Designed for Dread: Why Are Victorian Houses So Spooky?

diane39/iStock

When it comes to horror flicks, there’s nothing Hollywood loves more than a towering Victorian manse that’s a bit past its prime. After all, there’s a reason Ryan Murphy set the inaugural (and scariest) “Murder House” season of “American Horror Story” in a sprawling (and spectacularly haunted) Victorian home. Alfred Hitchcock situated Norman Bates and his irascible mom in one for “Psycho.” Even Walt Disney understood the Victorian’s freaky allure—that’s why Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion is built in the same inescapable and inescapably unnerving style.

So why do Victorians make our flesh crawl quite the way they do? How did this highly ornate style—dubbed the “McMansion” of the antebellum period by one scholar—become so feared?

“It has a lot to do with the proportions,” says Jonathan Moore, an architect in Tampa, FL. “Many of the details—like doors, windows, and trim—are long and vertical.” Remind you of anything?

“There’s a direct relationship to an open mouth and wide eyes.” A screaming mouth, that is.

Terrifying visuals aside, there are a few nuanced reasons—firmly grounded in architectural history—why Victorians turned into the pop culture stuff of nightmares.

Victorians were inherently ‘dark’

So let’s start at the beginning: The Victorian era is typically defined as beginning in 1837—when Queen Victoria of England ascended the throne. But the period’s influence on American architecture focuses on the years between 1860 and 1900.

Homes built during this period typically drew their influences from Gothic Revival, Romanesque, Queen Anne, and Second Empire styles. For example: false fronts, false chimneys, tall towers, dormer windows, and gables. Victorians were typically situated on hilltops, where their usually wealthy owners could, quite literally, look down on their neighbors.

Victorians often feature tall turrets or rectangular towers topped by ornate cast-iron railings and prominent weather vanes—features that rusted and sometimes slipped out of place over time.

“These are the house styles Hollywood depicts high on a hilltop with bright lightning strikes in the background, causing the descriptor building to be outlined in dark silhouette against the sudden light,” says archaeologist and architectural historian Ronald V. May of Legacy 106 Historic Preservation in California.

In other words: creepy.

The era was also notable for its overwrought furniture, dark interiors, and heavy draperies, says Charles Robertson, a board member of the Victorian Society of America (who himself lives in a meticulously maintained Victorian home in Washington, DC’s Dupont Circle neighborhood).

During their heyday, “these houses were indeed dark and cluttered,” he says. “They had bric-a-brac everywhere, and they were just elaborate and ornate.”

Move toward modern architecture left Victorians empty and decrepit

Interest in the genre waned dramatically over the years, leaving more and more Victorian homes empty and decrepit. Some historians claim the downfall of the Victorian aesthetic really began with the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago—the site of which became known as “White City” for its clean, mostly white neoclassical buildings.

It was the beginning of the end for Victorian homes’ heyday, according to Robertson. The style fell out of favor in the 1930s as tastes began to skew toward modern design.

As time wore on, “the elderly owners passed away, and their children let the houses fall into serious disrepair with little or no paint, causing shingles to slough off, ornamental metal roof edges to rust and break down, pieces of siding drop off, and windows break and not be replaced,” May says.

A Victorian revival?

But here’s the thing: What goes around indeed comes around. Look no further than San Francisco, which has enjoyed a historic home preservation blitz over the past several decades—and where a Painted Lady will now run you at least $3 million.

And if the headache of a large-scale renovation isn’t your bag, there are a handful of builders committed to building “new Victorian” homes—although the intricacies involved in this kind of construction make it more expensive than your usual run-of-the-mill new build.

But in the end, Americans love a good horror story—and classic Victorians provide the perfect backdrop.

“The aging population of historic homes makes everyone familiar with that one neighborhood house that has deteriorated, and everyone talks about the crazy old man that used to live there,” Moore says.

Throw in peeling wallpaper and paint, decades-old dusty draperies, and more gables and turrets than could possibly be prudent, and you’ve got the stuff of nightmares (and more than a few urban legends).

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Watch: We Dare to Peek Inside the Winchester Mystery House

The post Designed for Dread: Why Are Victorian Houses So Spooky? appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

Kate Gosselin’s Famous Reality Show Ranch Is the Week’s Most Popular Home

realtor.com

Fertility phenom Kate Gosselin famously shared her family life with the world on “Kate Plus 8.” Now that her kids are growing up, she’s selling the family home she bought with her former husband, Jon, in 2008.

It served as the backdrop for the long-running reality TV show, and folks wanted a peek inside. Those curiosity-driven clicks made the 24-acre spread this week’s most popular home on realtor.com®.

On the market for $1.3 million, the 7,591-square-foot home is designed for a large family. It boasts a large family room, a man cave, and a separate living space over the garage.

You also clicked on a noteworthy celebrity mansion: the marvelous modern house of Washington Nationals pitcher Max Scherzer, which sits on the banks of the Potomac.

Other homes attracting attention this week include a Michigan home painted inside and out in gunmetal gray, a custom log cabin headed for auction, and a spectacular winery in Washington.

While we debate the sanity of spending $50 on a personalized greeting from Jon Gosselin, we think you should scroll down for a look at this week’s 10 most popular properties.

10. 1126 Sidney St, Saint Louis, MO

Price: $400,000
Why it’s here: Built in 1870, the Max Freuerbacher mansion is also known as the Lion House thanks to the two limestone lion statues flanking the front entrance.

According to the listing, the home’s original owner was the founder of Green Tree Brewery. The one-of-a-kind mansion is being sold as is. It has three sets of entry doors, pine inner doors with art glass, double drawing rooms, marble fireplaces, and a frescoed 14-foot ceiling. And for oenophiles, this place is a treat: The basement has two vaulted wine cellars.

Saint Louis, MO
Saint Louis, MO

realtor.com

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9. 129 Smithtown Rd, Pittston, ME

Price: $679,900
Why it’s here: This 20-acre property comes with 1,100 feet of Kennebec River frontage. The four-bedroom farmhouse was built in 1820 and offers 3,136 square feet of living space.

Highlights of the remodeled home include a gorgeous kitchen, spacious mudroom, wood floors, and built-ins. You can soak in the views from the home’s large front porch, take a dip in the heated in-ground pool, or make use of the many outbuildings and barn.

Pittson, ME
Pittson, ME

realtor.com

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8. 2 Charlands Ln, Kennebunk, ME

Price: $224,000
Why it’s here: Also in Maine, this affordably priced property comes with a six-bedroom home built in 1780. Although it looks like it could use some TLC, the property offers plenty of potential for a bargain shopper willing to take on a project.

Kennebunk, ME
Kennebunk, ME

realtor.com

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7. 1931 Alliklik Rd, South Lake Tahoe, CA

Price: $325,000
Why it’s here: We love a log cabin, and this one is absolutely adorable.

Rustic meets modern in this cute three-bedroom cabin near the lake. Built in 1953 and updated throughout, the charming home sits in a clearing of aspen trees bordering a U.S. Forest Service parcel. Close to loads of outdoor activities, the property even has a seasonal creek for an added touch of magic.

South Lake Tahoe, CA
South Lake Tahoe, CA

realtor.com

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6. 168 North St, Mattapoisett, MA

Price: $439,800
Why it’s here: One-of-a-kind and updated throughout, this lovely three-bedroom, German-style farmhouse was built in 1936. The leafy acre lot also features a barn with a second-story bonus room and an outdoor patio with a large fire pit.

Mattapoisett, MA
Mattapoisett, MA

realtor.com

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5. 100821 E Brandon Dr, Kennewick, WA

Price: $3,750,000
Why it’s here: For fans of Carménère grapes, this Washington winery looks absolutely delicious.

Known as the Naoi Cailini Oga Estate, the 6-acre property includes a luxe mansion with an indoor pool. There’s also an art studio, workout room with ballet barre, as well as several terraces and balconies. The home is surrounded by lush landscaping and comes with a tasting room for indulging in a few of your favorite vintages.

Kennewick, WA
Kennewick, WA

realtor.com

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4. 4872 Hidden Hills Cir, Howell, MI

Price: $201,000
Why it’s here: This five-bedroom log home is headed to an online auction with a starting bid of $1,000. The current owner has moved to be closer to family and wants to part with this property in a hurry. According to the listing, the custom home has an assessed value of $416,000. Get your bid in now!

Howell MI
Howell, MI

realtor.com

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3. 1139 Crest Ln, McLean, VA

Price: $15,000,000
Why it’s here: Sleek and chic, this five-bedroom mansion along the Potomac is being sold by Nationals ace Max Scherzer. The future Hall of Famer gave the home a full makeover, including multitiered decks, an infinity pool, and a rooftop terrace to take in the river views.

McLean, VA
McLean, VA

realtor.com

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2. 7162 Alaska St, Detroit, MI

Price: $69,900
Why it’s here: The owner of this house made a commitment to the color gray, and you simply have to respect it. It’s not just the exterior. All interior walls, ceilings, and floors have the same silvery hue.

Besides the occasional pop of white furniture, all carpets, drapes, and doors are monochromatic. The three-bedroom house has a large front porch, an updated bathroom with high-tech shower, and a full basement—which looks to be the only space that evaded the gray paintbrush. The home isn’t expensive, but a buyer will need to shell out money for new paint unless he happens to be gaga for gray.

Detroit, MI
Detroit, MI

realtor.com

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1. 298 Heffner Rd, Wernersville, PA

Price: $1,299,900
Why it’s here: Supersized and customized to accommodate her large brood, the home of reality TV star Kate Gosselin is up for sale.

She’s ready to part with the 24-acre property, which includes the six-bedroom home where she’s been raising her kids for over a decade. Ideal for a large family, the home boasts a lower-level game room, two washers and dryers, and a separate living area over the detached three-car garage. For downtime, there’s a pool plus a three-stall horse barn with 10-acre fenced paddock.

Wernersville, PA
Wernersville, PA

realtor.com

The post Kate Gosselin’s Famous Reality Show Ranch Is the Week’s Most Popular Home appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

Best Digital Picture Frames

Give your photo collection a 21st century upgrade with digital frames.

Give your photo collection a 21st century upgrade with digital frames. (Nix/)

Digital frames have become popular in recent years, and these days you have so many options from which you may choose. Various sizes, aspect ratios, image transfer options, display technology, designs, and extra features make it tough to know which frame to purchase. We’re making your choice just a little easier with a look at these digital picture frames we like.

High-resolution display and an intuitive screen are the big pluses here.

High-resolution display and an intuitive screen are the big pluses here. (BIGASUO/)

The 1280×800 IPS LCD panel displays your photos in high resolution so they look amazing, and the convenient touch screen makes it simple to set up and view your photos. Whether you have horizontal or vertical photos, the auto-rotate feature ensures the orientation is adjusted automatically to display them correctly. The frame connects to 2.4G WiFi with ease so you can send photos and short videos directly to your frame using the free Frameo App, which is available for iOS and Android devices. While it comes with 16GB of memory, it supports SD memory cards and can be connected to your computer with a USB cable to easily transfer your data.

Plug-and-play function lets you set this model up in just minutes.

Plug-and-play function lets you set this model up in just minutes. (Atatat/)

The main goal of purchasing your own digital photo frame is to enjoy seeing your photographic memories, and the last thing you want to do is spend hours setting up the device. This digital frame comes with an easy plug and play function, allowing you to set up the frame in just minutes without the need to set up complicated software. Simply plug in a USB drive or SD card and it’ll automatically play your photos. Add background music via SD card to enjoy beautiful music as your photos play. The slide show option allows you to choose various transition effects and speeds for the best viewing experience. Image preview function makes it easy to find specific photos when needed, and it’s simple to delete unwanted files.

Display both photos and small videos in a snap with easy instant-sharing via the free app.

Display both photos and small videos in a snap with easy instant-sharing via the free app. (Feelcare/)

Both photos and small videos – there’s a maximum of 15 seconds – can be displayed on this frame from Feelcare. It’s easy to send your photos and videos to the frame using the smartphone app, which is free to download and use. Included 16GB of included internal memory gives you plenty of storage capacity, which can be added to with the use of SD cards or USB drives. The wide viewing angle and excellent picture display ensure your photos look stunning, and you can adjust the sleep mode and brightness in settings as needed. Wall mount feature allows you to put this frame up on your wall, or use the detachable solid rack for a frame stand for easy display.

Setup is easy and the frame is easy to operate with an IR remote.

Setup is easy and the frame is easy to operate with an IR remote. (BSIMB/)

No need to worry about this digital picture frame running constantly. It comes equipped with an auto-sleep mode that’ll turn it off when you’re out of the room, and the motion sensor activates the device so it plays whenever motion is detected. The beautiful wood-textured frame looks beautiful with any style of décor, and the 9-inch display is an IPS liquid crystal panel that gives excellent visibility and viewing from every angle. The built-in speaker plays any music you add or plays sound in short supported videos.

Detachable stand allows you to display on a table, or remove it to mount your frame on the wall.

Detachable stand allows you to display on a table, or remove it to mount your frame on the wall. (Nix/)

The 10.1-inch frame features a 1280x800HD display that gives you vivid, crisp photos and videos, and you can enjoy the sound of your favorite videos or tunes with built-in stereo speakers. One of the key features of this frame is that it’s able to play both videos and photos in the same slideshow. Multiple slideshow transitions can be used, and you can choose to shuffle items in your slideshow or play them according to file names. Plug and play function allows you to start viewing photos in just minutes once you insert a memory card or USB stick. Both a clock and calendar are built-in and an energy-saving motion sensor will turn the frame off and on depending on movement in the area. It also comes with a remote control for easy use, even if it’s wall-mounted.

Why the Upscale Suburb of Westfield, NJ, May Be the Scariest Place to Live in the U.S.

Westfield NJ: Watcher house, List house, Addams house

Composite by Erin Culton: Getty Images/Westfield Leader/Clare Trapasso

Westfield, NJ, a town of grand, restored Victorians and stately mansions perched on tree-lined streets, is the kind of place many folks aspire to one day call home. The downtown features mom and pop shops and bakeries alongside a Williams-Sonoma and Baby Gap stores. Even before COVID-19, busy roads were often closed off so residents could listen to live music while dining outdoors, participate in children’s arts and crafts projects, or take open-air yoga classes. Many who grow up in the affluent suburb, about an hour west of Manhattan, return after college to raise their families there.

The pandemic has boosted its upscale appeal, making it a popular destination for folks escaping nearby cities in search of more space. That’s led to a nearly 13.5% annual surge in home prices, to a median list price of $884,050 in September, according to realtor.com® data.

But most newcomers aren’t immediately aware that Westfield has a macabre side—and a deeply dark history.

A string of high-profile murders has taken place within Westfield’s 6.7 square miles, leaving homes across the city with gruesome footnotes in their property history. They include the sprawling home on a hill where accountant John List murdered his wife, three children, and mother, and then vanished for 18 years—perhaps the most famous “family annihilation” in U.S. history. Then there’s “The Watcher” house, whose new owners were subjected to a campaign of terror by a mysterious letter writer, inspiring a 2016 Lifetime movie and an upcoming Netflix flick.

It seems in nearly every generation, Westfield makes the national news for a sinister crime.

The town’s imposing, Victorian-rich architecture may have even inspired Charles Addams to create “The Addams Family” cartoons, with its spooky mansion and spookier inhabitants.

“It does seem like a lot for a town of 30,000,” says Lauren Barr, editor and publisher of the Westfield Leader, the local newspaper. She grew up here and graduated from Westfield High School in 1998.

But “I don’t think that it has affected the town’s reputation,” she adds.

The thing is, few would expect such heinous acts to occur in such a wealthy, picture-perfect community, says Arthur Lurigio, a criminology and psychology professor at Loyola University Chicago.

The crimes “stand out because of the place,” says Lurigio. “This isn’t supposed to happen. … It’s not a place where you expect violence to occur.”

The infamous ‘Watcher’ house wrenched Westfield back into the spotlight

The previous owners of “The Watcher” house received chilling letters from an anonymous writer.

Clare Trapasso

Westfield’s most recent touch of national infamy was the twisted tale of “The Watcher” house.

A couple purchased the six-bedroom, turn-of-the-century Dutch Colonial for more than $1.35 million in 2014, then spent an additional $100,000 on renovations. But Derek and Maria Broaddus and their three children never moved in.

The family’s nightmare began when they received the first in a series of chilling letters. The anonymous writer claimed to be charged with “watching” the house, just as the writer’s father and grandfather did before. The “watcher” seemed to be particularly interested in the couple’s children, referred to in the letters both as the “young blood” and by their individual names.

“Will the young blood play in the basement? Or are they too afraid to go down there alone. I would [be] very afraid if I were them. It is far away from the rest of the house. If you were upstairs you would never hear them scream,” one of the letters said.

Perhaps most frightening, the writer appeared to be omnipresent and yet nowhere, perhaps hiding in plain sight.

“All of the windows and doors in 657 Boulevard allow me to watch you and track you as you move through the house,” the watcher wrote.

Then later in the same letter: “I pass by many times a day. 657 Boulevard is my job, my life, my obsession. And now you are too Braddus family.”

Another note asked: “Do you know what lies within the walls of 657 Boulevard?”

“It was quite the story at the time,” says newspaper editor Barr. “Everyone put their sleuthing hats on in town. … It was all anyone talked about for a while.”

The Broaddus family found themselves stuck with an expensive home they didn’t feel safe visiting, much less living in.

They sued the former owners of the home, who had received one letter from the watcher a few days before they moved out, but never told the new owners. The case was dismissed. Next, the couple proposed razing the place and selling the lot for two new homes to be built in its place. The idea was soundly rejected by the town’s planning board. The couple resorted to renting out the home.

Last year, the Broadduses finally sold the place for about $959,000, a substantial loss.

So who was the watcher? At various times, different neighbors came under suspicion. Some residents, unhappy with the unwelcome attention placed on their town, even surmised that the Broadduses sent the notes to themselves (which the couple staunchly deny). The mystery has never been solved.

One longtime Westfield resident walking her two dogs by the home on Tuesday morning said interest in the episode had died down.

“It was really intriguing at the time and very scary,” says Rebecca Jezierski, 70, who lives a few blocks away. But “all of a sudden [the letters] just stopped when these new people moved in.”

John List murders his family—and then disappears

Accountant John List murdered his family and then eluded capture for 18 years.

Courtesy of The Westfield Leader

“The Watcher” house would be a creepy enough local legend for one town. But one day a half-century ago, Westfield accountant John List shot his mother, wife, and three children to death in their 19-room Colonial, known as Breeze Knoll.

List struggled to hold down a job, and hadn’t told his family he’d lost his latest one and was broke. Moreover, he felt his family was turning away from the church (he was a devout Lutheran) and toward temptation.

On Nov. 9, 1971, List shot each one, then wrote a letter to his pastor explaining he was saving them from the embarrassment of losing their home and from endangering their place in heaven.

Then List disappeared.

The original List home burned down in a mysterious fire after the List murders.

Courtesy of The Westfield Leader

He created a new identity, remarried, and moved to Colorado. It wasn’t until an “America’s Most Wanted” episode on the murders aired that he was finally caught—18 years after the murders. List died in prison in 2008 at the age of 82.

“People still remember it. When I was growing up, John List was the ghost story,” says Barr. She used to live two streets over from the List property.

During List’s 1990 trial, townspeople would line up outside of the courthouse as early as 6 a.m. to get a seat in the galley.

A wanted poster seeking the capture of John List, who murdered his family.

Courtesy of The Westfield Leader

The home where the List family perished burned down nine months after the murders, in 1972. Locals traded theories about the suspicious fire. Some believed List returned to torch the mansion, says Barr. Others dismissed it as the handiwork of kids—or Satan worshippers. The property was auctioned off late that year to local newspaper publisher Kurt Bauer for a winning bid of $36,100.

The property itself then became the link to another high-profile killing in town, 25 years after the List murders.

Jeffrey Bauer, 48, Kurt Bauer’s brother, was shot by his estranged wife, Meta Bauer, in 1996 at the Westfield Leader, the local newspaper where he was the publisher. She then killed herself.

“It was just another very strange thing to happen in what’s usually a quiet, sleepy town,” says Barr, who did not work at the newspaper at the time.

A new home stands in the spot where List’s home burned down in Westfield, NJ.

Clare Trapasso

Several more murders were committed in Westfield

The List murders weren’t the first case of a local parent killing a child in Westfield. In 1959, 17-year-old high school basketball star Raymond Bailey III was stabbed to death with a kitchen knife by his mother in their home. She then stabbed herself 25 times, but survived.

There were other murders in the tony town as well.

In 1974, Dr. John J. Graff, 56, was killed in a mugging after leaving the local train station. Authorities believed he was on his way home, just three blocks away. No one was ever caught.

Two years later, Lena Triano, 57, was hogtied with electrical cords cut out of her appliances, raped, strangled with a tie from her bedroom blinds, and stabbed multiple times in her Westfield home. It took 36 years for authorities to track down the murderer, Carlton Franklin.

More recently, college student Sohayla Massachi, 23, was abducted from Seton Hall University by her ex-boyfriend in 2000. He brought her to his Westfield apartment and shot her to death.

‘The Addams Family’ creator found creepy inspiration growing up here

Cartoonist Charles Addams grew up in this Westfield home.

Clare Trapasso

Maybe it’s fitting that Westfield’s most famous former resident was cartoonist Charles Addams, known for his dark characters and pitch-black sense of humor, as seen in “The Addams Family.”

His beloved characters grace the windows of the town’s downtown shops at this time of year, and the town’s AddamsFest puts on a series of family-friendly, Halloween events (this year with social distancing measures in place).

Addams was born in 1912 and grew up in a modest home with canvas awnings over the windows near the heart of town. On his walks to school, he passed by spooky, abandoned Victorians said to have inspired the “Addams Family” mansion.

“When Charles grew up, a lot of those houses were empty and rotting and falling apart,” says Kevin Miserocchi, executive director of the Tee and Charles Addams Foundation. (Marilyn “Tee” Addams was the cartoonist’s wife.) “That [Victorian] architecture intrigued him.”

The first “Addams Family” cartoon ran in the New Yorker in the late 1930s, after the cartoonist left Westfield for Manhattan.

Addams biographer Linda H. Davis disputed the rumors the architecture in the “lovely town” of Westfield inspired the “Addams Family” mansion.

“It’s a persistent myth,” says Davis, author of “Charles Addams: A Cartoonist’s Life.” She claims he borrowed architectural details from different buildings he saw and used them in new variations of the mansion. “The house is never drawn the same way twice.”

Cartoonist Charles Addams may have been inspired to create “The Addams Family” mansion by the local architecture.

Clare Trapasso

Why Westfield’s housing market hasn’t been hurt by these tragedies

The pandemic has spurred buyers from nearby cities, like New York City, Hoboken, and Jersey City, to descend on Westfield. Many are searching for big homes with even bigger backyards to ride out the COVID-19 crisis and any new stay-at-home directives. Westfield’s more unsavory history doesn’t often come up in conversations with these soon-to-be residents.

“People coming to Westfield don’t know anything about ‘The Watcher’ house and don’t care about it,” says local real estate agent Scott Gleason, of Re/Max Select. “I haven’t heard about it in town conversations or real estate conversations in a year. … [And] John List is ancient lore.

“They’re not related to our real estate reality,” he says.

Westfield, NJ, is the site of some unsettling events.

Clare Trapasso

“If you have a spate of burglaries or there are armed robberies on the street in the central business district, you might see people wanting to move out,” says criminologist Lurigio.

But that is not the case here.

Westfield received an A-plus crime rating from AreaVibes, which evaluates the best places to live. It had 96% less violent crime and 71% less crime overall than the national average, according to the site.

“Lots and lots of people want to live here,” says Gleason.

Victorian homes abound in Westfield, NJ.

Clare Trapasso

The post Why the Upscale Suburb of Westfield, NJ, May Be the Scariest Place to Live in the U.S. appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

Our Picks for Best Composting Bins

Turn your kitchen waste into valuable compost with the right bin.

Turn your kitchen waste into valuable compost with the right bin. (Pixabay/)

Did you know the single action you can take to reduce the amount of waste in landfills, lower dependence on fossil fuels, and grow nutritious fruits and vegetables, right in your own yard? That’s right: It’s composting. It might sound magical, but this eco-friendly activity couldn’t be more down to earth. With the right compost bin, you can cut down on the organic waste your household generates each day. Here are several great composting bins to try.

It doesn't get much easier than this: Simply throw your scraps in and give it a spin.

It doesn’t get much easier than this: Simply throw your scraps in and give it a spin. (FCMP/)

Simple and efficient, this tumbling bin makes it easy to create your own rich compost for your yard and garden. Dual chambers with two doors mean you can leave a batch to cook to completion, while still adding fresh materials and scraps to the other chamber. Each side features fins and aeration holes to improve oxygen exposure, and the tumbling design means you don’t need to touch a shovel or pitchfork: Simply spin the composter to mix materials. At 37 gallons, you’ll have plenty of space to cook those dual batches of compost.

Four doors, a removable lid and plenty of ventilation define this stand-up unit.

Four doors, a removable lid and plenty of ventilation define this stand-up unit. (Redmon/)

Lightweight yet sturdy, this four-door composter gives you convenient access to all sides of your compost pile. Simply open a door to add more scraps and clippings, or lift the lid when it’s time to stir. Ventilation holes spread across all four panels provide plenty of oxygen to keep your compost cooking. When you’re ready to use your compost, just lift the bin and spread your finished batch.

An indoor model that looks as good as it works.

An indoor model that looks as good as it works. (Utopia Kitchen/)

Here’s a compost bin you won’t hesitate to leave next to the sink. Crafted from high-grade stainless steel, this sturdy little composter won’t cramp your style. Thanks to a charcoal filter that traps odors, you can let this bin sit until it’s full and ready to be taken outside. The eco-friendly filter is washable, as is this sturdy little composter; simply clean with warm, soapy water. It’s small enough to keep under your counter… but why would you want to?

Convenient and sturdy, this indoor compost bin is simple to clean.

Convenient and sturdy, this indoor compost bin is simple to clean. (OXO/)

If you’re considering an indoor composter but don’t want to deal with constant clean-up, look no further than this OXO bin. A tightly fitting lip flips up to reveal a hidden bag that keeps odors and mess to a minimum. When it’s time to transfer your scraps outside, this bin’s rotating handle makes carrying and dumping a breeze. Plus, it’s cute enough to sit on your countertop. Choose from multiple sizes and colors to match your kitchen’s decor.

This small yet mighty tumbling unit is ideal for tight spaces.

This small yet mighty tumbling unit is ideal for tight spaces. (Miracle-Gro/)

Put the pitchfork down, because you won’t need it thanks to this bin’s tumbling action. Simply add your scraps to the bin and give it a tumble every few days. In no time, your kitchen waste will transform into nutrient-rich compost for your garden. This durable bin is made from non-toxic, UV-resistant plastic, with a secure seal to keep pests and insects at bay. Perfect for a patio, roof garden, or anywhere you want to compost in a smaller space.

Our Favorite Bags of Grilling Pellets

When you're ready to take your grilling and smoking skills to the next level, try pellets instead of gas or charcoal.

When you’re ready to take your grilling and smoking skills to the next level, try pellets instead of gas or charcoal. (Traeger/)

When you’re ready to truly master the grilling in your neck of the woods any of these great bags of grilling pellets might help put your masterful skills over the top, leaving you the talk of the cul-de-sac and everyone clamoring for more.

Uses only all-natural hardwood with no fillers or binding agents.

Uses only all-natural hardwood with no fillers or binding agents. (Traeger Grills/)

Kick gas and charcoal to the curb once and for all with these premium wood pellets from Traeger. The pure hardwood taste these pellets deliver adds a hint of smokiness to whatever you’re grilling. Traeger makes their pellets using sawdust from existing hardwood without harvesting a single tree, making it a sustainable process.

Works best with beef, chicken, and fish concoctions.

Works best with beef, chicken, and fish concoctions. (Louisiana Grills/)

Made specifically for use in pellet grills, these Louisiana Grills pellets add a hint of tangy, spicy Tex-Mex flavor for your dishes. The raw wood is sourced in North America to deliver superior quality and flavor and the pellets are a 35/65 combination of mesquite and maple.

It earns its name for the “just right” infusion of hickory, cheery, hard maple, and apple wood.

It earns its name for the “just right” infusion of hickory, cheery, hard maple, and apple wood. (CookinPellets/)

These grilling pellets are 100 percent hardwoods with no added fillers from oak or alder. While ideally suited for use in smokers, CookinPellets Perfect Mix pellets can be used to create “smoke ball” you can use in your charcoal or gas grill to add sublime flavor to your steak, turkey, ribs, brisket, pulled pork, and more.

Adds a sweet flavor to lamb, beef, poultry, pork, vegetables, or seafood.

Adds a sweet flavor to lamb, beef, poultry, pork, vegetables, or seafood. (Bear Mountain/)

These 100 percent all-natural hardwood pellets work with a wide range of outdoor grills, including pellet grills, gas, charcoal, smokers, and electric grills. More importantly, Bear Mountain uses no binders, fillers, or additives in their pellets so you know you’re getting pure flavor.

Made with the unmistakable smoothness of amber liquor to deliver unique and exceptional flavor to your next grilling occasion.

Made with the unmistakable smoothness of amber liquor to deliver unique and exceptional flavor to your next grilling occasion. (Jim Beam/)

Made with 100 percent all natural oak including the oak from the bourbon barrels, there are no artificial flavors to disturb the bourbon flavor. Ol’ Hick pellets enhance the flavor of many different types of foods including seafood, pork, chicken, beef, vegetables, desserts, and more.

Best Upright Freezers for Your Home

An upright freezer can be a valuable tool in storing food season after season.

An upright freezer can be a valuable tool in storing food season after season. (Midea/)

Popular since the mid-1940s, freezers ensure foods stay frozen until you’re ready to prepare them for your family and friends. Artificial refrigeration as a technology actually dates back much farther – to the 1750s when a Scottish professor by the name of William Cullen created the first refrigerator using pumps, vacuums and a container of diethyl ether. It created a small amount of ice but no other practical application was found at the time. We’ve found the applications now! Though freezers are commonly attached to the kitchen refrigerator these days, some homeowners find that having a separate, upright freezer elsewhere in the house is perfect for storing foods that won’t be used anytime soon. (Don’t fret, Professor Cullen, we use them to store ice too.) Here are several options for upright freezers to help you achieve your food storage goals and save you time and money.

Stock up to 105 pounds of your favorite foods in a compact unit that fits almost anywhere.

Stock up to 105 pounds of your favorite foods in a compact unit that fits almost anywhere. (Midea/)

Whether you use frozen food for meals, snacks or special occasions, this freezer offers ample storage room for your needs. With 3.0 cubic feet of storage space, two fixed shelves and a removable wire drawer, this upright freezer from Midea stores and organizes plenty of meats, vegetables, entrees, and other frozen foods. It’s an Energy Star appliance that makes very little noise. The mechanical control allows you to set the temperature based on your preferences and the food you’re storing. The functional design includes reversible door hinges that open to the left or right depending on where you place the freezer in your kitchen, garage, office, or dorm room. Raise or lower the freezer’s adjustable legs to meet your home’s design and personal preferences. When you’re ready to defrost the freezer, a convenient manual defrost setting simplifies the cleaning and deodorizing process.

This model uses low power and features a low noise level.

This model uses low power and features a low noise level. (Whynter/)

Place this freestanding freezer unit almost anywhere in your home. Its space-saving design includes a flush back that allows the freezer to stand against a wall or in a corner and reversible door hinges that support a right or left swinging door. A cylinder lock also gives you peace of mind whether you place this Whynter freezer in your kitchen, on a porch, in the garage, or in a dorm room. The generous 3.0 cubic feet of total storage includes two cooling shelves and a removable slide out basket shelf that provide ample room for all your favorite frozen foods. You can even adjust the temperature to your preferred settings. You’ll appreciate the manual defrost feature that allows you to clean the freezer with little hassle whenever you want.

The unit’s energy rating maximizes efficiency, which saves you money.

The unit’s energy rating maximizes efficiency, which saves you money. (Kismile/)

Extra freezer space comes in handy at home, at the office, in the dorm room, or in the RV, and this 3.0 cubic feet freestanding, upright freezer fits into small spaces. Adjustable leveling legs and reversible door hinges maximize placement, whether you use the freezer indoors or outdoors at home, at the office, in the dorm room, or at the RV park. With a removable shelf, the Kismile freezer allows you to arrange food in a way that meets your needs. You’ll also appreciate the low-noise level that won’t interfere with daily life. The modern design includes a stainless steel finish and a sleek recessed door handle. Adjust the 7-grade thermostat control from 1 to 7 based on the food you store and your needs. When you’re ready to clean the unit, utilize the convenient and hassle-free manual defrost feature.

Foods stay cold thanks to an energy-efficient door with a magnetic seal and foam insulation.

Foods stay cold thanks to an energy-efficient door with a magnetic seal and foam insulation. (Homelabs/)

When your busy lifestyle calls for frozen entrees, single-serve meals or snack foods, rely on a space-saving freezer. This upright model from hOmelabs includes a reversible door that accommodates any floor plan, front legs that adjust to uneven surfaces and a compact size that’s ideal for small spaces, such as a nursery, dorm room or apartment. Don’t be fooled by the freezer’s space-saving footprint, though. With 2.1 cubic feet of storage and a removable slide-out wire shelf, this freezer can accommodate food boxes and bags of various types and sizes. You can also adjust the temperature control to one of seven settings depending on the food you plan to freeze. Manual defrost makes clean up easy and quick. As a bonus, this model features low-noise technology and a safety child lock for added versatility and security.

Store frozen foods in extreme weather with this respected model.

Store frozen foods in extreme weather with this respected model. (GE /)

Temperature fluctuations in the summer and winter call for a freezer that’s designed to keep foods cold all year. This GE freezer fits the bill. It features a turbo freeze option and external controls that allow you to set the temperature based on your needs and preferences. The generous size, 14.1 cubic feet, along with four glass shelves, two adjustable shelves and an interior LED light allows you to store a large quantity of food and easily see what’s inside. Lock the freezer and protect the contents when you leave the freezer unattended or if you store the freezer on the porch in a garage. The quiet operation makes this model ideal for a variety of settings. Self defrost simplifies clean up any time of year.

9 Presidential Lawn Signs That’ll Make You (and Your Neighbors) Laugh

lawn sign

Etsy

With an epic Election Day coming up on Nov. 3, many homeowners may be inspired to express their political hopes and dreams by planting a presidential yard sign on their front lawn.

But is that really a good idea?

Given how dicey and divisive this political cycle has been, maybe we don’t need another reminder to vote for President Trump or former Vice President Joe Biden, because, let’s face it, a lawn sign won’t change anyone’s mind.

However, we think it’s safe to say that what we could all stand for is a little levity and laughter right at this point. It turns out that there are plenty of lawn signs that can deliver!

If you want to express your state of mind, while keeping politics out of it and preserving your relationship with your neighbors, consider getting one of these funny, fairly inoffensive lawn signs below. They’re guaranteed to get a chuckle from all who pass by without ruffling any feathers.

1. For those who just can’t take it anymore

Pandemic cry for help

Etsy

No matter where you fall on the political spectrum, we can all agree that this year has been rough.

Between a global health crisis (we’re looking at you, coronavirus), devastating natural disasters, an economic downturn, and a mountain of political mudslinging, if you’re so over 2020 (and we think that includes just about everybody), here’s the perfect sign to bring us all together (Etsy, $5.09).

2. For dog lovers

At least 50% of the neighborhood will agree.

Amazon

Now here’s a yard sign we can really get behind.

When you think about it, dogs have some really great traits that would make them great presidents—they forgive easily, offer unconditional love to those around them, advocate for naps, and don’t take life too seriously.

If you’re an animal lover, you need to let the world know with this humorous sign (Amazon, $24)—and you won’t offend anyone in the process (except maybe cat lovers). And they can always get their own version, shown up top, from Etsy for $37.49).

3. For ‘Star Wars’ fans

Get out your light saber!

Etsy

Even if you haven’t watched a single “Star Wars” movie, you’ve probably heard the quote: “Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi. You’re my only hope.” (And in case you’re now curious, it’s from “Star Wars: Episode IV—A New Hope,” made in 1977.)

The expression seems fitting this year, especially when you consider all the chaos and turmoil that 2020 has sent our way. Can even Obi-Wan help us now, or are we too far gone?

Fingers crossed. Either way, this cinematic yard sign (Etsy, $16.90) just might make you feel better about our prospects.

4. For people who love to hate Karens

If you think your neighbors can take a joke

Etsy

We apologize to all the real Karens out there (it’s been an extra rough year for you, hasn’t it?), but this one was just too funny not to share.

The name Karen has recently become synonymous with a particular type of woman, typically a white, wealthy (or at least middle-class) woman, who isn’t afraid to exercise her privilege.

She might call the police on you for nabbing the last packet of organic tofu, or for just breathing too loud or standing too close while waiting for your latte at Starbucks. Suffice it to say, if you don’t vote for her, she’s going to need to speak to your manager, just like this sign says (Etsy, $12).

5. For rickrollers

Rick Astley’s a good stand-in.

Etsy

If you’ve never been “rickrolled” before, allow us to explain this joke. You see, there’s this funny prank that started on the internet but later made its way into real life.

To “rickroll” someone, all you have to do is trick someone into watching Rick Astley’s 1987 hit song “Never Gonna Give You Up” (this is usually accomplished by a misleading hyperlink that promises to deliver something else).

You can also pull off the prank by subtly incorporating the lyrics of the song into everyday conversation or by buying this yard sign (Etsy, $8.99). Sure, it might go right over some neighbors’ heads, but the ones who do get it will think you’re hilarious and hip with the times.

6. If you’re sick of presidential elections

At the end of your rope

Amazon

Or perhaps you think the Trump vs. Biden debate misses the bigger point.

If so, this sign (Amazon, $15.99) could help vent your frustrations and send out a clarion call: Is there anyone out there, anywhere, who can help lead us in the right direction?

7. If you wish the world would just end already

A cataclysmic choice

Etsy

Look, surely the world was in much better shape when the asteroid that killed the dinosaurs pummeled the Earth, right?

Somebody call NASA and see if they can work something out.

In the meantime, you can express your utter lack of hope in 2020 with this despairing yard sign (Etsy, $12.60).

8. If you’re sick of all the conspiracy theories

Let’s embrace the counterfactual.

Etsy

Conspiracy theories are rampant right now. So while we’re at it, why not revive the legend of Bigfoot? Stranger things have caught on (Etsy, $12.60).

9. If you’re not sure what to say

Calling anyone out there!

Etsy

You want to take a stand—but aren’t sure what’s worth fighting for anymore—or for whom.

If that sums up your feelings, this sign can help express your utter lack of direction (Etsy, $24).

The post 9 Presidential Lawn Signs That’ll Make You (and Your Neighbors) Laugh appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

Our Favorite Desk Organizers

A desk organizer can be a real savior when you're dealing with a small workspace.

A desk organizer can be a real savior when you’re dealing with a small workspace. (Designa/)

An easy way to take back control of your desk is to start using a desk organizer. You can find them in many different sizes and with various features to fit your desk and your organizing needs. Whether you need something small and compact or a larger organizer that handles everything from paperwork to letters to office supplies, there’s something for everyone. Here’s a look at a few of the great desk organizers we like.

Space-saving design offers plenty of organizing space without taking up all the room on your desk.

Space-saving design offers plenty of organizing space without taking up all the room on your desk. (SimpleHouseware/)

While this desk organizer by SimpleHouseware packs in letter trays, compartment drawers, file folder organizers, and more, its compact design ensures it doesn’t crowd your workspace. The mesh design doesn’t require any tools to put together, so it’s ready to use immediately. The upright section offers five two-inch compartments, and there’s a three-compartment drawer that’s perfect for holding smaller essentials like post-it notes. The rubber bottoms ensure that it won’t slip around on your desk.

Improve the viewing of your computer screen with this multipurpose tool.

Improve the viewing of your computer screen with this multipurpose tool. (SimpleHouseware/)

This unique desk organizer doesn’t just offer you handy compartments to keep office supplies organized, but it also works as a monitor or laptop stand. It raises the monitor, so it’s at a comfortable viewing height on your desk, which helps reduce eye and neck strain. It also comes with a sliding drawer tray for holding letters and important files, as well as side storage pockets. The compartments on either side work well for handling pens, sticky notes, or even your smartphone while you’re working.

This colorful storage option gets you organized while adding to your office style.

This colorful storage option gets you organized while adding to your office style. (Blu Monaco/)

Desk organizers don’t have to be boring. In fact, this one brings a big pop of color to your desk with its eye-catching teal color that makes a fashion statement in the office or at home. It comes entirely assembled, so all you have to do is start organizing. Strong metal construction ensures it holds up well under daily use. The organizer also provides plenty of storage space, with a drawer and six compartments, so you have a place to store notebooks, files, pens, scissors, and more.

Maximize desktop space while offering plenty of storage.

Maximize desktop space while offering plenty of storage. (DESIGNA/)

The all-in-one desk organizer by Designa gives you enough storage space to organize all your supplies, from letters to tablets to files and more. While it offers multiple compartments, the space-saving design ensures it won’t take up too much of your precious workspace. Compartments can be added and taken away as needed, so you customize the organizer to your needs. Offering a large storage capacity of four file holders, two side compartments, three letter trays, and more, it handles everything you need on your desk. Mesh design won’t allow files to slide down and lets you show off your favorite colorful sticky notes.

Compact design handles all your office supply essentials.

Compact design handles all your office supply essentials. (AmazonBasics/)

It’s small, compact, and handles all the basic supplies you likely keep on your desk. Made of metal wire mesh, it lets you easily see the items you’re storing in your workspace. Divided compartments ensure you keep those pens, post-it notes, paper clips, and markers organized. The small storage drawer is perfect for keeping your sticky note stash.

Crackers for Any Occasion

Having all the right options on hand will please any guest.

Having all the right options on hand will please any guest. (Unsplash/Leilani Angel/)

Prepare your pantry with a variety of crackers to handle any sudden craving. Better still, having nice crackers on hand means you’ll be ready to put together a light snack for unexpected visits from friends. From plain, salted crackers to crackers flavored with robust herbs and spices, these are the choices to have in your cabinet at all times.

If you like a bit of heat, try these with a simple spread of cream cheese and jalapeno.

If you like a bit of heat, try these with a simple spread of cream cheese and jalapeno. (Triscuit/)

If you’re a fan of layers upon layers of texture, Original Triscuits are your best bet. This traditional cracker made of whole grain wheat is salted to perfection and seems to be the perfect size for a slice of cheese. What’s more? Its hearty construction goes well beyond cheese. Put them on a plate as a companion to thick spreads, like pimento cheese and spinach artichoke dip or use as a vehicle to build mini appetizers. The creations are endless.

Don’t stop at chowder, this option makes one heck of a dessert too!

Don’t stop at chowder, this option makes one heck of a dessert too! (Premium/)

Mini crackers may not often make an appearance on a cheese plate but they really shine in thick soups, like chili or clam chowder. These classic saltines have a light dusting of sea salt and an airy bite—which makes them the perfect candidate for use in many other recipes. Ever hear of saltine toffee bark? If you have a sweet tooth, you’ll definitely want to check that one out.

Also available in cheddar, rosemary herb, and tomato and basil — this option delivers big flavor.

Also available in cheddar, rosemary herb, and tomato and basil — this option delivers big flavor. (Simple Mills/)

For those suffering from gluten intolerance and other dietary restrictions, crackers can be a big no-no. But don’t give up yet, Simple Mills has created a delicious option for cracker lovers. Made with almond flour, these crackers are gluten-free, vegan, non-GMO, paleo-friendly, corn-free, and grain-free. You’d never know they aren’t made with classic cracker ingredients. These little bites are thin but sturdy enough to stand up to the presence of a topping or two.

This option dates back well over 100 years.

This option dates back well over 100 years. (Dare/)

Made with no artificial flavors or additives, the Breton cracker is one you’ve definitely encountered served at parties. Made with whole wheat flour and wheat germ, there is a unique quality to the texture and taste. It’s a thicker cracker than most but still maintains a tender, buttery, crispness with each bite. The simplicity of its nature, makes this a winner for everything from firm cheddar to soft brie.

Due to their delicate nature, these are wonderful with a spread of whipped goat cheese.

Due to their delicate nature, these are wonderful with a spread of whipped goat cheese. (Firehook/)

You will immediately taste the from-scratch flavor in these sea salt crackers from Firehook. Organic and also non-GMO—they have a wafer thin, crispy texture so each one isn’t perfect. But the imperfections make them feel all the more homemade.