Home Repair Costs: Are You Paying Too Much?

Image: Liz Foreman for HouseLogic

The things most likely to break in your home and how much they typically cost.

Many home repairs are simple, inexpensive, and DIY-friendly. But if you need to call in a pro, here’s a rundown on typical home repair costs:

Image: HouseLogic

#1 Cost to Repair Leaky Fill Valve in Toilet

That annoying sound of water continually filling and draining from your toilet tank is often caused by leaky fill valve, which a plumber can replace, stopping water waste and restoring quiet. Plumber rates vary widely around the country, from $45 to $150 per hour, and the job will take about two hours — the minimum some plumbers require just to take the job.

  • Labor: $50 to $200
  • Materials: $11 to $23
  • Total: $61 to $223

#2 Repair a Leaky Faucet

The water torture drip-drip-drip from a leaky faucet won’t just drive you insane, it can drive up water bills, too, costing more than the repair to fix it. Depending on the type of faucet you have, fixes typically involve replacing damaged rubber washers (10 for $2), O-rings (10 for $2), or a faucet cartridge ($8 to $30).

  • Labor: $95 to $300
  • Materials: $2 to $30
  • Total: $97 to $330

#3 Replace a Ceiling Fan

If you’ve got a ceiling fan, sooner or later the motor will burn out, the blades will warp, and fashions will change, so you’ll need to replace it. Replacing isn’t a big deal, because upgraded wiring, a reinforced ceiling box, and a light switch with ceiling fan controls are already in place. What you’re paying for is an electrician’s time — one or two hours — and a new fixture.

  • Labor: $50 to $200
  • Materials: $54 to $1,000 and up
  • Total: $104 to $1,200

#4 Repair Drywall

Nicks, gashes, and smashes inevitably mar your beautiful walls. You’ll have to patch and paint to make them look as good as new. A painter can do both jobs and will probably give you a flat rate that will include patching or filling blemishes, then sanding, priming, and painting.

Painters charge $25 to $62 per hour for labor or $2.68 to $4.60 per square foot including materials. Figure it will take about three hours to repair a wall, including drying time for the patching compound and paint. It’s a good idea to save up painting chores so you have enough to keep a painter busy while repairs cure.

Materials include paint at $12 to $50 or more a gallon, which should cover about 350 square feet; plus another $10 to $50 for brushes, rollers, drop clothes, and drywall patching compound.

  • Labor: $75 to $186
  • Materials: $22 to $100
  • Total: $97 to $286

#5 Repair Cracked Tile

Tile is hard and durable, but drop something heavy on it and it’s likely to crack — a reason to always order more tile than you need so you’ll always have spares. To replace cracked tiles, a handyman must pry out the damaged tiles, scrape away old fixative, re-glue new tiles, and spread new grout. Replacing a 2-foot-by-2-foot section of tile should take one to two hours, not including the drying time required for the adhesive to set.

  • Labor: $30 to $125 per hour; with possible $150 to $350 minimum charge for a handyman
  • Materials: $1 to $20 per square foot
  • Total: $34 to $430

#6 Replace Caulk Around Tubs, Sinks, and Showers

Caulk is the waterproof seal around sinks, tubs, and showers that prevents moisture from seeping through gaps and onto drywall and flooring. When caulk cracks or peels, it should be replaced immediately to prevent mold and rot.

A handyman can dig out old caulk around a tub and reseal with new in about an hour.

  • Labor: $30 to $125 per hour; with possible $150 to $350 minimum charge for a handyman
  • Materials:  $1 to $4 for a tube of bathroom caulk
  • Total: $31 to $354

#7 Fix Gutters

Gutters and downspouts carry water from rain and snow away from your house and onto the ground. Sometimes the weight of wet snow and soggy leaves puts too much pressure on gutters, causing them to pull away from the house or pitch at inefficient angles.

A gutter contractor will clean gutters, and replace or reinstall supportive hardware and hangers. To restore the correct pitch, the contractor must detach and reattach each gutter section.

  • Labor: $127 to $282 (depending on length of gutter)
  • Materials: $10 for five hangers; $6 to $9 for gutter sealant
  • Total: $143 to $301

#8 Fix Out-of-Alignment Doors

Over time, your house moves as its foundation settles and building materials expand and contract with changes in humidity. The movement often is noticed when doorframes shift slightly, causing hinges to creak and doors to not shut properly.

Adding wooden shims to frames and hinges can bring doors back into alignment and let them easily open and close once again. Replacing worn-out screws with longer screws helps secure hinges tightly.

A handyman can fix a door in about an hour. Materials will include shims and screws.

  • Labor: $30 to $125 per hour; with possible $150 to $350 minimum charge for a handyman
  • Materials: $5
  • Total: $35 to $355

#9 Fix a Faulty Light Switch

Sometimes you turn on the light but nothing happens; or sparks crackle, and the light turns on. It’s disconcerting, but most likely it’s an easy fix. An electrician will turn off the power, take off the faceplate, check and perhaps tighten wires; or replace the switch. All told, it will take less than an hour.

Labor: $50 to $100 per hour
Materials: $1 to $6 for a single pole light switch
Total: $41 to $106

Article by LISA KAPLAN GORDON

Finding Home Loans for Bad Credit (Yes, You Can)

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Finding home loans for bad credit isn’t for the faint of heart … or at least, not something you should do without some serious homework. But there’s good news if you’re wondering how to buy a house with bad credit: it can be done!

A good credit score typically means you’ll get a great mortgage. A bad credit score means you’re in trouble, but not that you should just throw in the towel. From low credit score mortgages to cash options, check out this crash course on how to buy a home with bad credit. Yes, it can be done.

What is a bad credit score, anyway?

First things first: While you may have a vague sense your credit score is bad, that’s not enough. How bad is it, really? Ideally, you should check your credit report long before meeting with a mortgage lender. Your credit score is based on the information that appears on this report, and you’re entitled to a free copy of your report from each of the three major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) at AnnualCreditReport.com.

Credit scores, also called FICO scores, range from 300 (god-awful) to 850 (perfection). If your score is 740 or higher, “you’re in the top tier” and positioned for the best interest rates and the most attractive loan terms, says Todd Sheinin, mortgage lender and chief operating officer at New America Financial in Gaithersburg, MD.

A good credit score is from 700 to 759. If you fall below that range, lenders will start to question whether you’re a risky investment.

“If your credit stinks, you’re at an immediate disadvantage and may have trouble qualifying for a home loan,” says Richard Redmond, a mortgage broker at All California Mortgage in Larkspur and author of “Mortgages: The Insider’s Guide.” So, what next?

Check for errors

If your credit report is subpar, that’s no reason to beat yourself up (at least not immediately), because you may not even be to blame for all those blemishes. Creditors frequently make mistakes when reporting consumer slip-ups; in fact, one in four Americans finds errors on credit reports, according to a 2013 Federal Trade Commission survey.

So make sure to scour your credit report for slip-ups that aren’t your own. From there, you’ll need to contact the organizations that provided the erroneous info (e.g., a bank or medical provider) and have them update it. Once that’s done, your credit score will rise accordingly.

And as for any mistakes that are your fault? If they’re one-time mistakes, it never hurts to call and ask that they get removed from your record.

The only fix for major mistakes, however, is time. Make payments by their due date, and you will gradually see your credit score rise. Just don’t expect this to happen overnight.

Pay up for a home loan for bad credit

Depending on your credit score, you might still qualify for a low credit score mortgage—but you should expect to pay a higher interest rate, says Sheinin. Getting a mortgage with a higher rate means you’ll pay more money in interest over time, of course, but it at least enables you to purchase a home.

With interest rates at record lows (check yours at realtor.com/mortgage/rates/), it could make sense to buy now and take the higher rate, because it’s not that high in the grand scheme of things.

Get a low credit score home loan

A Federal Housing Administration loan is one option for prospective home buyers with poor credit, as these are typically low credit score mortgages. You’ll need a minimum 580 credit score (and other requirements) to qualify, but FHA loans also enable you to make a down payment as low as 3.5%. The big drawback? Because the federal government insures these low credit score home loans, you’ll pay a mortgage insurance premium, which is currently assessed at 1.75% of the base loan amount.

Increase your down payment

If you have poor credit but also have a lot of cash saved up, some mortgage lenders might be willing to approve you for a home loan if you make a larger than usual down payment.

“The more you put down, the more you minimize the risk to the lender,” says Sheinin. So, by increasing your down payment to 25% or 30% on a conventional loan—instead of the standard 20%—you’ll strengthen your mortgage application. Just remember that your subpar credit score can still negatively affect your loan’s interest rate. Still, though, the chance to own your own home may outweigh those downsides any day!

Article by Daniel Bortz

5 Home Remodeling Projects With Top-Dollar Returns

Not all home improvements are created equal. These will reward you the most when it comes time to sell.

Your home is in the perfect location, came at the perfect price, with the perfect lot. (Yay southern exposure!)

But the home itself? Perfect isn’t the adjective you’d use. But you knew that moving in, and now you’re ready to start making it just right.

But where to begin? How about with data? Data is that friend who tells you like it really is.

Because while any home improvement that brings you joy is priceless, not all add as much home equity as you might expect.

The “Remodeling Impact Report” from the National Association of REALTORS® has tons of data on how much improvements cost — and how much of those costs you can recoup.

Here are the best seven home remodeling projects with equity-building might:

#1 New Roof

Image: Eddy Garcia

If you find yourself sprinting for the buckets when it starts to sprinkle, getting a new roof should be your No. 1 to-do. Measuring rainfall from the indoors isn’t cool.

The cost: $7,500

The return: 109% at $8,150

Considering it’s what’s between you and the elements, it’s a no-brainer.

Not sure if you need a new roof? Signs you might include:

  • Shingles are missing, curling up, or covered in moss.
  • Gritty bits from the asphalt shingles are coming out the downspout.
  • The sun’s shining through your attic.
  • You notice stains on ceilings and walls.
  • Your energy bill is sky high.

#2 Hardwood Floors

Image: SL Interiors

You flip on the TV to see that your fave home reno-ing duo is it at again, flipping a ranch that’s stuck in the ‘80s.

They make it to the living room, pull back the dingy carpet to reveal hardwood floors in great condition. They’re psyched — and for good reason.

Hardwood floors are a timeless classic. Refinishing is a no-brainer. Neither will you regret adding new hardwood floors if you have none.

The cost to refinish: $2,500

The return: 100% at $2,500

The cost to buy new: $5,500

The return: 91% at $5,000

#3 New Garage Door

Image: Sunwest Garage Door

No surprise that a garage door replacement project made it onto this #winning list — a new garage door provides a big boost for your home’s curb appeal at a relatively modest cost.

The cost: $2,300 (for a two-door)

The return: 87% at $2,000

There are options galore, too. A host of factory-finish colors, wood-look embossed steel, and glass window insets are just some of the possibilities that’ll give your doors bankable personality.

#4 Better Insulation

Insulation is tucked out of sight, so it’s often out of mind — that is, until you’re forced to wear your parka indoors because it’s sooo darn cold.

The cost: $2,100

The return: 76% at $1,600 (plus the added savings on heating and cooling costs!)

#5 New Siding

Image: Larkaun Homes

In any color! And never paint again.

Those are two of the three benefits of vinyl siding. The third, of course, is your home’s value.

But if long-time homeowners look at you funny when you mention vinyl siding, just tell them that today’s vinyl is way better than what they remember because of fade-resistant finishes and transferable lifetime warranties.

The cost: $13,350

The return: 75% at $10,000

Want fiber-cement siding instead? It also shows a strong payback of 83%. Although it’s the pricier option — you’ll spend about $18,000 with a payback of about $15,000 — it has one thing vinyl still lacks — the perception of quality.

And quality matters. In a survey from the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), “quality” was the one of the most important traits that home buyers focused on when house hunting.

Article by ANNE ARNTSON

6 Surprising Things You Never Knew You Had to Do Before the Movers Arrive

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Moving is stressful, so you’d be forgiven if after packing the last box you thought that you were finally done. Now it’s just time to wait for the movers to arrive, right?

Not exactly.

Working with professional movers is a great option for people making big moves, moving with kids, or moving large or fragile items that would be otherwise impossible to transport. But while many moving companies do a great job of providing end-to-end service, there are some things that only you can do to make the whole process run smoothly. Here’s our list of six surprising things you’ll need to do before the movers arrive in order to avoid disaster.

1. Make a clear path

Whether you live in an urban apartment or a two-story house in the country, there are bound to be obstacles for your movers. By anticipating these issues before they happen, you can make everyone’s job easier, and possibly even save some money by taking up less of the movers’ time.

First, you should consider the parking situation outside your home. Where will the movers be able to leave their truck when packing up your stuff? If you do have that house in the country, this might not be an issue. But if you’re living in an apartment or urban area, chances are good that a huge double-parked truck won’t be taken very kindly by the neighbors.

“If you live in an apartment building or if there is limited parking in your area, ask the movers if they will handle the logistics or if you need to do so,” says Ali Wenzke, author of “The Art of Happy Moving.”

Some moving companies might be familiar with your neighborhood and know how to park in a way that doesn’t raise any red flags with the neighbors. But if they tell you they’d like your help with the logistics, then this will be on you to handle before they arrive.

“You may need to contact your building manager,” Wenzke says, “or the local city government to get the appropriate signage and allowances.”

There are other things to consider, too—like the state of your driveway.

Pat Byrne, operations manager of Long Island–based moving company Moving Ahead Moving & Storage, always asks clients to remove ice and snow to avoid any accidents during the move. You should also make sure the driveway and front access points are clear of debris—like kids’ or pet toys that might pose a slip hazard.

2. Make necessary reservations and get your paperwork together

Some apartment buildings might have service elevators available for use. This would be another time-saving question to ask your building manager in advance.

“See if service elevators can be reserved and whether the building needs any paperwork from movers—like a certificate of insurance,” says Byrne.

3. Protect your house, including your floors

To prevent damage to your house during the move, you should be aware of what furniture is going out the door, and anything fragile in its path that might be at risk of breaking.

“Lightbulbs, fixtures, pictures, mirrors, wall hangings should be removed from the main areas where furniture will be moved,” Byrne says.

And don’t forget about the hardwood floors. Nothing will put off a buyer more than seeing skid marks illustrating the path your sofa took out of the place.

“If you have hardwood floors or tile in any rooms, let your movers know ahead of time so they can prepare the right materials—and make sure your contract includes hardwood floor protection,” advises Miranda Benson, marketing coordinator at San Francisco–based moving company Dolly.

4. Measure!

On a related note, you’ll want to measure your furniture and make sure any large items will fit through the front door in the first place.

“Nothing is more heartbreaking than finding out the gorgeous sectional you spent hours assembling is not going to make it through your front door unless you spend more hours disassembling it,” Benson says.

5. Pack up the kids (and pets)

Not literally, of course. But you should take the time to consider where your family will be when the movers are at work. If paying for a space in the nearby pet hotel isn’t an option, at least consider keeping your pets in a safe space within your home.

“Pets should be kept in a room with everything they need that movers won’t need to access,” Byrne advises. “You’d want to do this even if your pet is friendly, to avoid [their] accidentally getting out of the house or injured.”

Similarly, young kids should also be kept out of the way on moving day. This is important for their safety as well as the safety of your moving team.

“The last thing you or your movers want to worry about is whether your 2-year-old’s scream is going to shock them at the wrong time,” Benson says.

6. Make yourself available

Once the family is out of the house, it’s time (drumroll, please) to sit down and relax—sort of. Find a central point in your home (that’s out of the movers’ way) and simply plan on making yourself available to them as they move your stuff.

Do we mean supervising their every move and reminding them the box is marked “fragile”? Probably not. But you should be around to help answer any questions, or alert movers to anything special they should know about your place.

“There are little things about your house that you only learn from living there: The hallway closet door never stays closed, the third step down has a slight bend, a pack of hornets tends to congregate around the back door, so use the front—these are all valuable things that make your movers’ lives easier,” Benson explains.

“On top of that, being available to answer questions, whether that’s in person or via phone, can make your move much smoother,” she adds.

Article by Larissa Runkle

Easy Organization for Linen Closets and Medicine Cabinets

Take your linen closet or medicine cabinet to the next level with simple steps for easy organization and added storage.

Shelf Help

By installing a stainless steel, pull-out basket underneath a closet shelf, you can add storage space, keep small items visible, and make everything easier to get to all in one simple step.

Free and Clear

Clear jars keep all bathroom essentials dry and visible. To easily keep you medicine cabinet organized, only store your most-used items inside, leaving everything else to a drawer or under the sink.

On a Roll

To keep your linen closet looking sharp, put folded towels, sheets and blankets on the shelf so that all edges are facing the back of the closet. If you are lacking space, try rolling towels to gain more room.

Game, Set, Match

When storing a matching set of sheets and pillowcases, fold the sheets in your pillowcase, and stack various sets on the shelf. Never waste time searching for a set of matching sheets again!

Do It Yourself

Don’t have a medicine cabinet or linen closet? Take a cue from this NYC homeowner who added small built-in shelves to his apartment bathroom. The shelves add space for linens and toiletries without taking up too much room.

Hanging Hooks

Every space has hidden potential if you’re willing to get creative. Take advantage of your linen closet’s walls by adding hooks for loofahs, robes, towels and more.

Dirty Laundry Secret

Add a pull-out hamper to existing shelves to give dirty laundry an out-of-the-way, easy-to-access home.

Label Your Linens

If you really want an organized closet, the most important step you can take is going through and getting rid of useless, outdated items you no longer need. Once you’ve narrowed it down to only the essentials, store them in labeled baskets to keep everything in its place.

Summer Asian Slaw

This yummy Asian slaw is filled with my favorite summer ingredients – fresh herbs & peaches – and tossed in a yummy miso dressing. Perfect for picnics!

Author: Jeanine Donofrio

Ingredients

Dressing
  • ¼ cup cashew or peanut butter
  • 2 tablespoons white miso paste
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon grated ginger
  • 2 to 5 tablespoons water, or as needed
For the slaw:
  • 6 to 7 cups shredded red and/or green cabbage
  • Mix of peppers: I used 3 Anaheim and 3 banana peppers; or use 1 red bell and 1 poblano.
  • 2 scallions, chopped
  • ½ cup chopped cilantro, including stems
  • ½ cup fresh basil, Thai basil, and/or mint
  • 2 Thai chiles or 1 serrano pepper, diced
  • Sea salt
  • ¼ cup toasted peanuts, pepitas, and/or sesame seeds
  • 1 ripe peach, thinly sliced

Instructions

  1. Make the dressing: In a small bowl, whisk together the cashew butter, miso paste, lime juice, sesame oil, and ginger. Whisk in enough water to create a drizzable consistency. Set aside.
  2. In a dry cast-iron skillet over medium heat, char the peppers whole, rotating until the edges have a little char, about 2 minutes per side. Remove. When cool to the touch, slice in half lengthwise, remove the stem, ribbing, and seeds and slice horizontally into thin strips.
  3. In a large bowl, combine the cabbage, peppers, scallions, cilantro, basil, chiles, and ¾ of the dressing. Toss until combined. Add the remaining dressing, if desired, and season to taste with a few pinches of sea salt. Serve topped with the toasted nuts, seeds, and sliced peaches.

Should You Prepay Your Mortgage? The Pros and Cons

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Should you prepay your mortgage? For some homeowners it’s a financially savvy move—but for others, beefing up their loan payments just doesn’t make sense. To help you figure out whether prepayment is right for you, here are the pros and cons cited by financial experts.

Pro: You’ll cut down on the interest you owe

Interest is the extra fee you pay your lender for loaning you the cash you needed to buy a home. After all, lenders don’t just hand out dough for free—they’re in the business to make money.

By increasing your monthly mortgage payments—also called “prepaying” your mortgage—you’ll effectively save money in interest charges. Those savings can add up big-time.

For example, let’s say you take out a $200,000 mortgage with a 4% fixed interest rate and a 30-year term. If you continue to make your minimum monthly payments, you’d be forking over $143,739 in interest over 30 years until the debt is paid off. But, by paying an extra $100 per month, you’d pay only $116,702 in interest over a 25-year time span—a savings of $27,037.

Pro: You’ll get your mortgage paid off sooner

By accelerating your mortgage payments, you’ll also be shortening how long it takes to pay off the loan, which would increase your cash flow in the future. That’s a huge incentive for some borrowers.

“For families with young children, where the parents are concerned about paying for their children’s college tuition, sometimes we will recommend they increase mortgage payments so that when their kids head off to college their mortgage obligation is gone,” says Joe Pitzl, a certified financial planner for Pitzl Financial, in Arden Hills, MN.

Paying more money each month toward your mortgage’s principal can also give you peace of mind, says Marguerita Cheng, a certified financial planner at Blue Ocean Global Wealth in Gaithersburg, MD.

“Emotionally, it’s gratifying knowing that you’re paying your mortgage sooner than you originally planned to do,” Cheng says.

Pro: You’ll build equity faster

No matter how much money you put down on your mortgage, your home equity is the current market value of your home minus the amount you owe on your loan. So say your home is worth $250,000 and your mortgage balance is $200,000. In this case, you’d have $50,000, or 20%, in home equity.

Making larger mortgage payments toward your loan’s principal would enable you to build equity faster. Having more home equity can be a tremendous boon if you’re looking to get a home equity loan or home equity line of credit, such as to pay for home improvements, says Tendayi Kapfidze, chief economist at Lending Tree.

Pro: It helps your credit score

Showing that you have less debt—and that you manage your debts responsibly, by paying your mortgage off early—can raise your credit score. That can help if you’re planning to apply for a car loan or a second mortgage on a vacation home, since your credit score would affect the interest rate you qualify for.

Con: Prepaying reduces mortgage interest, which is tax-deductible

Because prepaying your mortgage reduces your mortgage interest, it may not make sense from a tax-savings perspective. Mortgages are structured so that you start off paying more interest than principal.

For example, in the first year of a $300,000, 30-year loan at a fixed 4% interest rate, you’d be deducting $10,920. (To find out how much you paid in mortgage interest last year, punch your numbers into our online mortgage calculator.)

Nonetheless, taking a mortgage interest deduction under the new tax law requires itemizing deductions—and itemizing may no longer make sense for many homeowners, since the standard deduction jumped under the new tax plan to $12,200 for individuals, $18,350 for heads of household, and $24,400 for married couples filing jointly.

Another thing to consider: In the past, you could deduct the interest from up to $1 million in mortgage debt (or $500,000 if you filed singly). However, for loans taken out from December 15, 2017, onward, only the interest on the first $750,000 of mortgage debt is deductible, says William L. Hughes, a certified public accountant in Stuart, FL.

Con: You could miss out on more lucrative investment opportunities

Every dollar you put toward your mortgage principal is a dollar you can’t invest in higher-yield ventures, such as stocks, high-yield bonds, or real estate investment trusts, Pitzl says.

That being said, “you’d be assuming more risk by investing your money in, say, the stock market instead of putting the money toward your mortgage,” Pitzl points out.

“You have to consider your risk tolerance before you decide where to put your extra cash,” says Cheng.

Con: You may miss paying off higher-interest debts

For many homeowners, paying off higher-interest debt—such as from a credit card or private student loan—is more important than prepaying their mortgage, Cheng says.

Think about it: If you’re carrying a $400 debt on a credit card from month to month with a 20% interest rate, the amount of money you’re paying in credit card interest is $80 per month—that would be leaps and bounds higher than what you’d be paying in mortgage interest on a home loan with a 4% interest rate.

Con: Prepaying a mortgage could hamper achieving other financial goals

Building your retirement savings is crucial, of course. However, some people make the mistake of prepaying their mortgage instead of maxing out their retirement contributions, Cheng laments.

“At the bare minimum, I recommend my clients do a full 401(k) match with their employer,” she says.

Moreover, Pitzl encourages people to build a sufficient emergency fund—typically, a fund large enough to cover three to six months of their essential expenses—before they focus on prepaying their mortgage.

“If you get into a bind, you can’t sell off windows and doors to make ends meet,” Pitzl says.

Con: There may penalties for prepaying your mortgage

Some lenders charge a fee if a client’s mortgage is paid in full before the loan term ends. That’s why it’s important to check with your mortgage lender—or look for the term “prepayment disclosure” in your mortgage agreement—to see if there’s a penalty and, if so, how much it is.

The bottom line: If you don’t have enough money to pad your savings before you begin paying off your mortgage early, prepaying your home loan may put you in a financial hole if an emergency crops up.

Still not sure what direction to go in? Consider sitting down with a financial planner to discuss your options based on your personal finances.

Article by Daniel Bortz

6 Septic System Horror Stories That’ll Scare the Crap Out of You—and How to Prevent Them

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Septic systems are inherently gross. They are, after all, very large containers of human waste. Grosser still? Lots can go wrong if they’re not properly and regularly maintained.

In case you need any convincing, here are some of the horrific (and sometimes hilarious) things septic pros have seen firsthand—and what you can do to prevent them from happening to you.

1. Hardened human waste

Kim Seipp runs High Plains Sanitation Service, in Strasburg, CO, with her husband. And because she’s getting her hands dirty every day (so to speak), she sees lots of mistakes homeowners make with their septic system. The most common: Believing that septic cleaning products alone are sufficient in maintaining the health of their septic systems.

Seipp recalls one system her husband visited where the homeowner proudly declared that, thanks to a special product he’d been using, he hadn’t needed his septic tank pumped—in 30 years.

“My husband, Jeff, said, ‘Come here, buddy, let me show you,’” Seipp recalls. “He could literally stand on the sludge in the tank.”

“Sludge” meaning solids—i.e., raw garbage and human waste—that collects at the bottom of a septic tank.

Lesson learned: Treatment solutions are an essential tool for ongoing maintenance of your system, but they don’t negate the need for servicing.

“Read the directions on any [septic tank] product you use,” Seipp says.”It will still say that you have to get your system pumped.” And typically between three to five years, not every 30.

2. Garbage, garbage, and more garbage

An elderly couple who hired Seipp’s company did a lot of entertaining. They didn’t like their trash can to smell, so they put all their party leftovers into the garbage disposal instead.

“It was a huge disservice to their septic system,” Seipp says. “They put so much garbage down there that it could never function as intended.”

As a result, their massive 2,000-gallon septic tank needed to be pumped every year. (To put that into perspective, 1,250 gallons is the average tank size for a family of four.)

Lesson learned: Be sparing about what you put down your garbage disposal, as well as your toilets. (Single-ply toilet paper might just be your septic system’s BFF.)

“When you live in the city, your waste goes away and you don’t think about it. It goes to a municipal plant and all kinds of great things happen to it,” Seipp says. “With a septic system, all that happens in your backyard.”

In other words: It’s a delicate system. Don’t overload it.

3. A lake of wastewater

Typically, when septic pros open the lid to a septic tank, there’s a 10-inch air gap, explains Seipp. But during one inspection, she found herself looking into a tank filled to the brim with wastewater.

When Seipp walked out to the drain field—where wastewater from a septic tank is slowly released underground— she found a massive green and black puddle.

“The scary thing was, there were boats and toys in the water,” Seipp says, indicating that the family’s kids had been playing in that spot.

The homeowner mentioned that the puddle had been there since the last rain—two months before.

“I had to explain that was no puddle,” Seipp says. “It was wastewater surfacing—and maybe she didn’t want to let her kids play in it. She was horrified.”

Lesson learned: If you notice standing water in your drain field, your septic system’s not working like it should. Call a pro immediately.

4. Sloppy homeowner installations

Sometimes, homeowners will try to install their own septic systems to save money, Seipp says. Depending on the size of your home, a new septic system will cost anywhere from $8,000 to $25,000.

But proper installation isn’t as easy as it looks. Seipp recalls one customer who DIY’d the installation of a gravity septic system—only to realize afterward that the lateral pipes that led from the tank to the drain field went uphill.

“Gravity doesn’t go uphill,” Seipp says.

An excavator had to be brought in and the lines rerun.

Lesson learned: If you have any doubts about your ability to DIY a septic system installation, call in a pro. It’ll save you costly repairs in the end.

5. A sinking drain field

The drain field is a vital component of your septic system, made up of “field lines,” which allow wastewater to spread from your tank over a large area to be absorbed and purified by the ground.

Yet, Seipp has seen plenty of people drive over their drain field. Or park their horses on top of it. Customers in one affluent neighborhood even put a competitive volleyball court on top of their drain field.

“They dug down so many inches and filled it with sand,” Seipp says. “Guess what? It failed.”

Lesson learned: “Know where your tank is and avoid driving over or planting trees nearby,” says Glenn Gallas, vice president of operations of Mr. Rooter Plumbing.

The same goes for your drain field. “Harming these lines may become an expensive project,” Gallas warns.

6. Collapsing tank lids

Gordon Jones, owner of GI Jones Home Inspection, in San Antonio, TX, still remembers the house he rented in college. The septic tank wasn’t buried deep enough and had maybe an inch of soil on top of it.

“If you stepped on it, you could feel [the lid] flexing,” Jones recalls.

Although the tank was clearly full, the owner didn’t want to service it.

“After parties, [the contents] overflowed onto the driveway,” Jones says.

Worried the tank was weak enough that someone would fall in, Jones and his friends used cinder blocks to build a low wall around it. But during one blowout, “a drunk kid fell over the wall, got up and started jumping around to show he was fine—and the lid collapsed,” Jones says.

What happened next is the stuff nightmares are made of.

“One leg busted through the roof of [the tank],” Jones recalls. “It released the smell and covered his leg in raw sewage. To get him out, we couldn’t climb over our little cinder block wall because then we might break through as well.”

Eventually, Jones and a roommate were able to pull out the partygoer, with the help of a wooden board for leverage.

That, of course, was the end of the party.

Lesson learned: Don’t put off a septic tank inspection. Oh, and keep heavy drinkers away from your system—just to play it safe.

Article by By Stephanie Booth

Hugging is The Most Beautiful Form of Communication

Hugging is a potent way to express love, fear, admiration, sadness, joy, and happiness, and it is a way to deeply connect to another human being and show compassion, care, and comfort.

Virginia Satir, an often quoted family therapist says that we need 4 hugs a day for survival, 8 for maintenance, and 12 hugs a day for growth.

Hugs are vital to our health and wellbeing, and even scientists have confirmed this, so here is why you should give and receive as many hugs a day as possible:

— Hugs strengthen the immune system, as the gentle pressure on the sternum and the emotional charge activates the Solar Plexus Chakra, which in turn stimulates the thymus gland, and thus regulates and balances the body’s production of white blood cells

— Hugging helps when someone is grieving, as it can provide true solace, soothes pain, and calms the soul, by giving strength to go on and escape the emotional torture

— Hugging lowers stress by reducing cortisol levels. A 2013 study has shown that participants who had a 15-minute conversation with their remote partner through a life-size huggable humanoid device had drastically lower stress levels than others who conversed through mobile phones. Hugs calm and improve mood, and provide warmth and closeness 

— Hugging relaxes the muscles, and reduces the tension in the body, alleviating pain, and soothing aches by boosting circulation into the soft tissues

— Hugs lower the risk of illness, as they reduce stress and prevent its negative effects. A 2014 study which involved 404 adult participants found that hugs and social interaction lower stress and prevent illness by supporting the immune system

— Hugging reduces fear and anxiety, and a 2013 study published by the Association for Psychological Science showed that touch alleviates fear in people with low self-esteem

— Hugging improves mood, increases the levels of oxytocin, the “love hormone” or the “bonding hormone”, and leads to happiness and euphoria

— Hugs balance out the nervous system, and the galvanic skin response of someone receiving and giving a hug shows a change in skin conductance. The moisture and electricity in the skin indicate a more balanced state in the nervous system — parasympathetic.

Therefore, start enjoying hugs even more than before, as they are the warmest and simplest way to feel happiness, enjoy health, connect with people, and express your true emotions.

 

Honey and Sesame-Glazed Chicken Breasts with Green Beans

Sweet honey and toasty sesame team up for a flavor combo everyone at the table is sure to love. Serve with precooked brown rice for a quick and easy side to soak up sauce from the chicken.

Ingredients

  • 6 tablespoons unsalted chicken stock
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 2 tablespoons dark sesame oil, divided
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons whole-grain mustard
  • 4 (6-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
  • 2 teaspoons toasted sesame seeds
  • 2 (8-ounce) packages trimmed fresh green beans
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 tablespoons sliced almonds, toasted

How to Make It

Step 1

Combine chicken stock, honey, 1 tablespoon oil, and mustard in a small saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring with a whisk; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cook 10 minutes or until syrupy, stirring occasionally.

Step 2

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add remaining 1 tablespoon oil to pan; swirl to coat. Sprinkle chicken with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Add chicken to pan; cook 6 minutes on each side or until done. Pour honey mixture over chicken, and sprinkle with sesame seeds.

Step 3

Prepare green beans according to package directions. Combine remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper, butter, and beans in a bowl; toss to coat. Sprinkle with almonds.

Facing Foreclosure? Here’s When You Actually Have to Move Out

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During the housing crisis of the early 2000s, foreclosure numbers were at a record high. Thankfully, the market has since turned around, but that doesn’t mean foreclosures are necessarily a thing of the past. In 2018, there were over 600,000 reported foreclosure filings in the U.S. alone, according to ATTOM Data Solutions, a real estate research company.

Whether or not you’ve gone through a foreclosure before, the process can be emotionally and logistically difficult. There’s the financial stress, the challenge of finding somewhere to live, the logistics of moving your things, and the ordeal of planning for the future.

With so much going on, it’s important to know what to expect. But unfortunately, foreclosure laws and practices can be confusing. This is partly because the laws differ by situation and by location.

“States have all kinds of different foreclosure rules,” says Bryan Zuetel, a real estate attorney and real estate broker in California’s Orange County. “The process will depend on each state’s foreclosure laws.”

Still, one thing homeowners faced with foreclosure need to know is how long they have before move-out day. Here’s how long you can expect to stay in your house when it’s in foreclosure.

Beginning of the foreclosure process

First things first: Know that a homeowner isn’t automatically in foreclosure at the first sight of a late bill.

Yes, a borrower is considered “delinquent” as soon as a mortgage payment is late. But, being late on a deadline doesn’t necessarily mean you’re headed for foreclosure.

Once the borrower misses a payment, federal law states that the lender must wait 120 days before starting foreclosure proceedings.

During this time, you might be able to strike a deal with the lender and change your payment plan.

“The bank does not want to take back a home and almost always loses money when they do,” says Rick Davis, a real estate attorney in Olathe, KS. “Therefore, they will often work with borrowers to find solutions that allow the money to be repaid while the borrower keeps ownership of the home.

If an agreement isn’t reached, though, the lender can start proceedings after those 120 days.

When do you have to move out?

If eviction isn’t part of the foreclosure, you’ll probably be able to live in the house until the lender finishes the foreclosure process and sells the home.

“Usually, people will leave the home when the foreclosure is completed and they are no longer the owner,” says Zuetel, but there’s no exact rule on how long this process will take.

In fact, the length of the foreclosure usually depends on a few factors, including state laws, how quickly the lender can move the process along, and what kind of foreclosure it is.

In some states, Davis explains, “the lender can utilize a nonjudicial foreclosure, which means that the property is sold on the courthouse steps without going through court. In these instances, the property may be sold in as little as 30 days.”

But when it comes to judicial foreclosures (foreclosures that go through the courts), it can take months or even years, according to Davis.

Even then, there are some special cases where you wouldn’t have to leave as soon as the house is sold. If your state requires the court to get confirmation on the sale, you may get some extra time.

“Pay careful attention to the notices you receive from the lender or their attorney,” Davis says. “All of the information related to deadlines, court dates, and sale dates will be in these notices.”

Redemption period

Another way you might get to stay put in your home for a little extra time is if your state allows for a redemption period—that is, a period when a foreclosed homeowner can buy back the property.

If you can either reimburse the new buyers for what they paid for the house or repay the mortgage debt, you can redeem the house and take back ownership.

Still, the actual rules of the redemption period vary by state. Because of this, it may be best to contact a local attorney and find out how much time you have. In some states, the redemption period could be as short as a few days, or, says Davis, as much as a year after the sale. But be careful, because you might be required to leave the house before that redemption period is actually over.

Eviction and eviction suits

Even when it seems like you’ve come to the end of the foreclosure period, there may still be some time before you actually need to move out of the house. When you receive an eviction notice, you’ll be told how long you have before you need to be out. Most people get three days’ notice.

If you don’t leave in this time frame, the new owner can file an eviction suit (also known as an unlawful detainer) in court. Proceedings could take weeks, so you could enjoy that extra time in the house, free of charge.

However, while some extra time in the house might sound great, it’s probably better to move out before this happens. If you’re sued for staying past the eviction date, it could hurt your chances of being able to rent or own property in the future. Furthermore, your credit score could be damaged.

No matter what path you go down in the foreclosure process, it’s important to know your options.

“Homeowners faced with foreclosure should consult with an attorney specialized in residential real estate foreclosures,” says Zuetel. If you can stay informed, you just might get through the process a little easier.

Article by By Jillian Pretzel

HOW TO IDENTIFY AND GET RID OF JAPANESE BEETLES IN THE GARDEN

Photo Credit: Jeff Hahn, University of Minnesota.

What are those iridescent green garden beetles eating your plants? Here are tips on how to identify and get rid of Japanese beetles.

WHAT ARE JAPANESE BEETLES?

Japanese beetles (Popillia japonica) are small bugs that carry a big threat. They do not discriminate when it comes to what types of plants they feed on. In fact, they are classified as a pest to hundreds of different species. They are one of the major insect pests in the Eastern and Midwestern United States, causing monumental damage to crops each year.

Prior to the beetle’s accidental introduction to the United States in the early 1900s, the Japanese beetle was found only on the islands of Japan, isolated by water and kept in check by its natural predators. In 1912, a law was passed that made it illegal to import plants rooted in soil. Unfortunately, the failure to implement the law immediately allowed the Japanese beetle to arrive in this country.

Most entomologists agree that the beetles entered the country as grubs in soil on Japanese iris roots. In 1916, these coppery-winged pests were first spotted in a nursery near Riverton, New Jersey, and by 1920, eradication programs were dropped; the beetle proved to be too prolific a breeder.

IDENTIFICATION

HOW TO IDENTIFY JAPANESE BEETLES

Japanese Beetles are ½ inch in length with metallic blue-green heads, copper backs, tan wings, and small white hairs lining each side of the abdomen. Japanese beetles usually feed in small groups. They lay eggs in the soil during June, which develop into tiny white grubs with brown heads and six legs that are up to ¾ inch in length. These grubs will remain underground for about 10 months, overwintering and growing in the soil.

They emerge from the soil as adult beetles and begin feeding the following June. They usually attack plants in groups, which is why damage is so severe. Although the lifecycle of the adult Japanese beetle is barely 40 days, it can cover a lot of ground. Even if you succeed in controlling your Japanese beetle population, your neighbor’s Japanese beetles might come on over.

JAPANESE BEETLE DAMAGE

Japanese beetles feed on a wide variety of flowers and crops (the adult beetles attack more than 300 different kinds of plants), but they are especially common on roses, as well as beans, grapes, and raspberries.

Skeletonized Leaves and Flowers

Japanese beetles can devour most of the foliage on favored plants, as well as the flowers. Look for leaves that are “skeletonized” (i.e., only have veins remaining). This is a tell-tale sign of Japanese beetles. (Mexican Bean Beetles can also leave foliage skeletonized, though, so be sure to identify the beetle by their appearance as well.) Japanese beetles are not usually far from damaged leaves, so inspect the plant thoroughly. Also keep an eye on the ground beneath the plant; the beetles may reflexively drop off the plant if disturbed.

Unhealthy, Brown Patches in Lawn

Japanese beetle grubs damage grass when overwintering in the soil, as they feast on the roots of lawn grasses and garden plants. This can cause brown patches of dead or dying grass to form in the lawn, which will pull up easily thanks to the weakened roots.

CONTROL AND PREVENTION

HOW TO GET RID OF JAPANESE BEETLES

Good horticultural practices, including watering and fertilizing, will reduce the damage caused by these beetles, but oftentimes you simply need to get rid of them. Here are some ideas:

  • Row Covers: Protect your plants from Japanese beetles with row covers during the 6- to 8-week feeding period that begins in mid- to late May in the southern U.S. and in mid- to late June in the North. Row covers will keep the pests out, but they will keep pollinators out, too; be sure to remove them if your crops need to be pollinated.
  • Hand Pick: Unfortunately, the most effective way of getting rid of Japanese beetles is to hand pick them off of plants. It’s time consuming, but it works, especially if you are diligent. When you pick them off, put them in a solution of 1 tablespoon of liquid dishwashing detergent and water, which will cause them to drown.
  • Neem Oil: Neem oil and sprays containing potassium bicarbonate are somewhat effective, especially on roses. The adult beetles ingest a chemical in the neem oil and pass it on in their eggs, and the resulting larvae die before they become adults. Note: Neem can be harmful to fish and other aquatic life, so don’t use it near lakes, rivers, and ponds. It must be reapplied after rain.
  • Use a Dropcloth: Put down a dropcloth and, in the early morning when the beetles are most active, shake them off and dump them into a bucket of soapy water.
  • Insecticides: If you wish to spray or dust with insecticides, speak to your local cooperative extension or garden center about approved insecticides in your area.
    • Or, try this safe homemade solution: Mix 1 teaspoon of liquid dishwashing detergent with 1 cup of vegetable oil and shake well; then add it to 1 quart of water. Add 1 cup of rubbing alcohol and shake vigorously to emulsify. Pour this mixture into a spray bottle and use it at ten-day intervals on pests. Homemade sprays can run more of a risk of damaging plant leaves, so be careful.
    • Apply sprays in the morning, never in full sun or at temperatures above 90ºF. If your plants start to wilt, rinse the leaves immediately with clean water.
  • Traps: Japanese beetle traps can be helpful in controlling large numbers of beetles, but they also might attract beetles from beyond your yard. Eugenol and geraniol, aromatic chemicals extracted from plants, are attractive to adult Japanese beetles as well as to other insects. Unfortunately, the traps do not effectively suppress adults and might even result in a higher localized population. If you want to try them, be sure to place traps far away from target plants so that the beetles do not land on your favored flowers and crops on their way to the traps.
    • Fruit Cocktail Trap: You can buy Japanese beetle traps of all sorts, but most are no more effective than a can of fruit cocktail. Open the can and let it sit in the sun for a week to ferment. Then place it on top of bricks or wood blocks in a light-colored pail, and fill the pail with water to just below the top of the can. Place the pail about 25 feet from the plants you want to protect. The beetles will head for the sweet bait, fall into the water, and drown. If rain dilutes the bait, start over.
  • Geraniums: Japanese beetles are attracted to geraniums. They eat the blossoms, promptly get dizzy from the natural chemicals in the geranium, fall down, and permit you to dispose of them conveniently with a dustpan and brush. Plant geraniums close to more valuable plants which you wish to save from the ravages of Japanese beetles.
  • Japanese Beetles on Roses? Note that insecticides will not fully protect roses, which unfold too fast and are especially attractive to beetles. When beetles are most abundant on roses, nip the buds and spray the bushes to protect the leaves. When the beetles become scarce, let the bushes bloom again. Timeliness and thoroughness of application are very important. Begin treatment as soon as beetles appear, before damage is done.

HOW TO PREVENT JAPANESE BEETLES

Unfortunately, there is no magic potion to get rid of this pest. For general preventive maintenance, experts recommend keeping your landscape healthy. Remove diseased and poorly nourished trees as well as any prematurely ripening or diseased fruits, which can attract Japanese beetles. Try these tips:

  • Choose the Right Plants: Select plants that Japanese beetles will not be attracted to. See our list of the Best and Worst Plants for Japanese Beetles. Dispersing their favorite plants throughout the landscape, rather than grouping them together, can also help.
  • Get Rid of Grubs: In the grub stage of late spring and fall (beetles have two life cycles per season), spray the lawn with 2 tablespoons of liquid dishwashing soap diluted in 1 gallon of water per 1,000 square feet. The grubs will surface and the birds will love you. Spray once each week until no more grubs surface.
  • Milky Spore: You can introduce the fungal disease milky spore into your lawn to control the Japanese beetle larvae population. The grubs ingest the spores as they feed in the soil. The spore count must be up for two to three years for this method to be effective. Fortunately, the spores remain viable in the soil for years. This is an expensive treatment, as all the soil within five-eights of a mile needs to be treated for good control.
  • Beneficial Nematodes: You can also drench sod with parasitic nematodes to control the larvae. The nematodes must be applied when the grubs are small and if the lawn is irrigated before and after application. Preparations containing the Heterorhabditis species seem to be most effective.
  • Plant Strategically: Companion planting can be a useful strategy in preventing pests. Try planting garlic, rue, or tansy near your affected plants to deter Japanese beetles.
  • Parasitic Wasps: You can also attract native species of parasitic wasps (Tiphia vernalis or T. popilliavora) and flies to your garden, as they are predators of the beetles and can be beneficial insects. They will probably attack the larvae, but they are not very effective in reducing the overall beetle population.

NOTE: Many dusts or sprays are highly toxic to honeybees, native bees, and other pollinators. If application of these materials to plants is necessary during the bloom period, do not apply during hours when bees are visiting the flowers (late morning through mid-day). If more than just a few yard and garden plantings are to be treated, you may need to contact nearby beekeepers in advance so that they can protect their colonies.

A ‘How to Kill Weeds’ Tip That’ll Stop You From Wasting Money

Image: Timotical/Getty

Plus lawn care tips for super lush greenness.

This May, do more for your landscaping and curb appeal.

Follow these three lawn care tips:

#1 Don’t Use Weed Killers on a Rainy Day

Is the weather forecast calling for rain or wind? Don’t waste your weed killer. Instead, wait for a still, sunny day so the product won’t blow into the wrong areas (killing plants you want to keep) or get washed into storm sewers that feed water supplies.

#2 Stop Cutting Your Grass Too Short

Image: PhotoAlto/Eric Audras/Getty

It seems like cutting the grass shorter would equal cutting it less frequently. You may mow less, but only because your ugly, brown lawn isn’t growing at all. Too-short grass starves the roots, killing the poor plant. So set your blades for three inches. You’ll save yourself a heck of a reseeding bill.

#3 Don’t Bag Lawn Cuttings

Garbage bags full of grass

If you’re spending hours raking up lawn cuttings after mowing, you can stop without an iota of guilt. Grass cuttings are natural compost; as they break down, they enrich the soil, making your grass greener. Less time with the rake, more time on the patio — it’s a win-win.

Article by KELLEY WALTERS

When a Bad Deal Turns Good

Buyers & Sellers beware of who you choose to represent you and the team that brings your deal to close.

Article by Cindy Soderstrom, Broker Associate, RE/MAX Signature Homes
Diane Blair, Attorney

I received a referral from attorney Diane Blair. She had reached out because the buyer she was representing had already worked with 2 Real Estate Agents who simply could not get the deal done. Diane had represented members of this family in the past and knew that her clients needed a Realtor that could create a strategy, follow through with communication, and bring the deal to close. Thank you, Diane, for your faith in me and my process.

 

Rebecca Goeing, RE/MAX 2000

Introductions were made and the pursuit of finding the perfect home was quickly underway. We did find a beautiful home and prior to writing the contract, a conversation with the lender ensued. It was critical to discuss the elements of the contract prior to putting pen to paper. Conversations with the listing agent regarding timelines & tax prorations were also critical. Rebecca Goeing, RE/MAX 2000 was extremely professional in assisting with the scenario in every way.

 

Working with the buyers proved challenging due to work schedules, limited access to the internet and faxing. Collecting documents for the loan was difficult at best. Remember, sometimes, getting the job done requires taking extra measures and thinking out of the box.

The first 2 lenders were unable to successfully coach the buyers, collect necessary documents and ultimately, declined the loan.

Jim Francis, Fairway Independent Mortgage

Enter Jim Francis with Fairway Independent Mortgage Company. Jim was quick to act and also create a strategy to clear up some credit issues that would increase the buying power of the client.

I invited the buyers to my office to utilize our resources. Together, we worked to collect required documents and resolve outstanding issues. The staff at RE/MAX Signature Homes, my office, bent over backwards to assist in every way. My clients were extremely appreciative.

 

Needless to say, the Dream Team; Diane Blair, (Attorney) Jim Francis (Lender) and myself (Realtor), pulled the deal together. Our Dream Team was able to follow through with the ambitions of the client in spite of hurdles. We are thankful for the sellers patience and their agent Rebecca.

 

Final Walk Through

Congratulations to our buyers, Teddy & Shoshona. Dreams do come true!

Working with Rebecca from RE/MAX 2000 was a pleasure!

Home Showing Tips That’ll Convince Buyers to Bite

hikesterson/iStock

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 lot of 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 By Angela Colley

Easy Pasta Salad

Today’s recipe is a picnic-perfect pasta salad! Every cookout needs a great pasta salad, and this is the one that I’ll be making all summer long. It comes together in no time, it’s full of fresh ingredients, and it packs a flavorful punch. Created by Jeanine Donofrio.

Ingredients
  • 3 cups uncooked fusilli pasta
  • 2 heaping cups halved cherry tomatoes
  • 1 ½ cups cooked chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 2 cups arugula
  • 1 cup Persian cucumbers, sliced into thin half moons
  • 1 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 1 cup basil leaves, torn
  • ½ cup minced parsley
  • ½ cup chopped mint
  • ¼ cup toasted pine nuts
Dressing
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, more for drizzling
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon herbes de Provence (or dried Italian seasoning)
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • ¾ teaspoon sea salt
Instructions
  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Prepare the pasta according to the package directions, or until slightly past al dente.
  2. Meanwhile, make the dressing. In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, mustard, garlic, herbes de Provence, red pepper flakes, and salt. (Note: the dressing will have a strong flavor, it’ll mellow once it coats all of the pasta salad ingredients).
  3. Drain the pasta, toss it with a little olive oil (so that it doesn’t stick together) and let it cool to room temp. Transfer to a large bowl with the tomatoes, chickpeas, arugula, cucumbers, feta cheese, basil, parsley, mint, and pine nuts. Pour the dressing and toss to coat. Season to taste with more lemon, salt, pepper, and/or a drizzle of olive oil, if desired, and serve.

My Best Pasta Salad Tips

  • Cook your pasta a little longer than normal. It should be just a tad past al dente (but not mushy) so that the pasta stays soft when it cools. I find that the higher time range listed on box instructions is usually just about right for pasta salad.
  • Let your pasta cool completely before tossing it with the other ingredients. If it’s still warm, the hot pasta will start to cook and wilt the veggies. No one’s a fan of warm cucumber, so make sure you’re tossing cold pasta into this dish.
  • Save some herbs for garnish! This pasta salad recipe is a great one to make ahead, but if you do, save some of the herbs and pine nuts for garnish. The pine nuts will keep their crunchy texture and the herbs will be extra fresh, pretty, and flavorful.
  • Taste and adjust. Like most salad recipes, this one is super flexible, so be sure to taste and adjust it to your liking before serving. Add more lemon if you prefer a tangier salad, toss in more greens if you’re all about the veggies, and always, always salt to taste.

Easy Pasta Salad Recipe Variations

This pasta salad is fantastic as-is, but feel free to change it up to match your tastes or the ingredients in your pantry. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Make it vegan! Use olives or sun dried tomatoes in place of the feta.
  • Make it gluten-free! Use gluten-free pasta or quinoa in place of traditional noodles.
  • Go Greek. To make this recipe more of a Greek pasta salad, add kalamata or black olives and a half cup of thinly sliced red onion.
  • Try a caprese combo. Use halved mini mozzarella balls in place of the feta.
  • Try another herb. Fresh oregano would be lovely in place of the mint in this salad, and thyme would also be a great addition.
  • Swap out the arugula for spinach, or leave it out altogether if you prefer a higher pasta: veggie ratio.
  • Or roast your chickpeas for extra crunch.

House Selling Tips: Why You Won’t Get Your Asking Price

Image: Merve Turkan/Offset

A few small updates, which can be done on a budget, can increase your home’s value — and selling price.

While you can’t change your home’s location or other market forces that determine home value, there are some things you can control that will affect what price you’re offered.

Here are some small things that get in the way of buyers seeing your home’s true value — and some budget-friendly updates that’ll fix them.

Neglected Exterior Maintenance

Image: Andy Milford

“Some buyers won’t even go inside a house if they don’t like the outside,” says Elizabeth Hall of Realty Executives Associates in Knoxville, Tennessee.

To get top dollar for your home (and lure in those lookie-loos), take an exterior inventory of little items you hardly notice that could be red flags, like:

  • Chipped paint
  • Clogged gutters
  • Torn screens
  • Cobwebs on the porch
  • A rusted or leaning mailbox

“These small repairs give buyers confidence that your home is well-maintained throughout,” says says Katie Ducharme of Coastal Properties Group in Dunedin, Florida.

Dingy Lighting

Image: Elizabeth Greer/EyeEm/Getty

Buyers aren’t going to notice the crown molding or the pro paint job if they can’t see them.

You want buyers to exclaim, “Ooo! It’s so bright!” when they walk in. Because a well-lit home feels larger and more inviting. Plus, it feels like it’s not hiding anything, either.

Increase the wattage for each light fixture, and go for bulbs with a warm tint to give your home an inviting golden glow. And don’t forget this easy-to-miss step: clean the light fixtures so those bulbs can do their job.

Old Carpet

Image: Micco Caporale for HouseLogic

Carpet isn’t necessarily a deal-breaker, especially in bedrooms, but stained or worn-out carpet? Buyers will likely submit low offers so they can replace it.

If you can’t make your carpet look good-as-new with a professional cleaning, get rid of it. Better yet, install hardwood if possible — today’s buyers go ga-ga over it.

A Cluttered Kitchen

Image: Halfdark/Getty

Like friends at a party, many buyers go straight to the kitchen. They want to envision themselves there, making breakfast, putting dishes away, whatever. Your cereal inventory and salt-and-pepper collection pull them out of that fantasy.

So clear the kitchen decks. That includes small appliances on the counter, tchotchkes on the window ledge — everything but the essentials you need to stay alive while your home is on the market.

Basically, buyers want your home to look move-in ready, says Ducharme.

Pet or Cooking Odors

Image: Ulrika Kestere/Offset

Bad smells make buyers run,” says Hall. “They wonder what’s going on – is the house moldy, dirty, or what?”

Sometimes you only need to clean the refrigerator and garbage cans. But stronger odors, like set-in cooking smells or pet funk, require a more militant approach.

Wash or professionally clean everything, especially soft surfaces like curtains, carpets, and pet bedding. Bathe the pets regularly, too.

If odors are so strong that they’ve permeated the home (your agent can give you an honest opinion, as homeowners are often noseblind), consider replacing carpet and drapes and repainting using an odor-blocking primer like Kilz.

Different Paint Colors

Image: Elizabeth Allnutt/Offset

If every member of your family used their bedroom walls to express their personalities, or your interior looks like 1993 showed up for a dance party and never left, buyers have a hard time seeing themselves living there.

Cohesive, neutral colors to the rescue. Greige or white are timeless winners. Put together a single, coordinated palette of neutrals and use it to paint the whole house. Consistency makes the place feel larger.

While you’re at it, repaint the front door. The crisp, clean look of a new coat of paint is a surefire way to boost curb appeal.

Empty Rooms

Image: Spaces Images/Getty

Decluttering is good. Totally clearing out is overdoing it. Counterintuitive though it may seem, empty rooms look smaller.

So leave some furniture strategically placed (try putting the biggest piece to the far left, since we typically scan left to right), and you’ll trick buyers’ eyes into visualizing a larger space.

Dirty Driveway

Image: alabn/Getty

How long has it been since you really looked at your driveway?

Like pulling weeds or putting down fresh mulch, a clean driveway gives your home a tidy, cared-for appearance.

“I ask all my clients to power wash it,” says Ducharme. “That final touch does double duty as curb appeal and proper maintenance — both of which get you ever closer to your dream sales price.”

Article by KELLEY WALTERS

10th Annual Lockport, IL Military Re-Enactment Event – September 7th & 8th

Let’s support & help reduce veteran suicides. 100% of all proceeds go to Military Charities.

Lockport Township Park District Presents

World War II Military Re-Enactment Event

Military History Motorcycle Ride

Saturday, September 7th and Sunday, September 8th 2019

Dellwood Park, 171 & Woods Drive, Lockport, IL

World War II Days

 

Meet Allen Lynch, Medal of Honor Recipient

Roasted Garlic Parmesan Cauliflower recipe

Crispy cauliflower bites with garlic Parmesan breading, baked in the oven instead of fried. So tasty!

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup butter melted
  • 2 garlic cloves minced
  • 1 cup Italian or plain breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1 medium cauliflower head

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.
  2. Remove all leaves from cauliflower head. Cut cauliflower into florets, all roughly the same size. You can slice the large florets in half, if needed.
  3. Melt butter and in a small bowl. Add garlic and stir in.

  4. Place breadcrumbs, salt, pepper and Parmesan cheese in another bowl.

  5. Dip each cauliflower piece into butter first, then to breadcrumbs.
  6. Place each breaded piece on prepared baking sheet. Repeat until you use up all cauliflower.
  7. Roast cauliflower for 35 to 32 minutes, or until the breading is golden brown.

Recipe Notes

This cauliflower can be served as a side dish or an appetizer along with a dipping sauce, like Ranch. This breading method prevents the coating mixture from falling off the cauliflower pieces. You can also pour the melted butter over cauliflower bites in a bowl and toss gently to coat. Then sprinkle with breading mixture and stir to coat. Bake as instructed in the recipe above.

7 Myths About Going Through Foreclosure to (Hopefully) Ease Your Mind

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If you are a homeowner, the word “foreclosure” can strike fear deep into your heart, conjuring up scenarios of the bank kicking you out of your home and damaging your credit so you’ll never be able to buy another home.

But here’s a reality check: Yes, foreclosure is a soul-crushing process. When an owner is unable to pay the mortgage, the lender, to recoup some of its costs, assumes ownership and tries to sell the home. But few people are really familiar with how it all goes down—and so a lot of what you think you know about the foreclosure process is a myth.

We’ve rounded up the top misconceptions about foreclosure below, in the hope that they’ll help you breathe a little easier.

Myth 1: The bank wants to take your house

“The bank absolutely doesn’t want your home,” says Kyle Alfriend of The Alfriend Real Estate Group, in Dublin, OH.

Yes, the bank you have a mortgage with has a legal obligation to do everything within its power to get back the money still owed to it. “But taking your home is their absolute last option,” he says.

In fact, a bank would prefer anything over foreclosure. Why? Banks are in the business of collecting interest on loans, not owning homes. And the losses to a bank foreclosing on a property are enormous compared with other loss mitigation techniques.

This all means that banks are often open to discussing reasonable alternatives to foreclosure such as loan modification, forbearance, or a short sale.

“The key is to talk to the bank; don’t hide from them and don’t avoid their calls,” says Alfriend.

Just keep in mind that banks have to deal with regulations, too. If they shut down one request, keep talking to them about other options.

Myth 2: You can’t refinance with another lender

You can certainly try to refinance—which means you’ll take out a new loan to pay off the existing mortgage—to stop the foreclosure.

“These loan options are typically at higher rates, and you will need to evaluate the pros and cons, but options do exist,” says Alfriend. You will need to have a stable income and equity in the home to qualify for a new loan.

“If you can’t find a traditional lender, you likely need to find what is called a hard money lender,” says Ed Kaminsky, a real estate agent at Strand Hill Christie’s International Real Estate in Redondo Beach, CA. This option makes sense only if the equity in your home is more than the cost of refinancing.

Myth 3: Once foreclosure starts, you can’t stop it

In reality, you can try to stop foreclosure up to the moment that your home goes up for public auction at the county courthouse steps, which is the final step in a foreclosure process.

“If you reach the trustee handling the foreclosure and make up all of your back payments prior to that, you can save your home,” says Kaminsky. Again, this is a situation in which you should work with your lender to figure out your options for repayment.

Myth 4: You’re kicked out of your home immediately

Missing a couple of mortgage payments or receiving word from your lender is cause for concern, but don’t jump to the conclusion that you’re going to be evicted immediately. Owners have the legal right to remain in their home until the foreclosure process is completed. And sometimes, lenders will let you stay longer.

“About seven years ago, my first home was foreclosed on,” says Becky Beach of MomBeach.com. Beach lost her job and had no other income to pay the mortgage. “But the bank—Bank of America—let me stay in the home for a year.”

After a year, the bank told Beach she had to vacate the property within a three-month period. After that time period expired, Beach still needed some extra time in the home. “And the bank let me stay an extra month after I spoke to a manager,” says Beach.

“Most of the time the bank will extend the foreclosure process multiple times if you give them a valid reason to do so,” Kaminsky says.

Myth 5: Foreclosure ruins your credit for life

The foreclosure will live on your credit report for at least seven years. But you should be able to borrow again once you prove that you are creditworthy.

You can reestablish good credit two to four years after your foreclosure by regularly paying off a credit card or a higher-interest car loan.

“After seven years, my credit is nearly perfect,” says Beach. “And there’s no record on my credit report about the foreclosure.”

Myth 6: You’ll never be able to buy another house

Sure, your chance of getting a loan at the lowest possible interest rate is likely off the table for several years, depending on the circumstances of your foreclosure. But you can certainly buy another home.

“It’s a myth that foreclosed people can’t get another home,” says Beach. After finding a new job and saving for four months, she was able to put a down payment on another house.

“Now I live in a new $250,000 home,” says Beach.

Myth 7: Foreclosure is always a bad idea

In some cases, it can make sense to let the foreclosure happen and reset your financial life.

“This is if you have little to no equity or even negative equity in the home,” says Kaminsky.

In this case, readjusting your priorities on where you put your money is something that should be considered.

If you have questions or feel that you are out of options, please give us a call at 630-570-9740 or use the contact form to the right. We are here to help!

Article by Margaret Heidenry