5 Home Improvements on Your Dog’s Wishlist

In honor of National Dog Day, we’ve asked the cutest (or at least the furriest) members of your family what they really want in their home. Your dog may really dig these paws-itively great updates.

Invest in a fetch robot: Is fetch getting a little too repetitive for you? It never gets old to a dog! Save up for a robot that can keep up with your pup’s non-stop energy and love for the game.

Deck out the outdoor dog house: A stylish dog house would not only look great in your yard, but it can also provide much-needed shade for a tuckered out pup.

Upgrade your reward system: Did someone say “treat”? With an automatic treat dispenser, you won’t even have to say the word. Instead, dogs will get a rewarding snack whenever they want one!

Install a crate surround sound system: Dogs shouldn’t miss out on movie night just because they’re in their crates. Set them up with perfectly crafted doggie speakers, so they can really experience the show.

Add a video conferencing unit: You know how excited your dog gets when you get home from a long day at work? It may be because they miss you. Let them call and chat you all day long. Who knows, Fido may share some good advice at your next team meeting. He’s always working like a dog.

Unlimited closet access: Your closet is a wonderland for dogs filled with tasty shoes and handbags. What your dog really wants is permission to chew! Open up your doors and let your dog have free reign, because your dog’s “I’m sorry” eyes are cuter than any new trend.

So throw your dog a bone and indulge in one, or all, of these home improvements. Your pet may just sit, speak, and jump for joy!

For entertainment purposes only. It’s ruff, but some of these things may not exist.

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Don’t Make These 5 Common Home Buying Mistakes

It can be easy to get lost and confused during the home buying process. Proper planning is paramount. It’s also helpful to learn from other people’s mistakes. Here are some of the most common errors people make when shopping for a new home.

Not budgeting for everything: Yes, this sounds obvious, but many people forget about some of the costs of buying a home. There are added costs such as furniture and appliances, DIY projects, moving fees, or your first mortgage payment. This last one is especially important—setting a budget may help you determine how much you can comfortably afford to pay for your mortgage.

Neglecting your credit score: Your credit score will play a major role in the home buying process. This 3-digit number might be the thing that keeps you from your new home! Credit reports often contain errors or misinformation, so it’s important to retrieve your report ahead of time and fix any errors before sending it out to lenders. Looking at your credit reports may also give you a better idea of what interest rates you can expect so you can make room for them in your budget.

Trusting verbal agreements: A home seller can verbally accept your bid and still turn around and give it to someone else if a higher bidder comes along. So before you celebrate your new home, make sure you’ve signed paperwork!

Skipping the home inspection: You can’t expect the seller to tell you about all the potential problems you might face if you buy their home. There might even be issues with the house that the seller isn’t aware of, which is why it’s crucial to hire an inspector to take a look through the house. An inspector will examine the overall foundation and structural features of a house. It’s their job to find these areas of concern so that you don’t have to worry about them later on! (Tip: Don’t be too reliant on the inspector. You may catch these problems that they sometimes miss.)

Sweating the small things: Don’t like the color of a house or the wallpaper inside? Is there something about the kitchen that you just can’t stand? Don’t sweat the small things! Focus instead on the location and the overall structure of the house. Once you move in you can change the small things you don’t like and make your house a home!

If you avoid these mistakes and work closely with a CENTURY 21® Affiliated Sales Associate, you may just find the home you’ve been searching for!

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Here’s How to Grow a Garden Indoors

Summer is coming to an end and fall is right around the corner. But that doesn’t have to stop you from enjoying gardening. According to a study in Psychology Today, there are multiple benefits of having house plants. They have been found to lower blood pressure, increase attentiveness, lower anxiety, and improve well-being. Furthermore, a NASA study found that plants purify the air. Need another reason to grow plants inside? Pasta, pizza, and other delicacies taste better with fresh ingredients. Ready to get started? Here’s how to grow a garden indoors.

Give yourself some space: An indoor garden can take up as little or as much space as you are able and willing to use. Most plants (even something like tomatoes) can be grown on a windowsill. Consider using a table, bench, or shelves designated for your little garden.

Pick your plants: Choose wisely. Smaller plants that require less direct sunlight will do better indoors. Here are some good choices: carrots, lettuce, kale, peppers, onions, beans, parsley, basil, oregano, lavender, cilantro, rosemary, chives, strawberries, blueberries, and citrus.

Let there be light: Some of your plants will survive in a sunny window, while others will need more help from special lighting. There are several types of lights you’ll have to choose between, including: incandescent, fluorescent, compact fluorescent, and High Intensity Discharge bulbs. The wattage needed will vary based on the size of your garden.

Keep up with maintenance: Tending to your plants indoors involves regulating temperature, humidity, and water. Plants generally prefer a temperature range of 65-75 degrees. Look for signs like the tips of the leaves turning brown, plants losing their leaves, and plants looking withered. To counteract this, mist plants regularly or run a humidifier. Plants grown in containers may dry out more quickly and require more watering.

Move things around: If you decide to move your plants outside, give them about a week to prepare. Leave them outdoors for a few hours each day, gradually decreasing their time indoors to get them acclimated. And if, at the end of the growing season, you decide to move plants from your backyard garden indoors, give them the same acclimation period.

Go ahead, get growing!

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New Home Checklist: Needs and Wants

If you’re shopping for a home for the first time, you might find yourself thinking, “Where do I even begin?” It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of searching for your home, and it can be hard to consider what we actually need and not what we simply want. Do you really need a house with a spacious backyard if you don’t have children or pets? And yes, a swimming pool would be nice, but is there enough room for one in your budget?

When shopping for a new home, the needs have to outweigh the wants. For now, it’s more important for you to find a home in a good location, with the right amount of rooms than one with a pool.

This New Home Checklist encourages you to separate what you need in a home from what you want in a home. Bring it around to open houses and check things off as you look around! If there are more wants checked off than needs, then this might not be a practical home for you.

What I need in my new home: These are some general things to look for in a new home, but not everything may apply to you! Simply cross off the ones that apply to the home you’re viewing. There’s space to write in your own.

  • Good location
  • Strong school district
  • Reasonably sized rooms (not too small OR too big)
  • Interior layout that I like
  • Home with solid foundation
  • Good amount of natural light
  • Attached garage
  • A driveway or somewhere to park cars easily

What I want in my new home: Write down everything that makes up your ideal home! A swimming pool, a sprawling backyard, and a beautiful, spacious kitchen might make the list. Use this space to fill them in and cross them off as you look through the home.

 

 

Take a copy of this checklist to each open house you attend. It might make it easier for you to compare different homes. Search for a home that fulfills most of your needs and allots for some of your wants as well. Practicality is important, but so is increasing the likelihood that you love your new home.

Happy house hunting!

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6 Home Improvement Projects to Tackle While Your Kids Are At Camp

While your kids are playing tag, making friendship bracelets, and enjoying s’mores, you can get projects done around your home. These home improvement projects may increase the value of your home. Not looking to sell right now? These projects may make your home more enjoyable in the meantime!

Design a Kitchen Backsplash: Protect your walls from kitchen messes in a stylish way. Backsplashes can be made with all kinds of materials, such as glass, stone, tile, or metal with the versatility to fit any type of design preference. Whether you want something muted or vibrant, plain or intricate, you may be able to create a look you love.

Plant a Garden Path: Embrace your green thumb, and enhance your time spent outside in the sun. Clear a space through a garden or grassy area and lay down stones or tiles to create an easy way to maneuver through your yard. There are countless creative ideas for setting up a charming and unique garden path.

Replace Showerheads: There’s nothing better than cooling off after a hot summer day. Enjoy a refreshing shower with new showerheads. You may want to choose a showerhead with features such as water conservation, stronger water pressure, or even speakers!

Restore Your Deck: Protect your deck so you may be able to use it for many summers to come. Consult with a paint specialist to pick the right finish — make sure to get something waterproof and UV resistant. Clean the entire deck beforehand, and apply the finish with a paint roller or brush.

Paint a Room: Pick up a paintbrush, and change a room’s aesthetic. Read up on color psychology to choose a color that may suit your intended mood. For example, you may want to paint a bedroom or bathroom blue because the color has been associated with feeling calm and tranquil.

Create a Family Organization Station: Getting out the door may be a little bit easier when the entire family is organized. Create a station with a calendar of family activities, a spot for keys, hooks for backpacks, and any important papers like school permission slips or baseball game tickets. Once you do this maybe everyone can sleep in for, “Just five more minutes.”

Get started on these home improvement projects while you still have the house to yourself.

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4 Essential Outdoor Oases

Listen to crickets, feel the cool breeze, bask in the warm sun, and enjoy the scenery. It’s summertime, and there are countless reasons to spend time outdoors. Transform your outdoor space into your go-to spot. Here are five creative ways to create functional outdoor oases.

Outdoor Living Room: Add comfortable patio couches and chairs. Set out end tables and a coffee table so people can prop up their feet or put down their drink. Buy outdoor lighting fixtures in case you want to read outside under the stars. If you are revamping your backyard, consider adding an outdoor fireplace. It’s the perfect place to gather around for a night of spooky stories and s’mores. Worried about bugs? Place a few insect repellant candles in your yard.

Outdoor Dining Room: Dine alfresco! Set up a patio table and chairs. It’s important to choose patio furniture because it is weather-resistant. Add a string of lights for a romantic (and practical) touch that will literally light up the room.

Outdoor Kitchen: If you are remodeling your outdoor area, add a small island counter with a fridge and cabinet space so you can prep your meals outdoors. Now all you need is a grill and, in a dream outdoor kitchen, a brick pizza oven.

Outdoor Bedroom: Buy a bed frame and set it up in a flat section of your yard. Keep a bookshelf with your favorite reads nearby. Add a nightstand, lots of pillows, and a light. Just make sure that this room is covered so rain doesn’t interrupt your reading!

We have a hunch that these hideaways will be your new favorite spots for spring and summer.

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Your Guide to Hosting a Backyard BBQ

Some spectacular summer memories are made outdoors with family and friends. Skip the restaurant this summer. Invite friends and family to your home for a scrumptious summer BBQ. This guide may make your summer BBQ a smashing success!

Set the Stage: Get your backyard BBQ ready. Read your manual to learn how far your grill should be from your house, patio, trees, and other potentially flammable spots. Get your table ready and consider bringing another table outdoors to set up a buffet. Add plenty of seating options and extra light sources for when the sun goes down. If your neighborhood allows it, build a bonfire and roast s’mores! Looking for more creative ways to arrange your space? Read our post, “How to Decorate for Outdoor Entertaining.”

Choose Your Foods: Will you be serving hot dogs, hamburgers, veggie burgers, grilled chicken or all of the above? Choose staples and sides. Consider asking guests to bring their favorite appetizer or dessert.

Plan Activities: Keep everyone entertained with fun lawn games. Set up games like cornhole, horseshoe, croquet, touch football, and wheelbarrow. Some people may choose to play and others may choose to chat. Stuck on games? Read our post, “10 Fun Family Lawn Games for Summer.

Decorate: Assemble festive decorations like lanterns, string lights, and centerpieces. Get creative and set up DIY stations with assorted toppings for salads, corn on the cob, and ice cream sundaes. Add a condiment bar with different types of condiments and dressings. You may also want to create a drink station and a photo booth with fun props like cowboy hats, sunglasses, and boas.

Now that the planning is done, pick up the phone and start inviting friends and family. Get ready to grill and chill.

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These Tips May Speed Up Your Home Sale

Who doesn’t want a faster home sale? Make a good impression on buyers to increase your chances of a speedy sale. Not sure how to do that? We’ve got tips for every step of the home sale process.

Optimize Your Listing: A picture is worth a thousand words. Take professional quality images of your home. There is an abundance of online listings — do what you can to make yours stand out (for all the right reasons). Work with a CENTURY 21® Affiliated Sales Associate to write your listing and create a seller marketing plan. Recommended Reading: Picture Perfect: How to Take Great Photos of Your Home, Creating a Marketing Plan

Upgrade Your Curb Appeal: The outside of your home is the first area a potential buyer will see. Spruce up your yard and exterior. Add a fresh coat of paint, new landscaping, a new mailbox, and more! Recommended Reading: 7 Essential Curb Appeal Tips for Sellers

Clear Clutter: Getting rid of clutter may make your home appear larger and more appealing to buyers. Donate usable items, and get rid of items that are unusable. Once you’ve paired down, get organized so everything looks neat and tidy. Recommended Reading: 7 Easy Ways to Organize Your Home

Make Your Home Feel Larger: Little tricks like using light paint colors, incorporating mirrors, adding extra lighting, and sticking to a monochromatic color scheme may make your room appear larger. Make some home decor and home improvement changes before your open house. Recommended Reading: 10 Secrets for Making Your Bedroom Feel Larger

Accomplish Home Improvement Projects: Pick up a hammer and nails, and complete some home upgrades. Before you get started, make sure you’re not improving something too much. It’s not an oxymoron, we promise. Recommended Reading: Cents and Sensibility: 5 Mistakes That Could Decrease Your Home’s Value, Top 5 Best Home Improvements for Sellers in 2015

Avoid Common Seller Slip-Ups: Learn from someone else’s mistakes. CENTURY 21® Affiliated Sales Associate, Ann Weaver, shared some of the most common mistakes she’s seen sellers make. Hint: Home condition, marketing, and open house times all made the list. Recommended Reading: The 5 Biggest Seller Mistakes

Ace Your Open Houses: An open house is a key component of the home sale process. You want your open houses to run as smoothly as possible. Avoid these common errors. Recommended Reading: Open House Oops: Don’t Make These Mistakes, Do This, Not That: Tips for Staging Your Home

Set the Price: Setting a price can be tricky. You don’t want to price too high or too low. It’s helpful to research, listen, and compromise. Recommended Reading: Setting the Price, The Sale

What are you waiting for? Start today. You may find that you have a smoother (and speedier) home sale process as a result.

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New Homeowner Tips – 5 Do’s and Dont’s

If you’ve recently purchased a new home, or if you’re about to, you’ve likely given a lot of thought to all of the responsibilities that come with it: mortgages, insurance and — sooner or later — renovations and repairs. While the responsibilities can seem overwhelming, owning a home is exciting and rewarding too. You just need to know what to do and what not to do to avoid unexpected expenses.

New Homeowner Do’s:

There are a few home maintenance projects that should top the to-do list of every new homeowner. According to a recent article, these include:

  1. Checking your HVAC system: If your HVAC system wasn’t serviced before you purchased the house, inspect air filters and other components for anything in need of repair or replacement.
  2. Inspecting gutters and downspouts: Make sure that your gutters or downspouts have been cleared of debris. If they’re clogged, moisture could build up and leak over into your roofing or foundation — a predicament that will most likely require costly repairs. Also look for cracks or holes in the system; these could cause the same issues.
  3. Look for leaks: Air and water leaks — whether in your insulation, your pipes or your walls — can lead to a number of issues in your home. They’re the perfect entry for pests, and they also offer a prime opportunity for air to seep out, which can force your HVAC system into overdrive. Fix leaks immediately with weatherproofing, caulking or more insulation material.
  4. Assess insulation: Attic and basement insulation are crucial to protecting your roof and foundation from moisture, pests and interior temperature fluctuations. If there are holes, missing pieces or other issues with your insulation, you will need to have it augmented or replaced. You can install some kinds of insulation yourself; others require the help of a professional.
  5. Upgrade appliances: Depending on the age of your appliances, now might be a good time to upgrade to newer, more energy-efficient models. Replacing one or more of your appliances will pay back in utility bill savings, whether you replace your washer and dryer, dishwasher, microwave or refrigerator.

 

New Homeowner Dont’s:

There are also some new homeowner mistakes you should avoid. Making these mistakes could lead to the need for costly repairs and renovations down the road:

  1. No routine care: While the house might have passed a home inspection, you need to keep it up to snuff; if you don’t, you could find yourself paying for major repairs within a year. Routine care includes seasonal maintenance like roof inspection and repair, gutter cleaning, deck repair and cleaning, and so forth. Ignoring these areas or waiting another year before attending to them could lead to more trouble — and money spent — than necessary. Don’t wait.
  2. Renovating too soon: Although you may have considered a kitchen or bathroom remodel going into the purchase of your home, it’s best to wait at least one year before you renovate a room. You need to get to know the house and confirm that there aren’t more crucial repairs that need your budget and attention first. Otherwise, you could get halfway through your remodel only to find that your foundation is in serious disrepair — and that you have no money to fix it.
  3. Overspending: As a new homeowner, you have a lot of costs to factor into your budget, including mortgage payments and an increased utility bill. If you invest in remodeling projects or landscaping in the first year — without giving yourself some time to get used to your new budget — you could end up in the red. Spend a year getting to know your new home budget, then think about spending money on improvements.
  4. Dreaming too big: If you don’t have the money to remodel in the first year but want to do it anyway, you might try to DIY. We’ve all watched the DIYNetwork, HGTV — programs that make it all look simple. But we have to be realistic. These DIYers are experts who have worked in the field for years. Most homeowners have no prior experience, and our projects generally show our lack of expertise. If you attempt a DIY remodel, you will likely spend thousands to have a professional redo your work.
  5. Taking the lowball offer: When you start hiring contractors for home projects, you’re going to run into those who quote far below the average bid. While you might be tempted to hire these pros, DON’T. As the saying goes: you get what you pay for. More than likely, you’ll end up hiring another pro to fix a shoddy job.

 

Conclusion

Being a homeowner comes with a lot of responsibility and a lot of opportunity — some of it exciting and some not so much. It’s important to keep up on routine maintenance, as well as be prepared for everything that may come your way before you invest in major home improvements. Take this quiz to see whether you’re ready to be a new homeowner or need a little more time to prepare.

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5 Must-Read Tips for Swimming Pool Maintenance

There is something so relaxing and rejuvenating about sitting by the swimming pool, sipping lemonade, reading a good book, or cooling off by swimming laps. Having a pool at home may make you feel like you’re on vacation — but maintaining it may feel like work. Following these tips may take the guesswork out of maintaining your summer oasis without feeling like you’re about to fail a chemistry test. There are chemicals involved with maintaining a swimming pool, so you should always follow your recommended pool chemical safety rules. A general rule of thumb is that you clean your pool weekly.

Skim and scrub: Remove any leaves and debris that may be floating on the top of your pool. Scrub the sides and bottom of the pool. You may want to invest in a robot vacuum that will scrub for you. Scrubbing is important because it may decrease and/or prevent algae build-up.

Pay attention to your filter: Your filter helps to remove impurities like leaves and dirt from the water. According to the Fresh Home editorial team, you should clean out your filter basket at least once a week. They also recommend that you clean out the filter’s pipes once a month.

Test your chemical levels: Examine your pool’s chemical levels at least once a week. Test the following levels: cyanuric acid, free chlorine, acidity/alkalinity, total alkalinity, and calcium hardness. Learn more at The Center for Disease Control (CDC) website. Don’t worry, there won’t be a test after your chemistry lesson!

Shock your swimming pool: When you shock your pool you raise the chlorine level for a short time frame to kill bacteria. According to the team at Fresh Home, “It’s done by diluting three to five times the normal amount of chlorine or other chemical sanitizer with water, slowly pouring it into the pool’s return line, letting it filter throughout the pool, and then slowly refilling the pool with water over time.” Pool owners are advised to shock their pools at least once a week during the peak swimming season (AKA summertime.) But this number really depends on the number of people swimming in your pool and the weather. After a pool party or particularly long periods of rain or sunshine, you should think about giving your pool a shock.

Keep an eye on water levels: The water level of your pool will naturally fluctuate throughout the summer, but the last thing you want is an overflowing pool! Aim for a level that is halfway up the opening of your skimmer. If you notice your water level might be too low, use a garden hose to fill it up as much as necessary. And if it’s getting too high, rent a waterproof pump to get rid of any excess water. Level pool, level mind!

There you have it! Pool maintenance doesn’t have to be stressful — these tips from Fresh Home may put you on the right track to having some good, clean fun this summer!

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