Universal Design: A Home for a Lifetime

Homeowners want a roof that lasts decades, extra bedrooms for children or guests you plan to have, however, design choices are often planned for a single snapshot in time.
However, wider doorframes and barrier free entrances are easier not only for wheelchairs, but also for strollers, roller bags and appliance moving.
Carpet runners on stairs are great for acoustics but also avert falls.
Lever style door handles are easier for all hands or no hands. My hands are almost always full and I open the front door with my elbow. 🙂
Wall ovens are harder for children to reach and are easier on adult backs of all ages, especially at Thanksgiving!
There are many finish and design choices you can incorporate into your home that make life easier for all ages and abilities.  Below are some features you may want to include in your new home, next remodel or future project.
Because bathrooms are the first rooms that fail us when we become disabled short-term or long term from an accident or age, you may want to start there.  They are also expensive to remodel.  A wet room is great now and will work beautifully later in life.


  • Low-maintenance exterior
  • Low-maintenance shrubs and plants

Overall Floor Plan

  • Living area on main floor with open plan, one flex room and one full bath


  • Minimum of 36-inches wide, wider preferred
  • Well lit


  • Accessible path of travel to the home
  • At least one no-step entry with a cover
  • Sensor light at exterior no-step entry focusing on the front-door lock
  • There needs to be 32-inches of clear width, which requires a 36-inch door
  • Non-slip flooring in foyer
  • Entry door sidelight or high/low peep hole viewer; sidelight should provide both privacy and safety
  • Doorbell in accessible location
  • Surface to place packages on when opening door

Interior Doors

  • There needs to be 32-inches of clear width, which requires a 36-inch door
  • Levered door hardware


  • Plenty of windows for natural light
  • Lowered windows or taller windows with lower sill height
  • Low maintenance exterior and interior finishes
  • Easy to operate hardware


  • Lever handles or pedal-controlled
  • Thermostatic or anti-scald controls

Kitchen and Laundry


  • Easy to read controls
  • Washing machine and dryer raised 12-15 inches above floor
  • Front loading laundry machines
  • Microwave oven at counter height or in wall
  • Side-by-side refrigerator/freezer
  • Side-swing or wall oven
  • Raised dishwasher with push-button controls
  • Electric cook top with level burners for safety in transferring between the burners, front controls and downdraft feature to pull heat away from user; light to indicate when surface is hot


  • Bracing in walls around tub, shower, shower seat, and toilet for installation of grab bars to support 250-300 pounds
  • If stand-up shower is used in main bath, it is curbless and minimum of 36-inches wide
  • Fold down seat in the shower
  • Adjustable/handheld showerheads, 6-foot hose
  • Tub/shower controls offset from center
  • Shower stall with built-in antibacterial protection
  • Light in shower stall
  • Toilet two and half inches higher than standard toilet (17-19 inches) or height-adjustable
  • Design of the toilet paper holder allows rolls to be changed with one hand
  • Slip-resistant flooring in bathroom and shower

Stairways, Lifts, and Elevators

  • Increased visibility of stairs through contrast strip on top and bottom stairs, color contrast between treads and risers on stairs and use of lighting
  • Multi-story homes may provide either pre-framed shaft (i.e., stacked closets) for future elevator, or stairway width must be minimum of four feet to allow space for lift


  • Adjustable closet rods and shelves
  • Lighting in closets
  • Easy open doors that do not obstruct access

Electrical, Lighting, Safety, and Security

  • Light switches by each entrance to halls and rooms
  • Light receptacles with at least two bulbs in vital places (exits, bathroom)
  • Light switches, thermostats, and other environmental controls placed in accessible locations no higher than 48 inches from floor
  • Electrical outlets 15-inches on center from floor; may need to be closer than 12-feet apart
  • Rocker or touch light switches
  • Easy-to-see and read thermostats
  • Pre-programmed thermostats


  • Smooth, non-glare, slip-resistant surfaces, interior and exterior
  • Color/texture contrast to indicate change in surface levels

Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning

  • HVAC should be designed so filters are easily accessible
  • Energy-efficient units
  • Windows that can be opened for cross ventilation, fresh air
  • Installation of energy efficient windows with Low-E glass

Reduced Maintenance/Convenience Features

  • Easy to clean surfaces
  • Central vacuum
  • Built-in pet feeding system
  • Built-in recycling system

How to Get Your House Ready to Sell

How to Get Your House Ready to Sell


  1. Trim your shrubbery
  2. Add color with flowers and potted plants
  3. Power wash the front sidewalks and driveway
  4. Clean the pine needles from the roof
  5. Wash the windows and remove screens
  6. Refinish your front door and polish the hardware, upgrade the doorbell
  7. Get a new door mat that says “Welcome”
  8. Clean up after your pets
  9. Organize the garage to make the space seem larger
  10. Make sure all your light bulbs are working and replace any burnt out ones.
  11. Replace old, stained, worn out carpet. If they don’t need replacing have the carpets professionaly steam cleaned
  12. Remove excess furniture that make your rooms look small. Rent a storage unit if necessary
  13. Wipe down the walls. If the walls need more than a thorough cleaning, apply a fresh coat of paint.
  14. Power wash the exterior of the home
  15. Set out “show towels” in the baths
  16. Clear away the items on your sink vanities and store them in the cabinet.
  17. Get as much stuff off the floors in your closets as possible. Thin out your hanging clothes. Neaten up the things on your closet shelves. These actions will make your closets look larger.
  18. Depersonalize your home. Put away family photos, sports trophies, diplomas, and your collectibles.
  19. Organize your pantry.  Remove items that are not pantry items.
  20. Remove all the items from the top of your kitchen counters. Only leave out those items that you absolutely use on a daily basis
  21. Remove everything from the top, front, and sides of the refrigerator.
  22. Repair or replace any leaky faucets
  23. Make your fireplace the focal point of the room instead of the television
  24. Repair any damage created by pets.
  25. Recaulk the grout around your shower and bathtubs
  26. Clean your tile grout
  27. Check all the ceilings for water stains. If an active leak exists repair it. If the stain is from an old repaired leak, repaint the ceiling.
  28. Dust, dust, and dust including the baseboards, ceiling fans, light fixtures, and air vents
  29. Replace rotten wood
  30. Call your handyman. Make sure anything and everything that needs to be fixed (think locks, hardware, leaky faucets, running toilets, cracks in the walls, squeaky doors, etc) has been taken care of before listing your home.   Otherwise, buyers think your home hasn’t been well taken care of and your home will sell for less.

Finally, setting the right price, staging your home, professional photography and videos, floorplans and extensive marketing will get the house sold fast.  That’s my job.


Stumbling Blocks to the Home Sale

Picky, Picky, Picky

Crawl spaces, Small Silly Items and Too Much Technology; some of the issues that slow down, derail or impede a sale.

Just about every home in the last year has had issues in the crawl space.  It could be standing water, wood damage, suspicion of mold, or lack of a vapor barrier.  If a seller does no other pre-inspection on a home, DO A CRAWL SPACE INSPECTION.

Almost everyone knows the basic maintenance items that need to be done regularly on a home and especially before putting it on the market. Recent inspection reports have included what I feel are silly items.  For example, the inspector did not find the switch for an exterior light or for a bathroom fan.  They both were nearby and working.  Lightbulb burned out?  The inspector suggestion is to call a licensed electrician.  SO, label every switch and make sure all lights work as they should.

In the last month a new issue has been included in inspection reports.  The size of step risers.  I have had two that say the risers are 1/2 inch too short.  One buyer asked for the steps to be replaced.  Crazy.

Finally, because buyers and agents are often not allowed to be at the inspection these days because of Covid, a lot of additional anxiety about the condition of the house causes the buyer and buyer’s agent to be extra cautious.  In the past, I have always encouraged buyer’s to attend the inspection to get a more balanced idea of the condition of the home, especially a home that is not new.  I will warn buyers when they get the inspection report it will feel like the house is falling apart because every little thing is mentioned, sticky door, cracked outlet plate, etc.

It is work to keep your home maintained properly and work to get it ready for market, however, the payoff is BIG.  Homes in good condition sell fast and for big $$$$.

spring flowers

Seeds for Fall Planting – Affordable Luxury

The Luxury of Beauty

Plant any or all of the seeds this fall and have happy surprises all spring and summer!

Alyssum, sweet (Lobularia maritima) | zones 3-10
Bachelor Buttons / Cornflower Centaurea cyanus | zones 3-8
Bee Balm Monarda | zones 3-9|
Black Eyed Susan Rudbeckia | zones 3-9
Blanket Flower Gaillardia | zones 3-10
Blue Flax Linum perenne lewisii | zones 5-8
Columbine Aquilegea | zones 3-9
Coneflower Echinacea | zones 3-9
Cupid’s Dart Catananche caerulea | zones 4-9
Daisy, Painted Chrysanthemum coccineum | zones 3-7
Flax Linum grandiflorum | zones 3-10
Foxglove Digitalis | zones 4-8
Larkspur Consolida | zones 2-10
Love-In-A-Mist Nigella damascena | zones 2-11
Lobelia Lobelia | zones 4-8
Lavender Lavandula | zones 5-9
Lady’s Mantle 
Alchemilla | zones 3-7
Milkweed Asclepias | zones 4-9
Tropaeolum | zones 7-10
Viola | zones 5-10
Penestemon | zones 3-8
Pincushion Flowers  
Scabiosa | zones 3-7
Pinkball Thrift 
Armeria Formosa | zones 3-9
Papaveraceae | zones 3-8
Prairie Coneflower 
Ratibida columnifera | zones 3-10
Rose Campion 
Silene | zones 4-8
Sweet Pea 
Lathyrus odoratus | zones 2-11
Sweet William 
Dianthus | zones 3-9
Cheiranthus cheiri | zones 3-8


Summer Fun: Plan For Pets

Road trips, backyard parties and especially July 4th are often times when pets make a break for it. 🙂

Brody Birthday 004

July 5th is the busiest day of the year for animal shelters. Before the holiday, make sure pets are wearing tags with up to date contact information and don’t let them outside during fireworks displays. Indoors, avoid post party vet visits by keeping firecrackers, insect repellent, table food, and alcoholic beverages out of paw’s reach.

If you plan on being away, it is not too early to make your pet sitting arrangements!


Financing Your Dream Home

home loans

Finding the Right Lender for Your Triangle Home

When I was a caterer, we did many type of events. Off site events, for instance, required different menus and equipment. We brought the grills, ovens and even the port-a-lets. There were some jobs that called for just a pig cooker and disposable flatware. Other jobs required more refined elements like caviar bars, multiple cooking stations, or signature linens. Knowing which tools to use was a large part of the job. The same can be said of lenders.
First Time Buyers, Veterans, Physicians, Seniors, Teachers and folks with discharged bankruptcies all need specialized products. If you don’t know which product is best for you contact me at 919.619.2236 or mari@hiddencoast.com

Just as one would not serve vintage champagne at a pig roast, one should never use a B/C lender for a client with a 900 middle score who wants an 80/15/5 product and to pay no PMI. Does that sound like jargon? It is. But I know what it means and I know which lender to refer which person to.

Are you looking for a conventional home purchase loan?

If you have good credit and your goal is to have a smooth transaction at a competitive price, try:

Union Home Mortgage
Jennifer Foster – Mortgage Loan Officer
336-302-3127 | jfoster@unionhomemortgage.com

Parkmont Lending
Josh Porter
919-444-0014  jporter@parkmont.com

First Citizens
Lori Eichel | Mortgage Banker|
919.401.5060 Lori.Eichel@firstcitizens.com

Are you considering an FHA or VA loan?
Not everyone is qualified or even knows how to write these. These mortgage pros do!

Union Home Mortgage
Jennifer Foster – Mortgage Loan Officer
336-302-3127 | jfoster@unionhomemortgage.com

Are you a medical doctor?
There are some great products for doctors

Union Home Mortgage
Jennifer Foster – Mortgage Loan Officer
336-302-3127 | jfoster@unionhomemortgage.com

Are you a policeman or fireman?

Are you a UNC Employee?

North Carolina State Employee’s Credit Union

Are you over 62?

Seniors can use a reverse mortgage to purchase a new home or as a source of income with their current home. Some people find it especially useful to help them keep up with maintenance and protect their investment for the long term.

I am now working with a couple who bought their “last” home outright with cash. Now it turns out that this home no longer fits their needs and they miss some of the luxuries that they gave up when downsizing. They are financing 49% of their home purchase and will never make a payment for the rest of their lives. They were a little nervous at first but they have consulted with a gerontologist counselor from a non-affiliated not for profit. They understand it and are really looking forward to their new home in Fearrington Village.Reverse Mortages:

Have you thought about buying a property that could use some tlc, a little updating or even a major rehab?

Orange, Chatham and Durham counties have great some older homes requiring major remodeling that can be bought reasonably but it is extremely important that you get a loan designed for doing a rehab.

Are you self-employed?

Corporate Investors Mortgage Group
Andy Law, Senior Mortgage Banker
1526 East Franklin St, Ste.201
Chapel Hill NC 27514
919.929.6146 fax

Do you have ‘less than perfect’ credit?

Corporate Investors Mortgage Group
Andy Law, Senior Mortgage Banker
1526 East Franklin St, Ste.201
Chapel Hill NC 27514
919.929.6146 fax

Are you looking for an honest credit counselor?

These resources have been approved by HUD:

Looking for a lot loan?

First Citizens
Lori Eichel | Mortgage Banker|
919.401.5060 Lori.Eichel@firstcitizens.com

Need loan for acreage, a farm or commercial property?

Carolina Farm Credit



Do you need a little more help?

Give me a call at 919.619.2236

Buyers and Title Insurance

Buyers and Title Insurance: Contributed by Doug Watson, CEO of Frontier Title

title insuranceWhy do buyers and title insurance go hand in hand?  With more than five million homes sold annually in the United States, purchasing a home remains at the center of the American dream. A large percentage of these buyers will be making this major purchase for the first time, which can be an extremely stressful and overwhelming experience. Even for an experienced homebuyer, purchasing a home can be a daunting undertaking, as they are well aware of the stack of paperwork that must be completed in order to get the keys to their new home. One of the lesser-known aspects of purchasing a home is the role that title insurance plays within the closing process. Title insurance is a very important investment, so we’re sharing some information to help homebuyers better understand its role in the home buying process.

What is Title Insurance?

Title insurance protects real estate owners and lenders from property loss or damage they could experience from liens or defects in the property’s title. Unlike other insurance options that require monthly premiums, title insurance is a one-time fee paid by the buyer at the time of closing. Title insurance rates differ based on the value and location of the home being purchased. While title insurance is not mandatory, it is a strong investment.

Who is Title Insurance For?

Both homebuyers and lenders need title insurance in order to be insured against various possible title defects on a property. Prior to closing, the insurance company will run a title search on a property. This typically takes between two and three business days and statistics show that more than 33 percent of title searches result in a problem that must be resolved before closing. Liens or defects on the title can include tax liens, abstracts of judgment, child support liens or bankruptcies. A lien means another company or person has the right to keep possession of your property until your debt is repaid. Without title insurance, the new buyer would be responsible for clearing any defects that are on the property.