Spring-Cleaning Hacks That Will Last All Season

So, it’s that time of year again when we get down on our hands and knees to scrub our home top to bottom. Sponge? Check. Eco-friendly cleaning solutions? Check. Rubber gloves? Check. Ready, set, clean. You step back to admire your hard work only to realize your home doesn’t look any different after hours of scouring.

Avoid the spring-cleaning blues. Put the duster down and actually make a visual difference to your home. Remember that feeling when you just moved in? It’s like a new car smell. Everything had its place, décor was new and you had just what you needed. Find that home again! It’s simply a change of mindset, look beyond the mop to the tasks that will actually transform your home for the entire season. Follow these spring-cleaning hacks to a cleaner, brighter home:

  • Out With the Poinsettias: Replace houseplants with fresh spring plants from a local farmer’s market. Fresh plants help improve the flow of oxygen in your home, bringing in that clean spring-like air.
  • Toss the Pillows: In the spring, it’s time to put heavy fabrics, throw blankets and extra toss pillows in storage. Less things and textures will make you feel cool and clean.
  • Raise Your Kids: Beds, that is. Purchase bed raisers for your kids’ rooms to create under-the-bed storage. You can store everything from shoes, laundry basket, books to any bulky items that might otherwise clutter their room.
  • Sort the Soups: Done with winter’s comfort foods? Sort through your kitchen cabinets and box up canned foods you have not used in three months. Donate them to your local food bank. An organized pantry creates space for fresh spring meals and perhaps a cleaner diet.
  • Seasonal Style Assessment: Take a look at your winter shoes, coats and purses. Will they make it another season? If so, remove them from your closet and put them in storage. If they won’t make it another season, donate them. And, no shopping for new spring clothes! That is until you make room for them. Get rid of an old item for every new item. Then say hello to your organized closet!
  • Clear Clutter Magnets: What are the places in your home that attract the most clutter? By the front door? That special junk drawer? Bedside table? Coat closet? Identify your clutter magnets and pick one per weekend to de-clutter.

To de-clutter, empty everything out and create four piles: keep, give away, throw away and store. If you can’t remember the last time you used something, get rid of it! Only put the items back that you really need. Create “homes” for items that end up attracted to each spot. For example, make a basket for each family member so little Logan has a place to dump his school books when he walks in the door. Stack the baskets close by their former drop spot. Lastly, take a picture of your new “anti-clutter magnet” and place it on the inside of a drawer or underneath a table to refer to, so you can keep it that way! You will be amazed at how happy that clutter-free spot makes you feel every time you walk by.

Now step back, take a deep breath and soak in the clear clean space of your refreshed home. When your friends come over, they will be sure to ask for the name of the cleaning service you used!

Starting Fresh: How to Buy a New Home Construction

What could be more exciting than living in a brand new home? The blank slate can be thrilling: living in a place no one has lived before, a home with fresh paint, untouched carpets, and even fresh grass that no one has trodden!

While most of the homes bought and sold are preexisting, more and more buyers are interested in new house construction. There’s no doubt moving into a newly built home is exciting, but this sort of transaction comes with its own set of challenges as well.

Find out all the basics of what you’ll need to know to get started.

Understanding the Types of New Construction Homes for Sale

There are a few different types of new construction homes you might consider. They fall into three main categories:

  1. A home that is pre-built according to design templates
  2. A semi-custom home: the bulk of the house is built and you have the option to pick a few design elements, finishes, and extra upgrades
  3. A fully custom home: you have input on the design from the ground up

If you’d love to be involved in every stage of the building process, an entirely custom home could be a great fit. On the other hand, if you’re ready to move right in and don’t want to bother with all the design details, buying a pre-built home is likely the better option.

Select the Specs of Your Home

Now that you know what kind of new house construction you’re interested in, you want to determine some details about the home of your dreams. Here are a few things to consider:

  1. Location: Is it as close to (or far from) the city as you prefer? Will you have a reasonable commute (if that’s a must-have)?
  2. Budget: Will this home fit into your budget—especially if you have the option for upgrades?
  3. Size: Does the home have the size and number of rooms you need? Do you plan on growing?
  4. Neighborhood: Is it still under construction? Do you have ample lawn space or privacy? Are there specific, desired amenities such as a swimming pool?

Many new construction homes for sale are in subdivisions. It’s a good idea to drive down and investigate them on your own and see if it has what you’re looking for.

Also, you want to be sure to find out as much as you can about the builder. Start by looking online: search for any reviews, complaints, or lawsuits. This simple step can help you avoid a lot of potential headaches down the road!

Find a Real Estate Agent

Most builders have an agent, but remember that this agent is there with a goal to sell the property. Before you speak with any builders, hire your own real estate agent to make sure your needs and desires are the number one priority.

Another advantage of taking this path is that your agent may have other insights that the builder would not. An agent will know all the unique processes and challenges of how to buy a new construction home better than anyone.

Work with a Lawyer

More often than not, a new construction home will have a more complicated contract than your typical house sale. There are all sorts of details you’ll need to know such information on warranties on the home itself and appliances within the home.

With the amount of paperwork involved in buying a new home, it’s always a good idea to run all the paperwork past a lawyer familiar with real estate language.

Don’t Forget the Home Inspection

Just because the home is a new build doesn’t mean you should skip getting a home inspection. Some new homes can have their own set of problems to watch out for. Insist on getting a comprehensive home inspection before you even begin the price negotiation.

Talk to your real estate agent today to start ironing out all the details of buying a new home.

Simple Landscaping Upgrades to Attract Prospective Buyers

A home can be modern and cozy inside, but without curb appeal, potential buyers will lose interest before they step inside. An attractive, well-kept lawn is one of the first things people will notice. The good news is that upgrading an existing lawn doesn’t have to take months, and it doesn’t need to cost a fortune. Here are a few simple upgrades to help boost your curb appeal.

Remove Weeds

If weeds have gained the upper hand, pulling is still the tried and true method for getting rid of weeds in a hurry. If the act of pulling the weeds won’t do the trick, you’ll need to attack them with an herbicide. Always use chemicals strategically and make sure to use the correct amount–different weeds require different treatment.

Declutter

Take a stroll around your lawn and pick up anything that doesn’t belong. Take a wheelbarrow if you have a lot of branches, twigs or other debris. Pick up children’s toys and gardening tools. Put hoses away, or invest in an attractive roller.

Overseed

Rake over brown spots to remove dead grass, then spread grass seed. For a more enhanced effect, aerate the soil before overseeding to help break up the soil and allow nutrients to get to the root of the grass more efficiently.

Mow

Taller grass stays green longer than short grass. Set your mower relatively high and take a little off the top every three to five days. Be sure the blade is sharp. A dull blade tears the grass and leaves ragged, brown edges.

Fertilize

Nitrogen-rich fertilizer will green up your lawn quickly, make sure to use the right amount according to your soil and grass type. A little nitrogen is a good thing, but too much may damage your lawn. Limit this trick to once or twice a year. Be sure and water well immediately after applying any type of fertilizer.

Iron is also helpful in turning a drab grass into a lush and healthy green lawn. Mineral supplements can be inexpensive and can be found at your local garden center or nursery. 

Freshen up

Refresh any flower beds around your lawn by laying down a new think layer of mulch. The deep tones of fresh mulch will help compliment the more potent hues within the rest of the landscaping, making everything else pop. Fresh mulch is relatively inexpensive and doesn’t take too much time to apply yourself.

You can also consider investing in an inexpensive edger to smooth out and even out the edges of your lawn. This is a quick and easy way to make your landscaping look trim and neat.

Add color

Flower beds and container gardens are a great way to add a pop of color into your landscaping. Plant a few cheerful annuals such as geraniums, petunias or marigolds. Clean up any exterior furniture or give it a fresh coat of paint. Don’t be afraid to use bright, bold colors.

Home Improvements that Pay Off

While there are many things you can do to increase the value of your home, such as sprucing up the landscaping and giving the exterior a fresh coat of paint, there are a few specific areas that can truly skyrocket your home value, and they are explained here.

The kitchen is appropriately called the “heart of the home” as it is the focal point of the house, and it needs to shine.  If your kitchen needs a complete remodeling, consider doing it as you will recoup the expense put into this important area.  However, even minor renovations can make a big impact aesthetically and on the value overall.  You can give the cabinets a fresh coat of paint, replace the older appliances with modern, streamlined ones, and put in a new stove with induction cooking.  This will give the kitchen a fresh, new look, and will get you a better price when you are ready to sell.

Another area that can greatly increase the value of your home is the master, specifically the master bathroom and closet. Buyers do not want to settle when it comes to the master. A great house with an outdated master bathroom and small, disorganized closet cannot get the sales price it deserves. It is worth splurging on beautiful marble and high-end fixtures for the master. Bathrooms can be completely renovated for less than you would imagine. So, get a few estimates from contractors and architects-you may be surprised that it is much more affordable than you thought, and it will greatly increase the appeal and value of your home.

How to Make Space for a New Pet at Home

Getting a furry friend is always an exciting time, however, it’s definitely a good idea to make a few tweaks to your home and take some precautions to ensure a happy, healthy life for the newest member of your family. Here are a few starter tips whether you’re getting a cat or dog.

 

In the kitchen. The biggest danger in the kitchen is when pets help themselves to toxic foods left out on the counter, or worse, from the trash. Just like humans, raw meat of any kind can be dangerous for them to ingest, as well as chocolate, onions and grapes. Some of the best ways to prevent them from eating human food are to keep counters clear, store food in hard-to-reach upper cabinets, use a pet-proof trash can and put up a pet gate during food prep and mealtime.

 

 

In the bathroom. Toilet bowl water is commonly contaminated with chemical cleaners, so you probably don’t want your pet drinking or falling into it. You can use the same toilet locks used with young children to prevent this. It’s also smart to keep bathroom counters clear of small accessories, such as hair ties, bobby pins, jewelry and makeup. Keep cleaning solutions, both here, in the kitchen and the laundry room, out of reach too. If you’re prone to keeping a dirty laundry pile in the bathroom, be sure to keep loose clothes off the floor so they don’t get torn or chewed up.

 

Lastly, especially for big dogs, you may want to consider integrating a pet washing station into the bathroom, mudroom or laundry room. This can be done by building out an entirely new setup or installing an extra ledge in an existing, spacious shower. Smaller dogs and cats can be easily washed in oversized utility or even kitchen sinks.

 

 

In the living room. One of the biggest concerns here is ensuring your pet doesn’t claw up your furniture. Leather and synthetic fibers are great options for sofas since they can easily be wiped clean, and carpet tiles are great alternatives to regular carpets and area rugs because you can replace any tile individually for a small price if it gets damaged.

Many pets love having a great view of the outdoors. If you have expansive windows nearby, set up a nice lounging area for them by putting a pet bed or cushion along a window seat. In addition to that, many pets also love cozying up by the fire. Be sure to protect them from getting hurt or burned by an open fire with a simple screen.

 

 

In the home office. Protect yourself against having to use the age-old excuse of “my dog ate my homework” by filing loose papers away in a cabinet or binder and away from pesky paws. Another concern here is exposed bundles of cords, which can electrocute your furry friend if they chew on them. Tuck them away or cover them with concealer cables, which have the added benefit of helping declutter your workspace.

 

 

Give them their own space. Although you’ll probably want to spend most of your day snuggling your pet, it’s also important to give them a space of their own. Their cozy corner can easily be integrated into any low-traffic zone such as the laundry room or garage where you can arrange their bed, favorite toys and food and water bowls. Crates and litter boxes have come a long way from their traditional bulky look and can now be hidden under a desk, integrated under the staircase or custom made to match your room design.

 

 

The great outdoors. Just like many of us, dogs and cats love basking in the sun and exploring nature. Consider installing a pet door so they can go in and out as they please. Add a fence or gate around your yard so they don’t run off and get lost. It’s also a good idea to have a boundary or cover for outdoor features, such as pools, ponds and fire pits, so they don’t fall in and injure themselves. Finally, exercise caution when planting garden favorites, such as daffodils, tulips and hydrangeas, since they can be toxic to dogs and cats if ingested.

 

 

Integrating technology. It’s always important to show your furry friend some love. If your budget allows, invest in one of these new technologies to keep your pet happy and healthy. Automatic pet doors that are linked to a device on your pet’s collar beat traditional versions by blocking wildlife, rodents and even snow or rain from coming in too. GPS smart collars also help keep your pet safe and able to locate in worst case scenarios. Lastly, automated water and food feeders are great alternatives to manual feedings, especially for people with busy lifestyles, and can even help your pet diet and lose weight.

The Lazy Guide to Spring Cleaning at Home

After a long winter, nothing feels better than having a clean and sparkling home. But, actually jumping into a deep clean is another story. Here are some simple tips to whip your home into shape without breaking a sweat:

#1 Wall Cleaning

Magic Eraser is your best bet for tackling walls — it can spot clean anything from splatters to crayon marks. It’s tough enough to reach the cobwebs that collect in the corners of your walls and ceiling. You can also cover the bristles of a broom with a cloth or old T-shirt and use it to knock down any dusty spots.

#2 Carpets and Rugs

Take a little more time vacuuming the high-traffic areas of your house. (Make sure you don’t forget to spot treat any stubborn stains with a stain-removal product.) If your rug or carpet has lingering odors, sprinkle some baking soda over it and let it sit for a few hours. Vacuum up the baking soda and you’ll find the odors have disappeared.

#3 Mattress Ideas

Give your mattress cover a thorough cleaning in the washing machine — don’t forget to throw in a cup of white vinegar to boost the cleaning process. Sprinkle baking soda on your mattress while you’re washing the cover. You can vacuum it up later when you’re making the bed.

#4 Shower Care

Don’t knock yourself out trying to clean glass shower doors. Add a couple drops of water to your dryer sheets and use them to wipe down your shower doors. You can even let your showerhead clean itself overnight while you sleep. Simply tie a bag filled with white vinegar around your showerhead and let it soak overnight. Remove the bag in the morning for a non-clogged shower experience.

#5 Toilet Scrubbing

Have water stains built up in your toilet? Cola can help you attack these stains with little effort.  Just pour some in the toilet, let it sit for several minutes, then flush.

#6 Oven Shine

If you have an oven with a self-cleaning feature, spring is a great time to finally run that cycle. Otherwise, mix baking soda with a bit of water and use it to quickly clean up grease and various other spills inside the oven.

#7 Clutter Solutions

When you don’t have time to clean but you need your house to look presentable, tackling clutter is the quickest way to create the illusion of a clean house. Zip through each room of the house and put anything that doesn’t belong into a basket. This strategy requires very little work and can make a big difference in your home’s appearance.

Conclusion

Although these tips won’t completely eliminate the effort involved in spring cleaning, they’ll make the job a whole lot easier. Spring is a time of new beginnings — if you use even a couple of these ideas, your home will enjoy a clean and fresh start to the upcoming season.

Size Matters: Finding the Perfect Size Home for You

If you’re house shopping, there’s probably one question that’s been on your mind often: “What size home should I buy?” At a glance, the answer seems obvious: as big as you can afford! But that’s only a small piece of the puzzle. Home size matters on many levels from personal preference to resale value, future plans, your budget, and more.

How do you find the ideal home size for you and your family? Here are three things you need to consider:

The Truth About Square Footage

A foot is a foot, right? When it comes to the square footage of your future home that may not be the case. Measuring the size of a house isn’t incredibly precise. More often than not, the size will change depending on which appraiser is measuring and what mechanism they’re using to determine the square footage: measuring tape, laser measure, or eyeball. The reality is that there are no universal standards when it comes to measuring your home size.

What does this mean for you? You need to choose your home size not by the numbers but by the feel. Don’t put too much stock in the listing size on paper, but instead find out in person if each room, bathroom, and living area is large enough for your needs. It’s not about how other individuals answer the question, “What is a good sized house?” It’s about you, your family, and how big a place feels in person.

Your Budget

While your budget isn’t the only thing you should consider, it needs to be one of the critical factors in determining your ideal home size. And that may be little more complicated than you think. What matters when it comes to your budget?

  • Loan Size: The larger the house, the more expensive—most of the time. Make sure the average house size of your real estate listings fits with your pre-approved loan budget.
  • Monthly Budget: Large houses are expensive to keep up. As you increase your square footage expect to pay more in electricity, water, gas, cleaning, and more. If you have a tight allocation for monthly expenses, don’t go overboard on a large house without factoring in these other costs.
  • Your Future: Are you planning to have more kids? Do you need a new car? Are you counting on getting a raise at work? If you’re expecting your financial situation to change, make sure your home budget fits the modifications.

Your Preferences and Needs

Your particular wants and needs should have the most significant impact on the home you choose. Make sure you’re truthful and honest with yourself about your expectations and needs. For example, if you eat out regularly and hate cooking, there’s no need to spend on a gourmet kitchen! You’d be better served looking for a home with a smaller kitchen and a bigger living room.

To help you determine your preferences, here are ten questions you should ask yourself:

  1. Do you like small and cozy or do you need room to spread out?
  2. How many people are in your family and how much space does each person need?
  3. Do you have any hobbies or jobs that require extra space? (If you work from home, you’ll need an office. If cars are a passion, you’ll want a more substantial garage)
  4. How often do you have visitors over? (If you have parties every few weeks and relatives visit a few times a year, you might want more space for guests)
  5. Are you planning to have more kids or have an elderly relative move in with you?
  6. What size of house have you been excited about in the past?
  7. How much storage do you need? (Closet space and built-ins can be a big space saver)
  8. How large is your furniture, and how much do you have? (If you have a king-sized bed, you want a big master bedroom)
  9. What’s your five-year plan? (Upgrading your home to a larger size can be difficult; make sure the home you choose can last for years)
  10. How much outdoor space do I want?

The key to purchasing the right-sized home for you is being realistic. Make sure you really sit down with your family to discuss what you need, want, and can afford. Then, ask your local Coldwell Banker real estate agent to help you search for the perfect sized house for you.