How to Get the Most Out of Secondhand Furniture

You don’t have to go to a furniture store and spend thousands to find great furniture to fit your home. Secondhand furniture shopping can be a fun and creative hobby that will get you outdoors hunting for the perfect item to fix up for your home. This guide will tell you everything you need to know to help you get the best deals on furniture and how to go about making it your own once you find it.

Furniture sources

Many people think the bargain section of their local furniture store is the best they can do when it comes to saving on furniture. However, there are several better places to start your hunt.

  • Craigslist. The “for sale” section of your local Craigslist is bound to be full of furniture that people are clearing out. Oftentimes people put things on Craigslist that are still in good shape that hoping to make a bit of money from. For best results on Craigslist, sort by “most recent” and by posts that have images. This will give you the best items and ones that are most likely still available.
  • Facebook. Aside from being the go-to place for arguing with your relatives about politics, Facebook is also a great way to find cheap used furniture. Search Facebook for local buy/sell pages for your town or city. Post in these groups with what you’re looking for. Also post what you’re searching for on your own wall. There’s a good chance one of your Facebook friends has something like it.
  • Thrift stores. Secondhand stores like Savers, Goodwill, and Salvation Army all sell furniture in their brick & mortar locations. If you’re bored on a rainy day, head out to the thrift stores in your city to see what they have.
  • Yard sales and flea markets. When the weather’s nice, take a Sunday drive out to some yard sales and flea markets. At yard sales especially people are desperate to get rid of everything so you’re likely to get the best deals.

Making it your own

Aside from getting a great deal, arguably the best part about secondhand furniture is that you get to add your own personal touch to it. Whether it’s reupholstering a sofa, sanding down a bookshelf, or painting a new kitchen chair, you’ll have the gratification of putting in work on your furniture, making it that much more special to you. Here are some furniture items that make great DIY or restoration projects.

  • Tables. Since the weathered and rustic look in in style, finding used tables has become a competitive market. If you have a small kitchen you can turn a old cafe table into your kitchen table. If you need something larger an old work bench can be crafted into a long dining room table.
  • Chairs. Many people think chairs need to come in sets to be worthwhile. However, having mismatched chairs can be a fun way to personalize your kitchen. Paint all the chair legs the same color or sand them and stain them all the same color to give them a sense of unity.
  • Repurposed wood. Pinterest is filled with ideas on how to repurpose used lumber. A wine rack out of an old pallet? There’s a tutorial for that.
  • Sofas. Oftentimes the only thing an old sofa needs is some reupholstering. Buy a secondhand sofa based on its style, not color. You can focus on fitting it to your color scheme when picking a fabric to reupholster with.

Improve the Quality of Your Bathroom

For home sellers, you won’t necessarily need a bold, beautiful bathroom to improve your chances of a quick sale. However, you should try to improve the quality of your bathroom as much as possible before you add your home to the real estate market.

In a highly competitive real estate market, homebuyers will look for any reason not to buy your home. On the other hand, home sellers who offer a residence with an exceptional bathroom can reduce the risk of alienating homebuyers. Furthermore, home sellers may be able to transform a subpar bathroom into an outstanding feature if they devote time and resources to make bathroom improvements.

You don’t need to spend a lot to make significant bathroom improvements, either. In fact, here are three simple, affordable bathroom improvements that every home seller needs to know about:

1. Painting the walls

If the paint on your bathroom walls is fading or peeling, it may be time for a new paint job. Fortunately, you usually can pick up low-cost paint supplies at any hardware store quickly and easily.

Although hiring professional painters also is an option, you may be able to paint your bathroom walls yourself to save money. Remember, your bathroom likely is smaller than other rooms in your house, which means a new paint job won’t necessarily require a significant time and resource investment.

2. Updating bathroom fixtures

The little details can make all the difference in the eyes of a homebuyer. And home sellers who update bathroom fixtures can boost their bathroom’s chances of making a great impression on homebuyers during a home showing.

Drawer pulls, towel racks and other bathroom fixtures often are simple to update in just minutes. In addition, these bathroom improvements require minimal time and money, ensuring you’ll be able to complete bathroom fixture improvement projects to enhance your bathroom’s appearance without delay.

3. Adding caulk and grout

Bathroom caulk and grout details may be overlooked by many home sellers, but those who want their homes to stand out in a competitive marketplace should consider adding straight, clean lines of caulk and grout.

Placing new lines of caulk and grout around a bathtub and sink can help these pieces sparkle. Ultimately, caulk and grout improvements are fast and effective too, making them valuable options for home sellers.

It is important to note that improving the quality of a home’s bathroom rarely, if ever, requires a full-blown overhaul. Instead, focus on making minor improvements over an extended period of time. And, of course, be sure to keep your bathroom looking pristine – that way, if a homebuyer wants to view your residence, your home’s bathroom will stand out for all the right reasons.

Bathroom improvements offer superb options for home sellers who want to transform a good residence into a must-buy. These improvements typically won’t require substantial time and resources, but they can serve as key difference-makers that will help set your home apart from others on the real estate market.

Take advantage of bathroom improvements, and you’ll be better equipped to improve the overall quality of your residence.

Save on Utility Bills

Did you know the average family spends over $1600 a year on utility bills alone?   Here are some simple steps you can take to not only save energy but also put some money back in your pocket.

Put your thermostat to work

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) recommends setting your air conditioner at 74 degrees and your furnace at 68 degrees. Investing in a programmable thermostat is a good idea. Set the thermostat to be warmer or colder when you are not home. Reduce the difference in temperature between the inside and the outside of the home to help save energy and money.

Invest in energy-efficient appliances

You may notice now that washers, dryers, refrigerators, freezers, dishwashers, air conditioners, and computers now come with Energy Star labels which mean they are energy efficient.  Energy Star appliances will save you money over older appliances.

Unplug

Computers, stereos, toasters, and other appliances draw energy even when they are turned off. A large LCD or plasma TV consumes about 400 watts of energy when in use and 4 watts when not in use.  Using a surge protector will help reduce energy costs. Plug your appliances into a surge protector and turn off the protector when appliances are not in use.

Seal it up

A well-insulated house is a way to save money on heat and cooling costs. First, start by adding insulation to the attic floor. Next, make sure to fill in any holes in exterior walls especially where pipes come in and around windows and doors. Lastly, wrap hot water pipes with insulation.

Slow the flow

Install low-flow fixtures to conserve water on your shower, faucets and toilets. Also remember to repair leaky faucets and toilets and turn off the water when brushing your teeth and scrubbing dishes.

The Best and Worst Ways to Keep Mosquitos Away

There’s no better way to put a damper on summer fun than by being swarmed by biting mosquitos. Science has worked tirelessly to find ways to keep the bugs away, ranging from the invention of DEET during World War II up to the latest trend of ultrasonic mosquito repellants. In this article, we’ll cover the best forms of keeping the mosquitos at bay and the ways that are all hype. But first, let’s learn a bit more about what we’re up against.

Know thy enemy

Mosquitos typically feed on nectar and juices from plants and flowers. However, the females often feed on blood to acquire proteins for producing eggs. When these mosquitos are on the hunt, they can smell an animal (like us) from up to 50 meters away, according to WebMD.

Since they are attracted to fruity, sweet smells, avoiding certain body sprays will help make you less of a target. Since mosquitos can’t pierce through thick clothing, it’s also important to wear pants and long sleeves if you’re going to be outside for an extended period of time.

Mosquitos are attracted to some people more than others based on factors like blood type (they prefer type O), whether they are heavy breathers, and those producing a lot of body heat. Similarly, your genetics may play a role in how likely a mosquito is to snack on you instead of your other friends around the campfire.

What doesn’t work

I mentioned that there has been a lot of scientific advancements around repelling mosquitos. There has also been a lot of junk science and folklore that have misinformed people or led them to buy ineffective products. Here are the products to avoid:

  • ultrasonic repellants – These noise-makers claim to repel mosquitos by mimicking the sound of bats, or by copying the noises of male mosquitos that the females are trying to avoid.  However, there is no evidence that the ultrasonic systems work at repelling mosquitos.
  • smartphone apps – With the technology as ultrasonic systems, there are many apps that claim keeping them open on your phone will keep mosquitos away. But they too have been shown to be ineffective.
  • herbal concoctions – With a few exceptions, most recipes you’ll find online for deterring mosquitos will be ineffective or have negligible results. For one plant-based repellant that has been effective, see below.
  • wristbands – Though some clip-on belts that spray repellant into the air have shown to be effective, wristbands that don’t disperse repellant won’t do much to keep the mosquitos away

What does

Now that you can spot the gimmicks, here are the best mosquito repellants:

  1. DEET – Since WWII, the most effective spray form repellant has been DEET. Products containing 30% DEET have been shown to keep mosquitos at bay for up to 8 hours if applied directly to the skin. There are, however, valid health concerns that arise from the use of DEET.
  2. Lemon Eucalyptus – The best “natural” mosquito repellants contain high amounts of lemon eucalyptus. The benefit is that you can apply this to your skin often without worrying about health concerns, just don’t put it anywhere near your eyes because it is an eye irritant.
  3. Picaridin – One of the new chemical alternatives to DEET, Picaridin, has been shown to be as effective and more pleasant due to it’s odorless properties.

Indoor Plants for Health and Home

House plants can significantly improve the dynamic of a room.  While some are purely decorative, there are others that can have a dramatic effect on air and indoor pollution levels.  If you are planning on making a few botanical additions to your home, then why not get the added benefit of choosing plants that will work for you, as well as providing an aesthetic benefit?  Here are a few to get you started.

Golden Pothos – This vine-like plant is very easy to grow, requiring very little light, and can survive quite comfortably if you happen to forget to water it on a regular basis.  With regular fertilizing, this plant becomes a fast-growing vine that looks fantastic in any room.  Clippings can be taken, put in water, and will develop root structures in as little as a few days.  Because this is a submersible plant, it is also popular with aquarium enthusiasts.  In addition, this plant is a heavy oxygen producer, and can also remove benzene, formaldehyde, and xylene from your air.

Peace Lilies – Interestingly enough, these houseplants are not true lilies. These attractive members of the Araceae family need only a little light and water in order to survive, and produce brilliant flowers.

Rubber Tree – While used as houseplants in North America, these plants have an interesting use in India; the roots are guided over chasms in order to create what is commonly referred to as living bridges.  These plants prefer bright sunlight, and while they can withstand infrequent watering quite well, they will thrive if given enough moisture.

Weeping Fig – This is the official tree of Bangkok, Thailand.  In a study by NASA, this plant was shown to effectively remove airborne toxins from its environment.  This plant thrives in warm, sunny conditions, but can also tolerate low-light conditions fairly well.  If it is moved to a new room, it will shed a large number of its leaves, and replace them with new leaves in response to the change in light conditions.  While it is adaptive to changes in light, care should be taken not to place it in an area where it will be subjected to strong, cold drafts.  This plant is also popular among bonsai enthusiasts for its aesthetic properties.

Snake Plant – Also known as “mother-in-law’s tongue”, this plant has been recognized in the same NASA study as one of the best plants to remove indoor air pollution.  Like other pollution-reducing plants, this one can survive quite well with low light levels and irregular watering.  Care should be taken not to over water this species, as the root structure is fairly sensitive.

For further reading, you can pick up the book How To Grow Fresh Air, by B.C. Wolverton.

Home Organic Gardening

Benefits Of Organic Gardening

Are you tired of eating tasteless produce that traveled miles to your table? Do you trust the fruit and vegetables that you purchase at the supermarket to be free of synthetic herbicides and pesticides? Do you wonder if the food you eat has been genetically modified?

Rather than worry, opt for organically grown fruits and vegetables from your garden. They offer a safe and healthy alternative to questionable produce from who knows where. A wealth of medical research validates what we have known all along. Pure and natural is best and organically cultivated food provides more minerals and nutrients than food grown with potentially dangerous chemicals and artificial growth supplements.

Organically Grown Fruits And Vegetables Taste Better

Gourmet chefs have long known that if you want the purest, most flavorful produce, choose organic. Organic farmers nourish the soil with chemical-free compost and well-aged manures, which in turn feeds the crop and ultimately our bodies.

Much of the produce consumed in America is grown in soil depleted of nutrients by many years of production; growth of the crop is only supported by regular applications of chemical fertilizers. When you grow your vegetables and fruits in the home garden, you can rest assured that the food you feed your family is pure, free from contaminants and chemicals, and full of nutrient-rich tasty goodness.

A Home Garden Saves Money

When you grow your food, you can drastically cut the family food budget. Rather than spending money on produce at the grocery store that offers little in the way of nutrition, you can gather greens from the garden: fresh and flavorful for a fraction of the cost of similar store bought produce items. Taste a fresh tomato from the garden and then take a bite of one purchased at the market. You will agree, the difference in flavor and texture is impressive.

Get Some Exercise

Planning, planting and tending a garden is an opportunity for exercise and a time to unwind and get in touch with nature. Getting our hands in the dirt feels good. Medical research confirms that “earthing” or touching the soil restores energy and releases stress.

Protect Your Health

Many pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers used in commercial farming are known to be detrimental to our health: many are known to cause cancer. Why to we continue to buy these poison-tainted products when we can grow our healthy organic food at home?

Protect The Health Of Your Children

The food you feed your family today has a long-lasting impact on the development of young children’s bodies and brains. Avoid exposing your kids to the noxious chemicals that are used to cultivate most store bought vegetables and fruits, instead, make learning to grow your food a family project that can be fun as well as educational.

Question the Neighborhood Before You Buy

The time has come to buy a home and you have a list of questions a mile long. How many bedrooms does it have? What is the down payment? What are the taxes? What school district is it in? But there are some questions you should be asking that you may not have considered and these answers will not be disclosed on the property’s listing sheet.

In order to make a smart buying decision you will want to dig a little deeper into the neighborhood’s crime rate, area residents and what safety measures are in place to keep your family safe.

Here are a just a few things you will want to research before buying your next home:

1. Check the sex offender registry. Most states have provisions like Megan’s Law and other registries where individuals with histories of criminal convictions must register their home addresses with local authorities. Check the address of the home you are considering to see who is living in your potential new neighborhood.

2. What is the history of the home? You may think this unusual but some abandoned homes have been used as drug labs. Homes that were used as drug labs are hazardous to your health. A home that served as a methamphetamine lab contains chemicals that often make unsafe to live in. These homes are usually but not always sold by banks as foreclosures. If the bank or real estate agent does not know the home’s history they don’t have a legal obligation to disclose it so you will have to do your own homework. First, talk to neighbors to see if they have any information. You can also search the federal Drug Enforcement Association’s Clandestine Laboratory Registry.

3.  Check the neighborhood’s crime rate. Don’t look at just the numbers of crime but also consider what sorts of crimes happen in the area. Are the crimes violent and non-violent? Will you need to invest in a car alarm or a security system after a rash of break-ins? SpotCrime.com gives detailed crime data, breaking down crime types with easy-to-scan icons and providing data for communities all over the country.

4.  What precautions are in place in the neighborhood? Does the neighborhood have a watch program? Talk to the home’s seller and the neighbors about what type of precautions are in place. For more information on neighborhood watch programs check out the National Crime Prevention website.

5. Visit the neighborhood at different hours of the day; watch for unsavory visitors, traffic and vacant homes.

Buying a home is an investment in your family and your future. If you have any other questions regarding local information your real estate professional can help point you in the right direction. You can also always call the local police department and ask for any statistics they have on the area.

Is It Time to Buy a Second Home?

If you have been dreaming of owning a vacation home now may be the time to buy. Home prices and mortgage rates continue to fall and there are some great deals for buyers looking for a second home.

Here are five things you need to know before taking the leap.

1. Prices are at all-time lows
In many second-home hot spots, prices are still close to their five-year lows. When the real-estate bubble burst, some of the hardest-hit markets were vacation destinations. Many vacation home areas experienced overgrowth and may now be suffering from foreclosures.

2. Think ROI
Consider the possible return on your investment. Whether or not you decide to rent the home out, you will want to consider buying a place that has good rent potential. That’s because a home’s rent ability can affect its resale value. Before you bid on a house, make sure the homeowners association or township allows short-term rentals.

3. Don’t count on rental income
If you are planning on counting on rental income to cover the costs beware. According to HomeAway.com, a typical second home property rents out just 17 weeks a year. Make sure to account for the weeks the home won’t rent. Plus, you’ll need to pay for cleaning, maintenance, insurance, and maybe management fees. Make sure to plan on the maintenance costs of the property being at least 15% of the income.

4. Your mortgage rate depends on how you use the home
How you use the home depends on the mortgage rate you will receive. If you plan to use the property primarily as a second home and you’ll pay about the same mortgage rate as you would on a primary residence. If your plans are to use the home for rental income and need that income to qualify for the loan, you’ll need to have as much as 25% for the down payment and pay up to one percentage point more in interest.

5. Take advantage of tax benefits
Talk to your tax guy before you buy. If you rent the home out for two weeks or less you won’t have to report a cent of income to the IRS. The good news here, you can still deduct property taxes and mortgage interest. On the flipside, if you stay there for less than two weeks or 10% of rental days, you can deduct operating costs in addition to interest and property tax.

But where should you buy? According to CNBC here are the top places to buy a second home. If you are thinking about buying a second home I can help you find a professional agent in that area.

Houseplants You Can’t Kill & Where to Buy Plants

Plants bring life to all living spaces, indoors and out. If you don’t have a green thumb you may have had bad luck with a plant or two. Here are some healthy, hard-to-kill, houseplants that thrive in spite of you:

Sempervivum: This succulent known as Hen & Chicks loves a sunny window, but requires little attention. They need to be watered regularly during the spring and summer, but only once a month the rest of the year.

Dracaena marginata: Commonly known as Dragon Tree, requires watering before the soil dries out completely,however, avoid the pot sitting in excess water. Ideally, this plant thrives in relatively bright light.

Sansevieria: This plant, also known as Mother-in-Law’s tongue is an indestructible houseplant. It enjoys bright light and prefers the soil to dry out before watering.

Ficus: The tree variety is also known as Rubber Plant, and the trailing variety is commonly called Creeping Fig. These plants like humidity and bright light. Water and mist regularly throughout the summer, reduce water during the winter. Ficus appreciate being move outside during the summer, be sure to avoid direct sunlight.

Chamaedorea: Known as Parlor Palm, has been used as an indoor plant successfully for years because of it tolerance of lower light levels and drier air. This palm prefers bright, filtered sunlight, with a northern exposure. Even moisture is ideal, however err on the side of slightly too dry rather than over watering.

Personally, I am a fan of the everlasting Spider Plant.  They are fun and easy to grow in any environment.

Always check with your pediatrician and veterinarian before introducing a new plant into your home as many can be toxic to pets or humans.

If you are looking to shop locally for plants I suggest a visit to River’s Edge Greenhouse at 12 Auburn St. Ext. in Framingham.  You too will appreciate the helpful and knowledgeable staff.