30 Ways to Save Money Around the House

1. Shop at the Right Time of Year

Time home item purchases to get the cheapest prices. Think furniture in January/February, barbecues in fall, and holiday decor after Christmas. See Wise Bread's shopping calendar to find the best times to buy (and stay tuned for our monthly "What to Buy" feature, which runs on or around the first of every month).

2. Renegotiate Your Rent or Refinance Your Mortgage

Try negotiating a lower rent the next time your lease is up for renewal. For homeowners, investigate refinancing your mortgage if you can save a couple of percentage points on your interest rate.

3. Get a Sunday Paper Delivery

Sunday papers are full of coupons. The amount of savings gained from using these food and retailer coupons will far exceed the cost of the paper.

4. Collect Spare Change

Keep a jar to collect loose change. Don't forget to check old junk drawers and the couch for coins, too. Every few months you can dump the change in your supermarket's Coinstar machine to use towards groceries. You'll pay no fees if you convert your coins to a variety of gift cards, including Amazon gift cards, where you can take advantage of Prime and Subscribe and Save.

5. Switch to Cloth Napkins

You can get good-enough-for-everyday and still much nicer than paper, all-cotton table napkins at Amazon and elsewhere, in a variety of colors and patterns, for a couple of dollars each, and sometimes less. Since they're cotton instead of linen, just wash and fold, no ironing required!

6. Dollar Store Household Items

Get to know your local dollar stores. Buying household staples like tape, wrapping paper, soap, and other items will save you a bundle over the grocery store or pharmacy. 

7. Relax for Less

Rather than pay for relaxation, find other cheaper ways to unwind. Try meditation, reading, napping, or an affordable hobby instead of old habits that cost more, like shopping online or mixing up expensive cocktails.

8. Grow Some Herbs

Herbs can easily be grown indoors on a small windowsill or outside in pots or gardens. They will help you save on buying expensive grocery store jars of seasonings, will taste fresher, and can be easily dried and stored.

9. View Coupons as Money

When you realize a $10 coupon for something you need is the same as someone giving you $10 in cash towards your purchase, you'll start to see the value of coupons and savings in a whole new way.

10. Close Closet Doors

Help keep your energy costs lower by closing closet doors so you aren't needlessly heating and cooling closet space.

11. Pay Your Bills Online

Not only will this save you stamps and checks, but the many email reminders and ease of paying online will help you never miss a bill and have to pay a late charge. 

12. Use Supermarket Weekly Circulars

Don't just throw out that weekly grocery store circular. Give them a good look and plan to strategically shop the many deals they have, or stock up on deeply discounted items when bargains arise.

13. Entertain Over Brunch Instead of Dinner

Brunch items are often cheaper to prepare than dinner for guests (think French toast vs. expensive steaks). You'll also save on alcohol, as people are less likely to drink as much.

14. Make a Household Budget

It's time to sit down and do a budget to trim the fat, see where your hidden expenses are, and examine where your dollars are going. You can learn to build a budget in no time flat, or tune up one you currently have.

15. Make Your Own Cheap Wall Art

Affordable wall decor is at your fingertips when you transform some of your favorite photos into a collage of cool black and whites, frame beautiful fabric scraps, utilize your kid's artwork, or paint your own scenes. 

16. Take Free Classes

Free or discounted continuing education classes in many subjects and hobbies can be found in certain communities with just a little searching. Instead of paying for a private tutor or a fancy school, consider looking for community options.

17. Organize and Use Your Pantry

Keeping a well-organized food pantry means you are less likely to buy things you don't need or let items go passed their expiration dates. Like a good episode of Food Network's "Chopped," you should also make sure to use all items in your pantry, too. 

18. Always Check for Online Coupons and Discounts

Before you purchase anything online, hit up sites, like RetailMeNot and Froogle, to check for promo codes, free shipping, and where to find your item at the cheapest price.

19. Make Your Own Drapes

If you've ever seen how much curtains can go for these days, you'll understand why making your own is a huge saver. You don't even need to know how to sew if you follow some easy no-sew drape tutorials. 

20. Use Free Designers and Advice

Take advantage of many retailers' in-house design teams. Furniture stores often offer free design consultants, paint stores always have some knowledgeable advice, and even certain clothing retailers have free stylists to help you shop.

21. Drink Discount Wines

Shop your local wine store for great promotions and sales. Most decent stores have a section of their favorite budget picks or advertise weekly promotions from new wineries.

22. Use Energy Efficient Lighting

Now that the old-fashioned incandescent bulbs are being phased-out, finding affordable CFL and LED bulb options is getting easier. The total lifetime savings from these energy-efficient bulbs will greatly out-weigh their initial investment and save on overall energy costs.

23. Be Your Own Barista

We all know how much coffee shops can cost, so brew your own at home and take a to-go mug with you in the morning. Invest in small hand-frothers, syrups, or just use cinnamon or other common flavorings to fancy things up. 

24. Join Store Loyalty Programs

Supermarkets, pharmacies, and retailers all offer loyalty cards these days. The points and savings really add up. You can save almost 25% or more off purchases just by being part of the program.

25. Find Cheaper Gas

Before you head out to the pump, check gas price sites, like Gas Buddy, to locate the cheapest gas in town and plan accordingly.

26. Make Your Own Cleaners

There are so many ways to make your own cleaning products using things like vinegar, baking soda, lemon juice, and other common household items, all of which are cheaper than brand name cleaners.

27. Divide Landscaping Plants and Use Transplants

When planning your outdoor landscape, look to friends or relatives that have extra plants you can to transplant in your garden. Or divide your own larger plantings and spread them around the yard.

28. Rethink Your Cable

Cut back on premium channels or try the many alternative, cheaper online viewing options, such as Netflix and Hulu+, which you can access via your laptop or connected devices like Google Chromecast and Apple TV, among others.

29. Buy in Season or Frozen Veggies

Avoid pricey out-of-season fruits and vegetables or exotic fresh picks at your grocery store and instead buy local, in-season options. Frozen is also cheaper and just as full of nutrients. 

30. Buy Generic

There are great savings to be had with certain generic brands in every supermarket. Often the generic options are just as good, if not better, than some of their pricier brand name counterparts. In fact, many store or "private label" brands are manufactured by the same companies that make the name brands.

Source: Wise Bread


87 family activities to help you avoid coronavirus cabin fever

It’s not fun being cooped up because of self-isolation and social distancing, but with a little bit of effort, you can create some fun things to do at home to help the time pass and make some wonderful memories. You’ll probably have to work with what you have one hand, since so many stores are closed. But with a little creativity, we’re sure you can make most of these ideas work. You’ve got this!

1. Zoom around in cardboard race cars

Let your kids zoom through the living room in their very own race car. Get the instructions here.

2. Make a cardboard dollhouse

Create your own dollhouse, as intricate or as simple as you’d like. We’ve got instructions for one that’s a series of “apartments” that can be broken up and played with however you’d like. Find it here.

3. Make your own drive-in movie

Make a box car for an indoor drive-in film. Get the instructions here.

4. Bring Minecraft to life

Got a Minecraft fan at home? They’ll flip for this creeper box craft. Find it and templates for Minecraft pixel pickaxes here.

5. Make your own pinwheel

This simple craft is best enjoyed in a breeze, but standing in front of a fan gets the job done too. Learn to make your own here.

6. Make a portable art easel

Don’t throw away that cardboard box! Make a sturdy and portable art easel for your mini Monet. Get the instructions here.

7. Make a calming jar

Help your kids cool down and relax with these easy-to-make calming jars. All you need is hand soap, water and a handful of shiny glitter and beads to help your kids find their inner peace. Get the instructions here.

8. Blow bubbles

Go buy some bubbles at your favourite dollar store, or make your own at home. Plus, learn how to make your own bubble wands here.

9. Play hide-and-seek

Another classic fun things to do at home. Who can find the best hiding spot in the house?

10. Make a bird feeder

What better spring craft is there than making a DIY bird feeder? Or try painting a birdhouse, which you can purchase at your local craft store.

11. Play a game of hopscotch

You might think this game is too simple, but it’s always a great time-killer and super fun to play at any age.

12. Get gardening

Spend some time outdoors by planting flowers in the yard. Your little ones will love getting messy in the fresh soil and being on garden hose duty.

13. Wash your car

If it’s warm enough outside, get the kids to help you out with cleaning up your family vehicle(s) on the driveway.

14. Collect and paint rocks

Go to a nearby park and collect rocks, then make a craft day out of it. Paint them with whatever paint you have at home and maybe even turn them into rock magnets for the fridge.

15. Take lots of pictures

Make sure that while living in the moment, you don’t forget to snap photos of the silly and fun times, too. Print the photos and have the kids help you finally put together that scrapbook or album you’ve wanted to make.

16. Build a fort

Any time of the year is the perfect time to build a fort. It’s great for some pretend indoor camping!

17. Draw with sidewalk chalk

Sprawl out on the sidewalk with a big bucket of chalk or spruce up your driveway with your wildest creations.

18. Have a scavenger hunt

Put together a list of household objects and see who can be the first to find everything on the list!

19. Watch the sunset

The best ending to the perfect spring day is watching the sunset with the little ones before calling it a night.

20. Get baking

Ge the most out of baking with your kids. Pretend to be bakers while practicing essential skills like reading with recipes or counting with ingredients.

21. Get silly with your kids

Try these low cost options for just having some good ole silly fun.

22. Make a twig sailboat

Time to set sail in a lake, pail or bathtub! Make these cute little crafts out of simple supplies. Find instructions here.

23. Make a time capsule

A sweet time capsule filled with special trinkets and memories is always a fun indoor activity to do with kids. Have them help decorate the box and curate which items to put in it. Learn how here.

24. Learn a few magic tricks

Who doesn’t love magic? Learn some simple sleight of hand with this easy guide.

25. Play card games

Teach your kid some fun classic card games like Go Fish!, Crazy Eights, Slapjack and more!

26. Play freeze dance

Choose some of your kids’ favourite tunes and turn up the volume. Ask them to dance until the music stops. When it does, they have to freeze in whatever position they find themselves in – even if they have one leg up. To make the game more challenging, ask the kids to freeze in specific poses: animals, shapes, letters or even yoga postures. Toddlers in particular love this game.

27. Do a puzzle

Exercise those creative, cognitive and problem-solving muscles with a good puzzle. You can use a store-bought variety or have the kids make their own. Have your children draw a picture on a sturdy piece of cardboard or Bristol board. Then use a pencil to outline puzzle pieces directly on their drawing. Cut out the pieces with a good pair of scissors, mix them up and get solving. Indoor games and craft in one fun activity!

28. Improvise some paper-bag skits

This indoor game is ideal for larger families. Divide the kids (and adults) up into groups. Give each group a bag filled with props, such as a spoon, toy jewelry, a sock, ball or ribbon. Then give them 15 minutes to construct a skit around the props. This game is so much fun that it doesn’t have to be competitive. If the kids want, though, they can vote on a winning skit.

29. Make a DIY balance beam

If you have masking tape on hand, why not make your own balance beam? We all know how much kids love walking in straight lines every chance they get. Put on some music, and one at a time the kids can take their turn walking one-foot-over-the-other across the straight line of tape. Make the game more challenging by having the kids walk backwards or balance with one foot on the line.

30. Do some indoor bowling

A great way to reuse water bottles (or you can purchase an indoor bowling set). Line six-10 water bottles up at the end of your hall or living room. Place a line of duct tape at the starting line. Grab a medium-sized indoor ball and start bowling! If you want, keep score and give out trophies at the end. (Note: if you need to stabilize the water bottles or make the game more difficult, simply fill them up with some water. Don’t forget to screw the tops on tightly!) Learn how to make a classic set of pins here, or find instructions for some cute cactus-themed bowling pins here.

31. Play Hot Potato

This game will have everyone giggling. Ask the kids to sit on the floor in a circle. Turn on some tunes and have them pass the potato (a bean bag or soft ball) around the circle as fast as they can. When the music stops, the player holding the potato leaves the circle. Keep going until only one player is left and wins the game.

32. Play the listening game

This game is sure to both educate and delight little ones. Take out several miscellaneous items. Have the children look at all the items, and then take them away. Next, ask one child to hide his or her eyes and listen as you pick up an item and make sounds with it. Ask the child to guess which item made the sound. Examples of items might be a comb (run your fingers along it), a glass (gently tap it), cymbals, shakers, sandpaper, blocks rubbed together, a pot and spoon. Be creative and have fun!

33. Play Simon Says

This traditional favourite will never get old. To start, choose one player (probably a parent for the first round) to be Simon. The rest of the players will gather in a circle or line in front of Simon as he calls out actions starting with the phrase “Simon says”: “Simon says…touch your toes.” The players then have to copy Simon’s action, touching their toes. If Simon calls out an action without uttering the phrase “Simon says,” the kids must not do the action. If a child touches his toes when Simon didn’t say…, he or she is out of the game. There are lots of great ways Simon can trick players into doing actions when Simon didn’t say: Simon can perform an action without uttering a command, for example, or he can perform an action that doesn’t correspond with the command. Fun! The last player left in the game wins and becomes the next Simon.

34. Set up a game of indoor basketball

You can’t be too little for this version of basketball. All you need is a bucket and a rolled up sock (or a small, light ball). Each player takes a turn at throwing the sock-ball into the bucket. When a player scores a bucket, he or she takes a step back and throws again until missing. The player who shoots the ball in the bucket from the farthest distance wins.

35. Learn some classic hand-clapping games

These classic hand-clapping games are sure to pass the time with your little ones. Just make sure everyone washes their hands before and after!

36. Make an emoji magic 8-ball

Who knows what the future holds during this uncertain time? Your little ones will after the make this adorable craft. Get instructions here.

37.Take to the skies in cardboard planes

Fly in style with this colourful plane. Find it here.

38. Make a mini city out of toilet paper rolls

Save up your empty toilet paper rolls and once there’s enough, have your kiddies make a city out of them! Get the instructions here.

39. Make rainbow crayons

Collect all those broken crayons and melt them down into moulds to turn them into exciting multicoloured crayons in fun shapes! Get the instructions here

40. Make a pair of paper roll binoculars

These binoculars are powered solely by your kids’ imaginations. Have your kids go on an epic safari right there in your living room. No need to worry if they ever rip or get sat on, it’s super easy to whip up a new pair. Get the instructions here.

50. Make a foosball table

See that empty shoe box? With some wooden dowels, paint, and a handful of clothespins, it is now the home of your awesome DIY foosball table. Game on! Get the instructions here.

Help your kids get their desks organized with these cute desk caddies! Made from a shoebox, toilet paper rolls and newspaper, your kid can design it however they want. Get the instructions here.

52. Make a jetpack

Want to send your kids on an imaginary adventure in outer space? Have them make a jetpack out of empty pop bottles and watch them travel the galaxy. Get the instructions here.

53. Have sensory fun with this lady bug sensory box

A few basic supplies are all you need to make a cute and educational sensory box. Get the instructions here.

54. Make a holiday tree

Got some old cupcake liners lying around? Depending on their colours, this paper tree craft can be used to make decorations for different holidays throughout the year. Red and green liners? Christmas! Orange and black? Halloween! Pink and white? Valentine’s Day! What holiday will your family be celebrating next? Get the instructions here.

55. Make a basketball pennant flag

The NBA season may have been suspended but you can still celebrate your kid’s favourite sport. Get the instructions here.

56. Craft some cozy critters

Make these cozy little critters to keep your kids’ hard-boiled eggs nice and warm. When eggs aren’t on the menu, they do double as tiny puppets! Get the instructions here.

57. Make some fancy felt hairpins

Turn plain bobby pins into your child’s new favourite accessory with some felt shapes, glue and glitter. Try different shapes to match the season: snowflakes for winter, flowers for spring, a beachball for summer and leaves for fall. And stars work for every season. Get the instructions here.

58. Make some owl eye pillow masks

Get your little night owl excited to sleep with this charming eye mask. Do this craft with your kids in the morning before lunch so it’ll be ready for naptime! Get the instructions here.

59. Play pretend with these Yoda ears

These ears will instantly turn your kiddo into a wise, old jedi master. Round out the ends and use black and pink felt to make easy cow ears. White and pink felt will give you the cutest lamb ears. Now who wants to play pretend?  Get the instructions here.

60. Make pipe cleaner crowns

Speaking of dress up, what princess (or prince) would be caught without their crown? We have three adorable (and bejewelled) crowns you can make with just a few supplies. Find the instructions here.

61. Make mini hockey sticks

Who’s up for a game of mini hockey? These mini hockey sticks are quick and easy to make, just use a plastic bottle cap or small circular piece of cardboard as a puck! More instructions here.

62. Print out some fun pencil and paper games

These fun, simple pencil and paper games will keep kids occupied while parents try to get some work done. Get the printables here.

63. Whip up some edible playdough

This craft is perfect for little ones who love sticking everything in their mouths. (I’m looking at you, glue-eating Tommy.) This edible, dye-free playdough can be made with ingredients you likely have on hand. Make it before the party and then set out cookie cutters and rolling pins on a craft table. Then the kids can get their dough on! Learn how to make it here.

64. Make matching heart headbands

Some people like to wear their heart on their sleeve. But we prefer to wear our heart on our head! Make matching ones for everyone in the family and share what you love most about each other. Find out how here.

65. Create some braided accessories

These colourful braided accessories are fun to make and great for playing dress up. Kids can experiment with new patterns and colour combinations. Let the creative juices start flowing! Learn how to make them here.

66. Rock out with some disco microphones

Your little disco stars can sing their hearts out with these easy DIY microphones. Let them can choose a disco ball, glitter or sequins to decorate their very own mic for a karaoke showdown! Learn how here.

67. Marble-dye some eggs

These pretty marbled eggs don’t have to be just for Easter (although it’s coming up!). The kids can paint them to match a birthday theme, or turn them into their favourite characters (like red-and-blue for Spider Man). All you need are some eggs, food colouring and shaving cream. You might want to lay out a lot of newspaper—things might get messy! Get the instructions here.

68. Make sweet flower crown

Have a little flower-lover? Then this is the craft for your little one! She’ll be a true fairy princess this sweet flower crown. Learn how here.

69. Shake it out with these water bottle maracas

Feeling pent up? Let off some of that bottle up energy with these fun maracas. Learn how to make them here.

70. Make a kid-friendly terrarium

This easy DIY terrarium is the perfect activity for kids. We’ve got the how-to here. Got a mason jar? Make these terrariums instead!

71. Make some bath fizzies

These instructions may be for Halloween-themed bath bombs, but you can make them into any shape you’d like to add more fun to bath time.

72. Make cute plastic lapel pins

Yes, you can make trendy pins with your flair-obsessed kids at home. They look super cute on a denim jacket or backpack (for when school finally reopens) Learn how here.

73. Refresh some old sneakers with splatter paint

Create your own designer sneakers at home with this simple splatter paint craft. Get the instructions here.

74. Make an old-school whirligig fidget toy

Fidget toys are perfect for when the family is stuck inside. Try making your own version of the old-timey classic with this easy DIY whirligig. Find out how here.

75. Make an easy reversible felt playmat

This reversible playmat is such a cinch to make and will provide your little one with hours of fun. Get the how-to here.

76. Create some easy felt embroidered patches

What kid (or adult) doesn’t love a cute embroidered patch? Watch this tutorial and learn how to make one yourself with our easy-to-follow steps. See, you are crafty!

77. Dip-dye a watermelon T-shirt

This sweet t-shirt is a fun and easy project to take to the yard. If you know how to dunk, you already know how to dip dye. Find out how here.

78. Play a board game

Boards games are great for bonding time as a family (even when it gets competitive). Check out which boards games are perfect for what age group here.

79. Sound safari

Show your school-age kid how to use the digital recorder on your phone, then ask them to go around the house or yard recording 10 different sounds. Emphasize that they should take their time and try to stump you. (Variation: very close-up shots with the camera.) Then get them to return to the sound booth, aka the couch, and you try to figure out what the sounds are. Pro tip: To keep your phone out of the toilet, ban “flushing” sounds.

80. Play a game of What’s on my butt?

Get comfy on the couch, belly down. Your kids take turns finding things around the house and putting them on your behind. You ask, “What’s on my butt?” (feel free to add funny voices here) and then try to guess. Hil-ar-i-ous.

81. Watch clouds

No, there are no clouds on the living room ceiling, but this is an imagination game. Lie down with your kiddo and whisper, “Wow, look at the beautiful clouds.”  You can take turns pointing out what you “see” and pretty soon, creative kids will be spotting elephants and waterslides.

82. Stargaze indoors

Get a kitchen colander or two, a decent flashlight and some of your household’s thousands of little toys. Dinosaurs and horses are good. Lie down in a dark room and shine the flashlight through the colander onto the ceiling. Instant starry night! You can also shine the flashlight behind the toys to project shadows onto the ceiling and walls.

83. Play Don’t wake the giant

Since you’ve got those little plastic toys out…lie down and ask your kids to arrange the toys on your back or belly. Urge them to use their imaginations to set up scenes like a village, the African savannah or a parking lot. But wait—they’ve actually set up everything on a sleeping giant! Stretch, scratch, shake, or maybe even stand up.

84. Just roll around on the floor

Little-known fact: rolling around on the floor is a great way for your preschooler or kindergartener to fine-tune all kinds of developmental skills related to balance, coordination and strength. How awesome that you get to lie on the couch to get the best view of their game. Ask if they can roll straight like a pencil (little kids tend to move their top half first then their legs) or roll in both directions. Ask them to put their arms above their heads and hold on to a stuffed toy while they roll (this requires more strength and coordination). More than one kid? Get them to form a “conveyor belt” with coordinated rolling to move a toy along from one kid to another.

85. Make a race track

Lie on the floor with one knee up and maybe an arm outstretched. Get your kid to set up their train track or car track all around you. You’re the landscape!

86. Operation time

Introduce the kids to the retro game, with you as the...


Moving Checklist: Tips to Prepare You for a Successful Moving Day

The prospect of a new home is exciting. Packing up and moving your stuff – not so much.

We asked Sarah Roussos-Karakaian, whose New York company We OrgaNYze specializes in packing and unpacking for residential moves, to help us design the perfect stress-free move.

“The biggest mistake people make when they pack,’’ she says, “is not being specific enough.”

The American Moving & Storage Association recommends that you start preparing for a move eight weeks out. This will give you time to go through everything you own and determine what you’re bringing, giving away or selling. If you’re enlisting friends, give them plenty of notice so you can be sure you’ll have the help you need.

Taking time on the front end to organize will ensure a much better moving and unpacking experience. Here’s a week-by-week checklist for moving to help you manage your schedule:


  • Start a folder or binder. Keep everything related to your move in one place: packing lists, estimates, receipts, mortgage paperwork, etc.
  • Do an inventory. Go room by room estimating the cubic footage of your stuff to determine how many boxes you’ll need. Measure big furniture to figure out what goes where in the new home.
  • Purge what you can. Everything you take will cost money to move, so don’t cart the same unused stuff from attic to attic; be ruthless and get rid of it. Sell it on eBay, or donate it, and take a tax deduction.
  • Order new appliances. If your new home doesn’t come with a refrigerator or stove, or needs an upgrade, order now, so the appliances are delivered before you move in.


  • Research moving companies. Get in-person, written estimates, and check references with the Better Business Bureau. Confirm they are licensed and insured by verifying their USDOT number. Interstate movers must be registered with the U.S. Department of Transportation. Get at least three in-home estimates from moving companies and make sure there’s a binding “not-to-exceed” amount on any contract you sign. You don’t want unpleasant surprises at the end of your move.
  • Retain any specialty movers. Moving expensive or fragile items like art, antiques or a grand piano? Find movers who specialize. Pool tables, for example, typically require an expert to dismantle and reconstruct.
  • Review your mover’s insurance. Ensure that the liability insurance your prospective movers carry will cover the replacement value of anything they might damage.
  • Call utility companies. Arrange to have utilities turned off at your old home and turned on at your new place. Find out dates for garbage and recyclable pickup, as well as any restrictions about having packing debris picked up.
  • Make travel arrangements. Moving long distance or shipping a vehicle? Make travel and auto transport arrangements now. If you have children, will they need to change schools? Get the necessary paper work filled out and records transferred. Pets? Schedule kennel time or ask a friend to keep your 4-legged friends out of the moving chaos.
  • Gear up for packing. Some movers provide boxes. Stores like Home Depot, Lowe’s and Staples sell them. And some retailers or company mailrooms give them away. Get more boxes than you think you’ll need, particularly easy-to-lift small ones. Don’t forget packing tape, colored tape and markers for coding boxes, bubble wrap for mirrors and prints, and packing peanuts.


  • Start packing seldom-used items. Box out-of-season clothes and holiday ornaments before moving on to more frequently used items.
  • Track boxed items. Create a spreadsheet with color-coded rows for each room and enough columns to cover all the boxes per room. As you pack, mark and number each box (e.g., “Kitchen 12”) on its 4 vertical sides (the top is hidden when boxes are stacked) with the relevant tape color. As you seal each box, list its contents in your spreadsheet, so you AND the movers will know what’s in each and where it goes.
  • Use specialty containers. Get specialized boxes for TVs and wardrobes. Pull garbage bags over hanging clothes in clumps and tie the bags’ strings around the bunched hangers to keep contents clean and easy to handle. (Color-code these bundles, too.) Seal liquids in plastic storage tubs with lids.
  • Keep hardware together. Put screws and other hardware from anything you disassemble – sconces, TV wall mounts, shelves, etc. – in sealed plastic bags taped to the items themselves. Just be careful not to affix the bags onto a surface that could be damaged by the tape’s adhesive.
  • Update your address. Change your address with USPS to have your mail forwarded to your new address. Give your new address to family members, your banks and credit card companies, magazines and newspapers, the Department of Motor Vehicles and your employer. Be sure to update the extensive list of contacts you should inform when you move.


  • Finish packing the house. Label the boxes you pack last that contain your most-used items – laptops, phones, everyday dishes, remote controls, etc. – with three strips of colored tape. Tell movers to keep these boxes easily accessible in the new location.
  • Confirm your dates. Call utility companies to make sure your services are scheduled to be connected the correct day, and double-check the move time with the movers. If you’ve arranged to have your old home cleaned, it’s smart to double-check that task, too.
  • Defrost your fridge and drain gas-powered equipment. Unplug the refrigerator to give it time to defrost and drain. Drain gas and oil from mowers and similar equipment, and discard the fluids properly.
  • Create a “First Night Kit.” Pack a box or overnight bag for each family member with a change of clothes, toiletries and medications, plus favorite toys for kids and pets. Include cleaning supplies, toilet paper, snacks, a utility knife (for unpacking) and a first-aid kit.
  • Pack your valuables. Carry jewelry, medications, easily damaged items and other valuables with you.
  • Do last-minute errands. Get cash to tip the movers and buy pizza for the family. Take pets to a kennel or drop them off with a friend. Pick up the keys to your new home.

Moving Truck Tips

Renting a truck to haul your stuff can involve all kinds of complications — from choosing the right size of van or truck to packing it properly and making adjustments to drive it safely. Brandon Scivolette, president of Elite Moving Labor, a national moving company, shares what he knows to make your move go smoothly.

Moving right along. Truck rentals range in size from 10 to 26 feet. Clearly, you need to prepare for this new experience behind the wheel. If you have the opportunity, give the truck a trial spin in the parking lot, testing its overall visibility as well as how it handles and turns.

“You need to realize that these trucks don’t have rearview mirrors, so you have to get used to that,” Scivolette says. “Using a car carrier will change how you reverse. If you want to reverse to the left, you turn the wheel right. This can confuse people.”

Check it out. Rental trucks will have maintenance issues from time to time, especially if they have a lot of miles on them.

“The most important things to look at are the condition of the tires and the total miles,” Scivolette says. “The more miles the truck has, the more likely it will break down. So if it has a lot, ask if you can exchange it for a more recent model.”

Choose your size. The general standard says that a 14-foot truck will move one to two bedrooms. Or that a 12-foot truck will haul 450 cubic feet worth of home “stuff.” Scivolette recommends 12 feet or less for small, one-person moves; up to 17 feet for a small home or one- to two-bedroom apartment; and no less than 20 feet for single-family or town homes.

“If you’re ever unsure,” he says, “you should always defer to a larger truck size — especially if you’re relocating a long distance and multiple trips aren’t an option.”

Pack correctly. Establish a foundation with heaviest items first. Build in tiers from left to right, floor to ceiling and heaviest to lightest.

“Stacking items is fine as long as they’re of comparable size and weight,” Scivolette says. “After completing a first row from left to right, place fillers — nonbreakable items like clothes, blankets and pillows that can be shaped into a space — into the gaps. Use mattresses and box springs to wall off and secure tiers. Place mirrors and paintings between mattresses and box springs.”

Pick a good time. If you can, schedule your move to make sure you don’t run into prime season.

“The most expensive time to move is between March and October,” Scivolette says. “Throughout the year, it’s more costly in the beginning and end of every month, especially on weekends. Also, Memorial Day weekend and the last weekend in July are the two busiest ones of the year.”

Moving Day

  • Arrive ahead of the moving truck. Give yourself plenty of time to figure out furniture arrangement and where things go.
  • Direct the operation. Explain your system to the moving firm’s foreman, and give him a copy of the spreadsheet before his team begins working. Lay cardboard or a plastic sheet on the floor of the moving truck.
  • Take care of your movers. Moving is tough work, so plan to provide water and lunch for the movers. As for tipping: For a half-day job, $10 per mover is the rule of thumb; for a full-day, $20 each.
  • Give your old home a clean sweep. If you’re a homeowner, you’ll probably have to do this before the closing. If you rent and have a security deposit, take photos after you’re done — in case of disputes. Consider hiring a professional cleaning service to save you time and effort.
  • Unpacking in your new home. When you arrive at your new place, unpack the necessities first, like your bed, basic kitchen supplies and comfortable clothing to wear as you unpack the rest. Arrange the furniture first to make sure there’s a clear path to the bed. Make the beds now, so at the end of the day, everyone can just tumble in — exhausted.

First Week After the Move

  • Pick up the pets. Make sure you have their food, water and litter boxes.
  • Change all exterior locks. Get a new set of keys to the house and make copies for all family members and a few extras.
  • Unpack the kitchen. Find those final-items “three stripes” boxes and unpack.
  • Congratulate yourselves. Sure, there’s still plenty to do and you probably won’t get as far as you’d like in the first week. Says Roussos-Karakaian: “If you’re hanging art in the first seven days, you’re a rock star.”

Keep your valuables safe before, during and after your move with homeowners insurance. Learn more about homeowners insurance and renters insurance that Nationwide offers

Source: Nation Wide


Basement Storage Tips

When properly utilized, a basement can add much-needed storage space for your home, instead of being that black hole where things are tossed and disappear.

"People are really looking to maximize every space they have now and basements allow them to do that," says Oak Park, Illinois interior designer Amanda Miller. "The more organized you are, the more you can achieve in the space."

Consider the space itself. While some basements are a finished lower level of the home, others can be damp and dark with a high humidity level. These conditions can lead to mildew and mold growth, musty odors and damage to items like upholstered furniture. Address any moisture-related problems before you move items downstairs.

Tip One: Determine what you need to store in your basement

Removing everything from a basement to sort items can be overwhelming for most people, says Omaha, Nebraska-based Certified Professional Organizer, Amy Tokos, CPO. Instead, Tokos suggests sorting items into bins using five or six general categories (like "toys" or "household cleaning supplies") to establish what to keep, toss or donate to a local charity. Group like items together, and set up zones for storage of designated items.

Miller takes a different approach with her clients: she first focuses on how her clients use the space and the style they want, then builds a vision for the basement before they sort and purge items.

"I ask them questions like what are your actual media needs? Are those toys no longer used? Their answers help us establish the storage solutions for the space," explains Miller.


Tip Two: Utilize key tools for different storage needs

How often you need to access items and the size of the items helps you decide the best storage solutions for your basement.

"Shelves are really important for storing items in basements because they get everything off the floor and they help you use vertical storage space," says Tokos.

Miller likes clear labeled bins for households with children, so they can easily see what's inside and resist the urge to dump everything on the floor. Avoid using cardboard boxes in damp basements, because they can become mold-y and attract rodents.

If you have the budget, built-in cabinetry gives you the luxury of creating storage where you need it. Free-standing storage units available at many retailers are a good alternative. Wall systems with labeled baskets that slide in and out are great for a finished basement that doubles as a media or play room.

Tip Three: Use special solutions for hard-to-store items

Keepsakes require special attention. When storing fine linens, use an acid-free box and separate the linens with acid-free tissue paper. Felt rounds used between stacked plates sorted by color helps preserve heirloom dishes.

Color-coded, tight-lidded plastic bins (red for Christmas, orange for Halloween) help keep holiday decorations easy-to-find and organized. When storing out-of-season clothes, a hanging rack with dust cover is better than boxes that take up space. If you want to store heavy sweaters, use covered bins with cedar balls added for freshness.

For wedding gowns, many dry cleaners offer "heirloom packaging" that protect the garment from the elements--but store the dress on a top shelf or in another spot in the house if your basement isn't dry or temperature-controlled.

Keep toys easily accessible but organized. A labeled bin, drawer or basket all work, but for little kids consider adding a picture along with words to your label. Avoid a big, deep general bin that can create a large mess, warns Miller.

Pieces of sports equipment can be hung on the wall, freeing up floor space and helping you avoid a safety or tripping hazard. And for family photo albums, Tokos suggests having them digitally converted for easier and safer storage of your most prized images.

Tip Four: Make your system user-friendly

No matter your storage system, the time and effort required to set it up will feel wasted if you go back to bad habits. Keep your storage solutions as simple and basic as possible, so everyone is encouraged to place items where they belong.

Source: HGTV


6 Ways to Help Your Child Cope With Moving to a New Place

It is the premise to every other young adult novel or movie: the new kid struggling to make his way in a new town without their old friends or familiar comforts.

Such a scenario is endlessly relatable, because it so darn accurate. It’s difficult for kids to move to a new home, adjust to a new school, and make new friends, but there are things parents can to do make them feel less overwhelmed.

“Parents can talk with their children about how things will change when they move to a new home,” said Maria Sanders, a social worker and parent coach.

She suggests asking children if they have any questions about the move and what their new home will be like.

Ali Wenzke, founder of The Art of Happy Moving blog, says the more parents involve children in the planning of a move, the better they’ll feel about it.

“Moving, even if it’s just down the street, can be a big adjustment for your child,” Wenzke said. “It feels like their world is being turned upside down.”

Here are six tips for helping kids adjust when they relocate to a new home:

1. Prepare Your Children in Advance.

Being prepared means saying goodbye to people and places before the move takes place, said Julia Simens, author of Emotional Resilience and the Expat Child”.

Well before your scheduled move, talk to your children about your plans to relocate. They’ll be more willing to part with old friends and familiar surroundings if they know something about the home they’re moving to and the reasons behind the move.

2. Make Sure They Know About Big Changes They’ll Face.

Children often fear the unknown. When they don’t know anything about how their lives may change, their imaginations fill in the blanks. The more they understand about what their new home will be like, the less threatened they’ll feel.

For example, if they must give up household pets or if extended family members who’ve been a part of their lives no longer will live nearby, they need to have an explanation, said Simens.

3. Let Them Participate in the Move.

Simens recommends that you start planning your move as early as possible to reduce stress.

In order to make your children feel a part of what’s going on, give them chores to do to get ready for the move. If they’re allowed to pack their own things, they’ll understand that their possessions will be waiting for them when they arrive at their new home.

4. Plan Activities For Your Road Trip.

If you’re driving a great distance to your new home, the trip will go more smoothly if you plan activities for your kids. Ask them what toys, games, and movies they would like to have with them.

“Consider splurging on new books or a new movie that your kids can use in the car,” said Wenzke.

Simens recommends packing your children’s favorite treats and taking plenty of rest breaks along the way.

5. Make Their New Room Seem Familiar.

Your children will feel more comfortable in their new home if you allow them surround themselves with familiar things, especially in the months immediately following the move.

“The rug they always stand on when they get up, their nightlight, the soft pillow they love would all be wonderful in a new environment,” said Simens. 

6. Take Your Kids on a Tour of the New Neighborhood.

To make your move a family adventure, take your children on a tour of the new neighborhood. Help them find the best routes to their school and other places they’ll want to visit, such as parks, the local library, and playgrounds.   

“When you move somewhere new, forget about getting every last box unpacked right away,” said Wenzke. “Instead, spend that time focusing on your neighborhood and your new city.”

Source: Spare Foot Blog


Selling Your Home: The 11 Most Important Spots to Declutter Before the Open House

Make no mistake about it: when you’re selling your house, potential buyers want to see everything. That means no area of your home (not even your utility closet) is safe from the gaze of a serious house hunter. That’s why it’s crucial to maximize every square inch of your place—backyard shed included—by minimizing your overall clutter.

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Before you can successfully show off your house to anyone (or even take listing photos) you need to ensure you have a home that people will want to live in: one that’s well organized and filled with ample storage space. To help, we’ve put together a list the most important places to de-clutter as you prepare to sell your home. And though we can’t promise it’ll shorten the length of time your home spends on the market, we can assure you it’ll make the staging process go a whole lot smoother.

1. Primp the Front Yard for Curb Appeal

House hunters love to drive by listings and check out neighborhoods before attending open houses. For that reason, it’s important to keep your front lawn trim and tidy—porch included—and make a positive first impression.

2. Tidy Hidden Storage Rooms So They Look Bigger

Believe it or not, people are going to want to see inside your garage, utility closets, and backyard sheds. Now’s the time to clean up (and perhaps invest in some industrial shelving) to make sure your storage rooms look spacious and organized.

3. Make the Entryway More Welcoming

Much like the front yard, an entryway sets the first impression of your place. Set up a sleek coat rack or accent table to keep yours organized—and offer a place for visitors to hang up their jackets during open house—and create an entrance that draws potential buyers in.

4. Clear the Way in the Hallways

A narrow hallway can make even the loftiest of homes feel cramped. So make sure and remove as much visual clutter in yours as possible—i.e. hanging hooks, photographs, and other artwork—especially the hall is super slender.

5. Showcase the Living Room

Living rooms should always be orderly and free of eyesores during open house showings. This calls for clearing out stacks of magazines, editing your bookshelves, and even paring down throw pillows and table accessories that can make the room feel heavy and smaller than it actually is.

6. Curate What’s in the Kitchen

Your kitchen is prime with places for potential buyers to scrutinize. This means your countertops stay clean and clear—a good rule of thumb is to have no more appliances showing— and your pantry and cupboards curated. Also, don’t forget to clean out your refrigerator, freezer, and under sink area, too, as they offer more sought-after storage space.

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7. Keep Closets Streamlined

Whether it’s a hallway coat closet or a master suite walk-in, your home’s closets will have a major big impact on prospective buyers. Box up off-season apparel—or better yet, donate it—and remove extra hangers so yours looks spacious and streamlined.

8. Beautify the Bathroom

Everyone knows the difference a bathroom can make for a house hunter, so keeping yours orderly is imperative. Organize everything from your countertops (no one wants to see your makeup and toothbrushes!) to your linen closet and medicine cabinets, so people can visualize what they’ll do with the space.

9. Put in Some Work in the Office

If you’re lucky enough to have a proper office in your home, rest assured your potential buyers will want to see it. File away or shred old papers, clear off your desk, and cover up unsightly computer cords to create a study area that people will actually want to work in.

10. Touch and Tidy Up Play Areas

Kid’s playrooms should be every as tidy as any other bedroom in your place, and the same goes your pet’s play areas, too. Limit the number of toys you keep out and make sure to have a nice storage bin to stash them all when they’re not being used.

11. Create a Covetable Laundry Room

While it might seem unnecessary, your laundry room also needs to make a good impression. Make sure all of your cleaning products are put away nicely and floors and appliances are kept spotless to create the kind of laundry space prospective buyers will covet.

Source: Apartment Therapy 


16 Easy Ways to Boost Your Home’s Curb Appeal

Could your home use a bit of extra curb appeal? Your home’s exterior is like the cover of a book, setting the stage for what’s inside. And whether you’re interested in selling or just want to make some improvements for your own enjoyment, adding curb appeal is often an easy and inexpensive way to make your house look nicer and boost its value. Here are 16 projects that will help your home make a better first impression.

  1. Go green

    One of the most obvious (and most impactful) ways to boost curb appeal is to add some fresh greenery and flowers. Don’t worry if you don’t have the time or money to spend on putting in a garden—you can get the same effect by adding some planters and window boxes. Use plants to accentuate and frame key visual points, like windows and entryways, and if you don’t have room for a standing planter, hook up a hanging one. Even just one pretty plant arrangement can significantly add to your home’s exterior appearance.

  2. Take care of your lawn

    While we’re talking green thumbs, it’s important to note that lawn care is a big part of maintaining curb appeal. Regularly care for your lawn by mowing the grass, raking off leaves, and pulling weeds. Keep it well watered to prevent brown spots. As long as you keep up with it, lawn care won’t become a huge project. Live somewhere dry where grass has a tough time taking hold? Consider lawn alternatives like shrub beds or artificial turf.

  3. Make your door pop

    Boost curb appeal by having your front door stand out instead of blend in. Painting a front door only costs about $75, and is a pretty easy DIY job, even for beginners. Opt for a bold color that accentuates and enhances (rather than clashes with) the other colors of your home’s exterior. Don’t be afraid to go bright, but do hold up a swatch before painting to ensure the final product will be what you’re looking for. You can also use the Front Door Paint app, which lets you virtually test out different colors.

  4. Let there be light

    There’s nothing welcoming about a dark entryway. If you already have a sconce or hanging pendant by your front door, replace it with something a bit more fun and fresh. Clean off all cobwebs and debris around outdoor light fixtures, which will instantly make the space appear more bright and clean. If you need some additional light sources, hang some porch string lights or use solar powered lanterns to light up a walkway.

  5. Embrace symmetry

    Symmetrical patterns create focal points that are pleasing to look at and instantly make your home look more put together. Achieve the look by putting matching wall lanterns or plants on either side of your front door. If you don’t have room at your entryway, you can do the same thing around your garage door.

  6. Makeover your mailbox

    Swap out a dated mailbox with something more stylish. It’s a super easy project to take on, and can make an understated but noticeable difference in your home’s curb appeal. Depending on the type of mailbox that you need (i.e. a standing mailbox or one that’s attached to the wall), plan on spending about $50-$200 to replace it.

  7. Clean your gutters

    Clean gutters both inside and out, clearing out any debris and really scrubbing the outsides until they look good as new (or as close to new as you can get them looking). You’ll be in awe at what a little elbow grease can do.

  8. Add some front door décor

    Wreaths aren’t only for Christmas. You can find wreaths year-round that add an exceptional dose of added beauty to your front door. Look for wreaths made from dried or preserved greens and florals, or make your life even easier by purchasing one made from faux plants. Avoid seasonal elements that can date a wreath and make it appear out of place. Instead, go with something simple that can add elegance throughout an entire season.

  9. Upgrade your house numbers

    Quickly modernize the look of your home by removing your old house numbers and replacing them with something that has a bit more oomph. Choose a font that aligns with the architecture of your home but that is also distinctive enough to really grab the eye. Even if you’re not super handy, replacing the numbers is an easy job that can be done in about half an hour or less.

  10. Hide electrical fixtures

    An electrical box on the front of your house can really stand out, and not in a good way. Fortunately, a quick paint job can camouflage the fixture so it blends in instead of being an eyesore. Go with a color that’s the same as your home’s siding, and follow these tips for painting it correctly.

  11. Power wash it off

    There are few things more satisfying than power washing years of dirt and grime off your siding, porch, walkway, and driveway. If you don’t own a power washer, you can rent one from a big box hardware store like Home Depot or Lowe’s.

  12. Stain your garage door

    A new garage door is expensive, but you can get the look of a new door for a lot less money simply by staining it a new color. Start by power washing the door to get the surface completely clean, then paint your stain on. Here’s an easy guide for how to do it right.

  13. Fix it up

    Take care of any small repairs, like ripped screens, burned out bulbs, or chipped paint. Even tiny flaws can stand out against an otherwise picturesque exterior, so it’s worth taking a day to fix them. Walk around the outside of your house noting anything that requires a quick fix, and then get the tools you need and get to work.

  14. Design a clear path

    A well-defined path makes your home look more inviting and put together. You can go big and build one out of stone or brick, or you can just use visual cues like lighting and plants to line a clear path to your front door through the grass or around an existing concrete walkway.

  15. Utilize outdoor furniture smartly

    Too much outdoor furniture can clutter your home’s appearance, while too little can make it look scarce or neglected. Try to find a good balance somewhere in the middle, and be sure that all outdoor furniture you have is clean and in good condition. For small yards, think about putting in simple ceramic stools for seating and add some extra charm by setting up a small table with a pretty planter on the top.

  16. Add new door hardware

    Replace your front door’s existing hardware with something new for a quick and noticeable upgrade. Choose a color that contrasts with your door’s paint color, such as black hardware on a white door or brass hardware on a black door. Take it a step further by adding a fun door knocker for guests to use when they come by.

Giving your home a curb appeal boost can be done in just a day or weekend if you plan ahead and prioritize the projects that will really make a difference. Chances are, your home already has plenty of beautiful elements and it just needs some finishing touches to really look its best. Put some time and effort into it and you’ll be amazed by the results.



9 Refreshing + Budget Decorating Ideas for Spring

t the top on our list this season are some fresh and easy decor updates that won’t break the bank. We’re talking about things like bringing in flowers or greenery, updating with zesty new colors and switching out accessories for lighter, "spring-ier" options.

I’ve gathered up some of my favorite budget-style upgrades that will help you freshen up your space and welcome spring into your home with a bang.

Supermarket Flower Arrangements

Fresh flowers are one of my very favorite spring updates, and you don’t need to spend a lot of money to get that chic, florist-designed look at home. Most supermarkets these days have a great selection of fresh flowers. And if you’re less comfortable creating your own arrangements, simply buy several bouquets of one color or type of flower and put them in a vase.

Groupings of Light Decor

Light, bright colors always scream spring to me. This is also a perfect example of how you can use groupings of objects to create some visual interest on a bookshelf, table or mantel. Even without flowers in them, vases work great as decor!

Other items like small bowls, little statues or bookends can be grouped together to create a similar effect. Other fun spring color options can include pinks, blues or coral.

These varied height vases from Z Gallerie would be a great jumpstart to your collection.

Make a Terrarium

If you’re a bit gun-shy about bringing some large plants into your home that need to be cared for, you might want to consider making a small terrarium.

You can use a large glass bowl, vase or fish bowl and easily add some of your favorite small plants or succulents. You can also move your terrarium around your house, depending on where the best light is coming from.

Add or Switch Out a Throw

If you’ve had a cozy, furry, fall throw draped over the back of your sofa or chair, now is a great time to switch it up with something a bit brighter and lighter for spring. This is bright, beautiful kantha throw that would work great as a spring-y option in your living room or bedroom.

For a more budget-friendly option, consider simply using some bright, colorful fabric you have leftover from another project, or opt for a brightly colored scarf from your closet.

Use Fruit or Veggies as Decor

With many more fruits and vegetable in season, an easy option is to try using some lush groupings of fruit as decor on your dining room table or in your kitchen.

You can create a mixture of different fruits for a great pop of color, or stick to a simpler grouping for a more streamlined look. And of course, you should choose your fruit and vegetables based on what your family already loves to eat!

Here is a pretty hammered gold serving bowl that would work great for oranges and clementines, lemons or even bananas.

Put an Herb Garden in Your Kitchen

Another great option for dipping your toes into the world of gardening is to create a small herb garden in your kitchen. Just like with the fruit, these are both beautiful to look at, and super functional if you’re someone who already loves to cook.

A window is a great spot for your herb garden, but clearing some room on your counter works well, too. You can choose to use beautiful vintage tins or small flower pots from your local hardware store.

Make It: How to Plant a Mini Herb Garden

Light a Fresh Spring Candle

While decor and greenery is a great way to spring-ify your home, don’t forget about the magic of scent. A favorite, easy, seasonal update I always like to use is candles. Florals and fruity smells always remind me of spring, and this gardenia and fig candle is a fave of mine for this time of year.

Discount home stores always have a great, inexpensive selection of candles, so try to find your favorite spring scent and buy a couple different ones so you have options.

Switch Out Your Hand Soap

In addition to candles, another great trick is to switch out your hand soap with a bright, fragrant spring option. You can update the soap in your bathrooms, guest bathrooms and even at your kitchen sink.

I think this lemon/mint scent from Method is the perfect spring scent.

Spring-ify Your Linens or Towels

Another easy spring upgrade is to simply switch out your towels or bed linens. Most of us have a few different sets of sheets for the beds in our homes, so why not save the lighter, brighter sheets sets for spring?

If you don’t have any existing spring options in your linen closet, consider making a smaller update such as adding a spring-y throw pillow to your bed or simply replacing the hand towels in your guest bathroom.

Source: HGTV


This Is the Best Time to Buy a House, According to Real Estate Experts
No matter how many times you’ve done it, purchasing a new home can be intimidating, stressful, and of course, incredibly exciting. Before you jump online and start drooling over wraparound porches, come up with a game plan. In addition to the advantages you’ll gain from finding the right realtor and researching your local market, figuring out the best time to buy a house can really pay off, whether that’s in the form of savings or a property in your ideal neighborhood.

For a commitment this big and a price tag this hefty, it’s a smart idea to “figure out your objectives,” says Matt van Winkle, a real estate agent and owner of RE/MAX Northwest. “Do you want to pick from the freshest selection? Are you okay with buying during a competitive time? Is your number one goal to spend the least amount possible?” Determining what you want when it comes to the process of home-buying is just as important as knowing you want four bedrooms and an open floor plan. The answers to these questions can impact when you decide to pour all of your energy into the search. It’s true that the housing market can vary wildly down to the zip code, and the market in one major city, like Los Angeles, won’t necessarily mirror the market in another, like New York City. However, housing experts agree that there are national trends and patterns that can help guide your decision-making. Here’s what they’ve discovered when it comes to timing your house-hunt:

If you want the most choices, buy a house in the spring or summer.

February and March is when you’ll first start to see an uptick in new listings online, says Skylar Olsen, director of economic research for Zillow. Sellers of single-family homes tend to be parents, and they often put their homes on the market in the spring with the goal of moving out before school starts back up. Around the same time, potential buyers are house-hunting, as they prefer to be out and about when the weather is warm, says Nadia Evangelou, a research economist for the National Association of Realtors. The combination of these two factors results in a period of about five months — March through July — when a buyer will have the largest selection of new listings on the market, but the most competition. Olsen sees the largest amount of homes being sold at list price or above during March, April and May, while Evangelou identifies June as the peak month for home-selling activity. But don’t let the prospect of paying full price scare you off. “Yes, you’re more likely to stretch your budget in order to compete with other buyers during the busy season,” says Olsen. “However, you’re also more likely to find the home of your dreams because you shopped when you had the most options available to you.”

If you're looking for a deal, buy a house in the winter.

Since most prospective buyers would rather casually scroll through online listings in PJs than go open-house hopping in puffy coats, winter is considered the off-season in the real estate world. Sellers strategically wait to list their homes during a period when they will generate the most interest, which is a big reason why there’s less inventory on the market during the colder months. So while you may not be spoiled for choice, you’ll have less competition for the houses that are up for sale at this time, which were either left over from the spring/summer or newly listed for any number of unique reasons. “Owners who list their homes during the off-season may be dealing with a time-sensitive situation (like relocation for a new job) that requires them to sell their properties as soon as possible,” says Olsen. A sense of urgency plus a smaller pool of buyers can equal wiggle room in pricing. But you live in a mild climate region, you say? Check out what's on the market in November and December. The hectic holiday season is enough to deter people from both selling and buying. “Out of the buyers that I’ve worked with, the ones that negotiated the best deals purchased a home between Thanksgiving and Christmas,” says van Winkle. It's certainly a hassle to buy and move during the holidays, but you may discover a hidden gem while everyone else is sipping eggnog — and scoop it up for a good price to boot.

Buying a home in August is the potential sweet spot.

In August, you'll see more price drops than you’d see in the spring or early summer and more inventory than in the winter, according to Olsen. “A lot of these homes are left over from the busiest buying months and sellers need to offer price cuts in order to unload their properties before the season is over,” she says. There are plenty of reasons why some houses sell more quickly than others, but keep in mind that less popular homes are not necessarily lower quality homes. You may find that sellers had listing price expectations that were too high earlier in the season, but they are now willing to negotiate. (Score!)

How far in advance should you look for a house to buy?

For homes located in places where the summers are brutally hot or unpleasant, shift this national timeline up a few months. “You’ll see a good amount of new listings in cities like Phoenix, Tampa or Miami during the month of January, which is usually a slow month elsewhere, and less activity in July,” says Olsen. If you live in a state where the weather is consistently nice year-round, you may not notice as large of a discrepancy between the number of sales and home prices when the seasons change, according to Evangelou. Also, some desirable areas are going to be pricey and competitive year-round. “In the Northwest, properties in areas near major job centers, like Seattle, are expensive and have appreciated at higher rates. Unlike in the early 2000's, people are just not willing to commute as far,” says van Winkle. So despite all the variables, how do you increase your chances of getting everything on your checklist? Start looking the second you know you’re interested in buying. "Keeping your eye on the market month after month will only work in your favor,” says Olsen. "Know what you can afford, know what your limits are, and move quickly when the perfect thing comes along."

Source: Good Housekeeping 


9 Benefits of Owning a Vacation Home

Many people are unsure if buying a vacation home will pay off for them in the future. Some feel as if they will not spend enough time there or it will be too costly. There are actually many positive reasons to owning a vacation home, and they can be beneficial in various ways for the owner. Here are nine benefits of owning a vacation home.

Take Advantage of Tax Breaks

Everyone loves a good tax deduction. If the buyer decides to use the home as a true second home and not a rental property, then the mortgage interests and property taxes can be tax deductible. In order to qualify for the tax breaks, the second home cannot be rented out for more than two weeks out of the year.

Rental Income

There is always an option of renting out a vacation home when it is not occupied. If the vacation home is in a desirable spot, this could be an excellent source of extra income. The expenses of renting out a vacation home can sometimes be deducted as well.

It's Convenient

Having a vacation home is convenient for storing items. If the vacation home is on the lake, then it is easy to store floats, water ski products, and life jackets. This also works well if the home is located at the beach, in the mountains, or a winter location near favorite skiing spots. No need to worry about packing when all of the supplies are already accounted for.

Long-Term Profits

Real estate value fluctuates throughout the year, but vacation homes have a great chance to retain their value and appreciate. This is largely due to the popular areas and cities that the vacation homes are located.

Comfortable and Familiar

Being comfortable on vacation is a must. Having a vacation home that is familiar makes it much more comfortable on each stay. A vacation home allows owners to be themselves with their friends and families or easily make new friends with neighbors.

Place for Gatherings

Family get-togethers are great places to make memories with family, and a vacation home could be the perfect setting for those get-togethers. Start a new yearly tradition with family as everyone gathers at the vacation home for a holiday or family reunion. The vacation home can also be passed down to future generations as the gatherings become traditions.

Prepare for Retirement

A vacation home gives buyers a place to retreat when they are ready to retire. When retirement hits, the first home can be sold and profits can go towards the mortgage for a vacation home or new renovations. A second home gives the buyer a head start on retirement and creates an easier transition to retirement.

Getaways Just Got Easier

There is no more deciding where to go on vacations once a vacation home is purchased. The location of the second home will be the go-to spot for the family. The freedom of choosing the length of vacations and who vacations with them is all up to the owner. This is one of the top reasons to purchase a vacation home.

Access to Other Vacation Homes

A vacation home is usually located in a popular area with many retail, dining, and entertainment options. This gives owners the options to trade time with other vacation home owners in different regions. Owners are then able to enjoy new vacations in different locations while still feeling at home.

There is plenty to consider before purchasing a vacation home, but these are some excellent benefits to help make the decision easier. If you are considering purchasing a vacation home, please contact us today! First Savings Mortgage has helped many clients find a new home, and they are looking forward to helping you as well.

Source: First Savings Mortgage


6 Ways Home Buyers Mess Up Getting a Mortgage

Getting a mortgage is, by general consensus, the most treacherous part of buying a home. In a recent survey, 42% of home buyers said they found the mortgage experience “stressful,” and 32% found it “complicated.” Even lenders agree that it's often a struggle.

“A lot can go wrong,” says Staci Titsworth, regional manager at PNC Mortgage in Pittsburgh.

If you're out to buy a home, you have to be vigilant. To clue you ipre-anto the pitfalls, here are six of the most common ways people mess up getting a mortgage.

Waiting until you can make a 20% down payment

A 20% down payment is the golden number when applying for a conventional home loan, since it enables you to avoid paying private mortgage insurance (PMI), an extra monthly fee of 0.3% to 1.15% of your total loan amount. But with mortgage rates where they are today—in a word, low—waiting for that magic 20% could be a huge mistake, since the more time passes, the higher mortgage rates and home prices may go!

All of which means it may be worth discussing your home-buying prospects with lenders right now. To get a ballpark figure of what you can afford and how your down payment affects your finances, punch your salary and other numbers into a home affordability calculator.

Meeting with only one mortgage lender

According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, about half of U.S. home buyers only meet with one mortgage lender before signing up for a home loan. But these borrowers could be missing out in a big way. Why? Because lenders' offers and interest rates vary, and even nabbing a slightly lower interest rate can save you big bucks over the long haul.

In fact, a borrower taking out a 30-year fixed rate conventional loan can get rates that vary by more than half a percent, the CFPB has found. So, getting an interest rate of 4.0% instead of 4.5% on a $200,000, 30-year fixed mortgage translates into savings of approximately $60 per month, or $3,500 over the first five years.

So to make sure you're getting the best deal possible, meet with at least three mortgage lenders. You’ll want to start your search early (ideally, at least 60 days before you start seriously looking at homes). When you meet with each lender, get what's called a good-faith estimate, which breaks down the terms of the mortgage, including the interest rate and fees, so that you can make an apples-to-apples comparison between offers.

Getting pre-qualified rather than pre-approved

Mortgage pre-qualification and mortgage pre-approval may sound alike, but they’re completely different. Pre-qualification entails a basic overview of a borrower’s ability to get a loan. You provide a mortgage lender with information—about your income, assets, debts, and credit—but you don't need to produce any paperwork to back it up. In return, you’ll get a rough estimate of what size loan you can afford, but it's by no means a guarantee that you'll actually get approved for the loan when you go to buy a home.

Mortgage pre-approval, meanwhile, is an in-depth process that involves a lender running a credit check and verifying your income and assets. Then an underwriter does a preliminary review of your financial portfolio and, if all goes well, issues a letter of pre-approval—a written commitment for financing up to a certain loan amount.

Bottom line? If you're serious about buying a house, you need to be pre-approved, since many sellers will accept offers only from pre-approved buyers, says Ray Rodriguez, New York City regional mortgage sales manager at TD Bank. Here's how to start the process of mortgage pre-approval.

Moving money around

To get pre-approved, you have to show you have enough cash in reserves to afford the down payment. (Presenting your mortgage lender with bank statements is the easiest way to do this.) Nonetheless, your loan still needs to go through underwriting while you're under contract for your loan to be approved. Because the underwriter will check to see that your finances have remained the same, the last thing you want to do is move money around while you’re in the process of buying a house. Shifting large amounts of money out or even into your accounts is a huge red flag, says Casey Fleming, mortgage adviser and author of "The Loan Guide: How to Get the Best Possible Mortgage."

So if you're in contract for a home, your money should stay put.

Applying for new lines of credit

If you apply for a new credit card or request a credit limit increase a few months before closing, watch out: Credit inquiries ding your credit score by up to five points. So, don’t let the credit inquiries add up.

"Worse than the actual hit on your credit score is any pattern of trying to borrow more money all at once,” says Glenn Phillips, CEO of Lake Homes Realty. Translation: Applying for multiple lines of credit while you’re buying a house can make your mortgage lender think that you’re desperate for money—a signal that could change your mortgage terms or even get you denied altogether, even if you've got a closing date on the books.

Changing jobs

Mortgage lenders like to see at least two years of consistent income history when pre-approving a loan. Consequently, changing jobs while you’re under contract on a property can create a big issue in the eyes of an underwriter.

Your best bet? Try to wait until after you've closed on your house to change jobs. If you're forced to switch before closing, you should alert your loan officer immediately. Depending on the lender, you may simply need to provide a written verification of employment from your new employer that states your job status and income, says Shashank Shekhar, the founder and CEO of Arcus Lending in San Jose, CA.



 10 Important Features to Consider When Buying a House

When buying a house, everyone has priorities. The buying process is complex and takes time, and it’s easy to get off track. Having written priorities is a helpful way to guide you through the process without forgetting some of the features that are important to you and your family. Your realtor will also want to understand your prioritized list. Understanding which features mean the most will help eliminate houses that won’t work for you and compare the homes that will.

In this article, we’ll discuss about things to consider when buying a new house. Each will rank differently in importance for individual buyers, but all points are worth examining. If you haven’t already thought seriously about these factors, now’s your chance. And, if you’re buying the home with your special someone, talk it over to make sure you agree on the importance of each feature. Let’s check it out.


12 Small Entryway Ideas and the Genius Pieces You Need to Create One

Whether your front door opens into a grand, classical entryway (dreams!) or right onto the dark corner of the kitchen (reality), that will be the first place your guests see in your home. Also: You. It will be the first spot that greets you after work in the evening. “Even small foyers are the first impression," says interior designer Peter Dunham, who advises a bold look for this part of your home even if it isn't exactly large, or isn't even technically its own room. "Small foyers give one an ideal situation for high-carat impact... that will easily make up for any lack of space by being luxe and special." The following small entryway ideas—and the perfect products to see them through—will turn your non-foyer into a pleasant entryway no matter what its size or scale. Discover 12 ways to make a great first impression, even if all you have is a blank wall by the door.

1. Mount wall hooks.

Having a hook for your guests' outerwear—and, okay, your own sopping wet raincoat—will make them feel as if you've actually designed the space with their arrival in mind. Just take the time to find the stud before mounting them; you don't want these falling off the wall when you pile on the coats!

2. Pull up a small chair or bench.

Even a wee bench, pressed up against the wall by the door, will suffice. As would a single chair—the idea is just to carve out a spot for your guests to take off their shoes when they enter or plop down their purses. Minimal square footage required.

3. Try a wall covering.

As a way to define the space and strengthen those first impressions, "don’t clutter the space with anything extraneous, but do use a large-scale geometric or boldly colored chinoiserie wallpaper on the walls and ceiling," Peter advises. "If the budget is tight, paint [it] a bold color. If you're in a quandary as to what shade, do what Helena Rubinstein did: She went to her closet to look for a color she loved, cut a square from a Schiaparelli coat, and instructed David Hicks to match the walls.”

4. Define the space using a rug.

Especially if you're dealing with a foyer that's really just the wall of another room, setting down a rug in that area will make it feel like a unified, separate entryway. (Note to self: Get one that's easy to clean!

5. Hang a floating shelf.

A floating shelf is perfect for dropping keys and stacking mail without taking up any floor space at all. Find one with built-in hooks or install your own underneath to make the most of your wall space.

6. Yes to a statement lighting fixture.

As designer Phillip Thomas once told us, "a large light fixture can make a room feel larger and taller." A bold pendant or modern chandelier also makes a memorable—and bright—first impression.

7. Paint the door a bold color.

The entryway of designer CeCe Barfield's Gramercy Park home is restricted to a door at the end of a long hallway, because there's really no room for other furniture because of the way the hall's designed. To define and draw attention to the space, she painted the door a bright green. You could do the same!

8. Add a small console table.

If you have a wedge of floor space, consider placing a petite console table or chest in the entry. Find one that has storage, or utilize the area underneath to stash shoes, bags, and all those other things you tend to trip over on your way out the door.

9. Bring in extra storage.

If you find the floor near your front door cluttered with shoes, bags, and umbrellas, reclaim the space with storage specifically suited to holding those items.

10. Hang a mirror.

A mirror by the front door is not just for checking your outfit on your way out the door. It can also help make the space feel bigger and brighter, which is especially helpful if your entrance is far from natural light.

11. Find a mail sorter.

One of the biggest entryway pains has to be the ever-expanding pile of mail you're confronted with, which is why a handy-dandy sorter is such a good idea.

12. Bring in plant friends.

Add some life to your entry with a plant or two (or three! or four!). Choose a colorful planter or plant stand to make more of an impact, either to sit on the floor or be hung up on the wall.

Source: architectural digest


What to Do at an Open House – Home Buyer Etiquette & What to Look For

If you’re thinking about buying a home, you might be wondering, “Should I buy a house now or wait?” It’s an important question. And, one of the best ways to determine if you’re ready to buy is to start visiting open houses to get a feel for what’s on the market, what you like, what you don’t, and how much house you can afford.

Open houses are also a great way for buyers to quickly learn a lot about a home. The listing agent is present and can answer questions directly, which can save quite a bit of time.

But what should you really look for, and ask, during an open house? Let’s take a look.

Benefits of Touring Open Houses

Touring open houses can be an incredible learning experience, even if you’re not quite ready to buy yet.

First, going through a lot of open houses can help you discover what you really want in your dream home, and what you don’t. You’ll start to get a firmer picture of your priorities, and you’ll learn not to be swayed by the smell of freshly baked cookies or that beautiful paint color in the living room.

Visiting dozens of homes also teaches you, through sheer exposure, how to overlook the superficial flaws (like terrible staging or awful paint) and spot a great home when you see one. You’ll also learn how to quickly spot a dud.

You’ll gain a thorough understanding of home pricing in your community. Over time (and dozens of tours), you’ll know when an asking price is fair for a home, and when the owner is asking too much.

You’ll also learn how to communicate effectively with real estate agents. After you talk to a few agents, you’ll have a better sense of the lingo they use and the information they’re willing to share. You’ll also refine your own list of questions and know exactly what you need to ask to get the information you want.

If you know you’re going to eventually sell your home, touring open houses can give you some remodeling ideas that will increase your home’s value.

What to Look for During an Open House

When you walk into an open house, it’s easy to get distracted by the beautiful living room or the perfectly staged bedrooms. However, you need to pay attention to the details of the home to determine if it’s a good buy, or a dud with serious problems.

So, what do you need to look for?

1. Any Kind of Damage or Neglect

Every home is going to have some wear and tear. However, what you want to look for are obvious signs of damage or neglect:

  • Look carefully at the baseboards, especially in the basement. Any signs of staining or warping can indicate past flooding or burst pipes. Stains on the ceiling can indicate a leaking roof. Pay attention to your nose as you walk through; if a room or area smells musty, it might indicate mold or mildew.
  • Open up cabinets under the kitchen and bathroom sinks and look for tiny black spots on the back wall; this indicates the presence of mold. You should also look for black spots in the caulking around tubs and sinks.
  • Look at exposed pipes carefully and check for rust or signs of leaking.
  • If the home’s hardwood floors are hidden under lots of rugs, the owner might be trying to hide damage to the wood. If you can, discreetly lift up the rugs to check out what’s underneath.
  • Look carefully at the windows. If there is any condensation built up inside the glass, it’s a sign they’re leaking and likely need to be replaced. Paint that is flaking or bubbling around the windows might also indicate that moisture is getting in.
  • Pay attention to cracks in the ceiling. Small hairline cracks are normal and usually nothing to worry about; they’re just a sign of the home settling. Larger cracks might indicate a problem with the foundation.
  • Open and close doors and windows. If they stick or are hard to open, this might be another clue that there are foundation problems.
  • Feel around windows, doors, and electrical outlets for any drafts. While drafts can be easily fixed with caulk, they’re also a sign of deferred maintenance.

If this is a home you feel you might want to make an offer on, take pictures of any damage as you walk through each room. You won’t remember everything, and being able to see the damage again can help you craft a better offer.

2. The Neighbors

When you buy a home, you’re also buying neighbors too. Look carefully at the people you might be living next to (this includes any homes that border the backyard as well).

How well do they maintain their house and yard? Do they have any children or pets? Are those pets outside barking right now? Is their trash put away neatly or is it flowing all over the yard? Are there lots of cars in the driveway?

If you think you might make an offer on this home, go for a walk to get a feel for the neighborhood. Knock on a few doors and talk to the neighbors. Ask them how they like living there, what the neighborhood is like, and anything they know about the home you just toured. Is there anything they wish they’d known about the neighborhood before they moved in?

You might uncover some enlightening information by simply talking to the people already living there.

It’s also important to visit the neighborhood on different days, and at and different times, especially weekends. You’ll want to find out beforehand if you’d be living next to a late-night party animal.

3. Closet Space

You might not think closet space would be a deal-breaker, but once you’re in your new home for six months and there’s no room for any of your stuff, you’ll think otherwise.

Storage space is an incredibly important feature to pay attention to. No one wants to live in a sea of clutter, but that’s exactly what you’ll be doing if you buy a home that won’t fit your current lifestyle. Unless you’re ready to downsize, you need a home with adequate storage.

Older homes typically have fewer closets and pantry space, so count closets and measure shelf space before you make an offer.

4. Privacy

As you walk through the home, look through each and every window. Is there some distance between you and your next-door neighbor, or can they see your freckles when you’re at the window?

A lack of privacy might not seem like a big deal on day one, but after a year, it might really start to bother you. Make sure you know what you can tolerate in terms of privacy.

5. Natural Air Flow

Look carefully at how the home is laid out. Are the doors and windows positioned so that you can open everything up and take advantage of the breeze come summer?

The flow of a home is something that buyers often overlook. However, keep in mind that opening the windows will lower your utility bills. Good airflow also keeps moisture moving through the home, and may help reduce allergies.

6. Other Buyers

It can be helpful to people watch for a few minutes before walking into an open house, since the behavior of people coming and going can give you some important clues.

For example, if you notice that people aren’t spending a lot of time touring the home, it might mean there are some issues. If you notice people lingering around the yard and taking their time talking to the agent, it might indicate that the property isn’t going to last long.

When you’re inside the home, pay attention to what other buyers are talking about and looking at. Their comments can clue you in to how hot, or not, the property is.

Questions to Ask at an Open House

So, you’ve looked around and you’ve got a good feeling about the house. What should you ask the agent when you wrap up your tour?

1. What Problems Are Present in the Home?

This is probably the most important question you need to ask the listing agent at an open house.

In most states, agents have to disclose all known problems with a home, especially when it comes to structural problems or code violations. However, not all states require full disclosure, which is why getting a home inspection is so important. While you might be tempted to save money by skipping an inspection, not getting one is one of the most common mistakes new home buyers make.

Ask the agent to give you a copy of the seller’s disclosure, which details every issue the current owner knows about.

2. Have There Been Any Price Changes?

The listing agent can tell you about the home’s listing price, and any drops that have occurred since it went on the market.

Price fluctuations can give you some important clues. First, they indicate that the seller is flexible on pricing and might be willing to drop it down even further if you make an offer.

Several price drops might also indicate problems. For example, previous buyers might have made offers and hired a home inspector, only to discover issues that made them walk away. The owner then might have dropped the price to account for these issues, or simply to entice a new pool of buyers.

3. How Long Has The Home Been on the Market?

This information is easy to find out on your own, so look at this question as a way to gather information indirectly.

For example, the agent might let you know that it’s newly listed, and there has been a lot of interest already. This, in turn, lets you know that if you love the house, you might want to make an offer that day. On the other hand, if the agent says that the home has been on the market for a while, they might explain why it hasn’t sold yet. This information can give you some leverage if you decide to make an offer.

4. Have There Been Any Offers on the Home?

The listing agent will likely tell you right away if there’s been a recent offer on the home. After all, they’d love nothing more than to start a bidding war that nets them a higher commission.

However, if there are past offers that the owner walked away from, this might mean they’re more motivated to sell now. It might also mean the opposite – that they’re firm on their asking price and not willing to negotiate.

5. What Is the Neighborhood Like?

This is an important question that many home buyers don’t think to ask. Remember, you can always change the look and feel of your home, but you can’t really change the neighborhood you live in.

Ask the listing agent to tell you about the neighborhood. How much traffic comes through? What is the speed limit? Is this home a good representation of other homes in the neighborhood?

6. What Are the Local Schools Like?

Schools are a huge selling point for homes. Even if you don’t have children, it’s important to know what kind of district you’re moving into, and how well it’s rated.

Why? Because homes located in great school districts sell much faster than homes located in low-performing districts. If you love a home but it’s in a low-performing district, then it might take longer to sell when you’re ready to move on. However, if it’s in a great district, you’ll probably have more potential buyers coming through the door.

7. Why Are the Owners Selling the Home?

This is a tricky question that agents often can’t, or won’t, answer truthfully. The reason is that a seller’s agent has their client’s best interests at heart. And, this means not disclosing a client’s personal information, including their reason for selling.

So, why should you ask this question? Well, because some agents will tell you why their client is selling. In some circumstances, this knowledge can give you more leverage during negotiations.

At the very least, an agent’s hesitation or body language can clue you in that there’s more to the story, and part of that story might mean problems with the house itself. If you’re working with a buyer’s agent, they might be able to dig around and uncover what’s going on.

8. What Feedback Have You Received From Other Agents?

This is another one of those questions that an agent may or may not answer truthfully. But it’s worth asking, because you might get an agent that has no qualms talking about both the positive and negative feedback they’ve received from past showings.

Red Flags to Watch Out For

There are some signs that can clue you in that this perfectly staged home isn’t as “perfect” as it seems.

1. Lots of Fragrance

Homes that smell strongly of cleaning products, Febreze, or other air fresheners might be trying to hide the smell of pet accidents, cigarette smoke, mold, or mildew.

As you walk through the home, look carefully at the floors and ceilings. Are there any stains on the carpet that might be from pet accidents? Any stains or discoloration on the walls and ceilings that might be from a smoker or a leaky roof?

2. Signs of Neglect

If you walk into a home and notice the paint is old and chipped, the faucet is leaking, and there are weeds in the garden bed, keep in mind that an owner who doesn’t take care of the little things probably hasn’t taken care of the big things either.

These clues might indicate that there are larger problems with the home, such as a leaky roof or old plumbing.

3. Several Homes for Sale in the Neighborhood

If you notice that there are several homes for sale in the area, put on your sleuthing hat to find out why, as this trend could indicate that there is an issue.

For example, perhaps crime is an increasing problem and people are looking to relocate to a safer neighborhood. Or, maybe a new development is scheduled to be built in the upcoming months, and owners don’t want to deal with the increased traffic and noise of construction.

Whatever the reason, it’s important to find out what’s going on in the neighborhood so you don’t end up being stuck in an area where you’re not safe or comfortable.

4. Lots of Recent Renovations

A home with a brand-new kitchen or updated bathroom can be appealing to buyers. However, it’s important to keep an eye on these renovations, as some homeowners might cut corners, or go with a budget contractor, in order to make their home more salable as quickly as possible. It might look great during the open house, but a shoddy job will come back to haunt you after you move in.

If you decide to make an offer, make sure you hire a home inspector or structural engineer to go over every inch of the home; they’ll be able to spot a poor job in a heartbeat. This will also help you avoid a DIY home improvement disaster, which can get very expensive.

5. Unfinished Construction

You’ve walked into the home of your dreams, only to find that the “finished basement” isn’t quite finished yet. The drywall is still stacked in the corner, and there are open wires running through the studs in the ceiling. What’s going on?

Unfinished construction should be an immediate red flag. It could be a sign that the seller ran out of money for the project, or that the contractor ran into structural problems or other issues that they didn’t want to deal with. Whatever the reason, you need to find out why the seller was willing to hold an open house before everything was completed.

Keep in mind that banks are sometimes reluctant to loan money for a home with any unfinished construction. If you fall in love with a home in this category, contact your bank before you make an offer to confirm they’ll approve your mortgage.

You’ll also need to look carefully at your finances and determine how much it will cost to finish the project yourself.

5 Etiquette Tips for Every Open House

As you might imagine, there is some open house etiquette that you should follow.

1. Do Follow the Rules

Some homeowners request that potential buyers remove their shoes before they tour the home. This is much more likely if it’s raining or snowing outside. Save yourself time and energy on open house day by wearing slip-on shoes with socks.

2. Don’t Bring Children or Pets Along

Children and pets don’t belong at an open house. Children can easily break something or make a mess at the hors-d’oeuvres bar, and pets can track in dirt from outside. Leave your kids and pets at home with a sitter.

3. Do Introduce Yourself and Sign In

Agents want to know who’s coming and going in the home, so they’ll likely be front and center when you walk through the door. Even if you’re “just browsing,” be polite and introduce yourself.

Most agents put out a sign-in sheet so they can continue to market the home once the open house is over. It also helps them track how much foot traffic the open house generated.

Be nice and sign in. You don’t have to include your contact information if you’re not interested in further marketing from the agent, but putting down your name will at least ensure that the agent gets an accurate traffic count.

4. Don’t Crowd Other Prospective Buyers

It’s good etiquette to wait until others have vacated a room before you enter. This gives the other prospective buyers time and space to really look, instead of feeling “pushed out” by another buyer who’s looking at the same space.

5. Do Mention Problem Areas to the Agent

If you notice things like mold under the kitchen sink or a water hose lying on the grass that might pose a tripping hazard, mention it to the agent. They can quickly fix the problem, or, if it’s a larger issue with the home, they can alert the seller to address the issue.

Final Word

Even if you’re not quite ready to buy, it can still be worth your time to visit open houses, especially if you have an idea of where you’d like to buy someday. Open houses can help you determine what you really want in your home, and what you don’t. You can also get a better feel for the neighborhood you’d like to relocate to.

If you’ve never been to an open house, don’t feel intimidated. Many first-time home buyers think that they’ll be hounded by a pushy agent trying to sell the home; however, the majority of agents know to step back and let buyers look at their own pace.

Source: Money Crashers


Top 10 Home Improvement Tips Every Homeowner Should Know

It doesn't matter if you've bought a newly built home, a condo in a maintained community, or a fixer-upper—owning your own place brings out the home improvement itch in us all (or at least requires us to do necessary repairs and maintenance tasks). Here are ten pieces of advice to help turn your dwelling place into a better home.

10. Choose the Improvements That Add the Most Value to Your Home 

If you were offered $100,000, no strings attached, what home improvements would you do? Chances are, a long laundry list of changes come to mind, from refinishing the hardwood floors to adding a new bathroom. Some home improvements, however, are more likely to increase your home's value than others. Although you shouldn't think of your home as an investment, with limited home improvement funds, it's good to consider whether a project has a decent return on investment.

9. Tackle the Quick Projects That Are Most Timely

Illustration for article titled Top 10 Home Improvement Tips Every Homeowner Should Know

Whether winter is coming or you're considering projects in another season, some home improvements are more urgent than others—saving you money immediately or preventing devastating damage. Sometimes it only takes ten minutes or less to make simple changes around the house that boost your living space.

8. Decide to DIY or Not

Illustration for article titled Top 10 Home Improvement Tips Every Homeowner Should Know

Even if you're a weekend warrior with a well-stocked workshop, not all home improvement projects are suitable to do yourself (or at least, without the help of a professional). Know your limits, start small if you're a beginner, and then keep calm and DIY on (if you so wish).

7. Hone Your Home Improvement Skills

Illustration for article titled Top 10 Home Improvement Tips Every Homeowner Should Know

Big projects or small, probably all of us could stand to learn some decent home repair or home improvement skills. (All around the home, there are things we should never have to pay others to fix for us.) Learn Bob Villa-worthy skills and help others at the same time by volunteering or through free clinics and other resources. Turn to great reading resources and try starter projects too. If you get stuck on a project, iOS app Fountain will connect you to a home improvement expert to answer your question for $5. 

6. Find Inspiration for Your Next Home Project

Illustration for article titled Top 10 Home Improvement Tips Every Homeowner Should Know

Pinterest is your friend, homeowners. As is HouzzThis Old House, and BHGZillow Diggs is pretty neat because it not only shows you project photos, but cost estimates and contractors as well. You can also binge watch HGTV on Netflix, but I'm warning you, you may never leave the house again.

5. Get the Right Tools

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You can't really improve your home much with just your bare hands (you'll need a multi-tool at least!). Equip your toolbox with the essential tools for any minor repair or major project, such as basic plumbing tools. Don't forget your smartphone might be the best DIY tool in your kit, though, and, when all else fails, there's duct tape.

4. Find Money for Your Home Improvement

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Unfortunately, most home improvements do not pay for themselves. If you can't afford to finance the project in full with cash, know the different ways you can finance your home improvement without putting your home at risk. Also, if you know the difference between tax breaks you get for home repairs or home improvements, you can make the proper deductions at tax time and get some money back from your project. Similarly, if you're paying private mortgage insurance, home improvements that increase the value of your home could help you eliminate that cost, which, although it doesn't raise funds for your project, can reduce your housing expenses overall.

3. Choose the Right Contractor

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About as important as finding a good dentist and finding a good therapist: Finding a responsible handyman or contractor. Horror stories of homeowners being scammed by contractors or having work done so shoddily that it cost thousands of dollars to redo (not to mention the money already spent) give me the shivers. Vet your contractors carefully:

2. Save Money on Your Home Improvement Projects

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The more money we save on one home improvement project, the more we have left for all the other ones we want to do. In addition to knowing the remodeling projects that offer the most bang for your buck, know which elements of a project you can splurge or skimp on—spend more on items that are hard to replace, such as the bathtub, but skimp on the faucet, for example, or spend more on a professional range if you're a gourmet cook and save on the decorative tiles and flooring that look like premium materials.

1. Have a Plan

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Last but not least, one of the worst things you can do when it comes to home improvements is to start a project without the major details—cost, time, materials, and design—as realistic as possible from the start. Nothing costs more than having to "change horses in midstream" (e.g., you want to move the fridge somewhere else now or want to change your tile choice). Use design tools to conceptualize your project and add a healthy buffer (10-15% more) to your time and financial budget to account for the inevitable surprises.

Even if you don't do major projects like remodeling the kitchen or building a deck, it's wise to set aside some money each year for repair costs and use an essential maintenance calendar to keep your home sweet home in tip-top shape all year round.

Source: LifeHacker


Am I Ready to Sell My House?

Almost every day, someone calls The Dave Ramsey Show to ask Dave if he thinks they're ready to buy a home. But there's another side of homeownership that doesn't get as much attention: When are you ready to sell your house?

It's an important question to answer since selling at the wrong time can cause trouble for years to come.

1. You've got equity on your side.

For most homeowners, being financially ready to sell your house comes down to one factor: equity. During the housing meltdown of 2008–09, millions of homeowners found themselves with negative equity, which meant they owed more on their homes than they were worth.

Clearly, selling your home when you have negative equity is a bad deal. That's called a short sale. Breaking even on your home sale is better, but it's still not ideal. If you're in either situation, don't sell unless you have to in order to avoid bankruptcy or foreclosure.

For the last several years, home values have been on the rise—by leaps and bounds in many cases—and that means most homeowners are building equity. Their homes are now worth more than they owe on them, and that trend will persist as they pay down their mortgages and home values continue to increase.

Figuring out how much equity you have may sound complicated, but the math is actually simple. Here's how it works:

First, grab your latest mortgage statement and find your current mortgage balance.

Next, you'll need to know your home value. While it's tempting to use figures from online valuation sites to determine how much your home is worth, they're not always accurate. Ask an experienced real estate agent to run a free comparative market analysis (CMA) for the best estimate.

Once you have those two numbers in hand, simply subtract your current mortgage balance from your home's estimated market value. The difference will give you a good idea of how much equity you have to work with.

So how much equity is enough?  At the very least you want to have enough equity to pay off your current mortgage with enough left over to provide a 20% down payment. But if your sale can also cover your closing costs, moving expenses and an even larger down payment—that's even better.  Additionally, putting 20% or more down on a home keeps private mortgage insurance (PMI) at bay. That could save you hundreds of dollars each year!

2. You're out of debt with cash in the bank.

If you didn't have all your financial ducks in a row your first time around the home-buying block, you probably learned a few things the hard way. Like the fact that Murphy can smell "broke" from miles away. If it can go wrong, it will! Put those lessons to good use and be a money-smart home buyer the next go-round!

Start by taking a hard look at your finances. If you've paid off all your nonmortgage debt and have three to six months of expenses in your emergency fund, that's a good sign you're financially mature enough to purchase a home again.

3. You can afford to buy a home that fits your lifestyle better.

Another factor to consider is how well your home meets your everyday needs. Perhaps you could use another bedroom (or even two) to accommodate your growing family. Or maybe your kids have all moved out and you're ready to downsize.  Empty nesters can really benefit from selling while rates are low. It's freeing to sell a large home, pay cash for a smaller one, and invest the rest for your retirement.

Whether you're sizing up or down, make sure your mortgage fits your budget. Dave recommends keeping your monthly payment to 25% or less of your take-home pay on a 15-year fixed-rate mortgage.

4. You can cash-flow the move.

Don't get so carried away by the excitement of your next home that you forget to account for the cost of leaving your current one. Hiring professional movers? Save up cash to cover the cost of packing up and hauling your stuff away.

You should also invest a little to get your current place ready for prime time. Focus your home improvement dollars on paint, curb appeal, plus kitchen and bath upgrades.  A little bit of fresh paint and elbow grease can go a long way into making a great impression—and getting your home sold fast!

Want a bonus tip that doesn't cost a dime? Clear out the clutter. Neat closets and tidy shelves make your home look larger!

5. You're emotionally ready to sell.

If the numbers show you're financially ready to make a move, great! But don't forget—selling your home is an emotional issue, too. Before you plant the "For Sale" sign in the front yard, take a minute to answer just a few more questions:

  • Are you ready to put in the work to get your house ready for house hunters?
  • Are you committed to keeping it ready to show for weeks or months?
  • Are you ready to hear the reasons why potential buyers believe your home is not perfect?
  • Are you ready for honest—and sometimes hardball—negotiations over what buyers are willing to pay for your home?
  • Are you really ready to move out and leave the place where your family has made memories?

Don't get us wrong; we're not trying to talk you out of selling your home! We just want you to be completely ready when you do decide to move on to the next stage of your family's life.

A qualified real estate agent will give you a clear picture of what it's like to sell your house, and also help you discern if now is the right time for you, both financially and emotionally.

6. You Understand the Market (a Little Bit)

No one can predict how the housing market will perform. But the National Association of Realtors expects modest growth for existing homes in 2018. Despite the possibility of rising mortgage rates, home sales in 2018 are forecasted to grow around 7% percent, with the median price increasing 5%.

Home Values Are Riding High

With rents up and mortgage rates down, many renters are looking to buy their first home. There's just one problem: They're having trouble finding homes for sale within their price range.

According to Trulia, there are 20% fewer entry-level homes on the market today than there were this time last year. A lot of investors snatched up bargains on entry-level homes when the market was down and turned them into rental properties. 

If you took economics in school, you learned all about supply and demand. When supply is down and demand goes up, prices trend upwards as well. That means your home might be worth more than you think. Consider the numbers:

  • According to the National Realtors Association, U.S. homes are on the market an average of only 34 days, that's four less than last year.
  • Recent listings of starter homes are 8% less than searches, which means there are more house hunters than homes available for sale.

In other words, the market's hot for just about any home seller—but especially if you've got a starter home to sell.

7. You Have a Real Estate Agent

The reasons already mentioned are essential to consider before selling your home this year. But remember, your real estate market is unique—and so is your financial situation. Consult an experienced real estate agent to find out how the 2018 housing market is shaping up in your area so you can decide if a sale makes financial sense for your family.

Partner with a pro you can trust to provide honest advice so you can do what's best for you and your budget. A good agent puts service before sales—but knows how to get things done when it's time to sell.

Selling your home is a big deal.  A real estate agent does more than just schedule showings of your home.  They bring experience and confidence to the table when they handle their many job duties, which include:

  • Giving you advice about updates or repairs that will make your home more attractive
  • Helping you set a price for your home
  • Marketing your home so it receives as much exposure to potential buyers as possible
  • Scheduling showings with potential buyers
  • Advising you as you negotiate offers
  • Handling all the required paperwork

We can put you in touch with several agents in your area who have earned Dave's recommendation as a real estate Endorsed Local Provider (ELP).

When it comes to selling homes, our ELPs rise to the top. According to a six-month survey of home buyers and sellers who used an ELP versus those who used other real estate agents, our ELPs are twice as fast at selling homes and twice as likely to sell your home above asking price.

Don't trust an amateur with one of your biggest financial investments. Work with a high-octane agent who knows your market

An experienced real estate agent can help you navigate the search for your next home, too.  Be sure to have some backup options ready in case your home sells quickly and you can't find a new place you love right away. You don't want to rush into a home you can't afford or don't really like just because it's available. 

Source: Dave Ramsey 


Tips for a Successful Open House

Real estate agents estimate that at least 20% of their sales results from an open house. If your property is presentable—that is, spotless from top to bottom—priced correctly, and located in a high-traffic area, you're well on your way to a successful showing. Attention to additional details in preparation and execution will increase the odds of a good offer—perhaps, even on the spot.


Advertise the Open House

Let people know the party's on. Post internet listings everywhere: Write colorful, descriptive ads and place them in web classifieds or open house directories at least a week before the showing. Don't forget personal social media, like your Facebook page or Twitter account. Although advertising online is key, remember old-fashioned methods, too, like an ad in a community newspaper or newsletter, or even postings on a popular store or coffee shop bulletin board.


On the day of the open house (traditionally a Sunday), set up strategically mapped signs around the neighborhood, placing one every few blocks on the way to your house from major streets. Find the busiest intersection closest to your home and put an open house sign at that corner, too. Attach strings of balloons to each open house sign, and include big arrows pointing in the right direction.


Prepare the Premises for the Open House

In addition to cleaning and decluttering your house and making it camera-ready before you even put it on the market, you can make some special preparations for the open house itself:

  • Remove all vehicles from the driveway. Ask your neighbors to help out by not parking in front of your house.
  • Let in the light: Open all the drapes, blinds, and window coverings. Turn on every lamp and overhead fixture, too.
  • Serve refreshments and snacks or, if budget permits, even a catered lunch.
  • Do not, under any circumstances, use an air freshener: Many people are allergic to synthetic odors.
  • Play soft music throughout the house.
  • Create a bulletin board of seasonal house photographs so that buyers can see what the home would look like during another time of the year. This step is especially helpful for showcasing gardens or extensive grounds during the winter.

Put Out the Paperwork

A good open house is not just about ambiance. It gets down to business as well.

  • Display four-color flyers filled with quality photos and the key points and unique features of your home—a cheat sheet people can take home.
  • Have brochures and pamphlets available that contain financing options so that buyers can readily determine their monthly mortgage payment. Banks and lenders will often supply you with these.
  • Set out all documents pertaining to the house: inspection reports, appraisal or comps, evidence of major repairs and warranties, blueprints for additions, or proposals for future improvements.

Interact With Visitors

Be upbeat and cheery as you greet each person who enters the home. Find out what they're looking for and, if possible, show them why your home fits those requirements.


And absolutely, get feedback. Ask buyers what they think of your home and if they would consider buying it. Many folks will demur or be noncommittal, but sometimes they might decide to sit at the kitchen table and write an offer. It happens more often than you would think.


At the very least, you might pick up some useful info about the impression your property is making, as well as quick fixes to address problems.


Furthermore, if you don't receive an offer at or directly after the open house, that doesn't mean your event was unsuccessful. The buyers might be obtaining a pre-approval letter on Monday and sending you an offer a day or two later.


When Not to Hold an Open House

Some properties just aren't suited for an open house. Some common reasons include:

  • There's too much inventory to pull in buyers driving through the area.
  • All the homes in the neighborhood look the same.
  • Inclement weather discourages venturing outside.
  • The home is a fixer-upper or doesn't show well because it's either too messy, smelly, or cramped.
  • The property is too far off the beaten path, or perhaps in the center of a complex, that is hard to find (like a condominium).
  • The real estate agent isn't into it.

While it may seem odd that an agent would want to restrict market exposure for a listing, not to mention the chance to get buyer leads, many agents are categorically opposed to open houses. They may be too busy with other listings, or they may just find such showings a waste of time and effort. You and your agents should be on the same page about marketing your property. If you feel strongly about an open house—and you're unconvinced by your agent's reasons against it—consider switching your representation.

Source: The Balance


30 Tips for Increasing Your Home's Value

Home Improvements: Under $100

Tip 1: Spend an hour with a pro.
Invite a realtor or interior designer over to check out your home. Many realtors will do this as a courtesy, but you will probably have to pay a consultation fee to a designer. Check with several designers in your area; a standard hourly fee is normally less than $100, and in an hour they can give you lots of ideas for needed improvements. Even small suggested improvements, such as paint colors or furniture placement, can go a long way toward improving the look and feel of your home.

Tip 2: Inspect it.
Not every home improvement is cosmetic. Deteriorating roofs, termite infestation or outdated electrical systems — you can't fix it if you don't know it's broken. Hire an inspector to check out the areas of your home that you don't normally see. They may discover hidden problems that could negatively impact your home's value. Small problems (such as a hidden water leak) can become big, expensive problems quickly; the longer you put off repairs, the more expensive those repairs will be.

Tip 3: Paint, paint, paint.
One of the simplest, most cost-effective improvements of all is paint! Freshly painted rooms look clean and updated — and that spells value. When selecting paint colors, keep in mind that neutrals appeal to the greatest number of people, therefore making your home more desirable. On average, a gallon of paint costs around $25, leaving you plenty of money to buy rollers, painter's tape, drop cloths and brushes. So buy a few gallons and get busy!

Tip 4: Find inspiration.
An alternative to hiring a designer is to search for remodeling and decorating inspiration in design-oriented magazines, books, TV shows and websites. Simply tear out or print off the ideas you want to try and start your to-do list. Keep it simple — when remodeling on a tight budget, do-it-yourself projects are best.

Tip 5: Cut energy costs.
The amount of money you spend each month on energy costs may seem like a fixed amount, but many local utility companies provide free energy audits of their customers' homes. They can show you how to maximize the energy efficiency of your home. An energy-efficient home will save you money now, which can be applied to other updates, and is a more valuable and marketable asset in the long run.

Home Improvements: $100-$200

Tip 1: Plant a tree.
If you aren't planning to sell your house today, plan for the future with a landscaping improvement that will mature over time. Plant shade trees — not only will mature trees make your home more desirable but a fully grown, properly placed tree can cut your cooling costs by as much as 40 percent. Mature landscaping is also good for the environment, providing a necessary habitat for wildlife while adding valuable curb appeal to your home.

Tip 2: Low-maintenance landscaping saves you money now, adds value when you sell.
No question that shrubs and colorful plants will add curb appeal to any home, but when shopping at your local garden center, make sure that you "think green." Purchase plants that are native to your region or plants that are drought-tolerant; these require less water and maintenance, which means more savings to you and more green in your wallet.

Tip 3: Add a money-saving luxury.
Speaking of water, here's another way to tap into extra savings; install a water filtration system in your kitchen. Not only do these systems purify your water, they will also lower your grocery bills — no more bottled water. A water filtration system is an inexpensive addition, but it's the sort of small luxury that homebuyers love.

Tip 4: Improve the air quality inside your home.
Air quality isn't just about the conditions outdoors. If you have older carpets in your home, they might be hiding contaminants and allergens. The first step to determine if these need replacing is to hire a professional company to test your indoor air quality. If the results prove that your carpets should be replaced, choose environmentally friendly natural products like tile or laminate floors. Hard-surface floors are much easier to keep clean, don't hold odors, give your home an updated look and, in general, are more appealing to buyers.

Tip 5: Save the popcorn for the movies.

Finally, what's on your ceiling? Few structural elements date a house more than popcorn ceilings. So dedicate a weekend to ditching the dated look and adding dollar signs to the value of your home. This is a project you can tackle yourself. First, visit your local hardware store for a solution to soften the texture, then simply scrape the popcorn away. Removing a popcorn ceiling may not seem like a big change but one of the keys for adding value to your home is to repair, replace or remove anything that could turn buyers away.

Home Improvements: $200-$400

Tip 1: A messy lawn creates a bad first impression.
Overgrown or patchy lawns and outsized bushes will cause your home to stand out — in a bad way. The good news is that taming your jungle is an easy fix. For a few hundred dollars, hire a lawn service company to trim your lawn and shape your hedges. Your curb appeal will go from messy to maintained without blowing your budget.

Tip 2: Cleanliness counts.
The old adage that you only get one shot at a first impression is true. So, make the interior of you home shine from the moment someone walks through the door. For less than $400, hire a cleaning service for a thorough top-to-bottom scrubbing. Even if you clean your home regularly, there are nooks and crannies that you may miss or overlook. Let a cleaning service do the dirty work to really make your home sparkle.

Tip 3: Visually increase your home's square footage.
The size of your home dramatically affects the value, but square footage isn't the only space that counts. Visual space or how large a home feels also counts. The key is to make each room in your house feel larger. Replace heavy closed draperies with vertical blinds or shutters to let light in — a sunny room feels larger and more open. Also, try adding a single large mirror to a room to visually double the space. Finally, clear the clutter. The more clutter, furniture and plain old stuff you have in a room, the more cramped it will feel. For less than $400, add an attractive shelving unit to an underused space and store your clutter out of sight.

Tip 4: Small bathroom updates equal a big return.
Bathroom updates are always a smart move. Even if you can't afford a full remodel, small changes such as replacing dated wallpaper with a faux or textured finish and replacing old lighting will update the room without denting your wallet.

Tip 5: Add new energy-efficient fixtures.
A functional, decorative ceiling fan is a beautiful thing. It provides necessary light and, in warm months, creates a soft breeze reducing the need for expensive air conditioning. But, an outdated, wobbly, loud or broken ceiling fan is a useless eyesore. Replace old fixtures with new ones to make your home more enjoyable for you now and to increase the bottom line should you decide to sell.

Home Improvements: $400-$750

Tip 1: Even small changes in the bathroom equal a big return.
A great room to update for less than $750 is the bathroom. The two rooms that benefit most from even small renovations are the kitchen and bathroom. One cost-effective change — like replacing an outdated vanity, old plumbing and lighting fixtures or adding a new tile floor — will guarantee a lot of bang for your buck and give your bath an updated, modern look.

Tip 2: Any kitchen update equals added value.
The same rule applies in the kitchen. You don't have to start from scratch to create a winning recipe. For maximizing your home's value, kitchen updates are key. Start by swapping out just one item, such as a stained sink or ancient microwave for shiny new stainless models. Even small kitchen updates will add big value to your home.

Tip 3: Replace any worn carpets or area rugs.
Take a look at your home's soft flooring. Are your carpets and area rugs stained or worn? Nothing turns buyers off more than the thought that they will immediately need to replace all of the flooring in a home. Ideally, you may want to replace them all, but if a limited budget puts a snag in that plan, start by replacing the carpet in the room that shows the most wear and tear and replace the others as your finances allow.

Tip 4: Keep up with regular maintenance and repairs.
Walk around your home and make a list of all the little things that are broken or in need of repair. Individually, small repairs might not seem important, but if every room has just one thing wrong, those small things will add up to create the impression that your home has been neglected. If you don't feel comfortable tackling the repairs yourself, hire a handyman for a day and watch your "to do" list disappear. Staying on top of maintenance today eliminates problems down the road should you decide to sell.

Tip 5: Get help with getting organized.
Hire a professional organizer for a day. They will show you how to organize various rooms in your home and teach you tricks for keeping it organized. How does this increase your home's value? Simple — a clutter-free home appears cleaner and larger, which is more attractive to homebuyers and therefore more valuable.

Home Improvements: $750-$1,000

Tip 1: Go tankless.
Upgrade your standard water heater for a tankless model. Most old-fashioned water heaters keep 50 or so gallons of water hot, seven days a week, 24 hours a day, whether you use the water or not. Tankless water heaters heat only the water you need as you need it. Not only will they save you money now, but they're an eco-friendly and cost-effective update that today's homebuyers are looking for.

Tip 2: Upgrade your appliances.
Eighty-six the old-school appliances for sleek new energy-efficient ones. An appliance with an Energy Star label has been certified by the government to use 10-50 percent less energy and water than conventional appliances. Matching stainless appliances will not only look great now, but will make your home shine brighter than the competition should you decide to sell.

Tip 3: Go for the green.
Everyone loves a yard with thick, green grass. For less than $1000, in a weekend's time, you can replace your existing patchy mix of weeds and grass with fresh new sod. You'll be amazed at the difference this one change will make in your home's curb appeal and value.

Home Improvements: $1,000-$1,500

Tip 1: Spruce up your ceilings.
One of a room's most neglected spaces, the ceiling, makes up one-sixth of a room's total area. Updating your home's ceilings will net a lot of bang for the buck while adding architectural interest. First, if you still have popcorn ceilings, hire a contractor to scrape them smooth. To add a sophisticated custom look to a smooth ceiling, install crown molding or box beams for a coffered look. Ceiling millwork, an attractive feature prevalent in older homes, is rarely found in newer construction. Adding small touches like these will help your home stand out from the pack.

Tip 2: Update your home's entrance.
The look of your front door and entrance play heavily into the overall curb appeal of your home. As visitors enter, the front door serves as the transition into your home and is part of their first impression. Entry doors are architectural components that should complement your home's overall design, not detract from it. If your existing front door isn't up to par, head down to your local home improvement store for a more energy-efficient and attractive replacement. Whether you choose a solid wood door or one with decorative stained or cut glass panels, a welcoming entrance will definitely increase your home's bottom line.

Tip 3: Consult a design pro.
If you're unsure of which design style or paint color to use, hire a designer. They'll use discriminating taste and a trained eye to help with making the big decisions. Also, remodeling your home with a cohesive plan in mind makes all of your choices easier and ensures a pulled-together finished look. So, when you get the right mix of time or money, you'll know exactly which project to take on next.

Home Improvements: $1,500-$2,000

Tip 1: Save on air conditioning costs.
Consider installing a whole-house fan. They're a great alternative to air conditioning because they use only one-tenth the electricity of air conditioners, saving you money. Whole-house fans are considered a "green" home improvement, which is a popular selling feature with today's homebuyers. As the cost of electricity continues to skyrocket, green energy alternatives will only gain in popularity.

Tip 2: Brighten up.
A "bright" way to increase the value of your home is to lighten up. Adequate lighting in a home makes a big difference. Not only does a bright, well-lit room feel more cheerful but it also makes spaces feel larger and cleaner. A well-lit room also shows that you have nothing to hide, so should you decide to sell, prospective buyers will feel at ease when touring your home. Hire an electrician to add recessed lights to a dim kitchen or family room or to brighten up a formal dining or living room with elegant sconces. You'll enjoy the bright effect now and your home will feel warmer and more welcoming to homebuyers.

Tip 3: Add the right landscaping and watch your home's value grow.
For less than $2,000, hire a landscape designer to create a plan that will make your home's exterior really shine. For maximum impact, plant mature trees or fast growing varieties; these can be pricy but they will instantly make your home feel more established. As your landscaping grows, so will your home's curb appeal and value.

Home Improvements: $2,000-$3,000

Tip 1: Kitchen or bath remodels are always a safe bet.
Improving your home is a solid investment at any level — but if you have up to three thousand dollars to spend, a great place to start is by upgrading either the kitchen or bath. Either room is a good choice and you don't have to do a complete floor-to-ceiling remodel to reap financial benefits. In fact, modest kitchen or bath updates can be your best bet for a big return, netting, on average, an 80-85 percent return.

Tip 2: Protect your investment.
For most people, their home is their single largest investment, so treat it that way. Hire a financial planner to work out a strategy for protecting your investment by analyzing all of the financing options that are available. A financial whiz can tell you if you should refinance to lower your monthly payments or pull out some equity to pay for value-adding improvements.

Tip 3: Bring the outdoors in.
Consider turning two standard windows into an opening for beautiful French or sliding glass doors. Full-view glass doors really brighten up the space and a light and airy room is always more attractive. Also, with a view of the outdoors, the room will feel much larger. Another bonus is that modern doors are energy-efficient, cutting down on heating and cooling costs. That means more cash in your pocket now and a financial bonus should you decide to sell.

Home Improvements: $3,000-$5,000

Tip 1: Add closet or garage storage.
Realtors agree that top on most homeownes' list of wants is ample storage space. For less than $5,000, consider upgrading your home's storage by adding custom shelving systems to a closet or garage. The first step to really getting organized is de-cluttering. Start by sorting your belongings, then stash them away in your new organized closet or garage to really maximize your home's value.

Tip 2: Green flooring choices equal more green in your wallet.
Worn, tired carpet will not only turn off homebuyers, but it can make you feel worn and tired too. Replace it with the hottest trend in flooring: renewable, environmentally friendly bamboo. Solid-surface floors are easy to keep clean and give your home an upscale look and feel. Green flooring choices, like bamboo, minimally impact the environment and are a big selling point to today's environmentally conscious homebuyers.

Tip 3: Resurface concrete.
Replacing the cracked concrete surfaces around your home can cost a small fortune. But for a fraction of that cost, concrete can be resurfaced in a multitude of colors and finishes. Consider adding a cobblestone finish to your driveway, a brick look to an old walkway or a slate finish around the pool or patio. Whichever texture you choose, it will be a huge improvement over standard concrete and potential homebuyers will really take notice.

Home Improvements: $5,000 and up

Tip 1: Refresh the exterior paint.
The condition of your home's exterior is key to the overall curb appeal, so refresh that facade with a coat of paint. Fresh exterior paint will not only preserve and protect your home's exterior siding — the right paint color can make a dull home dazzling. By the same token, a house painted with an overly bright or overly bland color will make a house less appealing and hurt the value, so choose your colors wisely. Should you decide to put your house on the market and the exterior paint looks bad, a buyer will assume that the interior of the home has been neglected too and drive right past.

Tip 2: Go solar to save some green.
Save energy bill greenbacks by going green with a solar water heater. The installed price can cost up to $5,000, but these systems can slash your hot water bills by as much as 80 percent and attract energy-conscious homebuyers should you decide to sell. Install a solar water heater where there's unobstructed southern exposure and you'll have savings made in the shade.

Tip 3: Kitchen remodels are king.
Hands down, one of the biggest returns on investment comes from a kitchen remodel. Most experts agree that if you plan on updating only one room in your home, it should be the kitchen. Large, open kitchens have become the social hub of the modern home. High-end touches like granite countertops, richly stained custom cabinets and energy-efficient stainless appliances are the gold standard in modern kitchens. Experts agree that kitchen remodels return an average of 80 to 85 percent of every dollar spent. You can expect an even higher return if you are remodeling a really outdated kitchen.

Source: DIY Network


Essential Housewares & Appliances

Whether you're setting up a home for the first time or you're replacing lost items, this checklist of house essentials can help ensure you're covered for the basics. It can also come in handy when you need ideas for wedding, anniversary, and shower gifts.


Major Appliances

Some major appliances may already be in place in your home, especially if you're renting. New homes usually have no appliances other than heating/cooling equipment and a hot water heater.

  • Refrigerator with freezer
  • Range or cooktop and oven
  • Microwave oven
  • Freezer, chest or upright (optional)
  • Dishwasher (optional)
  • Clothes washer and dryer

Countertop Appliances & Accessories

Most countertop appliances have "manual," or non-electric counterparts. For example, you can opt for a stovetop coffee maker instead of a standard plug-in drip coffee machine.

  • Toaster or toaster oven
  • Mixer (handheld or stand)
  • Blender (standard or stick)
  • Coffeemaker
  • Electric kettle

Cooking Implements

Active home cooks tend to acquire specific and specialty cooking tools over time, based on the type of cooking they do. But a basic set of implements will suffice for most recipes and dishes.

  • 6-, 8-, and 12-inch frying pans
  • 1-, 2-, and 4-quart saucepans with lids
  • Dutch oven or large pot with lid
  • Stockpot (optional)
  • Steamer pot or steamer basket
  • Casserole dish
  • Roasting Pan


Baking tends to be more precise than everyday cooking, so it helps to have the most standard tools, such as a classic 9-inch pie pan, to follow baking recipes without having to make modifications.

  • Heavy baking sheets
  • Cookie sheets
  • 9-inch pie pan
  • Rectangular bakers or baking dishes
  • Rolling pin
  • Metal cooling racks
  • Ramekins or custard cups

Kitchen Utensils & Tools

A well-equipped kitchen feels more like a home kitchen and less like a rental property. Think about the items you most often reach for as well as some cook's favorites that you may not have tried, like a spider strainer.

  • Large- and medium-size mixing bowls
  • Measuring cups and spoons
  • Canister set (for storing grains, flour, and other dry staples)
  • Kitchen tool holder
  • Spice rack or holder
  • Colander or set of strainers
  • Silicone spatulas
  • Metal spatula or flipper
  • Wooden spoons
  • Spider skimmer
  • Can opener
  • Wisk
  • Kitchen scissors
  • Cheese and vegetable grater
  • Plastic and/or metal serving and cooking utensils, such as large slotted and regular spoons, soup ladle, potato masher, large meat fork, and stirring paddles
  • Knife set, including paring, chef, and serrated knives
  • Steak knives
  • Cutting boards
  • Vegetable cleaning brush
  • Potholders, hot pads, and oven mitts
  • Dishcloths and tea towels
  • Trivets

Tableware & Serving

Dishes and silverware go quickly whether you're cooking a family meal or hosting a dinner party. It's best to have extra settings for the most common items.

  • Flatware settings (dinner fork, salad fork, teaspoon, soup spoon, knife) for eight to 12 people
  • Everyday dish setting (dinner plate, salad plate, soup bowl) for six, or as needed
  • Fruit or dessert dishes
  • Glassware assortment, including 4-, 6-, and 8-ounce glasses
  • Small bowls, such as cereal bowls, if not included in dish set
  • Coffee mugs and teacups
  • Salt and pepper set
  • Cream and sugar bowl
  • Napkin holder
  • Set of serving bowls
  • Teapot (if you don't have an electric kettle)
  • Serving platter

Floor Care & Cleaning Items

There are an endless array cleaning supplies you can buy, but a basic collection will get you through most everyday chores. Even professional house cleaners rely on relatively few supplies.

  • Vacuum cleaner
  • Broom and dustpan
  • Floor mop, scrub pail, scrub brush, and cleaning rags
  • Long bottlebrush
  • Scouring or pot cleaning pads, or brushes
  • Dust Rag
  • Microfiber cleaning cloths (optional)

Linens & Towels

As with dishes, having more sets of towels and bed linens means you won't have to wash items in a hurry because you've run out. It's also nice to have plenty of good linens for house guests.

  • Bath towels
  • Hand towels
  • Washcloths
  • Bed sheets
  • Blankets and bed covers
  • Pillows and pillow covers (include extra for guests)
  • Tablecloths
  • Cloth napkins
  • Placemats

Source: The Spruce


Fireplace Decor for a Warm and Happy Holiday

Lovely Lanterns

Fireplace decor reaches beyond the mantel. Decorating the space around the flames is a great way to add dimension to your display. If you're looking for a festive alternative to your flames, try putting these pretty picks inside for a unique look. 

Richly Red

Why settle for a traditional green garland? Make your mantel pop with this rich red accent.  


A New Necessity

Just like a tablescape, a mantel display needs a focal point. This trendy hand-lettered print outlined by matte paper in a rustic frame will be a staple year after year.

A Holiday Gathering

Talk about a good-looking holiday gathering! This berry and pinecone arrangement pulls together your holiday decorations. We imagine placing one at either end of the mantel. Where will you place yours?


The Search Is Over

The hunt for the perfect stockings may seem never-ending, that's why we did the searching for you. We love this modern-meets-traditional find of soft velvet and cozy flannel.

A Year-Round Affair


Finally, holiday decor that can last all year! This decorative mirror bursts with joy for the festive season.

A Hint of Tin


A well-put-together display is all about the tiny details. This glowing accent will illuminate your mantel with a cheery Christmas tree cutout. 

A Holiday Staple

Bows are everywhere during the holiday season, so why not spread them around your home! From presents to tree tops and more, this pretty pair is sure to bring the holiday spirit wherever they go. 

We Have a Winner

You can't call it a holiday display without a wreath. We love this one's subdued green hues with a scattering of red berries for a vintage-inspired finish.

Source:Better Homes and Gardens

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