Posts for Syndication

Organize Your Kitchen Cabinets

By Virtual Results

Organize Your Kitchen Cabinets

Do you wish you could get a handle on the chaos inside your kitchen cabinets? Or maybe you’ve just moved into a new home and want to start off with cabinets that are well organized. Whatever your motivation, it’s actually pretty simple to organize your kitchen cabinets and keep them that way. Here’s how.

Declutter

The first step in organizing your kitchen cabinets is to do a serious declutter. Go through everything in those cabinets (or as you’re unpacking boxes) and determine if you really need to keep it. Chances are, you don’t need six bottles of cinnamon, five spatulas, or three blenders. And you certainly don’t need any small appliances that don’t work or that you don’t use. Donate what don’t need.

Clean

Once you’ve taken everything out of your cabinets, wipe down the inside shelves and doors. You’ll probably never have this opportunity again to clean all the cabinets at the same time. You can clean the shelves with a simple solution of warm water and soap. For tougher grease or grime on the outside, try Murphy’s Oil Soap or another wood cleaner made specifically for cutting down grease.

Organize

Now that everything has been properly cleaned, it’s time to organize. Think about how you use your kitchen and your typical workflow. What do you need nearby when you cook? Items should be grouped together. Store food items in the same place separate from dishes. Cookware should also have its own space. Items should be placed where you use them most frequently. And if you use an item every day, like a travel coffee mug, it should be within easy reach.

Think about putting lighter items inside the top cabinets. This could include dishes as well as food items. Bottom cabinets should be reserved for heavier items like small appliances, mixing bowls and cookware. Store your cleaning supplies under the kitchen sink. If you have kids or pets, get child-proof locks.

Categorize

Once you’ve organized the contents of your cabinets, you should further categorize them. For example, store all canned food in the same location. Put kids’ snacks all in one place and make them easy to reach. When categorizing dishes, put all plates in one place, all bowls in another. Separate drinking glasses from wine glasses. Have a space dedicated for mugs. The point is, by categorizing like items together, you know exactly where to find them when you need them.

Maintain

After all that hard work, be kind to your future self by keeping it maintained. When unloading the dishwasher, return items to their proper locations. Enlist family members for help with keeping the kitchen organized and tidy. Keep countertops free from clutter so you always have workspace available when you’re preparing a meal. And plan to do a big sweep through the kitchen once or twice a year. As you use your kitchen, you’ll notice that some items may have a better home and this will give you time to rearrange. You can also remove items you don’t use and food that has expired.

Compliments of Virtual Results

Telltale Signs of Infestation

By Virtual Results

Telltale Signs of Infestation

Do you have a sneaking suspicion the house you’re interested in buying might have a pest problem? Whether it’s ants in the kitchen, termites in the walls, or raccoons in the attic, it’s important to know what you’re getting into. When you’re viewing homes, keep a lookout for these telltale signs of infestation.

Damages to the lawn

When you’re exploring the outside of the house, look for lawn damage like a pattern of brown patches. This could indicate a pest problem. Also check for ridges and piles of dirt that could be a sign of moles.

Strange smells

When you’re inside the home, notice if there are any unusual smells. Pests give off their own unique odors. If you detect a musty smell coupled with the scent of ammonia, it could be a clue about a probable infestation. Also notice if there is a garbage smell, because accumulating trash can attract pests.

Odd sounds

In addition to the smells that pests give off, they also make sounds. Rats and mice can be heard scurrying through walls and ceilings or under floorboards. You might hear scratching, gnawing, or squeaking as well.

Dead bugs

Check around windows and in basements for any signs of dead bugs. Notice if there are many of the same kind. This could indicate that a large number of them are holing up somewhere on the property.

Droppings

This is obvious, but if you see droppings, there could be a problem. Do a little research beforehand to know what kinds of droppings certain pests leave behind, like bed bugs and roaches. That way, if you see any droppings you’ll have a better idea of what you’re dealing with.

Holes in walls and floors

If there’s a rat problem, then you will generally see holes or gnawing marks on walls and floors. Look also for electrical wires that have been chewed up as well as evidence of nesting. Rats will often nest in kitchen cabinets and behind appliances. Look for chewed up paper that has been stashed in nooks and crannies.

Sagging floors

Do you notice that the floors are sagging in some areas? That could be a sign of termites. Other signs of termites include small holes and wood that sounds hollow when you tap it. You might also see remnants of dead termites, such as wings, and little pellets that look like sawdust.

Visible tracks

Pests like rats will often take the same path through a property. Look for any signs of tracks, like greasy marks on floors and walls. You might also see footprints in any areas where dirt or dust has accumulated.

A collection of pesticides

Finally, if you notice that the current owner has a large stash of pesticides, you can be sure they are battling an infestation.

While most infestations can be dealt with, it’s important to know what you’re getting into when you make an offer on a house. Be smart and keep an eye out for any of the signs outlined above to tell if the house you love has a pest problem.

Compliments of Virtual Results

Painting Your Home’s Exterior

By Virtual Results

Painting Your Home’s ExteriorIs painting the outside of your home on your to-do list this summer? There’s nothing that spruces up the exterior more than a fresh coat of paint, especially if you’re getting ready to sell. If you’re planning to do the painting yourself instead of hiring a professional, follow these tips to get the job done right.

Prepare the surface

Just like painting interior walls, it’s essential that you prepare the exterior before painting. Your finish will not look as good or adhere as well if you don’t take this critical step. Check for areas with mold or mildew and kill it with a bleach solution. Check for chipping or peeling paint and pressure-wash the entire outside. You want to make sure you remove all the dirt and loose debris before you begin.

Make repairs

Even though you’ve prepped the surface, you’re not ready to grab the paintbrush just yet. Now is the time to repair any issues that you find. Seal cracks around windows, doors, and molding with caulk. Patch holes in stucco with new stucco and give it ample time to cure. Replace rotted wood and sand wood surfaces that you’ll be painting. Cover windows with plastic sheeting.

Start with a prime coat

After making all the needed repairs and giving everything time to dry and cure, it’s time to add a coat of primer. Primer gives you a nice clean surface to begin with and will make your final coats look much better. If you’re painting vinyl or wood siding, choose a latex primer. If the exterior is chalky, then choose a sealer that will seal in the dust.

Move to the finishing coats

When choosing an exterior paint, you’ll want one that is 100 percent acrylic latex in the color of your choosing. Ideally, you’ll need two people when it comes time to apply the finishing coats. The first person will quickly spread paint over the surfaces with a sprayer. The second person will then use a roller to smooth out the paint that has been sprayed. This will give you a smooth, even finish. Once the first coat has dried, apply a second coat. That second coat will give you the professional look that you’re after, and ensure your paint job lasts for years to come.

Final touches

The last step when painting the exterior of your home is to paint all the details. This includes trim, shutters, molding, doors and other decorative elements. This is probably the most time-consuming part of the job. You’ll need to use a paintbrush and take your time to get the best results. But what a difference it can make! Once the paint has dried, remove plastic from the windows and clean.

What to expect

Once you’ve completed your new paint job, you can expect it to last up to ten years. Taking time to do the proper preparations, using quality paints, and applying at least two coats of paint will help your hard work last longer and hold up to wear and tear.

Compliments of Virtual Results

Sneaky Ways to Save Money for a Down Payment

By Virtual Results

Sneaky Ways to Save Money for a Down PaymentDo you dream of owning your own home, but feel like you’ll never have the money for a down payment? While saving for a down payment can seem like a daunting task, it isn’t impossible. In fact, there are ways to begin saving right now that won’t put a crimp in your lifestyle. Here are the best sneaky ways we’ve found to save money for that down payment.

Use cash

We’ve gotten so accustomed to paying with credit and debit cards, having cash on hand can seem like a real hassle. But it’s so easy to spend more than you think you are when you’re swiping that card. Instead, opt to pay with cash. You’ll have a better sense of how much money you’re actually spending, and will spend less on impulse purchases.

Limit food waste

How much food do you end up throwing away in a typical week? If it’s more than you’d like to admit, perhaps it’s time to curtail those food expenses. In fact, according to the National Resources Defense Council, the typical American wastes a whopping 40 percent of the food they buy. Think of how much money you can save by only buying what you can actually eat.

Adjust your thermostat

As the temperatures rise over the summer, you may be tempted to crank that AC. But think about how much extra money you’re spending just to lower the temperature by a degree or two. If you have a programmable thermostat, set it so that the house is warmer while you’re away. Keep curtains closed on sunny days. According to the Department of Energy, you could save up to three percent on your energy bill for every one degree you change your thermostat.

Set up automatic savings

Help yourself get into the savings mindset. Instead of only saving what you have left over from your paycheck each month, decide how much to save in advance. Then set up an automatic transfer from your checking to your savings account, and watch the dollars add up.

Don’t chase trends

Is it really necessary to have the latest phone or wear the newest clothing trends? See if you can resist the urge to go shopping for new things. Instead, make do with what you already have or shop second hand. You’ll begin to see that not only will you save money, but you’ll also be happier as a result. It’s exciting to see your savings grow as you edge closer and closer to your goal.

Compete with your spouse

If you’re buying a house with your partner, why not introduce a little friendly competition? This is a great idea, especially if one of you is very competitive. Have weekly challenges to see who can save the most money or the largest percentage of their paycheck. The loser each week then makes dinner for the winner.

Cancel unused subscriptions or memberships

Did you get that gym membership hoping it would inspire you to exercise more often? If it’s just sitting there unused, then cancel it. The same goes for magazines you don’t read and any other recurring payments for goods or services that aren’t meaningful to you. While those celebrity tabloids can be fun to read, by giving them up you’ll realize your dream of home ownership a little faster.

Compliments of Virtual Results

What to Know About Starter Homes

By Virtual Results

What to Know About Starter Homes

Is it finally time to buy your first home? That’s so exciting – congratulations! While the home buying process can be a little intimidating when you’re doing it for the first time, you’ll worry less if you arm yourself with knowledge. Here’s what you need to know about starter homes when you’re ready to begin your search.

Be realistic about your budget

Though we all have champagne dreams and caviar wishes, when buying a starter home you need to be realistic about your budget. Buying a home can be a very emotional decision, but it needs to be grounded in reality. Be honest with yourself about how much you can reasonably afford. Don’t forget to factor in expenses like repairs, maintenance, and insurance. It’s awful when you’re stressed about making monthly payments. Give yourself some wiggle room by buying what’s in your price range.

Be honest about what you need

Maybe you’d love to have an indoor swimming pool and a three-car garage. But do you really need it? It’s important to get very clear about your needs vs. your wants. Sit down and make a list of your requirements. Consider how many bedrooms you need, what size yard will work for you, and the best location. Then make a wish list. This can include items like a playroom for the kids or a basement man cave. While these things would be nice to have, you can certainly live without them. Remember – you’re looking for your first home, not necessarily your dream home. You can always trade up later.

Be willing to compromise

It’s extremely rare for homebuyers to find the “perfect” home – the one that checks off every item on their list. If you’re waiting to find that perfect home, you may be searching for a long time. Instead, you need to be willing to make some compromises. When you’re out looking at houses, use your imagination. Think about how you can personalize the house once you move in. If it doesn’t have everything you need, like a garage, is it something you can build? If there’s no separate room for a home office, can you create one in the basement or in the space under the stairs? If your kids really want a pool, is that something that can be added next summer? Get creative when you’re on the hunt, and look at each property with an open mind.

Be aware of the future

Though of course you’re buying a home to fit your needs now, think about the future as well. Are you planning to expand your family? Then you should consider that when determining the number of bedrooms and the school district. You should also think about the resale value of the home. We call them “starter” homes for a reason. Most people live in them when they’re just starting out, and move into another home after they’ve become a little more established in their lives and careers. For that reason, think about how easy or difficult it may be to sell this home down the line. Your future self with thank you.

Compliments of Virtual Results

Don’t Fall For These Real Estate Scams

By Virtual Results

Don’t Fall For These Real Estate Scams

As if buying or selling a home weren’t complicated enough, you also need to be vigilant about scams. There are scams everywhere, and some are sophisticated enough to look real. With so much information available on the Internet, it’s getting easier for scammers to con innocent people. Here’s what you need to be on the lookout for so that you don’t become a victim.

Down payment scam

In the down payment scam, a scammer hacks into a real estate agent’s email account. After reading through their correspondence, they target buyers who are about to close. Then, posing as the agent, they send you instructions on where to wire the money for your closing. Once you’ve wired the payment, it’s never seen again. The best way to avoid this scam is to either use encrypted email or get all wiring requests and instructions from your agent over the phone. Then confirm with the bank you are wiring to over the phone as well.

The inspection scam

If you’re looking for a fixer-upper, beware of the inspection scam. In this scenario, a seller agrees to a lower price on the condition that you forgo an inspection. If this happens to you, it can be a red flag. The seller may be aware of a serious problem with the property that they are trying to cover up. This could include expensive problems like issues with the foundation or pest infestations. Never agree to give away your right to a professional inspection.

The mortgage rate scam

If the rate you’ve been approved for on your mortgage seems too good to be true, it probably is. In this particular scam, a shady lender agrees to a very low rate on your loan. Then, once it becomes too late to back out, they jack up the rate. While you have the right to cancel the deal, it could cause a serious loss of time. These lenders may also charge upfront fees in order to lock in the low rate, which is money you could lose if you cancel. Don’t agree to pay fees upfront and be cautious about rates that are much lower than other lenders have quoted to you.

The real estate agent scam

In this scam, an agent takes the money that is to be deposited into an escrow account, and deposits it into his own account instead. The easiest way to avoid this costly mistake is to work with a licensed agent and research any complaints that may have been lodged against them in the past.

Moving scams

Finally, even if you’ve made it through the real estate process unscathed, you need to be aware of moving scams. One scam that is common is when moving companies offer you a great price on a move, only to significantly increase that amount once the truck is packed. They may also hold your possessions hostage until you agree to pay them more money. And unfortunately, there are some scammers out there who will pack up your truck and drive away, never to be seen or heard from again. Always be sure to thoroughly vet a company before signing a contract.

Compliments of Virtual Results

Naming Your New House

By Virtual Results

Naming Your New House

It may seem silly, but giving your new house a name can give you a real sense of ownership. You don’t have to live in a mansion or on a grand estate to do it. Naming your house gives it a spirit that captures the essence of those who call it home. Here are some ideas to inspire you when choosing the best name for your new home.

Research existing homes

A great place to start when brainstorming ideas for your new home is to see what’s already out there. Think of the famous homes you know that have great names, like Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater or Tara, the plantation in Gone With the Wind. What mood do they capture? How do they describe the character and surrounding landscape?

Walk the neighborhood

Next, take a stroll around your new neighborhood. Do any of the other houses proudly display a name? You’ll want to avoid naming your home the same thing as a neighbor’s house, so take note of what might be off limits. What features of the area are other homes highlighting? Is there a certain type of tree native to the area? Are you near a lake? Is your home nestled in the mountains? These characteristics can help define the tone of your name.

Explore your home’s history

Another place to find inspiration when naming your home is exploring your home’s history. You can research online to see what kind of information you dig up. You might also visit the county records office or local historical society. If your home is older, it could have a colorful history that can inform the name you ultimately choose.

Get personal

One of the most obvious places to find a good name for your home is to name it after the family that lives there. Something along the lines of Smith Farm, Gonzalez Hall, or Miller’s Cottage can make your home feel more personal almost instantly. You could even do some genealogical research and christen your home with an ancestral family name.

Explore the property

Are there any unique characteristics of your property? Perhaps there are two palm trees that frame your house just so. Or maybe your landscape is particularly rocky, or enjoys delicious shade on a summer afternoon. Twin Palms, Rocky Bend, and Shady Acres can be very charming names for a home. Perhaps there’s a particular kind of wildlife that enjoys visiting your yard. Are the frogs loud at night? Do cardinals frequent your bird feeder? Maybe you’re lucky enough to see the occasional fox traipse through the backyard. These can all provide great inspiration when deciding on a name.

Make it official

Once you’ve decided on a name, it’s time to christen the house. Have a plaque made for your front door that announces your home’s name, make a simple sign that welcomes visitors to your garden, or emblazon the mailbox with your home’s new moniker. However you decide to display it, embrace your home’s new name and don’t be shy about telling your friends and family. It can be a fun and whimsical way to make your new home your own.

Compliments of Virtual Results

Commission Fees Explained

By Virtual Results

Commission Fees Explained

If you’re preparing to buy or sell a home, you may have questions about real estate commission fees. Who pays them? How much are they? Can they be negotiated? When are they paid? Even if you’ve gone through this process before, you may not have all the answers. Let us clear up any confusion by explaining the nuts and bolts of commission fees.

How much are the commission fees?

Let’s begin with the basics. In general, commission fees total approximately five to six percent of the sales price of the home. In most instances, the buyer’s agent and the seller’s agent will split this evenly between them.

Can the commission be negotiated?

A seller and their agent should agree to the details about the commission in the listing agreement. The agreement will outline what services will be provided by the agent. It is possible for the seller to negotiate the fee that is paid. Some agents will agree to lower commission fees, especially if they are representing the buyer as well. Be aware, however, that some agents will not be open to negotiating.

Who is responsible for paying the commission?

Generally speaking, the seller is responsible for paying the commission fees. Buyers are usually off the hook, though they are still responsible for other closing costs. However, in a competitive market, a buyer may offer to pay for a portion or all of the commission fees in order to make their bid more attractive.

When is the commission paid?

Commission fees are paid during the closing of the house, when all the details of the sale are finalized.

How is the commission paid?

The commission is paid at closing to the brokers that employ the agents. The brokers then pay the agents their shares. How much the agent receives can depend on how long they’ve been with the brokerage, how much was spent on advertising and marketing, and general office expenses.

What do the commission fees pay for?

Commission fees pay for the work that the agents are doing on behalf of the buyer and seller. This includes taking listing photos, scheduling viewings and open houses, negotiating the contract, coordinating inspections, creating online listings, and much more.

What happens if you don’t buy?

If you end up not buying a home, then the agent you’ve been working with will not get paid for the time they’ve invested helping you with your search. However, if you decide to work with a different agent during the process, you may have some difficulties if you’ve signed a contract with the original agent. If you’re buying, take time to properly vet and interview potential agents.

What happens is the sale falls through?

Whether or not the selling agent gets paid even if the house doesn’t sell is dependent on a few things. If you decide to back out of a sale after an offer has been accepted, you are still likely responsible for paying the commission fees. If the buyer backs out, you may still have to pay the fees, but you can take legal action against the buyer. If your contract with your agent expired and the house didn’t sell, you usually aren’t required to pay. However, if you sell at a later date to a buyer that the agent originally found, you may have to pay. The bottom line – always read the fine print of any contract you sign.

Compliments of Virtual Results

What Stays Behind When You Sell?

By Virtual Results

What Stays Behind When You Sell?

When you’re selling your home, do you know what items you can take, and which ones you’re supposed to leave behind? While things like furniture and personal items are obvious, there are other things that may not be so cut-and-dried. If you’re a little confused about what items are supposed to stay with the house, read on.

Window treatments

Not sure if you can take those window treatments you love and spent a small fortune on? Here’s a good rule of thumb: if they’re attached to the window, they should stay. That means curtains, which can easily be slipped off a rod, can go with you to your new place. However, the curtain rods and blinds that are more permanently attached need to stay.

Lighting fixtures

In nearly all cases, the lighting fixtures that are attached to the wall or ceiling need to stay with the house. The buyer is purchasing the home the way they saw it on the day of the viewing. You could find yourself in legal trouble if any of those permanent fixtures they saw are missing when they move in. If you have a lighting fixture that you absolutely love, say a beautiful chandelier, you should replace it before you list your home for sale.

Landscaping

Unless you specifically state that you are going to dig up the rosebushes and take them with you, they need to stay with the house. This goes for any trees, shrubs, or other plants in your yard. All of those items are considered part of the property and cannot be dug up unless agreed to in advance.

Outdoor fixtures anchored in the yard

In addition to plants and shrubs, there are other outdoor items that need to remain with the property. This includes anything that is anchored into the ground with cement, such as a light pole, birdhouse, or basketball hoop. If it’s something that does not need to be removed with a tool, you should probably be able to take it with you.

Built-in appliances

Appliances can be somewhat of a grey area. In general, built-in appliances like dishwashers, ovens, and range hoods should remain with the house. If the appliances are freestanding, like a freestanding dishwasher or a refrigerator, they should be specifically addressed in the contract to make it clear whether or not the seller is planning to leave them behind. This is also true for air conditioners. If you have a window unit, it’s safe to assume that you can take that with you. However, if you’ve cut a hole in the wall and installed the unit, it needs to stay with the house.

Wall-mounted brackets for TVs

While it may seem like you should be able to take your TV mount with you when you leave, you should probably leave it behind. The generally accepted rule is that if it requires tools to remove it, it should stay with the house. If you want to keep the mounting brackets it should be stated in the contract so there is no confusion for the buyer.

Compliments of Virtual Results

First Night Must-Haves For Your New Home

By Virtual Results

First Night Must-Haves For Your New Home

In the flurry to prepare for your big move, don’t forget to have what you need for that first night. Moving can be stressful, and it’s comforting to know that you’ve got your essentials taken care of. You’ll no doubt be tired after a long day, so here’s what you need to gather in a few boxes to make those first few hours in your new place as relaxed as possible.

First night box for your home

There will be a thousand small tasks to take care of in those first few hours in your new home. Make your life easier by putting all the tools you’ll need to accomplish them in one box. This includes:

  • Garbage bags
  • Toilet paper
  • Paper towels
  • Lightbulbs
  • Flashlight
  • Basic cleaning supplies
  • Phone chargers
  • Scissors
  • Tape
  • Small kit of tools
  • Paper plates and plastic utensils
  • Can opener
  • Coffee maker and supplies
  • Pens and markers
  • Snacks
  • Bath towels
  • Batteries
  • Sheets, blankets and pillows for beds
  • Shower curtain
  • First aid kit

First night box for you

In addition to packing up all the necessities you’ll need for the house, don’t forget about your own needs. Include the essentials, as well as one or two items that will make your new place feel like home, including:

  • Toothbrush and toothpaste
  • Other toiletries like soap, lotion, shampoo, etc.
  • Medications
  • A couple of changes of clothes
  • Shoes
  • Pajamas
  • A good book
  • Candle, incense or essential oil diffuser

First night box for your kids

If you’re making the move with kids in tow, don’t forget to include boxes for each of them as well. Make sure to have all the things that will help to keep them occupied and happy while the moving truck is being unloaded. In fact, it’s a great idea to have them each get settled in their own rooms when they arrive – it will put everyone a little more at ease. When you’re packing the first night boxes for your kids, remember to include:

  • A few changes of clothes
  • Diapers and wipes, if needed
  • Pajamas
  • A couple of their favorite toys
  • Books and games to keep them occupied
  • Medications
  • Sippy cups or bottles
  • Night lights for their new rooms
  • Their favorite snacks

First night box for your pets

Last but not least, remember to include your pets in this process. There’s nothing worse than showing up to your new place with your cat and realizing the litter box is buried somewhere in the moving truck. When you get to your new house, find a quiet room and leave your pets in there with the door closed. This will keep their stress levels lower and keep them out of the way while boxes are being unloaded. Remember to pack:

  • A few days worth of food
  • Water and food dishes
  • Cat litter box, litter, and scoop
  • Dog leash and waste bags
  • Toys and treats
  • Carrier or crate
  • Favorite blanket
  • Pet bed

Finally, don’t forget to leave time for a little celebration! Pack a bottle of your favorite bubbly and be sure to toast to your new home. Congratulations!

Compliments of Virtual Results