Infographic – 20 Ways to Add Curb Appeal to your Home

You know what they say about first impressions! Certainly, when selling your home, you need to make sure that the outside looks inviting or prospective buyers might just drive on by without even stopping to take a walk through. Even if you aren’t selling your home, we all want our homes to look great inside AND out. Some of the issues preventing us from having homes with beautiful curb appeal are glaring and obvious but it’s easy to overlook others – especially when our homes are something we look at every day.

Think about your roof, chimney, gutters, windows and trim. What does your driveway look like? How about your front door? Perhaps you need a new paint job, a few simple repairs, or maybe some landscaping. If you’re selling your home, your real estate agent can be a valuable source of advice on how to make your home look as appealing as possible from the first moment a prospective buyer sees it.

This infographic courtesy of Build Direct will get the ball rolling with 20 good ideas for improving the curb appeal of your home.

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Improve Indoor Air Quality by Reducing Allergens in Your Home

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When you have allergies or asthma, it’s not always possible to control all of your triggers but there are several things you can do in your home to reduce allergens and minimize your symptoms.

Control your exposure to dust mites. Encase mattresses, pillows, and box springs in zippered allergen covers. According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, “Encasing mattresses works better than air cleaners to reduce allergy symptoms.” Bedding and stuffed toys should be washed in hot water weekly to kill the dust mites.

Vacuum twice a week. It’s important to wear a dust mask while cleaning and to use a vacuum with a HEPA filter if possible. When dusting, lightly dampen your cloth to help prevent dust particles from flying around. If you can, leave your home for a couple hours after cleaning to allow the dust particles you’ve stirred up to settle back down.

Most allergy specialists would say that you shouldn’t keep pets in the home but if you choose to anyway, here are some steps you can take to reduce your exposure to pet dander. Try to keep your bedroom doors closed and keep the animals out of those rooms. You breathe deeper when you sleep, making you especially vulnerable to breathing in the dander. Cover vents with cheesecloth to keep dander from traveling through the ventilation system in your home.  Take animals to the groomers regularly (if you must groom them yourself, be sure to wear a dust mask) and be aware that certain breeds (German Shepherds for example) are more prone to shedding fur than others. Leather or vinyl furniture or something similar is best as cloth types are more likely to hold dander in them. These types of furniture are easily cleaned by wiping down as well. Replace carpeting with flooring – again the carpeting will hold more dander.

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Use your air conditioner in warm weather to help prevent pollen spores from entering your home. Dust mites love humidity so humidity-reducing nature of a/c also helps to reduce the dust mite population.

You may also want to invest in a dehumidifier. This will help prevent mold in the home as well as reducing dust mites – the mold spores can be quite a strong trigger for allergies and asthma. Anywhere in the home that you can reduce moisture will help! Fix all leaks promptly, make sure you have functioning exhaust fans in the kitchen and bathroom, limit the number of house plants you have. Recaulk sinks and tubs every few years to prevent moisture from beginning to collect.

 Take care of any pests immediately. Mice, rats, and cockroaches can leave behind droppings which will exacerbate your symptoms.

Put down two door mats at each door – one on the inside and one outside to help limit the allergens entering the home. Insist that visitors remove their shoes upon entering so they don’t track pollen and other irritants through the home.

Remember to change the air filters in your home’s heating and cooling system on a regular basis. Kitchen and bathroom exhaust fans should vent to the outside, not up into the attic. If you have a central vac system, it should vent outside as well.

Blinds or shades are a better choice than draperies when it comes to reducing allergens. If you must have curtains, make sure they are machine washable so they can be cleaned often. Use a vacuum to remove dust from curtains and blinds or shades on a weekly basis.

Limit the dust collectors in your home – stuffed animals, knick knacks, books, wall hangings. Wash stuffed toys in hot water weekly and use bleach where possible to kill mold. Unwashable stuffed toys can be put in the freezer once a week for 24 hours to kill mites and then rinsed in cold water to remove the dead mites.

What’s your best tip for reducing allergens in your home?

Buying Your First Home – What You Should Know Now

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Buying your first home is such an exciting time but it can be filled with questions and if you aren’t fully prepared, there can be unexpected problems to deal with.

We polled some of our favourite bloggers and asked them, “What do you know now that you wish you had known before you bought your first home?”

Brittany of The Modern Mommy and Jennifer of Mom vs. the Boys both stress hiring a reputable home inspector as they shared similar stories of home inspections gone wrong. A home inspector who seemed credible was hired but he missed all the cracks in the foundation. Within 2 months of moving into the home, the entire basement flooded. They sued the inspector for damages and won but wish that they had looked further into his credentials and references.

Stacie of Simply Stacie echoes their thoughts and says to always be sure to make the sale conditional on the home inspection so you can walk away if needed.  She also says to be sure to find out how much the property taxes are so you can add that into your budget. And, if you rely on the internet (for example, if you work from home), be sure to look into services available ahead of time. Some regions aren’t as technologically established as others.

Kathryn of Mommy Kat and Kids spoke of many friends who were in for a big surprise when they bought their homes because they weren’t prepared for many of the costs of home ownership. Utilities are expected but having to pay homeowners’ insurance and property taxes on top of the mortgage payment can come as a shock when you’re not used to it.

Paula of Product Junkie wishes that she had known more about the pros and cons of buying a new home in winter. The backyard of her home was covered in snow and when the spring thaw came, there were surprises back there that they hadn’t know about before.  Cathy of Cathy Thinking Out Loud agrees with Paula. She says if considering a purchase in the winter, don’t let the snow deter you from checking the outside of the house as thoroughly as possible. Go in the backyard and look around!

Julie of Sober Julie was that she was lucky. She was looking at a century home and was able to find a reputable home inspector who actually specialized in homes of this type. He caught some issues with the foundation that were hidden and could have been missed by a regular home inspector. This issue would have cost them $40,000. She also advises, based on her experience, that you should assume anything you can’t see could be an issue. So, along with hiring a good inspector, be sure to have check the lot plans with the town to see any sewers and other such items you might not be aware of.

She also stresses the importance of checking not only the house, but the neighbourhood as well. Look into local school performance ratings and the number of police calls in the area.

Margarita of DownshiftingPRO suggests you drive by the property at all times of day. Is it a well lit street? What does the house look like at night? What do the other houses in the area look like?

She also says she never thought about all the closing costs – the cost of lawyers, home inspection, bank costs for home appraisal, the cost of the deed transfer and so on. These can really add up and you need to be prepared.

Shari of The Knit Wit by Shair says to look at everything. Look up and check the ceiling, carefully check the paint job, and question any inconsistencies you see. Open up appliances and look inside.

She also suggests that you get pre-approved for a mortgage but then, look for a home under that amount by as much as you comfortably can. Her family was pre-approved by $50,000 more than what they spent – if they had gone with the pre-approval amount, they never would have been able to handle the mortgage along with all the other expenses like property taxes and home maintenance. Note: Remember to plan ahead for other possibilities like a loss of job or unexpected medical expenses that could affect your ability to afford your home. 

Shannon of Shasher’s Life says that before buying a brand new build, you need to factor in the cost of landscaping. Trees, fences, and decks can all be expensive. She also suggests that if you’re purchasing a home in a new development, you should check the plans for future development. Friends of hers purchased a home on a dead end street not realizing that the city had plans in place to open it up as a main artery.

Deanna of Maple Leaf Mommy suggests that you ask to see the hydro bills for both winter and summer. Her family bought a home with a pool but had only seen fall and winter bills. She says, “Imagine my surprise when I discovered just how much the summertime bills were, with the air conditioning and pool pump. I about fainted.”

Kim of Tales of a Ranting Ginger suggests you look into local building permit laws before buying. She bought a home with plans to add on, not realizing permits would have so many hoops to jump through and so many restrictions on them.

Melanie of MBA Mama Musings suggest that there can be problems with buying the biggest/nicest/most expensive home in the area as property taxes can increase rapidly and resale becomes quite difficult. She also advises that you become familiar with MPAC and the house valuations in the area to make sure the house you’re buying is assessed fairly.

Ann of Kick-Ass Living says she bought a condo on her own and unknowingly broke 3 rules within the first month she lived there! She stresses the importance of reading through all of the condo rules carefully before purchasing. And don’t forget to factor in those condo fees!

Cyn of Creative Cynchronicity echoes Ann’s ideas and adds on that as with buying any home, it’s crucial that you have a budget set aside for home maintenance. She had planned ahead for the condo fees but didn’t realize that the condo corporation was just in the process of adding an additional assessment to take care of a much needed roof replacement for the whole complex. Her condo fees for the first two years that she lived there were three times what she had anticipated.

Jennifer of One Heart One Family says, “Don’t buy for now. Think of the future.” She says that their two bedroom home looked like plenty of space until they had two kids. Note: according to Trulia, 34 per cent of homeowners wished they had chosen a larger home.

Carla of Working Mommy Journal says that when checking out the neighbourhood look for all the things you’ll need while living there. How close are the schools and day care centers? Is there a bus stop nearby? What about grocery stores, fitness centers, libraries, or walk-in clinics? Anything of importance to you should be considered. Note: According to Trulia, 15 per cent of homeowners wish they had chosen a home closer to work. 

Merry of Merry About Town says to make sure to get a real property report. A seller who is reluctant to do one is a big red flag. Also, know that if there’s a “future school” listed, it doesn’t necessarily mean they will build a school there in a timely manner.

Kyla of Mommy’s Weird wishes she knew that she could negotiate more with her mortgage.

Julie of Coffee with Julie reminds us not to let those rose coloured glasses and excitement of purchasing a first home get in the way of a careful, detailed look at each and every room in the house. They were so over the moon about buying a home that they didn’t realize until after they moved in that none of the bedrooms had doors on them! Note: RECO found that 21% of home owners wish they had looked at more options before choosing to buy. 

Bottom line – Be as prepared as you possibly can and build in some contingency plans because surprises do happen.  One of the best ways to ensure that you are informed buyers well prepared for what’s ahead is to start by choosing a good real estate agent. We can help with that.

If you’re a home owner, what do you wish you had known before buying?