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The Best Time of Year to Buy Things for Your Home

by The Schnoor Team

When to look for sales on mattresses, appliances, tools, furnishings, and materials.

Buying stuff can be stressful. Cheap out, and you could regret it. Overspend, and you’ll cut into your budget. Knowing the best time of year to buy appliances and other household items can lessen the anxiety.

Here’s a list of the best time of year for sales.

Furniture: January and July

You could save 30% to 60% buying furniture in January and July, as stores try to clear out inventory and make way for new pieces, which manufacturers introduce in February and August.

Floor samples especially often sell for a song, so don’t hesitate to ask.

Storage Essentials: January and August

In August, retailers slash prices and offer free shipping on shelving, organizing systems, baskets, and storage bins, baiting parents who are packing kids off to college or getting organized for a new school year. (No offspring? No problem. Proof of parenthood is not required to qualify for deals.)

It happens again in January, when stores roll out more sales — and selection — to help you find a home for all those holiday gifts and meet your organizing goals for the New Year.

Linens and Towels: January

Department store “white sales” — launched in 1878 — are still a favorite marketing tactic and make January the best time to binge on high-quality bedding and towels. If the exact color or style you’re seeking is out of stock, ask in-store for a rain check, so you can get exactly what you want at the price that can’t be beat.

Major Appliances: January, September, October, and the Holidays

The prices on this year’s appliances bottom out when they suddenly become last year’s models. With the exception of refrigerators (more on that below), you can pick up last year’s models for way less in September, October, and January, when stores are making room for new inventory.

For good deals on this year’s models, wait for Black Friday and the holidays. The season rivals inventory clear-out bargains as the best time of year for sales on appliances. And if you’ve got more than one appliance on the fritz, holidays are often the time to find incentives for buying multiple items.

Mattresses: February and May

Even the most obscure holiday seems to inspire mattress sale commercials. Annoying, yes, but also a reminder that you should never pay full price for a mattress. The best time of year for sales is February (courtesy of Presidents Day) and May (Memorial Day).

Many department stores offer coupons for additional savings on the sale price, while specialty chains — which have the biggest markups — can drop prices 50% or more. But don’t waste your time price shopping: Manufacturers have exclusive deals with retailers for each model, so the only way to find a lower price is to snuggle up to a different mattress.

Refrigerators: May

Unlike other big-ticket appliances, new fridges are released in May. Combine the need for retail turnover with Memorial Day sales, and you get epic savings nearly all month long, making it the best time of year to buy a new refrigerator.

Snow Blowers: March and April

The best time to pick up a low-cost snow blower is exactly when you DON’T need it: in March and April. That time of year, no store wants them taking precious floor space away from spring merch like patio furniture and grills.

Vacuums: April and May

New vacs debut in June, so last year’s models go on sale in April and May — just in time for spring cleaning.

Roofing: May

For the lowest price on materials, buy in May.

But if you’re paying a pro to install a new roof, contractor rates begin their climb April 1 and stay high through fall. So if weather allows for wintertime installation, you could save big.

Gas Grills: July and August

Come July 5, there’s still smoke in the air from Fourth of July fireworks, but stores are already moving on to Halloween, with Christmas not far behind. So, they’ll cook up juicy savings on grills and other summer staples in July and August. Sales peak by Labor Day, so you could pick up a new grill and still have time to host one final summer hurrah.

Lawn Mowers: August, September, and May

August and September are the perfect time to retire an ailing mower. You’ll find the lowest prices of the year (but also the slimmest selection) as stores replace mowers with snow blowers. Retailers also kick off the season with sales every April. You generally won’t save quite as much, but you’ll have more choices.

Perennials: September

Unlike non-perishable goods, there’s not much retailers can do with last season’s perennials, so September brings savings of 30% to 50% and two-for-one offers on plants like hostas, daylilies, and peonies. And note that independent gardening stores can typically offer deeper discounts than big chains.

Cooler weather also makes this a great time of year to plant. How’s that for a win-win? If you prefer planting in the spring, many nurseries offer 10% to 20% off when you pre-order in February or March.

Power Tools: June and December

Power tools are a favorite go-to gift for Father’s Day and the holidays, so June and December are the best time to buy tools like cordless drills.

Paint: January, May, July, November, and December

Prices for interior and exterior paint bottom out when the mercury (and demand) falls — in November, December, and January, but also when it rises back up, in May and July.

HVAC equipment: March, April, October, and November

Like snow blowers, the best time to buy furnaces and whole-house air conditioning systems is when you don’t need them. Prices are lowest during months with moderate temperatures — generally March and April, then October and November.

Many installers also run promotions during these slow seasons to help load their books. They also may be more willing to negotiate a lower price or throw in a free upgrade like a fancy thermostat.

Flooring: December and January

From mid-December and into January, homeowners tend to take a break from major remodeling projects because of the holidays. Flooring retailers and installers are looking for business, so that gorgeous wide-plank flooring or luscious carpet can be yours for an even more scrumptious price. Happy Holidays to you.

Source: "The Best Time of Year to Buy Things for Your Home"

Hey, Buyers: These Home Appraisal Tips Are for You

by The Schnoor Team

What to expect, when to negotiate, and how to deal when things don’t go your way.

Most people have deeply personal reasons for wanting to buy a home. Maybe it’s the bathroom that feels like a dreamy, modern spa. Or that two-tiered deck just made for parties.

Your lender doesn’t care about the freestanding tub. Or the built-in outdoor fire pit. Their only concern is that the house you buy is worth as much as the value of your mortgage.

To them, a house isn’t a home. It’s collateral. (Harsh, but true.) If someday, for some reason, you can’t make your mortgage payments, the lender can foreclose on the home and sell it to recoup all or some of its costs. (Even harsher, but also true.)

For that reason, a home must be valued at, or above, the agreed-upon purchase price, and this has to happen before you can close on a house. That’s where a home appraiser comes in.

A Home Appraiser Is Neutral (Like Switzerland)

After you sign a home purchase agreement (the contract between you and the seller about the terms of the pending sale), and before your lender approves your loan, the home you’re buying must pass an appraisal — an assessment of the property’s value by an unbiased third party: the appraiser.

An appraiser is a state-licensed or -certified professional. Their job is to assess an opinion of value —how much a house is worth. The appraiser is on no one’s side. They don’t represent you or the seller; instead, this person is a contractor chosen by your lender through an appraisal management company (AMC), a separate, neutral entity that maintains a roster of appraisers.

Appraisers survey a house in person, using five main criteria to determine the value of a home:

  • Location
  • Age
  • Condition
  • Additions or renovations
  • Recent sales of comparable homes

Be Prepared to Pay for the Appraisal — or to Negotiate

Generally speaking, the home buyer is responsible for paying for the appraisal — and the fee is typically wrapped into your closing costs. However, who pays for appraisal is negotiable. It never hurts to see if the seller is willing to cover it.

How much money are we talking about? The average professional home appraisal will run between $287 and $373, according to estimates by the home-professionals resource HomeAdvisor.com. Costs can vary depending on the square footage and quirks of the house, with higher appraisal prices for larger or more unique homes.

Appraisals Take a While, So Be Patient

Typically, a purchase agreement has a “home appraisal contingency” requiring that the appraisal be completed within 14 days of the sales contract being signed. Because it takes appraisers some time to visit your house and write a report — up to a week, or longer in a busy housing market — your lender will order the appraisal immediately after you sign the purchase agreement.

So, You Have a Valuation. Here’s What It Means — and What to Do Next

When the appraisal is finished, the appraiser issues a written report with his or her opinion of the value of the home. To produce the report, they use their analysis of the property and data from comparable homes, as well as review the purchase offer. The report will outline their methodology and also include photographs that they’ve taken of the property, inside and out.

You and your lender will both receive a copy of the report. Three things could happen next:

  • If the appraiser’s valuation matches the price you and the seller agreed to for the home: Your lender will proceed to underwrite your loan. Great news: This is the final step in your loan-getting process!
  • If the appraiser’s valuation is higher than what you’re paying for the home: Congratulations! You’ve gained immediate equity. How, you ask? Let’s say, for example, you’re paying $200,000 for the house. If the appraiser says it’s worth $250,000 — jackpot. That’s an instant $50,000 in equity. (Keep in mind, this is very rare.)
  • If the appraisal is lower than what you’ve agreed to pay for the home: Your lender won’t give you a loan for more than the appraised value. If you and the seller agreed on $200,000, for example, but the appraisal is $190,000, that creates a $10,000 shortfall. So what happens next?

Don’t despair — not yet. If you’re faced with a low appraisal, there are several ways the deal can still go through.

If an Appraisal Is Low, You Can Still Make It Work

Before we talk strategy, some reasons why appraisals come in lower than expected:

  • The seller overvalued the price of the home.
  • The appraiser isn’t familiar with the neighborhood.
  • The appraiser overlooked pending sales data.
  • The appraiser had trouble finding comparable homes, or missed comparable homes, so they compared your home with properties outside the neighborhood.
  • Home prices in the area are changing so fast that the listing agent’s price no longer reflects the market.
  • The appraiser rushed the job.

If the appraisal comes in low, your agent will offer recommendations about how to proceed. In general, your best strategy is to persuade the seller to lower the sales price, or to split the difference between the home’s appraised value and the price with you. This is when you can rely on your agent — and their negotiating skills — to go to bat for you.

You can also appeal the appraisal assessment. You’ll work with your agent to research comparable homes that support the sales price you agreed upon with the seller and present this information to your lender, who will forward it to the appraiser for a re-evaluation of the home’s value. Ultimately, though, it’s up to the appraiser to decide whether to revise their valuation of the property.

Alternately, you can ask your lender for a second appraisal, though there are caveats:

  • You’ll have to pay for it out of pocket (or persuade the seller to foot the bill).
  • You’re more likely able to challenge an appraisal for a conventional loan than a government loan. And you’d need solid facts to back it up in either case.
  • There’s no guarantee that it will be higher and meet the sales price.

The last option: You can come up with the cash yourself to cover the difference between the home’s price and the appraised value.

If you don’t want to take that route (and who could blame you?), a purchase agreement’s home appraisal contingency gives you the ability to walk away from the deal scot-free, and with your earnest money deposit in hand.

But today, let’s assume it all works out. With the appraisal behind you, you’ll be one step closer to closing on that house.

Source: "Hey, Buyers: These Home Appraisal Tips Are for You"

Holiday Lights & Luminaria Bike Tour

by The Schnoor Team

Presented By: Routes Bicycle Rentals & Tours, Inc

Recurrence: Recurring every December 24th

Location: Routes Bicycle Rentals & Tours, Inc

Address: 2113 Charlevoix St NW, Historic Old Town, Albuquerque, NM 87104

Phone: (505) 933-5667

Time: 5:30pm; 6:45pm: 8:00pm

Price: $20-25 Per Person

EXPERIENCE THE MAGIC OF THE HOLIDAYS ON OUR TWINKLE-LIGHT BICYCLE TOUR OF ALBUQUERQUE!

Join us as we take you through the heart of Albuquerque, down luminaria-lined avenues in Old Town and past some of the most impressive light displays in the Southwest. Our unique and intimate bike tours are the perfect way to experience the holiday sights, sounds, scents, and magic of New Mexico without the traditional headaches of heavy traffic and slow moving lines.

Now in our 8th Annual holiday season, Routes Bicycle Tours ‘Lights & Luminara’ Bike Tour has become a festive tradition for friends and families all over New Mexico!

Historic Old Town Albuquerque and the nearby Country Club neighborhood close their streets to automobile traffic on Christmas Eve, and together host one of the most extensive luminaria displays in the state. Old Town is also home to the City’s impressive holiday tree and the famous decorations and ceremonies of the San Felipe de Neri church.

Your breathtaking Christmas Eve bike tour begins with a stunning ride through Old Town and around the San Felipe de Neri church to view the city’s largest concentration of Luminarias.

We then proceed into the Country Club neighborhood, where every street is twinkling with holiday cheer and impressive light displays. This fantastic neighborhood also hosts an annual hot air balloon “glow” at sunset for your enjoyment. With this year’s VIP tickets,  guests can fill up on even more holiday cheer throughout the evening, in the tasty form of spiced cider, hot cocoa, New Mexico Piñon Coffee (unlimited refills with your special, keepsake Routes mug), and locally-made biscochitos (a traditional NM cookie).

The entire tour is approximately one hour in length and will be experienced from the comfortable seat of our signature cruiser bicycles, which have been festively transformed into impressive light displays of their own!

Multiple routes, times, and bicycle options are available for your enjoyment. You may choose to rent a bike from us or bring your own bike at a discount (BYOBike). All rentals come with a helmet, bicycle lights, our festively decorated “twinkle light” bicycles, and -as always- Routes’ coveted goodie bags for each rider!

This year, compliment your heart-warming bike tour with a body-warming beverage and keepsake mug!

General tickets include a cup of locally made cider or New Mexico’s favorite pinon coffee. Want to enjoy your hot beverage throughout the events? Purchase a VIP Mug Club ticket and receive unlimited refills throughout the evening in our collectible Routes Bicycles mug – choices for VIP mug club tickets include Cider, NM Pinon Coffee, or local artisan Hot Cocoa from the Chocolate Cartel!

Source: "Holiday Lights & Luminaria Bike Tour"

The Secret to Programming Your Thermostat the Right Way for Each Season

by The Schnoor Team

Before you get started, you’ll need to pick a programmable thermostat you’ll actually use. Here’s how.

According to a study by the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, nearly 90% of Americans say they’ve rarely (or never) programmed their thermostat because they’re not sure how to do it.

But it’s really not that hard, and it’s definitely worth doing because it can save at least 10% a year on heating and cooling costs.

The U.S. Department of Energy says you can achieve that 10% by turning your thermostat back 7 to 10 degrees F from it’s normal setting for 8 hours a day.

The first step is to pick the thermostat that best suits your scheduling needs so you can “set it and forget it,” an approach the Energy Department advocates to get the most savings.

Pick the Right Thermostat

There are four types of programmable thermostats, each with a distinctive scheduling style:

7-day programming. Best for individuals or families with erratic schedules, since this is the most flexible option. It lets you program a different heating/cooling schedule for each day of the week.

5-1-1 programming. One heating/cooling schedule for the week, plus you can schedule a different heating/cooling plan for Saturday and Sunday.

5-2 programming. Same as 5-1-1 programming, except Saturday and Sunday will have the same heating/cooling plan.

1-week programming. You can only set one heating/cooling plan that will be repeated daily for the entire week.

You’ll need a program for both the cooler months and the warmer months.

TIP: Before buying a programmable thermostat, identify the type of equipment used to heat and cool your home so you can check for compatibility. For example, do you have central heating and cooling, or just a furnace or baseboard heating? Otherwise, you may not reap the rewards of energy savings and may risk harming your heating and cooling equipment.

Change the Factory Settings

Most programmable thermostats have a pre-programmed setting that’s supposed to be for the typical American family. But what family is typical these days? You need to adjust the thermostat’s settings so it’s in sync with the life you and your family lead instead of some mythical family.

Programming options are based on:

  • Wake Time
  • Sleep Time
  • Leave Time
  • Return Time

The Department of Energy suggests the following settings as an energy-saving rule of thumb:

Winter months:

  • For the hours you’re home and awake, program the temp to 68°F.
  • Lower at least 10 degrees for the hours you’re asleep or out of the house.

Summer months:

  • For the hours you’re home, program air conditioning to 78°F.
  • For the days you don’t need cooling, manually shut off the AC. Keep in mind, it will kick back on if the house gets too warm.
  • Program it to be warmer than usual when you’re out of the house.

Here are a few programming timing tips that can help you create the best set-it-and-forget-it heating and cooling schedule for your home:

  • Shut down heat or air conditioning 20 to 30 minutes before you leave home each day.
  • Turn on heat or air conditioning 20 to 30 minutes before you come home each day.
  • Reduce the heating or cooling 60 minutes before you go to sleep each night.
  • Increase heating or cooling about 30 minutes before you wake up each morning.
  • Spend time tweaking your program for a few days to make sure it feels right.

TIP: With a Wi-Fi-enabled thermostat, you can control your home’s temperature while on the go. That way, you’re not wasting energy if you’re running late or forgot to create a new program before going on vacation.

FYI: A furnace does NOT have to work harder to warm a house after the temperature has been set low during the day.

Use a Wifi Thermostat to Make It Super Easy

Want something that’s simpler? Newer more high-tech models have simplified the process:

The Nest Learning Thermostat: It creates a custom heating and cooling schedule for your home based on motion detection technology. Plus since it is Wi-Fi, it can be controlled remotely. Price: Usually a bit more than $200.

Honeywell Wi-Fi Smart Thermostat: This device makes it easy to create a custom heating and cooling plan. Unlike conventional programmable thermostats, it has a large color interface that displays a simple menu that walks you through all the programming steps. It also “learns” your home and will send you personal notifications if the temperature is not right, or if there’s a power outage. Price: Usually under $200.

FYI: Thermostats made prior to 2001 may contain mercury. To see if your programmable thermostat contains mercury, check with the manufacturer. If you decide to dispose of a thermostat that contains mercury, check out how to do so safely in your area at Thermostat Recycling Corp. (Not sure why mercury is so bad? Here’s the skinny: It’s toxic and it never breaks down. When it enters the waste stream, it permanently damages the ecosystem.)

Source: "The Secret to Programming Your Thermostat the Right Way for Each Season"

Little-Known Ways You Can Buy A House With No Down Payment

by The Schnoor Team

The city where you plan to buy a home may offer loans with no money down.

Can you buy a house with no down payment?

Yes, you can.

“Paying 20% down is, quite frankly, a myth,” says Karen Hoskins, vice president at NeighborWorks and bearer-of-great-news. “Most buyers pay only 5% to 10% down — some even pay zero.”

The key to finding a no-money-down home loan is finding the right assistance program. And there’s no shortage of them if you qualify.

Of the roughly 2,500 home-buying programs tracked by Down Payment Resource, a nationwide database of home ownership programs that helps match buyers and properties, 69% offer down payment assistance.

Even better: The average amount of assistance from those programs nationwide tops $11,000 — though amounts would vary greatly between disparate cost-of-living markets like Southern California and Iowa, according to Down Payment Resource. Some 87% of properties are eligible for some kind of assistance.

Here’s where to find the financial help you need to buy a home:

National Government Programs

Because they’re at the national level, they’re often the ones people turn to first:

  • FHA. Helps first-time buyers — especially those with lower credit scores — buy with down payments as low as 3.5% (low-down).
  • USDA Rural Development Loans. For low-to-middle income families buying homes in towns with populations of 10,000 or fewer people or that are “rural in character.” That means some areas with bigger populations have been grandfathered into the program (zero down).
  • VA Home Loans. Helps service members, veterans, and eligible surviving spouses (zero down).
  • Government-sponsored enterprises. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which set the rules for mortgages nationwide, both offer programs allowing eligible buyers to put down as little as 3% of the purchase price. That’s even lower than FHA (low-down).

But those aren’t the only options. Too often, buyers neglect to look for help locally, which may offer even better assistance.

State and Local Home-Buying Programs

Responsible homeowners are vital to a community’s stability and economic health, so municipalities and states have a vested interest in helping you buy a home — even if you don’t have the down payment.

Qualifications vary based on the agency or the community requirements, but assistance programs generally:

  • Have income limits
  • Have purchase price limits
  • Require participants to take home buyer counseling

Other requirements — like whether you’re a first-time buyer, how good your credit is, where you have to buy, whether you have to rehab the home, or if you need to be part of a group, such as active military, veterans, or teachers — depend on the program.

Assistance comes in these forms (Note: Specific programs named as examples below may change or close over time.):

Forgivable loans and grants. These are literal gifts for some or all of the down payment and closing costs, which means there’s no recorded lien or mortgage on that money. Eligibility and terms will vary and funds are limited. Example: The National Home Buyers Fund, Inc. offers down payment and closing cost assistance up to 5% of the mortgage loan amount as a gift or zero-interest second mortgage that’s forgiven after three years.

Second mortgages. As the name suggests, these loans are in addition to your primary home mortgage. They take a variety of forms, and the differences can be confusing. The most important thing isn’t the terminology, though; it’s knowing they exist, because they can offer substantial down payment assistance (DPA) and favorable terms.

  • Soft mortgages. These DPA loans are deferred for some period of time based on a particular program’s requirements. Occasionally, they’re forgivable. Example: The Home Purchase Assistance Program in Washington, D.C., defers payments for five years for moderate-income borrowers.
  • Silent seconds. DPA repayment is deferred until you sell or refinance. The city of Napa, Calif., for instance, offers eligible first-time buyers up to $58,000 or 30% of the purchase price, whichever is less, at 1% interest. The loan can be deferred for the 30-year term if you stay in the home.
  • Hard seconds. You start paying off the DPA loan as soon as you close. Programs offer a variety of loan amounts and interest rates (some below-market) depending on your eligibility.

First mortgages at below market interest rates. Local and state agencies subsidize a mortgage to make it more affordable for the buyer by reducing the interest rate, or offering 100% financing (which means no down payment), and sometimes waiving mortgage insurance, too.

Mortgage credit certificates (MCCs). Issued by some state or local governments, MCCs allow taxpayers to claim a tax credit (Form 8396) for some portion of the mortgage interest paid during a given tax year. A credit, unlike a deduction, is a dollar-for-dollar savings on your tax liability.

You don’t have to itemize to use this credit, according to Greg Zagorski, senior legislative and policy associate at the National Council of State Housing Agencies. It’s capped at $2,000 per year, and you can claim it throughout the life of the loan.

A cool tax benefit of MCCs is that if your tax liability one year is lower than the credit, you can roll over the amount you can’t claim to the next year. If you make more the next year (and therefore have more tax liability), you can claim what you couldn’t before.

How to Find a Program You Qualify For

  • Housing counselors, who are free (!) and can discuss what mortgage options are best for you, are available through housing finance agencies and organizations like NeighborWorks. Find HUD-approved housing counselors by state here. Or contact your state’s housing finance agency.
  • Check your eligibility for a host of DPA programs at Down Payment Resource.
  • Find a good mortgage broker, who should have information about down payment programs in your area and can help you determine your eligibility.
  • Talk to your real estate agent.

A final note: When you put down less than 20%, you pay private mortgage insurance (PMI) each month to protect the lender’s interest. On the other hand, not having to save up for a 20% down payment can get you into a home a lot faster. And you can cancel PMI (except for FHA loans) once you reach 20% equity.

Source: "Little-Known Ways You Can Buy A House With No Down Payment"

10 Simple Comforts Every Houseguest Will Adore You For

by The Schnoor Team

Never underestimate the power of an extra iPhone charger.

You're expecting houseguests. Fun! You want them to feel welcome, comfortable, and — dare we say it? — maybe even a tad envious of your hosting prowess.

No need to moonlight at hospitality school. We asked Airbnb hosts with tons of great reviews on their cozy bungalows and light-filled island condos for some quick, easy (and cheap!) ideas to turn your guest quarters into a vacation haven. Be careful, though – your guests may not want to leave!

#1 Stock Up on Extra Chargers and Cords

A dead phone equals getaway misery. Airbnb host Valarie D’Elia sets out a bowl with power strips and cords, outlet converters, and even an iHome speaker. Nothing sets the stage for feeling at home IRL like feeling at home digitally.

And that includes posting your Wi-Fi name and password in the guest room so they don’t have to bug you.

#2 Offer Sample-Size Toiletries in Your Bathroom

Put your stockpile of Sephora samples and hotel toiletries to good use. Tiny shampoos and lotions arranged in a basket or vintage apothecary jar are as welcoming as they are practical. Guests will be relieved if they forgot their own, but even if they didn’t, they’ll love the luxury of washing their hair on the house.

#3 Raise Your Cleanliness Standards

When you miss a dust bunny at home, it’s just your own skin flakes and dried up sneezes in your own corner. To guests, it’s disgusting at best and insulting at worst.

So clean it all. Airbnb even tells hosts to scrub the entire bathroom, not once but twice, including the toilet, sink, bath, and floors after every guest.

“We make sure you can smell the cleaner,” says Cheryl Trotta, who rents out her vintage bayside cottage in Warwick, R.I.

#4 Give It Your Personal Touch

People choose Airbnbs over sterile hotel rooms because, in part, they want an authentic, personal experience.

So give it to them!

Trotta intentionally markets her rental as a family cottage and scatters pictures and family treasures throughout the cottage. Frame a couple of your childhood photos and hang them up alongside some mementos from your own travels.

How else would your guests discover that you were drum major of your high school marching band?

#5 Put a Radio in the Bathroom

Your guests may like to sing along in the shower, but the real reason for putting some tunes in the bath is to provide them with plenty of, well, privacy. Add an essential oil diffuser — or poo-pourri drops — and you’re in business.


#6 Set Up a DIY Cafe

If your guests are early birds — or will just want some occasional alone time — put a coffeemaker in their room along with a well-stocked basket of coffee and tea. Maybe even blow their minds with a mini fridge full of snacks.

To pull this off right, ask how they take their coffee in advance, and stock up appropriately.

#7 Designate Drawer and Closet Space Just for Guests

If your guest room closet could be featured on Storage Wars, it’s time to rethink your stuff strategy.

Consider some serious Marie Kondo-izing — maybe donate your to-be-regifted pile and sell those designer jeans you’ll never fit into again — to make room in the closet and dresser for guest to have plenty of space (and the key word is plenty).

Label a few guest drawers and crack the closet so they can see there’s space to hang their clothes.

#8 Fancy Yourself a Travel Agent

Give guests a local’s-eye view by filling a basket with menus from nearby restaurants, brochures from local businesses that cater to tourists, and a current issue of your community newspaper. It’s a great way for guests to feel like a local and customize their time in your town.

#9 Hang a Robe – or Two – in the Closet

Bonding with their host over morning coffee is one of the best parts of staying with friends. But they can miss it completely when they realize they only packed a ratty grandma nightgown or — even worse — NSFW lingerie.

Help your guests feel right at home by hanging a couple of cozy (and freshly laundered), one-size-fits-all robes in the guest-room closet.

Not only can they wear their pajamas to breakfast without feeling self-conscious, but they’re also super-comfy and great to wrap up in after a shower.

#10 Expect the Unexpected with Extra Personal Supplies

And let your guests know where they are so they won’t feel guilty for bothering you (or worse, go without!). Here’s a list of things that rock-star Airbnb hosts always keep in stock:

  • Disposable razors
  • Toothbrushes and toothpaste
  • First-aid kit
  • Towels, pillows, and extra blankets
  • Umbrella
  • Flashlight
  • Replacement light bulbs

Being the perfect host is perfectly achievable. With a little forethought, you’ll start racking up your own stellar reviews from your friends and family. Get ready to be the house everyone vies to visit.

Source: "10 Simple Comforts Every Houseguest Will Adore You For"

8 Lesser-Known Fees That Factor Into the True Cost of Home Buying

by The Schnoor Team

Application fees, appraisal, inspection … a lot of little costs start to add up. Here’s how to be prepared.

This article was contributed by financial expert and blogger Mary Beth Storjohann, CFP, author, speaker, and founder of Workable Wealth. She provides financial coaching for individuals and couples in their 20s to 40s across the country, helping them make smart, educated choices with their money.

With your focus on building your down payment fund and figuring out what your mortgage payment will be, it’s easy to overlook some of the smaller fees that come along with a home purchase. Here are eight and what they could cost you.

#1 Home Inspection

A home inspection helps protect you from purchasing a home that could be a lemon. So you don’t want to forgo it. Inspectors will look for signs of structural issues, mold, and leaks; assess the condition of the roof, gutters, water heater, heating and cooling system; and more. Inspections cost between $300 and $500, and whether or not you end up purchasing the property, you still need to pay this fee.

#2 Appraisal Fee

This appraisal report goes to your lender to assure it that the property is worth what you’re paying for it. This report worked in our favor a couple of years ago when our home came back appraised for $10,000 less than our bid; the sellers had to reduce their asking price in order to move forward. An apprasial can take about 2 hours and costs between $200 and $425

#3 Application Fees

Before ever approving you for a loan, the lender is going to run your credit report and charge you an application fee, often lumping the credit report fee in with the application fee. This can run $75 to $300. Be sure to ask for a breakdown of the application fees to understand all costs.

#4 Title Services

These fees cover a title search of the public records for the property you’re buying, notary fees for the person witnessing your signature on documents, government filing fees, and more. These can cost between $150 and $400, and it’s important to get a line item for each cost.

#5 Lender’s Origination Fees

Your lender will charge you this upfront free for making the mortgage loan. This includes processing the loan application, underwriting the loan (researching whether to approve you), and funding the loan. These fees are quoted as a percentage of the total loan you’re taking out and generally range between 0.5 to 1.5%.

#6 Survey Costs

This report ($150 to $400) confirms the property’s boundaries, outlining its major features and dimensions.

#7 Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI)

When you put down less than 20% on your new home, the lender requires that you purchase PMI, which is a policy that protects the lender from losing money if you end up in foreclosure. So PMI is a policy that you have to buy to protect the lender from you. PMI rates can vary from 0.3% to 1.5% of your original loan amount annually.

#8 Tax Service Fee

This is the cost (about $50) to ensure that all property tax payments are up to date and that the payments you make are appropriately credited to the right home.

Always ask questions when it comes to understanding the fees you’re paying. If possible, print out documents and go through them with a highlighter to indicate any areas you have concerns about. Discuss them with your lender or real estate agent and determine if you can negotiate any of them down.

Don’t be afraid to price shop to ensure you’re getting the best value. Just because you’re spending hundreds of thousands on a home doesn’t mean you should be comfortable throwing thousands of dollars at fees.

Source: "8 Lesser-Known Fees That Factor Into the True Cost of Home Buying"

4 Funky Odors In Your House Only Your Guests Can Smell

by The Schnoor Team

You could be noseblind. Here’s how to find and eliminate the funk you can’t smell.

Stand in your kitchen and take a deep breath. Smell that? From last night’s fish to your son’s nasty lacrosse pads (why did he leave them on the table?), you probably can’t detect any of your home's rankest odors. You’ve got nose blindness.

“You adapt to the smells around you,” says Dr. Richard Doty, the director of the Smell and Taste Center at the University of Pennsylvania.

On a sensory level, your processing mechanism becomes less sensitive to the continuous stimuli. Or, on a cognitive level, you can become habituated to the smells and basically learn to ignore them. Or you can do both.

Here are some of the most common nose blindness culprits, and how to ban them from your home.

#1 Pet Funk

There’s one easy way to tell if your home smells like pets: Do you have them? Then yeah, unless you’re an obsessive cleaner and groomer, your abode has at least some Fido funk.

It could be pee, but more likely it’s just hair, gunky ears, and weeks-old slobber.

The first step to cleaning up pet smells is — sorry, pets — cleaning the pets themselves. Bathe and groom them regularly.

Then, vacuum, vacuum, vacuum. If they have a favorite couch or cushion, cover it with a blanket and run it — and the cushion cover — through the wash weekly. Every time you vacuum, start with a hearty sprinkle of baking soda on the carpet.

And use that crevice tool liberally; pet hair loves tight spaces like the border between the carpet and the wall, the edges of your steps and that little crack of space between the stove and your cabinets.

Hopefully urine isn’t the issue, but to be sure, you can use a black light to out any dried stains your pet was hoping you’d never notice.

Use more of that baking soda followed by a half-water, half-vinegar solution to neutralize the odor. Lots of people also swear by store-bought neutralizers, like Nature’s Miracle.

#2 Mustiness

Fortunately, nose blindness only affects one of your senses, and you don’t need your nose to verify a basement with a musty smell.

Mustiness is caused by mildew and mold, which — for better or for worse — your eyeballs can easily detect. Do a careful inspection of your basement, from the darkest corner to the surface of every cardboard box or bookshelf. If you find gray or white splotches anywhere, it’s probably mildew. If it’s fuzzy, (oh no!) it’s mold.

First, you’ll want to bust up those existing odors. Then, you’ll want to make sure they never return. Some elbow grease with regular household cleaner will scrub away mildew. Bleach isnt the cure-all for mold. If often can exacerbate the problem.

To prevent mildew and mold from returning, consider running a dehumidifier or improving air circulation and sunlight exposure in the affected area if possible.

For chronic mustiness, you can deodorize rooms by setting out bowls of vinegar, cat litter, baking soda, or — as crazy as this sounds — an onion also will do the trick. Cut one in half and let it sit in a bowl in the room. The onion smell goes away in a few hours, and so will the dankness.

#3 Smelly Bedding

Similar to pet odors, knowing if your mattress could smell is easy: Do you have a human body with skin and oils? Do you sleep on it?

Eventually, all the dead skin and body oils you shed while sleeping are going to build up, and stink they will, especially if your bedding is older.

You can’t exactly toss your mattress in the washing machine, so you’ll have to deal with it where it lies.

But it’s an easy fix: Sprinkle baking soda on it, let it sit for an hour or more, and then vacuum up the soda. (This works for memory foam, too.) Add a couple drops of essential oil to the soda (drip directly into the box and shake it well to mix evenly) for a pleasant smell. Bonus: Lavender has been shown to help you sleep.

#4 Fridge and Freezer Grime

It’s your fridge and freezer’s job to keep your food fresh, but they need a little help staying fresh themselves.

Itty bitty food bits hang out long after you’ve tossed the item from which they came. Although you might not notice the odor creep, you may notice your ice starting to taste funny or see those food morsels start to accumulate in the corners of your fridge shelves.

If you see or taste something icky, you can bet others can smell something icky.

To zap odors from from your freezer and fridge, unplug and empty them and do a thorough cleaning with a mix of hot water and baking soda.

You can sanitize with a solution of one tablespoon bleach and one gallon of water. Let it air out for 15 minutes. Try wiping it down with vinegar for extra odor eliminating, or even leave the door open for a few days.

What better excuse is there for a long weekend away, or to treat yourself to takeout?

Source: "4 Funky Odors In Your House Only Your Guests Can Smell"

Keeping Your House Clean with Dogs While It’s on the Market

by The Schnoor Team

Grout can be a real problem because it soaks up pet odors.

Oof. Houses that smell or look like pets have lived in them are just harder to sell.

Here’s how to de-dog your house before putting it on the market — and how to keep it that way while you sell.

#1 Steam Clean Everything Fabric

“Job number one is to take care of [the soft surfaces in your house],” says Melissa Maker, star of an eponymous YouTube channel and owner of a Toronto cleaning service. “They hold odors and hair like nothing else.”

This includes carpets, rugs, upholstered furniture, and even the drapes, she says. Pets rub against drapes, getting oils, odors, and fur on the fabric. Send curtains out for a professional cleaning.

#2 Groom Your Pet

Get your pet groomed by a pro before you list your house. You can do it yourself, but a pro can get more hair and dander off than you can — plus, all that gunk is better off in the groomer’s drain than yours.

Brush your furry friend regularly (outside, preferably) while your house is on the market. Any hair you get off on a brush is hair that won’t end up on your sofa or in your rugs.

#3 Clean Tile-Floor Grout

Tile resists dog stains, but grout is porous and sucks them up like a sponge. “I had a cat who had an accident on a tile floor, and the pee seeped into the grout,” Maker says. Steam clean grout to lift old smells and stains. If your grout is really cruddy, hire a pro to chip out the old grout and put in new — or DIY it if you have the skills.

#4 Get an Air Purifier Tower

To you, it smells like home. But your HVAC has been circulating the same hair and dander again and again (especially in hot and cold weather when the windows are closed).

Add an air purifier tower with a HEPA filter; it pulls hair and dander out of the air before they even reach your HVAC.

Most air ducts don’t need to be cleaned, especially if you change filters regularly. But if dander and fur seem to be taking over, hire a duct-cleaning company before putting your home on the market.

#5 Use Enzymatic Cleaners

They’re the special forces of odor busters. Enzymatic cleaners are made of beneficial bacteria that eat stains and odors. They’re formulated to stamp out a specific type of stain, so a cleanser that targets urine won’t be the same as one for vomit.

“They’re cultivated for a specific mess,” Maker says. Apply them liberally to stains regardless of how old they are, before listing your house.

#6 Get Rid of Scratch Marks

Pet toenails leave telltale marks on doors and walls. For walls and doors made of synthetic materials, you’ll just need to paint over the marks. For a wooden door, use wood-filler pen can fill in the scratches. For hardwood floors, rub out small scratches with steel wool or fine sandpaper followed by mineral spirits, wood filler, and polyurethane. For major damage, refinishing the hardwood is a good investment with a stellar 100% ROI.

#7 Absorb Odors With Charcoal

Charcoal pulls moisture and odors out of the air. You can get inconspicuous little bags of it to hang in places your pets love most. Or, just strategically stash some charcoal briquettes around the house.

Just be sure to get the ones that aren’t presoaked with lighter fluid.

#8 Spot Clean Furniture Daily

If you’re like many pet owners, trying to keep your dog off the couch completely isn’t worth the effort. Instead, cover your freshly-cleaned furniture with throws or pet covers, and wash them at least once a week. Vacuum rugs and carpets every day. Pet smells sink in fast.

For quick hair removal before a showing, wipe down the couch with rubber gloves. The hair comes right off.

#9 Get a Sniff Test

You’ve scrubbed everything, and you think your house smells like a dog has never set foot in the door. Get a second opinion as to whether the odors are gone, Maker says. “You may be noseblind. Ask your agent to walk through and give you an honest opinion.”

Source: "Keeping Your House Clean with Dogs While It’s on the Market"


Cleaning Your House for Guests: A Checklist

by The Schnoor Team

Countdown to a perfectly clean guest-ready home no matter how much — or little — time you have.

It feels great to have a clean, organized, well-functioning home when you’ve got guests coming. Especially around the holidays. It’s like your gift to you.

Here’s how to get that satisfying feeling — no matter how much time you have. Just choose your starting point on this checklist:

Three (or More) Weeks to Go

Think big picture. Get anything that requires a pro or installation out of the way now. No one wants calamity to strike when guests are pulling into the driveway.

  • Get your HVAC maintained if it’s overdue.
  • If you have a self-cleaning oven, clean it now. An oven is most likely to break down during the cleaning cycle, so don’t save this task for last.
  • Replace any appliance on its last legs. You don’t want your hot water to go out or fridge on the fritz with a houseful of guests.
  • Steam-clean upholstery. (Or hire a pro. It’s a big job)
  • Hire a handyman for those repairs you’ve been putting off.
  • Check outdoor lighting. Replace old bulbs and call an electrician to address any bigger issues.

Two Weeks to Go

It’s not panic time yet. Focus on decluttering and a few deep-cleaning tasks now, and you’ll have a more manageable to-do list when the clock really starts ticking down.

  • Do a deep declutter. It’ll make things easier to keep clean.
  • Dust ceiling fans, light fixtures, and high-up shelves.
  • Wipe down baseboards.
  • Clean out and organize the fridge.
  • Wash windows to make the entire house feel brighter and cleaner.
  • Toss washable shower curtains and drapes in the washing machine and re-hang. Easy.

​​

One Week to Go

It’s strategic cleaning time. Here’s what to tackle now — things your family won’t easily undo before your guests arrive.

  • Declutter again.
  • Vacuum and dust guest rooms. If they’re low-traffic, the cleanliness should hold with just a quick wipe-down right before they arrive.
  • Wipe down walls.
  • Wipe down kitchen and dining room chairs and tables, including the legs. You’d be surprised how grimy they get.
  • Deep clean the entryway — and make room for your guests’ stuff.

72 Hours to Go

The final cleaning stretch is on the horizon.

  • Do another declutter.
  • In the kitchen, toss stove burners, drip pans, and knobs into the dishwasher for an easy deep clean.
  • Wash kitchen cabinet fronts.
  • Scrub the kitchen floor.
  • Clean and shine appliances.

48 Hours to Go

Now it’s time to get serious.

  • Clean and sanitize garbage cans to banish mystery smells.
  • Wipe down doorknobs, faceplates, and light switches. They’re germ magnets.
  • Clean the front door.
  • Deep clean the bathroom your guests will use, and close it off if possible.
  • Wash guest towels and linens.

24 Hours to Go

Your guests’ bags are packed. Time for final touches.

  • Do a final declutter - by now it shouldn’t take more than five minutes.
  • Give one final wipe-down to toilets, tubs, and bathroom sinks.
  • And another final wipe-down in the kitchen.
  • Do all the floors: mop, vacuum, sweep, etc.
  • Make guest beds and set out clean towels.
  • Plug in nightlights in guest baths.
  • Put out guest toiletries so they’re easy to find.
  • Add a coffee or tea station in the guest room or kitchen.
  • Get your favorite smell going, whether it’s a scented candle, spices in water on the stove, or essential oils.
  • Use rubber gloves to wipe off pet hair and dust from furniture. It works.
  • Do the full red carpet: Sweep or shovel porch, steps, and outdoor walkways

​​Source: "Cleaning Your House for Guests: A Checklist"

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