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10 Apps to Change Your Homeownership

As a homeowner, life is so busy that it’s easy to lose track of the little things. Especially when it comes down to minutia like changing smoke alarm batteries, room measurements, and insurance item catalogues. For all of these things, and more, these apps can make your homeownership experience so much better:

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The Visual Temperature of Your Room – And How to Change It

Every room has a “visual temperature,” and figuring out yours can give you some insight into what colors and textures to choose for the room. Visual temperature doesn’t mean the actual physical temperature of the room: visual temperature is the effect that the room’s natural lighting and color palette have on the viewer’s perception of the room. A room can be cool, warm, or even both! Confused? Don’t worry, it’s simpler than you might think.

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Things to De-clutter from Your Home

It’s pretty easy to accumulate clutter, especially the longer you live in your home. There are some common things that people hang on to that they shouldn’t. Even though it’s tempting to hang on to all of your old items in case some miraculous event arises where-in they suddenly become useful again, all they really do is take up space.

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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 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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Home Maintenance Checklist

A non-maintained home can lose around 10% of its appraised value. Whether you’ll sell your home soon or stay for a while, be sure to keep up its maintenance.

  • Watch out for moisture: Your home’s foundation, walls, roof, and floors can all be subversively affected by water damage. When it rains, check to see if your gutters are overflowing, if water is flowing away from your house like it’s supposed to, and if there’s any moisture coming inside. After an especially heavy rain, check your basement, foundation, siding, roof, doors, windows, and ceilings. Also, be sure to check your water-based appliances about twice a year, including your dishwasher, refrigerator, HVAC, water heater, etc. Drain your water heater once a year. change your HVAC filter. Fix any leaks you find immediately, as moisture is the biggest threat to houses.
  • In the kitchen: Under the kitchen sink, remove everything so you can check for leaks. Re-caulk the line between your backsplash and the wall in back of it. Clean out your cabinets and wipe them out. Pull out the refrigerator to clean the area underneath it, including the drip pan. Tighten any screws, such as the ones in hardware. Check for any stains or marks anywhere, including the walls, and wash them off.
  • In the basement: Check your ductwork for leaks that are wasting energy. Also, caulk and seal windows to prevent air leaks. Check for dark stains, which could be plumbing leaks. Add a basement ceiling or brighten it up with paint for a change.
  • Outside: Check window and door frames for wood rot. Improve your yard and landscaping health by keeping up with their maintenance.
  • Floors: Check for bulges under carpet, and for discoloration on wood floors, which can be linked to foundation problems.
  • Inspect your fire extinguishers
  • Test your smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors, and test your home for radon
  • Maintenance fund: You might not need to save the “recommended” 1-3% of your home’s initial price annually to afford its necessary repairs, but be sure to save an appropriate amount. Be sure to keep up with when you’ll be needing a new roof, siding, or any other big ticket project, and save up accordingly beforehand.
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Things New Homeowners Waste Money On

Buying a home is one of the biggest financial decisions of your life. It’s important to know what new homeowners waste money on so that you won’t.

  • Too big of a house: You can save money by buying a home that has only the space you really need and will use. Shocker, we know. Do you really need that fifth bedroom, or a formal dining room? What will you use that space for, and just how often? Keep your budget in mind- if you spend more money on a home than you really should using your given loan, it can make your mortgage and budget go all out of wack.
  • Immediately fixing up outdoor space: Before you add that outdoor kitchen, think about how often you’ll actually use it. Also, where can your budget be better spent (or saved)?
  • Yard maintenance: Paying for a yard service to come by may seem necessary and important at first (especially if you’ve never owned your own yard before), but it can be something homeowners waste money on. Even if you’ve become part of an HOA that offers it at a discounted rate, it will save you a lot of money in the long run to mow and fertilize the yard yourself.
  • Old insurance: It may help your finances to re-investigate the best type of insurance company and plan for your current needs. If you’re using the same insurance company you used for your renter’s insurance years ago, this may be especially true. An insurance company may have great prices compared with other companies on one type of insurance, but worse prices on other types.
  • Extended warranties: When you’re buying a new appliance, the salesperson will most likely attempt to sell you one of these. However, the likelihood of an appliance breaking down within the extended warranty period is low, and if it did happen then it would cost the same or less to fix it. It’s better to spend nothing and to have the slight possibility of paying something, than to spend some and have the slight possibility of the thing breaking.
  • Too much stuff: Especially if you’re moving from a smaller space to a bigger one, it may seem necessary and fun to want to fill the extra space. However, if you wait a bit to figure out your budget and style of decor you want, it will be worth it in the long run. Usually the things that are bought “just to have” are those things you’ll rarely use, and won’t make a difference to have in the long run. In other words, if you didn’t buy it out of need, then you don’t actually need it.
  • Buying a house with a swimming pool: Unless you are really enthusiastic about owning one, and willing to shell out maintenance money for it (for cleaning, water, chemicals, and possibly heating), owning a pool can eat up money you could use otherwise. If you know you’ll spend a lot of time enjoying it, then go for it. However, if you already know that it’s something that sounds better in theory than actuality, then avoid it.
  • Having improperly insulated windows: You’ll save money in the long run to have a home energy audit, and to fix those windows that are inefficient in insulation. Homeowners waste money frequently on heat and air that doesn’t even stick around in their house.