Posts for Syndication

What Story Does Your Home Tell?

By Virtual Results

What Story Does Your Home Tell?

Your home is like your own personal museum. It tells the story of your life, houses a collection of your personal history, and reflects your tastes, attitudes and opinions. Houses with the best design reveal the unique character of their inhabitants, and make visitors feel like they know more about those who call it home.

Are you curious what story your home tells about you? Or maybe you’ve just moved into a new place, and you’re ready to start putting your story together? Here are some key ways in which your home tells your story. Use them to inspire your creativity.

The story of your family history

Family heirlooms aren’t just nice design pieces, they also tell their own stories. Perhaps you inherited a lovely antique vanity, a spacious cedar trunk, or a set of old family photos. These items don’t need to collect dust in your closet or attic. Just because they don’t match your modern décor, doesn’t mean they won’t complement it. Not only will these family pieces add visual interest to your home, they are great conversation starters when you have guests.

Don’t be afraid to think outside the box, either. Look at older objects and see how you might be able to repurpose them (or browse Pinterest for great ideas). Those old suitcases could make a wonderful side table, while that antique colander from your great-grandmother’s kitchen would look fabulous as a lampshade.

The story of your children

Even if your kids have stopped growing, that doesn’t mean you have to paint over the growth chart on the wall. That’s part of your personal history and can often bring back fond memories – both to you and those who visit. And how about all those paintings they brought home from art class? There’s no reason you can’t have them framed and hung, even if your kids have long outgrown a set of finger paints.

The story of the pets you’ve loved

Pets are just as much a part of the family as any human. Do you have evidence of your pets around your home (aside from that dog hair on the couch)? Framed photos or even paintings of the pets we’ve loved over the years are a wonderful way to add color, warmth, dimension, history and even whimsy to your home.

The story of your interests and tastes

The details of your home can reveal so much about your personal interests and tastes. What sorts of books do you have on the shelves? Are your walls colorfully painted, or do you prefer more neutral tones? What kind of art is hanging on your walls? Do you have framed prints of famous works of arts, or do you favor work of local artists? Do you have any collections, and are they displayed prominently for people to see? Or are you hiding that collection of penguin figurines in a shoebox somewhere? Don’t be afraid to fill your home with your personal effects. They are what add the color and detail to the story your home tells.

Compliments of Virtual Results

Best Garden Apps

By Virtual Results

Best Garden AppsIf winter has got you down, just know that longer days and warmer temperatures are right around the corner. And that means it’ll soon be time to tend to your garden. If you’re looking for inspiration or resources to get your garden ship-shape this spring, then we’ve got the list for you. Check out these garden apps to help you get creative and organized this spring season.

Leafsnap

Want to know what kind of tree that is in your front yard? Simply take a photo of a leaf against a white backdrop and the Leafsnap app will help you identify it. As of right now, it has a database of trees in the Northeastern United States, with plans to extend to the entire country. It’s free to download on the iPhone and iPad.

Garden Answers

Another great app for identifying plants, Garden Answers has more than 2,000,000 users and counting. Take a picture of a plant with your phone and get an instant identification. In addition, you can find out if your plant has any pests or diseases, and you can get your questions answered by experts. It is available both for Android and iOS.

Gardenate

Do you need help figuring out what vegetables to plant and when? Then download the Gardenate app and get growing quickly and easily The app provides expert advice specific to your climate zone and lets you record and track planting dates and harvests. The app is available for both Android and iOS.

iScape

If you have trouble visualizing how certain plants will look in your yard, try the iScape app. This easy-to-use app lets you see how your project will look in your yard before you even dig one hole. Share your projects with others, buy products, and collaborate with other users. It is available for iOS.

Garden Plan Pro

One of the toughest jobs in designing a vegetable garden is to figure out where all the plants should go. With the Garden Plan Pro app, you can minimize the guesswork. This app helps you to design the perfect plan and gives you advice based on your location. It will send you reminders via email about when to plant and allow you to work with any kind of garden layout. You can download this app from the Apple App Store.

GrowIt!

Are you hoping to find a social network dedicated to gardening? You’re in luck, because that’s exactly what you’ll get with GrowIt! This garden app lets you connect with other gardeners, share pictures of your plants and exchange advice. You’ll also find information about thousands of plants and can search for what gardeners in your area are growing. It’s available for both Android and iOS devices.

Perennial Match

Not sure which perennials will look good together? Then download the Perennial Match app. This app helps you make plans for your perennial garden by choosing plants that meet your criteria and seeing how they will look together – all before you buy a single plant. You can find information about a variety of perennials and add your own photos. It is available for the iPhone and iPad.

Compliments of Virtual Results

Must-Ask Questions Before Buying a Home

By Virtual Results

Must-Ask Questions Before Buying a Home

Buying a home is one of the biggest financial transactions you will make in a lifetime. As such, it’s one you shouldn’t enter into without being fully informed. By being armed with knowledge, you’ll make better decisions and feel more confident. Here’s your checklist of must-ask questions you need to pose before buying a home.

How much house can I afford?

When calculating how much you can afford to spend on a home, you need to take into consideration more than just the listing price. You’ll also need to budget for repairs, renovations, closing costs, and homeowner’s insurance. Find out how much you can really afford by using an online calculator.

Are my finances ready?

Have you ordered a copy of your credit report? If not, you need to do that as soon as possible. Many credit reports contain errors, and it will take time to have them removed. In addition, you should get pre-approved for a mortgage before making an offer, to signal to a seller that you are a serious buyer.

What is the history of the home?

When was the last time the house sold, and for how much? This information is easy to find online. Have there been any recent renovations, additions or major repairs? How old is the roof? Have there ever been any broken pipes? Are there warranties on any of the appliances that are staying with the house? Has anything strange ever happened there? The more you know upfront, the less likely you’ll be surprised by issues that might come up in the future.

Is it in a good location?

Location is paramount when it comes to real estate. You’re not just buying a home – you’re buying the neighborhood, too. What is the crime like in the area? Are there any registered sex offenders? Are the streets dark at night? Are there sidewalks? Is it near amenities, like restaurants, gas stations and grocery stores? How well do the neighbors keep up their properties? What are the schools like? Is the neighborhood noisy or fairly quiet?

What are the costs of living in this house?

Not only will you be making monthly mortgage payments, but you’ll have other expenses, too. How much do the utilities generally run? What are the annual property taxes? How much will you spend commuting back and forth to work? Will you need to replace any appliances soon, or make any major repairs? How much are HOA fees?

How much should I offer?

Once you’ve found the house you like and asked all the questions you need to about it, it’s time to consider how much you want to offer. If your offer price is too low, you might get outbid. However, if you offer too much, the house might appraise for less and you’ll have trouble securing your mortgage. Your agent should help you find comps in the neighborhood that will tell you what homes like yours are selling for. Be prepared with your counteroffer if you’re buying in a competitive market.

Compliments of Virtual Results

Best Uses For a Smart Home Assistant

By Virtual Results

Best Uses For a Smart Home Assistant

If you haven’t jumped on the smart home assistant bandwagon yet, what are you waiting for? We understand that there may be a learning curve when using these new devices for the first time, like Amazon’s Alexa or Google Home. But they are becoming indispensible additions to every 21st century home. Here’s a look at some of the many ways you can use a smart home assistant around your house.

Where can the device go?

As long as it is within the range of your Wi-Fi signal and an electrical outlet, you can put the device anywhere you want. Even better, given the low price of the Echo Dot or Google Home Mini, you can get one for each room and save yourself having to make a decision.

Use in the kitchen

There are endless ways to use a smart home assistant in your kitchen. Give one of these a try:

  • Set a timer while cooking or baking.
  • Add items to your shopping list as you think of them.
  • Play music while you’re cooking dinner.
  • Get help finding a recipe for dinner with ingredients you have on hand.
  • Ask for more information about an ingredient you don’t know much about, like unusual vegetables or spices you see at the market.
  • Ask to convert ounces to cups when following a recipe.
  • Ask about ingredient substitutions, just in case you forgot to buy that buttermilk at the store for pancakes.
  • Find out how to best store leftovers.
  • Ask what restaurants are nearby, just in case your meal does come out as planned.

Use in the bedroom

Whether you’re a morning person or a night person, you’ll find creative ways to use a smart home assistant in your daily routine. Here are some suggestions about how to use it in the bedroom:

  • Set an alarm, and choose whatever sound you like to wake you up.
  • Not sure what to wear that day? Ask what the weather is going to be.
  • You can also ask for a traffic report, so you know whether or not you need to leave a little early.
  • Get a news briefing while you’re getting dressed.
  • Get a rundown of what is on your calendar for the day.
  • If you’re running late, you can call an Uber from the device.
  • Dim or turn the lights on or off with a simple voice command.
  • Hook your coffee pot up with a smart plug, and have the coffee started before you even head to the kitchen.

Use in the living room

Smart home assistants are great at helping you relax and have fun, too. Try these ideas for your living room:

  • Play music through various accounts, such as Amazon Music, Spotify, Pandora and iHeartRadio.
  • Listen to audiobooks from your Audible account.
  • Ask to have your Kindle books read to you.
  • Control your TV with your voice.
  • Play games like Jeopardy, Would You Rather, Twenty Questions, Twister, Question of the Day, Rock Paper Scissors Lizard Spock, Where in the World, and Fortune Teller Zoltar.
  • Ask for sports score updates for your favorite teams.

These suggestions are just the tip of the iceberg. There are so many uses for a smart home assistant; it can be a great addition to your home.

Compliments of Virtual Results

Protect Your Home From Fire

By Virtual Results

Protect Your Home From Fire

Did you know that fires destroy nearly half a million structures in America each year, and causes more than $7 billion in property damage? There’s almost nothing as terrifying as waking up to a house full of smoke, with little time to evacuate. That’s why it’s so important to ensure that your home is protected. Follow these tips to keep your home and your family safe from fire.

Install smoke alarms

It should go without saying, but make sure your home is equipped with working smoke alarms. They should be installed on every floor and tested twice each year. A good way to remember is to check them at the same time you set your clocks for daylight savings.

Invest in fire extinguishers

When you move into a new home, be sure to put fire extinguishers on your list of essentials. You never know when a fire will break out that gets out of control quickly. Ideally, you should have a fire extinguisher on every floor. But if you only have one, it should be stored in the kitchen, where half of all home fires occur.

Clean your fireplace

If you have a wood-burning fireplace, it needs to be cleaned regularly when in use. Every time you burn logs in your fireplace, it creates a residue that clings to the inside of your chimney. If this residue is allowed to build up, it can become a fire hazard. Schedule annual appointments for a professional to inspect and clean your chimney.

Keep the lint trap clean

Another source of home fires is the laundry room. The main cause of fires in a laundry room is the lint trap. If the traps aren’t cleaned regularly, the lint that has built up can catch fire. Don’t run the dryer when you aren’t home. Also be sure that the exhaust vent is properly connected and functioning.

Stay in the kitchen

Although they say a watched pot never boils, it isn’t wise to step away from the kitchen while anything is cooking. As stated above, kitchen accidents are the top cause of home fires, which are usually started when cooking. Move any flammable items like towels and potholders away from open flames.

Be cautious of space heaters

Space heaters can come in handy during cold months, especially if you have a room that just doesn’t want to stay warm. But be especially cautious during their use. It is estimated that space heaters cause one third of all heating fires. Although that vintage heater may match your décor, it’s wise to invest in newer models that have better safety features. Also be sure to keep space heaters away from flammable materials, pets and children.

Always be aware of candles

We can’t argue that candles create a wonderful, warm ambience. But they can also be a fire hazard if left unattended. Always extinguish candles when leaving a room. Don’t place candles near flammable materials, and make sure they aren’t accessible to pets or children. The best option is to buy electrical candles that provide the same cozy light without the risk.

Compliments of Virtual Results

How to Attract Abundance at Home

By Virtual Results

How to Attract Abundance at Home

If you’re feeling a little stagnant or wishing for some good fortune to come your way, then it may be time to make some adjustments to your living space. Did you know that there are several ways you can attract abundance at home, with very little effort? Take at a look at these secrets for filling your home with magnetic energy and attracting prosperity into your life.

Clear out the clutter

The very first place to start is with a good deep clean. Abundance can’t set up shop in your house if there’s no place for it to go. Take a weekend to clean the floors, wash the windows and sanitize the kitchen and bathroom. Get ride of any belongings that are broken or no longer used.

Create more open space

After you’ve cleaned and de-cluttered, it’s time to re-think floor plans. Take a look at each room in your home. Does it feel cramped? Is the traffic pattern blocked by a big piece of furniture? Do you feel claustrophobic? One thing that almost all luxury homes posses is an abundance of open space. This doesn’t mean that you’re out of luck if your home has smaller rooms. It just means it may be time to rearrange the furniture to create a greater feeling of spaciousness.

Make the front door inviting

By applying some principles of feng shui, you can invite abundance right through your front door.  Energy flows into your home through your main entryway, so be sure there isn’t anything that can impede it. Try not to place too many obstacles within six feet of the door, such as shoe racks or benches. Keep the area well lit and the space just outside the door clear. You may also consider flanking the outside of the front door with plants, which brings balance to your home.

Add plants

Plants are a natural symbol of abundance, and are perfect for attracting that energy into your home. As a bonus, they also help to detoxify the area and filter out pollutants. Try adding a money tree or lucky bamboo plant. Rubber plants are excellent air filters, while snake plants are great for those who don’t have green thumbs.

Hang abundant images

Another way to invite prosperity into your home is to hang art that symbolizes abundance. Images to consider include plants, moving water and traditional symbols of wealth in feng shui, like a laughing Buddha or dragon turtle.

Gold accessories

If you really want to attract abundance and wealth, then the best color to add is gold. You don’t need to overdo it – a little goes a long way. But by adding touches of gold throughout your house, you’re giving your home a stronger feeling of abundance. Consider décor items like trays, side tables, mirrors, lamps, bowls and vases.

Welcome guests

The final touch is welcoming guests into your abundant home. Now that you have created a space that invites prosperity, it’s time to share it with others. Carve out an area that is dedicated to entertaining guests. Nothing brings in more abundant energy than friends and loved ones!

Compliments of Virtual Results

Selling With Tenants

By Virtual Results

Selling With Tenants

Is it time to sell your rental property, but you’re not sure how to deal with the current tenants? If you’re a landlord, selling a home that is currently occupied is not as straightforward as a traditional sale. It’s important to know what a tenant’s rights are, and how best to handle the transition. Here’s a rundown of what you need to consider.

The type of lease your tenant signed

If your tenant is on a month-to-month lease, check state law to determine how much notice you need to give them to vacate. Typically it is 30 to 60 days. Next, send a letter to your tenant advising them of your intent to sell and the date their lease will end.

Conversely, if your tenant signed a fixed-term lease, you are obligated to let them live out the term of the lease. The lease can only be terminated early if it is stipulated in writing, or if the tenant has violated any terms of the lease.

Showing the property

If you have a difficult tenant, it may not be in your best interest to show the property while it is still occupied. An unhappy tenant likely won’t do you any favors, least of all getting the home clean and ready for a showing. If your home doesn’t look its best to potential buyers, it could impact the number and quality of the offers you receive.

On the other hand, if you have an agreeable tenant, you may be able to work out a situation where you can show the property while it’s occupied. It’s easier for potential buyers to imagine themselves living in a home that is occupied, as opposed to one that is vacant. Be aware that you need to give proper notice to your tenant before you, an agent or potential buyers stop by. This is typically at least 24 hours.

Selling to an investor

If you’re interested in selling your property before your tenant vacates, you might consider selling to an investor. In most cases, investors will be thrilled to know that the unit is already rented. The new owner is obligated to honor the current tenant’s lease, so you won’t have to worry you’re kicking anyone to the curb.

Selling to the tenant

If your tenant is quite happy living in the home, it’s possible that they would be interested in buying it. This can be a win-win situation for everyone. But what happens if your tenant doesn’t qualify for a mortgage? In that instance, you could offer seller financing, where the new owner makes payments to you instead of the bank.

When all else fails

If you find yourself in a position where your hands are tied, you do have other options. First, you can offer a discount on rent to get your tenant to cooperate about showings. A little break on their monthly expenses might encourage them to be amenable to interruptions and to keep the home clean. Second, you can offer to pay your current tenant to leave by essentially buying them out of their lease. You can also offer to pay their moving costs and security deposit at their next place.

Compliments of Virtual Results

How To Fall in Love With Your New Neighborhood

By Virtual Results

How To Fall in Love With Your New Neighborhood

Moving to a new neighborhood can be a little like dating a new person. There’s the get-to-know-you phase where everything seems foreign. That’s followed by the honeymoon phase where life is so exciting and you couldn’t imagine being happier. Hopefully, you’ll then make it to the in-it-for-the-long-haul phase, where you’re committed, even after the shiny newness has worn off. If you want to know the secrets of how to fall in love with your new neighborhood, read on.

Research the cool places

It doesn’t matter where you go, there is always something fun to discover in a new place. Before your arrival, do a little digging. Hit up websites like Yelp, and do some searching on Facebook and Instagram. Do you love Indian food? Find the nearest restaurant that serves Tikka Masala. Are you hoping to take a tango class? Look up dance studios in the area. Need a great place to get a little work done? Find out where the best local coffee shop is. By making a list of all the neat places you can visit, you give yourself something to look forward to. It also gives you ideas when you’re not sure how to fill your down time in the beginning.

Go for a walk

While driving around your new neighborhood will give you a good feel for the lay of the land, walking will give you a different perspective. So lace up those walking shoes and head out the front door for a stroll around the neighborhood. Notice what the houses and gardens look like. Say hello to anyone walking by. Stop and chat with a new neighbor and introduce yourself. Ask your new neighbor what one of their favorite places in the area is. Pay attention to the small details, like how the afternoon light filters through the trees, or the sound of kids playing in a nearby yard. Take some deep breaths and start seeing your neighborhood with a different pair of eyes.

Get involved

It’s easy to feel a little intimidated in a new place, especially if you don’t know anyone. The only cure for that is to get out and meet people. But how do you do it?

First, you could sign up for a class. Learn how to make macramé, sweat it out with some bikram yoga, or attend a seminar on a subject you find interesting. Be open to talking with the people you meet there. You never know – they could become friends.

Second, let your network know about your recent move. Ask if your friends know anyone in your new neighborhood. There’s nothing like a personal introduction from a mutual friend to get the ball rolling on a new relationship.

Lastly, don’t be afraid to play host. A house feels more like a home when friends and loved ones are in it. Throw yourself a housewarming party, and invite your new friends and neighbors.

Just like any long-term relationship, falling in love with a new neighborhood takes time and commitment. By giving yourself fun things to try and paying attention to all the little ways that your new place can delight you, you’ll soon find yourself crushing hard on your new neighborhood.

Compliments of Virtual Results

Organize Your Storage Unit

By Virtual Results

Are you planning to move your personal belongings into storage while your home is for sale? Will you be moving into a rental while house hunting, and you need a short-term place to keep the items you won’t need right away? No matter what the scenario, you’ll likely want to rent a storage unit. Here’s what you need to know to keep it organized and hassle free.

How to pack

As you’re packing up your belongings for storage, there are some guidelines you should follow to keep everything in good condition:

  • Use sturdy boxes that are the same size, to make stacking easier.
  • Pack items by category, and clearly label the outside of each box.
  • Use appropriate packing materials, especially when packing breakable items.
  • Fill boxes completely, as half-full boxes are more likely to collapse.
  • Cover furniture with packing blankets, remove detachable parts and place them in plastic bags that you keep with the furniture.
  • Clean appliances and make sure they are dry.
  • Pack books flat so the spines don’t break.
  • Place heavy items in the bottom of the box and lighter items on top.
  • Use wardrobe boxes for clothing.
  • Use packing tape to seal boxes from dust or moisture.
  • Keep an inventory list for insurance purposes.

Choose the right unit

While it’s tempting to choose the smallest unit possible, it will be easier if you have a little extra room. This is especially important if you will need to access items while they are in storage. Extra space will allow you to have aisles and will provide room for shelves.

Also consider how safe and secure the storage facility is. How easy is it to get in and out? Are there limited hours? Is the facility protected with surveillance cameras? You want to make sure your belongings will be safe while they are being stored.

Make a plan

Come up with a strategy for how you will organize your boxes, furniture and appliances in the unit. Draw up a floor plan and designate where your items will go.

  • Keep items that you will need to access in the front where they will be easy to reach.
  • Large items like furniture and appliances can be stored near the back and along the walls.
  • Store heavy boxes on the bottom and lighter boxes on top.
  • Use any shelves that are available to keep boxes neat and organized.
  • Maximize space by filling empty space, such as inside wardrobes and drawers.
  • Keep a path clear through the middle of the unit for easy access.
  • Don’t place items directly against the walls. Give them a couple of inches of space to allow for air circulation.

Be systematic

Once you’ve made your plan, stick to it. Create a master map of where all the items are located within the unit and keep it at the front. This way, when you need to retrieve an item at a later date and you don’t remember where you put it, you have the map to refer to.

Compliments of Virtual Results

Moving an Elderly Loved One

By Virtual Results

Moving an Elderly Loved One

Is it time to move your elderly loved one to a smaller house or one that is closer to you? If so, you may be starting to feel a little stressed. This is normal. Helping an older friend or relative with the process of relocating has its own set of challenges, and you no doubt want it to happen smoothly. Here are some tips to help you manage the logistics and keep your sanity.

Communicate early and often

It can be tough for an elderly loved one to move from a place where they’ve lived for many years. It’s where they’ve made memories, and they’re no doubt emotionally invested in their home. They may fear they’re losing control over their own lives. Whenever possible, start your conversations about relocating early to give them time to prepare. Let them air their grievances, and give them choices when it comes to picking a new place to live.

Enlist help

Moving an older relative or friend is labor intensive. In most cases, it involves significant downsizing, and decisions will need to be made about what to keep and what to leave behind. Not only can this be physically exhausting, it can also wear on everyone’s emotions. Enlist the help of friends and family during the process of packing up.

Make a plan

Once you’ve got your team on board, everyone needs to agree on a plan. Though there will likely be differences of opinion, everyone should work towards an agreement on how to best prepare for and execute the move. Decide who has the final decision about what to keep and what to discard. Make a timeline for when packing will happen, and determine where boxes will be stored in the meantime. If additional care is needed for your loved one, such as meal preparations or rides to doctor’s’ appointments, make a schedule. Meal Train is an excellent website to help you organize and delegate responsibility.

Take it slow

You’ve got your plan of attack and helpers gathered; it’s time to get started. If time allows, take it slow. Instead of trying to get all the packing completed in one weekend, spread it out over a few months. Give your loved one plenty of time and space to go through all their belongings, especially if they’ve been in their house for years. The process will bring up many emotions; give them a chance to work through them.

Strategize moving day

Before all the boxes are packed, you’ll want to strategize what will happen on moving day. If money is not an issue, hiring a full service moving company can be a great help. In addition, keep in mind your loved one’s health when deciding how they should travel to their new home. A long road trip may be most cost effective, but isn’t a good choice for anyone with health concerns. Discuss with your family and caregivers what the best choice will be in your individual circumstances.

Although moving an elderly loved one is a big job that can weigh heavily on those involved, it doesn’t have to be a chaotic or upsetting process. Follow the tips above to ensure your loved one’s move is a smooth one.

Compliments of Virtual Results