked and prices stopped increasing, Illinois had a banking crisis and banks suspended payments. The Bank of Illinois couldn’t continue to finance the infrastructure projects due to its real estate losses and eventually, in 1842, the bank declared bankruptcy.

Fortunately, in both the Chicago and Los Angeles examples, their long-term underlying economies were skyrocketing so just a couple of decades after those bubbles, the crazy high peak real estate bubble prices didn’t look so crazy.

New York State - 1790s

Going a little bit further back and although not a bubble story, Professor Glaeser mentions the fascinating case of a signer of the Declaration of Independence who at one point may have been the wealthiest man in the country. A frequent real estate investor, in 1790, Robert Morris bought 1.3 million acres of New York state land (with some degree of financing) and sold it the next year for almost double what he paid. He plowed his incredible profits into more land deals but slowly over time, he ran into “increasingly difficult credit conditions” and eventually he went bankrupt.


Here are some of my favorite conclusions from the paper.

Revert to the Mean. The paper emphasizes that larger real estate booms tend to be followed by larger real estate busts. At the end of the bust, prices are often near where they were at the beginning of the boom, or where they would have been if pre-boom price trends had continued. That is, prices in real estate bubbles tend to revert to the mean.

Underpricing of Risky Mortgages. He also focuses on a bit of market failure - lenders in real estate booms often underprice risky mortgages. He calls it the “underpriced default option.” The buyer gets to keep all the gains when prices increase but when prices fall, the buyer may default on the mortgage and walk away from the property which then leaves the lender with all the rest of the losses.

If buyers are particularly prone to engage in wishful thinking about future price appreciation, the policies that encourage homeowners borrowing can lead to larger social losses.

Large Social Costs. Real estate boom-bust cycles cause significant social costs, especially when they trigger financial crises. Therefore, “there may be advantages if bank regulators recognize the regular tendency of real estate values to mean revert after booms.” And presumably, that bank regulators encourage or force overly optimistic lenders to charge the full cost of risky mortgages in order to reduce the size of real estate bubbles and the economic and social damage that follow.

It sounds like he may be suggesting that when real estate prices are increasing unsustainably fast that mortgages need to become more expensive to reflect the real risks of real estate boom mortgages.

You can follow John on Twitter at @JohnWake and at

I’m an agricultural economist turned real estate agent who got a ringside seat to the real estate boom and bust of the 2000s. Ever since I’ve been trying to figure out w...

Popcorn Ceilings: What They Are, How to Get Rid of Them & Are They a Health Hazard? 300w, 768w, 1024w" sizes="(max-width: 1920px) 100vw, 1920px" style="box-sizing: border-box; border-style: none; display: inline-block; height: auto; max-width: 100%; vertical-align: middle;">

Popcorn is great for lots of stuff. You can enjoy a big bucket with family and friends while at the movies, string it on a thread to give Christmas that old-fashioned touch and even turn it into questionable “treats” for Halloween. One place that it’s a lot less welcome is on the ceiling.

Unfortunately, too many homes still have popcorn ceilings. They often create a lot more questions than they answer.

What Is a Popcorn Ceiling?

Back in the day, someone had a brilliant idea.

What would happen if there was a cheaper alternative to meticulously applied plaster ceiling coating and decoration for homes? This person asked themselves. Well, that would be just lovely!

And that person wasn’t wrong in concept. It was practice that turned out to really be the killer.

Popcorn ceilings, the solution to the problem, are still around, largely haunting homes built between the 1930s and 1990s. The ceiling texture that oddly resembles cottage cheese far more than it does popcorn, was popular for its ease of application and, at the time, low maintenance requirement.

Popcorn Ceilings: The Kicker

Even if you don’t object to the generally dated appearance of a popcorn ceiling (hey, maybe retro’s your thing, we’re not judging), think twice before going all in because that house you’re looking at has one that’s still intact.

So many popcorn ceilings contain some amount of friable asbestos that they are generally not a great idea to keep around. Even though popcorn ceiling mixtures containing asbestos were banned under the Clean Air Act in 1979, the remaining mixes that hadn’t been purchased were still allowed to be sold. In some areas, this means that new installations of potentially hazardous popcorn ceilings lingered well into the 1980s.

If the asbestos wasn’t enough, many popcorn ceilings have been painted since they were installed, or were installed using paint as part of the initial mix. Lead-based paint was the norm until it was banned in 1978. It’s kind of a double-whammy.

Friable Versus Non-Friable Asbestos

There are two kinds of asbestos: friable and non-friable. Friable asbestos is the most dangerous kind, since any amount of disturbance can result in particles floating around in the air and being inhaled. This is not good news. Risks of free-floating asbestos can range from lung scarring to mesothelioma, an insidious and heartbreaking form of cancer. This is the kind in popcorn ceilings.

While non-friable asbestos isn’t a picnic, it’s a lot safer because the asbestos is encapsulated within another material. For example, older homes often have siding made of cement fiber-board tiles. These often contain asbestos, but unless you’re cutting the tiles, it’s safely contained.

There are very specific laws about dealing with both types of asbestos, but those surrounding friable asbestos are as much about protecting humans around the material as the environment. In most areas, homeowners are legally allowed to remove popcorn ceilings from their own homes, but it’s still a really good idea to at least have a test for asbestos before you try it.

Before You Even Think About Scraping That Ceiling

There are few things easier than removing a popcorn ceiling. A scraper and a lot of time will do the job, but the hazard to someone who goes in blindly cannot be understated. So, before you even think about scraping that ceiling, take some samples. Carefully.

Send one to a lab for testing for asbestos. Send another for testing for lead based paint (or use a high-quality at-home test kit). Wait until you have results to move forward.

If you test positive for either or both, consider calling in a pro. They have all the right equipment to ensure that asbestos doesn’t get loose in your home, where you, your family and your pets will be at risk of exposure. If you DIY this one, do not skimp on ventilators and other filters to keep any friable asbestos contained.

This is Definitely One for Your HomeKeepr Community

Usually, easy jobs are a slam dunk for DIY, but when it comes to one that can create such a significant risk to health and home, it’s really best to call on a home pro with the right kind of equipment to keep everyone safe.

Your HomeKeepr community is full of people who can help you with your popcorn ceiling woes. They can even recommend someone who can refinish that ceiling if your removal contractor doesn’t handle both. Just log in and your real estate agent will be more than happy to point you in the right direction with a recommendation from their extensive network of home pros.