Entries in real estate (30)

Thursday
Feb182016

Emergency Preparation Checklist

Are You Prepared?

 Are You Prepared?

 Get Started Building a Home Emergency Kit

Winter storm season is upon us and according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly half the people in the U.S. do not have resources and plans in place to deal with an emergency. 

The good news is that there are some simple steps you can take now to help you prepare for an emergency. Depending on where you live, and the unique needs of your family, you might need different things in an emergency, but here are a few things that everyone should have in their home emergency kit.

Food and Water

  • Water, at least one gallon per person per day for a minimum of three days
  • Food, at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food per person
  • Manual can opener for canned food
  • Pet food and extra water

Electronics

  • Flashlight
  • Cell phone with charger, inverter, or solar charger
  • Battery-powered or hand crank radio (a NOAA Weather Radio suggested)
  • Extra batteries

Health and Safety

  • First aid kit
  • Medicines (three-day supply, minimum)
  • Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities

Storing and Maintaining Your Kit

Once your supplies are together, here are a few tips to keep your supplies ready:

  • Write the date you store food and water on all containers.
  • Keep canned food in a cool, dry place.
  • Store boxed food in tightly closed plastic or metal containers to protect from pests.
  • Change food, water, medicine and batteries ever six months.
  • Rethink your needs every year and update your kit as your family’s needs change.

Mobile Apps:

The Red Cross also has a number of free apps including:

  • Emergency app – Stay on top of severe weather and emergency alerts and gain access to safety information
  • First Aid app – Instant access to information for common first aid emergencies
  • Pet First Aid app – Important first aid information for your cat or dog

FEMA also has a mobile app to that includes safety and emergency preparedness as well as weather alerts, disasters resources and reports.

Other Resources:

By  on February 4, 2016

Thursday
Feb182016

Refinancing: The Right Move?

The federal reserve recently raised interest rates, and if you have an Adjustable Rate Mortgage (ARM), it may be a good time to consider refinancing your home. There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to whether your should refinance, so here are a few of the main considerations.

How long does your introductory rate last? Most ARMs have a fixed rate for the beginning of the mortgage. This is an introductory period (usually 3-10 years) when your rate will remain constant before it can be adjusted. If you have several years left in your introductory period, you can monitor interest rates for a while before making a decision. But if the intro rate is ending soon, it’s a great time to explore refinancing at a fixed rate.

How long are you staying? If you plan to sell your home soon—especially if you’re still on a fixed introductory rate—there’s not much motivation to refinance. But if you’ll be at your home indefinitely, you should consider your refinancing options. You could eliminate the stress of not knowing what your future mortgage rate and payments will be.

What’s your loan balance? The change in your mortgage payment will of course be determined in part by your remaining balance. If you owe $100,000-$200,000, a new interest rate may not greatly affect your monthly payment. On the other hand, if you owe $500,000, a change in interest rate could lead to a much higher payment.

Other factors The previous items are just a few of the factors that should go into a decision about refinancing. Changes in income and your current credit score should also be considered, so be sure to weigh your options and make an educated decision.


Wednesday
Feb172016

Smart Houses are Here to Stay! Just Ask Barbie

Even Barbie Has a Smart Home

Barbie’s Dreamhouse is now outfitted with voice-activated smart home commands, the toy manufacturer Mattel announced recently at the 2016 International Toy Fair in New York.

The Hello Barbie Dreamhouse includes Wi-Fi capabilities that allow users to connect to an app and use voice-recognition software to talk directly to the home and control it. It mimics smart home technology heading into real-life homes today, such as Siri working with Apple HomeKit-enabled products or Amazon’s Echo. For example, kids playing with Barbie’s Hello Dreamhouse can say: “Hello, Dreamhouse. Turn on the bedroom light,” and the lights will turn on. Other voice-activated controls include the elevator, the oven, and a whole-house "party mode" that makes the chandeliers spin and turns the stairs into a slide.
And if the smart home wasn’t enough, Barbie is also getting a drone/hoverboard. Mattel unveiled the Star Light Adventure RC Hoverboard RC drone, which Barbie stands on as it flies around the room, controlled by a remote. Both products will be available in fall 2016 – the Hello Dreamhouse for $299 and Barbie drone retailing for $59.99.
Sunday
Feb142016

Sick of Winter? These Houseplants Will Perk Up Your Mood (Yes, Really)

Real talk: “JanuFeb” can be grim. The holidays are a distant memory, and now you have to slog through a barrage of dark, frigid days until spring makes its glorious appearance.

To escape that persistent winter funk, shake off that heated Snuggie and take a trip to the garden center. Studies suggest that stocking your home full of humble houseplants can boost your mood, big time — not to mention make your space feel cleaner, brighter, and healthier.

The Power of a Flower

Scientists agree that houseplants likely improve your outlook. Research suggests that plants have a positive effect on stress reduction, pain tolerance, and physical discomfort — but environmental psychologists aren’t exactly sure why this happens. It could be that plants simply make a room more colorful and attractive. Or, an indoor brush with nature may provide the same natural high and stress relief people feel in the great outdoors. There’s even a name for the phenomenon — biophilia (a love for nature) — and entire buildings have been designed to recreate it.

Succulents in a homeImage: Liz Foreman for HouseLogic

Keeping all those green guys alive is good for you, too. Research has shown taking care of plants can increase a sense of well-being and reduce stress.

Nature’s Air Freshener

Winter means tightly closed windows and stuffy quarters. Plants reduce stale air by producing oxygen. But also, according to research done by NASA back in the late 1980s, certain plants will even filter harmful pollutants such as formaldehyde, benzene, and ammonia from the air. Some folks get headaches, asthma, or have chronic health issues from these VOCs (volatile organic compounds) — which could be off-gassing right this minute from your furniture, cleansers, and flooring! Just knowing that could make you pretty depressed.

To combat stale air, try some of these air-scrubbing horticultural heroes: Boston fern, English ivy, spider plant, bamboo palm, weeping fig, flamingo lily, peace lily, and cornstalk dracaena.

Dracaena plant in a homeImage: Kristina Held

The Best Plants to Beat the Blues


What other plants can bring your spirits ‘round this winter?

  • Anthuriums. These beautiful flowering plants are super easy to care for. “They do need a decent amount of light, but they bloom consistently — especially during the February-March doldrums,” says Rebecca Bullene, founder of Greenery NYC, a botanic design company experienced in indoor plant installations and living plant design. “They’re big and beautiful. Those with red, pink, or white flowers are most common.”

Anthuriums in a homeImage: Zaktari on Flickr

  • Ferns, particularly the Kimberly Queen (Nephrolepis obliterata) and Boston (Nephrolepis exaltata) varieties. “They need a bit more water and a decent amount of light, but they put a lot of humidity back in the air and will help make your space comfortable,” Bullene says. Plus, the Kimberlys are a little easier to care for than the average fern. “If you forget to water for a day or two,” she says, “they won’t crash out.”

Hanging fern inside a homeImage: Christie Chase

  • Chinese Evergreen (Aglaonema modestum). This hardy plant can handle the low light of winter. “It can be in a dark corner and still look amazing,” Bullene says. “The blackest of thumbs can take care of this plant.”

Aglaonema plant in a homeImage: Anthony Serra

  • Golden Pothos or Devil’s Ivy (Epipremnum aureum). This plant is also a hardy one that’s hard to kill. Bullene recommends it for anyone without much experience with plants.
  • Mother-in-Law’s Tongue, Sword Plant, or Snake Plant (Sansevieria). This houseplant of many names is really drought-resistant. You can water it once a month and it grows in high or low light. “There are a lot of varieties that have cool shapes and colors,” Bullene says.

Mother-in-law's tongue in a home officeImage: Kristina Held

So when the weather outside is frightful, make way for some greenery and invite some friends over. Call it a Houseplant Happy Hour. You just may be surprised by how genuinely happy your greener home makes you all winter long.



Read more:  http://www.houselogic.com/home-advice/plants-trees/plants-for-depression/#ixzz40A1OG9Aa 

Thursday
Jan282016

Your Kitchen Countertop Doesn’t Have to Look So Sad — Here Are 6 DIY Solutions

You don’t have to live with ugly. Give your countertops a beauty makeover with some simple DIY love.

Can’t figure out why your kitchen appears outdated? Look down. It could be your countertop, the centerpiece of your kitchen and a key focal point of your entire home.

Ugly Countertop Syndrome may be common, but it’s far from incurable. You may be salivating over white granite while bemoaning your finances, but the solution doesn’t have to be that expensive — or that difficult to install.

From paint to wood, concrete paper to (gasp!) laminate, your kitchen countertop options are endless with a little DIY, even on a tiny budget. All you have to do is decide which solution is right for you. Here are six ideas to get you started.

1.  Modern Laminate

Project time: 2 to 3 days

Cost: From $30 per sheet

Durability: 10 to 20 years, with proper care

Forget what you think you know about laminate. Manufacturers have begun creating countertops that mimic high-end granite styles. “You can’t tell the difference until you touch it,” says Meredith Barclay, a countertops merchant for Home Depot.

Try Formica, which makes several elegant granite-esque patterns that cost around $90 for a 96-inch-long sheet, giving you the look of Calacatta marble for much, much less. Or try Wilsonart’s textured, glossy sheets — perfect for creating your dream all-white kitchen without breaking the bank.

Or, try something bold — like the glossy red kitchen countertops Cincinnati homeowner Suzanne Prince Quinn and her husband installed.

“It was bright-looking and sleek,” Quinn says. “We wanted to have an uncluttered kitchen.”

Red laminate countertop in kitchenImage: Suzanne Quinn

If you’re going to install laminate yourself, don’t be afraid to consult with experts. Barclay bemoans customers who think their special-order laminate countertop was made incorrectly. “But the customer really didn’t know how to install the product that we delivered to them,” she says.

For the most part, Quinn found the process simple. “It was quite easy to work with,” she says. Ten years after installation, the only durability issue is that the countertops have risen slightly around the seams, a problem caused by moisture build-up.

Common installation pitfalls include making sure the laminate fits perfectly against uneven surfaces, such as textured, tiled, or brick walls. It’s not a difficult process (all you really need is a compass and a pencil), but done incorrectly, it can look unprofessional.

For Quinn, laminate countertops have another benefit: Instead of being committed to granite or quartz for decades, she can change up her kitchen on a whim.

“If we’d spent a ton of money on granite or anything else, we would feel like we probably shouldn’t change it,” Quinn says. “This way, we get to make changes when we’d like to.”

2.  Concrete

Project time: About a week

Cost: $300 to $500

Durability: Long-lasting, but stains easily

Concrete countertops are back in style — Pinterest is rife with tutorials for transforming your home into industrial chic. But owners are divided on the trend’s longevity, not to mention the upkeep. A survey on “The Kitchn” yielded responses ranging from “I do kind of hate them” to complaints about maintenance to “I would do it again in a heartbeat.”

So are they for you? Here’s what to expect with concrete: a dusty, messy process that takes about a week. Hiring a pro is recommended, but if you’re feeling handy, it’s a totally manageable DIY.

“Initially, it sounds a little overwhelming, but when you break it down to the original steps, there’s nothing there that’s hard to do,” says Jenise Frohlinger, the blogger behind “Do It Yourself Fun Ideas.”

Frohlinger opted for a marbleized concrete, traveling to Las Vegas to learn the Ashby technique. She attended a course through Countertop Solutions. Although she recommends the course for anyone who wants to learn the nitty-gritty of countertop creation, Frohlinger says anyone can do this project, even without a class. Here’s the counter she made in the course:

Jenise built this counter in a classImage: Jenise @ DIYFunIdeas.com

Frohlinger’s advice for first-timers: Make sure your measurements are accurate, especially when cutting your countertop template out of melamine or plywood. And when you pour the concrete, do it in one shot, she says. “You want to make sure you’re consistent in the color.”

3.  Granite Tiles

Project time: A (long) weekend 

Cost: From $7 per square foot

Durability: The same as granite — indefinitely — but with the annoyance of dirty or cracking grout

Want the granite look for less? Swap out the enormous slab for smaller tiles — a project Barclay calls a viable DIY project for homeowners.

It’s much cheaper, too. Although tiles can be purchased for as little as $7 per square foot, a slab countertop costs upwards of $60 per square foot.

Granite also weighs nearly 13 pounds per square foot, meaning a five-foot-long slab countertop might weigh up to 130 pounds — or more, if you’re using thicker materials. Choose granite tiles instead, and you’re looking at only 13 pounds per 12-inch tile. That’s heavy, but not crazy heavy.

You’ll need a wet saw to cut the tiles to fit, but installation is the same as any other tiling project. Spread thin-set mortar on your surface, use spacers to separate the tiles, and grout in between.

But if you choose to go this route, Barclay has one warning: keeping the grout clean can be a pain “due to the variety of materials that come in contact with a countertop,” she says. Regular maintenance will be required, and you’ll want to clean spills and messes immediately.

4.  Contact Paper

Project time: An afternoon

Cost: Less than $100

Durability: Definitely not a long-term solution.

Although Barclay doesn’t recommend this as a long-term solution, covering your countertops in contact paper can be a fantastic, low-cost alternative to a full remodel.

Depending on the size of your kitchen, contact paper can cost less than $100 and provide a dramatic transformation. We tried it ourselves and the upgrade looked “100% better,” according to HouseLogic writer Lisa Kaplan Gordon.

Countertop resurfaced with Contact PaperImage: Lisa Kaplan Gordon for HouseLogic 

Installation requires a steady hand — you’ll need to be careful to avoid bubbles — but shouldn’t take more than a few hours to dramatically change your kitchen’s look.

Although some remodelers report it lasting for years, don’t forget the battle wounds your countertop might endure. Anything from hot pots to a dropped knife can wreck the paper.

But even if it doesn’t last long, it’s easy to redo when disaster strikes. As long as you consider it a temporary stand-in between remodels, your new countertops are unlikely to disappoint.

5.  Paint

Project time: A little less than a week

Cost: $100 to $200

Durability: Paint will hold up well, but won’t last forever.

Looking for another easy upgrade, but want a solution that’s a little more permanent? Try paint.

Blogger Dawn Sailors of “Designing Dawn” bought a home on short sale that needed “a lot of cosmetic upgrades,” she says — particularly in the kitchen, which had cracked, yellow-speckled laminate tops.

Before kitchen counter was paintedImage: “Designing Dawn” 

“I just couldn’t live with what was there forever, but we didn’t have unlimited funds to update everything,” Sailors says. Inspired by an idea she’d found online, she decided to paint the countertops, using neutral, light colors like white and gray — and adding a little glitter to the mix for depth. 

Because paint is permanent, take care during application. Sailors mixed in accent colors to give her countertops a subtle, marbleized effect and sealed the entire thing with EnviroTex Lite for a glossy finish and to ensure food safety.

Kitchen counter updated with paintImage: “Designing Dawn”

The entire project cost Sailors just $120 and put her kitchen out of commission for a little less than a week — two days of work and three days spent hardening. And even though they weren’t meant to last forever, they’ve held up well.

“The countertops were meant in the beginning to be a stopgap until we could afford real stone counters,” she says. “But they’ve held up so well, we still haven’t replaced them four years later.”

6.  Wood Overlay

Project time: About a week

Cost: $200

Durability: With maintenance, it should last years — as long as you’re OK with dings and scratches.

Butcher block countertops are nearly as popular as granite. And while professional installation costs far less, it’s still out of budget for many homeowners.

You can certainly pick up premade butcher block countertops from Ikea for $189 per 98-inch slab, but Erica Hebel from “On Bliss Street” decided to make her own using aspen boards from her local hardware store, which cost about $45 for a 72-inch panel. She paid less than $200 for the entire project.

This is what Hebel’s counters looked like before:

Before home kitchen counter upgradedImage: Erica Hebel of “OnBlissStreet.com” 

The bulk of the construction is prepping, staining, and nailing the boards to your cabinetry — nothing too complicated. Cover it up with a sealant (Hebel used Minwax Wipe-On Poly in a clear finish) to protect your countertops from drips.

“It was one of my very first projects ever,” Hebel says. “The wood’s very forgiving. As long as you have a tape measure, you can figure it out.”

After countertop resurfaced with woodImage: Erica Hebel of “OnBlissStreet.com”

Although the countertops aren’t quite as low-maintenance as stone, Hebel says they’ve held up “amazingly well” in the year since installation — except for a few dents from dropped dishes, which “don’t affect the finish at all.” No, you shouldn’t cut directly on the surface or put hot pots on them, but under normal usage, they’ll last a long time.

jamie-wiebe Jamie Wiebe

Jamie Wiebe is a writer and editor with a focus on home improvement and design. Previously, she worked as a web editor for “House Beautiful,” “ELLE Decor,” and “Veranda.”



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