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Jason O'Neil


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7 Ideas to Help You Use Your Outdoor Space More

by Deidre Sullivan via houselogic

These ideas will transform your outdoor space into an oasis you may never want to leave.

Day or night, this deck is the cozy place to be. Plush furniture and an outdoor rug maximize comfort, and string lights cast a warm glow. Image: Summer Hogan

When your mom told you to turn off the TV and play outdoors already, she knew what she was talking about. Hanging outside is good for our mental and physical well-being.

As adults, having an outdoor retreat adds an economic component: Upwards of 80% of homebuyers said patios and front porches are "essential" or "desirable," according to the "What Buyers Really Want" survey from the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB). 

So how come when we move into our dream home, we hardly ever use our decks, porches, and patios?

An anthropological UCLA study, described in the book, "Life at Home in the Twenty-First Century," blames our fascination with digital devices - tablets, computers, televisions, games - for keeping us cooped up. The UCLA research participants spent less than half an hour each week in their outdoor space. And these were Californians. 

So this summer let's make a pledge to pay more than lip service to outdoor living so we can be happier, create lasting memories, and generally take advantage of what home has to offer. 

1. Go Overboard on Comfy

Image: Liz Foreman for HouseLogic

When you step into your outdoor space, your first sensation should be 'ahhh.' If you're not feeling it, then your space is likely lacking the comfy factor. Comfy is easy to achieve and can be as low cost as you want. Start simple with a cushion or two or even a throw. Some other simple strategies: 

Make sure your outdoor seating is as cushy as your indoor furniture. Today's outdoor cushions aren't the plastic-y, sweat-inducing pillows of the past. Plus, they can handle a downpour and spring back once they dry. 

Lay down outdoor rugs so you're just as comfortable barefoot as you are inside. 

Give yourself some privacy. Create neutral screens with shrubs, bushes, or even bamboo reeds. Or install prefab screens from your local home improvement store. 

2. Create a Broadband Paradise

Our devised and electronics have conspired to keep us on lockdown. Since we're not about to chuck our digital toys, boot up your outdoor space so you can keep texting, posting to Instagram, and watching cat videos. 

Wireless outdoor Wi-Fi antennaes provide an extra boost so you can stay connected. 

A solar USB charging station keeps your gizmos powered. 

Wireless speakers make it easy to bring your music outdoors, and mask a noisy neighborhood. 

An all-weather outdoor TV lets your stay outside for the big game. 

3. Blur the Line Between Indoors and Out

Creating a seamless transition between your home's interior and exterior isn't as simple or low cost as adding comfort, but its the most dramatic and effective way to enhance your enjoyment of the space. Plus, it can increase your home's value. 

The most straightforward, cost-effective solution: Replace a standard door opening with sliding or glass French doors. 

Use the same weatherproof flooring, such as stone tile or scoured concrete, outside as well as in the room leading to your backyard oasis. 

4. Light the Way

                                               Image: Liz Foreman for HouseLogic

When the sun goes down, don't be left groping for your wine glass. Outdoor lighting dresses up your home's marketability and appeal (exterior lighting is a buyers' most wanted outdoor feature, according to the NAHB study), makes it safer, and let you spend time outside. 

Use uplighting to highlight trees, architectural details, or other focal points. 

Add sconces or pendant lights to make evening entertaining, grilling, and reading easier. 

Illuminate walkways, rails, and steps with landscape solar lights. 

Hang fairy or string lights to set an enchanting tone. 

5. Make Your Mark 

                                               Image: Liz Foreman for HouseLogic

Let your style dominate your backyard space. 

Paint a faux rug with your favorite colors. 

Create a path made with colored glass, brick, or other interesting found materials. 

Craft a one-of-a-kind outdoor chandelier. 

Build a pizza oven, custom seating, or other feature you crave. 

Add personal decor that makes you happy. 

In fact, make your outdoor retreat an ongoing project where you can hone your DIY skills. 

6. Don't Give Anyone an Excuse to Stay Inside

                                               Image: Tasya Demers from My House and Home

Your outdoor space will magnetically draw family and friends if it has features they find appealing. 

A fire pit is a proven winner. Food and fire have brought humans together since the dawn of time. 

Give wee ones the gift of magical thinking in an outdoor playhouse. 

Add whimsy with a chalkboard fence that both the kids and fun-loving adults will enjoy.

Add a doggie window in your fence to entertain Spot. Installing a dog run area may even boost your home's value. FYI: It's been said that pets are one of the top reasons why people buy houses. 

7. Rebuff the Elements


Hot sun, rain, wind gusts, and bugs are the archenemy of good times. Here are tips and strategies to help you throw shade on Mother Nature: 

Install an awning, canopy, or pergola. It'll make it easier to read your Kindle or iPad and keep yu dry during a summer shower. Look for products with polycarbonate panels, which block UV rays, too. 

Rig glass fence windscreens to keep the BBQ fires burning. 

Screen your porch or deck against bugs. But screening will be for naught if you forget the slats between wood planks. Cover the floor with outdoor carpet or staple screening to the underside of floorboards. 

Indianapolis July 2014 Housing Report

by Jason O'Neil

Although low supply and tight credit standards are still hurdles to a robust recovery, prices continue to rise in most local areas. Buoyed by stable and continuously lower interest rates, affordability is still historically high yet below its all-time peak. Rising inventory levels will lead to more choices for qualified
buyers. In fact, New Listings in central Indiana rose in July by 2.2 percent and 2.5 percent for the quarter ending in July.
Pending Sales were down 3.6 percent in July and 4.4 percent in the three months ending in July. Inventory levels rose 2.7 percent, bringing Months Supply of Inventory up 4.8 percent to 5.9 months.
Prices were stable. The Median Sales Price increased 0.1 percent to $145,000 in July. For the quarter ending in July, Median Sales Price rose 2.1 percent to $145,000 compared to the same quarter a year ago.
The U.S. Department of Commerce reported that GDP grew at a 4.0 percent annual rate in the second quarter and that the first quarter was less negative than previously thought. Consumer spending in the first quarter rose 2.5 percent, which is encouragingly in tandem with savings rates. Increased consumer spending means more demand for goods and labor; increased savings rates means more resources for down payments. With interest rates still low, prices stable and more inventory making its way to market, local buyers and sellers have ample housing opportunities.

By: Lisa Kaplan Gordon

#6. Do Almost Any Energy-Efficient Upgrade

The value of energy-efficient houses just keeps going up and up. A UCLA study examined the sales prices of 1.6 million California homes from 2007 to 2012 and found that homes with Energy Star, LEED, or GreenPoint certification had, on average, a 9% higher price.

That finding is echoed in NAHB’s report that surveyed homebuyers across the nation: Nine out of 10 potential buyers would select an efficient home with lower utility bills over a less efficient home priced 2% to 3% less.

One energy-saving home improvement project that not only saves energy but gives you tons of enjoyment, too, is converting a wood-burning fireplace into a gas one. If you like to crunch energy numbers, gas fireplaces have energy-efficient ratings as high as 77%, compared with wood-burning fireplaces that convert only 15% of wood’s energy into useful heat.

In fact, 39% of homebuyers say a gas fireplace is an essential or desirable feature of the next home they purchase. So when it comes time to sell your home, more than one-third of potential buyers will be looking for a gas fireplace.

In the meantime, it’ll be paying for itself in reduced heating costs.

Some tips for converting to gas:

  • A direct-vent gas insert most closely replicates the wood-burning experience at a cost of about $3,000 to $4,000, installed.
  • If you don’t have an existing fireplace, you can install a direct-vent (vents directly outside so you don’t need a chimney) gas fireplace for about $5,000 (installed and finished).

Visit for more articles like this. Reprinted from with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®. Read more:

Portrait of An Affluent American Consumer - Part 2

by Jason O'Neil

When affluent American consumers were asked where they plan to purchase their next property, a majority said North America and followed in a distant second by Europe. It's true that home truly is where the heart is.

By: Lisa Kaplan Gordon

#5. Pump Up Your Home Security

The peace of mind that comes with installing a home security system is priceless.

In reality, price varies. You can buy and install it yourself for $50 to $300, or a security company can sell and install a system from $0 to $1,500. The “zero” is the hook companies use to lure you into signing a multi-year monitoring contract that ranges from $95 to $480 per year.

If a monitored system suits your needs, you’ll also get a break on your home insurance. Most companies will discount your annual rate 15% to 20% if you have a security service.

Home security systems also make your home more marketable: 50% of homebuyers (in the NAHB survey) say a home security system — particularly security cameras — tops their list of most-wanted technology features.

You can go over the top and install high-tech security gadgets, like smartphone-operated locks and a laser trip wire. Or you can keep it simple with a keypad that communicates with sensors and motion detectors throughout your house.


  • If you do decide to go with a monitoring system, choose a company with a 10-year track record to ensure reliability.
  • Don’t rely on any system as your sole means of security. Locking doors and windows is still your best first-line of defense.


Visit for more articles like this. Reprinted from with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®. Read more: 

Indianapolis June 2014 Housing Report

by Jason O'Neil

Housing in central Indiana over the last six months has seen growth in a lot of key indicators but it has continued to move slower than the month over month movement we saw in 2013. Central Indiana has all of the right ingredients including a diversity of housing stock and prices. Builders are active again for the first time in a few years and that adds new product to our market every month.

New Listings in central Indiana increased 6.5 percent in June and 2.1 percent in the last quarter. Months of Inventory decreased 0.1 percent percent in June to place the current availability of properties at 5.6 months. Pending and Closed Sales were down 2.5 and 1.4 percent respectively in June.

Prices forged onward. Median Sales Price for the quarter ending in May grew 3.9 percent to $142,900 compared to the same quarter last year. Average Sales Price grew 4.9 percent for the quarter ending in June 2014 compared to 2013.

Housing experts say sales are inching up, price growth is becoming more sustainable and housing inventory is increasing slowly. The market continues to stabilize overall, but a need for more people participating on both the buyer and the seller side is evident.

By: Lisa Kaplan Gordon

#4. Install a Patio

Patios are a great cost-effective way to increase your home’s living space without actually adding on. Plus you’ll recover 30% to 60% of your investment. A $2,000 patio would return around $900 at resale.

But don’t go crazy and trick out your patio with high-end amenities, like an outdoor kitchen — especially if you’d be the only one on the block with one. When it’s time to sell, you won’t get back much — if any — of your investment on kitchens and other high-end amenities. Instead, keep it simple and functional. (And, really, how often would you use an outdoor kitchen?)

Some wise advice when planning a patio:

  • Check property for slope, sun, and shade patterns.
  • Remember ‘dig alerts’ that utilities provide free of charge.
  • Don’t skimp on patio lighting. It can make all the difference in functionality and beautification.

Visit for more articles like this. Reprinted from with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®. Read more: 

Portrait of An Affluent American Consumer - Part 1

by Jason O'Neil

Sotheby's International Realty recently released the Luxury Lifestyle Report. The report is a study of high net worth real estate consumers. The Sotheby’s International Realty Luxury Lifestyle Report aims to define the purchasing behaviors of the wealthy. They surveyed affluent consumers in the United States, United Kingdom, Brazil and China and found that the majority are more likely to purchase a lifestyle property now than they were five years ago.

The study also showed that compared with five years ago, a majority of affluent consumers are more confident in the strength of the housing market in their country of primary residence. These insights are important because we have seen the luxury sector lead the way for the overall real estate recovery. High-net worth consumers are recognizing the critical role real estate plays in building wealth…and they are investing in it.

This is the first part of a five part series that examines the findings of the Affluent American consumer.

As the above infographic shows, The top home feature affluent American consumers are willing to pay more for is location, followed by size, historical significance and famous former owners, such as a celebrity. LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION – still rings true.

By: Lisa Kaplan Gordon

#3. Plant Some Trees

Say what? Adding trees doesn’t instantly pop into your head when you think of adding value to your home. But trees are moneymakers that get better with age.

A mature tree could be worth between $1,000-$10,000, says the Council of Tree and Landscape Appraisers. A 16-inch silver maple could be worth $2,562, according to a formula worked out by the Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service.

In urban areas, money really does grow on trees. A recent study of home sales by the Pacific Northwest Research Station of Portland showed that street trees growing in front of or near a house boosted its sale price by an average of $8,870 and shaved two days off its time on the market.

There’s more. Trees also:

  • Save $100-$250 annually in energy costs
  • Lower stress
  • Prevent erosion from downpours and roof runoff
  • Protect your home from wind, rain, and sun

But don’t just run out and plant trees willy-nilly. Here are some tips:

  • Follow the sun. Plant shade trees on the south side of the house where the sun beats strongest and longest.
  • Follow the wind. Plant windbreak trees, which can lower winter energy costs by 30%, on the north and northwest sides of your property.
  • Don’t plant too close. If you do, branches can scrape roofs and siding, causing expensive damage. Rule of thumb: Don’t plant trees any closer than the tree’s mature height plus one-fourth of that height. So, for example, if a tree reaches 40 feet, it should be planted at least 50 feet from any other trees.

Visit for more articles like this. Reprinted from with permission of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®. Read more: 

Indianapolis May 2014 Housing Report

by Jason O'Neil

Displaying blog entries 1-10 of 77