1. 10 Cheap Staging Tips to Increase Home Value

    Staging a home can feel awkward. Why make improvements on your way out? We all know it’s about the return on your investment. Smart rearrangements and simple remodeling can increase home value by thousands, almost overnight. Do we have your attention? Great! Here are 10 inexpensive tips for increasing offer prices.

    1. Curb Appeal.  Nothing speaks better of a home before entering its interior than the surrounding yard.  If it’s in the budget, try adding a few small bushes to bring the entryway to life. Alternatively, closely-spaced potted plants may do the trick, and in Pittsburgh’s colder months, planters filled with pine branches or holly can make an empty house feel like home.Landscaping
    2. Make an Entrance. To foster a safe and secure feeling for potential homebuyers, it is important to create a welcoming entrance to the home. One way to do that is by updating hardware like front door handles and locks. Luckily, “rustic” can also be affordable.
    3. Un-decorate. No one needs to strip a home down to its bare bones, that’s for sure. However, try to neutralize the space by removing some highly personalized items and style preferences. This puts the focus back on the house and its own appearance, instead of on the current occupant. What’s nice about this is that toning down the rooms in a house helps potential buyers to envision their own decorations, belongings and family inside of the space.
    4. Re-purpose.  A major trend today is the desire to have a master bedroom on the first floor, or at least a spare bedroom. An unused den or office may easily be converted into a bedroom for future occupants so try decorating it accordingly. Additionally, a spacious patio in the back may serve as added seating space or an alternate dining room for warm weather days, so highlighting this with a simple table and seating will add function to the space.
    5. Mind the Carpets. Replacing carpeting in a home would cost thousands of dollars, be it for one room or the whole house. A money-saving option, then, is to have the carpets professionally cleaned. This is especially important for pet owners, whose furry friends may have misbehaved a time or two.
    6. Increase Storage. Everyone wants somewhere to keep their vast collection of whatevers, from clothes to shoes to plain old junk. That makes closet space a hot commodity. However, many homes lack closets in bedrooms, especially old homes, so creativity is in order. Luckily, inexpensive wardrobes and shelving units are usually available and may be added to bedrooms to fit buyer needs.
    7. Update and Match. The kitchen is the hub of entertainment in most homes. Our modern families gather and talk, share meals and have a drink with friends there. Therefore, the appearance of the kitchen is often a priority. One way to spruce up the kitchen is to either update or match major appliances. Swap out the old faucet for a shiny new one, for instance. Also, consider matching the colors of appliances, like all black rather than a mix of white, black and stainless.  Did you know: some dishwasher faces can be removed and turned around, revealing the black front for the unit which has white on the other side? Might be worth a try.
    8. Change the Cabinetry. By “change” we mean “reinvent.”  Kitchen cabinets are pricey, so to avoid breaking the bank, consider replacing just the doors (rather than the whole unit) or adding a coat of paint to change the look. Alternatively, hiring someone to do this is still affordable.
    9. Light the Way. Believe it or not, there are trends in lighting design. Brass fixtures, for instance, are now outdated and Pendant Lightsshould be swapped out. Bronze or nickel lighting fixtures are common today. Style-wise, pendant lights are the thing to have, especially in the kitchen. These hanging units create a clean, neat look.
    10. Floor Them with Flooring.  Aside from kitchen and bedroom spaces, bathrooms come in high on the list. A few things to avoid, though, are grungy or ancient-looking flooring. It shouldn’t look like Grammy has been living there with all of her cats, so anything that’s dirty or looks super old should be removed or covered. An inexpensive option for this is either vinyl tiles or sheet vinyl. Additionally, consider cleaning up the tub or shower tiles by re-grouting the unit.

    It is important to impress when selling a home. Many houses need a little love before selling, but this doesn’t have to be a pricey endeavor. These tips make changes that buyers like, without going overboard or skimping on the details. The balance between these extremes will help you and your buyers in the long run!

  2. How to Hang/Display Holiday Decorations Outdoors

    Oh, Bryan.  You are not one for DIY, are you?  Let’s see if we can help you figure out the right way to show off those holiday decorations.  Read on for some useful decorating tips.Christmas Lights

    1. Preparation

    When you get the itch (or have been asked) to decorate the outside of your house for Christmas, it is important not to just haphazardly grab some lights and other adornments and “go to town.”  Decorators will want to have a plan for what they are going to do.  Make sure you can answer these questions.

    • Where do I want to put my decorations?  People decorate the outside of their homes in a variety of ways.  You might consider stringing lights around an existing pole in the yard, around your bushes and trees or along the roofline.  Additionally, perhaps you would like figurines like reindeer, Santa or a nativity scene.  Think of where you want these around the house.
    • Do I have enough or can I get enough materials for what I want to do?  You might, for example, have strings of lights from the previous year.  If so, you best ensure that there is enough to accommodate this year’s project.  If you don’t have any lights, measure the space to be covered to get an idea of how many you’ll need.  This would include the length of your roof, the diameter of a bush and the distance to a power source.  If the nativity is more your style, make sure all pieces are there, otherwise consider replacing it.

    2.  Purchase

    Once you’re ready to decorate, head to the nearest home store for everything you need.  The following items are essential for outdoor decorating.

    • Lights and Decorations.  Since this is what the shopping trip is all about, make sure you buy what you need!  Lighting options include white, multicolored, blinking, icicle lights and more.  Also decide between LED or incandescent lighting.  Additional decorations can be tricky, as you don’t want them to look gaudy.  It may be wise to stay away from things like blow-ups, as they tend not to hold up well.  A few nice wreaths may add a touch of class, however.
    • Tools.  To affix your adornments, you will need a few items.  Screws/nails and a hammer may be necessary, hooks to hold wreaths in place and a staple gun to hold down light strands could prove useful.  Work gloves are also advisable to protect and keep your hands warm.
    • Ladder and cords.  Assuming holiday lights will go on the house itself or you will be hanging bows and wreaths on upper windows, a ladder will be absolutely essential to reach your target.  Extension cords might be needed to plug lights into outdoor power sources, too.

    3.  Decorate

    Now that everything is bought and ready, it’s time to get down to business.  Figure out how to tackle the task ahead.

    • Work during good conditions.  It may be getting colder, but try to plan your decorating for a day with decent weather.  More obviously, decorate during the day, as it will be easier to see what’s going on and fewer accidents can happen.
    • Untangle and test lights.  Be sure your lights aren’t a mess prior to hanging them and eliminate any knots in the cords.  Brand new or years old, test light strands to ensure that no bulbs are burned out.
    • Don’t overload.  To avoid overwhelming the outlets, try not to plug in too many light-up reindeer, light strands or movable Santas in the same power source.
    • Hire an assistant.  OK, maybe you don’t have to pay them, but working with a partner will make things go more quickly and ensure the safety of each party.

    Following these suggestions will make holiday decorating easier and more enjoyable.  When it’s all done, sit back and admire the beautiful work!

  3. Best Christmas Tree Farms in Pittsburgh

    Ho, Ho, Ho!  Well, not quite yet, but the holidays are coming up fast!  With Thanksgiving right around the corner, some folks are thinking about the winter holidays already, and even prefer to start the merriment soon after the November feast.  So, holiday decorations are probably on the brains of many people, especially the Christmas tree.  Anyone can buy a phony tree and decorate it, but nothing beats the real thing.  There are countless options for where to get Christmas trees in Pittsburgh, too.  Keep reading for a few of these locations, as well as a few Christmas tree tips.

    Pittsburgh Area Christmas Tree Farms

    1. Grupp’s Christmas Trees.  Grupp’s is a great big tree farm tucked away outside of Pittsburgh in Harmony, PA.  When you pull onto the slightly bumpy private road, there are trees as far as the eye can see!  Grupp’s carries most popular varieties of Christmas trees, including: Blue Spruce, Frasier Fir (pre-cut only), Canaan Fir, Douglas Fir, Concolor Fir, White Pine and Scotch Pine.  Grupp’s also has a fun little barn/gift shop complete with ornaments, live wreaths and snacks for a long day of tree hunting (if you’re that picky).  When you go to Grupp’s, prepare to do some work, as you get to cut your own Christmas tree.  Don’t fret, though; the folks at the farm will wrap your tree in twine for the ride home.
    2. Allison’s Christmas Trees.  This farm is just outside of Pittsburgh, in Aliquippa, PA.  It boasts a selection of Scotch Pines, White Pines, Blue Spruce, Fraser Firs, Douglas Firs and Concolor Firs for visitors to choose from.  These trees are also available in their pre-cut lot, for those preferring not to cut their own tree.  For convenience, saws are available for use, and the folks there will shake your tree out for loose needles–so they don’t end up on your floor later–before tying it up.  While at Allison’s, stop in the barn for some homemade fudge or take a hayride around the farm.
    3. Simmons Farm.  This farm in McMurray, PA is fun for the whole family.  Simmons’ has a collection of pick-your-own trees, like Frasier Firs, Douglas Firs, and Spruce trees.  This is a full-on farm, selling everything from flowers to fruit, and of course, Christmas trees!  While Hayride season only lasts until the beginning of November, there’s plenty to enjoy while Christmas tree hunting.  Stop in the market for fresh baked goods like pies and nut roll, and pick up a gorgeous fresh wreath or holiday planter.  Also check to see if the corn maze or petting zoo is open.
    4. Hozak Farms has trees for sale through December 23rd this year. Visit the website for more information.

    Tips for Cutting Your Own Christmas Tree

    • Wear Gloves.  Good trees will have plenty of sap that you don’t want on your fingers.  They might also be a bit dirty and pose the risk of splinters.  For these reasons, the designated family tree handler should wear gloves.
    • Select a Fresh Tree.  The best trees will be nice and green and their needles will behave a certain way.  Pines and Spruces will have bendable needles when fresh, though they shouldn’t snap.  Firs, on the other hand, will have stiffer needles that will crack in two when bent.
    • Find a Place for the Tree.  For obvious reasons, it is best to keep Christmas trees away from the fireplace and other heat sources.  Also avoid obstructing doorways.
    • Set Up the Tree.  Get out a sturdy tree stand and cut a few inches off the bottom of the tree trunk.  Keep an eye on the water level in the stand, adding water when necessary, so your tree doesn’t dry out.
    • Decorate.  When plugging in lights, try not to overload your extension cord with too many light sets and exercise caution while placing ornaments—you don’t want to drop those pretty decorations or weigh the branches down.

    The holidays are great fun, and one of the best ways to kick off the season is to go out and pick your own tree!  It’s a nice family bonding experience, and the suggestions here will hopefully help in making your Christmas joyful and bright.  Happy holidays everyone!

  4. Must-Do North Carolina Triangle Christmas Activities for 2012

    As the holiday season revs up, many of us are planning for the fun things we’d like to do during the holidays.  In the North Carolina Triangle, the possibilities are nearly endless.  Read on for a sampling of the great activities happening in Raleigh, Durham, Angier, Cary and Crayton.

    Raleigh Holiday Events

    As Christmas nears, consider stopping by and soaking up the fun of the Lafayette Village Tree Lighting and Santa’s Trolley.  The trees light up on December 1st from 5-8pm, and promise to bring plenty of activities for all ages.  From 6-8, kids can hop up on Santa’s lap and whisper their holiday desires and listen to Christmas carols throughout the evening by the Peace College Carolers while mom and dad enjoy deals and raffles from countless merchants (including Gigi’s Boutique, Savory Spice Shop and Upper Crust Pie & Bakery). Of course, let’s not forget the tree lighting ceremony itself, taking place in the middle of it all at 7pm, and opportunities to support those who need a little help this year with donations to Toys for Tots and Shoe Box Recycling.

    Santa’s Trolley will also make a few appearances in Raleigh this year, on December 15th and 22nd from 5-7pm.   For a small fee ($10), riders will start off at Mordecai Historic Park and travel throughout Raleigh with Santa and his elf.  A wintery tour may just be the ticket to getting you in the holiday spirit this year, and is a great way to explore our beautiful city.  Reservations must be booked in advance.

    Durham For the Holiday

    Head on over to Durham this year for a fun-filled festival!  The Holiday Fun Fest will take place on December 1st from 1-5pm at Durham Central Park’s Farmer’s Market Pavilion and is host to a myriad of exciting activities.  Most definitely a family-friendly event, parents and children may enjoy activities like the petting zoo, peppermint plunge snow sledding, a tricycle race, mini-parade and more!  Make your way to the Durham Armory to hang out with Santa, too!

    Angier Holiday Events

    The town of Angier celebrates in a big way right after Thanksgiving with Christmas on the Square and the Annual Christmas Parade.  Beginning at 6:30 on November 29th, Christmas on the Square kicks off at the Depot downtown.  Visitors will start the night at the gorgeous Tree Lighting ceremony, and then the wild rumpus starts!  Crafts, hay rides, and the Polar Express (both the story and the train ride!) will certainly appeal to children, as will a visit with Santa Claus.  Grown-ups will surely enjoy the arts at this event, including a choral ensemble, Celtic cloggers and a caroling quartet.

    Take a day to cool down from the dizzying activities at the Square, and come back on December 1st for the Christmas Parade at 10am.  Numerous bands will play as clowns and dancers amuse spectators.  Participants can enjoy the sights of fun floats and throughout the morning and wave as Santa and Mrs. Claus pass by.

    Christmas in Cary

    Each year, Cary is home to the St. Nicholas European Christmas Market and Open House.  December 1st from 10am-4pm at Saints Cyril and Methodius Byzantine Catholic Church, Cary will host the 5th annual market for all to enjoy.  Celebrating Christmas the way we ought to, the church will feature suggestions for celebrating the holiday, showcase art of religious icons and educate participants about the Eastern Catholic religion.  No holiday market would be complete, however, without loads of shopping opportunities and great food!  Interesting items from different parts of the world, such as ornaments and linens, will appeal to a variety of tastes, as will mouth-watering dishes like kielbasa, nut rolls and pierogi.  The sounds of the season will surely lift the spirit as well, provided by the Little German Band.

    Clayton Holiday Events

    If you aren’t paraded out yet, take a trip to Clayton on December 8th for the Clayton Christmas Parade.  The Clayton Chamber of Commerce will begin their parade at 3pm on Main Street downtown.  The usual cast of characters will all be present and accounted for, including church organizations, marching bands, crazy floats and Mr. Ho-Ho-Ho himself!

    These are just some of the things to look forward to this holiday season in North Carolina’s Triangle (and it’s a lot to take in!).  Keep an eye out for all holiday happenings in your community to get the most out of the season.  Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown or whoever you may be. Enjoy the season!

  5. How Not To Find A Stud In Drywall (Video)

    There are a few great ways to find a stud, but probing drywall with the blunt side of a hammer like Bryan shows us in the video is not one of them. Follow these tips for less clean up and fewer angry spouses.

    Finding a Stud without Tools
    Frames can usually be found in two places: corners and outlets. Bryan should have started at one end of the garage because it can be assumed that a frame is located at each corner. Measure out from that joint in 16 inch installments to mark each stud that is hiding behind the drywall. Those 16 inches are not an arbitrary distance. We use that distance because most American homes use 16-inch spaces during construction. Like every rule, there are exceptions. Some older homes have 24-inch gaps so it is essential to determine the spacing before ever reaching for a hammer or drill.

    Studs can also be found to the right or left of outlets. Electricians prefer to mount outlets and switches on studs for stability. The challenge is determining which side. To find approximately where the stud is located, use the tried and true knocking test for drywall.

    Start where you assume a stud to be—either 16 inches from a corner or directly next to an outlet. Knock gently on the drywall and listen for a change in tone. The space between studs has a hollow, drum-like sound. Move from side to side until that sound becomes more solid. Compare the difference between knocking on a cupboard door and knocking on a sturdy kitchen table. We’re looking for the table’s solid thud sound.

    Tools for Finding a Stud
    Electric stud finders take some guess work out of the search, but it’s still not automated. For $10-70, an electric tool locates each side of the stud and it is your responsibility to find the middle. Just mark the two edges with a pencil and aim the nail or screw for the center.

    Another popular tool is a magnetic stud finder, which is cheaper ($3-10) and locates the center every time. The only requirement is a larger range of motion. With an electric device, the stud is found through a surge in capacitance, or static electricity from the stud so any part of it will trigger the sensors. Magnetic devices search for drywall nails used during construction. Drywall nails are not placed the entire length of the frame so you must slide the tool both vertically and horizontally. But once the magnet locates nails, you can be certain that the center of the stud is right there with them.

    Final Tips
    If you locate a stud but miss it with the nail or screw, try to use the same hole before creating a new one. Simply angle the nail in either direction and gently tap until you find it. That will save your walls from unneeded holes and make you appear much smarter than our friend Bryan.

    Happy hunting!

  6. Benefits of Direct Vent Gas Fireplaces

    Heartland Homes exclusively uses Heat & Glo direct vent gas fireplaces in new houses. Let’s take a deeper look at the technology behind direct vent gas fireplaces and why we love them.

    What is ‘direct vent’?

    A direct vent fireplace does not require a chimney. The fireplace directly vents outdoors through a single vent, which can be either horizontal or vertical. The fire chamber is not open-burning like a traditional fireplace; rather, the chamber is sealed off from the house. Thus, the direct vent fireplace is a closed system.

    How does it work?

    The fire is typically ignited by a switch (either manually or via remote control), and fueled by a gas line. The fireplace draws in air from the single vent for oxygen to fuel combustion. Through that same vent, the fireplace expels unwanted by-products, including carbon monoxide, nitrogen monoxide, and smoke. This is possible because the vent uses a double-walled pipe; the outer pipe sucks air inside and the inner piper vents gasses outside.

    The heat from the fire is typically transferred to the house via the sealed glass front of the fireplace.

    What are the benefits?

    Direct vent gas fireplaces have several benefits, including fuel efficiency, safety, little indoor pollution, and less outdoor pollution than traditional wood-buring fireplaces.

    Efficiency: Direct vent fireplaces are very efficient for several reasons.

    1. The gasses are expelled through the inner pipe are hot, which heat up the air coming through the outer pipe. The fact that the incoming air is already hot increases efficiency, since the air does not cool things down.
    2. A direct vent provides the optimal amount of oxygen needed for combustion.
    3. Direct vent fireplaces are hot upon ignition, circumventing the loss-efficiency kindling period of wood-burning.
    4. The closed system of direct vent fireplaces helps ensure that heat goes where it should instead of being lost through a large chimney.

    Safety: Direct vent gas fireplaces are known as a safe and healthy choice because they exhaust all by-products of the fire outdoors. Traditional fireplaces let some gases escape into the house:

    1. Carbon monoxide is poisonous and can be deadly.
    2. Nitrogen dioxide is toxic and may cause respiratory symptoms.
    3. Particulate matter consists of tiny solid particles (basically airborne soot) which irritate the lungs.

    Thus, operating a direct vent fireplace has no negative effect on indoor air quality, unlike many other options. Also, because the front is sealed, there is no risk of embers or sparks jumping and catching a rug or other item fire.

    Convenience: The direct vent fireplace typically takes up very little space.

    1. There is no clearance needed to ensure that flammable items are out of the range of sparks or ashes, so homeowners can have furnishings and items closer to this kind of fireplace.
    2. The vent takes up less space than a large chimney would.
    3. These fireplaces are rather easy to maintain. There is no chopping wood or getting rid of ashes.
    4. It can be ignited as easily as flipping a switch or using a remote.

    Eco-friendliness: Gas fireplaces pollute less than many other options.

    1. Natural gas has less particulate matter than wood.
    2. This type of fireplace is very efficient in terms of units of heat generated per unit of fuel used. Because less fuel is needed, fewer pollutants are released into the air.

    Explanations contributed by High’s Chimney Service, experts in chimney and gas fireplace repair in Maryland and Northern Virginia.

  7. Top regional communities for home sales

    Recently, the Pittsburgh Business Times ran a story on a study by RealSTATS regarding residential communities in the Pittsburgh area. RealSTATS ranked the top 10 communities in the region by 2011 home sales. Guess what? Heartland Homes builds in developments in 7 of those 10. Below is the full list.

    1. Cranberry Township:$159,565,810 in total 2011 home sales (find new homes in Cranberry Twp by Heartland)
    2. Adams Township: $123,676,618 in home sales (find new homes in Adams Twp by Heartland)
    3. Peters Township: $123,554,552 in home sales (find new Heartland Homes in Peters)
    4. 14th Ward Pittsburgh: $123,350,719 in home sales (the 14th Ward includes the neighborhoods of Squirrel Hill and Point Breeze)
    5. Mt. Lebanon: $114,102,574 in home sales
    6. Pine Township: $84,134,651 in home sales (view new Heartland Homes in Pine Twp, PA)
    7. McCandless: $73,860,714 in home sales
    8. Upper St. Clair: $72,341,000 in home sales (find Heartland’s new homes in Upper St. Clair)
    9. Moon Township: $70,506,722 in home sales (find new houses in Moon, PA)
    10. Franklin Park Boro: $68,401,622 in home sales (see Heartland’s new houses in Franklin Park Boro)

    They say the 3 most important things in real estate are location, location, location. We try to develop in the best towns and communities around, so we suppose it’s no small wonder that we see such demand for housing in these areas.

  8. Trick or Treat Times 2011 in Heartland Homes Communities

    Amherst Village – Adams Township – October 31, 6-8 PM

    Beechwood – Bethel Park – October 31, 6-8 PM

    Berringer Court – Moon Township – October 31, 6:30-8 PM

    Briarwood – Franklin Park – October 31, 6-8 PM

    Brookfield Manor – Bethel Park/ South Park – October 31, 6-8 PM

    Cameron Estates – South Strabane – October 31, 5:30-7 PM

    Chadwick Estates – Peters Township – October 31, 6-8 PM

    Concord Green – North Strabane – October 31, 6-8 PM

    Edgewater – Oakmont – October 31, 6-8 PM

    Fayette Farms – North Fayette – October 31, 6-8 PM

    Franklin Run – Franklin Park – October 31, 6-8 PM

    Heartwood Farms – Cecil Township – October 31, 6-7:30 PM

    Heritage Estates – Ohio Township – October 31, 6-8 PM

    Hiddenbrook – Peters Township – October 31, 6-8 PM

    Legacy Village – Sewickley – October 31, 6-8 PM

    Meadow Ridge – Forward Township –  October 31, 5-8 PM

    Morning Grove – Adams Township – October 31, 6-8 PM

    Myoma Woods – Adams Township – October 31, 6-8 PM

    Mystic Ridge – Cranberry Township – October 31, 6-8 PM

    Neville Manor – Collier Township – October 31, 6-8 PM

    Newbury –  South Fayette  – October 31, 6-8 PM

    Northtowne Estates – Marshall Township – October 31, 6-8 PM (Parade Oct. 29th 1PM)

    Oakbrooke Estates – Cecil Township – October 31, 6-7:30 PM

    Orchard Park – Cranberry Township – October 31, 6-8 PM

    Parkview Estates – Richland Township – October 31, 6-8 PM

    Pinecrest – Pine Township – October 31, 6-8 PM (Parade Oct. 28 – 6-8 PM)

    Providence Point – Marshall Township – October 31, 6-8 PM (Parade Oct. 29 – 1PM)

    Sonoma Ridge – Moon Township – October 31, 6:30-8 PM

    Stonecrest – Pine Township – October 31, 6-8 PM (Parade Oct. 28 – 6-8 PM)

    The Summit at Cheat Lake – Morgantown – October 31, 6-7:30 PM

    The Village at Sweetwater – Sewickley – October 31, 6-8 PM

    Trotwood Acres – Robinson Township – October 31, 6-8 PM

    Walnut Ridge – Nottingham Township – October 31, 6-8 PM

    Weavertown Village – North Strabane – October 31, 6-8 PM

    Willowbrook – South Fayette – October 31, 6-8 PM

  9. The Tortoise and The Hare: The Battle of the Builders

    The Tortoise and The HareThere once were two homebuilders in the city with three rivers. Each in a race to become the very Best of the ‘Burgh.  Both builders strive to be top dog in the Iron City, but each having their own philosophy of how to become number one.

    The first home builder has been building homes for many years, as fast as he could and at the most rapid of paces.  Throwing up houses as fast as hare-manly possible, each house the same, side by side, side by side, each house the same.  Sale by Sale, Side by Side, Sale by Sale.  The Hare’s philosophy was to build a house with limited options so that you can sell them, build them, and leave them as fast as possible.  Sell them, build them, leave them, and then on to the next one.  Dropping cookie cutter houses in cookie cutter communities, like litter on the side of the highway.

    The Hare thought that the best builder was the one who built the most houses each year.  Minimum attention to quality and detail, the Hare built 4-walled cookie-cutter boxes quickly and carelessly.  Swiftly putting up houses on cheap land and cramming as many as possible into each community.  “I built the most houses”, says the Hare “Therefore, I am the best in the city” “No one can build as many houses as I can!”

    The Hare’s ignorant remarks did hold some truth, no one could build as many houses as the Hare, but the Tortoise believed that truly earning the title, Best of the Burgh meant much more than just building homes as fast as you can.  The Tortoise believed that becoming the best meant building the best homes.

    The Tortoise believed in building the most energy efficient home, each and every time. Homes that saved owners money by being more efficient.

    The Tortoise understood that the great people that lived in his city did not want a cookie cutter box thrown on some land in some township.  He actually went into the community and asked people what they really wanted.  He learned that the people wanted homes, not house, that they could design themselves.  Dream Homes with limitless options and the ability to change the size of a room, add a front porch, choose the brick color, paint color, and even the smallest of details like hardware in the kitchen or location of an electrical outlet in the bedroom.

    The people wanted beautiful homes with big useable yards.  Private cul-de-sac streets, private wooded homesites, and homes in convenient locations with access to major roadways and in the best school districts!  The Tortoise also learned that all homeowners are not the same.  Some people wanted two story castles, others a low maintenance townhome, or a single level home with a first floor master.  Not everyone wants a cookie cutter box! And no one should ever have to decide between Cookie Cutter House A and Cookie Cutter House B.

    So as the years pass, the Tortoise and the Hare continue building houses the only way they know how.  Year after year, the Hare sells more houses than the Tortoise, but the Tortoise continues to build quality homes with only the best products.  The school districts that the Tortoise builds in continue to capture national recognition. And generally speaking are more satisfied with their custom built homes.

    PrintAs this tale continues as to whom is the better home builder, let us leave you with some facts.  The Hare is continuing its hairy ways of building homes. SELLING more homes than the Tortoise.  But, the Tortoise has slowly but surely grabbing the attention of its beloved city, not only winning more than 30 awards for its skillfully designed floorplans, communities, quality and green practices, but the Tortoise has been named THE BEST OF THE BURGH by the Pittsburgh Magazine for the past two years consecutively.

    Time will tell who will win the race for 1st place, or you can just ask one of the Tortoise’s homeowners.  (Most of them once lived in one of the Hare’s houses)


    LITTLE KNOWN FACT:  The Tortoise is a figurative term. The Tortoise in our story is not slow at all.  His efficiency allows him to complete a house, on average, in less than 5 months.

  10. Thanksgiving Recipes from Our Home to Yours

    Nearly 600 Heartland Home Owners will have their very First Thanksgiving in their new home this year, and because we know how special this day will be, we have compiled a list of our favorite recipes so that you can spend more time with your family and less time stressing over dinner.

    Turkey Dream It! BIRD It! Love It! (Turkey)

    • 1 (18 pound) whole turkey
    • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
    • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
    • 1 1/2 quarts turkey stock
    • 8 cups prepared stuffing


    1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C). Place rack in the lowest position of the oven.
    2. Remove the turkey neck and giblets, rinse the turkey, and pat dry with paper towels. Place the turkey, breast side up, on a rack in the roasting pan. Loosely fill the body cavity with stuffing. Rub the skin with the softened butter, and season with salt and pepper. Position an aluminum foil tent over the turkey.
    3. Place turkey in the oven, and pour 2 cups turkey stock into the bottom of the roasting pan. Baste all over every 30 minutes with the juices on the bottom of the pan. Whenever the drippings evaporate, add stock to moisten them, about 1 to 2 cups at a time. Remove aluminum foil after 2 1/2 hours. Roast until a meat thermometer inserted in the meaty part of the thigh reads 180 degrees F (80 degrees C), about 4 hours.
    4. Transfer the turkey to a large serving platter, and let it stand for at least 20 to 30 minutes before carving.

    Yummy Yinzer Sweet Potato Casserole

    • Sweet Potato Casserole4 cups sweet potato, cubed
    • 1/2 cup white sugar
    • 2 eggs, beaten
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 4 tablespoons butter, softened
    • 1/2 cup milk
    • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
    • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
    • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
    • 3 tablespoons butter, softened
    • 1/2 cup chopped pecans


    1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Put sweet potatoes in a medium saucepan with water to cover. Cook over medium high heat until tender; drain and mash.
    2. In a large bowl, mix together the sweet potatoes, sugar, eggs, salt, butter, milk and vanilla. Mix until smooth. Transfer to a 9×13 inch baking dish.
    3. In medium bowl, mix the sugar and flour. Cut in the butter until the mixture is coarse. Stir in the pecans. Sprinkle the mixture over the sweet potato mixture.
    4. Bake in the preheated oven 30 minutes, or until the topping is lightly brown.


    Going Green Bean Casserole

    • 2 (10.75 ounce) cans Campbell’s Condensed Cream of Mushroom Soup or Campbell’s Condensed 98% Fat Free Cream of Mushroom Soup
    • 1 cup milk
    • 2 teaspoons soy sauce
    • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
    • 8 cups cooked cut green beans
    • 2 2/3 cups French’s French Fried Onions


    1. Stir soup, milk, soy sauce, pepper, beans and 1 1/3 cups onions in 3-qt. casserole.
    2. Place in your energy efficient, ENERGY Star partnered oven and Bake at 350 degrees F. for 25 min. or until hot. Stir.
    3. Top with remaining onions. Bake for 5 min. more.

    Pittsburgh Pumpkin Pie

    • pumpkinpie1 (9 inch) unbaked deep dish pie crust
    • 3/4 cup white sugar
    • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
    • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
    • 2 eggs
    • 1 (15 ounce) can LIBBY’S 100% Pure Pumpkin
    • 1 (12 fluid ounce) can NESTLE CARNATION Evaporated Milk


    1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
    2. Combine sugar, salt, cinnamon, ginger and cloves in small bowl. Beat eggs lightly in large bowl. Stir in pumpkin and sugar-spice mixture. Gradually stir in evaporated milk. Pour into pie shell.
    3. Bake for 15 minutes. Reduce temperature to 350 degrees F.; bake for 40 to 50 minutes or until knife inserted near center comes out clean. Cool on wire rack for 2 hours. Serve immediately or refrigerate. (Do not freeze as this will cause the crust to separate from the filling.)


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