Two Places to Consider When Relocating Near Raleigh

By Tali Wee

Moving is a big step – whether that means relocating a few blocks away or moving across the country. Regardless of your situation, it’s best to do research about the potential communities you’re considering moving to. Check out the local amenities, demographics of the area and pay close attention to the value of homes.

Weigh the options of available inventory in your favorite neighborhoods and compare the features of each property. Are the properties in good condition? Do they have comparable square footage, number of bathrooms, updated appliances and yard space? The details can keep you researching for months. Many buyers struggle to find all they’re looking for in one home, especially in markets where inventory is limited.

One solution is to consider new homes. New construction homes offer all the latest amenities and extra perks like energy efficiencies that help you save long term. In fact, some builders offer new-age energy standards sealing seams, ensuring air purity, incorporating local and sustainable materials and checking water drainage for the entire property and yard which can save buyers 30 to 40 percent on estimated energy costs compared to resale homes.

If you’re considering moving to Raleigh, NC and are entertaining the idea of new construction properties check out Chatham and Johnston counties.

Chatham County

Residents of Chatham County are within close proximity to the University North of Carolina (UNC) and the UNC Hospital providing both jobs and a lively community. M/I Homes, a Raleigh home builder, runs an Everyday Hero program where fire fighters, educators, law enforcement officers, medical providers or armed forces members (active, reserve or retired) are eligible for $1,500 off the price of their homes or $1,500 applied toward home upgrades.

The median price of all homes in Chatham County is $234,800, significantly more than the U.S. median of $180,100. Home values increased in the last year by 2 percent and are expected to rise another 2.7 percent within the next year. Although homes are pricey, it takes only 2.3 years for the cost of renting ($1,361 per month) to break even with the cost of buying a home; so it’s best to buy if you plan to stay longer than a couple years. Forecasted appreciation with long-term employment options nearby make Chatham County a great potential relocation town.

Johnston County

Another popular option for new construction homes is Johnston County, offering both ranch-style villas and traditional two-story homes, perfect for families. The town of Clayton is a welcoming, southern community with a recently built, nearby shopping center that hosts a summer concert series drawing interest from residents in surrounding areas. The Everyday Hero program is available in Johnston, too.

The median home price in Johnston County is $146,500, less expensive than Chatham and the U.S. as a whole. In the last year, values rose slightly by 0.9 percent, but are anticipated to rise another 2.8 percent in the next year. This prediction indicates healthy community growth and sustainable appreciation, a sign of a good investment. Rents in Johnston County cost $1,136 per month, less than both Chatham and the U.S. median cost ($1,369). If Johnston is the perfect location and you plan to stay for two years, it’s more cost effective to buy since the breakeven horizon is 1.8 years.

Whether Raleigh or another U.S. city is the best fit for you, be sure to evaluate the value of properties from an investment perspective and consider which properties are best suited for your daily lifestyle.

*** Tali Wee writes about finances, home improvement and interior design for Zillow and other partners.

What Natural Stone Floor Tile is Right for Your Home?

Choosing the right flooring for your home can be a daunting task. When you have a large surface area to cover, you want to select a material that is long lasting and easy to maintain—and beautiful too!

Natural stone brings the exterior world indoors in a sophisticated way, making it the most timeless flooring material out there. At my interior design firm, it’s often a staple in our recommendations to clients. From slate to granite, all the way to travertine, here are my five favorite natural stone flooring options, and how to incorporate each of them into your home—or should I say “castle?”

1. Sleek and Stylin’ Slate

This luxurious natural material is a standout among stone floors due to its vibrant range of colors and patterns. Because it is all-natural, slate is subject to weathering and aging—called “patina”—which means it will look great both today and ten years from now! If you’re aiming for a contemporary style, try a dark gray or black slate tile that has moderate variation and a low-sheen, for a sleek, put-together look.

2. Talk About Travertine

Travertine, a sedimentary limestone deposited by mineral springs, is the epitome of casual elegance. In white and beige tones, travertine lends a soft, warm feel to any space it’s installed in. Most travertine tiles are low-sheen and have random variation, so it is best suited for a large space that doesn’t require perfect conformity. The natural veining of the stone creates unique, natural patterns unseen in other types of flooring. Install it in the kitchen or common living space for a classically regal finish.

3. Marvelous Marble

A classic standby for designers all over the world, marble is a perfect flooring option for anyone looking to style their home in a luxe yet simple aesthetic. With a smooth finish and a medium sheen, marble instantly scales up the look of any bathroom, kitchen or entryway, while offering a romantic and refined finish. Style it with complementary smooth, glossy hardware and light trim for a dashing domain.

4. Standing on Sandstone

While stone certainly looks dazzling inside, it can also add the perfect polish to your outdoor area. Sandstone is a suitable flooring option for outdoor spaces because it’s sturdy and doesn’t absorb water easily—a prime consideration for your patio or garden. Sandstone creates a rustic cottage vibe for your outdoor entertainment area and makes the colors of a garden pop. Style your space with metal dining chairs and outdoor lighting for a cozy country-inspired deck.

Natural Stone Flooring

5. Grandeur with Granite

Last but certainly not least, granite rounds out this list of my favorite natural stone flooring solutions. One of the easiest materials to install and maintain, granite comes in a wide range of colors and styles. Granite looks great on kitchen countertops, living room floors and entryway walls and can be incorporated into just about any interior design style. Aiming for a contemporary feel? Choose a tile that has a honed finish and is either very light or very dark, like white or charcoal. Are you more traditional? Go for chocolaty or beige granite to complement the classic features of your home.

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Natural stone flooring is durable, easy to maintain and visually stunning. Which timeless style fits your home the best?


**California interior designer Kerrie Kelly has been helping homeowners choose just the right floor covering for their homes for many years. Kerrie Kelly is an expert on matching floor selection with the rest of the room, and writes about her design planning  for The Home Depot. For a wide selection of floor tiles, including styles discussed by Kerrie, you can visit Home Depot’s website at

What Is Whole Home?


As the world has become increasingly more concerned with energy efficiency, so has M/I Homes. We’ve developed our own program, called Whole Home, dedicated to maximizing energy efficiency in the homes we build. Whole Home accomplishes this goal by exceeding basic Energy Star® requirements. Energy Star® is a voluntary program that aims to help businesses and individuals save money and prevent climate change through energy efficiency. Whole Home goes above and beyond that. While Whole Home consists of many features that vary from state to state, it focuses specifically on four major areas:

  1. Energy Efficiency: Using less energy to heat and cool your home
  2. Air: Radically reducing particulates and airborne allergens
  3. Water: Reducing amount of impurity build-up
  4. Sustainability: Reducing your environmental footprint

Overall, the individual features help to save you an average of 30% on your energy bill.

We looked into some of the features that Whole Home has to offer, and these are some of our favorites.

  1. Third Party Home Inspectors: In order to gain an unbiased opinion on the state of our homes, we hire third party RESNET inspectors to test the energy efficiency of our homes not just once, but twice. The first inspection is the Thermal Barrier Checklist and a Duct Blast Test. The second inspection is the Blower Door Test, in which your home is tightly sealed and a fan is strapped to your front door. The fan then blows air out of your home, effectively creating the force of a 20 mph wind against the exterior. The amount of air that is still able to enter your home determines your home’s HERS index rating. Through both of these inspections, the RESNET inspectors are able to verify your home’s energy efficiency, insulation, air tightness, and duct sealing details.
  2. High Efficiency Heating and Cooling Systems: The older systems in traditional homes can score a SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio) of 6 or lower. The current minimum for SEER HVAC is 13– our systems score up to a 16 on the scale. For those that don’t know, SEER measures the efficiency of your heat pump and air conditioning systems. We make sure that you get the perfectly sized unit for your home to ensure that you get the best air quality in the most energy-efficient way, which also means that it properly maintains your home’s temperature and level of humidity.

So why does this matter to you? Whole Home’s standards ensure that you get the best for your money.

  • Our PEX Hot & Cold Water Tubing, used in most divisions, has 25% fewer connections than traditional water piping, meaning that you get hot water faster and cleaner water.
  • Most M/I Homes divisions use a minimum of 12 inches of insulation, which is more than standard code, and means extra comfort and lower utility bills.
  • Most homes come with the standard 1” furnace filter. M/I Homes goes above and beyond that, including a furnace filter with a MERV rating of 10 in most divisions. This means no ozone emissions, removes up to 85% of impurities, and even lowers your operating costs.hers_anim

Speaking of lowering your operating costs, remember that HERS Index we talked about earlier? That number tells you how energy efficient your home is, and lower numbers mean higher energy efficiency. A current home built to standard code will have a HERS rating of 100. The average M/I Home has a HERS index of 62. This means even greater energy savings on your home.  For example, when compared to an average home built in 2000 with a monthly utility bill of $250 and a HERS index of 105, you would save you roughly $1,142 per year!

To calculate your savings and find out more about the many features of Whole Home, visit our Whole Home website today.

The Top 9 Dos and Don’ts of Outdoor Lighting

Image Provided by The Home Depot

Image Provided by The Home Depot

Most interior designers agree that lighting can really make or break a room, and the same can be said for outdoor lighting and the exterior of your home. Having a well-lit exterior not only increases safety and security, but also does wonders for your curb appeal. When your home’s façade has attractive and complementary outdoor light fixtures, you are sending a friendly and welcoming message to your guests and neighbors.

Backyard living spaces like decks and patios are no exception either. Before you buy your first lantern or sconce, read these essential do’s and don’t’s of outdoor lighting:


  • DO opt for LED fixtures. They use much less energy than incandescent bulbs, last longer and come in a variety of color temperatures. You no longer have to stick with the cool, bluish light of the original LEDs—they now come in warmer temperatures that give off a more yellow light, if you desire that look. LEDs also come in clear finishes rather than just frosted, so you can still achieve the elegant, sparkly look of exposed bulbs while remaining energy efficient.
  • DO choose fixtures with finishes that complement your home’s exterior color scheme. Bronzes go best with earth tones and brown trim and accents. Black is appropriate with most color schemes and white fixtures work well on houses that have darker bodies and white trim.
  • DO space out the light sources on your deck or patio. Several small fixtures with low wattage will always look better and create a more welcoming ambience than one fixture with a bright bulb.
  • DO stick with a mounting height that is slightly above eye level. A general rule of thumb is 66 in. above the threshold for the front of your house.
  • DO use post lanterns near your driveway. If light from the front door or garage fixtures does not extend the length of your driveway, post lanterns offer another source to warmly greet visitors.
  • DO your homework and research to find a consistent, quality line of lighting fixtures.

If you’re looking to reinvent your home’s exterior by upgrading your outdoor fixtures, consider a line of options like Progress Lighting’s wide selection of high-quality, energy-efficient exterior solutions. Their selection includes variety of fixture styles and finishes to meet design and budget goals of any scope.


  • DON’T choose fixtures that are too small. This is the most common mistake that homeowners make. Your front door should be the focal point of your home’s façade, so it should have the largest and most ornate fixture. If you use only one light fixture by the door, aim for one that is roughly 1/3 the height of the door, and if you use two, aim for 1/4 the door’s height.
  • DON’T use light bulbs with wattage that is too high. Using bulbs with 40-75 watts or the equivalent thereof is best for outdoor fixtures. Choose the wattage based on the fixture, but never use more wattage than you need because it could create glare and daunt your guests rather than welcome them.
  • DON’T skimp on light fixtures at the back door. They should be less important than the front door’s fixtures, but they should match the rest of your home’s lighting and not be too small.

*Sarah Kellner is a writer for The Home Depot. With a background in art and design, she writes on a wide variety of home improvement and decorating topics. To shop outdoor lighting options, visit the selection online.

ExxonMobil Spurs Growth: New Tomball & Klein ISD Schools + Master-Planned Communities

Reblog from by Jennifer Grassman

Northwest Houston is seeing incredible community growth. Tomball has seen a population increase of nearly 23% in 15 years, and things seem to be just ramping up. The influx of new residents has necessitated the building of new schools, shopping centers, roads, and neighborhoods, including some luxury residences that are absolutely stunningly.

Much of Northwest Houston’s growth can be attributed to ExxonMobil’s new North Houston location in Spring. The oil industry giant is constructing a state-of-the-art “campus” designed to accommodate 10,000 employees. Located off I-45 and The Hardy Toll Road, ExxonMobil Houston will serve as headquarters for all of the company’s Upstream, Downstream, and Chemicals companies, bringing an untold number of oil industry jobs to the area.

New Tomball & Klein ISD Schools

Over the next five years, Tomball ISD expects a whopping 3,700 new students. That’s almost 30% of their current enrollment. To accommodate, three new schools – Wildwood Elementary, Oakcrest Intermediate, and Creekview Elementary – are opening this August. A fourth school, Creekside Park Junior High, is slated to open in 2016.

But Tomball isn’t the only Texas ISD feeling the crunch.

Highly acclaimed Klein ISD is projecting that by 2020, five of their schools will be over capacity. In preparation, French Elementary opens its doors next month.

The as-yet-unnamed Elementary School No. 31 is set to open in 2016, with High School No. 5 to open in 2017. Plans for a Pre-Kindergarten school are also underway. In all, Klein ISD is investing $283,641,612 into building new schools and expanding existing locations.

Beautiful New Communities

The influx of new residents is also necessitating the development of new neighborhoods, and we’re not just talking cookie-cutter housing here. Some of the burgeoning communities in Northwest Harris County are incredibly upscale, ranging in value from $300,000 to over $1,400,000 per home.

In fact, the average value of homes in Tomball has risen dramatically from about $180,000 in 2012 to $360,000 in 2015.

Information via

One classy example of a new North Houston neighborhood is McKenzie Park. A master-planned community in Spring, it’s a quick 3 mile drive from ExxonMobil, and zoned for Klein ISD.

M/I Homes is among the builders developing McKenzie Park.

Among the builders developing McKenzie Park, M/I Homes is constructing some beautiful two-story houses, which include numerous lakefront properties. The homes boast sophisticated architecture, first floor masters, media rooms, designer touches, and fantastic spaces for Texas-sized entertaining.

Access to the community’s resort style swimming pool and splash pad is another amenity well worth noting.

More within the financial reach of upper-middle-class families, and zoned for Klein ISD, is Laurel Park, M/I Homes’ newest North Houston community. Within 10 miles of ExxonMobil, residents will enjoy quick access to 249, FM 2920, and the Grand Parkway. Laurel Park home prices range from $299,990 – $636,990.

With all these elegant new communities in construction, the whole northwest Houston area is expected to see a rise in property value, an increase in upscale shopping, and of course more funding for local charities, churches, and community initiatives from the new residents who are packing to move in.

An elegant interior view of “The Kathryn,” an M/I Homes model available in Houston area communities, including Laurel Park.

Love looking at model homes? View More M/I Homes Photos Here.


** Jennifer Grassman is a mother of two little girls, Jennifer Grassman is a writer, recording artist, and work-at-home mom. She publishes a Northwest Houston community magazine, The Pink Armadillo, and serves as Marketing Director for GeniSoft Water filtration systems.


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