Preparing Your Home For Sale With Pets

“How do you sell a home with pets?”

This is a question that gets asked a lot in real estate sales. If you have a dog or cat, chances are you love your pet. While some home owners have strict outside pet rules, most allow their animals inside their homes as part of the family. But, while pets are great for your emotional health, it does not help you sell your home. When you decide to put the house on the market you need to do some serious housecleaning and repair work before you can command a competitive price.

You want buyers to be able to picture themselves in your home. This means giving them the space to envision living there, space that is free from too many of your personal things – including pets and all they bring with them. So how do you go about selling your property when you have pets?

Without further ado here are some of the best tips to prepare for selling your home with pets. These tips are general, and may or may not apply to your particular situation.

1. Talk to Your Pet’s Veterinarian First.

One important thing to keep in mind is that your animal has its own needs, needs that are best discussed with your veterinarian. Talk to him or her about what you plan on doing, and how it will work with your specific pet or pets. This is especially important when your pet is older and may not adjust well to change. Selling a home can be just as stressful for the pet as it is for the home owner.

2. Temporarily Relocate.

This may or may not be something you are willing to do, but it is easier to show-and-sell your home (and keep it clean), if your pets are not present when buyers arrive. If you have a friend or family member that you are comfortable leaving your animal with, it will give you the chance to eliminate all of the signs of having a pet in the house (which can significantly reduce a home’s value) and avoid the pet causing further issues. While I happen to be a pet lover myself there are many home buyers who are not. In fact some folks consider it a huge turn-off when looking at potential homes they may want to own.

3. Remove Pets During Showings.

When selling a home with pets, at the very least, you should remove your them from your home when you are showing the property for sale. All the cute things your dog does will not help you sell your home, and will only remind the potential buyer that the house has contained pets previously.

Ideally you should have your real estate agent showing the home, preferably while you are away. Having a pet in the house or yard can create complications for your agent while trying to show the house, and puts your pet at risk of accidentally getting out during the process. There are also liability issues to deal with as well. While your dog or cat may be ultra friendly, it is certainly possible they can have a bad day just like you and I.

When you leave your pet home during showings you are asking for trouble especially if a buyer brings a young child and they are curious. The last thing you want is Fido taking a chunk out of a buyers child’s arm. Remember we live is a lawsuit happy society! You are taking a big risk when your pet is allowed to roam freely during showings.

There are times where it may not be possible to remove a pet from a home. Maybe due to your job you just can’t come back and remove them or you can’t find anyone who will help take care of them. If this is the case your next best option is to either put them in a contained space and let a buyer and their Real Estate agent know about it ahead of time or buyer a pet friendly cage to keep them in. While your pet may not be accustomed to this and you love treating your animals like one of the family sometimes this is what is necessary when you are making selling your home a priority.

4. Repair Any Damage.

As much as we love our pets, they are still animals, and pet damage is never attractive when selling your home. Dogs and cats will inevitably destroy something, including carpets, furniture, hardwood flooring, walls, doors, turf in your yard and your fence.

All of this damage should be repaired prior to showing the home. This may require some investment on your part, especially if the animal has damaged expensive items like your hardwood flooring or walls in your house. Regardless of the cost of repair, though, the value you will get for your house will be well worth paying for the repairs.

5. Remove Pet Odors and Stains.

Pets have accidents; and while it is possible to get used to the pet smell over time, new visitors to your home will be sure to notice the smells. This is not something you want to happen. In fact, above all else, this may be important tip for selling a home when you have pets.

Our sense of smell has a powerful effect on our emotions, our memory and on our perception of things. An initial urine odor on entering a house is sure to stick in the buyer’s mind, and he or she will likely deduct the cost of carpet replacement immediately from an offer as a result. A strong odor is in fact one of the top reasons a buyer will pass on a home.

Avoid this by having your carpet and flooring professionally cleaned, with a focus on removing pet odors. If the staining or odors are too bad, you may need to replace the carpet in the problem areas.

6. Clean Your Yard.

Pick up any messes in the backyard, and have any sod replaced and other damage repaired as necessary. You may be the kind of person who picks up after your pet regularly, or you may have a cat that causes very little impact to your yard. However, a large number of dog owners give their pets free reign of the backyard. This is a great life for dogs and cats, but it can be hard on the look of your lawn. One of the best tips, when selling a home with pets, is to make sure you don’t neglect the yard as this is just important to some buyers as the inside of the home.

7. Erase Signs of Your Pet for Potential Buyers.

You want to buyers to be as unaware of your pet ownership as possible. If they ask the question, you will have to answer honestly. However, you can often avoid this by taking necessary steps like those listed above. In addition, put away all pet toys, bedding, litter boxes and food – preferably at another location besides your home.

Some realtors recommend removing all photos where your pet is present as well, and to look and make certain the animal does not show up in any marketing materials you create for your home. Like other forms of home staging, removing extra pet clutter is an important consideration when you are selling your property.

8. Prepare Properly.

Selling a home with pets takes work, but it’s worth it in the long run! You may do all of these things and yet still have buyers ask about whether you have pets. Sometimes it is impossible to hide all evidence, and sometimes they just ask anyway. Even if this happens, though, you have still done everything necessary to return your house to its prior pet-free status. Buyers will have little to complain about, because your house now looks as good as it did before you had your pet.

9. Remember Pet Liability.

Did you know that you can be held liable for your pet biting someone while on your property? According to Kenneth M Phillips who specializes in law surrounding dog bites, there are more than 4.7 million dog bite cases reported in the US every year. Further the average lawsuit resulting from an injury is settled for more than $29,000 and climbing much higher when extensive plastic surgery is needed.

If you own a pet and are leaving them in your home during showings this should be a real wake up call! I know you are probably thinking Fido would never hurt a flea. Is it really worth taking a chance?

One of the things you should do if you own a dog is check your home insurance policy and make sure that it does not exclude dog bite coverage. You will want to check the exclusion in the coverage section to make sure it does not mention dogs or even animals in general. Some insurance policies will exclude certain breeds such as Pit bulls, German shepherds, Rottweilers, Great Danes and others.

In approximately two thirds of the states in the US pet owners can be held liable for injuries resulting from a dog bite even if the animal has shown no previous aggression.  So while it was previously mentioned that you shouldn’t leave your dog around for showings it can’t be emphasized enough. If you want to know how to sell a home with pets this tip should be the one you don’t forget!

RATTAN CHAIR MAKEOVER

I fell in love with the lines of this vintage rattan midcentury bucket chair, but the finish was worn and in need of an update. I grabbed a can of Rust-Oleum Painter’s Touch® 2X Ultra Cover® spray paint in flat black for a full transformation. I finished off the look with a leaf-pattern pillow to evoke a modern tropical vibe with a jute rug and greenery to tie it all together.

STEP 1

CLEAN IN THE GROOVES

Gently clean in the grooves using the brush attachment on a vacuum.

STEP 2

WIPE THE RATTAN CLEAN

Wipe the rattan with a damp cloth to remove and dirt and residue. If the chair is very dirty, use warm water and a mild detergent.

STEP 3

APPLY THE FIRST COAT

Put on gloves and a mask and place a drop cloth under the chair. Place the chair up on scrap blocks or a box to expose the bottom edges. Consider working in a spray tent or outdoors where overspray isn’t a concern. To avoid drips, hold the can 10-12 inches from the surface. Apply a light first coat moving in a sweeping horizontal motion back and forth. Start and stop each pass beyond the edges of the chair.

STEP 4

COAT THE DETAILS

If the rattan has details, follow the lines with a singular motion for even coverage. Fill in the surrounding areas as needed.

STEP 5

APPLY THE SECOND COAT

Apply a second coat within 1 hour or after 48 hours of applying the first coat. Spray in varying directions to coat the opposing sides of the rounded rattan that may have been missed the first pass. Allow paint to fully dry for 24 hours.

PEACH AND RASPBERRY LEMONADE

If it just isn’t summertime without a big pitcher of lemonade on the table, try this Paleo version for a sweet, fruity drink that doesn’t come out of a neon packet mix. You don’t need to fruit flavors out of a little plastic tube of powder when you could get them from the actual fruit!

This is a great option for people trying to get away from drinking soda all the time – cutting out the sugar water should be close to #1 on the list of ways to improve your diet, and sometimes, having a healthier flavored option makes the transition easier. You can add honey to this recipe to taste, or leave it out if you like it less sweet (yet another advantage of homemade over powder mixes: you can make it taste exactly how you want it).

If you don’t want to wait for your lemonade when you get thirsty, just make a big batch and store it in the fridge – it’ll keep until you’re ready for a glass. This would also be perfect with a cookout meal like burgers or grilled fish: grab a glass and enjoy the summer flavors.

Ingredients

  • 3 peaches, sliced
  • 6 oz. raspberries
  • 1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 6 cups cold water
  • 3 tbsp. raw honey (optional)

Preparation

  1. Combine 1 cup of the water with the raspberries, peaches, and honey in a saucepan placed over a medium heat.
  2. Let everything simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes.
  3. Pour the peach and raspberry mixture into a blender, and blend until smooth.
  4. Strain the liquid through a fine mesh to remove the raspberry seeds
  5. Pour the mixture into a pitcher. Whisk in the lemon juice and the remaining 5 cups of water.
  6. Refrigerate and serve chilled with ice.

Why Veterans Need Military-Friendly Real Estate Agents

Buying a home will likely be one of the biggest purchases of your life. Having a knowledgeable real estate agent to walk you through the process is imperative for a smooth transaction. This is especially true if you’re purchasing with a VA home loan.

VA mortgages come with a host of benefits, including no down payment, low interest rates, and no private mortgage insurance. Along with these benefits come some unique loan requirements. Here are three key reasons why using a military-friendly real estate agent benefits VA home buyers.

1. They understand the unique needs of VA home buyers

Active-duty service members relocate frequently. When receiving permanent change of station (PCS) orders, service members receive 10 days of leave to scope out the new duty station and complete a home search. Choosing an agent who understands this short time frame and can dedicate the time necessary to find a home during this compressed period of time is essential.

Due to frequent relocations, it’s also important for agents to understand the importance of strong resale value. Agents who work with active-duty service members understand they’ll need to identify a home that not only fits the service member’s current needs. The agent also needs to make sure the home has the potential for a quick and profitable resale if the service member receives PCS orders again.

2. They’re passionate about serving those who’ve served

Agents who identify as military-friendly frequently have a passion for serving those who’ve served. Some have served themselves, others have close ties to someone who has, and others simply have a desire to give back to those who’ve given so much for our country.

They’re also passionate about educating veterans and service members about VA home loan benefits. Many of these agents now ask every buyer “Did You Serve?” so they can identify buyers who may be eligible for a VA loan.

3. They understand the unique requirements of the VA loan

The Department of Veterans Affairs has created a few unique requirements for VA loans, to ensure buyers purchase homes that are a solid investment. The VA established a set of minimum property requirements (MPRs) to ensure all homes purchased by veterans and service members are safe, sanitary, and structurally sound.

VA appraisers are tasked with the responsibility of outlining any features not meeting the MPRs, and any issues will likely have to be fixed prior to closing. An agent who’s worked with VA buyers and understands MPRs is a great asset when doing a walk-through on a potential property—he or she can point out possible MPR issues before going under contract.

When selecting an agent to work with on a VA home purchase, buyers should ask the agent about any VA loan expertise. You may want to work with a Realtor® with a Military Relocation Professional designation.

The Defining a Style Series: What Is Modern Farmhouse Design?

There’s a reason why so many of us continue to fall head-over-heels for farmhouse style. Its unique take on comfort and simplicity creates an aura that could make anyone feel at home, even if they’ve never set foot on a farm. However, some people shy away due to the assumption that this aesthetic can feel a little outdated.

We’re going to prove those people wrong. Below is our guide to pulling off modern farmhouse design. Read over these tips and keep them in the forefront of your mind as you work on your own interiors. With any luck, you’ll achieve the perfect balance between classic comfort and modern flair.

Put practicality first

When you consider the ins-and-outs of farm life, it’s no surprise that practicality reigns supreme. While you should always consider functionality and usage as an integral part of any design, in this case, it needs to be your first point of consideration.

As for how to make that happen, planning is key. Before you start getting into the nitty-gritty of your redesign, take some time to look at the space. Consider details like the flow of the room, the lighting, and the furniture arrangement. Consider what’s working and what isn’t, as well as what changes you can make in order to make ease-of-use your first priority.

Then, once you’re ready to start gathering your design elements, remember that function should be your primary focus. Let your furniture and storage options take center stage in the room, above any decorative elements.

Choose a neutral palette

The colors you choose will be crucial to making this look work. Gone are the sage greens and buttermilk yellows that harken to older farmhouse styles. These days, a neutral color palette is a crucial part of any modern design, and including one in your farmhouse-inspired space will be the thing that helps keep your fresh, clean, and totally current.

As always, you’ll want to keep the 60-30-10 rule in mind. Here, white is the natural choice to fulfill the role of your dominant shade. For your other two colors, think about using earthy shades like grays, tans, and browns. Bare in mind that your accent shade should be the boldest of them all.

In a farmhouse design, the finishes you choose will also play an important role. Rather than choosing crisp, bright shades like you would in a truly modern design, you may want to consider choosing colors that have a bit of a vintage or antique feel to them. This will provide a small nod to classic farmhouse style without feeling too over the top.

Mix and match furniture

Next up, it’s time to focus on furniture. Traditionally, farmhouse designs relied heavily on simple wooden furniture to fill up the bulk of their interiors. You should include that in your space as well. The type of wood and finish that you use is up to you, but whenever possible, opt for pieces that feature clean and simple lines.

To give the look a more modern twist, you’ll want to infuse another layer of comfort into the space. Think about balancing out the natural materials in the room with things like plush couches, comfy accent chairs, and cushioned bar stools. You can also enhance the feeling of the room by layerings items like throw pillows and blankets into your design.

Add industrial accents

Lastly, you’ll want to think of the purely decorative elements your design. Here, we’d suggest leaning strongly on industrial-inspired pieces. Not only are industrial pieces commonly based on the machinery used for farming, but they also happen to be experiencing a spike in popularity right now, making them the perfect common thread to finish off your look.

With that in mind, keep an eye out for hanging barn doors, wooden mantles, iron-inspired light fixtures, and galvanized metal storage buckets. In farmhouse design, the best accents are the ones that also play a functional role, so look for pieces that serve a purpose.

Farmhouse style has been around for decades, but that doesn’t mean it has to be synonymous with grandma’s house and days gone by. Take this guide on modern farmhouse design as your inspiration. The tips and advice in this post are the keys to creating a farmhouse-inspired space that feels equal parts warm, welcoming, and current.

Article by Tara Mastroeni

Remove Pet Odor With These Essential Oils

We love our pets. They provide companionship, love, and are an important part of our families. However, our pets are not always as clean as we’d like them to be. Sometimes they leave behind odors which can make our homes unpleasant to be in. Many of the products on the market designed to remove pet odors are made with harsh chemicals that we don’t want to have to expose our families or our animals to! Luckily, there is a natural solution with essential oils. Here are some of the best essential oils to remove pet odors.

Anti-bacterial Essential Oils

The first property you want in an essential oil to combat pet odors is antibacterial. In most cases what is causing the odor bacteria and germs. These bacteria also can make your family sick, so it is essential to make sure that you use one of these essential oils. Some antibacterial oils include:

  • Eucalyptus
  • Peppermint
  • Lavender
  • Tea Tree Oil
  • Bergamot
  • Lemongrass
  • Oregano
  • Thyme
  • Clove
  • Rosemary

Anti-viral Essential Oils

You also want to incorporate some antiviral essential oils into your pet odor removal. Many of these antiviral oils also have antibacterial properties, so they are really a great option for removing pet odors. Some antiviral essential oils include:

  • Tea Tree Oil
  • Lavender
  • Cinnamon
  • Garlic
  • Eucalyptus
  • Thyme
  • Clove
  • Oregano
  • Frankincense
  • Lemon

Natural Cleaner Recipes

Once you have chosen your antibacterial and antiviral essential oils, you will want to make some natural cleaners to address the variety of pet stains and odors.  Here are our favorite recipes for natural essential oil cleaners:

 

Spray Cleaner

1 cup of white vinegar

10-20 drops of essential oil

Combine ingredients together and place in a spray bottle. Spray across surface and wipe with a clean towel or sponge.

 

Herbal Disinfectant

2 cups hot water

10 drops essential oil

¼ of washing soda

Combine ingredients in a spray bottle and shake well. Spray across surfaces and wipe with a clean, damp towel or sponge.

 

Classic Carpet Cleaner

1 cup white vinegar

2 cups water

2 tsp salt

15 drops essential oil

Mix all the ingredients together. There are two ways to apply this cleaner. You can generously spray it on your carpet with a large spray bottle or use it in a carpet cleaning machine. Allow carpets to dry then vacuum the area. Can also be used on upholstery.

 

Foaming Carpet Cleaner

3 cups of water

¾ liquid castile soap

10 drops essential oil

Mix all of the ingredients together in a kitchen blender until foamy. Take the foam and rub into the soiled area with a damp sponge or scrub brush. Let the foam dry completely then vacuum the area. Can also be used on upholstery.

 

Carpet Deodorizer

2 cups baking soda

30 drops essential oil

Combine baking soda and essential oil in a jar. Shake well until the essential oil is fully distributed in the baking soda. Sprinkle liberally over carpets. Let set 1-2 hours or overnight. Vacuum the area thoroughly.

 

Essential Oil Laundry Soap

1 bar of grated castile bar soap

1 cup of washing soda

1 cup borax

20 drops essential oil

Mix thoroughly together in a jar. Use 1-2 tablespoons per load of laundry. Can also be used to spot clean upholstery.

 

Purify The Air

Once you have cleaned all the odor causing spots in your home, the next thing you will need to do is purify the air to get rid of the residual pet odors for good. Here are the air purifying essential oils we recommend:

  • White Camphor
  • Eucalyptus
  • Balsam Fir Needle
  • Frankincense
  • Ginger
  • Grapefruit
  • Helichrysum
  • Hyssop
  • Juniper berry
  • Lavandin
  • Lavender
  • Lemon
  • Lemongrass
  • Myrrh
  • Myrtle
  • Sweet Orange
  • Oregano
  • Peppermint
  • Rosemary
  • Wintergreen

 

To purify the air, simply place any of these oils in your aromatherapy diffuser and let them clean all the pet odors from your home. If you want to keep your home free of pet odors in the future, burn these oils everyday to purify the air.

Pets are a wonderful addition to our families, but they can often leave behind an unpleasant odor. Luckily with essential oils you can remove these odors naturally. So the next time your pet has an accident or your just notice your home is smelling a little off, deploy these great essential oils to keep your house fresh and clean.

Article by Chad Pegura

6 Smart Home Products That’ll Make Your Home More Functional Today

A couple are super fun to use and may even enhance your home’s value.

Home trends come and go. But it’s functionality that wins in the end. Because smart functionality almost always adds some intrinsic value to your home.

That’s why these smart home products, especially the ones that make you safer, are some of our favorite home upgrades.

#1 Video Doorbell

WiFi-enabled video doorbells will let you see, hear, and speak to whoever is at your door via a smartphone, even when you’re not home.

It’s like Facetime but for your house. It alerts your phone and turns on the camera when someone rings the bell or comes near. You can tell the UPS guy to leave the package at the door or say, “Be there in a minute!” — whether you’re in the bathroom or thousands of miles away. So much for casing the joint while you’re out of town.

Video doorbells can even help catch a thief because you can see them on camera.

They’re not expensive — at most, around $200 — and you can install one yourself with some basic tools.

#2 Smart Door Locks

Keys are so 20th century. With a smart lock, you can lock or unlock your door with your smartphone or voice. You can text digital keys to friends, the dog sitter, or the delivery guy, giving them temporary access, which is waaaaaay safer than the old key-under-the-doormat routine.

Plus: Think you forgot to lock the house? You can whip out your smartphone and check. On the stoop with arms full of groceries? Just tell the lock to open.

#3 Home Generators

The number of power outages from bad weather has more than doubled in the last 15 years, so generators are becoming a thing.

But not those noisy, portable, diesel ones. You want a generator that’s built into your home. They look like an HVAC unit and run on propane or natural gas, so they don’t belch out smelly gases or require refueling every couple of hours. They’ll kick on automatically when the power goes off and can even be operated from a smartphone.

It might not be a home investment you’ll eagerly Instagram upon installation, but when you’re still scrolling and posting during a killer snowstorm, you’ll be feeling pretty fancy.

#4 Smart Mirror

Even the ol’ looking glass is getting smart. Bathroom mirrors with voice-activated digital assistants can tell you the weather, give you traffic updates, and play your favorite podcasts. You can even tell your mirror to order more moisturizer the moment you realize you’re getting low.

Check out Kohler’s Verdera Voice Lighted Smart Mirror, an Alexa-enabled smart mirror. It also has motion sensors that turn on the light when you stand in front of it, giving you one less germy thing to touch in the bathroom.

There are prototypes out there for mirrors that advise on your wardrobe, health, and skin care, too; they’re just not on the market yet.

Obviously, everything in your home is not about ROI, and a smart mirror is no exception. Will it up your home value? Nah. Is it fun? Yes. Does it make life in one of your home’s most hectic rooms easier? Oh yeah.

#5 Indoor Gardens

Houseplants have been having a moment for a while, but edible gardens are coming indoors, too.

More than a third of Millennials are growing herbs indoors, and a gardening industry report predicts the number of people growing plants inside is going to increase about 25% by 2021. It’s an especially good idea for homes that have little or no yard space.

We’re not talking pots of basil on the windowsill but permanent setups — like a built-in planter that also works as a room divider (mid-century, retro-cool factor included).

Or you can turn a whole wall into a hydroponic, vertical garden with PVC panels. Install a few smart grow lights, and you’re good to go.

#6 Smart Blinds

Throw some shade on high cooling and heating costs with WiFi-enabled blinds you can control with your smartphone or voice. They’ll even work with Alexa and Siri.

Program them to open or close at certain times of day, or when the room hits a specific temperature. Or if you’re reading and you want to open the blinds to let in more light, you don’t have to get out of your chair. “Alexa, open the blinds.” Done.

You can also pre-schedule your smart blinds to make your home more secure.

Article by LEANNE POTTS

 

STRAWBERRY ‘DONUT’ CAKES

STRAWBERRY DONUT CAKES adapted from the urban poser
donut ingredients:
2 1/2 cups blanched almond flour sifted
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup diced strawberries
6 tablespoons honey
1/4 cup coconut oil, softened or liquid
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 teaspoon lemon juice
3 whole large room temp eggs (separated)

strawberry coconut glaze ingredients:
1/3 cup warmed coconut butter
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 cup of crushed freeze dried strawberries
filtered water as needed:

1. preheat oven for 350º
2. in a large bowl combine all dry ingredients – almond flour, baking soda and salt.
3. in another bowl combine honey, coconut oil, vanilla, lemon, and egg yolks.
4. mix the two bowls you’ve mixed above until well combined.
5. beat egg whites until nice soft peaks form. fold the egg whites and diced strawberries with the rest of the batter until no egg whites are visible, but do not overmix.
6. grease your donut pan and then fill each donut mold about 3/4 full – about two large tablespoons for the mold i used.
7. bake for 18 mins or until just firm to the touch. remove from pan and allow donuts to cool on wire rack.

1. in a small bowl mix coconut butter and honey into a thick paste
2. then mix in lemon and the crushed freeze dried strawberries.
3. you can begin to add 1 teaspoon of warm water to your mixture until its smooth and creamy – if you over add you can add more coconut butter.
4. glaze donuts once they are completely cooled – once you’ve finished glazing pop them into the freezer so the glaze will firm up.

9 grants and programs to help you buy your first home

Money issues often stand in the way of homeownership. A survey by rental service Apartment List found that 80 percent of millennial renters want to buy a home, but most say they can’t afford to.

What you may not realize is that many first-time homebuyer programs and grants offer financial help, and you may be eligible for various types of assistance.

Here are nine first-time homebuyer programs and grants designed to help you land a great mortgage and get a place of your own.

1. FHA loan

In an FHA loan, the Federal Housing Administration insures the mortgage. The FHA is an agency within the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

The FHA’s backing offers lenders a layer of protection, meaning that your lender won’t experience a loss if you default on the mortgage.

FHA loans typically come with competitive interest rates, smaller down payments and lower closing costs than conventional loans.

If you have a credit score of 580 or higher, you could be eligible for a mortgage with a down payment as low as 3.5 percent of the purchase price. If your credit score is lower than 580, you still might qualify for an FHA mortgage, but the down payment would be at least 10 percent of the purchase amount.

2. USDA loan

While not well known, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has a homebuyer assistance program.

While the program focuses on homes in certain rural areas, you don’t need to buy or run a farm to be eligible.

The USDA guarantees the home loan. There may be no down payment required, and the loan payments are fixed.

Applicants with a credit score of 640 or higher typically get streamlined processing. With a credit score below 640, you still can qualify for a USDA loan, but the lender will ask for extra documentation about your payment history.

Keep in mind that there are income limitations, which can vary by region.

3. VA loan

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) helps active-duty military members, veterans and surviving spouses buy homes.

The VA guarantees part of the loan, making it possible for lenders to offer some special features. VA loans come with competitive interest rates and require no down payment. You aren’t required to pay for private mortgage insurance (PMI), and a minimum credit score isn’t needed for eligibility.

If it becomes difficult to make payments on the mortgage, the VA can negotiate with the lender on your behalf.

4. Good Neighbor Next Door

The Good Neighbor Next Door program, sponsored by HUD, provides housing aid for law enforcement officers, firefighters, emergency medical technicians and pre-kindergarten through 12th-grade teachers.

Through this program, you can receive a discount of 50 percent on a home’s listed price in regions known as “revitalization areas.”

Using the program’s website, you can search for properties available in your state. You must commit to living in the home for at least 36 months.

5. Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are government-sponsored entities. They work with local lenders to offer mortgage options that benefit low- and moderate-income families.

With the backing of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, lenders can offer competitive interest rates and accept down payments as low as 3 percent of the purchase price.

Fannie Mae also provides homeownership education for first-time homebuyers through its “HomePath Ready Buyer” program.

6. Energy-efficient mortgage (EEM)

An energy-efficient, or “green,” mortgage is designed to help you add improvements to your home to make it more environmentally friendly. The federal government supports EEM loans by insuring them through the FHA or VA programs.

The key advantage of this mortgage is that it lets you create an energy-efficient home without having to make a larger down payment. The extra cost is rolled into your primary loan.

Some improvements you can make include installing double-paned windows, new insulation or a modern heating-and-cooling system.

7. FHA Section 203(k)

If you’ve run the numbers to see how much house you can affordand have determined a fixer-upper is best for your budget, the Section 203(k) rehabilitation program may be a good fit.

This type of loan, backed by the FHA, takes into consideration the value of the residence after improvements have been made. It then lets you borrow the funds you’ll need to carry out the project and includes them in your main mortgage.

The down payment for a 203(k) loan can be as low as 3 percent.

8. Native American Direct Loan

Since 1992, the Native American Veteran Direct Loan program has helped Native American veterans and their spouses buy homes on federal trust lands. The VA serves as the lender.

If you’re eligible, you won’t be required to make a down payment or pay for private mortgage insurance (PMI).

This first-time homebuyer loan also offers low closing costs and a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage.

9. Local grants and programs

In addition to the various programs provided by the federal government, many states and cities offer help to first-time homebuyers.

Before buying a home, check your state’s or community’s website for information on housing grants and programs available in your area.

You also might consider contacting a real estate agent or local HUD-approved housing counseling agency to learn more about programs in your area that might apply to your situation.

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Home Showing Tips That’ll Convince Buyers to Bite

Showing your house is the exciting part of selling a home, but let’s face it: It takes a lot of work to get there. Once you’ve made repairs, chosen a Realtor®, and decided on an asking price, your home is almost ready for market—but first, how about a little primping and polishing? Or maybe a lotof primping and polishing.

Showing tips for a big sale

After all, you want your home to make a great first impression on buyers—and that’s where we can help. To show your home in the best possible light, heed these savvy seller tips.

Stash your stuff

When you’re just living in your home, a bit of clutter is business as usual. You know the drill: video game cartridges in the bathroom, toolbox in the kitchen, tuxedo shirt inexplicably in the garage. But when you’re trying to sell, all this disorder can be deadly. That’s because clutter can make even spacious homes look cramped and dirty, distracting from substantial assets, says Darbi McGlone, a Realtor® with Jim Talbot Real Estate in Baton Rouge, LA.

One way to help pare down your belongings is to go room by room, boxing up anything you haven’t used or worn in at least six months. What’s that you say? There’s nothing you’re not using? Try anyway. You’ll probably be surprised by the stuff you won’t miss. (Bonus: You’ll have less to move later.)

One area where you’ll want to be merciless is your kitchen counter: Remove everything but your coffee maker, so people will think, “Wow, such a huge kitchen!” And to allow home buyers to really envision themselves living there, you’ll also want to pack up personal items such as the framed photos, report cards on the fridge, or your kid’s collection of “Star Wars” snow globes.

But don’t just stuff those things in the closet.

“Closets often end up being the dumping ground to store all the clutter that was visible,” says McGlone. “Which is never good, because closet space is an important buying consideration. You want potential owners to be able to see the true amount of space in each closet.” Instead, stack boxes neatly in the attic, basement, or, best of all, a storage facility—the perceived extra space you add to your home could be worth the rental cost and then some.

Stage to sell

These days, home staging is all the rage: On average, staged homes sell 88% faster and for a whopping 20% more than ones where home sellers just kept their furnishings in place. And while you can hire a professional stager, you can also cop a few of their tricks for free.

For instance, hanging curtain rods higher can give the illusion of taller ceilings. Well-placed mirrors can make rooms appear bigger and brighter. Want to go the extra step? Paint your walls white, layer in neutrals, then add pops of color with pillows or a cashmere throw on the couch for a cozy glow.

“I always think to move the furniture toward the walls to make it feel like there is more space,” McGlone says. Push furniture out and away from each other to open up floor space, but be careful to keep window space clear. Conceal flaws whenever possible; if the view out a window isn’t great, put up sheer curtains so the light comes in but the scenery stays hidden. And as with all your possessions, think “less is more,” although stagers do sometimes strategically add furniture (such as a cozy reading chair in a bedroom corner) to give the illusion of more space. Go figure!

Boost your curb appeal

Finally, it is time to take a hard look at the outside of your house. After all, that’s the first thing buyers will see when they pull up, so you’ve got to work that curb appeal hard.

For starters, take a good hard look at the paint. If it’s looking dull or dingy, try power washing first. You can rent a power washer from most home improvement stores; a good wash can take off layers of dirt that make your home look shabby. Most professional paint jobs come with a 25-year warranty, and if you’re long past that, it may be time for a new coat. At the very least, slapping a coat of paint on your front door will give you the most bang for your buck—because that’s what buyers will see up close before they even knock.

Paint aside, your yard also needs to be in order. Overgrown trees can make a home seem dark and creepy. If your trees are touching any part of your house, you should scale them back. If your front lawn is lacking in shrubs and flowers, add some. Even in winter, you can find hardy plants such as evergreen boxwoods and holly bushes. Also make sure your lawn is mowed, and if you have a pool that’s open, keep it sparkling.

“A dirty pool will remind people how much upkeep there is, even if they asked for a pool,” McGlone says.

Once you’ve gotten your home looking fantastic both inside and out, it’s time to break out your camera and spread the news that it’s up for grabs: with an eye-catching real estate ad, of course!

Article by Angela Colley

Use Vinegar to Get Rid of Old, Stinky Pet Odors

Whether you’re cleaning up after your own pet or you’re moving into a new place where pets used to live, vinegar is a surefire way to get rid of any lingering pet odors in the floors or carpet. Over at Apartment Therapy, contractor John Gleeson Connolly explains how well it really works.

Connolly went to the hardware store and got a simple pump sprayer that you’d use for pesticide, fertilizer, or just about any other thin liquid, and filled it with vinegar. His problem was pretty bad, so he sprayed the floors and the subfloors with vinegar, and let it evaporate over the course of a few days. The vinegar neutralized the pet odor nicely—better than some of the chemicals designed for the purpose that he had previously tried. Connolly also notes in the video above that it worked, but it wasn’t a perfect fix, so he got up under his home and sprayed the vents and the woodwork under the floor, and that took care of the problem once and for all.

You probably don’t have to go to such great effort in your home (we hope), but if you do, at least you know vinegar will do the trick. We’re willing to bet that if you’re just moving into a place and it still smells like the dog or cat that used to live there, a good spray down with vinegar in the corners, floorboards, and carpets will take care of it. If you really want, rent a carpet cleaner and use vinegar in that. It’s remarkable what vinegar can do—but then, we do list it often as one of the best ways to de-stink just about anything.

Article by Alan Henry

4 Super-Easy Curb Appeal Projects to Max Out Your Home’s Value

The yard of your dreams just might be more achievable than you thought.

You’ve been spending so much time on projects inside your home (like that new shower you have to drag yourself out of), that your front yard is starting to scream for a bit of attention.

Poor neglected, thing.

You know your yard has some super curb appeal potential, but where to begin?

Check out the Remodeling Impact Report: Outdoor Features from the National Association of REALTORS®. It’s got some interesting data on how landscaping affects home value, especially those with tons of curb appeal. They beat out most indoor projects when it comes to adding value to your home!

Below are four projects with so much curb-appeal juice, any money you invest in them is likely to pay you back much more.

#1 Add or Replace a Few Landscaping Basics

Every few years, you overhaul your closet, replacing your worn-out basics with a few new pieces to ramp up your wardrobe. Why not do the same with your yard? Give it a basic makeover so it has some good, classic, value-boosting “bones” to build upon.

Landscape design basics like:

  • A winding flagstone walkway
  • A couple of stone planters (6 feet by 2 feet)
  • A few flowering shrubs
  • A deciduous tree about 15 feet tall
  • Quality mulch

Why you can’t go wrong: The median cost for this makeover is $5,000. But the recoup (how much more your house would sell for after doing this project) is $4,000! Pretty sweet, right?

#2 Take Care of Your Trees

Dead or dying trees definitely hurt resale value. And if you remove dead trees and take care of your healthy trees, you won’t be throwing money away.

REALTORS® who advised their clients to do some tree triage before putting their home on the market say their clients almost always get their money back.

The typical cost to pay a pro to remove a dead tree and take care of the healthy ones with fertilizing, pruning and trimming is $2,000. And if you sell, you can expect 100% return on your investment in most cases, according to the RIR report.

Why you can’t go wrong: Just three trees in the right location can save up to $250 a year in heating and cooling costs, says the source for energy-saving stats: the U.S. Department of Energy.

#3 Build a Deck If You Don’t Have One

If you’re spending sunny days admiring the great outdoors from indoors, it’s time for a change to get you outside… like finally building that deckyou’ve been dreaming of.

Why you can’t go wrong: A new deck costs about $10,000 and recoups 80% at resale. Plus, how can you put a price on all those evening cookouts and Sunday brunches al fresco?

#4 Heap Loads of Love on Your Lawn

Yep, you read that right. Especially if you know you’re going to sell in the next year or so.

It’s the easiest project to do — and it has a whopping ROI of 267%!

Lawn maintenance is simple:

  • Fertilize
  • Aerate
  • Weed
  • Rake

Why you can’t go wrong: It’s the cheapest project to do with an annual cost of only $375. Every year, you’ll reap the benefits of a lush, barefoot-friendly lawn.

(But note that unlike the other landscaping features listed in this article — deck, patio, hardscaping, trees, etc. — you’ll only get that fabulous 267% ROI on your maintenance costs for the year right before you sell. That’s because lawn maintenance has to be repeated annually, unlike the other projects).

Article by ANNE ARNTSON

5 Mortgage Questions Home Buyers Always Ask—Answered

If you’ve got mortgage questions, you’ve come to the right place. Not exactly sure how a mortgage works? Don’t feel bad—the average home buyer doesn’t either. Article by Daniel Bortz

When mortgage questions come up

The whole home buying process is filled with head-scratching questions, from how to find the right agent to figuring out which home is “the one.” But things tend to get even more complicated when it’s time to choose a home loan. You’re now faced with everything from how big a down payment has to be to why your interest rate isn’t as great as you’d hoped.

To help clear up some of your confusion, here are some of the most common mortgage questions home buyers ask, as well as some expert answers.

Q: Do I really need a 20% down payment?

A: The gold standard for a down payment is 20%, but if you don’t have the cash, there are plenty of ways to put down less and still get a house. Topping the list: A Federal Housing Administration loan lets borrowers put down as little as 3.5%, but you’ll need to meet certain qualifications, including a minimum credit score of 500 and steady employment for at least two years.

And if you’re active or retired military (or a surviving spouse of a veteran), a Veteran Affairs loan allows you to put 0% down, says Todd Sheinin, mortgage lender and chief operating officer at New America Financial in Gaithersburg, MD. And those aren’t the only workarounds; some counties and states offer loan programs that enable borrowers with low income to receive a down payment subsidy.

Q: Why is my mortgage’s interest rate offer higher than the one I saw advertised?

A: If you see an ad for a remarkably low rate, take a closer look and you’ll notice a disclaimer (typically an asterisk) saying this is the best possiblerate. To nab it, you’ll need a high credit score (750 or above) and a low loan-to-value ratio, which essentially means you’re making a sizable down payment of at least 40% of the home’s price, says Richard Redmond, a mortgage broker at All California Mortgage in Larkspur and author of “Mortgages: The Insider’s Guide.”

But if your borrowing scenario is not that spectacular, you’re considered more of a risk—and your interest rate will rise to reflect that. In addition to your credit score and loan-to-value ratio, it will depend on your loan size, the type of property you’re buying (e.g., condo versus single-family house). Bottom line: Read the fine print when evaluating your loan options.

Q: Is a 30-year fixed-rate loan the best option?

A: While the 30-year loan with a fixed interest rate may be the first mortgage most home buyers think of getting, “there’s no one-size-fits-all loan option,” says Redmond. For instance, although adjustable-rate mortgages have a bad rap, ARMs do make sense in certain circumstances—like if you plan to move soon, before the rates adjust. They may also make sense if you can’t afford a home with a fixed-rate mortgage, since those interest rates are slightly higher.

Meanwhile, a 15-year loan might make more sense than one for 30 years if you have enough cash to cover the bigger monthly bills. Why? Because you’ll end up paying far less in interest. For instance, if you get a 30-year mortgage on a $250,000 loan at 3.58% (the current interest rate), you’ll pay $1,134 per month and $168,628 in interest by the time those 30 years are up. Buy that same home with a 15-year loan at today’s 2.86% (the shorter time you borrow the money, the lower the rate), and your monthly payments balloon to $1,710—but you’ll pay only $43,306 in interest by the time you’re done. (Use realtor.com®’s mortgage calculator to get a rough idea of the numbers before meeting with a lender.)

Q: What is private mortgage insurance, and why do I need it?

A: If you’re using conventional nongovernment financing and can’t afford to make a 20% down payment, you’ll have to pay private mortgage insurance. PMI kicks in if you end up unable to pay your mortgage. Since your lender loses money in this scenario, PMI pays it benefits to offset that loss. You can expect to pay about 0.3% to 1.15% of your home loan in PMI. This can be a sizable sum, but it may make sense if you want to buy a home now rather than wait until you can amass a bigger down payment.

“PMI has a negative connotation, but it’s not the worst thing in the world,” says Sheinin. Another option? Have your lender cover the mortgage insurance. You’ll pay a higher interest rate, but “it’s often cheaper than paying PMI yourself each month,” says Sheinin.

Q: What happens if I can’t pay my mortgage?

A: Depending on the lender, you may have a grace period of a week or more to make the payment, says Craig Jaffe, a financial planner at United Capital in Boca Raton, FL. Miss the deadline and your account becomes “delinquent,” which can immediately hurt your credit score. Know you’re going to miss a payment? Notify the lender in advance to find out your options.

“You might be able to qualify for a forbearance, which provides a period of relief from making the full payment,”  says Jaffe.

If a life event has occurred, ie; illness, divorce, military service, change of income, death, etc, please reach out to us at Red Carpet Enterprises, Inc. We will walk you through your options. 

How to Not Regret the Paint Color You Choose

The secret? It’s all about the lighting. Here’s how to get it right.

Well that was a total waste. That Robin’s Egg Blue you picked for your entryway now looks like the color of that (really cheap) beach hotel room back in your spring break days.

Kind of makes you feel sick.

Not at all what you envisioned.

“People have to understand that the color of an object won’t look the same 24 hours a day,” says lighting designer Joseph Rey-Barreau. “I just had bamboo flooring installed throughout my house, and during the day it looks totally different than it looks at night.”

The way we “see” color primarily depends on two things:

1.  The light that an object absorbs. Black absorbs all colors; white absorbs none; blue absorbs red.

2.  How the light source works. Natural light (sunlight) changes throughout the day and is affected by a room’s location. Artificial light changes with the type of bulb you use.

Here’s how to figure out how lighting will affect your paint color choices before you plunk down cash for the paint:

How Sunlight Affects Colors

As the amount and angle of the sun changes, so will your room colors.

“Natural light should always be considered when choosing color for a space,” says Sarah Cole of the Farrow & Ball paint company.

North-facing rooms:
 Light in these rooms is cool and bluish. Bolder colors show up better than muted colors; lighter colors will look subdued. “Use strong colors and embrace what nature has given,” says Cole.

South-facing rooms: Lots of high-in-the-sky light brings out the best in cool and warm colors. Dark colors will look brighter; lighter colors will virtually glow.

East-facing rooms: East light is warm and yellowy before noon, then turns bluer later in the day. These are great rooms for reds, oranges and yellows.

West-facing rooms: Evening light in these rooms is beautiful and warm, while scant morning light can produce shadows and make colors look dull.

How Light Bulbs Affect Color

The type of bulb you use can alter the colors in a room, too.

Incandescents: The warm, yellow-amber light of these bulbs will make reds, oranges, and yellows more vivid, while muting blues and greens.

Fluorescents: This flat and cool light enriches blues and greens.

Halogens: These white lights resemble natural light and make all colors look more vivid. Using halogens would make the shift from daylight to artificial light less jarring.

Compact fluorescent lights (CFLs): CFLs can produce either a warm white, neutral, or bluish-white light.

Light-emitting diodes (LEDs):
  You can buy warmer or cooler LEDs, and even “smart” LED bulbs whose color you can control wirelessly. “You can point to the color of the sky in a picture at sunset and make the light bulb in the house be that same color,” says Rey-Barreau.

Related: The Latest In Lighting Trends to Enhance Your Home

Tips for Achieving the Color You Want

1. Paint squares of primed drywall with samples of the colors you’re considering, and then move them around the room during the day. Apply at least two coats.

2. Evaluate samples of carpet during different daylight conditions.

3. Most contractors won’t hang lights before you paint, but you can get a color approximation by placing a bulb you’ll be using in a floor or desk lamp. If you’re hyper-sensitive to color or want a very specific look, ask your electrician to hang the lights, then cover them carefully during painting.

4. Remember that natural and artificial light will work together during certain times of day, especially in summer when dusk lasts a long time. Turn on artificial lights even during daylight to see what your colors will look like.

5. Paint sheen also affects color. Glossy finishes will reflect light and change the way the color looks, whereas flat finishes are less reflective and allow colors to look truer under bright light.

6. Light-colored walls can reflect the colors of bold carpets: A bright blue rug, for instance, can cast a bluish tone on a white wall.

Article by LISA KAPLAN GORDON

Helping Your Dog Beat the Heat This Summer

Did you know that animals can get heat stroke, just like people? With this summers record temperatures, it’s an even greater risk than usual. Find out how to keep your pet from becoming a casualty of this summer’s soaring temperatures.

It’s here – summertime! And this year it’s not just summertime – it’s SUMMERTIME! With a vengeance!

Sydney recently posted the highest temperature ever recorded in the city’s history, a wilting 45.8 degrees. And the average temperature for all of Australia recently hit 40.33 degrees – the hottest day recorded in more than a century. In other words, it’s HOT!

Most everyone knows that hot weather can be dangerous. Heat stroke and hyperthermia claim human victims every summer. And the hotter the temperatures, of course, the greater the risks.

So take care to keep your cool this summer. But also remember to take care of your pets, because the heat can be fatal for them as well. According to Dr. Steven Ferguson of the Australian Veterinary Association, “Pets are just as susceptible to heat-related illness as humans.”

So while you’re surviving this sizzling summer, make sure that your pets are surviving as well.

TIPS FOR HELPING KEEP YOU PET COOL

Here are 10 tips from the AVA for keeping your pet safe and comfy through this scorching summertime season:

  • Keep plenty of water available for your pet at all times. Make sure the water is cool and fresh, and keep it in the shade.
  • Put out multiple bowls of water on really hot days. Use bowls that can’t be tipped, and place them in a shady and (relatively!) cool spot.
  • Older pets are even more susceptible to the heat, so keep a special eye on them. Watch for indications that they are having trouble breathing.
  • Dogs tend to enjoy sitting in the sun. But lots of time spent in the sun can cause heat stroke and increase the risk of skin cancers. So be sure to provide a shady area for your dog at all times.
  • Help your dog cool off with a kid’s paddling pool. Put just a couple of inches of water in it, and place it in a shady location.
  • Add a few cubes of ice to your pets’ water bowls. They’ll enjoy it, and it will help to keep their body temperature down;
  • If your pets can’t be in an air-conditioned area, consider placing a fan where it will blow on them.
  • Exercise your pets only in the early morning or late evening. Avoid the hottest part of the day.
  • Freeze some treats and give them to your pets. It will keep them busy for a while and help cool them down.
  • Some longhaired dogs will benefit from a trim. Check with your vet.

SIGNS OF DANGER

Keep an eye on your pets during particularly hot spells; watch for indications that they are having difficulty with the heat.

Dogs. Signs that your dog is in distress due to heat include vomiting or drooling, fatigue, heavy panting or obvious difficulty breathing, diarrhea, or seizures.

Treatment:

    • Check the dog’s rectal temperature every 10 minutes and continue the treatment until the temperature falls below 39 degrees.
    • If the dog’s temperature is below 40 degrees, moving the dog into a cooler environment may be sufficient.
    • If the dog’s temperature is higher that 40:
      • Spray the dog with water, or immerse in cool (not cold) water.
      • You can also apply cool packs to the groin area, and wipe its paws with cool water.

Even if you believe your pet has suffered from only a mild case of heat stroke, and you feel you’ve treated it successfully, you should still get your pet to a vet. Heat stroke can potentially cause serious internal problems that may not become obvious for some time, possibly even until days after the event.

STAY COOL

Summer is the time for lots of fun activities, but it’s also a time of potential danger, for both you and your pets. So take care of yourself, take care of your pets, stay cool – and have fun!

Condensation on Toilet Tank: How to Fix a Sweaty Toilet

Does your toilet have the cold sweats? Here’s how to fix condensation on a toilet tank before the dripping water rots out your bathroom floor.

If you’ve noticed what happens to an iced drink on a humid summer day, you’ll have an idea why your toilet is sweaty. When warm, damp air hits a cold surface, condensation forms.

Dripping off a toilet tank, this moisture can keep bathroom flooring damp for days, ruining the flooring and even rotting out the sub-floor and floor framing.

To prevent that from happening, you can start with simple, cheap fixes that may help, or fast-forward to more costly but surer solutions.

Install a Tray

Just as you slip a coaster under a sweaty glass to prevent condensation from leaving a wet ring, you can install a drip tray under the toilet tank to catch the excess moisture. It isn’t very attractive, and you’ll need to empty and clean it regularly. But as a cheap fix (under $10), it does buy you time to figure out a better solution.

Change Habits

If family members cooperate, you might be able to cure a sweaty toilet without spending any money.

  • Lower the room’s humidity by taking shorter, cooler showers, especially on hot, humid days.
  • Switch on that bathroom fan, and leave the door ajar so the fan draws in drier air from the rest of the house while it exhausts moist shower air. (Don’t open the bathroom window on hot, humid days; run the air conditioner instead.)
  • When possible, wait to flush until the room has dried out so you don’t fill the tank with cold water just when the risk of condensation is greatest.

Check the Flapper

Water trickling through a toilet not only wastes water and adds to utility bills, it also makes the tank colder — and more susceptible to sweating — because your tank is constantly refilling itself with cool water.

To check whether the flap is sealing, put a few drops of food coloring into the tank and wait an hour or so. If the color appears in the bowl, replace the valve and flapper — under $25 if you do it yourself. (First, be sure the fix isn’t even simpler, such as untangling the lift chain.)

Insulate the Tank

If the flapper isn’t the culprit, you can keep the tank from getting cold by insulating it on the interior. Some hardware stores and home centers sell do-it-yourself kits for about $20.

The downside? They’re a pain to install — you’ll need to empty the tank, cut the insulating foam panels to fit, then glue them to the interior.

Install a New Toilet

Instead of investing a lot of time in retrofitting an old toilet, you’re probably better off installing a new low-flow toilet that uses less water at each flush. That’ll keep cold-water tank refills to a minimum, and reduce the sweats.

A toilet that uses less than 1.3 gallons per flush and carries the Environmental Protection Agency’s WaterSense label costs less than $140. If you don’t feel up to installing it yourself, add $150 for installation.

Or, get a model with factory-installed tank insulation. Models range from $150 to $400.

One money-saving DIY option is to replace only the tank, subbing in an insulated tank ($100 to $120) for your old tank. That way, you won’t have touch the yucky wax ring under the toilet bowl, as you would if you were replacing the entire toilet.

Install an Anti-Sweat Valve

An anti-sweat valve, also known as a mixing valve, is a $30 plumbing part that introduces a little warm water to the cold water feeding into the toilet tank. Plumbers swear by it as one solution that always works.

The valve can be a good option for a toilet over a basement where plumbing pipes are easily accessible. Otherwise, you might have to open up walls or ceiling finishes to install the valve and link it to a hot water line.

Depending on the amount of work, you’ll pay a plumber $75 to $300 to install a mixing valve. If you’ve tried everything else to fix your sweating toilet, that’s sure to be less than what you’d spend to fix a rotten floor.

Is There a Lien on My Property? How to Check

“Is there a lien on my property?” If this is something you’re wondering about, then you’ll definitely want to find out, pronto. You might think you already know about any liens on a property you already own, but the fact is they can lurk beneath your radar and pop up at the most inopportune times. Topping the list: when you’re getting ready to sell your place, and a search of public records uncovers the lien. This can be very bad news, resulting in delays in selling your home or, worse, throwing a wrench into the whole deal.

The good news is that finding out if there are liens on your property is simple—and by finding out early, you can take steps so that it will not hinder selling your home, whenever that takes place. Here’s how to find out if there’s a lien on your property, and what to do if you do find one.

What is a lien, anyway?

In the most basic terms, a lien is a legal notice that’s attached to your property title because of an unpaid debt. It gives the unpaid party a legal claim to a portion of your property when it’s sold, and you typically can’t sell or refinance your property if the lien isn’t cleared.

Liens fall into three primary categories:

  • Mechanical/contractor liens: Mechanical liens result when homeowners hire contractors to perform home improvement projects, but fail to pay them for their services and materials.
  • Tax liens: Tax liens are filed due to unpaid taxes, including local property tax liens and those filed by the IRS for missed federal tax payments.
  • Judgment liens: Judgment liens result from court cases in which it was ruled that you owe money to the other party. They can include settlements related to child support, unpaid credit card debt, and medical bills.

Sacha Ferrandi, co-founder of Source Capital Funding, says homeowners won’t always know if a lien is a filed against their property.

“A notable exception is if you buy a newly built home, and the contractors or subcontractors were never paid for their work,” Ferrandi explains. “Contractors and subcontractors can file liens without notifying the home buyer.”

Also, sometimes mistakes are made, and there may be a lien wrongly filed against your property or a lien that remains on record for a debt you’ve already paid. Fortunately, in those cases, you can take some simple steps to clear them up with your county clerk.

How to check if there’s a lien on your property

Liens are a matter of public record, so it’s simple to find out if there’s one on your property, or on anyone else’s property for that matter.

In most states, you can typically search by address with the county recorder, clerk, or assessor’s office online. The search for liens is free, though you may have to pay a small fee for a copy of the report, which will vary by county.

You can also hire a title company to do the legwork for you, but there will be a charge, and for the most part it’s going to do the exact same thing you’d do anyway. If you have your eye on a property, it’s a good idea to conduct your own search as well so you don’t run into any surprises at the last minute.

Find a lien? Here’s what to do

If you do find a lien on your property (or one you want to purchase), don’t panic. If the lien is paid off already, you may just have to contact the appropriate party with proof in the form of a lien release. But if it hasn’t been paid, you’ll need to sort this out before your home sale goes through.

“Liens can become an issue for everyone involved, particularly if the total liens on a property add up to more than the contract price,” says Klaus Gonche, a real estate agent with Re/Max in Fort Lauderdale, FL. If so, “the seller will have to bring cash to cover the difference at closing. If the seller lacks the cash available for this, the buyers will have to either help clear the lien with their own funds or walk away from the deal.”

Article by Julie Ryan Evans

Long Live Subway Tile!

There’s a reason it’s a classic.

This article was contributed by Mandi Gubler, a DIYer and home decor blogger, who writes “Vintage Revivals” and believes “your house should look like you and no one else.”

Subway tile was created for the subway (hence the name). This bright, cleanable, and easily sanitized invention quickly went mainstream in the early 1900s. And it’s been around ever since.

This kitchen and bath staple is inexpensive, available at your local big box hardware store, complementary of almost every style of décor, and completely inoffensive.

When you’re putting something semi-permanent (like tile) in your home it can be a little nerve-wracking because you don’t want it to be a flash in the pan trend. To gauge the longevity of an emerging trend, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is it available to the mainstream public?
  • Is it neutral enough that it can work for almost anyone?
  • How likely are people to get sick of it?

Once you evaluate the shelf-life of the trend, consider the number of ways you can incorporate it into your home. Today, let’s discuss fresh ways to embrace subway tile.

Patterns

Let’s talk patterns, shall we? When we think of subway tile the first thing that comes to mind is a brick or running bond pattern. This installation type is a very easy DIY and just requires a level countertop or floor to kick things off! You can also take this pattern vertically, so it’s called a vertical brick or vertical running bond.

Stacked tile is a modern take on classic subway style. It instantly takes out the vintage look and replaces it with contemporary.

Herringbone is a pattern that adds a lot of character to a space, especially coupled with dark grout. I love the way The Hunted Interior used herringbone tile all the way to the ceiling in her kitchen!

Be aware, herringbone laying isn’t for the faint of heart so if you’re DIYing, you should study up on the technique. A quick search of “how to lay herringbone tile” will help.

A slightly little less difficult approach is a stacked herringbone pattern like this one that Create/Joy used in her kitchen. I love that you can still work off of the straight horizontal edge!

Shape

Now that you’ve landed on your tile pattern, let’s talk shape.

The term “subway” has evolved from describing a specific 3-inch by 6-inch tile, to any tile that is shaped like a rectangle. As long as it’s rectangular in shape, the tile can be 1 inch by 6 inches, 2 by 6, or 12 by 24. It doesn’t matter because in today’s world they all fit under the subway umbrella.

A quick internet search of “subway tile” will garner a myriad of sizes. However if you want to  stick to the most authentic subway look, find tile that measures 3 inches by 6 inches (or at least something that has a 1:2 ratio).

Once you’ve decided on the pattern and shape, you’re ready to start installing! There are a lot of tutorials online about how to install subway tile, but I think sometimes it’s more important to know what not to do. Learning the hard way is always my favorite way. Check out this post that details what I learned (and learned not to do) along the way!

If you’re on the fence about subway tile, let me be the first to invite you over to the dark side. You really can’t go wrong with it.

9 DIY Cool & Creative Patio Flooring Ideas

If it’s finally time for a new patio, or to redo the old one, there are lots of cool options other than just boring concrete! These 9 creative outdoor patio flooring ideas can be done without a contractor, and can be done in weekend. All of them transform your space into an outdoor room worth showing off! It doesn’t matter if your patio surface has seen better days, or if you are just bored with it… try one of these DIY patio ideas & projects.

Coates Design‘ in Seattle has this DIY paver patio flooring idea for us. These are simply oversized pavers laid in a bed of sand, then filled with decorative gravel.

Young House Love‘ has a full tutorial on how to build a paver patio for you! Lot’s of pics, and good instruction that can be adapted for several different looks, including the more modern outdoor patio flooring look above.

Same technique, different material! This side yard patio features circular pavers of different sizes set in a random pattern. From ‘Mod Frugal‘. These are pavers set into crushed granite, but you can install a paver patio into builders sand as well.

Don’t want to pay for all those patio pavers? Not a problem. We found this reusable plastic mold from ‘Quikrete‘ that allows you to create pavers (on sand, like above) with concrete mix and these molds. Instant patio flooring! (Well, almost!)

Want a more traditional “feels like it’s been here forever” patio flooring idea? Then learn how to build a brick patio from ‘HGTV‘.

Can you tell this technique we’ve been featuring so far is pretty much “the thing” in DIY patio ideas? Here is another option for a Modern Mid-century patio flooring look using these decorative concrete blocks laid on their sides. From ‘Fresh Digs‘.

So if you already have a concrete patio, but you don’t want to have to tear it out (NOT fun and NOT a one day deal!) then you have options. ‘Home Depot‘ shows us how to lay outdoor flooring over concrete – patio version. Looks amazing! You have to jump on over and see the finished project.

Want modern and clean looking patio flooring over concrete? ‘Build Direct’ has these interlocking deck tiles that do the job, again, right over existing patio surfaces!

 

Lastly, you could use recycled Envirotile to recover your patio, from ‘Home Depot‘ They even have a tutorial on installing the tile for you!

We hope you loved our post on Cool & Creative Patio Flooring Ideas! Looking for more cheap patio floor ideas?  Check out our post on DIY Concrete Patio Cover Up Ideas, and then jump on over and check out our post on DIY Garden Walkways!

Image Credits: Build Direct, Coates Design, Young House Love, Modfrugal, Quikrete, HGTV, Fresh Digs, Home Depot, Home Depot