Prepare for a Successful Home Sell

Preparations that you take to get your house up to code standards, improve its functionality, cleanliness and appearance could yield a successful home sell. Give yourself enough time to complete the preparations identified below. It could shorten the time that it takes you to sell your current house.

  • Clean up. Toss out unnecessary items, old furniture, accessories, old clothes and gadgets that are only taking up space. If you haven’t used a product in two years or more, you probably don’t need it.
  • Perform necessary repairs, such as sealing cracks, replacing bubbled floor tiles and repairing leaking pipes. Be honest and repair areas of your home that potential buyers may not spot or focus on. This includes insulation, wiring and roofing issues. Treat potential buyers to the same respect and care that you want when you start shopping for your next home.
  • Paint. Apply neutral colors to your walls. Loud colors might highlight your personality. But, they could also turn away buyers.
  • Get your house inspected. Ensure that you have made all necessary repairs and that your house meets local coding standards. Use the fact that your house has been inspected and meets code standards as a marketing tool.
  • Find a licensed and experienced real estate agent to partner with. The more the real estate agent knows the area where you live, the better. That expanded knowledge will help the realtor to alert potential buyers, particularly people who are venturing into a new area for the first time, to dining, entertainment, academic, historic and other highlights in or near where you live. Partnering with a real estate agent who has an active license gives you the confidence that you’re working with a realtor who is current on regulations impacting the industry.
  • Save time and commissions fees by working with the same real estate agent who sells your house to find your next home. Avoid taking on two mortgages.
  • Research the market. Talk with friends and colleagues and, of course, leverage your realtor’s knowledge to set a price on the house that you’re selling. You want the price to be competitive for buyers yet profitable for you.
  • Advertise your home online and offline. Ask your realtor to tell you good places to advertise that your house is for sale. It’s an interactive world. Take advantage of this and create a walk-through video of your house. Don’t forget to show pictures and videos of the outside of your home as well.
  • Stage your home similar to how apartments stage their model units.

Practice patience. As tempting as it is to accept the first offer, you may be able to get a better deal. Stick as close as you can to the price that you set for your house early in the home selling process. Also, make sure that the amount you sell your house for covers any outstanding debts that you owe your mortgage lender. Repairs and upgrades that you make to your house could position you to recoup enough from the sale of your house to cover closing costs and a portion of the down payment on your next home.

Best Ways to Rid Your Home of Unwanted Belongings

Junk beginning to pile up in your home? Or have you noticed that you no longer use half of the things you own? Is your closet overflowing with clothes, shoes, and handbags? It might be time to think about clearing those things out of you home. Doing so will make you feel liberated and bring extra space that you may not have seen in years. Below are a few of the different ways in which you can free yourself of unwanted belongings.

Garage/Yard Sale: Garage or yard sales are a great way to sell your old/unwanted things. These options make you some money and get your stuff out the door fast. It will take a little work on your part, as you need to advertise and prepare. Be sure to promote through online resources, post signs and even place an ad in the newspaper. It’s also important to prepare in advance making sure you have everything you need such as tables and hanging racks.

Donate: Donating your unwanted possessions is a great alternative to selling them at a yard sale. And it often requires no work to you. Many foundations send trucks out in search of donations. If you have the extra space hold onto your things and wait for a truck to be in your area. If you don’t have that extra space you can always bring it to places like the Salvation Army.

Sell it: Selling your things is another great way to do away with your unwanted possessions. There are multiple avenues that you can take when selling including online and consignment. For online there are sites like eBay, the use of your own social media, craigslist and multiple apps such as letgo, Close5, and Vinted. There is also the option of selling your things to a consignment shop.

There are many options for getting rid of your old and unwanted belongings. And it may be that you want to use a combination of the ways listed above. As the age old saying goes, one man’s junk is another man’s treasure.

Organization Tips: The Kitchen

The kitchen. It’s one of the most used rooms of the house, yet somehow becomes one of the most disorganized. If you’re tired of digging past ten spatulas to find the potato peeler keep reading. Below are some tips on how to organize your kitchen and keep it that way!

Start by making a bigger mess. Yes, clean everything out of the drawers and cupboards. You may want to include clearing out pantry items as well if it’s been awhile since you’ve done so. Check expiration dates on everything as sometimes items have a way of getting pushed to the back of a cupboard to be forgotten for years. Sort through your items and determine what can be kept, donated or tossed out.

Create categories for the items you are keeping. Think baking, cooking, seasonal, often used, least used, etc. By sorting everything out into categories now, you will know what type of storage solutions and where the best place to store them is later.

Find storage solutions that work. Whether you have items laying around the house you can use or need to invest in some, the best way to stay organized is to create a system that assigns a home for every single item you own. Junk drawers are born from items not having a dedicated place. Be proactive in preventing the dreaded junk drawer by finding an organization solution that includes a spot for everything. Some organization items to consider are lazy susans for spices and other pantry items, hooks to hang mugs, a stemware rack for wine glasses, a rack hang pots and pans from the ceiling, hooks on the insides of cabinet doors for pot holders or measuring cups, a spice rack installed on a cabinet door, and drawer dividers for utensils.

Keep your most used items within reach. Avoid digging through cupboards and drawers on a daily basis by keeping your most used items front and center. In cabinets store your most used items on lower shelves while placing the ones you use less often on top shelves. Place your go-to cooking utensils in a vase or other type of decorative container on the counter next to the stove. You should also consider keeping pots, pans, and other cooking items close to the stove to keep them within arms reach when you are cooking.

Extra Tips for the Go-Getters. Organize plastic ware with their lids. Better yet invest in a set that comes with snap-together lids or a large matching set so you aren’t left trying to cram the wrong lid on a bowl for leftovers. Make the most of the empty space over your cabinets by adding shelves for extra storage. Add a lazy susan in your fridge to avoid items being pushed to the back and becoming long forgotten. Set up a station to sort typical kitchen papers like coupons, menus, and notepads.

While we use our kitchen almost every day the clutter can build up and become overwhelming. With an action plan in hand and a few days dedicated to organizing the chaos you can have a cleaner, more organized kitchen before you know it!

Buyer Beware: Credit Repair Companies

If you have credit trouble it can be difficult to get back on the right track. Poor credit impacts your ability to secure a loan, credit cards, and even a job. Credit ratings are also used by insurers, employers and leasing agencies. So where should you turn for help to repair your credit? There are many credit repair companies and while some are reputable some are not legitimate. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) offers these signs to tell if the company is legit or not:

  • The company asks for money up front. The Credit Repair Organizations Act forbids repair companies from requiring you to pay fees before they have completed the promised services.
  • The company doesn’t want you to contact the three national credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion) yourself.
  • The company encourages you to dispute all the negative information in your credit report, regardless of its accuracy.
  • The company recommends attempting to create a new credit identity and history by applying for an Employer Identification Number to use instead of your Social Security Number.

While a credit repair company may be helpful there are some things you can do yourself to repair your credit.

  • Once every 12 months, check your credit report.  Credit reports are available at www.annualcreditreport.com.
  • If you find errors, dispute incorrect information in your report.
  • Negotiate the removal of outstanding debt. Even without a credit counseling agency, you can contact the collectors of your outstanding debt to negotiate a pay-off settlement.

 

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.