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Creating a Home(work) Station That Gets Top Marks

When was the last time your home workspace or study station inspired you? For most people, the answer is, "Not recently."

Whether you’re prepping an area for your work-from-home days or setting up a spot for young scholars to study , you can kick inspiration into high gear with home office solutions that will get your creative juices flowing again.

Window wonder

It's no secret that sunshine does the body good. Fix up a space near the window so you can soak up plenty of vitamin D while pumping out price lists or writing that term paper.

Greenery looks great near a bright area, so a potted plant or two might help naturally bring your space to life.

Arts and crafts

The age of DIY is upon us. Embrace the casual-cool vibes and create your very own home desk area.

Need a semipermanent to-do list? Try using chalkboard paint to make yourself a giant notepad on a nearby cabinet or a framed chalkboard. Tired of the overdone corkboard for your sticky notes? Framed chicken wire with clothespins makes a more shabby-chic memo board.

The possibilities really are endless for this type of style. Just don't let your DIYing get in the way of the tasks you originally sat down to do!

arts
Photo from Zillow listing.

Collaboration is key

For those less focus-intensive projects, investigate a collaborative workstation with several small spaces or a giant community table. This type of work environment has been popular among small companies and creative agencies for the purpose of bouncing around ideas.

If you still want your own personal space, put a divider between you and the other desks for some extra privacy, and take it down when it's time to meet and discuss. You know what they say: Teamwork makes the dream work.

collab sm
Photo from Zillow listing.

A clear mind

While many of us would like to think we have complete control of our habit of logging onto Facebook or checking what else our calendar has in store for us, most of us really don't. And the greatest enabler of this sidetracked behavior is a cluttered workspace.

Set the stage for a clean slate with a bright white desk and matching chair, a simple light fixture and an inspiring element. Keeping your workstation simple and clutter-free ensures you have a productive day - even if your homework is less than exhilarating.

Whether you're up all night cramming for exams or prepping for a work presentation due first thing in the morning, you'll feel more focused and productive by incorporating any of these tips into your workstation.

Related:

Originally published September 2016.

Don't Believe These 5 Myths About Real Estate Agents

Buyers and sellers often enter the market with misconceptions about real estate agents - how they work, how the process works and what the agency relationship is all about.

It’s helpful to point out, without getting too far into the weeds, that in any one real estate transaction, there are most likely two agents: one for the buyer and one for the seller.

Here are five myths (and five truths) about working with both buyer's and seller's agents.

1. Agents get a 6% commission, no matter what

Most people assume that their agent is pocketing the entire commission. That would be nice, but it’s just not accurate.

Truth

First, it's helpful to know that the seller pays the commission, and they split it four ways: between the two brokerages and the two agents.

Finally, the brokerage commission isn't fixed or set in stone, and sellers can sometimes negotiate it.

2. Once you start with an agent, you're stuck with them

If you're a seller, you sign a contract with the real estate agent and their brokerage. That contract includes a term - typically six months to a year. Once you sign the agreement, you could, in fact, be stuck with their agent through the term. But that’s not always the case.

Truth

If things aren't working out, it's possible to ask the agent or the brokerage manager to release you from the agreement early.

Buyers are rarely under a contract. In fact, buyer's agents work for free until their clients find a home. It can be as quick as a month, or it can take up to a year or more. And sometimes a buyer never purchases a house, and the agent doesn't get paid.

Before jumping into an agent's car and asking them to play tour guide, consider a sit-down consultation or a call, and read their online reviews to see if they're the right fit.

Otherwise, start slow, and if you don't feel comfortable, let them know early on - it's more difficult to break up with your agent if too much time passes.

3. It’s OK for buyers to use the home's selling agent

Today's buyers get most things on demand, from food to a ride to the airport. When it comes to real estate, buyers now assume they need only their smartphone to purchase a home, since most property listings live online.

Truth

First-time buyers or buyers new to an area don't know what they don't know, and they need an advocate.

The listing agent represents the seller's interests and has a fiduciary responsibility to negotiate the best price and terms for the seller. So working directly with the selling agent presents a conflict of interest in favor of the seller.

An excellent buyer's agent lives and breathes their local market. They've likely been inside and know the history of dozens of homes nearby. They're connected to the community, and they know the best inspectors, lenders, architects and attorneys.

They've facilitated many transactions, which means they know all the red flags and can tell you when to run away from (or toward) a home.

4. One agent is just as good as the next

Many people think that all agents are created equal.

Truth

A great local agent can make an incredible difference, so never settle. The right agent can save you time and money, keep you out of trouble and protect you.

Consider an agent who has lived and worked in the same town for around ten years. They know the streets like the back of their hand. They have deep relationships with the other local agents. They have the inside track on upcoming deals and past transactions that can't be explained by looking at data online.

Compare that agent to one who's visiting an area for the first time. Some agents aren't forthright and might be more interested in making a sale. Many others care more about building a long-term relationship with you, because their business is based off referrals.

5. You can't buy a for sale by owner (FSBO) home if you have an agent

In a previous generation, sellers who wouldn't deal with any agents tried to sell their home directly to a buyer to save the commission.

Truth

Smart sellers understand that real estate is complicated and that most buyers have separate representation. And many FSBO sellers will offer payment to a buyer's agent as an incentive to bring their buyer clients to the home.

If you see a FSBO home on the market, don't be afraid to ask your agent to step in. Most of the time the seller will compensate them, and you can benefit from their knowledge and experience.

Related:

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.

Originally published June 2018.

This Stylish Treehouse Is Luxury Off-the-Grid Living

Kati O'Toole and her husband, Darin, wanted to create a giant piece of artwork on their private and heavily wooded seven-acre property in Montana. They ended up with what they refer to as the Montana Treehouse Retreat - a two-story, fully finished treehouse nestled among three living trees.

"Everybody thought we were crazy [at] the beginning, like 'What are you guys doing building a treehouse here?' Our parents thought we were crazy," says Kati.

But the hard work and vision paid off, and now visitors from all over the world routinely come to stay at their carefully crafted work of art. The 700-square-foot treehouse features a master suite with a deck that overlooks the forest, a living area with three benches that can double as sleeping quarters, and two bathrooms. Guests can also prepare a meal in the treehouse's downstairs kitchen, complete with a refrigerator, a stove, a sink and a dishwasher.

"There’s even air conditioning in this treehouse, because we wanted to create a very luxury experience here. I have to be honest - the treehouse is nicer inside than the house that I live in, so I like to come back here and just have a little retreat away from it all," says Kati.

Every detail of the treehouse was painstakingly thought out, and most of the materials were either sourced locally or repurposed. The trim and the interior feature wood that Darin himself milled, sanded and finished, and the breakfast table nook was made from the base of a tree located right on their property.

One of Kati's favorite details of the treehouse, however, is the spiraling exterior staircase, which is wrapped around a large tree shipped in from Darin's grandmother's yard, roots and all.

Although Darin handled most of the heavy-duty construction of the structure, Kati's handiwork is all over the interior.

"We wanted it to be kind of funky and modern - but still have some Montana accents and still be a little rustic too. So there were many things coming into play, and we wanted people to feel like it was a very cozy home away from home when they came here, and just like a one-of-a-kind Montana experience," she says.

A combination of white shiplap and multicolored wood paneling covers the interior walls, giving the home an eclectic yet polished farmhouse look, and expansive windows create an open, airy feeling in the small living spaces. Modern elements that are dotted throughout the house, like the industrial chandelier in the kitchen and the black hexagon and subway tiles in the bathrooms, are more reminiscent of a boutique hotel than a remote treehouse located near Glacier National Park.

Close to Kati's heart are the pieces by local artists that don the walls, with some of the pieces coming from guests who created the artwork while staying at the treehouse.

"It’s been really cool to see [how] this place inspires people," she says.

But the defining characteristic of this home - and what guests travel miles for - is the unique experience of living out your childhood dreams of sleeping in a treehouse.

"It’s a very unique feeling that most people have never experienced, to be lying in bed and seeing a tree - or you’re actually moving. And people have told me that they love the experience, and it’s - yeah, it’s a treehouse. That’s the beauty. It’s a real treehouse," says Kati.

Related:

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