Holiday Shopping Safety Tips

thumbnailThe holidays at this time of year always bring out fond childhood memories and the desire to create new ones for our own family. We all have a list a mile long of things to do, places to go, holiday shopping to finish. But in that hustle and bustle, it’s not uncommon for us to become a little bit careless – or preoccupied (and we’re not even going to talk about that texting-and-walking thing!). And that can make us vulnerable to theft and other holiday crime. Keeping in mind that we can never be too careful, too prepared, or too aware, we’d like to share these holiday shopping safety tips to remind you how you can get through the season happy – and most of all, safe.

Holiday Shopping Safety Tips

• Try to shop during daylight hours. If you must shop at night, go with a friend or family member.
• In parking lots – even though you are rushed and thinking about a thousand things, stay alert to your surroundings. When approaching or leaving your vehicle, be aware of your surroundings.
• Avoid parking next to vans, trucks with camper shells, or cars with tinted windows.
• Keep all car doors locked and windows closed while in or out of your car, and set your alarm or use an anti-theft device if you have one.
• Beware of strangers approaching you for any reason. At this time of year, con-artists will try various methods of distracting you with the intention of taking your money or belongings – or even worse.
• Avoid carrying large amounts of cash – and carry the cash you do have in your front pocket.
• Pay for purchases with a check or credit card when possible.
• If you must use an ATM, choose one that is located in a well-lit location – and withdraw only the amount of cash you need. Protect your PIN number, and don’t throw away your receipt at the ATM location.
• Teach your child to go to a store clerk and ask for help in the event they are separated from you. And never allow them to make unaccompanied trips to the restroom.
• Teach children their full name, address and telephone number to give to police officers or mall security.
• Teach children to immediately inform you if a stranger is bothering them.
• Keep a record of all of your credit card numbers in a safe place at home. (Not on your cell phone!)

Pay a little extra attention to what is going on around you, and chances are criminals will mark you off their “to-do list.” (They do tend to focus on those who are distracted or unaware of their immediate surroundings.) Stay aware and stay safe this season – because there’s no time for anything else – you have too much to celebrate!

You’re a “Las Vegas Local”? Try Being a Tourist for a Day!

mandalay-bay-attraction-dive-with-sharks-tif-image-450-254-highAh…..Las Vegas. When you’re a local, living and working and doing all those normal things people do every day, it’s easy to forget about the fact that “Hey! I live in a city that people all over the world want to come to!” (That works both ways, of course…they normally think we all live in hotels and work in casinos, right?)

Seriously, though – life in Southern Nevada really does offer a whole lot more “awesome” than most of us give it credit for. Certainly the Las Vegas Strip provides entertainment galore – but the sheer volume of recreation, events, and things to do outside of the Strip is so vast that we can see why it takes people several trips to fit them all in.

Seems like a shame that so many of us “locals” still haven’t done a lot of this stuff (that we’ve listed below). Or have you?

Grand Canyon Helicopter Tour. The truth now – you’ve known about them for a loooooong time. But have you ever? This one has been such a mainstay of Las Vegas for so long, we’re actually curious how many of you have done the “tourist” thing and flown it?

Nature & Wildlife Tours. Those pink Jeeps have piqued your interest before when you’ve seen them on the road, haven’t they? They should – because this is the #3 Outdoor Activity for Las Vegas, according to Trip Advisor. Take your pick of guided tours – from the “Bright Lights City” to Death Valley, Hoover Dam, or the Grand Canyon. Oh wait, don’t forget about the Valley of Fire and Red Rock Canyon!

Extreme Aviation Experience. Sky Combat Ace – now that’s a company name that conjures up images, eh? Go solo, take a group with you – then pick your experience. Aerial Dogfighting? Check. Aerobatics? Check. Flight Training? Check. A bit on the pricey side (so just make it one of your once-in-a-lifetime bucket list items) – but think of the stories you’ll have to tell!

Dive with the Sharks. While Las Vegas is well known for its poker sharks, very few visitors know that Mandalay Bay’s aquarium, Shark Reef, is one of the few in the world that allows SCUBA certified guests to get in the tank and swim with actual sharks, such as the fierce Sand Tiger.

Swim with the Dolphins. In the same vein, while several resorts worldwide let you swim with dolphins, only the Mirage offers a Dolphin Trainer For The Day Program – and even Dolphin Yoga!

Drive a Lamborghini. At Speed Vegas, you can take the wheel of a quarter million dollar Lamborghini Gallardo or Huracán – or how about a Ferrari? Or a Porsche Cayman GTS? Pretty much any of those options are going to give car aficionados the serious “speed fix” they’re looking for.

We’d love to fill you in on more of the incredible “experiences” offered around town, but hey – we have day jobs, too! The point of all this, though, is that like we said…. when you’re local, you forgot about all the options available right here at-hand. Let us know when you decide to try some of these out – or come up with even more exciting ones you can share!


image003You know all the things we love about the holidays? Friends, family, parties, gatherings, social hours, gifts, food, presents? It’s a special time when the whole family – including our furry friends – comes together for celebration and relaxation. But all it takes is one holiday pet mishap to mar the joyful spirit of the season.

So as you prepare for the merry-making this year, it’s a good idea to check out this list of pet safety tips – not just once, but maybe twice – to make sure both your dog and your home are ready to enjoy the most of this season. After all – pets are family, too, right?

Set up a safe haven for them
Many of us live in homes that are full of hustle and bustle over the holidays, with friends and relatives dropping by for parties, meals and other seasonal events. With all that noise and activity, even the most sociable dog can sometimes get a bit worn out. That’s why it’s important to create a place for your pet to relax and spend some alone-time – out of the way and including a comfortable bed, water, and perhaps some favorite toys. Whenever possible, try to stick to the same schedule for feeding and exercise that your dog is familiar with, rather than disrupting his routine too much.

Prepare holiday visitors for your pet’s presence
People who don’t have pets of their own don’t have to think about these things – so a little education can be very valuable. For example, visitors may need a reminder to make sure any medications are safely stowed away, or to keep doors to the outside properly closed. Plan ahead to let your guests know that they’ll be sharing your home with your dog – and that they reeeeally don’t want to have to be the ones to say, “I didn’t know I left the front door open!” That’s a story that often doesn’t end well.

Pay attention to holiday foods and treats around your dog
Food is always a big part of any holiday celebration, but many of the things we eat during the holidays aren’t appropriate for a dog’s diet. They could suffer serious health problems if they indulge in rich, fatty, or spicy foods – or worse yet – sweet treats such as chocolates. (This is one of the things to mention to guests, too. We once had a dog make short work of a wrapped gift left on a table – coming home to find an empty box of Godiva chocolates. There was a lot of panic going on until the gift-giver revealed they had used that box to wrap a t-shirt in! <ultimately a happy ending>).

Also, make sure garbage bins are pet-proofed so your dog isn’t tempted to eat something he shouldn’t. And remember to feed your dog before hosting a holiday party or meal so he’ll be less inclined to beg for food or scrounge for scraps. (Although if your dog is anything like ours: HAHAHAHA!) Alcoholic and caffeinated drinks like tea and coffee are another potential hazard for your pet. And dogs are often attracted to the sweetness of holiday drinks like eggnog, but they can suffer serious consequences and even death by consuming alcohol.

Take care with your holiday decorations
Make sure your tree is kept safely upright with a secure base and stand. You might even consider using twine or fishing line to attach the tree to the wall or ceiling to further decrease the chances of your dog knocking it over. If you have a real tree and it does come crashing down, don’t let your dog drink the water – it may contain harmful fertilizers and bacteria.

Try to be vigilant about cleaning up fallen needles, too (especially if your dog likes to eat unusual things!) as they can irritate their mouth and stomach. Other holiday plants, such as holly, mistletoe and poinsettias can even be poisonous, so be careful where you place them around your home.

In the end, it’s good to remember that dogs are definitely social animals – and they love to be included in all the unique fun and entertainment that happens at this time of year. The odds are in your favor that you’ll all come through the holidays unscathed, as usual. But it never hurts to take a little extra precaution – because we think you’ll agree that nothing will put a damper on that holiday feeling like a sick or missing pet.

Five Reasons Buyers Prefer New Homes Over Used

bp_harmonyhomes7624rIf you’ve decided it’s time to buy a home – whether you’re a first time owner, have a growing family and need a larger home, the kids are gone so it’s time to downsize, or maybe you’re just plain tired of the same old thing – how do you know where to begin?

One of the questions that might be at the top of your list whether if you should buy a new or a resale home. Sadly, while it’s not necessarily true, a lot of people will immediately dismiss the thought of buying a brand new home thinking that it’s out of their reach financially. In fact, there are many reasons that may not be the case – and we’d like to share a few of them with you here. So get out your calculator, and let’s take a look at whether a new home could – or even should – be in your near future!

1. It Comes with a New Home Warranty
With a new home, the warranties all begin from the closing date. That means items like appliances and major systems throughout the home are starting out fresh with the manufacturer’s warranty. On top of that, if you buy from a reputable builder, they’re also going to stand behind the quality and construction of their home for up to 10 years or more. What’s your peace of mind worth?

2. Less Maintenance Expense (and that’s a time-saver, too!)
On the other hand, consider this: If you buy a used home, you’ll always be wondering: “When is something major going to break and cost me a ton of money to fix?” (Hint: It’s almost never happens when you have a ton of spare cash laying around that you don’t know what to do with.) When you buy a used home, you don’t know what you’re getting – even if you have a home inspection done, because most repairs don’t have an expiration time clock visible. Are you buying a home so you can move in and spend all your free time making repairs yourself – or paying someone else to tear your home apart and fix it?

3. Energy and Cost Savings
Today’s new homes are far more energy efficient than homes built as little as 5-7 years ago. When you’re comparing homes built 10-20 years ago, it’s game over – advantage goes to new homes. Why settle for drafty, energy-wasting single-pane windows in a used home when you can have double or even triple-pane windows that come with new homes? And that’s just the start. Updated construction codes and building standards mean the use of more efficient materials and methods throughout – from water delivery and heating systems to roofing products and more. It all adds up to considerable savings that result in lower maintenance and operating costs right off the bat. Do you hear the sound of your money recouped and your monthly energy expenses being lowered?

4. New Home Seller Incentives
Chances are, if you’re buying a new home from a homebuilder, there’s a good chance you can score some incentives – in the form of upgrades, credit towards closing costs, or other perks. Builders will often have Grand Opening or close-out incentives, year-end or seasonal sales. So it’s definitely worth exploring the home and the neighborhood you’d pick for your “dream location” – if only so you can compare the initial purchase price with a comparable used home you’re considering. What’s the harm in looking – and asking?

5. Get Exactly What You Want from the Start
Few things can be more frustrating than spending all that money to get into a (used) home only to discover that it doesn’t have the functionality or the features you really want (or worse, really need). So you start to make changes to accommodate those things, then one thing leads to another – and before you know it, you’re standing in the midst of drywall dust and a giant construction mess, kicking yourself saying “Why didn’t I buy that Harmony Home I loved in the first place?” (Yes – we’ve seen it happen. It’s just a tragedy. In a first-world sort of way, of course.) Besides just the function – why live with someone else’s cabinet, flooring, countertop, fixtures, colors, and who knows what else?

Don’t underestimate the fact that your home environment is a H-U-G-E part of your state of happiness – so while you may not be able to put a price on that particular item right now, the odds are you’ll end up finding exactly how much it’s worth – after you make the wrong choice and have to find a way to “fix” it (in more ways than one!).

Our recommendation? Start fresh. Buy new. Now go enjoy your life.

2016 Pumpkin Patches, Corn Maze & Haunted Houses in Las Vegas

nv-p-patch-5-700x393Quick – what’s the first holiday you think of in October? In Las Vegas, that might be a toss-up – since Nevada Day (a holiday for many of us!) falls on October 31. But let’s be honest – no matter your age, denomination, or any other category of personhood you belong to, Halloween is going to be the one that tumbles off your lips. (Okay – maybe Oktoberfest comes in a close second.)

So – how do you celebrate the ‘scariest’ holiday of the year? We figure there are two ways to look at it: Charly-Brown’s-Great-Pumpkin style, or Scare-Your-Wits-Out Frightening. To hit both needs, we thought we’d include some listings of great Pumpkin Patches to be found in the valley – as well as Haunted Houses (for those of you more adventurous in the area of macabre).

Whichever your preference, we hope you enjoy this holiday to the fullest – because Las Vegas is at its greatest weather at just this time of year!

Gilcrease Orchard – Las Vegas, NV
A sixty-acre farm with pick your own fruits and vegetables that includes u-pick pumpkins. Enjoy a glass of their famous apple cider as well! The location is at 7800 N Tenaya Way, Las Vegas, NV 89131. It is about 15 miles north of Las Vegas.

McKee Ranch – Las Vegas, NV
There is always something going on at this ranch. Lots of horses, parties, and events. The pumpkin patch is open every day in October including their free hayride. The address is 8982 Dean Martin Drive, Las Vegas, NV. It is about 12 miles south of Las Vegas.

Stu Miller’s Pumpkin Patch – Las Vegas, NV
A Las Vegas tradition (which carries on to Christmas trees after Halloween) – Stu’s pumpkins are hand selected by local growers to provide the freshest and largest pumpkins to customers. GREAT PACIFIC PUMPKIN, a local Ventura county farm, is their source for pumpkins and squash. The shipments arrive within a day to most local locations. Multiple spots around town, to get a list of the 2016 Pumpkin Patches, you can call their main office at 805.532.2333.

Moapa Valley Corn Maze – Moapa, NV
They have a great corn maze and haunted corn maze at night. In October they also have pick your own pumpkins, decorating contests, and more fun for kids. The address is 1500 Lewis Ranch Rd., Moapa, NV. It is about 51 miles northeast of Las Vegas.

Asylum & Hotel Fear – Las Vegas, NV
Again located at Meadows Mall for 2016, this is the longest continuously running haunt attraction in Las Vegas and certainly one of the scariest in Nevada. Tickets are $15 for Asylum attraction and $15 for Hotel Fear attraction or the entire combo ticket for $25. The attraction opens Friday, September 30th. The times are 6:30 pm until midnight on Friday and Saturday or until 10 pm on other nights. See their web page for more details.

Bonnie Screams – Red Rock Canyon, NV
Bonnie Screams is located in Red Rock Canyon. It brings the urban legends of Bloody Mary, Lizzy Borden, and 31 Freak Street to life. It is open 7 pm to 12 am. Open Thursday through Sunday starting October 6th plus some additional dates. This place also has zombie paintball this year.

Freakling Bros The Trilogy of Terror – Las Vegas, NV
Same location for 2016. The Freakling Bros have run haunted houses in Nevada for over 21 years. They run three haunted attractions in Las Vegas. Gates of Hell tickets are $15. Castle Vampire tickets are $14. Coven of 13 tickets are also $14. The 3 attraction combo pass is $35. Doors open at 7 pm. Lots of open dates starting on September 30th and running Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights plus every day the last two weeks of October. Attraction is open on Friday and Saturday until midnight or 11 pm on all other nights. Open every night starting October 14th. This continues to be one of the best haunts in the state.

Haunted Harvest at Springs Preserve – Las Vegas, NV
Springs Preserve operates numerous family friendly non haunt events through the year. During Halloween they run Haunted Harvest, a family friendly haunted attraction. Tickets are $8 at night (5:00 pm – 9:00 pm). Haunted Harvest consists of a haunted hay maze, trick or treat stations, a petting zoo, carnival games, and live entertainment.

Using Rugs to Dress Up Any Room

image003Nothing gives a room a fresh makeover quite like the addition of an area rug. And it doesn’t even necessarily have to match the style of your décor – because the right choice can point a room’s existing style in a whole new direction. But as with any type of furnishings, there’s a right way and a wrong way to add an area rug. For example, right way: One that you LOVE; wrong way: it overpowers the space or worse, the proportions are all wrong. (Think: Flow, geometry, and your artistic eye!) We’ve put a few tips together to help you on your path to a simple yet exquisite home makeover that starts from the ground up.

Living Room

image005The living room is, let’s face it, the place we wish to show off the most, where we want to spend memorable and pleasant hours with friends and family. We put a lot of thought into the right lighting, the furniture and the decorations, with a predominantly artistic eye. When adding a rug to a living room layout, 2 things are to be considered: geometry and color. The geometry rule? The size of the carpet should pretty much encompass all furniture pieces. In addition, take into account the existing color scheme of the room. If it’s vibrant, add a rug with a simple design and a reserved color so we don’t collide. A milder hue of an already present color is a good way to go, as are white, black or beige, conveying elegance through simplicity.

Dining Room

image007Depending on the geometry of your dining layout, you can pick rectangular, round or square rugs to furnish this space. Many dining rooms use rich wood furniture, which would be well complemented by rugs with more complex geometric forms. For the color choice, obtaining a color chart and holding it up to the wood in question solves the dilemma. Remember though: The dining room can be a tricky space to measure since you have to account for chairs being pulled in and out without catching on the rug. A good rule of thumb is to measure the table’s length and width, then add 54 inches to each measurement. This will allow at least 27 inches on each side for the chairs to pull out.


image009As a rule, the kitchen is by default a traditional space. Textile rugs are not as practical in the kitchen and they can get messy easily, but other options are available that you can utilize for purpose, color, and playfulness, too. Runners help catch small spills and provide warmth from cold floors – and they also give you another opportunity to add color – no matter the size. A traditional kilim rug and a painted ceiling create a welcoming atmosphere, or focus on the natural wood of the cabinetry to create a plush casual (and warm) place for your feet while you work. Or choose a rug with playful shapes for an element of fun.


image011If you are buying one large rug to place underneath your bed, measure your bed and add 24″ to the left and right sides. Another good alternative (and a money-saver, too) is to opt for a traditional “bedside” layout – featuring two small rugs on either side of the bed plus one rug at the foot of the bed – or keep it minimal with a single side rug like this.


Hallways & Entryways

image013Hall rugs should have at least six inches of floor showing on all sides, so measure your hallway and subtract 12″ from the length and width. A runner is a beautiful way to make a statement in this often neglected space – and if you have an extra-long hallway, using two runners end-to-end is a smashing solution. For an entryway, let your personality shine (after all, this is your “first impression” moment!). Go bright and colorful, wacky and design-filled, or calm and welcoming – it’s your choice! When measure, swing your front door open and measure the floor from that point, keeping the door’s pathway clear.

In the end, keep in mind – even if you’ve measured your space and discover that the right size rug is simply out of your budget – there are still options! A currently on-trend décor trick is layering rugs. You can buy a larger sisal or jute rug (which tend to be much less expensive) as a layering piece, and then layer your smaller dream rug on top.

Now, which rug store are you headed to this weekend?

These Las Vegas Parks Make It Easy to Enjoy the Great Outdoors

image003-copyWhile it may not feel like it at the moment, fall is fast approaching the Las Vegas valley. And with it comes our desire to get out of the air conditioning, get into nature, and enjoy the great outdoors that can be found all around Southern Nevada.

It may sound surprising, but many people have lived in Las Vegas all their lives and never taken the time to visit these wide open spaces and bask in their beauty. Don’t be one of them! In fact, we suggest you sit down right now and write up a weekend schedule to follow between now and the holidays – so you and your family can check each one of these great places off your bucket list. (And then YOU can be the one to ‘tsk, tsk!’ your friends who have never been to them! Isn’t that reason enough?!)

Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area
Located just past the western edge of Las Vegas about 17 miles from downtown, Red Rock is home to iconic and spectacular scenery – notably the colorful rocks and dramatic cliffs that give a backdrop to the 13-mile one-way scenic drive known as “The Loop” – which features numerous hiking trails and scenic overlooks.

Spring Mountain Ranch State Park
Just down the road from Red Rock on Highway 159, Spring Mountain Ranch State Park is a small oasis in the Mojave Desert. Natural springs are complemented with grassy meadows, trees from a former orchard, and hiking trails. Picnic areas and observation views are abundant here, and the red ranch house – its historic interior preserved – serves as both the visitor center and the centerpiece of the park.

Clark County Wetlands Park
This 2,900-acre oasis utilizes reclaimed water from the urban area of Las Vegas to flow through the park, which allows a permanent wetlands plant community to thrive. Home to 212 species of birds – including snowy egrets, burrowing owls, wood ducks and great blue herons with wingspans of 6-and-a-half feet – it is also a habitat for more than 70 species of mammals and reptiles

Springs Preserve
This award-winning 180-acre family destination boasts a vibrant history that features botanical gardens, interactive science and nature exhibits, animal shows and trails. 110 acres display cultivated and natural gardens, wildlife habitat, walking and biking trails and educational resources. There are also more than 1,200 species of native and desert-adapted plants housed in themed areas. Indoor experiences include exhibition galleries dedicated to showcasing art and traveling exhibitions of local and national significance, on-site technologically advanced learning centers and the Nevada State Museum.

Lake Mead National Recreation Area
The most-visited entrance for Lake Mead is located four miles southeast of Boulder City, but there are other entrance points into this 1.5-million-acre park (that’s twice the size of Rhode Island!). It contains America’s largest man-made reservoir and features 50 miles of shoreline, multiple marinas, boating, fishing and water sports. It also caters to hikers, climbers, campers and car tours. (And be sure to keep your eyes peeled for wildlife!) Oh – did we mention there’s a big ol’ dam there, too?

Mount Charleston
Part of the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest, Mount Charleston is just 30 minutes from downtown Las Vegas and encompasses more than 316,000 acres of remarkable beauty and surprising diversity. During the winter months, skiing is a top draw. But when the weather warms, hiking trails, camping and picnicking are popular, and visitors have been known to encounter wild horses and elk. The area is actually home to more than 50 sensitive plants and animals, some of which are found nowhere else in the world. Other activities include horseback riding, mountain biking and rock climbing.

Valley of Fire State Park
Located 55 miles northeast of Las Vegas, Valley of Fire is Nevada’s oldest state park. Its brilliantly colored sandstone formations were generated from 150 million years of weathering in the Mojave Desert. Ancient trees and early man are represented throughout the park areas, while popular activities include camping, hiking, picnicking and photography. Seventy-two campsites are available for a fee, and a visitor center provides information about on-site attractions and the power of natural forces.

There you have it – seven perfectly wonderful sites that visitors from around the world make sure to see when they come to Las Vegas. Don’t you think it’s time you saw them for yourself? (we thought so….) Enjoy your travels!

Three Online Sources to Find Design Inspiration for Your New Home

image003Pretty pictures of homes. Perhaps the only thing that outnumbers them on social media and blog posts are even prettier pictures of food (because, hey, priorities!)

But really – it seems they’re everywhere you look, right? When you’re trying to find a new home design style that suits your life – and you’re starting with an empty canvas of a brand new home – you probably know that you can spend hours (maybe even days!) swiping through images on your mobile device. And eventually, you’ve looked at so many photos it seems your brain is so filled with ideas it’s just going to explode. (Note: That’s not a good look on your new home’s walls.)

So we thought it might be helpful to provide you with a short list of online sources that would be good places for you to begin your ‘personal style’ search. Take a little tour with us . . .


Unless you’ve been living under the proverbial rock, you’ve probably already seen plenty of images and articles that come from this dynamic site. A huge resource for virtually any type of style that’s out there, it invites interaction with members (it’s free and easy to create your profile) from virtually all aspects of the home industry – from builders and designers to homeowners and contractors – and pretty much everything in-between. Houzz is a great place to begin your search because it makes it easy for you to create “Ideabooks” where you can create projects by room, gather ideas and images from across the internet to add to your Ideabooks, and ask people and companies to provide feedback, suggestions, ultimately helping you find the look that’s just right for you.

House Beautiful

An excellent resource for articles on almost any topic pertaining to homes, House Beautiful has a wide variety of guest bloggers whose experience can collectively be considered encyclopedic. Search for information by topic, by design style, even by room. For those who like to dig a little further behind the photos alone, this website has the chops to deliver.

House and Garden

Some people may not know that there is no longer a U.S. version of this site – but the U.K. version is alive and well – and that’s really kind of cool when you think about it. Just like American television has a tendency to re-create U.K. shows, if you take a good look at the U.K. House and Garden site – you can do the same thing with design. (Be the first on your block to add fresh, new looks to your home that perhaps haven’t hit the States in full yet!)

In fact, it’s really a good idea to spend some time seeking out other international design sites for ideas as it can open your eyes to different concepts and elements. It may actually lead to you incorporating those looks and style elements that speak to you personally so that you can create an entirely new design style that is ‘uniquely you.’

The best thing about interior home design? You’re able to try different things – colors, accents, furniture, and more – and if you plan wisely, can change the whole scheme and look with minimal effort and expense. (Just remember, when it comes to the pricey items, think quality and classic – because accessories are easily and affordably changed, and hey – you can always repaint the walls!)


paver-path-turf-newtex-landscape-inc_4145Sometimes it seems like a lot of people have the wrong idea about Las Vegas when it comes to landscaping options. Sure, we’ve moved away from big grassy lawns that require a lot of maintenance – and a lot of water. (But the upside is that all sorts of new and realistic artificial turfs keep being invented!). But it’s not simply a world of turf and rocks here.

Southern Nevada is home to a broad cross-section of desert-friendly plants. A visit to one of our local demonstration gardens, such as the ones found at the Springs Preserve or at the Ethel M Chocolate Factory, can give you a good idea of how these plants interplay in a landscape and provide inspiration.

And a quick trip to a local nursery will demonstrate just how much the Las Vegas climate is capable of sustaining when it comes to trees, plants, ground cover, vegetables, herbs, and more. The experts there can also help homeowners determine which of the many options available will do best for their home – which can depend on many variables from shade/sunlight conditions, drainage, and your ultimate goals for your property.

To help you make those decisions, consider the following:

• Start with sketching out your property on paper, to scale if possible. Place your home on the lot and make a note of window and door locations – because you’ll want to make the most of your views from inside the house, too.

• Next, write down your biggest priority for your exterior. Do you want to dress it up for entertaining friends? Want to supplement your dinner table with home grown vegetables and herbs? It’s easier to make the right choices up front than to plant, remove, and replant something new.

• Make a note of where sun and shade fall on your lot, including an approximate amount of time each is present. This will help you in selecting plants that need full sun, part-shade, etc.

• Consider materials of varying heights to increase interest in your final landscape design. These can include not only the trees and plant materials themselves – but also the use of raised planters, pots, and the like.

• Now go back inside your home and take a look out your windows and doors. Mark on your sketch where you’d like to have the most interesting views and/or shade added or avoided in those areas. There are few things more relaxing than sitting in your favorite chair and getting to gaze out the window at your favorite tree or garden colors.

• Finally, take all that hard-earned knowledge (because what once seemed “too difficult” has now become much clearer with regard to your needs and preferences for your landscaping) – and take it down to your favorite nursery. They’ll be able to help you determine not only which plant materials to purchase and what’s needed to prep your soil for best results – but also help you stay within your budget and show you how to get the most for your money.

Whether you choose to do the planning and installation yourself, or hire a landscape designer to manage the entire project, the critical thing is that you’ve given a good deal of thought to what you want – and what you don’t want – so it will be done just the way you imagine it the first time (and that will save you money, too).

Happy planting!

Five Reasons to Buy a New Home Now (Really — There’s No Reason to Wait!)

Thanks for paying my mortgageYou’re on the fence…..waffling back and forth about whether or not to buy a home. It irks you each month when you write that rent check because you know it’s just going out the door and isn’t doing anything to help your finances, your bottom line, or your credit rating.

If that describes you right now, we’d like to point out some of the best reasons to actually make that move from “Renter” to “Homeowner.” It’s easier than you think, with all the financing benefits today – and smarter than you may realize, with all the hidden benefits you may not have considered. So we’d like to suggest you think about the following reasons while you weigh your decision.

OMyGosh – Just to Put a Nail in a Wall!

As a homeowner, your decorating, do-it-yourself, and home improvement choices are your decision to make (just be sure not to break local building codes or violate homeowners’ association rules). Paint walls, create a Man-Cave, build in shelves for your personal needs, update your kitchen and bath, build a deck – the opportunities are endless. No more beige carpet/white walls – add your personality to your home environment – you’ll be amazed at the difference it makes for your outlook!

Right Now, It’s Cheaper to Own

Home prices in Las Vegas have been on a slow, gradual, steady climb since the market bottomed out at the start of The Great Recession. That’s a good thing – because drastic jumps in pricing aren’t indicative of a healthy housing market so much as a market that’s unprepared to realistically meet a community’s housing needs (think: San Francisco.) Plus, mortgage rates have remained low for an extensive period of time – and are nearing historic lows never seen before in the U.S. (Whether they get there or not, we won’t know until it happens. But the fact is, even if they do, it won’t be much lower than it is right now.) Combine stable housing prices with super-low interest rates, then compare that to the continued rise in rental rates – and you have a situation such as Las Vegas, where in some cases, owning a home can cost literally half as much as renting one. Need we say more?

Build Equity and Financial Worth

Unlike renters, homeowners build equity over time. On most mortgages, a portion of each monthly payment goes toward the loan’s interest. The remainder pays down its principal. What that means is that every dollar you put toward your loan’s principal represents a dollar of equity – actual ownership of the property. Historically, the primary path that Americans have used to create wealth has been through homeownership. Not through their jobs, not through stock market investments – but by owning a home. And while economic issues of recent years may have put off many from owning again – the basic facts of why people choose to own won’t change: You can either pay a landlord, or pay yourself. Which sounds better to you?

Tax Benefits

Yes – you already know that mortgage interest rates and property taxes are deductible on your 1040 each year of you itemize. But you can also get both local and federal tax benefits by making certain energy-saving updates to your home, too. (And none of these financial benefits are available to renters.) Even better, when you buy a new home, it comes with a warranty on the structure and the systems, appliances, etc. So you won’t have to worry about large repair expenses for years to come.

A Place of Your Own is a Touchstone

Owning a home is a huge accomplishment – one that still exemplifies the American Dream. It’s a place to call your own, that you can personalize to suit your needs and your tastes. It gives people more confidence in their achievements. Taking pride in not only acquiring a home but in making improvements to improve your lifestyle – that’s a really big deal. And if you’ve owned a home before, you know what we mean.

There are few things more unsettling than living in a home at the whim of a landlord. Never knowing when or if they’ll want you to move (so they can rent the place to their Aunt Mildred instead) – and you’re always subject to rent increases, as well. With a mortgage loan, not only do you have the security of knowing it’s “your home,” but with a fixed mortgage, your payments remain the same (and that means if your income increases, that’s money that goes in your pocket and toward your own financial wealth – not to someone else’s net worth.)

There are other proven benefits to owning a home that many don’t think about, too. Access to neighborhoods with better schools, better social and physical conditions, and it’s proven that single-family homes are generally maintained at a higher level – which can result in lower crime rates, too.

All things considered, now is not only a great time in Las Vegas to buy a home and stop throwing your money away on rent – it’s also an excellent time to buy a NEW home. Fresh new designs are made for today’s lifestyle – with warranties and updated, energy-saving construction materials and techniques. Add it all up and it makes a new home a wise choice for you and your family.