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Cleaning: What Not to Do

Posted on Friday, January 7th, 2022 at 1:00am.

Cleaning: What Not to Do

Believe it or not, despite your best efforts, some of your cleaning habits may be doing more harm than good. Be sure not to do the following:

Closing the washing machine door. Closing the door after a load of wash is done seems like a no-brainer. In actuality, you should be leaving the washing machine door open when the laundry is finished. The airflow will actually help prevent mold and mildew from building up inside your machine. If your laundry isn’t smelling as clean as it should after washing and drying, that could be the culprit. When leaving the door open, take extra care if you have small children and pets.

Using paper towels to clean glass. When cleaning mirrors and windows, your best bet is a microfiber cloth. Paper towels will leave streaks and a trail of lint.

Using a spray cleaner on car windows. A spray cleaner will leave a pattern of drops and streaks on car windows, so opt for a foam cleaner instead. 

Microwaving kitchen sponges. According to studies from Real Simple, microwaving sponges to clean them is not as effective as once thought, so using them to clean kitchen counters, etc. may actually be spreading bacteria. The safer bet? Replace your sponges once a week, or use cleaning cloths that can be put through the washing machine.

Not cleaning your cell phone. Since our cell phones tend to go everywhere, studies have revealed that they may carry more germs than a toilet seat! So even if you’ve done a great job cleaning your home’s surface, every time you place your phone down is a chance for spreading bacteria. Follow safe practices for cleaning electronics, and make sure to regularly clean your mobile devices.

Make these few, quick adjustments to your routines for more effective cleaning and a healthier home.

Source: Real Simple


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Unexpected Costs for First-Time Homebuyers

Posted on Saturday, January 8th, 2022 at 1:00am.

Unexpected Costs for First-Time Homebuyers

Unexpected Costs for First-Time Homebuyers

Some first-time buyers are surprised by the full cost of homeownership.

To prepare your budget, consider these extra costs:

Closing costs typically total 2 – 5 percent of the purchase price and are in addition to down payments.

Homeowners insurance costs an average of around $1,000 a year, but prices vary. If in a flood or earthquake zone, you’ll need extra hazard insurance.

Property taxes could range from hundreds of dollars to thousands a year, and they often fluctuate.

All home maintenance becomes your responsibility, so save money for normal upkeep and emergency repairs.

You’ll also need to pay for all utilities. If moving from a smaller apartment, expect the larger home to have higher bills.

Nevertheless, the pride of homeownership is priceless.


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3 Marble Alternatives to Use In Your Home

Posted on Sunday, January 9th, 2022 at 1:00am.

3 Marble Alternatives to Use In Your Home

When it comes to designing a luxurious kitchen or bathroom, few materials are as widely beloved as marble. It’s literally been used for centuries thanks to the timeless and elegant appeal that it evokes, yet there are some drawbacks to this surface. Because marble is a soft and porous stone, it’s vulnerable to both staining and etching, which can be particularly problematic if you want to use it in your kitchen. 

If you’re willing to apply a sealant to your countertops a couple times a year, that’s one solution. Some homeowners, however, simply don’t have the time for that. If you want the beautiful aesthetic of marble countertops without having to worry about the regular maintenance, here are several alternatives to bring into your home.

Calacatta Michelangelo, Laminam
Laminam is known for producing large porcelain slabs that boast extreme durability and resistance to scratching or staining, and their wide collection of surfaces are as beautiful as they are functional. One of their most impressive is Calacatta Michelangelo, which bears striking resemblance to the iconic gold veins of Calacatta Borghini marble and will give your home a seriously lavish look.

Statuario Maximus 5031, Caesarstone
If you love the deep-veined pattern of Statuario marble, then this engineered quartz surface from Caesarstone is well worth consideration. Statuario Maximus comes in a polished finish that requires minimal maintenance so you can skip the waxes and sealants while still enjoying the look of a marble kitchen.

Et Marquina, Silestone
Black marble tends to be more common in modern or contemporary settings and if you want to capture that look in your home, then Et Marquina from Silestone is the answer. The black surface has white veins and is practically identical to Nero Marquina marble in terms of appearance. However, it’s made from a combination of quartz and other raw materials that make for a high-performance surface you need not worry about staining.


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How to Properly Babyproof Your Home

Posted on Monday, January 10th, 2022 at 1:00am.

How to Properly Babyproof Your Home

Babyproofing your home is an essential step to keeping your child safe. All over the house, spanning from the bathroom to the fireplace, their nursery to your kitchen, there are potential threats and risks that can cause serious harm. 

First things first, you’ll want to take a good look at common factors throughout your home, such as electrical outlets, smoke and carbon-monoxide detectors and doorways. Each of these commonalities can create a potentially dangerous situation that can be easily avoided.

Outlets, for example, are generally low to the ground and accessible for walkers and crawlers. Cover each open outlet with a plastic cap, and for those where items are plugged in, you can either move a large piece of furniture in front to block the cord or purchase plastic cord covers.

Be sure to check all smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. If batteries are low or have never been changed, change them! You can also consider upgrading the tech in your home and purchasing detectors that you can keep an eye on from your phone, featuring notification updates before a service is required. 

Baby gates are another great safety solution. If you live in a home that doesn’t have an “open” floor plan, you risk your baby crawling or walking into another room unsupervised. With a baby gate, you can keep your baby confined to the area where you can keep an eye on them, even when you’re cooking, cleaning or doing laundry. These are also important to keep at the top and bottom of a staircase, preventing your baby from a potential fatal fall or injury.

Next, go room by room, inspecting features that could cause harm or pose a threat to your baby. 

Start in the kitchen, where you get easily preoccupied – cooking, cleaning and conversing – and will inevitably turn your back from your child. Remove all the cleaning supplies from under your sink or any other low cabinet and place them into a top cabinet. Add safety latches to the lower doors, however, ensure that whatever is inside is safe for a baby to get a hold of, such as pots and pans and Tupperware. Also purchase stove-knob covers and avoid the possibility of a small child turning on a burner. 

Move into the living room, where there are most likely low tables and plenty of sharp corners that you will want to guard with corner bumpers. If you have a fireplace with a hearth, be sure that it’s properly secured or blocked off. Fireplaces themselves should also be blocked off, especially when lit. Buy a screen or gate to ward off babies and small children from getting close to the flames. Be sure to mount or secure large bookshelves and televisions so they can’t topple over. It’s also helpful to install cordless blinds and store away delicate items that can be easily broken.

Now for the bathroom. Like a kitchen, a bathroom can be one of the most dangerous rooms in a home for a baby. Again, remove all cleaning supplies and store them in a closet on a high shelf, out of reach. Keep medicines and razors in a medicine cabinet with a latch for added safety. Also get yourself a thermometer to test the temperature of bath water, making sure it’s not too hot. Remember to never leave your baby or small child alone in a bathroom, especially in a bathtub filled with water, to avoid drowning. 

Lastly, take a final look at the nursery. This room will likely be the safest in the house, as well as where your baby may spend most of their time playing and exploring. Be sure to purchase a crib that meets safety standards. If you happen to acquire a hand-me-down crib, check that all safety regulations are met before you take a chance. Keep toys and stuffed animals in reach, as long as they aren’t small enough to be a choking hazard. 

Double check that all safety precautions are taken in each room of your house. You’ll want to avoid as many potential injuries or risks as possible, so ask other family members to play a part in making sure that your house is prepped for safety and ready for a baby.


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Common Mistakes First-Time Homebuyers Make

Posted on Tuesday, January 11th, 2022 at 1:00am.

Common Mistakes First-Time Homebuyers Make

Common Mistakes First-Time Homebuyers Make

Buying a house is complicated. First-time buyers can make costly mistakes. Here are things to avoid…

Not Knowing What You Can Afford

Use a mortgage affordability calculator to avoid wasting time looking at listings that are too expensive.

Not Comparing Rates

By applying to several lenders, you could secure a loan with much more favorable terms.

Not Checking Your Credit Report

Check your credit and, if you find any errors, contact the credit bureau to have them corrected before you apply for a mortgage.

Choosing the Wrong Down Payment

A low down payment makes homeownership more attainable, but you may get charged higher interest.

Not Considering Other Costs

Be sure to factor in property taxes, insurance, maintenance, repairs and utilities into your budget.


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Packing 101: Tips and Tricks to Help Make Moving Day a Breeze

Posted on Wednesday, January 12th, 2022 at 1:00am.

Packing 101: Tips and Tricks to Help Make Moving Day a Breeze

So you’ve decided to make the big move, and now it’s time to put everything in boxes. First you think big-picture (furniture), and then you think small-picture and realize you own much more than you ever imaged. Packing can be a daunting task, but with some extra legwork at the beginning, your unpacking can become a walk in the park.

Labeling Hacks
The worst thing about packing is that once all the boxes are in the truck, there’s no remembering what went where. There are several techniques you can put in place, like numbering your boxes to make sure none go missing, indicating which room the boxes are supposed to go to, or color-coding them to indicate their contents—anything that helps you identify the contents and the destination of your boxes is a go.

Practicality
Make sure that every box is packed as efficiently as possible. For example, plates are better off stacked vertically, and make sure heavy objects like books are packed in something with handles. As for all your baskets and suitcases? Put them all to good use by turning them into more packing boxes. Label cords, or take pictures of the cord setup to make sure you remember what goes where. Pack highly fragile or valuable items to take with you, and make sure to have a bag prepared with all of the things you will need upon arrival. (Don’t leave your shampoo in one of the countless moving boxes!)

Movers vs. Friends
While it is a great money-saver to have your friends help you pack up everything, if you have many valuables, it might be a better option to go ahead and pay the movers. A lot of moving companies are liable for anything that is broken or damaged, so you’ll be able to get reimbursed if anything gets damaged. And while your friends may commit to helping you, emergencies or other eventualities may result in a moving day no-show. A moving company will always have back-up, even if your originally scheduled movers call in sick.

Get in the Right Mentality
Moving has everything to do with being in the right mindset. To achieve that, you first have to make sure you get a good night’s rest. Once you’re well rested, make the commitment to move everything out in one day. Know that loading the truck will take longer than you anticipated, and that things will not pan out exactly as you planned them. Instead, be ready to think creatively as situations arise. Find comfort in the thought that once this day is over, you will be moved into your new house!


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5 Things You Need to Know About Concrete Countertops

Posted on Thursday, January 13th, 2022 at 1:00am.

5 Things You Need to Know About Concrete Countertops

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What You Need to Know About Flood Insurance

Posted on Friday, January 14th, 2022 at 1:00am.

What You Need to Know About Flood Insurance

In the wake of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, the latest storms to devastate thousands of American homes, homeowners may find themselves wondering whether to consider flood insurance.

For those in areas perceived as vulnerable, it’s no decision since it’s required as a condition of their home loan. For others, it raises the same questions as other types of insurance; namely, when does the premium outweigh the actual risk? A $650 annual premium, the amount the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) cites as average, seems like a lot to pay if you never use the coverage.

Since flood damage is not covered under the average homeowner policy, Nerdwallet, a consumer advisor website, tells USA Today what factors to consider in deciding whether to purchase flood insurance:

Even a minimum amount of flooding can have disastrous financial results. According to the NFIP, one foot of water could cause $27,150 of damage to a 1,000-square-foot home. That said, if you live in a low-risk zone that has never sustained serious flood damage, weigh the coverage cost against the likelihood of filing a claim. A reasonable option might be to set aside money in a repair fund—a good idea for homeowners in any case.

Consider having the amount you’d pay in premiums automatically deposited each month into a high-yield checking or money market account, which nets better returns than simply saving cash. And check with a financial advisor because some states allow customers to place emergency funds in Catastrophe Savings Accounts exempt from state income tax. (Federal taxes still apply, and disbursements are taxed as normal if withdrawn for purposes other than flood repairs.)

Where to Buy, How to Save

Available national (NFIP) or state programs may be best, but some private insurers offer flood insurance with lower premiums, so get quotes. You can save a little by choosing a higher deductible or less coverage. Just be sure you can come through with any needed cash.

The Bottom Line

If you live in a moderate to low-risk area, check with your financial advisor or real estate agent. A flood policy in such an area could cost less than your monthly cell phone bill, and could save you money if your home sustains flood damage.


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The Best Benefits of Smart Appliances

Posted on Saturday, January 15th, 2022 at 1:00am.

The Best Benefits of Smart Appliances

The Best Benefits of Smart Appliances

Here are just a few benefits of smart appliances that are worth getting excited about.

Energy Insights

These days, pretty much all smart appliances are going to be energy efficient, which means they’re good for the environment and will lower your energy bill.

Easy Troubleshooting

When an appliance doesn’t seem to be working properly, advanced diagnostics will provide you with instructions on how to troubleshoot the problem.

Connected Convenience

There’s no denying that being able to control all of your appliances via an app on your smartphone makes life easier.

Streamlined Functionality

When it comes to functionality, you can expect to get more out of these state-of-the-art appliances.


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How to Prepare for a Home Loan Refi

Posted on Sunday, January 16th, 2022 at 1:00am.

How to Prepare for a Home Loan Refi

Just as you want to put your best financial foot forward when applying for a mortgage to buy your first home, you also want to prepare your finances before refinancing a home loan.

A mortgage refi can pay for a kitchen or bathroom remodel, for example, or for something as simple as replacing a home’s windows. A home equity line of credit or a home equity loan are two common ways to refinance, and preparing for the process can make the approval process smoother. You could even qualify for a lower interest rate on your home loan by improving your credit score.

Here are some things to do before applying for a mortgage refinance:

Check Your Credit Report
Federal law allows people to check their credit reports for free each year. Since there are three major credit bureaus—Experian, Equifax and TransUnion—consumers can check with each agency every four months for free.

Fix any errors you find, such as late payments that you have proof of paying on time. Eliminating any errors can improve your credit score and allow you to borrow more money at a lower interest rate.

Pay Down Debt and Save Cash
If your credit card balances are near your credit limits, pay the debt down so that it’s no more than 30 percent of your credit limit. Lenders don’t like to see credit cards that are maxed out or close to it, and may consider you a credit risk if you’re using most of your available credit.

Keep your credit card balances low for at least a few months before applying for a home loan refinance.

Also save as much money as you can in your savings account as a way to show that you can weather a financial storm such as a job loss or major medical cost. Having six months or more of expenses saved is a good goal.

Low LTV
If you owe more than 80 percent of your home’s value, then you may be too high to qualify for a loan refi—or at least at a good interest rate.

A loan-to-value ratio, also called LTV ratio, is a lending risk assessment that was done before you applied for your original home loan. The more money you put toward a down payment, the lower the ratio and the lower risk you are considered to be. Buying mortgage insurance can help offset a high risk.

As part of a home loan refinance, a lender will order an appraisal of your home’s value. Your real estate agent can help you prepare for this by giving you a rough estimate based on recent home sales in your area.

If you put down 20 percent toward the purchase price of your home, for example, then you owe 80 percent of its value, giving you an LTV of 80 percent. You could have more than 20 percent equity, however, if your home’s value has risen. If home values have dropped in your neighborhood, then you may want to rethink refinancing for now.


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Creative Ways to Use That Spare Bedroom

Posted on Monday, January 17th, 2022 at 1:00am.

Creative Ways to Use That Spare Bedroom

If you’re lucky enough to have a spare bedroom, you may want to think of it less as a rarely used landing spot for guests or a place to store extra ‘stuff,’ and more as a blank canvas – a pleasant spot you can use for rest, relaxation, hobbies or exercise, or even as a money-making option.

Consider these inspiring ideas from room designers and creative thinkers:

  • Get crafty – Do you sew occasionally? Like to draw or paint? Love to do amazing gift-wraps? Fill the room with smart choices of furnishings, storage, tables and accessories to make your hobby more fun than ever.

 

  • Make it personal – Turn the room into a ma’am- or man-cave, with comfy furnishings, a TV and sound system and anything else you need to make it a cozy, personal retreat.

 

  • Make it a study – Create a cheerful home office space where you or your kids can pay bills, read online or study without interruption. Install a work counter/desk across one wall, add enough chairs and supply drawers, plus computers and printers as needed.

 

  • Build your own library – Booklovers can line the walls with shelving, collect books to their heart’s content, install a chair or two and some great reading light, and revel in a private library.

 

  • Make music – For parents and/or kids with a passion for making music, lay down thick carpeting to soak up sound, add a few comfy floor cushions for musically inclined visitors and make room to jam with friends or solo with as many instruments as you wish.

 

  • Start a garden – Wish you had a greenhouse? You can cultivate seedlings in that spare room from the waning days of winter through early spring. Buy ready-made shelving and add light fixtures and supplies appropriate for nurturing baby plants.

 

  • Sweat it out – Whether you practice yoga, run or do strength training, you’ll be more motivated, better disciplined and more excited about your workouts in a dedicated exercise space. Drag that treadmill out of the basement, add all the exercise equipment you want and go!

 

  • Airbnb it – Make a few extra bucks by renting out your guest room through Airbnb. Outfit the space with attractive towels, linens and toiletries, and make sure your home’s Wi-Fi password is prominently displayed.

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What You Should Know About Biophilic Home Design

Posted on Tuesday, January 18th, 2022 at 1:00am.

What You Should Know About Biophilic Home Design

What You Should Know About Biophilic Home Design

Looking for a living space that will help you reconnect with Mother Nature? Here’s what you should know about biophilic design. 

The Basics

At its core, this design movement is all about creating a living space that feels like it’s a part of nature. 

Design Solutions

Breaking down the barrier between indoor and outdoor spaces is a big part of biophilic design.

A retractable glass wall lets in sunlight in the winter and can open to the outdoors in the summer.

The Benefits

When we feel closer to nature,we’re more relaxed and in tune with our surroundings.

Additionally, biophilic design requires using clean, natural materials to build homes that use less energy. 


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Costs of Pool Ownership

Posted on Wednesday, January 19th, 2022 at 1:00am.

Costs of Pool Ownership

A backyard pool can look like a lot of fun when you’re house-hunting. Summer days full of swimming and splashing around your pool can be great fun, but sooner or later you’re going to have to face the costs that come with a pool.

Here are some of the costs of pool ownership:

Maintenance
Before buying a home, homebuyers should hire a professional pool company to inspect the pool to ensure it was maintained properly and regularly.

Proper maintenance can keep a pool from falling apart before the end of its expected lifetime, usually 40 years or so if made of concrete. Expect to pay about $100 per month for regular maintenance.

Chemicals
Expect to spend about $100 per month on chemicals to balance the water levels and keep the pH level (acidity) at appropriate levels. High acidity can damage the pool liner, pipes, heater and filter system. Chlorine is needed to kill bacteria and algae.

Equipment
A pool pump filters the water to keep it clean and should run 24 hours a day, adding to your electricity costs. A pump can last up to 10 years and costs about $600. Pumps, filters and chlorination systems can require minor repairs from time to time, so count on about $200 per year for equipment parts.

Electricity
Whether heating the pool or running the pump, expect to pay $200 for electricity for every month of use of your pool.

Insurance
Insurers consider a pool an “attractive nuisance” that may require additional liability insurance. Installing pool gates may be mandated by your insurer or local government, adding an extra cost.

Most homeowner’s policies include at least $100,000 worth of liability protection, though pool owners may want to consider increasing it to $300,000 or $500,000.

An umbrella policy for $1 million in liability protection above what the home already is protected for can cost an extra $200 to $300 per year. Extra insurance may also be needed to replace the pool if it’s destroyed by a storm or other disaster.

All of these costs may not dissuade you from buying a home with a pool, but it’s important information to know before making a real estate investment. At least you’ll know before you get into the pool how much that daily swim will cost you.


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The Key Features of Wet Rooms

Posted on Thursday, January 20th, 2022 at 1:00am.

The Key Features of Wet Rooms

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How to Prep for a Home Inspection

Posted on Thursday, January 20th, 2022 at 1:00am.

How to Prep for a Home Inspection

The home selling process involves many steps, from finding a real estate agent to negotiating your selling price with potential buyers. When it comes to having your home inspected, you have a few options. 

Pre-sale home inspections can be a great start to determine the condition and value of your home. This can be helpful for a seller and agent as the condition of the home can be put into the listing and any immediate issues can be fixed. 

Once a home is listed for sale, the seller can still get an inspection done to prepare for any surprise costs or issues the house may have. Some cities and states require sellers to provide potential buyers with a detailed home inspection, but more commonly than not, buyers will opt for their own as well. 

Whatever route you choose, it is important to prepare your house – and yourself – for a home inspection. And that starts with a clean house. If your house is a mess, that can be an immediate indication to the inspector that the home hasn’t been properly maintained. 

As you’re cleaning, be sure to make room for workspace around the furnace, water heater, air conditioner and electrical boxes. In order to properly check these areas, about four to five feet of space is required. Remember to clear away snow, leaves and brush from exterior inspection points as well. 

Provide your inspector with access to all points of the house, including the attic, basement and garage. Move any large items or boxes a few feet away from the walls and if you happen to find any rodent droppings or cobwebs, remove and clean the area. 

Leave all of your utilities connected, even if the house is vacant. The inspector will have to check the lighting, turn on the stove, run the dishwasher and test out the furnace, among other tasks. If the utilities are off, the inspector will not be able to complete the inspection, reschedule and possibly delay the selling process. 

Lastly, when it comes time for your inspection appointment, be on time, have all documents ready and stay out of the way. Make plans for your children and pets to be out of the house for at least two to three hours. In the case that a prospective buyer accompanies the inspector, it can get awkward to ask questions with the seller present, so it may be best to plan to be away as well. Before you leave, make sure to provide any and all repair invoices and receipts in regards to remodels or updates.


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