Easy Garden Projects for Spring

April 18, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Easy Garden Projects for Spring

Spring is finally here! There is no better way of getting through the last few grueling weeks of winter than knowing that you’ll soon see spring flowers dotting an otherwise grey landscape. But what if you have no time to garden? No worries! There are still plenty of projects you can do to give your garden that spring feeling. Here are a few of our favorites.

Make colorful stepping stones

If you’re ready for a little color in the garden, but the daffodils have yet to bloom, add it with some colorful stepping stones. You can easily and quickly make your own with store-bought pavers. It’s even a great project to do with kids. Tape out some geometric designs and paint them with weather-resistant paint in a variety of colors. Place them throughout your garden to give it a pop of color and whimsy.

Create a gazing ball

Do you happen to have an old bowling ball gathering dust in the basement or attic? Why not turn it into a gazing ball for your garden? Using adhesive, you can cover it with any number of embellishments, including glass beads, mirrored tiles or even pennies. Place it in a bare patch in the garden to add a colorful focal point.

Invite the birds

Maybe the flowers aren’t ready to make their appearances yet, but that doesn’t mean the birds aren’t. Mother Nature is waking up, and many species of birds are migrating for the spring season. Attract some to your yard by setting out bird feeders. Place them near a window so you can enjoy them throughout the day. Better yet, install a colorful birdhouse or two, and see if any of your feathered friends decide to make it their home.

Clean and tidy

It may not sound exciting, but cleaning and tidying your garden for the upcoming season can put a little “spring” in your step. Clean up any remaining dead leaves and debris from winter. Clear out the garden beds and spread a fresh layer of mulch. Trim back bushes and sweep sidewalks and driveways. When you look outside and see your garden poised and ready for spring, you’ll know warm, sunny days are just around the corner.

Visit the garden center

If you use the same flowers and plants in your garden year after year, why not change things up this spring? Go on a scouting adventure to your local garden center. Talk with employees about what plants and flowers will do best in your spring climate. Browse and imagine what your garden could look like with these new additions. Enjoy the time spent amongst all the beautiful plants and flowers, and let your imagination run wild.

Plant a container herb garden

When all else fails, bring the outside in! If you don’t have time to invest in a full- blown herb garden, create a smaller version in a container for your kitchen. Choose a brightly colored container and add a variety of herb plants, including rosemary, basil and thyme. Not only will the plants look and smell like spring, they’ll add the fresh flavor of the season to your meals.

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Strategies for Unpacking After Your Move

April 13, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Strategies for Unpacking After Your MoveYou did it! You packed up all your belongings, loaded them onto a truck, and unloaded them into your new house. That is no easy feat. But the work isn’t quite over yet.

If you’re staring at piles of boxes and just can’t imagine how you will ever get organized and settled in, follow these strategies for unpacking. You’ll be feeling right at home in no time!

Start with the essentials

If you were smart, you packed up a couple of boxes of essentials and loaded them on the truck last, or took them with you in the car or on the plane. This includes all the basics you’ll need in the first few days, such as toiletries, the coffee maker and bedding. These items will get you through those first couple of nights, where chaos seems to reign. Your essentials will make sure that you are fed, clothed, clean and rested. Which is good considering how much focus and energy you’ll need to tackle the rest of the house.

Set up the beds

Once you’ve gotten your essentials unpacked, set up the beds for each family member. You’re going to need a place to sleep right away, and having a comfortable and familiar bed to slip into after a long day will help keep you and your family in good spirits. It will also help kids to become adjusted to their new home, and they can begin settling into their new rooms while you unpack the rest of the house.

Create a sanctuary

Next, focus on one space or room that you can quickly get set up and make functional. Depending on your needs this could be a living room, dining room or office space. Paint, organize the furniture and do a little decorating. Display a family photo or two. Get the television or stereo set up. By creating a sanctuary, you give yourself a tiny space to retreat from the chaos. Watch a movie, listen to some music or take a nap.

Take it room by room

You’ve now gotten to the point where you can focus on unpacking the rest of the house. Instead of doing a little bit in each room, focus on one room before moving to the next. Consider unpacking in this order:

  • Kitchen – Get all the essentials out and in order. Nothing beats being able to cook at home after a long moving process. The kitchen is also a great place for the family to congregate while the rest of the house is in progress.
  • Bathrooms – Get at least one bathroom up and running. Clean and unpack all your toiletries.
  • Living room, dining room, bedrooms, and office – Once the kitchen and bathrooms are ready, you can begin unpacking all your other rooms. By this point you should be feeling a little less stressed and can continue moving in and getting settled at a more leisurely pace.

Get to know the neighborhood

The best way to start feeling at home is to connect with the community. Get out and explore! Take walks, visit the local park, check out your new grocery store and introduce yourself to your new neighbors. Welcome home!

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Keep Your Home Show Ready – Even With Kids!

April 11, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Keep Your Home Show Ready – Even With Kids!When you’re selling your home, keeping it spotless for showings can be tough. But making sure it stays clean, especially when you have kids, can seem downright impossible. But there is hope! By having a plan and sticking to it, you can keep your home ready for visits, even at a moment’s notice. Here’s how.

Have a checklist

Trying to live in your home while you’re selling it can be a little chaotic. Tame that chaos by knowing exactly what to do before a buyer comes over. Create a simple checklist of tasks you need to do each time you have a showing. Ideally, these tasks should take you no longer than 15 minutes to complete. Knowing what to do will save you the headache of frantically running around at the last minute, trying to remember everything.

Start clean

You never know when you’ll get a call at 9 a.m. with a new showing for 9:30. Treat yourself to a less stressful morning by making sure the house is clean before you go to bed. That way, if you have to leave even before you’ve had your coffee, you know the house is ready and looking its best.

Pack up toys

Kids and toys – LOTS of toys – go hand in hand. It’s unbelievable how quickly those toys can get out of control. And the truth is your kids probably don’t play with all of them all the time. Save their favorites and pack up or donate the rest.  Keep the unused toys out of sight, either in bins under the bed or offsite at a storage unit.

Have more picnics

Little kids make messes. It’s just what they do. Keep your kitchen and dining room clean and ready to show by eating outside whenever possible. Set up a picnic area and treat it like a special occasion. Chances are, you’re kids will love it, and it will save you precious cleaning time.

Create a stash zone

Make designated areas in your home where you can quickly stash things like toys and dirty laundry before a showing. The best places are the ones least likely for buyers to look, like bins stored in a closet or empty dresser drawers.

Only use one bathroom

Bathrooms are probably the most difficult rooms to keep consistently clean. If you have more than one bathroom in your home, choose one bathroom that everyone in the family will use. This will cut down significantly on the amount of time you spend cleaning them.

Know where to go

Finally, have a list of places you know you can go to when you need to quickly leave the house. Some great choices include a local museum or park, story time at the library, grandma’s house or even just a nice long walk around the neighborhood. If you choose activities that are fun, you’ll get less resistance from the kids when it’s time to go.

Although selling a home while you and your family are living in it can be a challenge, it is not an impossible one. By preparing ahead of time and adhering to some timesaving tricks, you’ll make sure your kids are happy and your home is always ready to show.

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How to Survive Your Home Sale

April 6, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

How to Survive Your Home SaleLet’s be honest – living in your home while you have it on the market can be tough. Not only do you need to keep it spic and span at all times, but you also have to be ready to show it on a moment’s notice. This can cause quite an upheaval in your daily life if you aren’t prepared. Although it can be stressful, it can be done. Here’s our best advice for how to survive your home sale.

Pack it up

Once your home is on the market, you may start to feel as if you’re on a speeding train and you can’t quite keep up. Do yourself a favor and get a head start on cleaning, de-cluttering and packing up your belongings. Since spring is on the way, it’s unlikely you’ll need heavy-duty winter gear for much longer, so pack it up and move it out. Consider investing in a short-term storage unit to store packed boxes and unneeded items until moving day.

Remove all personal items

Think about it – strangers will soon be looking in every drawer, cabinet and closet in your home while you aren’t there. Don’t make it easy for someone to steal personal information by leaving it out. Protect valuables like sensitive financial documents or precious jewelry by locking them in a safe. Password-protect all computers. Remove prescription medication from the medicine cabinet. When in doubt, keep it under lock and key.

Get into a daily routine

If you’re living in your home while you’re selling, the best thing you can do for your well-being is to get into a daily routine. That way, if your agent calls with a last-minute showing, you won’t be scrambling to be ready. In the morning, make the beds and pick up any clutter in the house. Clean the kitchen and empty the kitchen sink. Tidy the bathroom and vacuum the floors. When the phone rings, you’ll be ready to leave at a moment’s notice if necessary.

Have a plan for showings

Talk to your agent about how showings will be handled, and be upfront with any requests you have. This could include scheduling showings during certain times of the day, or giving you at least an hour’s notice before potential buyers come by. Make a plan for what you’ll need to do to the house before you leave for the showing. This might mean turning on basement lights, opening curtains and taking a quick walk through your home to make sure it all looks good. If you have pets, have a plan with what you’ll do with them during the showing.

Take time outs

If managing showings while living in your home is stressing you out, be sure to take time outs for yourself. Go out for dinner. See a movie. Take a walk. Treat yourself to a massage. Selling a home can be very stressful, and it’s normal to feel anxious about it. Take care of yourself during the process. Your health is important, too.

Hire a professional

The best thing you can do to survive your home sale is to enlist the help of a professional real estate agent. An agent can be an indispensible ally and a powerful advocate for you during the process of selling your home. They can tell you what to expect and help you navigate through each step of the journey. And working with an agent will help ensure that you sell your home quickly for the best possible price.

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Etiquette of Installing a Privacy Fence

April 4, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Etiquette of Installing a Privacy FenceDo good fences make good neighbors? They can, as long as you follow the proper etiquette when installing a privacy fence. If you’ve just purchased a home and would like to fence in your yard, follow this advice to stay on good terms with your new neighbors.

Determine the property line

Don’t assume you know where your property line is. Get clear on the exact dividing line between your property and your neighbor’s by having it surveyed. If a survey was not completed when you purchased your home, pay to have one done. They typically cost $500 – $2,000, depending on your area.

Follow town and HOA guidelines

Once you’ve determined your property lines, it’s now time to investigate your community’s guidelines. Find out what zoning regulations are in your area, including how tall your fence can be and the materials that can be used. In general, fences can be no taller than six feet in a backyard and four feet in the front. There may be additional regulations regarding corner lots, so be sure to find out if this applies to you. If you belong to a Homeowner’s Association (HOA), find out what the HOA guidelines are. This can save you hard feelings and a costly dispute down the line.

Meet with your neighbors

Once you’ve determined where and what you would like to build, talk to each of your affected neighbors about it before you begin digging. This is especially true if your fence is going to encroach on a neighbor’s view. Sharing your plan to build a fence gives them an opportunity to discuss any potential issues that could cause trouble – or a lawsuit – down the line. You may even discover that your neighbor was considering a fence and might be willing to split the cost with you.

Know which side should face out

If you are installing a privacy fence, they typically have a “finished” side. This is the side that is smooth where the posts and rails do not show. It is common courtesy to face this finished side toward your neighbors and the street. Not only is this the polite thing to do, it also gives the outside of your home a more finished appearance.

Keep the fence maintained

Once you’ve installed the fence, it is crucial that you keep it repaired and maintained if you want to stay friendly with your neighbors. This includes repairing damage, painting as needed and keeping up with mowing and weeding around the fence line. If you don’t, that tired-looking fence could not only affect your property values when it comes time to sell, it could also affect your neighbor’s property values.

If you decide that installing a privacy fence is important – whether it’s to give your dog free reign of the yard or to create a quiet sanctuary garden for yourself – practice good etiquette. By communicating with your neighbors before the installation and keeping your fence maintained, you’ll be much more likely to stay on good terms with the people in your neighborhood.

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What To Do After You Sell Your Home

March 30, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

What To Do After You Sell Your Home

Just because you’ve closed escrow and have given the keys to the house to their new owner doesn’t mean you’re done just yet. While the hard part is over, there are still a few tasks you should complete before calling it a done deal.

Clean up

It should go without saying, but once you’ve moved your possessions out of your home, you should thoroughly clean it. Though it isn’t necessarily required, it is a nice courtesy to extend to the buyer of your home. Nobody likes moving into a dirty house, or wants to waste time getting settled in by having to give the entire home a thorough cleaning.

Organize and store sale documents

Selling a home can produce a mountain of paperwork, and it may be tempting to toss all of it once the sale is complete. But don’t go shredding those documents too soon. You will want to keep a copy of all your records for the upcoming tax season, to show your expenses and any proceeds from the sale. You should also hang onto them in case you should ever get audited for that tax year.

Keep records of home improvements

Not only should you keep all sales documents, but you should also keep records of any improvements you have made on your home. These are also needed for tax purposes. The IRS allows homeowners to improvements to your home’s cost during the time that you owned it.

Contact utility companies

Another important task to complete when you’re selling your home is to contact the utility companies to have your service discontinued. You should arrange for the services to be disconnected on your closing date. Also arrange to have home delivery of your newspaper canceled, and the alarm service disconnected. Notify each company of your forwarding address so they know where to send the final bill.

Change your address

At this point, you should also complete a change of address form with the United States Postal Service. The form can be completed in person at a local branch or online. Although this blanket service will ensure that most of your mail gets forwarded to your new address, you should still notify credit card companies, banks and other places where you do business of your new information.

Terminate homeowner’s insurance

In addition to disconnecting utility services, you also need to contact your insurance agent to cancel your homeowner’s insurance policy. You should do this even if you’ve arranged for a new homeowner’s policy with the same agent. They will not automatically terminate your old policy for you, so you should be sure to complete that task yourself.

Be aware of tax laws

Finally, stay on top of tax laws when you’re preparing your taxes for the year in which you sold your home. Tax laws do change from year to year, and you want to be sure that you’re making the most of any deductions that could be coming your way from the sale of the house.

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What to Expect on Closing Day

March 28, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

What to Expect on Closing Day

You searched for and found a house. You put in an offer that was accepted. You applied for a mortgage, got a home inspection and completed what seemed like a thousand other tasks, all in preparation for closing day.

If you’re a first-time homebuyer, you may be wondering just what happens on this all-important day besides signing some papers and getting the keys to your new house. So that you’ll feel relaxed and prepared, here’s what to expect on the day you finalize your home purchase.

When does the closing take place?

Generally speaking, avoid closing on the last day of the month, as this doesn’t allow enough time to address any issues that may come up. If a problem arises and the closing is delayed until the beginning of the next month, you’ll face increased costs because of prepaid interest that accumulates. Ideally, a closing should take place sometime between the 20th and the 25th of the month. You should plan to take off for at least half a day to give yourself ample time to complete the closing process.

Where does the closing happen?

There are several places where the closing can take place. These include your lender’s office, the title company office, the listing or buying agent’s office, a real estate attorney’s office or another agreed-upon location. Make sure to get the exact address and allow plenty of time to arrive.

Who attends the closing?

The people present at a closing will vary depending on where you live, but you can expect some or all of the following (including you, the buyer, of course):

  • Both the listing and the buying agent
  • The seller or the seller’s representative
  • Representative from the title company
  • Representative from the lender or mortgage company
  • Attorneys for the buyer and seller
  • Closing agent

The closing agent will be the one leading the proceedings and will have all the necessary paperwork that needs to be signed.

What documents are signed?

On closing day you will sign all the documents that transfer ownership to you as well as documents related to your mortgage. Many of these documents you will receive in advance so that you may review them before signing. Documents you’ll receive and sign on closing day may include:

  • Tax forms
  • Title forms
  • Deed of trust
  • Affidavits
  • Promissory note
  • Variety of disclosure forms

Do I need to bring anything?

On closing day the buyer will be responsible for showing proof of homeowner’s insurance and inspections. You’ll also need to bring a certified or cashier’s check that covers all the closing costs (sometimes done as a wire transfer). You should also bring copies of all the documents you received throughout the buying process, including inspection reports and your copy of the contract. Oh, and don’t forget to bring your government-issued identification.

Can anything go wrong?

There are a few issues that can possibly derail your closing. This would include not having enough money at closing, your financial situation drastically changing (such as opening a new line of credit), the lender pulling out or the seller not taking care of tax liens.

By knowing what to expect on closing day, you can help ensure that the meeting goes off without a hitch. If all goes well, at the end of the day you’ll finally have the keys to your new house in hand. Congratulations!

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Downsizing? Here’s How

March 23, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Downsizing? Here’s HowWhether it’s because your kids have left for college or you’re preparing for retirement, many homeowners choose to downsize at some point in their lives. Making the move from a large home to a smaller one can be both liberating and challenging. If you’re getting ready to downsize, here’s what you should know to make the process as easy as possible.

The benefits of downsizing

If you’re having trouble coming to terms with the idea of having a smaller footprint, it can be beneficial to remind yourself of why you’re downsizing in the first place. Do you have a room or rooms in your current home you never use? Are you looking for a way to lower your monthly expenditures? Do you want to live in a home where outside maintenance is taken care of for you? Downsizing can provide solutions to all these issues and allow you to make choices that fit the lifestyle you have now, not the one you had when you first moved in.

Determine your needs

OK, so you’ve decided it’s time to downsize. Now what? The first step you should take is to decide what you’re looking for in a new place. How many bedrooms do you really need? Would you like a home with no stairs? Are you hoping to be within walking distance of amenities, like shopping, the gym or restaurants? Take time to determine exactly what your needs are before you begin your search.

Assess your new space

Once you’ve zeroed in on your new home, measure each room and note how much storage is available. Be honest about how much space you actually have. There’s no sense in downsizing if you plan to keep all your possessions, so you’ll want to be clear on how much you’ll need to let go of so that you have enough room in your new space.

Decide what to keep

Here comes the hard part – deciding what to keep and what to get rid of. A good way to tackle this issue is to think about what you’d want to replace if you were to lose everything. Do you have exercise equipment gathering dust? Are you holding on to your kid’s items that they’ll never retrieve? Consider letting go of any items you haven’t used in the last year. If you’re in doubt, rent a storage unit for six months and store the items you’re uncertain about. Whatever items remain after that time elapses, you can let go of.

Sell or donate the rest

Once you’ve eliminated the items you don’t intend to take with you to the new house, you can sell or donate them. There are several ways to sell your belongings, from hosting a garage sale to posting items online on sites like Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace or eBay. For items you can’t or don’t want to sell, you can donate them to friends and family, or give them to charities such as Goodwill or the Salvation Army. Many organizations will even pick up your items for you if you arrange it with them in advance.

Organize as you move in

As you move into your new home, take time to organize as you go. That way, once you’re moved in, you can spend time on all those activities you only dreamed about when you lived in a larger home.

Although downsizing can be challenging, when you approach it with a healthy attitude it can be a truly exciting experience. Follow the guidelines above to make sure your move into a smaller space is just another turn in the road on the adventure of your life.

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Pros and Cons of Buying a Fully Furnished Home

March 21, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Pros and Cons of Buying a Fully Furnished Home

Are you a first time homebuyer nervous about adding the cost of furniture to your big move? Or perhaps you’re thinking of buying a vacation home, but don’t want the added expense of furnishing it? Maybe you’re a busy professional who needs to streamline the purchase process so that you can jump right into your new job? Whatever the case may be, buying a home that comes fully furnished may be just what you need.

If you’re thinking about buying a fully furnished home, here are the pros and cons you should take into consideration when making your decision.

Pros of buying a fully furnished home

Buying a furnished home:

  • Can save you money, sometimes thousands of dollars, instead of buying brand new furniture.
  • Is a great choice for first time buyers who may not have all they furniture they will need for the house.
  • Is perfect for those buying a second home or vacation home and want a property that is move-in ready at closing.
  • Is ideal for those who don’t like shopping for furniture.
  • Can be smart for those who are short on time, such as people who have demanding jobs or families with young children.
  • Can make moving in easier and faster, which is perfect for those who need to relocate quickly.
  • Can save you the headache of packing up and moving all your belongings to a new location. Just pack up some suitcases with your clothes and personal belongings, and move right in!

Cons of buying a fully furnished home

Purchasing a home that comes with furniture:

  • Means there are more details to attend to in the closing process. You will need to complete an exhaustive list of every item included in the deal, which will be part of the contract.
  • Means you may need to get a separate loan for the furnishings.
  • Might not be a great choice if you have very specific taste in furniture. You’ll want to make sure that the furnishings that are included in the house are to your liking.
  • Can be a gamble, as you don’t know the history of the furniture. You will want to take the time to inspect every piece that comes with the house. Turn on all the lamps, look at all the couch cushions and make sure all the appliances are in good working order.
  • May mean that you overpay for the furnishings you’re getting, if the seller is particularly emotionally attached to them.
  • Could kill the deal if the buyer and seller cannot come to an agreement on what furnishings are included and what the selling price of those furnishings should be.
  • Means that you will need to put down a larger down payment, since the total cost of the home will include the price of the furniture.

Ultimately, the decision to buy a home that is fully furnished is a personal one. You will want to determine if the amount of money you will pay for the furnishings will actually save you time and money when you move in. Take time to fully assess what you are agreeing to so you know whether you are getting a good deal. If the deal looks good and you like the idea of owning a turnkey home, it could be the perfect solution for you.

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Curb Appeal on a Budget

March 16, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Curb Appeal on a BudgetSpring is just around the corner. If you’re getting ready to put your house on the market, that means it’s time to add a little pizzazz to the exterior. First impressions count in real estate, and making your home look inviting on the outside will coax more buyers through your front door. Since spring is one of best times to make your home look stunning, we thought we’d share our tips on how to spruce up your curb appeal without emptying your wallet. And the bonus is that these projects will only take a weekend to complete.

Clean up the yard

Your yard probably took a beating over the winter. With the weather warming up you have no excuse to skip what is arguably the most important part of curb appeal – a tidy yard. The best part – you can do this without spending a dime. Mow the lawn if needed and collect any fallen leaves and debris. Trim trees and bushes and weed flowerbeds.

Paint the front door

Another easy and inexpensive idea to brighten up your home’s exterior is to give your front door a fresh coat of paint. For about $30 and one afternoon, your front porch can go from bland to beautiful. Choose a bold color that complements the exterior colors to create a strong focal point that will draw the eye (and the buyers) in.

Update your house numbers

When was the last time you got new numbers for your house? If you can’t think back that far, then now is a great time to invest in some new ones – especially if their style is a little dated. You can purchase single numbers at home improvement stores for as little as a few dollars each, or splurge and buy a custom-designed plaque that matches the exterior of your home for under $100.

Replace the mailbox

If your mailbox is cracked, broken or faded from being in the sun, why not replace it with a new model? This is another great way to add some personality to your front yard without spending too much money. Choose a mailbox that coordinates with your front door and your home’s exterior. Check out these mailboxes, some of which can be purchased for less than $20.

Upgrade the porch light

A porch light that’s been hanging around for a few decades can really date your home. For as little as $30 you can switch out your old and dirty light for something new, clean and more modern. Again, choose a style that matches your home’s exterior, especially if you’re also replacing your mailbox and house numbers.

Add annual color

Want to add an instant pop of color to your front yard that doesn’t require much work or money? Then you want annuals. Annual flowers like petunias and impatiens only last for one season and are planted when they are already in bloom. For under $100, you can pop some into your garden beds or add some decorative pots to your front porch filled with flowers for a cheerful boost that practically begs people to stop and admire them.

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