Wednesday, June 20, 2018

How to Choose a Wedding Photographer


Planning a wedding is a huge undertaking, with a long list of tasks that need to be accomplished before, during, and after the big day. You’ll be speaking with several vendors for the various aspects of your wedding, from florists to cake designers to DJs. For many couples, the wedding photographer is one of the most important professionals you’ll hire for the event.

Unlike the food, which will be eaten and quite frankly forgotten, and the dress, which will likely never be worn again, your wedding photos are a lasting reminder of one of the biggest days of your life, and you want to look your best and most radiant self in every shot. This is why it’s important to take the time to find the right photographer who understands what you want and can capture both the big, celebratory moments and smaller, more meaningful moments that make your wedding day so special.

If you’re getting married in the near future, ask recently-married friends and family for referrals. Newlyweds who were thrilled with their wedding photos will be happy to give you the name of who they used. When you have a short list, hop online and start browsing their websites. Do any of the photographers’ styles mesh with yours? If you don’t have a specific style in mind, will the photographer offer helpful suggestions and ideas for shots?

Contact the photographers whose photos you like most and request an in-person meeting so you can learn more about each other. The photographer will likely bring additional samples so you can get a better idea of their style and photo possibilities. Also, don’t hesitate to ask them for references. Below are some additional questions to ask each photographer you speak with:
  •          Do you have the date available? (A surprisingly obvious question that many couples forget to ask!)
  •          How far in advance do we need to book you?
  •          How many weddings have you photographed? Any similar in size or style to mine?
  •          What is your pricing? If the event is delayed or runs longer, will you stay, and will we be charged extra?
  •          What kind of equipment do you use?
  •          What’s your shooting style? (Do they prefer ‘posed’ or more informal shots?)
  •          Do you shoot black and white photos, as well?
  •          Will you be shooting the wedding? (If not, could you meet the photographer who will be?) Will you have an assistant?
  •          Can I give you a list of shots we’d definitely like to do?
  •          Why should I hire you over other photographers in the area?
  •          (If your wedding isn’t local) Do you charge a travel fee?
  •          Have you ever shot weddings at our venue before?
  •          Have you ever worked with our DJ/florist/videographer/event planner before?
  •          Do you customize the photo packages?
  •          How long after the wedding can we expect the proofs?
  •          Do you offer retouching services? What is your pricing?
  •          What is your ordering process?
  •          Will you give me the images/proofs on a disk? Is there an additional fee?

Make sure you receive a written contract from the photographer you choose. Review it carefully and make sure it includes all the terms and conditions you discussed during your interview.

Ultimately, it comes down to a mutual comfort level. Did the photographer address your concerns and answer your questions to your satisfaction? Photos are one of the most special mementos of a couple’s wedding day, and you want to make sure you hire a professional who can make you look your best and capture the specialness of the entire experience.

How did you choose your wedding photographer? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below!

Choosing the Best Pool for Your Home


Summertime means barbecues, plenty of time outside, and both lounging by and cooling off in the water. For some families, this means hanging out by their backyard pool. If you’re considering installing a pool, there are a few things you should know before you get started.

First, decide what type of pool would work best for your backyard (and your budget!) Where you live is also a big deciding factor.  If you live in a warmer climate, an in-ground pool is almost a given.  If you live in a cooler region or have a smaller backyard, an above-ground pool will likely work better.  

Let’s take a closer look at the differences of each model, as well as the maintenance required.
Installing a pool is a big investment of both time and money. Take the time to research your options and compare prices before making your decision.

In-ground

An in-ground pool adds a pleasant touch to your backyard and quickly becomes the prime gathering spot for friends and family, where you can swim, lounge, and hang out together. It can also add value to your home. But in-ground models are expensive to both install and maintain. Besides the initial installation costs (site prep, digging the hole, and other charges), there are other expenses you may not be aware of, including:
  • Higher electric bill due to running the filter
  • Higher water bill due to refilling the pool’s water
  • Chemicals for routine maintenance, opening, and closing the pool

If you decide that an in-ground pool is the best choice for your backyard, get ready to be overwhelmed by all the different options available. From shape to liner materials to wall colors, the possibilities to customize your pool to your exact preferences are endless.

Above-ground

Above-ground pools are a better choice for families who won’t be able to use it year-round (or most of it, anyway).  They are also considerably less expensive. Other advantages to an above-ground model is that it can be assembled in a few days, it usually come in the form of a kit, and a team of installers set it up for you. Some higher-end models also come with railing and decking options for an additional cost.

Unfortunately, above-ground pools add no value to your home.  Most are also too shallow for diving, and they are typically only available in a round or oval shape, unlike in-ground pools which can be round, oval, square, rectangular, kidney-shaped, and more.  Otherwise, they require much of the same maintenance as in-ground models.

Choosing the right pool for your backyard essentially comes down to price, size, and your geographic area.  Talk to a reputable dealer who can help you select the best model for your family’s lifestyle.

Are you thinking of putting in a pool? Will you be choosing an in-ground or above-ground model? Do you have one already? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below!


Wednesday, June 13, 2018

How Safe is Your Backyard?

Photo: Pinterest

It’s summer, which means spending a lot more time outside. Whether you’re having some friends and family over for a cookout or pool party or just hanging out and enjoying the sunshine, your backyard is probably seeing a lot of activity.

Your home and backyard should be safe places where you can relax and have fun with family and friends.  But an accident can happen to anyone at any time. If you have any of the following, you may have a greater risk for liability if someone gets hurt on your property.  Be sure to notify your insurance agent if you have any of these items so your homeowners’ policy can be adjusted accordingly.

Trampolines. Trampolines are a lot of fun and actually a great way to stay in shape, but they can be dangerous, as well. If one of your kids or a friend feel daring and tries stunts like a flip, they can get seriously hurt if they land wrong.  Do plenty of research before buying one of these items so you’re aware of the potential safety risks.

Swing sets and play equipment. Swing sets have come a long way—most are made from molded plastic or recycled materials rather than hard metal as they were for decades, so they are already safer than they were years ago. But there are still plenty of risks with these units.

Pools. Who doesn’t like lounging poolside on a hot day? Pools are a great investment and make a nice addition to a backyard, but they can also be dangerous. According to the American Red Cross (ARC)’s website, 200 children drown in backyard swimming pools each year.  If you have a pool, make sure you and your guests follow some basic safety rules:
  •         Install a fence.
  •          Supervise all swimmers.
  •          Keep pool chemicals out of children’s easy reach.
  •          Set safety rules that must be followed (such as no running, diving, or swimming alone)
  •          Know how to respond to an emergency (make sure everyone in the household can swim; get certified in CPR and first aid).

Dogs.  We all love our furry friends, but depending on the dog’s temperament, they may not love your guests.  Not all dogs are good with people other than their owners. If your dog is skittish or tends to be aggressive, it might be best to keep them in the house until your guests leave. He may bite someone if he feels threatened, which could mean a potential lawsuit for you. (If you have umbrella coverage on your homeowners’ policy, that would help in case of a lawsuit). If you don’t have an umbrella policy, don’t take a chance on your dog’s unpredictable nature, especially if young kids are on the premises. Put them in the house and check on them, but keep them away from your guests.

Summer tends to fly by, so make the most of it! Have fun and stay safe, even if you’re staying in your own backyard.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

How to Stage Your Home for Potential Sale

Photo: LifeStorage.com

Selling a house can be a long and often nerve-wracking process. It’s not unusual for a home to sit on the market for months, even years. As a seller, you may have to come up with some creative ways of showing off your home’s best features and enticing prospective buyers.  “Staging” is one way to do this. Staging your home allows buyers to see examples of furniture arrangements and room layouts. People are very visual, and seeing pieces in the home gives buyers ideas for how their own belongings could look in each room.  Buyers often look at multiple houses; staged homes are more likely to stand out from those that are unstaged, which can make the buying decision less overwhelming.

If you want to stage your house or a house you’re selling on someone’s behalf (a deceased relative, perhaps), you need to do some prep. First, keep in mind that staging an empty house is considerably easier than staging one that’s currently occupied.  If you’re not comfortable with the process or don’t know where to start, you can work with a Staging Consultant who can work with you on rearranging furniture and basically getting the home in “showing condition” so it’s presented in the best possible light.  This means all those awkward little nooks and crannies (such as a too-small closet or alcove under the stairs), the basement, and other imperfect areas of your home will be on display for potential buyers, but in a new, more flattering, way. You want buyers to see themselves and their family living in your home and making it their own, and giving them some ideas for what "works" in certain rooms will help them do that.

Even if you’re working with a Staging Consultant to handle the actual furniture arranging and room layouts, there are plenty of things you can do to get the process started.

Exterior
  •         Mow lawn, trim shrubs, weed garden, and plant new flowers and other greenery
  •         Make sure your house number is clearly visible
  •          Give your front porch or entryway some TLC—apply a fresh coat of paint or stain to the floor and railing, wash down porch furniture, repair or replace stained, torn, or damaged furniture cushions.
  •          Wash windows

Interior
  •          Declutter. If you ever needed a good reason to get rid of the books, papers, and various other debris you’ve accumulated over the years while living in your home, this is it!
  •          Give your home a thorough cleaning. This is especially critical if you have animals and/or small children! Pay special attention to wood floors. Consider refinishing them if they’re excessively nicked or scratched; if that’s not in your budget, invest in area rugs to hide the worst of the wear.
  •          Pick up toys and encourage your kids to clean up their rooms.
  •          Try to strike a balance between “clean” and “lived in”. You want buyers to know real people live in this house, so you don’t have to remove all traces of your presence. But don’t leave newspapers, mail, kids’ sports equipment, and other remainders of your “real life” laying around, either.
  •          Be vigilant about tackling pet odors. We love our pets, but let’s face it, they can be stinky at times. Besides giving your four-legged friends a bath prior to each showing (if you can), steam-clean all rugs and wash floors thoroughly.


     Have you ever staged a home for potential sale? Did you work with a professional or do it yourself? What was your experience? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below!