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6 Easy Garden DIYs You Will Want To Try

Making your backyard an inviting space is fun, and there are a ton of easy garden DIYs you can try to create the kind of backyard you want to spend time in. From scenic landscapes to crafty projects, transforming your yard from functional to fantastic is as simple as following the six easy garden DIYs below.

1. Make A Unique Bird Bath

Nothing makes a backyard retreat more peaceful and inviting than being able to watch the birds. Attract all species of birds to your backyard by building a unique and lovely bird bath out of cheap flower pots. For this project, all you’ll need is two flower pots (a small one and a large one), some potting soil, flowers, and a little elbow grease. When you’re done, find a spot to sit the new bird bath that you can see well as you lounge in your backyard.

2. Dress Up Your Home’s Foundation

The outside of your home should look just as nice as the inside. Dress up the plain concrete of your home’s foundation by adding stone or tile. Now, if you’re not comfortable with applying stone yourself, by all means, hire a professional to do it. Once finished, that ugly foundation will have a new, high-end look you’ll be proud to show off.

3. The Buried Pot Garden Project

If you aren’t into full-scale gardening with weed-pulling and season-long maintenance, then the buried pot garden is right up your alley. If you have a section of lawn or pathway just screaming for some sprucing up, head to your local garden shop, buy a few large flower pots and get started. The end result needs little hands-on attention, but it will look like you spend hours keeping it up.

4. A Practical And Stunning Herb Garden

Many garden enthusiasts are all about fresh herbs, but it can be somewhat difficult making planted herbs look good. This project, on the other hand, is as beautiful as it is functional. All you need is a couple of stair risers and a few window boxes. Attach the window boxes to the risers, add soil and your favorite herb plants, and voila! You have a very attractive herb garden.

5. Extra Table Space In The Backyard

If you have a wooden fence in your backyard, this DIY fence table project will add more table space where you need it most. Use if to hold your barbecue utensils or simply use it to hold your drinks while you play horseshoes. Either way, you’ll wonder how you ever managed without it. For this project, you’ll need to head to your local home improvement store and purchase a few supplies. You’ll want to be comfortable with power tools, too.

6. Transform An Old Tree Stump

Old tree stumps can be unsightly and a nuisance to mow around, but when you transform them into something amazing, those issues cease to be a problem. Transform an old tree stump in your backyard into a gnome house just like this one. Not only will that old stump be the center of attention once complete, you won’t mind trimming around it because it’s so beautiful. If you wish your backyard was more of a relaxing, inviting place, try a few DIY garden projects to make it so. We hope the examples we’ve shared above inspire you to get creative in your own backyard.

5 Ideas On How To Remodel Your Kitchen

If you’re looking to increase the value of your home and bring it up to date at the same time, remodeling your kitchen is a great choice. The kitchen is the heart of most homes, and as such, it should convey a welcoming, functional atmosphere. Today’s kitchens are more advanced and sophisticated than ever, so the task of remodeling can be a bit challenging. You have to pay close attention to the functionality and efficiency of the changes you make, as well as the attractiveness of it all. Whether you go for simple surface changes or an entirely different look, it’s important to stay true to your lifestyle and budget. Here are five kitchen remodel ideas to consider if you’re in the market for a new kitchen.

1. Cabinetry

If your budget allows, replace all your old cabinets with new ones, opting for solid oak, cherry, or even stainless-steel varieties. Darkly stained cabinets add a touch of warmth and hominess to any kitchen, so keep that in mind as you’re browsing the options. If your budget isn’t forgiving enough to allow for new cabinets, you may want to think about revamping your old ones. Reface the old cabinets to freshen their look, and then rearrange their placement to give your kitchen a whole new feel. Changing the hardware as well will make it look as if you spent a fortune on remodeling your kitchen.

2. Make Greener Choices

Green living is the going trend these days, so why not instill that same thinking in your kitchen remodel? Choose things like recycled glass or concrete countertops, which are available in an array of designs and colors or opt for something a little more maintenance-free by choosing quartz instead.

3. Open Kitchen Concept

Open, airy spaces are very appealing to homeowners, and the open kitchen concept is one of the most popular. With nary a wall separating the kitchen from other rooms like the dining room or living room, it gives a feeling of openness that many people love. If this appeals to you, be sure to check your home’s blueprints to make sure the walls you want to get rid of aren’t of the supportive variety.

4. Kitchen Islands

Adding a kitchen island is a great way to increase usable space in your kitchen as well as increase the value of your home. Kitchen islands are very popular among homebuyers, which is a plus if you’re thinking of selling your home in the near future.

5. Add Backsplashes

If your kitchen sink doesn’t already have a backsplash, consider adding one. Not only are they a great way to add pizzazz to your kitchen décor, they are quite functional as they protect the wall behind the sink from moisture. Backsplashes come in a variety of sizes, designs, and colors, so choose something that coordinates well with the countertops in your kitchen. The sky’s the limit when it comes to remodeling your kitchen. From surface changes such as adding a backsplash behind the sink to more dramatic renovations like knocking out walls, remodeling your kitchen adds appeal to your home and increases its value at the same time.

The 4 Types of Real Estate Investments and How They Differ

As a new real estate investor, you’re going to have to purchase property eventually. Which type of property you buy could set the course for your future as a real estate investor. While every investor has his or her own way of doing things (investment strategies), there are only four types of real estate investment properties to choose from. Since each type of property generates profit in different ways, we discuss them below to help you figure out which may be a better fit for you.

1. Residential Real Estate

Residential real estate includes anything people can live in: single-family homes, apartments, condos, townhouses, etc. Often, investors purchase single-family homes and rent them out while they wait for them to increase in value. Other investors purchase multi-family properties to have multiple streams of income coming in. Many new investors get a start in residential real estate investing by purchasing a multi-family property, living in one of the units, and renting out the rest.

2. Commercial Real Estate

Commercial real estate includes any property that can be used for commercial purposes. This includes retail stores, restaurants, and office buildings. Owners of commercial real estate rent out the space(s) to business owners, who then pay a monthly fee to conduct their business there. Commercial real estate investing isn’t as easy and straightforward as residential real estate. For starters, it’s much more expensive to get started and most banks won’t finance you unless you already have a signed lease from a tenant already occupying the property. Furthermore, your credit needs to be impeccable and down payments can be as much as 50 percent. Having said all that, owning a successful commercial building can bring in much higher profits than owning residential properties.

3. Industrial Real Estate

Industrial real estate is any property used for warehousing, manufacturing, or distributing products. These properties are usually owned by highly skilled investors with very extensive/diverse portfolios who know the potential for huge profit when they see it. Real estate investors like putting their money into industrial properties mainly because of their stability. The leases are usually longer and there’s less turnover as tenants don’t vacate this type of property as often as others.

4. Land Investments

Owning land can be a risky investment, however, if that land is located in an area that’s ripe for future development, it could pay off big. The reason investing in land is risky is because raw land won’t generate income on its own. As the owner, you’re responsible for paying taxes on the property, dealing with zoning and environmental issues, and finding developers to turn it into something that will make money. Unless you buy farmland, which can be rented out to farmers to plant, owning land often results in a loss rather than gain if you don’t know what you’re doing. When it comes to real estate investing, it’s important you understand the different types of investment properties so you can determine which is a good fit for you. As a new investor, it’s a good idea to focus on just one type of investment and learn it well before trying to diversify your portfolio.

5 Things Every Real Estate Investor Should Know

To be a good real estate investor, you have to be willing to do your research. If you are new to the game, you’ll want to pay close attention to the information below. In it, we’ll share with you several things every real estate investor should know to stay ahead of the trends and the competition.

1. Local Pricing

As an investor, one of the first things you should look at is the current pricing trends in the area. For example, are prices accelerating more in one area than in another? How does the average home price compare in neighboring towns? Knowing the answers to these questions will help you know which area housing is in highest demand. Studying these trends will help you figure out fair pricing on different types of properties so you get the best deal possible. Seek out real estate agents for local pricing trends, as they have access to the MLS. The internet, newspapers, and town halls are all good sources for pricing information as well.

2. Mortgage Pre-Approval

Real estate investor pros know that getting pre-approved for a mortgage carries serious benefits. First and foremost, the lender locks in an interest rate for you that stays the same regardless of interest rates at the time you actually purchase a home. Secondly, buyers hold you in a higher regard than other prospective buyers who have not sought pre-approval.

3. Developing Communities

One way to ensure your success as a real estate investor is to buy properties in up-and-coming neighborhoods. Growing communities experiencing new infrastructures make for great investment opportunities. Look for things like new developments such as schools, shopping malls, and roads, as these things suggest the area will be experiencing a growth spurt soon. Check with town halls and road or building departments for word of future projects slated to start in the near future.

4. Low-Tax Areas

Comparing property taxes from different areas can help you decide which areas will be in high demand. If taxes are higher or are slated to rise in a given area, but a neighboring community has lower taxes, more people will want to buy in the lower tax community. Check with real estate agents in the area or speak with a local tax assessor to determine property taxes in a given area and whether an assessment is scheduled that might raise taxes.

5. School Rankings

Communities with high ranking schools tend to draw parents hoping to enroll their children in quality education. Good investors know that buying in such areas can lead to high profits. The easiest way to find this information is to contact the board of education in a given area. If you have time, visiting the schools themselves is an option since schools with high rankings gladly share the information. To be a successful real estate investor, you must be willing to do your homework. Tapping into local resources for the information you seek is the best way to stay a step ahead of the competition.

5 Tips to Help You Be the Perfect Home Seller

You may think your home is the only thing that has to impress when you put it on the market for sale. The reality is, you, the seller, also have to make a good impression. While someone may fall in love with your home, they may choose to pass on it if they don’t like the way you present yourself. To help you be on your best behavior when you sell your home, follow the tips below.

1. Be Scarce

One of the biggest turn-offs for buyers is a seller who hovers over their shoulders as they tour a house. If you are present when potential buyers visit your home, they may not feel free to ask certain questions, and you may say something that could jeopardize a sale. The best thing you can do is let your agent show your home on your behalf while you relax someplace else.

2. Give Up Your Parking Space

A good seller wants a potential buyer to be able to picture themselves living in the home. You can help further this image by allowing buyers to pull up in the driveway and park as if they own it. When you leave the house for a showing, be sure to take your vehicle with you, or, if you’re not driving, move your car to the street to allow buyers the V.I.P parking spot.

3. Take Your Pets With You When You Leave For A Showing

The buyers who come to your home for viewing might be animal lovers, too, but you should always take your pets with you when you leave. First of all, you won’t know if the buyer actually likes pets, but even if they do, you don’t want your cute little fur baby to steal the show and draw attention from the home. If you have pets, do your best to make it appear (and smell) as if your home is pet-free.

4. Place Important Documents In Plain View

Because you’ll be leaving when potential buyers come to view your home, you’ll want to place important documents such as the home inspection report, home warranty, and appraisal on a table for easy viewing. This will let buyers know you’re a responsible owner and seller who has nothing to hide. You can also include recent utility bills to give them an idea of monthly expenses and proof of any major repairs or renovations you’ve made recently.

5. Don’t Pressure The Buyers For Feedback

You may be excited to hear a buyer’s feedback right after a showing, but a good seller gives the buyer time to process what they’ve seen and make a decision. Remember, this is likely the biggest purchase they’ve ever made, so let them have a few days to think it over before expecting feedback or an offer. Your home isn’t the only thing that needs to impress buyers when you put it on the market for sale. You have to be a good seller, too. Following the tips outlined above will help you become the kind of seller homebuyers like to deal with

5 Creative Ideas For Your Backyard Fence

Do you hate the way your neighbor’s unkempt lawn and hoards of broken toys takes away from your beautifully landscaped backyard oasis? Maybe you simply wish to create an attractive border between your yard and the next. Whatever the case may be, installing an actual fence can be very time consuming and expensive. Instead of putting up a wood or steel barrier, try one of these creative ideas for your backyard fence.

1. Shrubbery

Shrubs make great barriers between adjoining yards, but one downside to planting them is the fact that they take so long to grow to a height that’s tall enough to block a neighbor’s offending yard. On the bright side, there are some varieties that grow quickly. Pampas grasses, for example, grow up to 10 feet tall in just one year.

2. Trees

Create a stunning privacy wall by planting trees in a straight row. One of the best trees for this purpose is the Leyland Cypress. Reaching heights of 40-60 feet tall and 8-12 feet wide at maturity, they grow quickly at 3-5 feet a year. If you plant several of these trees six feet apart, their feathery green foliage will fill in and block from sight anything on the other side.

3. Plant Vines

It’s easy to create a green fence by planting fast-growing vines. Simply install lattice or another wood frame for the plants to grow on and plant a few Irish or English ivy. It won’t take long for the plants to climb and fill in to create a stunning wall that hides even the worst-looking backyard. Another variety of vine you might consider that adds a lot of beauty almost all year is the Virginia Creeper. This plant is a lush green in summer and then turns a spectacular red in the fall.

4. Bamboo Fencing

Not as strong as traditional wood or metal fencing, bamboo fencing is an alternative that’s less expensive while still providing the privacy and beauty you seek. Bamboo fencing adds a natural looking border that’s quite versatile. It comes in varying heights up to 8 feet and typically comes in 8-foot sections.

5. Build An Outbuilding

If you’re tired of looking at your neighbor’s chaotic backyard, you can build an outbuilding to help block it from view. Build a greenhouse or workshop near your property line or erect a fun playhouse for the kids. Your outbuilding could even be part of a fencing plan that includes several structures. Build a greenhouse in the middle and add shrubs, trees, and vines on either side to create a paradise getaway right in your own backyard. Having a neighbor who does little to keep his yard up can sometimes bring down the value of your own property. If you ever have to rent or sell your property, you’ll need to shield his bad lawn maintenance while enhancing your own landscaped lawn. You can’t force your neighbor to care for his yard, but you can hide it easily using any of the above creative ideas for your backyard fence.

5 Ways To Prepare For The Ultimate Staycation

There’s a lot to be said for traveling vacations. Falling asleep on a plane only to wake up halfway around the world is thrilling or driving several hours for a stay in the next city can be fun. There’s a downside to vacations like these, though. The jet lag and stress of it all can diminish the excitement quickly. Sometimes, you just need to unwind and rejuvenate, both physically and mentally, and home is often the best place to be to do so. At-home vacations, or “staycations,” can be just as fun as any traveling vacation, and in many cases, be even more relaxing. Since you don’t have to pack or go anywhere, you can focus on the task at hand – relaxing and enjoying life. Here are a few tips to help you prepare for the ultimate stay-at-home vacation.

1. Get Chores Done Ahead Of Time

The last thing you want to worry about on your vacation is chores. You don’t have to worry about them if you go away, and you shouldn’t have to worry about them while you’re on vacation at home, either. Get things like dusting, vacuuming, and laundry done before your vacation starts and don’t think about them again until your vacation is over.

2. Invest In Some Added Comfort

Your home may be the most comfortable place on the planet to you, but for a real vacation feel, add some extra luxuries. For example, adjust the lighting in your home to be more relaxing and calming. Soft ambient lighting can really change the mood of any room. Also, purchase a couple plush area rugs for the living room and bedroom. These add a touch of warmth and can be a great place for reading if you add in a couple of floor pillows. Lastly, buy yourself some new bedding. Not only will it feel like you’re someplace else when you slip into bed, you’ll have some new sheets for after your vacation is over.

3. Create Ideal Vacay Spaces

If your idea of a great vacation includes the spa, create a spa-like staycation by transforming your bathroom with scented candles, relaxing music, and essential oils. If camping is more your thing, create an outdoor oasis by setting up your camping gear in the backyard and enjoying all that Mother Nature has to offer for the length of your vacation.

4. Plan Meals Ahead of Time

Don’t waste any of your precious vacation time trying to figure out what to eat. Figure out ahead of time what you’d like to eat and get the shopping done before your vacation starts. If you like to cook, think about making more complicated meals you don’t normally have time to prepare or even consider hiring a chef to come in and cook for you. Be sure you have menus and phone numbers ready for your favorite places to eat out so ordering from them for delivery is super easy, too.

5. Map It Out

If you have an idea of what you’d like your staycation to be, map it out beforehand and delegate tasks to each member of the family. Don’t take on all the planning and execution yourself. Make it a family plan that everyone contributes so the stay-at-home vacation is a success. When you’ve got some time off and you just want to relax and rejuvenate, taking a staycation is a great idea. With just a few tweaks, you can prepare for the ultimate stay-at-home vacation.

5 Factors that Make your Home Worth More

Whether you’re selling your home or buying one, you should know what things to look for in terms of value. For instance, did you know that where a home is located can impact its worth? If you’re going to be selling your home anytime soon, it pays to pay attention to a few universal factors that might influence its value. Here is a list of things to consider.

1. Location

Being located in a quiet neighborhood or near popular amenities such as restaurants and grocery stores can make a home worth more. Not every buyer needs a home to meet every location requirement, but if you can say your home is situated in or near things people deem important, it will retain its value better. On this same note, if your home is located near schools, daycare, or even a school bus stop, it will be more attractive to buyers with children or who plan to have children, making it worth more, especially if it checks other boxes for them, too.

2. A Beautiful View

Can you look out your window and see a beautiful skyline? If so, your home may be worth more. Being able to look out a window and see something lovely calms the nerves, and buyers appreciate that. On the other hand, if you look out your window and all you see is your neighbor’s house, a flashing neon sign, or some other unattractive view, it could bring down the value of your home, too.

3. Curb Appeal

If your home looks nice from the outside, it will retain its value better. If you mow your lawn, landscape your yard attractively, and maintain the exterior of your home, it shows you’ve kept the property in good shape. Curb appeal works both ways, however. If you don’t maintain your yard or the exterior of your home, the overall value will be less.

4. Major Systems

No one likes to move into a home and immediately have to shell out money to fix any heating, cooling, plumbing, or electrical issues. Selling a home with issues like these is usually the result of neglected maintenance and will subtract from the home’s value. If you know your home has issues with any of its major systems, be sure to fix them before putting it on the market for sale to get the most out of its value.

5. Storage

A home with lots of storage is usually worth more than one that doesn’t have enough. If your home has plenty of closets, cabinets, and drawers, as well as basement, attic, and/or garage storage, buyers will be willing to pay more for the convenience. Many factors influence the value of a home, with the 5 listed above being just a start. Be sure to keep these things in mind as you set an asking price for your home as it could be worth more (or less) than you think.

5 Tips For A First Time Home Buyer

Buying a home is quite possibly the biggest purchase you will ever make. If you’re a first-time homebuyer, there’s a good chance you’ll get frustrated at some point. Fraught with confusing lingo and surprise costs, the whole process can seem overwhelming at times. To help make your home buying experience a little less stressful, we’ve put together the following five tips for the first-time homebuyer.

Start Saving Early and Check Your Credit

The home buying process starts long before you actually begin actively searching for the perfect house. The average mortgage lender requires a 20 percent down payment, although many first-time homebuyer programs allow for as little as 3.5 percent. Be aware, however, that lower down payments often force you to pay for mortgage insurance, so it’s best to be prepared to put down as much money as possible to get the best deal. Your credit score is one of the most important factors lenders look at when determining whether to finance your mortgage or not. Check your credit score before starting your search for a home, and do your best to dispute any discrepancies and take care of any outstanding debt as soon as possible. It’s also very important to halt all new credit activity if you plan to buy a house anytime soon. Opening any new lines of credit such as credit cards or auto loans cause a slight decrease in your credit rating when the lender does a hard inquiry.

Figure Out How Much House You Can Afford

Many first-time homebuyers make the mistake of buying a home based on the idea that their income will increase in the future. This often leads to higher mortgage payments than they can comfortably make while they wait for their income to go up. Play around with a mortgage affordability calculator to figure out what you can afford based on your income now. You can always sell the home and upgrade as your income increases in the future.

Explore Your Down Payment and Closing Cost Options

One of the biggest problems people have with purchasing their first homes is coming up with the down payment. Luckily, there are many options available for a first-time homebuyer that decreases the down payment amount to as low as 3 percent. Many new homebuyers mistakenly give little consideration to the closing costs associated with their mortgage. These expenses can add up to thousands of dollars, so it’s a good idea to consider your two options here: pay them yourself or have the seller pay them for you. Both options have pros and cons, so discuss them with your lender to find out which works best for you.

Shop Around for the Best Mortgage Rates

Shopping for the best mortgage rates is just like shopping for anything else. You wouldn’t hire the first contractor you call to fix your roof, and you shouldn’t go with the first mortgage lender that gives you what sounds like a good deal either. Gather mortgage rate quotes from at least three lenders before deciding which one fits your budget and your needs best.

Get Pre-approved

Sellers like to see that you’re serious about buying their property. Before heading out to find your dream home, take the time to get a pre-approval letter from a lender that states how much they are willing to lend you and at what terms. Not only will you have an upper hand over other buyers who haven’t completed this step, but you’ll also have a better idea of how much house your lender is willing to finance in your name.

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The Best Home Remodeling Ideas

After a few years, a home’s vibe tends to dwindle a bit, causing its owners to crave a fresh, new look. Often, giving your home a new look and feel is as easy as applying a coat or two of paint or replacing the hardware on cabinets and drawers. You needn’t spend a great deal to make your home feel fresh and new. Here are some of the best home remodeling projects to inspire you.

Transform A Small Closet Into A Large Closet

Many bedrooms include a small, single-stall closet that’s hardly big enough for everything a person wants to store in it. In many cases these closets are actually bigger than they appear because just beyond a non-load-bearing divider wall, lies another closet of the same size. It’s relatively simple to remove this divider wall to create a much larger closet worthy of storing all your personal possessions.

An Uninspiring Kitchen Island Turned Fabulous And Functional

Does your kitchen island serve as a catch-all for everything from bills to homework and more? This could be because the island lacks pizzazz and purpose. You can give your kitchen island purpose by turning it into a sit-down breakfast bar complete with sink for ease in preparing meals. With a hang-over countertop that allows family and friends to sit close to the bar, your newly remodeled kitchen island invites everyone to gather in the kitchen for good food and conversation.

Upgrade Your Homes Thermostat

Technology has come a long way as far as home thermostats go. Today’s thermostat is a smart device that can adjust your home’s temperature automatically, which saves you tons of money each year in energy usage. If your home has an old, round dial thermostat, make it a point to swap it out for a smart thermostat right away. Not only will you find it more convenient, but you’ll also appreciate the almost-immediate savings on your heating and cooling bills.

Stop Wasting Valuable Storage Space

Do you have space above or to the side of your refrigerator that’s justsitting thereunused? That’s valuable storage space if you do it right. Start by replacing your old, non-energy-efficient fridge with a streamlined, energy-efficient model. Next, purchase or build storage cabinets above and around the unit to act as a pantry. This pantry storage can be used for anything from kitchen gadgets to pre-packaged and canned foods, and it looks great, too!

Replace Kitchen Wall Cabinets

Cabinets hanging on the wall above the countertop certainly serve a purpose. They allow you to store commonly used dishes and the like within arm’s reach. Unfortunately, they can also create shadows that make it difficult to work with and they can be quite bulky and unattractive, too. You can replace those dark, imposing cabinets with open shelving to make your kitchen look and feel bigger and brighter. Of course, you’ll need to find storage for all the stuff that’ll lose its home – or, you could just get rid of all the stuff you don’t really use anymore and eliminate the need for storage altogether.

6 Traditional Housewarming Gift Ideas

The giving of housewarming gifts began as the literal act of warming a new home. Back before central heating was a thing, neighbors and friends would bring gifts of wood and build fires in the new homes’ fireplaces to warm the home and ward off evil spirits. This act of friendship continues to this day, although central heating makes warming a house unnecessary. Even so, housewarming parties are a common place when someone moves into a new house, and many people still enjoy giving gifts that hold special meanings for the new home’s occupants. Below are six traditional gift ideas to consider the next time you’re invited to a housewarming party.

Candles

A candle lit on the first night in a new home is believed to cast out darkness. It symbolically wishes the new occupants of the new home light through even the darkest of times. Candles come in so many shapes, sizes and scents, it’s hard to name just one as the perfect housewarming gift. Try to choose something complimentary to any décor in a scent that isn’t too overpowering.

Bread

A long-standing tradition, giving bread as a housewarming gift symbolically blesses the home with never knowing hunger. Many traditional housewarming gift givers like to give fresh-baked bread to the new homeowners, but another option would be to give a beautiful bread box as well.

Salt and Herbs

Salt was once a valuable commodity, people used it as currency, so a gift of the seasoning symbolizes wealth as well as hospitality. A gift of other herbs delivers the same sentiment. A good gift idea for this category would be a set of silver salt and pepper shakers, or maybe a spice rack full of common flavorful spices. Be sure to attach a note card that says, “May there always be flavor and spice in your life.”

Wine

Wine as a housewarming gift has always been an icebreaker of sorts. A good bottle of wine paired with a lovely wine decanter makes a great gift that says, “May you always have joy and never go thirsty.”

Live Houseplant

When you give someone a live houseplant, you are essentially blessing them with a home that’s always full of life. People often correlate being able to care for a plant with an ability to care for one’s family. Of course, no houseplant is complete without a stunning planter, so go big or go home with this one because gifting a houseplant also conveys a wish of good fortune.

Baskets

Today, burden baskets placed at the front doors of many homes collect the worries and stresses of life from all who enter. Gift a new homeowner with a burden basket to be placed at the front door. This symbolic gift helps preserve the home’s peace and harmony by encouraging anyone who visits to leave their troubles outside. The concept of giving housewarming gifts has been around a long time. Many people like giving modern gifts designed around the latest technology, but for some people, a traditional housewarming gift means more than just “Welcome to the neighborhood.” It conveys blessings and wishes for a good life and a happy home forever.

7 quick cleaning hacks that can make your life easier

Whether you love cleaning, hate it, or fall somewhere in between, these quick cleaning hacks are sure to make your life so much easier.

1. Cleaning The Toilet

When it comes to cleaning the bathroom, the toilet is probably the worst part of the job. To make it easier, pour toilet bowl cleaner into the commode, leave it sit for a few minutes, then give it a quick swish with a toilet brush. Use disinfectant wipes to wipe down the outside toilet surfaces and you’re all done!

2. Remove Floor Scuffs

Hardwood floors are beautiful, but they require a bit of work to keep them looking great. For scuff marks, use a sock or tennis ball to buff the mark away. If that doesn’t work, add a small bit of baking soda and buff again. Wipe any residue away with a damp cloth.

3. Freshen The Garbage Disposal

Garbage disposals are great and all, but they can get rather stinky if not cleaned properly. To freshen your garbage disposal in a hurry, cut up a lime or lemon and run it through the disposal. The citric acid will clean and disinfect the inside of the unit and leave it smelling lemony fresh.

4. Dusting The Blinds

If you haven’t dusted your blinds in a while, this hack won’t work to remove the thick layer of sticky dust that’s sure to have accumulated. However, if there isn’t much dust on your blinds, close the blinds and use a microfiber cloth in a side-to-side motion to remove dust. Turn the blinds the other direction and do it again.

5. Deodorize Your Home

There’s no need to buy expensive deodorizer products from the store to get out stubborn smells in your home. All you need is a box of baking soda and a vacuum. Sprinkle a thin layer of baking soda on carpets, rugs, pet beds, and other soft surfaces. Let it sit for a few minutes and then vacuum. It’s really that simple and cheap to remove stale odors from your home.

6. Clean The Microwave

If the walls of your microwave hold more food than what you actually heat in it, this hack is for you. Cut up a lemon, add it, and a couple of teaspoons of white vinegar to a cup of water, and microwave the concoction until you see steam form on the window. Turn the microwave off, leave the door shut, and allow the steam to continue permeating the inside of the unit. After a few minutes, remove the cup and wipe the walls of the microwave clean with a damp cloth.

7. Shine Stainless Steel Appliances

Stainless steel appliances add a sleek, modern look to any kitchen, but when they’re covered in fingerprints, they can be quite the eyesore. Remove those prints and make your appliances shine again by using a soft cloth and some olive or coconut oil. Just be careful not to use too much of either oil as it will leave behind a sticky, oily mess.

4 Ways On How You Can Protect Yourself From Troublesome Tenants

Noisy tenants, late rent payments and no rent payments at all. Despite the most rigorous screening process, you’re bound to come across your fair share of troublesome tenants in your time as a landlord. Tenant problems come in many forms, but the best way to deal with them is to be professional, communicate clearly and take the steps necessary to maintain a profitable and safe rental – no matter how hard it may be. The following paragraphs cover some of the most common ways landlords can protect themselves when dealing with problematic renters. It’s recommended you follow a documented and strict course of action, and address your attorney if you are unsure of the action to take. Every state has its own laws and regulations concerning landlord/tenant relationships, and your attorney can help educate you on them.

1. Educate yourself and know the law

Managing a rental property requires more than just paying the mortgage on time and collecting rent. Renter issues arise often and vary in severity, so you must know where you stand in any given situation. Not knowing the law and how it pertains to you and your tenants can leave you open to lawsuits and bankruptcy very quickly. Take the time to educate yourself: take classes, read books, and talk to other more experienced landlords to know and understand the laws in your state. The more you know, the less likely you’ll be to land on the wrong side of a tenant’s legal claim against you.

2. Stick to documented policies no matter what

When a new tenant signs your rental contract, they are agreeing to all the policies and procedures set forth by you in that document. It’s important they understand everything before they sign, and it’s your job to make sure they do. Walk them through the document one section at a time and be sure to answer any questions they may have. Your rental agreement should include things such as: · What tenants can and can’t do on the property · How much rent is · When rent is due · How rent can be paid · Noise restrictions · Tenant-to-tenant conflict resolution · Tenant responsibilities · Landlord responsibilities · Rules about additional occupants and guests · Rules on pets · Rules on smoking · Property maintenance · What is considered normal wear and tear

3. Document everything that happens

Good or bad, it’s important that you document everything that happens when in contact with your tenants. Depending on how many units you rent out, this could be time-consuming. Investing in CRM software can help you organize multiple tenants into a spreadsheet or something similar. How you choose to document your interactions with your tenants is up to you; just be sure you do. Take time to document things such as tenant complaints and how they were handled. Make sure you include every contact with the tenant including phone calls, text messages, etc. If you have to give out warning notices or make an incident report, be sure you document it all with dates and times. Not all interactions with your tenants will be bad, but it’s just as important to document the mundane and good communications as well. If a tenant requests maintenance, write it down. Include what you did to fix the problem and what the outcome was. You never know when you might have to refer back to a situation sometime down the road, and good notes ensures you always know exactly what happened and when.

4. Take safety precautions

Angry tenants are a real concern for landlords. You can’t please everyone all the time, especially when you’re a rental property owner. Rather than leave anything to chance, use the following tips to protect yourself and your family as much as possible. · Never give out your home address. · Make it possible for tenants to pay rent online · Use a P.O. Box to collect mailed rent payments · Give tenants a Google Voice phone number to call instead of your own personal number. This eliminates constant phone calls at all hours from needy or angry renters because you control whether the phone rings directly to you or not, and you can check your messages when it’s convenient for you. In addition, Google transcribes your voice messages so it’s easy to document everything. · Screen potential renters completely. Conduct a background check – both financial and criminal. Don’t be afraid to verify job and previous landlord references as well. Being a landlord is a tough job wrought with financial and physical risks. Protect yourself using the four tips above for a safe and profitable investment property.

Thinking of Buying a Rural Home? Here are the Pros and Cons

Rural homes have a reputation for being large, airy, and downright homey. The lifestyle is often depicted as laid-back and freeing where quiet reigns king and things move at a slower pace. For some people, country living is ideal. For others, however, it’s boring. Rural living isn’t for everyone, so whether you’re thinking of purchasing a rural home for investment or living, here are a few pros and cons to consider.

Fewer People Means Fewer Public Services

One of the reasons people love living in a rural area is the fact that there are fewer people. Your closest neighbor may be a mile or more away. While this affords plenty of privacy and quiet, it also means there are fewer public services available nearby. If you’ve lived in urban areas all your life and are now considering moving to a rural home, you must realize you’ll need time to adjust to this lesser level of public service nearby.

Fewer Business Opportunities

If you’re planning to live in a rural home, you’ll likely have to make a longer commute to work since there are fewer business opportunities close by. On the other hand, if you’re planning to use the rural home as an investment property, it’s important to have clear expectations when it comes to renting or selling it as it’s likely to sit vacant and/or for sale longer for the same reason.

Fewer Restrictions

Urban properties often come with a plethora of restrictions in terms of property development. Rural properties, on the other hand, often have fewer restrictions, giving the owner more leeway when it comes to land development. Furthermore, when it comes to listing rural homes for sale, the listing regulations are less strict than those for urban properties in cities like Los Angeles or New York.

More Opportunity For Land Development

Strategically purchasing multiple rural properties gives investors more opportunities for extending land development, increasing their profitability as a long-term investment. Should the investor decide not to pursue development, the rural property(ies) typically garners a profit when sold.

Cheaper Purchase Prices

Rural properties are typically cheaper to buy than their urban counterparts. As an investor, you can expect to pay about half what you would pay for an urban home of the same size. This makes it extremely easy to buy more than one property at a time and still stay within your budget.

Less Competition In The Market

Recently, there has been an increase in rural properties for sale with a lack of interest from investors, which means there is less competition in the market for purchasing these properties. This factor also drives the prices lower for these properties, making them prime investment opportunities. It takes the right type of person to reap the benefits of investing in or living in a rural home. If you’re thinking of buying a home in the country for either reason, the pros and cons listed above may help you decide whether or not the purchase is right for you.

5 Colorful Plants You Need For Your Home

If the cold, dreary winter weather has already gotten you down, or you’re just looking for a little kick of color to brighten your otherwise blah décor, here are five colorful houseplants that are sure to brighten your home.

1. Golden Fluorite

This bright green plant has large leaves with shades of yellow, green, and white with a blush of rose-red running down the center of each one. Golden Fluorite can handle the drier indoor air, but it loves to be on the moist side. The trick to keeping this plant happy is to empty the saucer underneath after watering. For an easy to grow plant that offers plenty of appeal, the Golden Fluorite can add color to any room in the home.

2. Guacamole

If you aren’t growing bromeliads yet, this is a great plant to start with. The guacamole is an easy to grow plant that actually has its own cup to hold water. Its leaves are a deep shade of green with intense bands of burgundy running through. This plant loves lots of sunlight and humidity, and as far as watering, simply add a few drops of water to the “cup” in the center and a few drips on the soil, and this plant is happy.

3. Birkin

Philodendrons are some of the easiest houseplants to grow, and the Birkin variety is no different. What makes this one so appealing, however, is the unique pinstriping on each leaf. The variegated pattern is so striking, it can’t help but be part of this list. The Birkin loves lots of indirect sunlight and water on the dry side.

4. Harvest Moon

Got areas of low light that need a boost? Harvest Moon is the perfect choice as it can handle the low light situations in your home. The nice thing about this plant if you’re one that forgets to water your plants, it can stand the top inch of its soil to dry out, but you should never let it go completely dry. Also, you’ll need to mist it from time to time to keep the tips of its leaves from turning brown.

5. Positively Peridot

For a plant that ticks all the boxes, the Positively peridot is it. Riddled with lots of acid green leaves, this plant also has a burst of burgundy splotches and red margins that tease and tantalize the senses by catching the light on tiny hair-like fibers and reflecting it back for a stunning display. To keep this plant healthy and happy, follow four important rules: don’t cover the leaves with soil, keep it away from drafts, water it on the dry side, and place it where it gets bright, indirect light. If you’re looking to add some brightness and color to your home, the plants listed above will do the trick. Easy to care for and stunningly beautiful, you can never go wrong with these colorful houseplants.

Underground vs Aboveground Pools. Which One Should You Get?

Deciding between an underground (inground) and aboveground pool can be difficult. Here are several factors to consider if you’re thinking of installing a pool on your property. 4 Important Factors To Consider Before Getting A Pool

Cost

Underground In general, the cost of an underground pool is going to be significantly higher than that of an aboveground pool. You can expect to shell out $30,000-$70,000 for a complete inground pool. Now, you may have seen ads in your local newspaper that say you can get an inground pool for just $14,999. While it may only cost that to install the pool itself, everything else that goes along with it is extra. These extras include decking around the pool, electrical hookup, grading/landscaping, and accessories like heaters, covers, generators, etc. Aboveground Aboveground pools consist of three main parts: the pool kit, the installation, and the decking (if any). You can expect to pay anywhere from $4,000-$12,000 (installed) for an aboveground pool. This price may not include decking, but it’s likely you’ll spend more on decking than you do for the entire aboveground pool.

Size

Aboveground pools can be just as big as underground pools. The downside to an aboveground pool, however, is that you’re usually limited to a single depth, whereas with an underground pool, there are often varying depths from one end to the other.

Maintenance

When it comes to caring for an inground or aboveground pool, there really is no difference. Both require cleaning and regular maintenance, but if your aboveground pool doesn’t have decking around it, it can be harder to clean from the outside.

Longevity

Aboveground Aboveground pool structures can last up to 15 years, with their liners needing replacing every 5 to 9 years. Inground How long an inground pool lasts depends on the type. Vinyl – a vinyl inground pool’s structure will last a long time, but the liner needs replacing every 5 to 9 years. Fiberglass – fiberglass pools last up to 20 years. Concrete – concrete inground pools last indefinitely but need to be resurfaced every 10-15 years. Getting a pool is very exciting as it gives you a fun way of fighting the heat of summer. If you’re on the fence as to which type of pool is right for you, we hope the information given above helps you make a decision. Good luck and have fun this summer in your new pool!

4 Easy DIYs To Spruce Up Your Kitchen

The kitchen is often the most used room in the house, which means it’s likely the most visible, too. As such, even the smallest changes can have a big impact. If you’re looking for ways to give your kitchen an upgrade without spending a great deal of time or money, check out these cheap and easy kitchen DIYs below for inspiration.

1. Replace The Faucet

One of the easiest upgrades that make a dramatic statement in your kitchen is to replace the faucet with something sculptural-looking and high-tech. The upgrade will make your kitchen seem more high-end almost instantly. To complete this DIY, simply turn the water off underneath the sink and detach the hot and cold hoses from the old faucet. Remove the old faucet and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for installing the new faucet. Once everything is in place and tight, turn the water back on and check for leaks.

2. Redo The Backsplash

A backsplash redo is easy to do and can change the look of the room without changing anything else. A modern choice in kitchen backsplashes is self-adhesive metal tiles. Just cut the tiles to the correct size and shape for the space, then apply them using the pre-applied adhesive on the back.

3. Update The Lighting

One of the most dramatic and effective changes you can make in any room is to update the lighting. Add some under-the-counter LED lighting using double-sided tape or small screws – if you can hang a picture on the wall, you can do this – or change out your old light bulbs for smart bulbs you can control with your phone. This will allow you to change the ambiance in the room to suit the mood with just a touch.

4. Replace The Drawer And Cabinet Pulls

One of the most cost-effective changes you can make in your kitchen to make a big impact is to replace the old drawer and cabinet pulls with new ones. It’s as simple as unscrewing the old hardware and turning in the new ones, so there’s really no excuse not to make this upgrade, especially when most hardware and home improvement stores carry a wide selection of handles and knobs to fit any budget. If you’d like to give your kitchen an updated look without spending a great deal of time or money, try one or all the ideas mentioned above.

4 Ways To Prepare Yourself To Be A Landlord

If you’re thinking of becoming a landlord in order to improve your financial status, don’t get too far ahead of yourself. What sounds simple can be quite overwhelming and difficult. From vacancies, upkeep, and unruly tenants to refinancing hassles and more, being a landlord is hard. Before jumping in with both feet, read over the following list to help prepare for the task at hand.

1. The Right Approach

Real estate investment is a business. You need to approach it as such and devote as much time and energy to it as possible. Even if you’re only planning to have one rental property, it deserves your undivided attention. Should you decide to expand your investment business, you’ll need to devote even more time to attending open houses, researching neighborhoods, monitoring your financial state, and estimating costs in order to find good deals with high return on investment.

2. Dealing With Hassles

Being responsible for a rental property can be challenging, especially when tenants aren’t happy, or things need fixing. You can maintain a cordial relationship with your tenants by being discerning and smart. Avoid potential issues by building a network of reputable contractors you can count on when repairs are necessary. Furthermore, create a schedule for paying bills, insurance, and other expenses so you do so on time, and be sure to keep an emergency fund at the ready for unexpected expenses.

3. Location

It’s much easier to manage a rental property that’s close by than one that’s in another town or state. If you’re very resourceful, you can pull it off, but problems of any kind can arise without warning, and being close to the problem makes it much easier and cheaper to solve.

4. Finding Good Tenants

One of the most challenging aspects of being a landlord is finding good tenants. It pays to do your due diligence when screening prospective renters. Do criminal background and credit checks and speak with previous landlords if possible. Renting to the wrong tenant can end up costing you big in terms of time and money. Should you need to start eviction proceedings, it will be impossible to rent your unit out again until they are finished, which could be several months. Furthermore, should your tenants be unhappy with your services or feel slighted in any way, they could take it out on your property, costing you way more in repairs than they’ve paid with their security deposit. Moral of the story? Don’t take shortcuts when screening potential renters. While the idea of making money being a landlord sounds easy, the reality is, it’s quite challenging. If you’re thinking of becoming a landlord, be sure to consider the four points above so you’re prepared.

5 Things That Will Probably Happen If You Don’t Change Your Air Filters

The average home is filled with microscopic particles that float through the air. These particles – pet dander, dead skin, cooking residue, etc. – can clog an HVAC unit’s air filters over time, leading to an increase in utility costs, potential damage to equipment, and poor indoor air quality. Experts recommend changing your home’s air filters regularly (every 1-3 months, on average) to avoid the following.

1. Spending Excess Money in Energy Costs

A dirty filter on your HVAC system can increase your monthly energy bill significantly without you benefiting from the unit’s operation. When the filter is dirty, it doesn’t allow air to flow through properly, which means less air moving through your home’s vents. As a result of the ineffective air flow, the air that does reach the rooms in your home is less effective at altering the temperature inside the home than it should be. The end result: your HVAC system operates for longer periods more often to achieve the desired temperature and you pay more in energy costs.

2. Your HVAC System is Less Effective and More Prone to Damage

Dirty air filters trap air flow and can’t effectively trap air particles as they should. As such, these particles collect inside your home and inside your HVAC system to the point they can damage the components inside the unit. An HVAC system has a life expectancy of about 15 years, but without regular filter changes, it won’t last that long.

3. It Takes Longer to Heat or Cool Your Home

If your HVAC system has clogged air filters, its ability to move air to all areas of your home is diminished. Rooms further away from the unit may not be as hot or as cool as other rooms closer to the unit, which means the unit has to work harder for longer to compensate.

4. Air Becomes Stagnant

Decreased air flow throughout your home causes air to become stagnant. Stagnant air leads to more dust on surfaces and potential mold/mildew growth caused by increased moisture in the air. Sometimes air can become so stagnant that it actually changes the color of furniture and walls inside the home.

5. Air Quality Diminishes

It’s a known fact that inside air quality is many times worse than outdoor air. As technology has improved over the years to increase energy conservation, which is good for the planet and our wallets, it’s made indoor air quality worse, especially when people fail to change out their home’s air filters. Since homes and buildings are sealed so well these days, poor indoor air just recirculates throughout the home. For those sensitive to it, this can lead to allergy-type symptoms and an increase in asthma-related illnesses. Remembering to change out your home’s air filters can have a dramatic effect on the indoor air quality, as well as your monthly energy costs and the value of your home.

6 Ways To Create A Healthy Home

A majority of the population spends as much as 90 percent of their lives indoors. Two-thirds of that is spent inside the home. Sadly, very few of us consider how much our homelife impacts our wellbeing. With just a few changes inside the home, you can create a healthier space that promotes good mood and improves relationships. Here are a few suggestions.

1. Balance Social And Private Spots

Studies suggest that the key to happiness resides in the strong bonds we form with family and friends. As such, it’s important to have spots throughout the home that are conducive to socializing. Sharing a regular meal around the dining table is ideal. Alternately, too much social can often lead to conflict, so be sure you have areas where people can get away to be alone when they need.

2. Have A Dedicated Workspace

Today’s digital world allows many of us to work from home. Unfortunately, most people who do telecommute don’t have a dedicated workspace. To create a healthier work and home environment, it’s best to have a separate workspace that you can close the door on at the end of the day. Ideally, the space will include natural lighting, a few green plants, and décor you find stimulating or pleasing.

3. Let Natural Light In

Research shows that a flood of natural light instantly improves mood and maintains good health. Adding natural light is relatively easy. Simply wash your windows more often and pull curtains back. Consider replacing solid wood doors with glass ones to allow light to filter through from one room to another. Allowing as much natural light as possible to infiltrate your home helps regulate sleep patterns and balance hormone levels so you feel better overall.

4. Heat Your Home Properly

A home that’s heated properly can have a dramatic impact on your health and your wallet. Cold, drafty, poorly heated rooms can be uncomfortable and weaken your immune system. The first step is to ensure your home is insulated properly. This will help the heat stay in and keep temperatures consistent. Consider installing in-floor heating as it delivers a more consistent heat. Alternately, installing a wood burning stove or a heat source with fake flickering flames will give your home a feeling of warmth and comfort.

5. Reduce Noise Levels

Too much noise can have devastating consequences on our health and wellbeing. From being unable to recuperate from stress to not being able to sleep properly, constant noise is a bad thing. While it’s very difficult to eliminate noise completely, you can soundproof areas of your home by strategically placing furniture or installing soundproof doors and floors. Try to have at least one spot in your home that doesn’t include any electronics to give family members a space of peace and quiet.

6. Eliminate Clutter

Cutting down on clutter in every room of your home can greatly reduce stress. Implement storage space to organize belongings and get rid of things you no longer need or use. A more minimalist lifestyle can save time and drastically improve your overall mood.

Services You Should Get Before Moving In

Moving into a new home is an exciting time, but that shouldn’t keep you from paying attention to possible issues with the property. If your home is more than a few years old, it’s likely there could be issues you can’t see. As such, it’s a good idea to consider a few professional services before moving your family in.

Electrical

Older homes sometimes have outdated electrical components that are inefficient and potentially dangerous. Old wiring can cause electrical fires in some cases, so it’s important you hire an electrician to inspect the home’s electrical system and correct any problems before you move in. In many cases, a homeowner won’t be able to sell a home with outdated electrical components, but it’s your responsibility to make sure everything is up to code and safe before moving into your new home.

Plumbing

Small plumbing issues can become big headaches if they aren’t addressed quickly. A plumber can inspect your home’s water and sewer pipes and fix any issues he finds. In some cases, you might be able to fix small problems (like a leak under the kitchen sink) yourself, but for a good bill of health on the home’s entire plumbing system, it’s best to hire a professional.

Heating And Cooling

Many homes have an HVAC system that needs to be inspected regularly. Before moving into your new home, this is a necessity to ensure the system heats and cools your home efficiently and that the ductwork is clear of any allergens and/or debris. You can do some of the work yourself (changing filters, clearing the area around the unit), but to ensure everything is in proper working order, it’s best to have an HVAC technician come in and inspect the unit. The technician will change the filters, ensure the unit is working well, check the thermostat, and clean out the ductwork as needed. This will ensure your unit is as energy-efficient as possible and that your family doesn’t suffer allergies due to poor air quality in the home.

Security

Moving into a new home can be somewhat scary since you don’t know the area very well. To help alleviate you and your family’s unease, installing a security system might be a good idea. Today’s security systems are very interactive. They can be controlled using your smartphone and you can receive instant notifications of any emergencies while you’re away. It may also be possible to monitor your residence via a streaming video feed when you’re not home. Having a security system may help your family feel more at ease in your new home, especially if you train everyone on how to use it properly so they can feel in control of their new surroundings. You’re probably very excited about moving into your new home but be sure you have the above-mentioned services conducted ahead of your actual move-in date. Doing so will ensure you and your family will be as comfortable and as happy as possible in your new home.

Market Outlook for February 2023

Sellers Market activity continues to be moderate as we enter 2023. While some buyers have come to accept the higher interest rates. Others are need based purchases; moving here to the North Okanagan after selling their home in another area of BC or out of province, along with changes in family dynamics. Interestingly enough due to the lack of inventory in certain segments of the market, for example well priced single family homes with suites are still able to generate multiple offers with some opting to wait a few days after listing their home to review any and all offers. The benchmark price for single family homes in North Okanagan saw a moderate decrease of 5.5% in January 2023 when compared to January 2022. The benchmark price for single family homes now sits at $696,500. In all other categories of housing there was a slight increase. With townhomes coming in at 7.8% increase when compared year-over-year and condos 5.8% increase. Looking into 2023 we anticipate inventory levels to continue to increase giving more choice to buyers. The overall affect will be a more balanced market between buyers and sellers. Buyers Whether you are looking to jump into home ownership or if you are planning to move from one property to another, the first step I would recommend is getting pre-approved with a reputable mortgage broker or bank.  This will help you be successful in setting the expectations for your affordability range and guide us to showing you the homes that would be most suitable for you. Reach out to a Value Plus 3% Real Estate agent for a list of local mortgage brokers who can set you up for success! To view the full release of market stats click on the link below January 2023 – Data Release    

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