If I’d Only Known…

Buying a home can seem complex and often confusing business. These are four aspects of the process buyers wish they had better understood before hey purchased their homes.

  • Home-Financing Options: Unfortunately for many buyers, it’s not until after they’ve purchased that they realize how little they knew about financing, from conventional fixed – and adjustable-rate mortgages, to government programs, to alternatives like seller financing, there are more options than you might think. Before you commit to anything, work with your mortgage representative to discuss the options that fit best with your financial situation and long-term plans.
  • Apply for a Mortgage Loan: A lack of knowledge about the difference between pre-approval and pre-qualification, what information and documentation they needed to satisfy, and what they shouldn’t have done when applying for a loan has unnecessarily slowed down the home-buying process for many an inadequately informed buyer.
  • Closing Costs: There’s a lot to pay for in addition to a property’s purchase price, including legal fees, property taxes, title insurance and homeowner’s insurance. Buyers often find themselves caught by surprise at the last minute, scrambling to come up with the required funds or even unable to complete the transaction.
  • How Long it can Take: A lot of buyers believed it would take them less time to navigate their way through the home-buying process than it actually did. Finding just the right home takes time; once the hunt is over, buyers still need to be patient as they go from having their offer accepted to sealing the deal by signing those closing documents.

Common Painting Mistakes

In his role as the “Paint Doctor” for Purdy—longtime makers of handcrafted paint brushes and roller covers—Bruce Schneider fields queries from intrepid do-it-yourselfers on a regular basis. Who better to ask about the most common problems that homeowners encounter in their interior painting projects?

Mistake #1
Choosing Inferior Applicators
Solution: “To get the job done right, you need good quality tools,” Schneider says. “It always boggles my mind that people are willing to spend $40 or $50 on a gallon of premium paint but decide to go cheap on the applicators. Later, when they see a hair on the wall or lumps of roller lint under the paint, they’ll realize the mistake. Investing in good brushes or rollers up front is worth the extra expense.”

Mistake #2
Improper Preparation
Solution: “It may seem obvious, but you always want to do repair work first so that your walls are smooth, clean, dry, and free of loose debris before you begin painting,” Schneider advises.

Mistake #3
Overextending Each Dip of the Brush or Roller
Solution: DIYers often continue applying a dip of paint until the brush or roller becomes dry. The problem? “When you overextend each dip, the paint can dry in the brush bristles, and the fabric on rollers can mat down,” he cautions. “Be sure to always maintain a smooth line of paint. Once the paint appears to break up, it’s time to re-dip.”

Mistake #4
Breathing the Wrong Way
Solution: The way you breathe when painting—especially when cutting in near edges—can affect the steadiness of your hand. “When you need to be precise, hold your breath or breathe out,” Schneider suggests. “Your body moves more when you’re breathing in.”

Mistake #5
Letting Touch-up Paint Dry Out
Solution: To extend the life of your leftover paint, try these tricks. “For water-based paint, place a piece of clear plastic wrap directly on the surface of the paint, then reseal the container,” Schneider offers. “For oil-based paint, add about a half-inch of water on the surface before resealing.”

Selling Your Home with Pets

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Almost everybody loves pets except the home buyer who is buying your house. Don’t ask me why, but that’s often how it works out. Home sellers who adore their pets have a hard time imagining the negative attitudes others harbor against pets. So, while this might be a bitter pill to swallow, if you want to get top dollar for your house, pay attention to how much you might lose with a dog or cat in residence.

#1 Preferred Pet Solution: You’re not going to like this but I’ll say it anyway, fully realizing that this very excellent piece of advice is likely to fall on deaf ears. The best thing to do to ensure top price for your home is to relocate your pets while your home is on the market. Putting them in the back yard, in the garage or in another room that you keep locked is insufficient, and it’s not fair to them. You need to remove them from the house.

  • Let a friend or relative care for Fluffy and Spike.
  • Board them at a kennel.
  • Send them on vacation.

Overcoming Negatives Associated with Your Pets: If you shrug off all professional advice and absolutely refuse to move your pets out of the house, then at least minimize the objections and nuisance factors, real or otherwise:

  • Cat Litter Boxes & Dog Potty Pads – Keep them out of sight and impeccably clean. Nothing turns off buyers faster than opening the door to the laundry room and being greeted by a full or stinky cat box.
  • Carpet & Floor Pet Stains – Hire professionals to remove the stains. Buyers will spot them and form unfavorable opinions about the rest of the house. If the stains can’t be removed, then remove the floor covering and replace it.
  • Pet Odors and Smells
  1. Cat urine is the worst. Without question. The. Worst. Bring in a neighbor to do a whiff test.
  2. Do not use air fresheners. People with allergies will react.
  3. Try enzyme cleaners such as Simple Solution , Nature’s Miracle or call a professional ozone company.

Remove Signs of a Pet: You may be required by state law to disclose that pets have lived in your home, but you don’t need to advertise that pets live at your house. Removing signs that you have a pet is simply smart practice. Why turn off a buyer at the get-go? It’s those first impressions that are so all-fired important.

  • Do not put photos online showing your cat asleep on the bed
  • Seal up doggie doors
  • Put away food and water bowls when not in use
  • Vacuum religiously, every day, sometimes twice a day
  • Pick up pet toys and put them away
  • Pack up cat trees and other signs of cat paraphernalia (you know who you are)
  • Remove photos of pets from refrigerator, walls and table tops
  • Pack up all cages, carriers and other tell-tale signs

Showing Your House – Put your pets into a carrier and attach a note warning buyers not to disturb them. The last thing you need is somebody sticking their hand inside the carrier and getting bit or scratched. You can’t predict how your pet will react when locked up and alone.

Have a quick pre-showing clean-up routine – After your house is cleaned “to the bone,” it’s much easier to tidy up in a hurry. Some tips are a quick swiffer for hardwoods, or vaccum job for carpet.  Keep a blanket on any/all furniture that your pet may cuddle up on. That way, it’s easily thrown in the washing machine, right before you have a showing.  It will do wonders eliminating pet fur as well as odors from your home. De-nose your windows!  We know how dogs love to stare out a front window or door to see which squirrels or birds are about for the day.  But, no buyer will think those cute little dog smudges are as cute as you do. Grab a quick spray of windex, and smudges are squeaky clean!

Curb your pet! – You never get a second chance to make a first impression!   Curb appeal is hugely important to buyers, so let’s make sure that all outside areas of your home are pet free as well.  From your front yard, your back yard, your courtyard, etc.  Make sure your puppy’s playground shows no signs of pets. Pay attention and remove all sticks, toys and ALL OTHER debris that may be present.

Getting Settled

Moving day has come and gone; you’ll be unpacking and decorating for months. In the meantime, there are a few things you can do to make your new house or condo feel a little more like home

  • Maintain your routines: When your surroundings change, it’s important for you, your kids and even your pets to remember you haven’t changed. So be consistent: make a point of honoring the same rituals – bedtime(s), mealtimes, appointments such as date night or family game night – in your new home as you did in your old one.
  • Make sure everybody’s “comfort items” are at the ready upon arrival in your new home. For a toddler that may be a certain stuffed animal and for you it could be your favorite coffee mug. This tip is a lot easier to follow if you pay these items special attention while packing for your move – make sure they’re easily accessible.
  • Carve out a sanctuary space. Setting up your new home is a lengthy process. In the short term, make a priority of establishing one room, or even a corner of a room, with all the creature comforts. Ideally, this space is a relaxing retreat from cleaning, repairing, unpacking and all the other stresses that are part of settling into a new home.
  • Get outside and explore – on foot. Walking is the best way to get your bearings in a new setting; you won’t be distracted, you can dawdle, and you’ll be able to get places you can’t by car, all of which means you’ll see more. Discover your new favorite cafe or find the local gym so you can return to your pre-move routines.

 

A Clean Sweep

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While just about everyone enjoys a clean house, there are precious few who enjoy the work involved. Even the most hygienic of homeowners would rather spend their time doing something else. Make cleaning your home an easier, faster and less unpleasant process with the following tips/

First things first, have the right tools – your cleaning equipments should be easy to maintain while making your task easier. For instance, brooms with angled heads and dusters with telescopic handles make it easier to clean hard-to-reach places; mops with removable heads are easier to clean, and those with loops (as opposed to cut) ends are more effective and durable.

Be sure to keep your cleaning equipment in good working order, too. You’ll spend considerably more time passing a poorly maintained vacuum over the same area of carpeting – and still leave more dirt behind – than you will with a vacuum whose filter you’ve regularly cleaned/replaced or belt you’ve changed as needed.

Now that you’re well equipped, it’s time to get organized. Gather all your essential cleaning supplies – you all-purpose cleaner, sponges, microfiber cloths and gloves, for example – into some kind of caddy that can travel with you from room to room. Having everything you need within handy reach will help prevent you from wasting time or getting distracted as you retrieve that forgotton item.

Organize a plan of attack, too. Figure our what chores need to be done, when, and by whom. Create cleaning checklists and/or schedules that will work for your particular family/lifestyle. You might have a different checklist for each room or person in your home, for example, or checklists for each day, week and/or month.

When it comes time to get down to business, do whatever you need to do to get in the right head space. That might mean cranking up the high-energy music, playing that newly downloaded podcast or streaming your favorite TV show. For those who need to see the light at the end of the tunnel, that may mean setting a timer – when your 15 or 30 minutes are over, so is your work. For parents, that may mean setting up a cleaning game like musical chores for children – when the music changes, the kids switch chores. If it helps motivate you (or your spouse/children) have a reward ready for when the chores are done.

Of course, another helpful way to make your home easy to clean is to design it that way. When you have the opportunity to redecorate, opt for finishes and materials that will help reduce the amount of time you need to spend cleaning, rather than adding to it. Walls needs a fresh coat? Choose a paint with a high scrubbability rating. Carpeting looking worse for wear? Consider it replacing it with carpet tiles rather than the wall-to-wall variety. Ditching those outdated appliances for new models? Avoid stainless steel unless you want to spend more time erasing fingers prints!

5 Favourite Picture Hanging Tricks

Hanging a picture is about as DIY as many homeowners get. But although it may seem easy, hanging a picture properly is much more than a haphazard task. Here are five favorite tips for taking a one-hole approach to hanging a picture on the wall.

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1. Don’t eyeball it! If you’re hanging multiple pieces of artwork, you need to figure out how they’ll work together before you start making holes. My recommendation is to make a template. Use newsprint or butcher paper to create true-scale templates of your frames, then use painter’s tape to figure out the best arrangement. Young House Love has a great walkthrough of the technique.

2. Don’t use nails—well, not JUST nails. I know every one of you has hung a picture using a simple brad nail. I’ll even admit there are several in my own home hung this way. But they are the pictures most likely to fall off the wall or require regular straightening. A single nail hammered into drywall is not stable enough to support much weight, so invest in the right hardware. My go-to options are self-tapping threaded anchors and screws, which provide a wider balance point without using wire. I’ve  also used steel, hooked wire hangers to great success.

3. Use math—really! If you purposefully stagger art so nobody can tell that your frames are not straight, fear not. A little math will enable to hang series of perfectly spaced art works. I shared my favorite technique on the ReadyMade blog. You can just plug your dimensions into the calculator and be good to go (no fancy equations required).

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4.  The best-ever picture hanging tip. Kristen from Celebrate Everyday with Me dubs this trick “the best ever”, and I think she might be right. I’ve seen all kinds of methods for marking a hole on the wall before drilling, but this one tip renders the rest unnecessary. The idea is to create a portable hanger on which to suspend your picture, so that measuring and marking drill holes becomes significantly easier. So brilliant, you should make two!

5. Use a sticky note to capture dust. Since hanging artwork is usually a task done in a finished room, it can create drywall, plaster, or concrete dust on your carpet, floors, or furniture. So just use this little tip: Add a simple, folded Post-It underneath your marked hole to collect most of the dust made from your pilot hole. Genius, right?

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By: Chris Gardner – http://www.bobvila.com/articles/picture-hanging-tips/#.VCwa0PldV8E

File Under “To Buy”

Make homebuying less stressful – get organized! Create a homebuyer’s file in which you can gather together all the paperwork and information you’ll need throughout the homebuying process, including (but not limited to):

  • Contact information for those people and services you’ll need throughout the process, like your real estate agent, mortgage representative, insurance broker, home inspector and moving company
  • Your credit report, as well as any correspondence you made or received in an effort to expunge omissions or errors (which are not uncommon) from your report.
  • Documents needed to process your mortgage loan, such as a letter of employment confirmation, pay stubs, bank statements, proof of additional income sources (e.g. rental properties, child support), tax returns, statements of assets (e.g. vehicles, real estate) and liabilities (e.g. student and credit-card loans).
  • The pre-approval letter you received from your mortgage lender, which tells you the specific amount of money you may qualify to borrow.
  • If you sign one with a real estate representative, a copy of the buyer’s agreement, which spells out the terms of agreement, compensation and the respective parties’ duties.
  • Copies of your needs and wants checklist, so you can take one to each property you view.
  • Any photographs you took or notes you made about properties you visited.
  • Information about prospective neighborhoods, such as details on schools, crime rates, recreational facilities, places of worship and transportation.
  • Property surveys, if you’re buying a house.
  • Copies of the rules and regulations for any homeowners association or condominium you’re seriously considering moving to.
  • Copies of inspection reports and appraisal reports.

The Green Advantage

Making eco-friendly improvements to your house is obviously good for the environment, but what’s in it for you? Here’s what you stand to gain by going green.

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  • Saving your money. Beefing up your insulation; swapping single-pane windows for double-panes; replacing your outdated appliances with new ENERGY STAR.- rated models; swapping out old lighting for energyefficient lighbulbs and fixtures and installing low-flow showerheads, faucets, and toilets will help lower both your energy and water bills – that means that over the long run, more money stays in your pocket each and every month. Plus, certain energy-efficient improvements may even qualify you for tax break, saving you even more money.
  • Making your house a healthier place to live. Traditional paints and carpets, for example, off-gas volatile organic compounds, contributing to indoor air pollution. By applying low-VOC paint and opting for eco-friendly flooring alternatives (such as bamboo, cork, linoleum, or low-VOC carpeting), you’ll improve your home’s air quality. The results? Sleep better; breathe easier; have fewer headaches; and experience less risk of any associated nausea, dizziness, and ear, nose, and throat irritations.
  • Boosting your home’s resale value. Homebuyers are increasingly seeing the value in a more eco-friendly house, precisely due to the lower utility bills and health benefits discussed above. Green improvements both big and small can increase your home’s attractiveness to potential buyers (who are themselves concerned with resale value), helping sell your house faster and for more money.

Factors that are Best Ignored

No property is perfect – each one you come across will have its flaws, but while some are justifiable grounds for crossing a home off your list, others aren’t. Below are four things that shouldn’t be deal breakers:

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  • Unappealing décor. Outdated or ultra-modern: whatever the reason you’re turned off by a potential property’s d.cor, keep in mind that this is a cosmetic flaw – in other words, it’s a problem that’s easily solved. If you can’t look past the gaudy wallpaper, stained carpeting, and/or shabby cabinetry, you might just miss out on a property perfectly suited to your needs.
  • Minor repairs. A home in need of significant (read: costly) work is one you’d be justified in walking away from. But problems of a “leaks and squeaks” nature – faucets, cupboards, and drawers needing a little attention, for example – are minor, and relatively easy and inexpensive to repair; as such, they shouldn’t put you off an otherwise sound property.
  • Odors. Certain odors – the smell of mold for instance – are always cause for concern, and you wouldn’t want to live near a factory that produces a foul smell, of course. But odors from cooking, smoking, or pets, while unpleasant, can be dealt with; walls can be washed and repainted with odor-eliminating paint, and carpets can be steam cleaned, for example.
  • The listing. Sometimes, buyers write off a property before they even see it due to the listing itself – perhaps the photos are unflattering, the price seems too high or low, or it’s been on the market for a long time. Consider that if your real estate representative shows you such a listing, there must be a reason – give it a chance.

Finishing Touches

Furniture is a practical necessity, but it’s through our accessories that we really express our style and personality, make our living spaces utterly unique and “complete” our environments. Below are five home décor accessories that are essential for turning any house – or condo – into a home.

  • Art. But not just any old art: pieces you truly connect with, that you love to look at each and every day, be they fabric wall-hangings, travel photography from your globe-trekking adventures, or Dadaist prints. Just avoid the all-too-common décor faux pas of hanging your art too high. And consider highlighting (some of) your art with accent lighting (such as picture lights, which attach to picture frames; recessed lighting; or ceiling-mounted spotlights) to really make an impactful statement of your art.
  • Plants. Make your home come alive (literally!) with a living accessory. In addition to looking (and often smelling) good, plants are functional too. They can help camouflage flaws (block an unsightly view with a strategically placed plant); be used to create a focal point (a big Thatch palm or Dracaena tree makes a bold statement); and improve your indoor air quality (English ivy, Boston ferns, and rubber, spider, and snake plants are excellent choices for this purpose). Just do your homework before bringing any plant into your home – some species can be toxic to pets or people.
  • Rugs. It’s been said that a rug can really tie a room together. Available in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, they’re a great way to add color, pattern, and texture to a room, and warmth and softness to cold, hardwood or stone floors. Rugs can serve to provide a room’s focal point (think bold colors and geometric patterns), or to define certain areas, or zones, in an open-concept floorplan – make sure the rug is big enough to go under the furniture pieces that define the zone.
  • Lamps. The overhead fixtures that come with most rooms may provide adequate general (or ambient) lighting, but left at that, a room looks rather stark. No décor is truly complete until it has the three light layers (ambient, task, and accent) needed to establish mood and provide functional lighting for the room’s uses. Floor and table lamps are key to providing ambient and task lighting, but they needn’t look utilitarian – with so many choices available, you can express your style through lamps just as easily as you can through artwork or rugs.
  • A collection. As so many of us have something we collect, and those collections reveal much about our personality and passions to anyone visiting our home, why not make them part of the décor? Whatever the nature of your collection – books, records, tea pots, or vintage cameras – you’d be surprised at the number of creative ways it can be incorporated into your décor. Displays of collections can be so ingeniously creative, in fact, as to qualify as that first thing on this list: art.