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5 ‘Gotta-Dos’ In April for a Worry-Free Summer

by The Schnoor Team

 

Battle bugs before they bite (or sting!) you — and check the attic for problems.

Tackling five simple tasks now gives you a head start on spring.

That leaves you plenty of worry-free time to enjoy the warmer weather.

#1 Tell Insects to Bug Off

Early spring warmth awakens insects, so start to protect your home now. Seal openings in eaves, decks, and other structures to keep out carpenter bees.

Nix mosquitoes by eliminating standing water or treating it with larvicide. Call a pro to destroy wasp and yellow jacket nests, unless you’re experienced enough to engage in a bee battle.

#2 Prep Tools for Lawn Care

Ladies and gentlemen, start your mowers. April’s the month to get this vital piece of equipment ready to roll. An unmaintained machine can cost money, slow you down, and leave your lawn vulnerable to disease. So, before you pull the starter rope:

Replace spark plugs and the air filter.

Change the oil and sharpen blades.

Fill the tank with fresh gasoline.

While you’ve got your gloves on, clean, sharpen, and repair your garden tools. When your azaleas are ready to prune, you’re not going to want to keep them waiting.

#3 Tune Up the Air Conditioner

With flip-flop weather comes another summer tradition: cranking up the air conditioning. Tune your AC in April, before the mercury and service rates rise.

Ask your HVAC company if they have a twice-a-year maintenance plan. Often, you can get discounted rates if you join, and you don’t have to worry about finding someone to do it each spring and fall.

Now you only have to worry about which pair of Havaianas to wear.

#4 Check the Attic (and Garage)

How long has it been since you looked in the attic? Yeah, us too.

April’s the time to inspect this oft-ignored space — before it gets too hot. Look for signs of animal activity (raccoons love attics), and repair or replace damaged insulation or wiring.

Ensure stored items are still secure; tighten container lids and dust covers and replace moth repellants.

While we’re talking storage, how’s the garage? If soccer balls, bikes, and luggage have taken prime parking space, regain control with a storage system. Your car (and your partner) will thank you.

#5 Clean Up Bird Feeders

Besides spreading diseases to birds, dirty bird feeders attract rodents and hurt curb appeal. Gross.

Give your bird feeders a deep clean — not just a rinse-out.

Empty them, take them apart, and wash with a solution of one part bleach to nine parts hot water. Rinse well to remove all traces of bleach, air dry, and refill with seed.

Clean under feeders, too, because moldy or spoiled seed on the ground can make pets sick. Don’t forget the bird bath.

A pretty yard that’s a healthy haven for birds makes a good impression — one that says “this is a well-cared-for home.”


Source: http://pexels.com/search/home organization/

KELLEY WALTERS

is a Southern writer and editor. She focuses on interior design and home improvement at outlets from HGTV to Paintzen. She lives in Italy a month every year, drinking Negronis and writing in internet cafes.

5 Awesomely Easy Landscaping Projects

by The Schnoor Team

 

It’s your yard — yours to do with as you wish. And while that’s great, that doesn’t mean you have to be one of those people who spends every spare moment in their yard, sprucing it up.

But, still, your landscaping could use a little something. But something easy.

Here are five totally doable projects that your budget will barely notice, but your neighbors definitely will:

#1 Add Some (Tough) Edging

Tell your grass who’s boss with edging that can stand up to even the crabbiest of all crabgrasses.

But don’t make the mistake that many homeowners make of buying the flexible plastic stuff, thinking it will be easier to install. It’ll look cheap and amateurish from day one.

Worse, it won’t last. And before you know it, you won’t be able to tell where your garden bed ends and your “lawn” begins.

Instead buy the more rigid, tough stuff in either fiberglass, aluminum, or steel.

Tips on installing edging:

Lay out a hose in the pattern you want.

Sprinkle flour or powdered chalk to mark the hose pattern.

Use a lawn edger (or spade) to make an incision for the edging.

Tap the edging into the incision with a rubber mallet.

The cost? Mostly your time, and up to $2.50 a square foot for the edging.

#2 Create a Focal Point with a Berm

Berm built in front yardImage: Jon Jenks-Bauer

A berm is a mound of gently sloping earth, often created to help with drainage. You can also build them to create “island beds,” a focal point of textures and colors that are so much more interesting than plain ol’ green grass.

Plus, they’ll give you privacy — and diffuse street noises. What’s not to like about that? Especially if you live in more urban areas.

For most yards, berms should max out at 2-feet high because of the space needed to properly build one.

They need a ratio of 4-6 feet of width for every foot of height. That’s at least 8 feet for a typical 2-foot high berm. So be sure you have the room, or decrease the height of your berm.

Popular berm plantings include:

Flowering bushes, such as azaleas

Evergreens, such as blue spruce

Perennials such as periwinkle

Tall, swaying prairie grasses

Lots of mulch to keep weeds away

The cost?  Usually less than $300, depending on how big you make it, how much soil you need to buy to get to your desired height, and what plants you choose.


#3 Make a Flagstone Wall

Aim to build a wall no more than 12 inches tall, and it becomes a super simple DIY project — no mortar needed at all!   

How to build an easy flagstone wall:

Dig a trench a couple of inches deep and wide enough to accommodate the flagstones.

Fill with pea gravel and/or sand and tamp to make level.

Lay out the flagstones to see their shapes and sizes.

Stack the smaller stones first.

Save the largest, prettiest flagstones for the top layer.

Backfill with gravel.

Choose a stone of consistent thickness. Flagstone might be limestone, sandstone, shale — any rock that splits into slabs.

The cost? About $300 for stones and sand (a ton of 2-inch-thick stone is enough for a wall 10 feet long and 12 inches high).

 #4 Install a Path with Flagstone or Gravel

There’s something romantic, charming, and simply welcoming about a meandering pathway to your front door or back garden — which means it has super-huge impact when it comes to your home’s curb appeal.

You can use flagstone, pea gravel, decomposed or crushed granite, even poured concrete (although that’s not easy to DIY).

A few tips for building a pathway:

Allow 3 feet of width for clearance.

Create curves rather than straight lines for a pleasing effect.

Remove sod at least 3 to 4 inches deep to keep grass from coming back.

If you live in an area with heavy rains, opt for large, heavy stones.

The cost? Anywhere from a couple of hundred bucks to upwards of $500 depending on the material you use, with decomposed granite being the least expensive, and flagstone (also the easiest of the bunch to install) the costliest.

#5 Build a Tree Surround

Stone tree surroundImage: Clean Green Landscape

Installing a masonry surround for a tree is a two-fer project: It looks great, and it means you’ve got less to mow. Come to think of it, it’s a three-fer. It can work as extra seating when you have your lawn party, too!

All it takes is digging a circular trench, adding some sand, and installing brick, cement blocks, or stone. Just go for whatever look you like best.

The trickiest part is getting an even circle around the tree. Here’s how:

Tie a rope around the tree, making a loop big enough so that when you pull it taut against the tree, the outer edge of the loop is right where you want the surround to be.

Set your spade inside the loop with the handle plumb — straight up and down. Now, as you move around the tree, the loop of rope keeps the spade exactly the same distance from the base of the tree, creating a nice circle.

Then build the tree surround:

Dig out a circular trench about 8 inches deep and 6 inches wide.

Add a layer of sand.

Set bricks at an angle for a saw-tooth effect or lay them end-to-end.

Fill the surround with 2 to 3 inches of mulch.

The cost? Super cheap. You can do it for less than $25 with commonly-available pavers and stones.

Source: https://www.houselogic.com/by-room/yard-patio/easy-landscaping-projects/?site_ref=mosaic

 

Celebrating Earth Day Begins at Home

by The Schnoor Team

Happy Earth Day! There are many ways to green up your life, but many of the most important improvements you can make are right in your own home.

We’ve searched the Internet for offers, contests, and tips for making your home a greener place—not just on Earth Day, but every day.

Recycle bank’s Green Your Home Challenge: Log on to this online challenge, which asks you to complete green actions around your home. The more actions you complete, the more points you earn. You even get bonus points for referring friends to the contest. At the end of the contest, a grand prize winner will win a green home kitchen makeover, complete with brand-new Energy Star-qualified appliances. Smaller prizes will be awarded to 10 first-place winners and 100 second-place winners.

Lowe’s Earth Day giveaway: The home-improvement chain is celebrating Earth Day by giving away 1 million trees on Saturday, April 23. Show up early to get your sapling.

Home builder company giveaway: Today, KB Home street teams, festooned in green, at select locations will be handing out vouchers, which you can redeem for a $10 gift card. Through Sunday, April 24, at KB Home communities, you also can enter a sweepstakes to win a $2,500 cash prize. All Energy Star-qualified homes built by KB Home now come with an energy performance guide that estimates that home’s average monthly energy cost.

Facebook’s A Billion Acts of Green: Pledge to do your part by announcing your green activity of choice through social media. This Facebook page lets you commit to your choice of green acts, such as eliminating toxic cleaning products, changing to CFLs or LEDs for home lighting, and/or getting a home energy audit. 

Earth911 offers tips on spring cleaning your garage: Follow these tips for staying organized, motivated, and eco-conscious while cleaning out a notoriously grungy and not-so-green part of your home. 

Earth911 also has ideas for reusing items in your garden: Learn how to use a few common household items that could easily end up in a landfill to help your garden flourish.

Finally, The Greenists offer a simple tip for greening up all facets of your life: Use less. See how many opportunities you can find around your home to put this simple idea into practice:

Source: https://www.houselogic.com/save-money-add-value/save-on-utilities/celebrating-earth-day-begins-home/

COURTNEY CRAIG
is an Atlanta-based writer and editor. She believes no effort is too small when it comes to green living, which she tries to keep in mind while renovating her recently purchased first home. 

Spring Cleaning Guide If You Love, Love, LOVE Houseplants

by The Schnoor Team

An outdoor shower and dirt massage will do wonders.

You like having a clean house, and you LOVE having a green house. But a trail of dead leaves on the floor isn’t a good look no matter what.

This plan will help keep your home clean and green, while helping your plants stay healthy, too.

Give Plants a Spring Check-Up

Use a magnifying glass to check for bugs. Look for the marks they leave, like scarring, a cotton-like “fluff,” or webbing. (Hint: The undersides of leaves are a favorite hiding spot.) A few applications of a standard houseplant insecticide should take care of the critters.

Trim yellow and dead leaves. ”Aesthetically, plants look nicer without dead or dying leaves,” says Liza Wheeler, an “interior landscaping artist.” And creating a clean, green slate will make it easier to spot new problems as they arise, she says.

Massage the dirt to break it up. “The soil can get kind of cruddy from watering, so breaking it up makes it look cleaner,” Wheeler says. “It also helps aerate the soil slightly.”

Give them an outdoor shower. A little fresh air and a drizzly spring day — or a gentle spray from the hose — will help plants shake off the dust and cobwebs of winter. Don’t forget to wipe off the saucers and exteriors of pots.

Clean the Areas in Your Home That Your Plants Cover Up

Moisture and dirt can find their way out of pots and onto your floor, countertop, or shelf.

While your plants are drying outside after their shower,

clean the spots where they sit, checking for any damage, which could be caused by a cracked pot. Also clean any walls and baseboards that your greenery hides.

Clean the Windows

Crystal-clear windows allow more sunlight to reach plant leaves, fostering photosynthesis and respiration, freshening your indoor air. Besides clean windows make the entire home feel fresh and bright.

Organize Your Plant Supplies and Tools

Make lovin’ on your plants easier with some simple organizing solutions:

  • Do some organizing and purging to clear space in a cabinet or on a shelf to keep all your supplies together and easily accessible.
  • Stow frequently used items like a spray bottle and fertilizer in an easy-to-carry cleaning caddy.

Source: https://www.houselogic.com/organize-maintain/cleaning-decluttering/house-plant-care/?site_ref=mosaic

AMY HOWELL HIRT

has written about home design for 13 years. Her work has been published by outlets including “The Home Depot,” “USA Today,” and Yahoo! Homes. She previously served as home and garden writer and columnist for “The Cincinnati Enquirer.”

5 ‘Gotta-Dos’ In April for a Worry-Free Summer

by The Schnoor Team

Battle bugs before they bite (or sting!) you — and check the attic for problems.

#1 Tell Insects to Bug Off

Early spring warmth awakens insects, so start to protect your home now. Seal openings in eaves, decks, and other structures to keep out carpenter bees.

Nix mosquitoes by eliminating standing water or treating it with larvicide. Call a pro to destroy wasp and yellow jacket nests, unless you’re experienced enough to engage in a bee battle.

#2 Prep Tools for Lawn Care

Ladies and gentlemen, start your mowers. April’s the month to get this vital piece of equipment ready to roll. An unmaintained machine can cost money, slow you down, and leave your lawn vulnerable to disease. So, before you pull the starter rope: 

 

Replace spark plugs and the air filter.

Change the oil and sharpen blades.

Fill the tank with fresh gasoline.

While you’ve got your gloves on, clean, sharpen, and repair your garden tools. When your azaleas are ready to prune, you’re not going to want to keep them waiting.

#3 Tune Up the Air Conditioner
   
With flip-flop weather comes another summer tradition: cranking up the air conditioning. Tune your AC in April, before the mercury and service rates rise.

Ask your HVAC company if they have a twice-a-year maintenance plan. Often, you can get discounted rates if you join, and you don’t have to worry about finding someone to do it each spring and fall.

Now you only have to worry about which pair of Havaianas to wear.

#4 Check the Attic (and Garage)

How long has it been since you looked in the attic? Yeah, us too.

April’s the time to inspect this oft-ignored space — before it gets too hot. Look for signs of animal activity (raccoons love attics), and repair or replace damaged insulation or wiring.

Ensure stored items are still secure; tighten container lids and dust covers and replace moth repellants.

While we’re talking storage, how’s the garage? If soccer balls, bikes, and luggage have taken prime parking space, regain control with a storage system. Your car (and your partner) will thank you.

#5 Clean Up Bird Feeders
   
Besides spreading diseases to birds, dirty bird feeders attract rodents and hurt curb appeal. Gross.

Give your bird feeders a deep clean — not just a rinse-out.

Empty them, take them apart, and wash with a solution of one part bleach to nine parts hot water. Rinse well to remove all traces of bleach, air dry, and refill with seed.

Clean under feeders, too, because moldy or spoiled seed on the ground can make pets sick. Don’t forget the bird bath.

A pretty yard that’s a healthy haven for birds makes a good impression — one that says “this is a well-cared-for home.”

Source: https://www.houselogic.com/organize-maintain/home-maintenance-tips/when-to-spray-for-bugs/

KELLEY WALTERS
is a Southern writer and editor. She focuses on interior design and home improvement at outlets from HGTV to Paintzen. She lives in Italy a month every year, drinking Negronis and writing in internet cafes. 

Should You Look for Your First House Or Keep Renting?

by The Schnoor Team

5 key questions to ask yourself before buying a home.

Tired of working so hard just to build your landlord’s equity instead of your own? Been dreaming about paint swatches and obsessing over Pinterest projects? Making that leap from renting to owning a home comes with many perks — both financial and emotional. And even though home ownership comes with great responsibility, you might be surprised how achievable it can be.

Certainly, the best time to trade security deposits for a down payment is different for everyone. If you’re thinking about switching from renting to owning, ask yourself these five questions to decide if you’re ready to embark on the home ownership adventure.

1. Are You Financially Prepared?

Let’s not beat around the bush: Buying a home requires a substantial financial commitment.

There’s the down payment, of course. “On average, you want to have a minimum of 5% to 7% of the cost of the home you’re targeting,” says Jason Harriman, a REALTOR® with San Antonio-based Heyl Real Estate Group at Keller Williams Realty. Then, add 3% to 6% more for closing costs, which will vary based on where you live and what taxes your state and city require you to pay.

Tip: Keep in mind if you put down less than 20%, you’ll pay PMI, private mortgage insurance, which protects the lender in case of default. Usually, it’s about $50 to $200 a month. But once you reach a certain threshold on your loan to value ratio, you can cancel PMI

A healthy credit history is also important. Most borrowers will start to qualify for a mortgage with a minimum score of 620 — but the most competitive interest rates will be offered to those with a score of 700 or above. So if you haven’t started practicing those good credit habits yet, it’s time to start developing them.

One of the trickiest hurdles for young adults, so many of whom are lugging around student loan debt, is the debt-to-income (DTI) ratio. Mortgage companies want borrowers to have a certain level of cash flow each month, and that means taking into account how much you’re paying out to other lenders. Ideally, a borrower’s debt-to-income ratio — how much you pay toward debt each month divided by your gross monthly income — should fall below 36%. (Strictly speaking, a loan is considered able to be paid if the DTI doesn’t exceed 43%.) If yours doesn’t, think about how you can get that debt needle moving in the right direction.

“The best way to do this is to pay off any unsecured debts like credit cards and personal loans, and keep them as close to a zero balance as you can,” says Harriman.

2. Are You Prepared to Make Compromises?

Kathleen Celmins, who manages the personal finance site “Stacking Benjamins,” was financially prepared to manage a mortgage. But once the house hunting began, she quickly realized she was priced out of the homes she had envisioned for herself.

“I originally wanted a single-family home with a yard and in a great neighborhood,” she says. But given her price point, the homes she could afford ended up being in, well, not the greatest neighborhoods. “At one point, we looked at a property that was directly behind a strip club,” she laughs. “We didn’t even go inside.”

After several weeks of searching, Celmins realized she needed to find a middle ground. “In my price range, I could get a not-so-great house in a not-so-great neighborhood. Or, I could get a really cute condominium with a gas range and granite countertops,” she says. “It was something I compromised on. I gave up a yard for having fancy stuff in my condo.”

3. Are You Emotionally Ready?

When it comes to renting, surprises don’t require much emotional investment. The rent goes up? You can move. The fridge is on the fritz? The landlord will send someone over. Home ownership is a bit more hands-on. If the toilet breaks, it’s time to start reading Yelp reviews. And if property taxes unexpectedly rise, it’s on you to appeal or pay up.

“My homeowners association fee doubled in the first year I owned my condominium,” says Celmins. “Then my real estate taxes were reassessed. My mortgage payment went up and I panicked. I didn’t even know that could happen.”

Of course, having the financial flexibility to cover those unexpected things is important, but don’t overlook the importance of having the mental and emotional capability of dealing with them responsibly when they arise. Everything could be peachy for months, and then three maintenance issues might spring up in the same week. Stress management and problem solving skills are home ownership biggies.

4. Will Owning Pay Off in the Long Run?

Depending on the home you choose and where you live, you may pay a lower mortgage than you paid for rent. But even if you don’t, there’s still the financial advantage of building equity in your home, instead of lining your landlord’s pockets.

5. Has Your Lifestyle Outgrown Renting?

Many people find a rental can only take them so far. When you’re ready to start a family, you’re going to want a few extra rooms, and that can get expensive with rising rental rates. A yard also provides a safe place for Junior to play or for a dog to scamper around. And speaking of Fido, the vast majority of renters have trouble finding a place that will allow for their pet. Home ownership can end that stress for good.

Then there are the renovations. If you’re itching to test out your DIY skills and personalize your space, you’re probably ready to own. Landlords who allow property renovations — especially DIY projects — are few and far between.

Buying a first home is a big change — both from a financial and an emotional perspective. Still, for many, home ownership can be one of the most rewarding life choices one can make. “Turns out it’s awesome,” said Celmins. “I love it so much.”

Source: https://www.houselogic.com/buy/first-time-home-buyer/buying-your-first-home/?site_ref=mosaic

ALAINA TWEDDALE

is a freelance writer who writes about money, home, and investing. Her work has appeared on Forbes.com, the Huffington Post, and Time.com. When she’s not writing, she’s working with her husband to slowly renovate what seems like every square inch of their home.

 

When It’s Time to Get an Accountant to Do Your Taxes

by The Schnoor Team

 

Do you need a CPA? Or will a regular accountant do?

The federal tax law signed by President Donald Trump Dec. 22, 2017, may affect home ownership tax benefits described in this article. The new law goes into effect for the 2018 tax year and generally doesn’t affect tax filings for the 2017 tax year. Here’s a detailed summary of the changes.

You are soooo dreading doing your taxes this year. Gone are the days when you used to sit down with a glass of wine and fill out your 1040 EZ. Remember that time you finished and hit the “submit” button just as you swallowed the last sip?

Not this year. Unless you want to pay a ton in taxes, you’re going to have to itemize. You did it last year, and it wasn’t too bad. But this year, you did some freelancing. And you moved. And it’s going to take a whole lot more time than one glass of wine. 

Maybe it’s time to hire a pro. But do you really need a certified public accountant? And can you justify the expense?

The Differences Between CPAs and Other Tax Experts

First you need to know there are different types of tax experts. And not all accountants are CPAs. So if you’re thinking that an independent CPA and someone at H&R Block or Jackson Hewitt (or your buddy who studied accounting in college) are pretty much the same, don’t count on it. Basically,

  • An accountant is someone who studied accounting.
  • CPAs are accountants who pass rigorous testing from their state board on a regular basis. The designation usually requires a degree. Not every CPA specializes in taxes.
  • An “enrolled agent,” or EA, is an accountant who has received certification from the IRS. Being an EA doesn’t require a degree like CPA. But it does verify they know tax law.
  • A tax preparer at pop-ups like H&R Block or Jackson Hewitt is trained on tax software to help taxpayers file their returns. They aren’t required to be CPAs or EAs.
  • Only CPAs and EAs can legally represent you if the IRS challenges your return.

There’s nothing wrong with visiting a pop-up preparer like H&R Block if your return isn’t all that complicated, says Cathy Derus, CPA and founder of Brightwater Accounting in Illinois.

“It’s when you start generating other income — perhaps you launch a business or own rental property — [or experience a big financial change] when it makes sense to ask for a little extra help,” she said.

When It's A Good Idea to Hire a Tax Pro

When you buy your first house. Many of the expenses related to buying a home and having a mortgage are deductible. But only if you itemize. And that’s what the experts are best at.

When you move to a new state. There’s a good chance you’ll have to file two state returns for the year you move. And each state is a little bit different in terms of state tax owed — zero in some states, a flat amount in others, and graded by income bracket in most.

When you become a landlord. “When you own investment property, you become a small business owner,” says Tai Stewart, accountant and owner of Saidia Financial Solutions in Houston. That means new records to keep and a new tax form, Schedule E, to complete.

When you buy a vacation property. Especially if you rent it. And especially if it’s in a different state.

When you work from home. There’s a lot of potential money-saving deductions that can vary widely depending on the type of business and how much space it takes up in your home. “If you have a 

Tax Tip

Avoid the onerous record keeping for the regular home office deduction with the simplified method — $5 per sq. ft. up to 300 sq. ft., capped at $1,500. Trade-off: Much less paperwork, but possibly a smaller deduction, too.

home office, you can deduct for the square footage you use for work as well as a portion of your utilities, mortgage interest, and property taxes,” says Stewart.

When you make home improvements. Energy-efficient upgrades like installing a new heating and cooling system, water heater, or insulation may qualify for tax credits. But that can change depending on the year. Same goes for medically necessary home improvements that aren’t paid by your employer or insurance.

When your home’s value is reassessed.The tax man doesn’t always get it right, and sometimes your home may be valued at more than it should be. An expert will be able to pull the data together to appeal it.

So, How Much Do Accountants Cost?

H&R Block will do your taxes for about $150, while a CPA or EA may add $100 or more to that fee ($260 on average last year).

You can definitely DIY all these tax scenarios and save the fees, but with CPAs and EAs, the extra cost may be worth it. Especially if you run your own business. Or you own more than one home. “An accountant can help you analyze your spending choices and even act as a consultant,” says Stewart. Best of all, they’ll be by your side if the tax man ever comes after you. That alone could be priceless if the time comes.

Oh, and one last tip: If you decide you want to hire a CPA or EA, best not to wait until the last minute. You may not find one.

Source: https://www.houselogic.com/finances-taxes/taxes/do-i-need-an-accountant/

ALAINA TWEDDALE

is a freelance writer who writes about money, home, and investing. Her work has appeared on Forbes.com, the Huffington Post, and Time.com. When she’s not writing, she’s working with her husband to slowly renovate what seems like every square inch of their home.

The 7 Worst Habits Homeowners Need to Break Now

by The Schnoor Team

 

Guilty of buying cheap stuff? Pack-ratting? Here’s how to change your ways.

Bad habits are so easy to fall into. But in the end, we know they only make us miserable. 

They’re “the opposite of what makes you happy. They’re what make you miserable,” says M.J. Ryan, author of “Habit Changers: 81 Game-Changing Mantras to Mindfully Realize Your Goals.” Especially when they cost you money.

Here are 7 bad habits to break now for a happier you (and a fatter bank account):

#1 Taking Long, Steamy Showers

Spending 20 minutes in the steam may be good for your pores, but it’s also great for mold and mildew. Run the exhaust fan while you’re singing in the shower, squeegee the walls afterward, and scrub that grout every few months.

“Once you let the grout go, it gets worse and worse, and harder and harder to maintain,” says Mylène Merlo, a REALTOR® in San Diego. Grungy grout is a big turnoff for buyers. And redoing it is a pain and expensive to hire out.

#2 Keeping Out the Sun

Shutting your shades on winter days might seem smart. More insulation from the chilly weather, right? Your energy bill disagrees. A sunny window can warm your home and lower your heating costs. And as a bonus, you could see a decrease in seasonal depression.

But your original idea wasn’t totally wrong. Closing those blinds at night can keep your home toasty.

“Bad habits are the opposite of what makes you happy. They're what make you miserable.”

M.J. Ryan, author of "Habit Changers: 81 Game-Changing Mantras to Mindfully Realize Your Goals"

#3 Compulsively Buying Bargains

Finding a deal feels so good, but cheaper isn’t always better. In fact, budget buys might cost you more in the long run. For instance, dollar paintbrushes will leave annoying streaks, requiring a costly re-do.

And when it comes to appliances, permit a little splurge — especially if selling your home is on the horizon.

“I always err with going for high-quality appliances,” Merlo says. “There is a noticeable difference between the cheapest and next-cheapest models. And buyers want to see stainless steel.”

#4 Running a Half-Full Dishwasher

You get a gold star for always remembering to start your dishwasher before bed, right? Clean dishes every morning! Go you! Yeah, about that: Your dishwasher wastes water unless it’s completely full.

Dishwashers do save more water than washing by hand (just try telling that to your mom), but most machines use the same amount of water regardless of how many plates you’ve stuffed inside, making a half-empty cycle significantly less efficient. For a household of one or two, once a day can be overkill.

#5 Mega-Mulching

A “tree volcano” might sound like a grand ol’ time, but it’s actually damaging your foliage. Too much mulch suffocates your tree, causing root rot and welcoming invasive insects. 

#6 Going on a Remodeling Rampage

Don’t break out the sledgehammer for a demo three weeks after moving in unless your home needs serious, obvious work. Give yourself time to understand the home’s quirks before renovating.

“You don’t know what your needs are when you first move into a home,” says Merlo. “You should live there for at least six months to figure out the space you need. If you do too much too soon, you’ll regret it.”

For instance, you could dump $15,000 into a kitchen remodel — only to realize the original layout would have worked better for holiday parties. Or you paint a room your favorite color, Wild Plum, only to realize the natural light in the room makes it look more like Rotten Plum. Whoops.

#7 Packratting

You know clutter is bad, but you just… can’t… help it. You had to put that unused exercise bike in the spare room instead of by the road as a freebie because what if? Plus, there’s so much in there already, and decluttering seems like such an insurmountable goal — even though every jam-packed square foot is space you can’t enjoy.

If the task seems impossible, Ryan recommends starting small.

“Do one small thing,” she says. “Clean out a drawer or reorganize your counter, and then you feel the satisfaction of having done it. It becomes easier to do the next small thing.”

Just remember: Breaking habits takes time and a lot of slip-ups. “It’s important to be kind to ourselves when we blow it,” Ryan says. “When we create new habits, we’re building new wiring, but it’s not like the old wiring disappears. Don’t turn goof-ups into give-ups.”

Source: https://www.houselogic.com/save-money-add-value/money-saving-diy/preventive-home-maintenance/

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.”

3 Must vs. Lust Buying Tips to Avoid Overspending

by The Schnoor Team

 

3 Must vs. Lust Buying Tips to Avoid Overspending

The super-simple (and fun) way to separate needs from nice-to-haves.

When you embark on the home-buying process, your heart is filled with all the dreams in the world. It’s really easy to get caught up in the “I have to have’s”

Make a List of Wants

Start by making a list of everything you want in your house. If you love it, jot it down. Have your spouse or partner do the same thing in a separate document.

Once you and your partner have everything down, start sorting your wants by order of importance. What’s your No. 1? Do you need large windows? How about a sunroom? Double sinks in the master? You get the idea. 

Come up with your top 10, and then compare your list to your partner’s top 10. What things appear on both lists? Those items should carry more weight because you both want them in your home.

Highlight the Important Stuff

The things that can’t be changed without a massive investment. I’m talking things like square footage, window size, and number of bedrooms. This is your heavyweight list. These things should take priority in your home-buying decision.

Features that are purely cosmetic, especially things that can be DIYed. These items should be moved way down the list or taken off entirely. Backsplash tile, paint color, and lighting can all be changed inexpensively and after you’re living in your house. You don’t want to pass up a fantastic house because you can’t see past a red accent wall.

At this point, you should have a combined list of 10 or so items. 

My last tip is to figure out the priority of each one of the items. Ask yourself, would you be willing to give up item number 4, say, to have item number 5? Would you be willing to give up hardwood floors for a home theater room? This is the hardest question to answer, but it’ll put your must-haves in the right order.

I always picture this activity like an eye appointment when the doctor says, “1 or 2? OK, now 2 or 3?” Do that with your list! Pool or flooring? Flooring or yard size? Yard size or square footage? Make sense?

Bring Your List When You Look at a Home

As you’re out looking at houses, keep your list handy. Maybe you’re not willing to give up hardwood floors for a jetted tub, but would you be willing to compromise for a jetted tub and extra square footage? Refer back to your must-haves list often. It’s easy to get distracted.

Here’s a quick checklist that I use when searching for a home. If you answer “yes” to all of these, then a “want” may be worth the splurge — that is, if you can be sure that you’ll be able to afford the feature (in terms of your monthly mortgage payments and living expenses).

Is it on both of your lists?

Is it something that’ll be extremely expensive and difficult to change or add?

Would you be willing to sacrifice something else to have it?

Would you feel like your house would be incomplete without it?

Happy house hunting!

Source: https://www.houselogic.com/buy/house-hunting/must-have-items/?site_ref=mosaic

MANDI GUBLER

is the creator of Vintage Revivals, a DIY / shelter blog unlike any other. She loves to share her thrift store finds and inspire her fans with DIY projects.

 

 

 

Umbrella Insurance and Homeowner Liability

by The Schnoor Team

Umbrella Insurance and Homeowner Liability

Umbrella insurance offers added homeowner liability protection that kicks in after homeowners insurance reaches its coverage limits.

Accidents happen at home: A visitor trips on your front steps, or a neighbor cleaning your gutters falls off a ladder. As the property owner, you can be held legally liable. Standard homeowners insurance typically offers some liability coverage, but it might not be enough to cover a major claim.

Umbrella insurance provides additional homeowner liability protection that kicks in after your homeowners insurance hits its policy limit. A lawsuit, even one seemingly unrelated to homeownership, can wipe out your net worth—including your home. That’s why protecting yourself against lawsuits is an essential part of protecting your home.

Understand homeowner liability

Liability insurance covers you in the event you get hit with a lawsuit. Some of the liability risks faced by homeowners are more apparent than others. For example, a house guest takes a tumble after slipping on your hardwood floors, or a neighbor’s kid falls off a swing in your backyard. Insurance agents call swimming pools, jungle gyms, and trampolines “attractive nuisances” because they draw children unable to appreciate their dangers.

If someone gets hurt on your property—whether inside or outside, and whether you think it’s your fault or not—you can get sued. Travelers, an insurance provider, says you could even face a lawsuit if your dog bites someone. If your pet or a member of your residence causes accidental damage to the property of others, you’re liable too. Automobile accidents can also lead to lawsuits.

In addition, you can face lawsuits from personal injury, which includes a wide variety of problems, such as emotional distress or sickness or disease. You can be sued for malicious prosecution, humiliation, libel, slander, defamation of character, or invasion of privacy. Although many of these scenarios seem to have little to do with homeownership, the end result of an unfavorable lawsuit judgment can be the loss of your home.

Brian Mittman, an attorney in White Plains, N.Y., says the reality is that anyone can be sued for anything at any time, though it’s less likely that juries will side with a plaintiff where there’s no obvious fault on the homeowner’s part. Some states also have so-called homestead laws that can protect homes from creditors. Consult an attorney.

Start with your homeowner policy

Homeowners are more likely to see a lawsuit if there’s a foreseeable incident with knowledge of a defect. Consider a homeowner whose front steps have loose bricks. A lawyer could argue the homeowner should’ve known about the problem and fixed it. This is an example of what could be a low-payoff situation—a trip to the emergency room and a sprained ankle that heals quickly. Many lawyers would pass on the case.

On the other hand, a visitor’s tumble down rickety basement steps could lead to a long hospital stay and a permanent limp. The homeowner could be found liable and have to pay, even if the injured party has medical and disability insurance. An injured party’s own insurance situation doesn’t necessarily let the homeowner off the hook.

The good news is a limited amount of liability insurance is standard in most homeowner policies. Although terms can vary, $300,000 is typical. Check your policy. For about another $300 a year, you should be able to add $1 million of liability coverage to your homeowners insurance.

Umbrella insurance adds layer of protection

Many financial advisers prefer umbrella insurance over increasing the liability coverage of a homeowner policy because the umbrella insurance applies to your vehicles as well as your residence. Remember, umbrella insurance is an overarching policy that covers liability issues at home and in the car. This is critical since you could lose all of your assets including your home as a result of a major lawsuit stemming from an auto accident.

Umbrella insurance, in general, runs about $300 a year for $1 million of coverage. Premiums can vary greatly depending on a host of factors including your credit and claims history, where you live, and who’s covered. In most cases you can get a policy issued in a couple of hours. The process is faster, and you might receive a multi-policy discount, if you get umbrella insurance through your current insurer.

Keep in mind that umbrella policies by nature come with very high deductibles. They only pay off after a homeowner’s other liability coverage is exhausted. If you use the same insurer, it’s easier to coordinate claims and ensure your homeowners insurance dovetails with your umbrella’s deductible.

Umbrella coverage has its limits

Generally, anything business-related isn’t covered by umbrella insurance. Bob Gustafson, a certified financial planner in Marlborough, Mass., notes that people connected with a home-based business aren’t covered under typical homeowner or umbrella policies. However, many homeowner policies will allow the purchase of a rider for small businesses, which will increase your annual premium between $300 and $400.

Businesses you work with and de facto employees, such as domestic workers, also are unlikely to be covered. Riders are available for full-time domestic workers; occasional house cleaners and babysitters should be covered under a standard policy. Major outside contractors, such as roofers, for example, should have their own insurance. Ask for proof before you hire any contractor.

Source: https://www.houselogic.com/finances-taxes/home-insurance/umbrella-insurance-and-homeowner-liability/?site_ref=mosaic

RICHARD KORETO

is a freelance writer. He’s been editor of many financial magazines and is the author of “Run It Like a Business,” a practice management book for financial planners. He and his wife own a pre-Civil War house in New York.

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