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Kitchen Counsel: Tips to Keep That Stainless Steel Shining

Posted on Monday, September 13th, 2021 at 12:00am.

Kitchen Counsel: Tips to Keep That Stainless Steel Shining

If you have ever owned any stainless steel products, you know how beautiful and appealing the look can be. Stainless steel appliances give a renovated kitchen that POP! it needs, while steel also makes for a very durable cookware product that never disturbs flavors, yet guarantees a balanced heating of foods. It also resists corrosion and rust – a bonus for the steel fans!

But sometimes stainless steel appliances can be difficult to keep clean. Here are some quick and easy tips for cleaning steel and maintaining that fresh metallic look:

Clean with water and a cloth. Microfiber cloths are the best option to use when cleaning stainless steel because they absorb all of the water. It’s also a safe product to use to avoid scratching steel surfaces. You’ll want to avoid paper towels or any cloth or towel with a rough surface intended for non-stick cookware. This especially includes steel wool! When drying, dry along the grain to avoid water spots. If you clean or dry aggressively against the grain with regular scouring pads, you will leave marks on your appliance or pan, so be sure to take it easy.

Only use a drop of dish soap. For most cases, a drop of mild dish soap and warm water is all you’ll need to clean a pan or pot, so don’t overthink it! Just be gentle. Alternatively, using white vinegar as a cleaner has also been proven to work. Try it out – that stuff is like magic!

Glass cleaner is your friend. Fingerprints on stainless steel is one of the biggest complaints and it’s a valid concern! No matter how careful you try to be, fingerprints will always end up on your fridge. Spray glass cleaner on a microfiber cloth to get the job done. Wipe away the fingerprint using soft circular wipes. There are newer finishes of stainless steel that are fingerprint resistant, so if you are buying new products be sure to do your research and seek those out.

Keep a stainless steel cleaner on hand. If you need to remove stains or scratches from your stainless steel, using a steel cleaner is a great option. Read the directions on the cleaner and be sure to test the product on an unnoticeable location, just in case. Even if you aren’t trying to remove a stain or hide a scratch, stainless steel cleaner or glass cleaner will help your appliance shine. As always, rinse the area thoroughly afterwards and towel dry.

Stainless steel can be finicky, but with a little TLC, stainless steel will keep your kitchen looking sleek and stylish for years to come.

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4 Reasons Why High-Tech Toilets Are a Must

Posted on Tuesday, September 14th, 2021 at 12:00am.

4 Reasons Why High-Tech Toilets Are a Must

4 Reasons Why High-Tech Toilets Are a Must

Here are a few of the reasons why more and more luxury homes are being equipped with “smart toilets.” 

Super Sanitary

Today’s cutting-edge models boast a self-cleaning functionality, air-purifying systems and automatic flushing.

Personalized Experience

Some high-tech toilets boast adjustable heated seats, foot warmers, ambient colored lighting and even Bluetooth capability.

Built-in Bidets

High-tech toilets often include a remote control to adjust the temperature and spray position of a built-in bidet, as well as a warm air dryer.   

Water Efficient

Toilets are the main source of water use in most homes. However, some “smart toilets” use as little as 0.8 gallons per flush.

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5 Ideas for a Luxurious Outdoor Shower

Posted on Wednesday, September 15th, 2021 at 12:00am.

5 Ideas for a Luxurious Outdoor Shower

Though it may be a luxury that’s often overlooked, an outdoor bathing area adds heaps of appeal to any home. If you’re looking to add one to your house, here’s all the inspiration you’ll need to design a dream-worthy outdoor shower.

Tropical Sanctuary
For complete immersion in nature, you can create a tropical garden theme with lush plantings that offer the utmost privacy and relaxation. Try using plants that feel exotic, like hibiscus and bird of paradise, and you’ll have your own little refuge that feels like a Caribbean resort.

Rustic Appeal
If your home lends itself to more of a farmhouse aesthetic, then you can try designing the shower area with a stone wall for a rural feel. Exposed copper piping furthers the rustic ambiance and makes for an idyllic place to wash all your stress away.

In the Open
Rather than enclosing the shower, another option is to keep it open. This simple solution makes it easy to take a quick rinse after getting out of the pool or spending a day at the beach. All it takes is a luxurious showerhead along the backside of the house and you have everything you’ll need.

Zen Garden
When you need to get away and relax the mind, an enclosed pebble garden with a stone path leading to your outdoor shower is just the place to escape to. You can even include a seating area for quiet reflection or, even better, an outdoor bathtub.

For a distinctly modern look, try using materials like cedar cladding and concrete along with a sleek showerhead. Add a pergola with plants up above and you’ll have the perfect place to take your morning shower throughout the summer months.

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5 Mistakes to Avoid When Shopping For a Home

Posted on Thursday, September 16th, 2021 at 12:00am.

5 Mistakes to Avoid When Shopping For a Home

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What to Do If Your Mortgage Application Was Rejected

Posted on Friday, September 17th, 2021 at 12:00am.

What to Do If Your Mortgage Application Was Rejected

Being turned down for a mortgage can be devastating, but you may still be able to achieve your dream of owning a home. Your lender should provide you with a letter explaining why you were denied. You can use that information to make changes to improve your chance of getting approved for a mortgage in the future, either with the same lender or with a different company.

Boost Your Credit Score
One of the most important factors in a lender’s decision is a mortgage applicant’s credit score. You should’ve checked your credit report for errors before you submitted your loan application, but if you didn’t, check it now. Lenders frequently misreport or fail to report information, and data from different people’s reports sometimes gets mixed up. Errors in your credit report may have caused your application to be rejected through no fault of your own.

If your credit score is low because of high credit card balances or missed or late payments, work on bringing it up by paying down your balances to lower the percentage of available credit you’re using and by paying all your bills on time. If you have a foreclosure or bankruptcy on your credit report, those derogatory remarks could affect your credit score and your chance of obtaining a mortgage for years. You may need to let some time pass and work on rebuilding your credit before buying a house.

Lower Your DTI
A lender looks closely at an applicant’s debt-to-income (DTI) ratio, or the percentage of gross monthly income that’s used to pay credit card bills and loans. If a lender rejected your application because your DTI is too high, you can lower it by paying down your debts and/or by increasing your income. If you have high loan payments, you might be able to lower them by refinancing.

Put More Money Down
If you want to make a small down payment and borrow most of the money for your dream home, the lender may consider your application too risky. You might be better off finding more money for a down payment or applying for a mortgage through a lender that routinely offers loans to borrowers with small down payments.

Stick With Your Job
Most lenders want a mortgage applicant to have been in the same job for at least two years. That helps the lender be confident that an applicant is capable of holding down a job and is likely to repay the mortgage. If you recently started a new position, focus on impressing your boss and building a stable work history.

Don’t Give up Hope
If you’ve been denied for a mortgage, find out why the lender turned you down and take action to address the issue. You’ll have a better chance of qualifying if you work on improving your financial circumstances. You can also submit another application to a different lender that has more lenient terms or that offers mortgages for people in circumstances like yours.

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5 Ideas for Remodeling Your Basement

Posted on Saturday, September 18th, 2021 at 12:00am.

5 Ideas for Remodeling Your Basement

5 Ideas for Remodeling Your Basement

Looking to update your basement? Here are a few ideas…

Home Theater

Basements are the perfect place to design the home theater of your dreams.

Fitness Area

A fitness area in your basement is rather simple, with the most important features being mirrored walls and a durable floor.

Relaxing Spa

A place to unwind at the end of the day, a home spa is a luxury you’re sure to appreciate.

Wine Cellar

The ability to store bottles collected from around the world under ideal conditions will set your house apart.

Home Office

The basement might be the best place to put a designated workspace away from the rest of the house.

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Can You Give Someone Money for a Down Payment as a Gift?

Posted on Sunday, September 19th, 2021 at 12:00am.

Can You Give Someone Money for a Down Payment as a Gift?

Coming up with enough money for a down payment is a struggle for many people, particularly first-time homebuyers. Family members and others often want to help. If you’d like to provide money for a down payment as a gift, be sure that you understand the guidelines, required documentation and potential tax implications.

Why Do Lenders Care About Sources of Down Payment Funds?
A mortgage lender will want to know where a borrower got money for a down payment. If someone received a large sum of money from another person, the lender will want to know that the money was a gift, not a personal loan that’ll need to be repaid and that could cause the borrower to be unable to afford the mortgage.

Underwriters will want to know the source of any large deposit in a borrower’s account. Some lenders define a “large deposit” as a single deposit that’s more than 50 percent of the total monthly qualifying income for the loan, while others verify deposits that are more than 1 percent of a home’s adjusted purchase price or appraised value. In some cases, an underwriter will verify the source of any larger-than-usual deposits, no matter how much money the borrower earns or how much the house costs.

Who Can Provide Money for a Down Payment?
All lenders allow gifts from family members, but various lenders have somewhat different definitions of who is considered a family member. Some lenders allow gifts from employers, labor unions, charitable organizations, sellers, builders, developers and real estate agents.

Although the amount that can be given as a gift is not limited, a lender may require a buyer to provide a percentage of the down payment from personal funds. The rules depend on whether the home will be a primary or secondary residence, whether it’s a single- or multi-family house, and the type of mortgage to be obtained.

Documentation and Taxes
If you give someone money as a gift for a down payment, the lender will require a letter including your name, address, phone number, and relationship to the borrower, as well as the amount and date of the gift, the source of the funds, and a statement that the money is a gift and that you don’t expect to be repaid. The letter should also include the address of the property to be purchased and your signature. You should keep detailed records showing exactly where the money originated and how you transferred it to the recipient.

If you give someone a gift for a down payment, you may need to pay taxes on the money. Check with an accountant to find out if you’ll owe taxes and how much.

Be Informed Before Giving a Gift
Giving money for a down payment can help make a loved one’s dream of owning a home a reality. If you want to provide funds as a gift, make sure you understand the lender’s rules and the applicable tax laws.

This article is intended for informational purposes only and should not be construed as professional or legal advice.

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Should You Install a Sprinkler System?

Posted on Monday, September 20th, 2021 at 12:00am.

Should You Install a Sprinkler System?

If you don’t have the time to water your yard or don’t want to deal with the hassle, installing a sprinkler system could make things easier. It could be pricey and you would need to take precautions to prevent damage and expensive repair bills.

Reasons to Install Sprinklers
The primary reason why homeowners install sprinklers is convenience. You could program an irrigation system to water your lawn on a schedule so that you wouldn’t have to remember to do it, take time out of your day to spray the yard with a hose and hope that each area got the right amount of water.

The best time to water a lawn is before sunrise. That prevents the water from evaporating too quickly and gives it plenty of time to be absorbed by the grass. If you’re not typically an early riser, getting up before dawn to water your lawn probably doesn’t sound appealing. With a sprinkler system, you wouldn’t have to.

A sprinkler system could be set up to deliver different amounts of water to different zones based on the types of grass and plants. An irrigation system also has rain and moisture sensors to avoid overwatering. Since the sprinklers would provide the right amount of water to each area at the right time, you could avoid using too much water and lower your bills. By directing water to the appropriate locations, you could prevent runoff on your driveway.

Many people don’t like the chore of watering a lawn and would welcome the opportunity to buy a house with a sprinkler system. Installing a system now could increase your home’s future resale value.

Downsides to Consider
Sprinkler systems require regular maintenance and occasional repairs. Sprinkler heads may simply get pushed out of alignment and need to be adjusted, or they may be damaged by lawnmowers, pests, and tree roots and have to be replaced.

If you live in an area with cold winter temperatures, freezing could be a problem. A sprinkler system would need to be winterized to prevent major damage. The amount of work and the cost would depend on the type of system you chose.

The best time to install a sprinkler system is shortly after home construction and before grass and trees have been planted. If your yard has already been landscaped, it would need to be dug up to install a sprinkler system, which could significantly add to the overall cost.

Is a Sprinkler System a Smart Investment?
An irrigation system could make lawncare easy and convenient, but the upfront cost could be significant, especially if you have a well-manicured yard that would need to be dug up and then restored. You could also face significant repair and maintenance costs, but they might be outweighed by lower water bills and a better price when you sell your home. Talk to a professional and weigh the pros and cons.

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What Should You Do If You Inherit a Home?

Posted on Tuesday, September 21st, 2021 at 12:00am.

What Should You Do If You Inherit a Home?

What Should You Do If You Inherit a Home?

When inheriting a home, some people have mixed feelings about what to do with the property, especially if it has sentimental value.

You could move into the home if it meets your family’s needs, but beware of maintenance costs.

If you have a small business, the home might be an ideal place to run operations without interruption.

You could even sell the home and invest the money in your future.

To hold onto the property, cover maintenance costs and earn some money, you could rent the house out.

Ultimately, choosing what to do with an inherited home depends on your current situation and overall goals.

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Why You Should Consider a House's Orientation

Posted on Wednesday, September 22nd, 2021 at 12:00am.

Why You Should Consider a House's Orientation

If you’re in the market for a new home, you should consider potential heating and cooling costs. Most people know that the types of windows and the amount of insulation can affect utility bills but don’t realize that the orientation of a house with respect to the sun can, too.

How Orientation Can Affect Energy Bills
The sun rises in the east and sets in the west. At mid-day, the sun is at a lower angle during the winter and at a higher angle in the summer.

To make the best use of the position of the sun, a house should be built on an east-west axis in a rectangular shape with the east and west sides shorter than the north and south ends. The house should be oriented within 15 degrees of due east-west.

Orienting a house toward the sun can have a significant impact on heating bills in regions with cold winters. Since the south side of a house will receive the most warmth from the sun in the winter and the most natural light year-round, the main living areas should be positioned on the south side of the house. Parts of the house that aren’t used as much, such as the garage and laundry room, should be located on the shorter ends to provide a buffer to protect the main living areas from cold temperatures and wind.

If the long, front side of a house is facing within 20 degrees of true south, windows on that side can allow plenty of sunlight and heat into the house during the winter. If the angle is more than 20 degrees, the house may get too much heat in the summer and not enough in the winter.

South-facing walls should have at least 50 percent more combined window area than the east and west walls. Since windows on the east and west sides of a house will get little solar heat in the winter and a lot of heat in the summer, home builders often limit the number of windows on those sides.

The orientation of a house can allow you to take advantage of wind. If you live in a hot and humid area, breezes can keep the interior cool. In a hot and dry region, a house can be oriented to keep hot winds out.

The natural landscape can also affect utility costs. Deciduous trees can provide shade to keep a house from getting too hot in the summer. When the trees lose their leaves in the fall, they will allow the home to receive plenty of natural light in the winter. Hills and evergreen trees can block cold winter winds.

Talk to Your Real Estate Agent about a Home’s Orientation
Many people are unaware of how much of an impact the orientation of a house can have on heating and cooling costs. If you are planning to buy a home, be sure to ask about its orientation and consider its possible effects on your utility bills.

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5 Kitchen Styles for Any Home

Posted on Thursday, September 23rd, 2021 at 12:00am.

5 Kitchen Styles for Any Home

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Is an Eat-in Kitchen or a Separate Dining Room a Better Choice for Your Family?

Posted on Friday, September 24th, 2021 at 12:00am.

Is an Eat-in Kitchen or a Separate Dining Room a Better Choice for Your Family?

Houses traditionally had a kitchen where food was prepared and a separate dining room where family members would gather to share meals. Home designs have changed over the years, and nowadays many houses have a kitchen with space where family members can sit to eat.

What’s Important to Your Family?
Eat-in kitchens are typically designed for small or average-sized families. They’re convenient since everyone has easy access to food and dishes near the eating area. This can be particularly important when parents and kids are rushing to eat breakfast so they can get to work and school on time.

Dining rooms are typically used for larger or more formal gatherings. Depending on the age and layout of a particular house, a dining room may have seating for anywhere from six people to a dozen or more. If you have a large family or frequently have guests over for dinner, a separate dining room may be a necessity.

Although a dining room is typically located close to the kitchen, it can still be a hassle to carry food and dishes back and forth when serving a large group. On the other hand, some people find it hard to enjoy a meal when they can see dirty pots and pans and feel as though they must finish their meal quickly to clean up. Eating in a separate dining room can therefore be more relaxing.

Sometimes people buy a home with a space that is intended to serve as a dining room, but they choose not to use it that way. If you would rather use a room as a home office or for some other purpose, that’s fine. Just make sure that everyone is clear about the room’s intended function, so it doesn’t wind up filled with toys or junk mail.

Thinking About Remodeling?
If you already own a home and you’re thinking about renovating, consider how you eat meals, the number of people who are typically present, how much space you have and the advantages and disadvantages of your current arrangement. If you would like more space or would prefer not to have to look at a mess while eating, or if you plan to expand your family in the future, it might make sense to remodel your home to create a separate dining room.

Which House Design is Right for Your Family?
If you’re looking for a new home, think about how your family members usually eat meals. If you prefer to keep things simple and have a relatively small family, an eat-in kitchen may work fine. On the other hand, if you have a large family or like to entertain, you might appreciate having a separate dining room, even if you only used it occasionally. Discuss the pros and cons of each with your family and your real estate agent.

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Stress-Relieving Tips for First-Time Homebuyers

Posted on Saturday, September 25th, 2021 at 12:00am.

Stress-Relieving Tips for First-Time Homebuyers

Stress-Relieving Tips for First-Time Homebuyers

Planning to buy your first house?

Be prepared and avoid excess stress with these tips…

Get Help Hire a real estate pro to help you find the right property and close a deal.

Be Open to Concessions You might not be able to afford to check off every item on your wish list.

Define Your Finances Get a loan pre-approval, budget for closing costs and don’t spend beyond your means.

Take Your Time Weigh the pros and cons of each house you view, and fight the urge to rush your decision.

Buying your first home can be a challenge. But it should be exciting, not overwhelming.

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Family Time is Together Time

Posted on Sunday, September 26th, 2021 at 12:00am.

Family Time is Together Time

Selling a home can be an all-consuming process. It means cleaning, decluttering, staging and preparing for tours and open houses.

But that shouldn’t keep you from enjoying yourself, and it’s especially important for families to not let the selling process get in the way of quality family time. Thankfully, there are all kinds of activities families can do together.

Go Out to Dinner:
If you’re moving away from a neighborhood you’ve lived in a while, enjoy a meal at one of your favorite local dining spots. Pick a special place and splurge a bit—order appetizers, desserts, and let your kids have fun ordering what they want.

A Day in the Park:
If you have younger kids, take them to their favorite park for a few last visits. Make a day of it by spending time at the playground, followed by a hike and maybe even a picnic.

Go to a Museum:
Enjoy a day of culture at a museum. There are beautiful paintings and sculpture to see at art museums, or there may be historical societies and institutions that share the story of your neighborhood.

Try Something Different:
There are probably all sorts of things to do in your area that you’ve never gotten around to. Maybe there’s a theater that presents plays and concerts or a local orchestra that makes wonderful music. Escape rooms are a growing trend and make for a great way to “escape” from the stress that comes with selling a home.

Get Active:
Combine your family outing with some physical fitness. Go bowling or take your swings at a batting cage. If your family golfs, play a round together at your favorite course. If you’re a member of the local YMCA, you could also play a friendly family game of basketball.

Be a Good Sport:
If you root for your local teams, visit the football stadium, basketball arena, or baseball park one last time. You’ll create special memories as you enjoy the excitement, and be sure to buy some souvenirs as a memento of your time in this area.

Family is always a priority, so it’s important to not let selling a house and moving get in the way of spending quality time with your loved ones.

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Keep Your Kids and Pets Safe When Using a Fireplace

Posted on Sunday, September 26th, 2021 at 12:00am.

Keep Your Kids and Pets Safe When Using a Fireplace

On a cool night, there’s nothing more relaxing than curling up on the couch in front of a fireplace. While adults recognize the dangers of fire, children and pets often don’t. That is why it’s essential to take precautions to keep them safe.

Tips to Prevent Burns and Accidents
Sparks and hot embers can fly out of a fireplace and burn anyone nearby. In addition, kids and pets are curious and may be tempted to stick a head, hand or paw too close to a fireplace, which could cause their hair, fur or clothing to catch fire. Glass doors can keep sparks and embers inside the fireplace and keep kids and animals out.

Fire-resistant glass doors can still get hot enough to burn a child or a pet. Putting a screen in front of the fireplace can keep anyone from touching hot glass. You can choose from a wide range of screen styles.

When thinking about fireplace safety, people often focus on the dangers of fire and neglect to consider other hazards. A hearth is a hard, raised surface that can cause injuries if a child should fall. Hearth padding, or fire-resistant foam that can be attached to a hearth, can prevent injuries. You can choose from a range of sizes. Keep the area around the hearth free of flammable objects. Don’t put decorations that kids or pets might want to play with on the mantle.

The tools that you use to poke and move logs can seem like fun toys to children. Matches and lighters can be extremely dangerous in the hands of children and starter chips can be harmful if pets consume them. Keep tools and materials used to start a fire where your kids and pets can’t get to them.

Whether you have kids and pets or not, get your fireplace inspected and cleaned before you use it. Soot can accumulate and birds and wild animals often build nests in fireplaces. Both are serious fire hazards. Make sure you have a working fire extinguisher, smoke detectors and a carbon monoxide detector.

Talk to your kids about fire safety as soon as they’re old enough. Use age-appropriate terms to explain the potential danger and reiterate important points often. Set clear rules that your kids can understand. Supervise children and pets to make sure they don’t play near the fireplace.

Never leave a child or pet alone in a room where a fire is burning. It only takes a second for a tragic accident to occur. Depending on the layout of your home, you might be able to use child gates to keep your kids and pets away from the fireplace.

Help Your Family Enjoy a Fireplace Safely
A fireplace can be cozy, as well as dangerous. Since children and pets don’t appreciate the danger, you need to take steps to keep them safe. The more layers of protection there are, the better.

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