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How to Pack for Your Move to a New House

Moving can be stressful; it can be difficult to know where to start. Luckily, there are some ways you can pack that will make the process easier to handle.

  • Sort out what you want to bring with you, give away/donate, and throw away.
  • Pack an overnight bag with your essentials
  • Pack the things you’ll need first in a clear plastic bin. You’ll be able to differentiate it from the cardboard boxes, and also see what’s in it.
  • Wrap delicate breakables in clothing, blankets, and towels to save on bubble wrap, and as an easy way to “pack” clothes. Pack drinking glasses and other small breakables in socks.
  • Label each box (preferably on more than one side) with what’s inside, and which room it needs to be placed in. An option is to color-code each box based on where it needs to go. You could also number each box, so that you’ll know if you misplaced or lost any of them in the moving process.
  • Place a cotton ball or cotton pad in powder makeup so they won’t crumble.
  • Cover the openings of your toiletries with saran wrap and close them so they won’t leak.
  • Pack plates vertically so they’ll break less easily.
  • Keep your dresser drawers full, and cover with Press ‘n Seal wrap so they stay in place. You can also use this for your jewelry displays.
  • When you have to dis-mantle electronic cord connections, screws, hooks, etc., put them in individual plastic bags and label what they go to.
  • Take pictures where the cords connect to your electronics to recall how to put them back together.
  • Pack empty suitcases, bins, hampers, baskets, trunks, ottomans, etc.
  • While your clothes are still hanging, put a trash bag around their bottom to carry them easier. You won’t have to put the hangers back in them, and they’ll be grouped just like they were before.
  • Vacuum-seal off-season clothing to save space.
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How to Not Get Scammed by a Home Contractor

The majority of contractors are good, honest people, but there are a few bad apples in every crowd. Here’s how to weed out a bad contractor from the good.

  • Be wary of door-to-door solicitations. Sometimes contractors will walk door-to-door and claim they see things wrong with your house that they can fix. This works all too often, and it sometimes includes the spiel in which they tell you they were working on a home in the neighborhood and have extra materials they can sell to you cheaply.
  • Be wary of limited-time deals. It’s okay for them to offer deals to you, but it’s not okay for them to pressure you into deciding on them right on the spot.
  • Research your contractor before hiring. Don’t just ask your neighbors, friends, and family for references, but use resources like Better Business Bureau and Angie’s List too.
  • Make sure they can provide references.
  • Check for proper licensing and insurance coverage.
  • Get at least three in-home estimates. And if a contractor refuses to see the project in person, that’s a red flag-it’s nearly impossible to get a good feel for the project‘s extensiveness over the phone. Also, be careful if the prices of the various estimates are all over the place, or if one of them is vastly under the rest.
  • Always have a contract before they start any work. Anything that’s agreed upon verbally should also be put in writing, even if it’s something that crops up in the middle of the job.
  • If the work requires a permit, be wary if they attempt to have you retrieve it from the county. Actual contractors do this themselves.
  • Be cautious of “unforeseen problems” that now happen raise the cost of a project. these could be legit, but sometimes they aren’t. Make sure the contract has a procedure for this. You can get a second opinion from an inspector, etc. as well.
  • Don’t pay in full up front. It’s normal for them to request for you to pay some of the total ahead of time, but usually not much of it. You’ll then most likely pay in phases as the work gets completed. If subcontractors are involved, make sure they’re getting paid by the contractor, or else they could come after you.  Have the contractor list each of the subcontractors, how much and when they’ll be paid, and proof of payment afterwards. Last, don’t pay for materials that haven’t arrived yet.
  • Be careful if they ask you to pay them for the materials instead of the company supplying them.
  • Be wary if they try to sell you something that you already have that’s in good condition.
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How to Avoid Homebuyer’s Remorse

The magnitude of buying a house and considering all the choices involved in the process can be overwhelming. Avoid homebuyer’s remorse with these tips.

  1. Before you buy, consider these things to avoid homebuyer’s remorse in the future:
    ~The space that you need and want in a home. Think about which rooms you’ll actually use. It may seem like a formal living room is nice to have in theory, but if it’s just another room to clean that you only use once a year, you may want to re-consider. Before you buy, think about the amount of space you can realistically clean, cool, and heat. Also, figure in the size of your furniture and how it will fit into those rooms.
    ~If you can expand that house if you’d want to one day. If that’s even a remote option for the future, then make sure that house’s architecture even makes that possible.
    ~If you will grow tired of stairs (or vice versa). Will you eventually dread carrying your laundry down two flights of stairs to the basement?
    ~If you actually want that kitchen island. Some people physically work best when they’re unimpeded by that barrier in between their two counters.
    ~If there’s anything missing. Did a previous owner take something out that would normally be present? Is the bathroom missing a tub, and would you miss it if it is?
    ~If you’ll really still like that home trend a year or two from now. Don’t buy a house based around its trendy style, since trends come and go.
    ~If you’ll still be happy with that pool in the future. Pools are expensive to maintain, and they’re also time-consuming due to maintenance and cleaning.
  2. If you find a home you’re interested in, ask yourself these things to avoid potential homebuyer’s remorse:
    ~Does it include the most important things on the top of your wish list?
    ~What qualities made the house stand out from the others you looked at?
    ~Did you find other houses that met your needs, or was this one an outlier?
    ~Is it realistic to think you can find a “better” house?
  3. If you go under contract on a house, stop looking at others. You might have found things that are different from yours, but maintain your perspective of why you initially chose yours. Remind yourself of what was special about the house a few days ago, and ask yourself what has really changed about it in that short of a time.
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How to Keep Your Grown Trees Healthy

Trees are beneficial not just for the look of your yard, but for their shade, and their benefits to wildlife and other plants. Protect them using these tips.

  • Know the type of trees you have, and their needs based on those. What type of soil is best for them to grow in? How much water do they need to get? Are they tolerant to drought? What are they sensitive to; strong wind, drought, pests, etc.?
  • Protect their roots: Healthy roots=healthy trees, so soil can affect their health. Compacted soil is detrimental; they need air space for their roots to receive adequate water and nutritional absorption. Imagine an imaginary circle on the ground around your tree, with its border based on where the branches above extend to. Don’t change the soil inside of this area right around the tree; it can truly affect its health.
  • Protect their bark: Bark protects trees from things like fungal and bacterial infections. Be aware of nearby sprinkler heads, branches that keep rubbing together, lawn equipment, cars, and anything else that could potentially harm them.
  • Protect them from drought: Usually grown trees have an easier time withstanding against water shortages and drought, but you still should probably take precautionary actions. They won’t need extra water in winter unless they’re very young. Give them infrequent, deep waterings in all other seasons if there’s a drought, and make sure their soil stays healthy.
  • Prune them if needed: Winter is the best time to prune your grown trees. If you’re not sure how to do this, get a professional’s help. Be aware of any branches that are crossing and rubbing together, broken and dead branches, and especially low branches.
  • Make sure their soil is healthy: Place a two to four-inch layer of mulch or leaves from your yard around your trees. This enriches the soil, aids nutrient absorption, and lets the soil retain moisture. If you don’t want to use mulch or fallen leaves, you can plant grasses or ground-covering, shade-tolerant plants; these will do what the mulch would have done. Be sure to use plants with spreading roots so they won’t compete with the trees’.
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What to Think About When You Remodel Your Laundry Room

There are more options than you may think to change up your laundry room. Here are some things to think about if you plan on remodeling it.

  1. How do you want the space to function differently than before? Do you want to add storage? Do you want to add a sink? What about a creating new look? As long as you know what it is you want to change or add, you’ll have a clearer vision for the process.
  2. How do you do laundry? How often do you do it, and how does that impact your decision for the remodel? Also, the way you perform the processes of washing, drying, and folding clothes will paint a clearer picture of how much room you need in the laundry room, and how you need to arrange everything in it. Where do you fold your clothes; will you need more space if you fold them in the laundry room? How many people do you have in your family? Will you need space for more hampers? Will you need drying racks or ironing boards for your clothes? Do you need extra lighting put in, if there’s not enough natural light now?
  3. How many appliances do you have, and where do they need to be placed? This might depend on the heights of members in your family, if stacking them is an option. On this same note, do you want top or front-loading appliances?
  4. Do your research and set a budget accordingly. Don’t just research costs and intensity of renovation options, but a contractor if you’ll need one as well.
  5. Decide on a style. After you’ve decided the main things, the details can fall into place. How important is it to you to make the room look extra nice? What colors, textures, or patterns do you want? Is there a theme you like? Are tile and wallpaper options you like?
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What Not to Put in Your New House

Having certain home items hanging around sounds better in theory than it actually is. Here’s what not to include in your new house.

Too Many Knick-Knacks or Items Purely for Decoration
A room can quickly become too cluttered simply from having oodles of objects everywhere. Try and pare it down if this is the case for you. Obviously, the essentials are the most important to buy/have first. If you do buy some extra non-essentials, spring for mirrors, plants, and art first. These are always classics, and you won’t have to rotate them out for something that just became “trendy” twenty minutes ago. They are staples in making a room appear bigger, “fresher”, and more vibrant.

“Organized” Clutter
Don’t just accommodate your clutter by placing it in organizers that you buy. Actually go through and really eliminate the essentials from the rest. What do you actually use? How many times a year? This will save you some money, because you’ll need less organizer space to fit what’s left. Hooks and baskets can be used both for decoration and for functionality.

Rarely Used Dishware & Appliances
Dishware that is “themed” with holiday motif can be more of a hindrance than a benefit if it takes up too much space when compared with how often you actually use it. This also applies to fine china, if you have too much of it. It may be a good idea to stick to more classic wooden and white ceramic dishware. Also, be sure to really ask yourself how often you’ll use appliances before you buy them. That big $400 juicer sounds good in theory, but will you really be using it every day 2 months from now, like you tell yourself you will? Single-purpose things like this can create this dilemma.

Anything “Trendy” That Will be Out of Date Soon
You may be tempted to spring for that ~super cute~ cutlery to introduce into your new house, but a basic, elegant design will be better in the long run. This applies to nearly anything. Sure, you’ll probably change your decor up some over time, but don’t fall prey to the newest trend every 5 minutes. You’ll save space and money.

Too Many of Any One Thing
Are you one of those people with 3 linen closets full of towels? You really don’t need that many duplicates of anything, unless you have a family of ten. This applies, but isn’t limited to, kitchen utensils, throw pillows, blankets, coffee mugs, etc.

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How to Maximize a Small Garden

It may seem like you’re stuck with limited options to make your small garden look good, but there are actually more options than you would think.

  • Have pots overflowing with plants. Use different shapes, sizes, and textures of pots, planters, tubs, buckets, and window boxes, and use plants with different shapes and colors (You could even use dwarf trees!) You could also stack these to create tiers. All of these create an array of focal points and depth.
  • Raised beds in planters: These are an option if what you want to grow in them needs a different soil, fertilizer, etc. than the surrounding area. It’s also a way to visually “break up” an herb garden or whatever else from the rest of the garden. Another option is to use tray tables. You could also stack planters on top of each other against a wall or fence, or put them inside gutters fixed to a fence.
  • Up-cycle tires by planting things in them.
  • Hang or place small terrariums around your garden to create more height and interesting elements to look at.
  • Hang colanders with plants for a vintage-y look.
  • Fill a birdbath with succulents.
  • Hang a shoe organizer or apron with segmented pockets over a wall or trellis, and fill the compartments with small plants.  Another option is to attach small potted plants (or plants in tin cans) to a vertical pallet, re-purposed shutters, or wooden ladder.
  • Lay pallets down and grow herbs or plants in the slots to “organize” them.
  • Re-purpose a dresser or table by putting plants inside the drawers.
  • Re-purpose a chair by removing its seat to replace with a plant.
  • Have a climbing plant on a patio wall or trellis.
  • Grow ivy over a fence to hide a part of the garden or yard from sight; it will seem bigger if you aren’t sure where it ends.
  • Use ivy and creeping plants to cover large portions of your garden. It’s less maintenance, and can make it appear larger.
  • Lay stepping stones or large cement tiles in places with a lot of shade; it’s easier than maintaining patchy grass. small garden small garden small garden
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Questions to Ask Sellers When Looking at Houses to Buy

There are many details involved in determining the right house to buy, and these details actually communicate the overall quality of a house to you.

  1. Why are you selling?: There are many factors that can create a need for someone to move. Depending on the reason, the seller may be willing to accept a lower offer if it means they can move out more quickly.
  2. How long has the home been on the market?: Once again, putting in a lower offer could mean acceptance in this scenario. There could possibly be also something wrong with it if it’s been on the market for a while, but many times it’s simply the fact that it’s over-priced.
  3. When did you buy the home, and for how much?: This will let you know if property values have gone up or down in the local market since they bought the house. Also, it will let you know how open they might be to negotiation; if they got a good deal on the house, they may be more open to accepting a lower offer, compared to if they spent a lot on the house.
  4. What’s included in the sale?: Anything that’s attached to the house is considered a “fixture” and is included with the sale of the house if you buy it. When in doubt, ask and get the answer in writing.
  5. Is there anything wrong with the house?: Although you should find out everything in disclosures and the inspection, it’s nice to know what you’re getting yourself into beforehand.
  6. Has the house had any repairs or major renovations; if so, who did them?: Past problems can create present or future problems. Also, you need to know what past projects you should receive building permits for. You also need to know if the changed made to the house were DIY or performed by a licensed contractor.
  7. How old is the roof?: A typical asphalt roof lasts around 15-20 years. If the lifespan on this one is almost up, then you’ll be putting down a chunk of money in the near future.
  8. What’s the age of the wiring?: Depending on the age of the house, wiring can be dangerous if it hasn’t been replaced in a while (and costly at that).
  9. What’s the age of the windows; will they need to be replaced?: Old windows can have a huge impact on energy bills. Replacing windows is expensive, but it’s probably better to know about in the long run.
  10. Are there issues with the home’s foundation?: This is an important thing to know, because the structural integrity is one of the key elements of a home.
  11. Is there obvious water damage?: If there’s a basement, you can check it out to see if you think there’s been water; if it’s carpeted and doesn’t smell musty, it’s probably never had water damage, but if the utilities are raised off the ground, then it may have had damage in the past.
  12. What’s the current quality of the sewer system?: If there’s anything wrong, the homeowner (not the city) pays to fix it. Looking at the condition of the sewer lines aren’t typically part of a home inspection, so it may be good to get them checked out.
  13. Have insurance claims been made on the home?: This also lets you find out if there have been any past problems with the house. Also, if there’s a stream, creek, etc. near the house, you need to know if you’ll need flood insurance before you buy it.
  14. Where are the trees located around the house; what’s their quality?: Are any rotted, dead, and/or have the possible of falling onto your house in a storm? Will any of them block out the sun too much?
  15. Are there any current or past pest problems?: Ask, and also look around inside cabinets and moist places for pests and their traces.
  16. Does the ground slope away from the house?: The grading of your house is important; it affects the direction of the water flow around your home. Too much water directed towards the house=bad.
  17. What are the neighbors like; are there any neighborhood problems?: Bad neighbors, traffic problems, bad maintenance, bright lights, and more can all be advantageous to know about before you buy it. You can even talk to a few neighbors to gather more information about these things.
  18. Have there been break-ins in the neighborhood; if so, have you seen an increase?: Always good to know. Also important when determining if you’d need an alarm system.
  19. How much are the utilities for the house?: Sure, your usage will be different, but you can probably get a ballpark figure, and discern how many bills to expect.
  20. What surprised you when you moved in?: Because even if it’s a pleasant surprise, it’s still beneficial to know.
  21. What do you enjoy most about living here?: You’ll probably hear a perspective on something about the house or community that you wouldn’t have known otherwise.
  22. Is there anything I/we forgot to ask?: This of course gives them a chance to tell you what you wouldn’t have thought or have known to ask.
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What Happens in a Sellers’ Market?

A sellers’ market is different from the regular housing market– expect more buyers, less inventory, and a need to move quickly.

  • There’s not much to choose from: Homes will get snatched up seemingly right after going on the market. Inventory is low due to the large number of buyers.
  • Cash speaks volumes: Usually cash offers beat out any other kind. They become more common in a sellers’ market.
  • Seller preferences are taken into account even more: Buyers’ agents will work extra hard to figure out what it is that makes the sellers tick in order to get their offer approved. Would the seller prefer a quicker closing date over a little extra cash? Would they be touched by a heartfelt note from a new family? These things are weighed more.
  • Bidding wars are everyday occurrences: When the inventory is lower, more people will be vying for the same properties. There will be multiple people putting offers in, and usually each of those people making multiple offers. All of this is even more common if the property’s listing price is just right.
  • Selling price gets raised above asking price: This is often a direct result of a bidding war. When a property is at the “sweet spot” of just under or at the home’s true value, multiple buyers will be attracted to it and each put their bid in, raising the price.
  • Offer deadlines: These create urgency for the buyers to put their offers in and to keep outbidding the others.
  • Escalation clause: These typically aren’t  very common, but in a sellers’ market, they are more common. These are included in an offer, and let the seller know you’re willing to increase the amount of your offer up to a certain point if there are other higher bids.
  • As a buyer, be ready to act quickly: This is no time to wait too long to make a decision. Obviously mull it over, but if you wait too long, you run a high chance of missing out on getting the house. “The home you saw today and want to think about tonight, is the home someone else saw yesterday and thought about last night.”
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Current Kitchen Trends – May 2016

Home trends may come and go, but some also stick around for a while-especially kitchen trends. Here is a list of the latest ones.

  • Muted color palettes: Grays, charcoals, and even muted pastels are making their way into kitchens near you.
  • Metal range hoods: Metals are in, and will most likely stick around for a while. Wood ranges are moving aside to make room for metal options.
  • Kitchen open to the living space: Those darned popular open floorplans are probably here to stay. An integrated kitchen and living space puts a focus on family time, and also the option of watching your kids (and the TV) while you cook.
  • Textures: Specifically a few textures that work together. Also, using the same texture in different patterns throughout the kitchen is trendy.
  • Some mid-century mod details: Simplicity, wood that’s light in color, and more.
  • Cabinetry with light: Light tape strips are great below cabinets, above them, inside them, and/or when paired with recessed can lights or other depths of light.
  • All-purpose bakeware: With more of an emphasis on functionality and multi-function capabilities, it’s no surprise these are popular.
  • Custom backsplash: Design-your-own tiles are en vogue. the options are never-ending.
  • Metallic accents: Rose gold, brass, and copper are used more for accents, fixtures, hardware, and more.
  • Galley kitchens: This is a trend of the past, and is back. This style makes moving around and completing tasks easier.
  • Functionality: Multi-taskers. Almost anything that can do this is popular.
  • Black and white palette: High-contrast palettes and accents are in; this color pairing included.
  • Unique, eye-pleasing light fixtures: Pendant lights, light fixtures over the island, and more can make great additions to your decor.
  • Storage maximization: People can’t always make their kitchens bigger, but they usually can, and do, acquire more things. This means more storage is necessary. The trend lately is to maximize storage space by finding creative, effective ways to go about this.
  • Farmhouse style: Apron-front sinks, hardwood floors (especially light hardwoods), open shelving, lots of windows, wood accents, a big wooden table, freestanding cabinetry, and more.
  • Hardwood floors: We’re seeing less linoleum and tile, and more of this.
  • White cabinets: A popular alternative to stained wooden cabinets.
  • (Hidden) docking stations: Families are more on-the-go than ever, and also more plugged in; it’s no wonder they want the ability to juice up their devices, wherever they are.
  • Wine refrigerators: Wine is trendy right now, and so is the storage for it.
  • Granite countertops: Yes, these have been a trend for quite a while already. However, they’ll probably stick around for a while longer.
  • Look-alike granite countertops: People have turned to granite look-alikes, like laminate counters with a granite pattern, to save their budgets.