Double Agents: New Uses for Everyday Things

Who doesn’t love finding a new way to use a common household product? Look around your home, and you’ll find a lot of everyday household items that can be used in a new way.

Don’t dash out to the store, use these common items to clean and organize your home.

Baking Soda: Use baking soda to clean your carpets. Sprinkle it on your rug, leave it on for at least fifteen minutes, then vacuum. Baking soda can also be used to clean a toilet, deodorize a drain, unclog a drain, and shine tarnished silver. (All You)

White Vinegar: There are lots of ways to use white vinegar when cleaning your home. Use it to clean your fridge, disinfect your bathroom, clean a toilet, remove a carpet stain, or clean a dirty faucet. Who knew that a little bottle in your kitchen cabinet would have so many uses? (All You)

Lemon Juice: Lemons don’t just taste great in water or your favorite lemon bar recipe, they can also be used to clean common household items. Use it to clean your grout, microwave, toilet, and fridge. (Mother Nature Network)

Ice Cube Tray: Use an old ice cube tray to organize jewelry or desk items like thumbtacks, paper clips, and rubber bands. (Good Housekeeping)

Over the Door Shoe Rack: Make your cleaning supply closet neat and tidy. Put your cleaning products in an over the door shoe rack. An over the door shoe rack can also be used to organize toiletries in a small bathroom.

Finding creative uses for products will help you decrease the amount you spend on cleaning products, stay organized, and contribute to a cleaner planet. Start looking at items in your home in a new light.

 

Recommended Reading:

-Just DIY It: 5 Natural Cleaning Products

-Five Simple Chalkboard Paint Projects for the Home

-How to Decorate Your Home on a Budget

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10 Cities Where Fitness Comes First

Put a spring in your hometown’s step by helping your community adopt these fitness ideas and strategies. We’re always on the lookout for great places to live, work and play. Check this space in every issue for a list that’ll inspire you to travel, dream, invest or make your own community better than ever.

1. Colorado Springs, CO (population: 376,427): This fitness mecca is home to the U.S. Olympic Training Center and uses a resident-approved sales tax to fund its TOPS (Trails, Open Space and Parks) program. The program buys undeveloped land to preserve for public use.

2. Portland, OR (population: 550,396): Six percent of Portlanders call their bicycles their primary commuting vehicle, according to bikeleague.org, so the city installed corrals that provide on-street parking for bikes.

3. Tucson, AZ (population: 525,529): Get out and play! That’s the mantra of city leaders who opened school playgrounds to kids during afterschool hours, weekends and summers. The move landed Tucson on the 2008 Playful City USA list by KaBOOM!, a nonprofit organization that promotes play as a critical piece of an active lifestyle. Visit kaboom.org for more information.

4. Arlington, VA (population: 204,568): This historical city serves as part of the course of the Marine Corps Marathon. With no qualifying time requirements, it inspires first-timers to run. Visit marinemarathon.com to learn more.

5. Sacramento , CA (population: 460,242): The “Take a Hike” program encourages city workers to lace up their sneakers at lunchtime to tackle one of 10 walks that start and end at the downtown capitol building. Head out on the 1.7-mile Victorian Homes Walk or the 2.2-mile Southside Park Walk. Search for walks in Sacramento at parks.ca.gov.

6. Albuquerque, NM (population: 518,271): The city’s mayor launched a Fit City Challenge that encourages residents to sign a commitment to eat more veggies, watch less TV and get moving. Entrants set goals and can track their progress. To learn more visit cabq.gov.

7. Atlanta, GA (population: 519,145): A higher-than-average number of swimming pools, tennis courts and golf courses puts this Southern metropolis near the top of the American College of Sports Medicine’s website for the American Fitness Index. Go to americanfitnessindex.org/report.htm.

8. Dallas, TX (population: 1,240,499): After working up an appetite with the kids at one of the city’s spraygrounds (playgrounds with water features), grab some healthy food at the 68-year-old Dallas Farmers Market, open seven days a week all year long.

9. Milwaukee, WI (population: 602,191): Eight neighborhoods in this Midwestern metropolis received a “walkers’ paradise” rating from Walk Score. Visit walkscore.com/rankings/Milwaukee.

10. Sioux Falls, SD (population: 151,505): Sports Illustrated magazine named this city the state’s “Sportstown.” Youth and adults stay active on football fields, ice rinks, a disc golf course and more. Not even the snow is an excuse: The bike trails are plowed all winter.

Selling Fitness: Put muscle in your home’s advertisement on the multiple listing service (MLS) by including mentions of nearby fitness amenities. Is your house within walking distance of a running or biking trail or a playground? Ask your sales professional to note it on the MLS so your listing attracts buyers interested in healthy living.

 

Recommended Reading:

-Worldwide Wanderlust: More Century 21 Homes from Around the Globe

-10 Cool Places to Get Wet

-The 5 Best “Man Caves” for Watching Football

 

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5 Ways to Create A Beautiful Backyard

A backyard that is well decorated and cared for will complete the look and feel of your home. It ties everything together and will become a great spot for playing, relaxing, and entertaining.  You’ll never be jealous of the Braverman’s yard again!

1. Fire Pits: A fire pit is perfect for all seasons. Roast s’mores, tell ghost stories, or bring your cocktail party outdoors. A fire pit will give your backyard a focal point and a new place to make memories with friends and family.

2. Lounge Seating: To add extra comfort, use comfortable, cozy lounge furniture instead of hard, iron or metal seating. Add an outdoor couch and arm chairs with cushions for extra seating. Place the furniture around the fire pit to initiate conversation and create the perfect entertaining area.

3. Lighting: Now that you’re entertaining outdoors you need lighting for evening entertaining. We recommend lanterns, string lights, wall lighting, landscape lighting, and motion-activated lighting.

4. A Fruit and Vegetable Garden: Indulge your green thumb (and impress your friends and family) with home cooked meals using ingredients from your garden. Plant your favorite vegetables, herbs, and fruits. Bon appétit!

5. A Flower Garden: Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote, “The earth laughs in flowers.” Plant beautiful flowers in your backyard. They’ll look pretty, smell good, and they may even attract gorgeous birds and butterflies!

6. A Table and Chairs: Go ahead, dine al fresco! Put a table and chairs outside so that you can host outdoor dinner parties. You can use the kitchen table or dining room when the weather gets cooler. (Pro Tip: Plant Citronella in your garden to keep the bugs and mosquitos away!)

Don’t just keep up with the Braverman’s. Surpass them with a backyard that is perfect for entertaining friends and family.

 

Recommended Reading:

-Landscaping 101: Great Grass Alternatives

-How to Style a Patio

-Let’s Get App-y: 3 Apps for Interior Design

 

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How To Make a House A Home: Creating Memories

There are so many ways to make a house a home. A house is simply a physical structure. A home is a place where you create meaningful memories with loved ones. It is a place for watching first steps, celebrating birthdays, and enjoying family dinners.

These activities will help you to create memories at home.

1. Plant a garden: Your family will love choosing flowers, herbs, fruits, and vegetables to plant in your garden. It will become a fun activity that you can do together. Watch the plants grow from season to season and year to year. We recommend also having each family member choose a plant that is uniquely theirs – they’ll have fun watching it grow and change, and it will be a great way to encourage responsibility.

2. Hang photos and art: Create a gallery wall with your children’s art and family photos. Hang holiday photos, first day of school photos, and photos from choice moments. Your kids will feel special when they see their art up on the wall.

3. Start a collection: Start a family collection. You will all get excited when you find something new to add. Collect salt and pepper shakers, vases, or something else that you all enjoy. Display the collection throughout your home, and each piece will remind you of the time you found it.

4. Make a height chart: Mark your children’s height on the door. You’ll love seeing how much they’ve grown, and they will get excited each time you make a new mark.

5. Make a “library” area: You don’t need a library to make a library area. Make a designated part of the home where your kids can curl up with their favorite books or, if your kids are pre-reading level, an area where you can read to them. You’ll make memories when you read together.

These ideas will help you to create new family traditions and memories. As they say, home is where the heart is! Write on our Facebook wall to let us know how your family creates memories at home.


Recommended Reading:

-Small Changes, Big Difference: 5 Low Cost Ways to Give Your Home a New Look

-5 Ways to Take Your Bedroom From Good to Great

-The Ultimate Home Personality Quiz

 

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5 Gadgets Every Man Cave Needs

It’s finally football season! Time to get the “man cave” in good shape for watching football. Setup your “man cave” with the technology you need to see and hear every single touchdown.

Here are five gadgets every “man cave” needs.

1. A Big Screen TV: Score some points when you host fantasy football, game nights, or movie nights. Project the big game on a big screen.

2. TV Wireless Headphones: Watch the game as loud as you want with wireless headphones. You’ll be able to hear every call – without disrupting the rest of your family.

3. Mini Fridge: Keep your favorite beverages within arm’s reach. Use the top of the mini fridge to store chips, popcorn, jerky and other snacks.

4. A Massage Recliner: Kick back and relax while you watch the kickoff. Some recliners have a built in massager or a built in cooler. Add a large couch and you and your bros will have room to chill.

5. Grill: You’ve got a beverage and snacks, and now you need some grub. In an ideal maniverse (man-universe) you’d have easy access to the patio and your outdoor grill. If this isn’t the case in your man cave, you can buy a small grill for making burgers or burritos.

Now all you have to do is call up your friends and invite them over to your place. You’ll love having an area of the home to truly call your own. Crush some beverages in the comfort of your macho (and hi-tech) “man cave.”

Recommended Reading:

-5 Best Man Caves for Watching Football

-Do This, Not That: Tips for Staging Your Home

-10 Incredible Home Organization Tips

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6 Inexpensive Remodeling Ideas for Your Home

Contribution by Andrea Davis, HomeAdvisor

– Photo courtesy of Modify Your Space

Remodeling can cost thousands of dollars, which can take homeowners months or years to save. In the interim, how do you make improvements to rooms like bathrooms and kitchens? Instead of taking out loans for an expensive remodel, consider investing in a few of these less expensive remodeling alternatives:

1. Refinish bathtub

If you have a porcelain bathtub that looks a bit worn, the alternative to replacing it is refinishing the tub. While refinishing is a long process, it costs less than a new bathtub, about $300 to $1,000 according to ImproveNet. The process involves getting off all of the dirt and grime and then sanding it before putting on new layers of paint and primer. It’s a process that will leave your bathtub looking almost new if you have the right tools and want to invest at least a day working to refinish it.

—Photo courtesy of Sass Construction, Inc.

2. Refinish wood floor

Over time wood floors get scuffed, scratched and worn down by foot traffic in kitchens, living rooms and hallways. While homeowners might consider replacing parts or the whole wood floor, another option is to refinish the wood. The DIY approach is to sand down the wood floor and then re-stain it, which requires a lot of elbow grease and time to complete. If you want to have a flooring professional do the work, you might pay between $1,500 and $2,000 for wood floor refinishing depending on the square footage.

3. Replace cabinet and drawer hardware

When cabinets are opened and closed continuously, the hardware can wear down, hinges may start to squeak and areas may crack. Instead of replacing the entire cabinet door, you can go to a local home improvement store and find knobs, hinges and pulls. Then on the weekend, using some screwdrivers and a drill, you can take off the old hardware and replace them so the cabinets have brand new knobs and hinges that don’t squeak.

—Photo courtesy of Vita Moderna, LLC

4. Paint cabinets

If paint starts to chip away from your kitchen or bathroom cabinets because of usage over time, you can take the doors off with a screwdriver and repaint them or have them professionally finished. This will save on having to replace the entire cabinet, and you can have them personalized for the room. If you choose to paint them yourself, be sure to choose quality paint that can last so you won’t have to go back and do it again. You also want to be sure and cover the hinges and knobs. It might be good to consult with a painter ahead of time just in case.

5. Update lighting

For those who want to have a greener home, an inexpensive project is updating your lights from fluorescent or incandescent to LED. You can go to your local home improvement or big-box store and purchase LED bulbs for around $10 and install them in about any fixture. These will cut down on your utility bill while giving off the same glow without that bright, buzzing haze. You can also replace many of your hanging fixtures with recessed lighting, which can optimize ceiling space but might require an electrician’s expertise for handling exposed wires.

6. Paint appliances

Many older homes have appliances that are oddly colored in pastels or pinks and blues. While these appliances are still in working order, they don’t match modern demand for stainless steel. Instead of replacing them, innovation now allows for homeowners to paint their appliances. Homeowners can buy painting kits to transform these retro appliances from old to new without spending thousands on all-new appliances. However, if you aren’t certain about doing it yourself, there are professionals who refinish appliances every day.

These are just some of the inexpensive alternatives homeowners have to remodeling rooms in their home or ways to revitalize rooms while saving up for a remodel. If you need other ideas for updating without gutting a room, consider options like plumbing, furniture upholstery, heating and cooling and other small projects that will save you time and effort on a remodel.

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Dressed for Success: Outdoor Improvements

It’s the season for outdoor improvements. Where to invest? Here’s how to decide.

Making a great impression starts with your home’s exterior. In fact, a recent survey by the National Association of REALTORS® indicated curb appeal was a “major factor” in 49 percent of all home sales. And in a survey by Real Estate Agent Community Trends, 82 percent of agents said they’d had buyers decline to look at homes based on exterior appearance.

Here’s how to weigh your outdoor project options:

Pricey Replacements: New vinyl siding appeals to many buyers, but it can be expensive. Often a new paint job can freshen and protect the exterior. “Choose a neutral color that blends,” says CENTURY 21® Sales Professional Suzy Stone of CENTURY 21 AdVenture in Fredericksburg, Virginia. If the siding and paint are sound, give your house a power-washing. “It’s inexpensive and effective,” Stone advises.

You’ll increase your comfort and lower monthly utility bills by adding new energy-efficient windows, and they’ll appeal to future buyers. But the upgrade may make sense only if you plan to stay in your home a long time. If window replacement isn’t feasible in your timeline and budget, make sure existing units and window trim are in good repair and freshly painted. These simple, budget-friendly steps can go a long way in making a good first impression. Thorough caulking can help on the energy front too.

Low-Cost Necessities: Some of the most important exterior improvements you can make are the least expensive, says Stone. They also can provide quick and substantial payback.

Repaint or restain the front door, replace exterior light fixtures and add new welcome mats, inside and out. “People want to wipe their feet when they enter a stranger’s house,” Stone says.

While you’re at it, replace any rotted trim around the front door and garage doors.

And don’t forget your landscape. Trim bushes, remove leaves, edge the driveway and sidewalks and add fresh mulch around trees and shrubbery.

Acceptable Indulgences: If you’ve always wanted a swimming pool and plan to stay in your home for a while, go for it. “Enjoy the pool, but don’t assume that it will add value to your house,” Stone cautions. “Many people don’t want pools or hot tubs.”

Decks and porches, on the other hand, have broader appeal. Especially if they’re the norm in your neighborhood, they can increase your enjoyment of the house and add value when you sell.

Suzy Stone CENTURY 21 AdVenture, Fredericksburg, Virginia

Professional involvement: Suzy was president of her local REALTORS association in 2007, and she now serves as the part-time government affairs director.

Giving back: As president of her local no-kill Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals shelter, Suzy spends a lot of time fund-raising.

In the “people business”: “I like to see my clients often,” Suzy says. That’s why she keeps her business limited to the Fredericksburg area.

 

Recommended Reading:

-Small Changes, Big Difference: 5 Low-Cost Ways to Give Your Home a New Look

-How to Style a Patio

-How to Decorate Your Home on a Budget

-10 Secrets for Making Your Bedroom Feel Larger

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Facebook Tips for Real Estate Agents

Facebook has become a worldwide social media phenomenon. As of June 2014, the network has 1.28 billion monthly active users. Use these tips to build your following and, ultimately, help generate new business.

1. Post helpful content: Some may think that a professional Facebook page would be used simply to promote yourself and your work, but similar to our Twitter tips, that’s not the case. Offer your followers something that they won’t get from another real estate agent. You are an expert in your field so show it; post helpful tips about buying and selling homes and other resources. This will show that you care about your followers and are a thought leader.

2. Complete your profile: Before a Facebook user clicks “Like” they will check your profile to make sure the page is qualified and worthy of appearing on their news feed. Don’t skimp on any section of your profile, from website and contact links to locations – it’s important not to leave anything out.

3. Use pictures and videos: Users respond better to photo posts; 93% of the most engaged posts on Facebook are ones that contain photos. Posting photos of a listing or posting infographics can boost your engagement and keep followers coming back to your profile.

4. Join real estate groups: Connecting with others in your field is always a good idea. Take advantage of the wide range of users and do some online networking. Join real estate agent groups to network and learn something new. The only way to grow and exceed your own expectations is to learn from others who may be more experienced. Networking through Facebook can lead to new clients, agencies or even a mentor.

5. Schedule your posts: You’re not always going to have time to be on your Facebook page constantly updating your status. Use the Facebook scheduler tool to schedule posts in advance. It’s reported that the highest engagement time is between 1pm and 3pm and that engagement is 18% higher on Thursdays and Fridays. Consider scheduling your posts for these times until your page has been up long enough to determine the days and times for the highest engagement.

Use these best practices to promote your business on the most popular social media network. If you want to learn even more about growing your social media following, read our best practices for Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest.

 

Recommended Reading:

-Tech Talk: 5 Apps for Real Estate Agents

-6 Simple SEO Tips for Real Estate Agents

-Home Office Essentials

-Productivity Tips for Working From Home

 

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Fall into Fall: 5 Ways to Get Your Home Ready for Fall

Pumpkins, cozy sweaters, and falling leaves. Fall is almost here (the first official day is September 22nd), but you still have time to prepare for the new season in a big way.

Here are four ways to get your home ready for the fall.

1. Clean your gutters: Hire someone to clean out you clogged gutters or do it yourself. Watch Lowe’s video and read their article to learn how to clean your gutters.

2. Fix any drafts: Check your windows and doors for any drafts. Hire someone to fix any problems or fix it yourself. This Old House has tips for fixing drafts without breaking a budget.

3. Buy a rake or leaf blower: Have all the necessary leaf removal tools on hand before the leaves start to fall. Get ready to jump into piles of leaves!

4. Clean the fireplace: Have the fireplace inspected to make sure it’s safe to use when the temperature starts to drop.

Now that you’re done, sit back, relax, and enjoy a hot cup of tea and your favorite pumpkin flavored pastry.

 

Recommended Reading:

-Done in One Hour: How to Install a Faucet

-Just DIY It: 5 Natural Cleaning Products

-Spring Cleaning Checklist: Bathroom Bacteria Busters

-Spring Cleaning Checklist: Bedroom

 

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What’s the Difference?

There are so many items in your household that are similar to one another. Whether pillows, doors, windows, or blankets, they are all used the same way, yet they are different.

Here are the differences between a few common household items. Go ahead, impress your friends by knowing the differences.

Bay Window vs. Bow Window: At first glance, a bay and bow window look very similar. They’re both large windows that allow for a lot of light to be let into a room. They even have similar shapes, but there is a difference hidden between them. Bay windows have only three openings while bow windows can have up to five. Bay windows extend further out from the wall, giving more floor space inside.

Comforter vs. Duvet: The primary difference between a comforter and a duvet is that a comforter is used alone and a duvet requires a duvet cover. A common analogy is that a duvet is like a pillow and a duvet cover is the pillow case. Comforters and duvets can both be filled with down, down alternatives, synthetic materials, silk, or wool. If you like to change the style of your room often a duvet and duvet cover may be a better choice because you can switch it as easily as switching your sheets. Comforters often don’t fit in normal washing machines so people usually wash them less often and use a top sheet. (Crane & Canopy)

Sham vs. Pillowcases: A pillowcase goes on top of the pillows you sleep on; it has only one opening on the end and isn’t necessarily supposed to be decorative. A sham is a decorative pillow case that is generally propped up against the headboard. It is closed on all four sides and comes in a variety of colors, materials, and sizes.

Gliding vs. French Doors: At first glance, these doors look very much alike because of their large glass panels that bring natural light into the room. A gliding door is exactly what it sounds like: a sliding door that runs along a track. These are a less expensive choice and are usually seen in modern homes with a contemporary touch. A French door is a normal style door that opens on hinges, but has large window-like panels from the floor to the ceiling.

These are just a few household items that hold similarities to each other but now it may be easier to tell the difference.

Recommended Reading:

-5 Ways to Take Your Living Room from Good to Great

-Serene Space: 5 Tips for Creating a Calm Bedroom

-How to Decorate Your Home on a Budget

-Be My Guest: How to Style a Guest Room

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