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.

 

 

Moving Can Cost You More Than You Think

If you are planning a move you are probably busy thinking about the new costs of living, how much the rental truck will cost, packing and how you will get there. What you may not be considering is the hidden costs of moving.

Here just a few of the surprise costs of moving and some ideas on how to avoid them:

Late Fees

When you are moving things get lost in the mail or are slow to be forwarded to your new address. If you miss paying your bills on it can add up in unnecessary late fees. Switch all of your bills to online billing that way you are sure not to miss a payment that is lost in the mail.

Overdraft Fees

Don’t close that bank account just yet. You may have checks or bills still being drawn on that bank account. Leave your bank account open for approximately three months to allow all checks to clear. Doing this will help you avoid any overdraft fees.

Contract penalties

All of those contracts you have signed may come back to haunt you. Memberships at the gym, country club, day care facility, community association, etc. can cost you. Typically there is some type of annual or monthly contract associated with membership and cancelling early will usually cost you.  Some of these contracts will have an exception for a move so read the terms and conditions before you pay a hefty cancellation fee.

Auto insurance

Part of the cost of your auto insurance is determined by your address. For example, moving from an area with less population, to a more highly populated area will cost you more in auto insurance. Different states also have different laws regarding insurance coverage. States have different minimum liability requirements so in some states you will need to purchase personal injury protection and uninsured motorist coverage and in others you will not.

Health insurance

Health insurance can also change when you switch states. Just like auto insurance, health insurance mandates vary among states, too.  Some states require some types of medical procedures are covered while another has not mandated coverage.  Be sure to comparison-shop for your health insurance.

While adding up the normal costs of moving expenses like boxes and storage also be sure to check for these hidden costs and try to avoid losing money in your next move.

 

Baking Soda as a Cleaner

Let’s face it, the daily traffic that the average carpet in your home endures is unbelievable. Owning a home is work, you must dust, vacuum, wash, launder and start all over again in a few days to keep up with living in your home. Is it just you living there or do you have a family or a dog? Do you have a welcome mat to stop the carpet traffic. If not, you should. Do you have a shoe off policy upon entering your home? Either way, follow this simple trick and you will be on your way to a cleaner smelling home in moments.

One easy step to keeping up with the basic cleaning is vacuuming the carpets and removing any potential odor. Sometimes, the vacuum can’t remove such odors, you may need to go one step further to rid your home of that lingering odor. You need baking soda. Baking soda is one of those things that is over looked and thankfully under priced. Once the carpet has been vacuumed, spread a thin layer of baking soda on the carpet and let stand for 10 minutes. Vacuum again. This should make a big difference in the lingering odors in your home. Baking soda is a simple yet beneficial cleaning tip.

Utility Rates

LED light bulbsIt is probable that electric rates will rise soon, again. Let’s explore some ways to help lower your utility bill.

First, change your light bulbs to LEDs. These bulbs cost a bit more, but in the long run, they will save you money, using less wattage and last a very long time. If you have a lot of lights, you may want to buy these bulbs over time. But read on.

If you have light company, such as National Grid, call them and ask for an energy audit of your home. They will send someone out who will do a walk through to determine how your home can be made more energy efficient. Some states, such as Massachusetts, have companies who will replace all your light bulbs with LEDs for no cost. Also, they may offer you a discounted rate to upgrade the insulation in the attic and other energy-sapping places that will save you money in heating and lighting.

Check these suggestions out—it will be good for your wallet, as well as saving the environment. It’s the responsible thing to do, and will save you money, overall.

Selling Your Home

Sometimes, the unlikely event of selling your home can suddenly occur. You may not have ever considered moving away from your humble abode, but things happen, as they say. In any event, it pays in more ways than one to be ready; you never know when an opportunity may present itself for you to downsize, move to another area, or even to upgrade your living situation.

Stay on top of things: from time to time, take a walk around your house outdoors to check to see if any repairs are needed. Broken lights, chipped or loose caulking, or tears in the screens can and should be fixed quickly to prevent more costly repairs. Other repairs may require a professional, but you will save a lot of money if you attend to them quickly.

When you do put your home up for sale, home inspections can sour a great opportunity, and a bad report can be very costly and aggravating. A deal can fall through just because you failed to notice the small things that could have been fixed beforehand. Be diligent; pay attention to those mostly little repairs to the outside of your home.

Cosmetic changes may be necessary to make your home more attractive to buyers. These can be anything from sprucing up your landscaping, to a simple freshening up of the outside of your home. Pick up trash; keep the weeds at bay. Cut the lawn. Broken or hanging eaves troughs, rippled shingles on the roof give the impression of neglect, making potential buyers shy away from looking further at your place.