Dressing Your Home for Success

Even in today’s red-hot market, where buyers are fighting tooth and nail for a limited supply of homes, how a property looks — in listing photos and in person — is important. This is where staging comes in. “It doesn’t matter whether it’s a seller’s market or a buyer’s market,” says Monica P. Murphy, the owner of Preferred Staging, a home staging company in Potomac Falls, Va. “What staging does is it makes your home more presentable.”

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How to Buy a Vacant Lot

To Vicky and Mickey Popat, it seemed as if everyone in Orlando, Fla., wanted to buy a house last spring. “The market here was so skimpy that any time a decent property got listed, it would receive multiple offers right away and get snatched up,” said Ms. Popat, 39.

Much has been written about the extremely tight sales market for existing homes across the country, but there is a relatively unheralded segment of the market that has been experiencing a boom during the pandemic, and that is the market for vacant lots.

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6 Mocktails Your Guests Will Actually Enjoy

For some, a wedding reception is all about the bar and signature cocktails. Colleen Shea and Christopher Smith, who live in Orlando, Fla., said that a highlight of their celebration on Aug. 17, 2019, was the menu of drinks. But the couple, who met in 2015 at a 12-step program in Washington, D.C., didn’t offer your typical assortment of cocktails.

“We had a coffee bar with coffee, cappuccinos, lattes, and syrups to satisfy everyone’s caffeine fix,” said Ms. Shea, 33, a communications manager in the transportation industry.

Mr. Smith, 32, and Ms. Shea’s wedding at Catholic University in Washington, D.C., was alcohol-free and kicked off at 10 a.m. “Because we don’t drink and a lot of our guests don’t drink, it didn’t make sense to serve alcohol,” she said.

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How to Avoid Basic Wedding Scams

From counterfeit dresses to vanishing vendors and stolen gifts, there are many ways unsuspecting couples could fall prey to wedding fraud or theft. Although the pandemic has forced many to postpone or downsize their celebrations, wedding scams have persisted.

In May, one couple in Chicago lost $3,500 when their wedding photographer ghosted them. Another couple in Melvindale, Mich., had nearly all their gifts stolen at their wedding last August. And then there are the dozens of brides in Black Forest, Colo., who have filed lawsuits this year against a venue owner who kept their deposits after the venue was forced to suddenly shut down for operating without permits. With a large surge of weddings expected to take place next year, there could be a spike in wedding scams in 2022.

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How to Unlock the Equity in Your Home

Good news, homeowners: now may be a great time to unlock your home equity.

Home values have soared since the pandemic began. The national median existing-home price hit a record high of $363,300 in June, up from $294,400 a year ago, according to the National Association of Realtors. As a result, the average U.S. homeowner now has $153,000 in tappable equity, according to a May report from the mortgage data firm Black Knight.

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This Season’s Wedding Crashers: Cicadas

The bride and groom were in the middle of exchanging vows when something landed on David Levi’s head. “I particularly don’t like flying bugs, so you could imagine my reaction when a cicada landed on my head and started moving its tiny legs on my scalp,” said Mr. Levi of Bristol, Conn.

Mr. Levi, the owner of a cryptocurrency investment business based in Israel, let out a scream. “Thankfully, my friend came to the rescue and swatted off the cicada, but it didn’t stop there,” he said, describing a May 25 outdoor wedding he had attended in Volant, Pa. “During the reception, I saw some guests swatting at the air, trying to get cicadas away. I also saw some cicadas crawling on our table.”

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Selling Your Home in a Seller’s Market

By the time they got the last offer, Quinn and Daryn Shapurji had received 54 bids on their four-bedroom, single-family house in Fishers, Ind., in just three days. Ms. Shapurji said they felt totally overwhelmed — and a bit melancholy.

“We felt bad that we had to say no to so many people, because we got a lot of beautiful letters from buyers saying how much they loved our house and why they wanted to live in the area,” said Ms. Shapurji, 32, a closing coordinator for a home builder. “Some buyers had already struck out on five or six homes.”

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How to Use Instagram to Plan Your Wedding

It’s no secret that couples can use social media when planning their wedding. But one site that stands out for its utility, wedding planners say, is Instagram.

“Wedding planners, vendors, photographers, florists and venues all use Instagram to promote their services, so couples can easily find wedding inspiration by following these types of accounts,” said Antonia Baker, an event and wedding planner in Fredericksburg, Va. “From hairstyles to wedding venues to design ideas, Instagram has it all.”

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Socially Distant Wedding Activities

Weddings with packed dance floors have become a thing of the past because of the coronavirus pandemic, especially as many states continue to limit indoor occupancy. This means couples will need to find some other creative ways to keep their guests safely entertained and engaged.

Looking for some inspiration? Here are 10 fun games and activities you can incorporate into a socially distanced wedding reception.

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The People Who Got Puppies Were in Over Their Heads

Ann Becnel, a dog trainer in New Orleans, is busier than ever these days.

“I am getting so many requests for training that I can barely keep up,” said Ms. Becnel, who got into the business 35 years ago. “It’s overwhelming.”

April Chillari, the owner of Core Canine in Northern Virginia, is in a similar position. “Prior to the pandemic I would book up three to five weeks in advance,” she said. “Now I have a 10-week waiting list.”

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