How to Create Your Home’s Color Scheme

The only strategy you’ll ever need to coordinate color throughout your house.

The Best-Laid Painting Plans

Every new homeowner should plan their dream home’s color scheme way before breaking out the rollers. In fact, you can actually start the planning process when you first tour a home with your real estate agent. Ask them questions about the house to learn details that can help you pick the right color scheme and make your next house more like heaven.

Details such as house history and house layout can be vital information when it comes to the color scheme too. Here are some important questions to ask when you first start planning:

  • Is it historical? You may want to consider using a historically correct color for the year it was built. A paint specialist at your home improvement store can help identify those options.
  • Does it have any original features? Those original features may be highlighted with an original color.
  • Is there any architectural detail that makes this place special? Architectural details can pop with color or fade into the background with white or black.
  • What rooms get the most light? Light can change the way the color is perceived, so it’s important to know.
  • Is this open concept with views of different rooms? If wall colors are seen next to each other, will they look good together? Keep these facts in mind when choosing your palette.
  • What size are these spaces? Larger spaces and higher ceilings can intensify certain colors.

Here’s one method to put together a color scheme that’ll work for your family so that you can get your painting party underway.

Find Inspiration for Your Rooms

Discover the colors that you’re naturally attracted to by simply flipping through magazines and catalogs and tearing out your favorite photos of rooms. You can do this online with sites like Pinterest, too.

The key is to gather all of your inspirational photos together and find common threads in colors. It may be that all the photos have gray walls or blue accents. You may discover other things about your style, too, like your furniture preferences or your light fixture style.

Focus on the colors alone, and write down the list of hues that you find attractive. This will be a good “true north” for you if you become overwhelmed with all the options. If all the inspirational rooms are neutral with punches of color, then remember, you like neutral. If the rooms are white walls with high contrast, you like white. If the rooms are dark walls with moody accessories, you like dark.

Decide On Your Vibe

Now that you have your true north established, get a deck of paint swatches so that you can determine if you like monochromatic rooms, a more punchy room, or something complementary. Choose one neutral color that you like. Then see what you’re most attracted to when it comes to pairing colors with that neutral. There’s no wrong answer.

For this example, I picked greige (that first color row above) as my neutral to see what would work with it. You might go with analogous colors, which are pleasing because they sit next to each other in the color wheel, and they’re found in nature. Or maybe you like drama: Complementary colors are high contrast, so they create a vibrant look.

Research more about color theory to understand this idea better. Whatever those colors are, know that you are deciding your vibe by picking three main colors you love.

Pick Out Textiles

Now that you have your inspiration and your vibe established, it’s time to go shopping! This could mean that you’re simply shopping your stash, or it could be that you’re finding new wares.

Whatever it means, figure out what upholstery, curtains, and rugs are going to live in the rooms, and get fabric swatches of those items. This way you can group all the fabrics for one room together. This will help you determine the color to pick for walls. It’s also a great time to purge items that don’t fit into your new style or don’t go with that room’s color scheme.

Whip out your paint deck again and see what works with your textiles based on your established vibe and your inspiration. You may have dark curtains and dark furniture and want to lighten up the space. Pick out a lighter color for the walls. If you want to make it feel more like a cocoon, pick out something dark.

But remember, it should go with your overall desired vibe. For example, if you want to have an industrial vibe, steer clear of bright, sunny yellow.

You don’t need to know the exact color right now, just that the living room is going to be light blue and the dining room is going gray.

Also, keep in mind adjoining rooms. When you stand in a room and see the color on the walls in neighboring rooms, this is called a sightline, and the colors that are in those rooms need to look good next to one another.

Determine Accent Colors

Now that you have your textiles and a basic idea of what room is going to be which color, it’s time to choose accent colors. True accent colors can come directly from fabrics, throw pillows, artwork, or even your favorite stationery.

I like to pick at least two accent colors for each space. That accent color is used sparingly throughout the space – but enough to make it feel intentional. It should go well with the textiles in that space. An accent color can be the hue you use on an accent wall.

Also consider using a wall color from one space as an accent color in a neighboring room.

Test It Out

Now that you’ve determined your idea for a wall color and the accent colors that coordinate with your textiles and align with your style, it’s time to test some specific paint shades.

Remember that paint colors look different in natural and artificial lighting, often dry darker, and can coordinate or clash with undertones in flooring, stone, tile, and even cabinetry.

It’s very helpful to search for images of the specific colors online to see if you like the look in others’ spaces. I like to pick three to five paint colors for the walls before getting samples of that color. Then just make sure you test all your options in the room before choosing the specific hue and color plan.

Double-check that your chosen wall color coordinates with all the existing features, furniture, and textiles. Then write down your picks for the walls and any painted accent areas or furniture.

You did it! All your colors should play nicely with the neighboring rooms because of your hard work! Now you can confidently say that you have a plan for all the spaces and it’ll definitely work well with the other pieces in your space. Happy painting!


What the Insane Appreciation of Warren Buffett’s CA Beach House Can Teach Us All

It seems that even when famed investor Warren Buffett isn’t trying to make money, he does anyway. Case in point: the Laguna Beach, CA, home that he picked up in 1971 for $150,000. Buffett just listed the six-bedroom, 6.5-bath property for sale, and today’s price tag is a whopping $11 million.

Buffett, a longtime resident of Omaha, NE, wasn’t thinking ahead to a payday when he bought the place. He told the Wall Street Journal that he purchased the place just because his first wife, Susan, liked it. At the time, Laguna Beach “wasn’t fully developed,” he said—certainly not the ritzy enclave it is now.

The reason Buffett is selling now is that the family hasn’t gone there as much since Susan’s death in 2004, he said.

“While the family used to go there during the summers and for holidays, in the past 10 years they haven’t used it as much, and that’s why they’ve elected to sell it,” says listing agent Bill Dolby, of Villa Real Estate.

That pragmatic attitude is typical of Buffett, who earned his nickname “The Oracle of Omaha” with his winning investment strategy rooted in a down-to-earth attitude. In fact, we can see the proof of some of his most famous advice in the way he approached this home’s purchase and sale. Let’s take a look, shall we?

Listen only to those you know and trust

We’re guessing that anyone married to Buffett was quite savvy, so he had good reason to listen to Susan’s preference for this house—she clearly had an eye for good real estate.

Know the difference between price and value

Even though he said he wasn’t thinking of the house as an investment, a guy like Buffett must have thought about what he was getting for the money. After all, $150,000 in 1971 is the equivalent of almost $900,000 today, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ inflation calculator. So, it wasn’t chump change. But while the town may have been no big deal at the time, the home’s nice layout and its proximity to the beach and to Los Angeles clearly offered value.

Buy, then hold forever (almost)

As Buffett told shareholders of his company, Berkshire Hathaway Inc., in a 1989 letter, “Time is the friend of the wonderful business, the enemy of the mediocre.” It’s a friend of the real estate investor, too—anyone who buys a good-value property and holds it for 46 years is likely to do well with it. Even if he had a 30-year mortgage, he’s long since paid it off.

Buy what you want to own

Again, Buffett didn’t buy this house because he wanted to win big in Southern California real estate—he just wanted a nice getaway for his family. He, Susan, and their three kids vacationed at this home for more than four decades, spending summers and Christmases there. Viewed that way, he’s more than gotten his money’s worth, regardless of the appreciation.

Invest in what you know

As one of the listing photos shows, there’s a cardboard cutout of Mary See, a founder of California-based See’s Candies, in the living room. Berkshire Hathaway purchased the confectionery company in 1972—one year after Buffett snapped up the Laguna Beach home. Could it be that he discovered the locally made chocolates while on vacation in California and loved them so much he bought the company?

The Laguna Beach house was originally built in 1936, but the Buffetts remodeled several times, expanding the square footage, according to Dolby. Now the house features views from almost every room, numerous decks, en suite bathrooms, and a large family room with an oversize viewing deck. Plus, there’s covered parking for three cars, rare in these parts.

Still, whoever buys the place might be up for a little remodeling.

“In my experience in Emerald Bay, I’ve seen all kinds of things,” says Dolby. “The new owners could either keep it as is, remodel, or tear the whole thing down and rebuild.”

But if the new owners want to maximize the return on their investment, they’d do well to keep its previous owner’s advice in mind.


Must vs. Lust: What Do You Really Need in Your New Home?

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

When you embark on the home-buying process, your heart is filled with all the dreams in the world. It’s really easy to get caught up in the “I have to have ___________,  so I’ll cut back somewhere else ” game, even when you don’t actually know where that somewhere else is or if you can realistically cut back there.

This post will show you how to pare down the excess and make sure to get the things you really NEED.

Make a List of Wants

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

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

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

Highlight the Important Stuff

Next, look at your list and consider:

  • The things that can’t be changed without a massive investment. I’m talking things like square footage, window size, and number of bedrooms. This is your heavyweight list. These things should take priority in your home-buying decision.
  • Features that are purely cosmetic, especially things that can be DIYed. These items should be moved waaay down the list or taken off entirely. Backsplash tile, paint color, and lighting can all be changed inexpensively and after you’re living in your house. You don’t want to pass up a fantastic house because you can’t see past a red accent wall.

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

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

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

Bring Your List When You Look at a Home

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

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

  1. Is it on both of your lists?
  2. Is it something that’ll be extremely expensive and difficult to change or add?
  3. Would you be willing to sacrifice something else to have it?
  4. Would you feel like your house would be incomplete without it?

Happy house hunting!


Living with a Dog – Tips for Keeping Your House Clean

Living with a dog doesn’t mean your house has to look and smell like a dog house. Not wanting to spend my entire day cleaning, I’ve learned how to clean up in the quickest (and by the way – cheapest) way possible.

Keep The Fur From Flying

Brush your dog every day. This is especially important if you have multiple dogs like I do. You’ll be amazed how spending a short five minutes a day brushing your dog, will cut down on all that hair floating around your home. Brushing daily also gets rid of flaky skin by distributing natural oils through your dog’s coat. You’ll notice that your dog looks and smells better. And since most dogs love being brushed it counts as quality time with your dog.

The Quickest Way to Make Dust Bunnies Disappear

If you need to get rid of hair in a hurry, go for the Swiffer.
It works tons better than a broom. These little cloths grab hair, dirt, and dust, and other dirt quick, and you just throw away the cloth when you’re done.

Lint rollers are also another must-have. Keep a couple around the house if you need to get hair off clothing or furniture in a hurry.

Use Common Household Items

Baking soda is a miracle when it comes to getting rid of pet odors. Sprinkle it on your carpet and let it sit for a couple of house and vacuum. You’ll notice the room smells much, much better.

For a quick, easy, and cheap air freshener that really works:
Mix 1/4 cup baking soda with water in a spray bottle. Shake well and spray. The baking soda absorbs the odor. You can also add a couple drops of essential oils, vanilla extract, or even cinnamon for variety.

Another quick way to keep your house from smelling like a kennel is to spray vinegar into the air. As the vinegar smell goes away so does the doggie odor.

And here’s an extra tip: put a fabric softener sheet in an envelope under the sofa or chair cushion where your furry friend like to hang out. This is a simple way to keep the area from smelling like a dog house.

Like a Breeze

As a dog owner you might already have a bottle of Febreze around the house. If you don’t, get one. Its great for freshening up dog bedding and other furniture dogs like to call their own. If a member of the family is allergic to dogs, use the Allergen Reducer Febreze. They claim it reduces up to 75% of allergens from pets and dust mites that can come off furniture. We have noticed less dust and a it does make the room smell fresher.

Stop Dirty Paws At The Door

Stop muddy paws at the door. Place mats at both the outside and inside of every door. They really help cut the dirt down. Be sure to get a washable mat.

Another way to keep the mud out – pet wipes. It only takes a few seconds and you’ll be amazed to see how much dirt comes off your dog’s paws when they come in. Most dogs don’t seem to mind the routine.

Clean Messes ASAP

When accidents happen, clean them up as soon as they happen.
If you leave a mess, it will spread, stain, and smell. Also your dog will want to come back to that spot and use it again thinking that’s his toilet.

It’s best to use products made especially for pet messes.
These products are made to break down organic waste and to neutralize odors. Don’t use cleaners with ammonia – they smell just like urine to dogs.

Keep a “Clean-Up-Kit”

To avoid a catastrophe keep the following must-haves in your cleaning closet or somewhere handy: spray stain removers, old towels, paper towels, and disposable disinfectant wipes.

In case you are out of pet stain remover here’s a stain remover you can make yourself: Mix 1 quart of hot tap water, 1 teaspoon of dish soap, and 1 teaspoon of white vinegar (it gets rid of the odor). Shake or mix together; blot the area with towels and wet with cleaner to cover area. Let it sit 15 minutes, and blot again. Repeat as necessary.

Best 6 (Secret) DIY Tips

Common problems. Genius solutions.

As a DIY junkie, I’ve learned lots of tricks … most of them the hard way. Here’s a compilation of my favorite tips to take your project to the next level.

1. Pre-Painting Prep

Before you paint, use a floor duster to remove all the dust from your walls. Because of the long handle, you won’t even need to pull out a ladder, and your paint result will be a million times better.

2. Perfect Paint Lines

I have a secret for you. Even if you have texture on your walls, you can achieve perfect paint lines! You can’t stop paint from bleeding, especially if you have heavy texture like popcorn walls. So the trick is to make the bleed invisible.

After you’ve painted your base color on the wall and taped off your pattern, use the same base wall color and paint along the edges of the tape. This will make the bleed invisible. Then after it’s dry, paint your accent color over the space. Perfect paint lines every time!

3. Smooth Caulk

Getting a smooth finish on caulk can be maddening. The chunkiness and unevenness of the caulk can be quite the headache, but luckily, you’ve got everything you need in your house to resolve this problem, and it won’t cost you a thing.

Grab a disposable cup from your kitchen and fill it with water. After you’ve squeezed the caulk onto the seam, dip your finger in the water and run it along the caulk. The water creates a perfect lubricant for your finger. This will give you a smooth finish, and it’s virtually mess free. See how easy here:

4. Easy Wood Refinishing

Let’s say you just came across the score of a lifetime at the thrift store: a wooden mid-century dresser that’s in great condition, but the finish isn’t up to your standards.

Don’t worry about having to sand and restain it — just use a product called Danish oil. It’s a cross between a wood conditioner and a stain and will fill in and disguise the places where the color of your finish is all wrong.

5. Paint Preserver

If you find yourself mid-paint project and have to take a break, roll your roller in the paint to get a nice thick coat and then wrap it in a garbage bag and put it in the fridge. This will keep the paint fresh for up to a week until you can start again.

6. Art Straighteners

Do you have a problem with the art on your walls staying level? There’s nothing more distracting than having one or two crooked pictures in a gallery wall.

Buy a package of adhesive strips, cut them into small sections, and place them on the back of the frames. It will keep pictures straight and not damage the walls.

I hope that you’ll use these tips to make your DIY life a little bit easier!

This article was contributed by Mandi Gubler


Have a hankering for tacos? Does your family want to do a taco night (Taco Tuesday, anyone!)? Try this grilled shrimp salad with plenty of tasty taco seasonings, a lime marinade and creamy avocado. There are so many flavors and veggies in this salad, you’ll forget it’s missing a taco shell!

When we give up grains, like corn, there are some food items that fly out the window, like corn tortillas. No, corn is not a vegetable — it’s a grain. Albeit a gluten-free grain, but corn is still a grain, and it’s just another reason to not fall for the “gluten-free” label fad. Thankfully, you can make your own tortillas from cauliflower or plantains. But, let’s make it even easier and leave out the shell and fill our bowl with veggies, instead.

Marinate the shrimp in the chili powder, paprika, cumin, and lime juice for at least 20 minutes. If you have more time, let it marinate even longer. Pack the ingredients into a big bowl, or do a build-your-own style and let everyone fix up their own salad.

Taco Lime Shrimp Salad Recipe

Serves: 2     Prep: 30 min     Cook: 10 min
Protein: 50g / 32%     Carbs: 18g / 11%     Fat: 40g / 57%
  • 1 lb. shrimp, peeled and deveined;
  • 5 cups mixed greens;
  • 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, halved;
  • 1 avocado, chopped;
  • 1/2 red onion, sliced;
  • 1 tbsp. chili powder;
  • 1/2 tbsp. paprika;
  • 1/2 tsp. cumin powder;
  • 1/2 cup lime juice;
  • 1/3 cup packed cilantro leaves, roughly chopped;
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil;
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper;
  • Wood or metal skewers


  1. In a bowl, combine the chili powder, paprika, cumin, and 1/4 cup lime juice.
  2. Place the shrimp in the chili mixture and marinate for 20 minutes.
  3. Preheat grill to medium-high heat.
  4. Thread the shrimps on wood or metal skewers.
  5. Grill the shrimp until they turn pink, 4 to 5 minutes per side.
  6. In a dressing jar, combine the cilantro, olive oil, 1/4 cup lime juice, and season to taste.
  7. In a salad bowl, combine the mixed greens, tomatoes, avocado, red onion and shrimp.
  8. Drizzle with vinaigrette and serve.

Ouch! Three Times You Can Kiss Your Earnest Money Goodbye

The earnest money deposit—the cash you offer to essentially call dibs on a house—is one of the most important and misunderstood parts of the home-buying process.

Depending on where you live, you can expect to put down anywhere from 1% to even 10% of the home’s purchase price as earnest money. (In some highly competitive markets, buyers are making even larger deposits in an effort to stand out.) An earnest money deposit tells a seller you are serious about closing. Without earnest money, you could theoretically make offers on multiple homes, essentially taking them off the market until you decide which one you like best.

Don’t worry—the seller isn’t going to run off to Aruba with your cash. It remains in an escrow account or with the title company until the sale closes. And, if everything goes off without a hitch, that earnest money is put toward your down payment and closing costs. So there’s nothing to lose, right?

Probably not, except these three scenarios where your earnest money could end up financing the seller’s trip to Aruba.

1. You waived your contingencies

In highly competitive markets, it’s becoming more common for buyers to waive contract contingencies regarding financing or an inspection. You might be tempted to do the same—it will make you a more attractive buyer. But it also comes with serious risks. You guessed it: You might lose your earnest money deposit.

The financing contingency guarantees that you’ll get your money back if for some reason your mortgage doesn’t go through and you’re unable to purchase the house. The inspection contingency allows you to renegotiate the price or demand repairs if serious defects are found during the inspection.

If your contract doesn’t have such buyer protections and you run into trouble with the inspection, you won’t be able to get your money back if you abandon the deal. Most experts recommend that you not waive the inspection contingency, unless you’re planning on tearing the property down.

As for the mortgage-financing contingency, waiving it may be the only way to compete with all-cash buyers. But you’ve got to be absolutely surethat you’ll be able to get approval from your bank.

“I strongly encourage my clients to obtain a conditional approval before signing a noncontingent contract,” says Ivona Perecman, a New York Cityreal estate broker and lawyer. “Otherwise, it may turn out that the bank that pre-approved you will not give you financing or offer a lot less worse terms and, consequently, you may lose the deposit.”

2. You ignored the timeline outlined in the contract

Your contract usually sets out a specific time frame in which you’ll need to secure financing, get the home inspected, and be available for the closing. Generally speaking, as long as you’ve made a good-faith effort to adhere to the timeline, sellers will grant a reasonable extension if a lender drags his feet or there are other extenuating circumstances that delay things.

However, in some cases sellers may include a “time is of the essence” clause in the contract. Watch out for this phrase in your paperwork—it means the closing date for the sale is binding. If you can’t make it to close for any reason, you’ve breached the contract and could lose your deposit.

3. You get cold feet

If you have a change of heart about the home you’re buying—but there’s no problem with the property or the financing—you likely will not get your money back.

“If a buyer changes her mind and was able to request the down payment be returned without consequence then the whole idea of a contract would no longer be worth much,” says Marc Kaufman, a real estate attorney with Wexler Lehrer & Kaufman in New York City. “One party cannot simply walk away and default on a whim.”

The earnest money deposit serves a protection for the sellers when they take their home off the market. If late in the game you decide that you no longer want to make the purchase, they get to keep it as compensation for the time and money they have to spend on listing their home again and looking for another buyer.

When it comes to real estate, a case of buyer’s remorse could be even more painful than a lost deposit. To avoid both, really make sure the home you’re bidding on is “the one.”

Article by Beth Braverman

Waterproofing Basement Walls: Costs and Options

Tempted by ads that promise to waterproof your basement?  Here’s the scoop:

If you’re trying to figure out how to cure a wet or musty basement, you’re probably curious about advertisements for products that claim to waterproof basement walls. So you wonder: Is it really possible to dry out a basement simply by sealing the walls?

Yes, it is possible — but to make sure you’re choosing the right option, you need to figure out if the moisture is coming from the outside, or if it’s actually high humidity that’s condensing on the cool walls of your basement.

How to Find Out What’s Causing the Moisture

Tape a 1-foot-square piece of aluminum foil to the inside of your basement walls, and leave it in place for 24 hours.

If there’s condensation on the outside of the foil, you have high humidity in your basement. Fix it with a portable room dehumidifier or a whole-house humidifier system instead of waterproofing products.

If the foil has condensation on the inside surface (next to the wall), it may be the soil around your house is naturally damp from a high water table or poor soil drainage. In that case, waterproofing your basement walls can be useful.

You can waterproof just your interior walls, which may solve the problem. Or you can waterproof your exterior walls, which is a better bet — but more costly.

Here’s the scoop on the different types:

4 Types of Interior Waterproofing

  1. Concrete waterproofing coatings: These thick coatings are cement-like; once dry, they adhere permanently to concrete and masonry walls. You apply the coating with a heavy brush made with tampico bristles — a natural fiber. Swirl the brush at the final stage of application to give the wall an attractive, finished look.Concrete waterproof coatings can’t be applied to previously painted surfaces; check the label. A 5- gallon bucket (you add water to the dry mix) is $30-$40 and covers 100 sq. ft.
  2. Silicate-based concrete sealers, also known as densifiers, are also suitable only for walls that haven’t been painted or sealed. The sealers soak in and chemically react with ingredients in the concrete or brick, forming a hard, waterproof surface.Because these are penetrating sealers, they can’t flake off or peel, and you can paint over them (but check the label first). Applying a silicate-based sealer with a brush, roller, or sprayer is easy enough for a DIY project. A 1-gallon can is $40-$50 and covers 200 sq. ft., but you’ll need at least two coats.
  3. Waterproofing paint is an acrylic formula, not all that different from ordinary wall paint. But you brush, roll, or spray it on much more thickly — one gallon covers just 75 square feet, not the 300 square feet typical with standard paint.Waterproof paint is fine for DIY application. You can apply it over painted surfaces, and paint over it once it’s cured (1 gal./$35).
  4. Plastic sheets and panels are suitable as wall waterproofing only in combination with interior basement drainage systems. They don’t stop water from getting through the wall, but they do stop it from ruining things in the basement.Water that gets through the wall runs down the back of the plastic, into a drainage system in the floor. A sump pump moves water out of your basement. The entire system is $3,000-$5,000 for a 20-by-20-foot basement room.

TIP: None of these products will work unless cracks and gaps are properly sealed. So make sure you fill cracks and gaps less than 1/8-inch wide with polyurethane caulk made for masonry ($5/10-oz. tube). Patch wider cracks with epoxy filler.

Your Best Bet: Exterior Waterproofing

The surest way to waterproof your basement walls is a full-scale exterior waterproofing solution. It’s also the most expensive — often $15,000 to $30,000.

Exterior waterproofing involves excavating all around the house to the full depth of the foundation walls, then installing a waterproof coating or membrane topped by drainage panels. The panels provide an easy path for water to flow down to an exterior French drain at the bottom of your foundation. From there, water flows by gravity — or with the aid of a sump pump — away from your foundation to another part of your property, or into a storm drain.


Pet-Friendly Listings are All the Rage

We Americans love our pets. So much so, that we’re willing to spend big bucks to accommodate them.

More than half of all animal lovers surveyed by the National Association of Realtors said they undertook home renovations to make fluffy or Felix happier. About 23% installed a fence in the backyard, 10% added a dog door, and 12% installed laminate flooring. For contractors, that’s good news, but it’s also good news for Realtors.

Pet-friendly homes are an untapped marketing niche.

If your home seller has a pet and house that is especially tricked-out with pet-friendly additions, it’s your job to market that house to another pet-lover.

A whopping 53% of consumer decisions are influenced by pet policies. Does the homeowner’s association allow pets? Market the positive. More than 60% of those surveyed said finding a property that allows pets is difficult. It’s your job as a real estate professional to make it easy. Market your worth. Your knowledge of the area so that buyers are spinning their wheels looking that properties that make them chose between views and their furry companion. Truth is, those buyers would rather skip that property than get rid of their pet. Nearly all surveyed said they see their pet as a family member.

Market This:

  • Yard — If your new listing has a completely fenced in yard with room to roam, highlight those features. Take additional photos of the backyard. Show where the kennel is located or dogs running in the yard, separate from the flowerbeds, of course.  Show that this house can accommodate not just it’s owners, but it’s companions.
  • Floors — Laminate floors is the flooring of choice for pet lovers. Carpet gets stained, wood warps and bamboo get scratched and dinged. If your listing is already equipped with laminate floors, highlight that feature in your remarks. For example: “Pet-friendly laminate floors” is all you need to say so buyers know this property is targeting them.
  • Bath — While most entry level homes won’t have a separate washing station for dogs, it has become a requested feature in high-end homes. So, if you’re lucky enough to represent a seller who installed a doggy shower, play it up!
  • Proximity — Near a nature path, pet store, pet grooming facility? Mention it! There was a time when mentioning that a listing was located near a Starbucks was all the rage, now, it’s Petsmart.
Posted on Feb 16, 2017 by Chrystal Caruthers

Save Water and Money with a Rain Barrel

Using rain barrels to harvest rainwater from your roof is a simple, low-expense solution for conserving water and saving on your water bill.

Why pay to pour thousands of gallons of municipally treated tap water on your lawn and garden every summer if you can irrigate for free? That’s the thinking behind rain barrels, which allow for garden water conservation, protect the environment, and help you save money.

Considering that an inch of rain dumps 500 gallons on the roof of a typical 2,000-square-foot house, it’s possible in most parts of the country to collect more than enough runoff for basic landscape irrigation needs. A rain barrel will save about 1,300 gallons of water during the peak summer months, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

In a national survey by DC Urban Gardeners, a rain barrel lowered water bills by about $35 a month in the summer. For as little as $100 for the barrel and downspout fittings, a rain-harvesting system can pay for itself in just a couple of seasons.

How Much Rain Can You Collect?

The first step is to figure out the potential runoff amount from your roof. Multiply your area’s average annual rainfall in inches by the square footage of your roof. If you don’t know exact roof area, it’s fine to use the dimensions of your house’s footprint. Then multiply that number by 0.623—the amount of water in gallons needed to fill one square foot of space to a depth of one inch. The result is the number of gallons you can harvest. (Keep in mind, though, that most rain barrel systems are set up to collect only a portion of that, depending on irrigation needs.)

If your main goal is to water flower beds or run soaker hoses during dry spells, one or two 55-gallon barrels will suffice. If you want to turn off the garden tap all together, you’ll need multiple barrels or a cistern, a large tank that stores from 300 to 3,000 gallons. But cisterns cost considerably more (up to $2,500) and are more complicated to install and use, which makes them best suited for larger-scale rain harvesting systems that include such indoor uses as flushing toilets.

The Cost to Set Up a Rain Barrel System

Commercial barrels cost between $50 and $200, though you can also make one yourself from castoff food-grade containers. One couple linked together five 55-gallon syrup drums they bought for $10 apiece from the local Coca-Cola bottling plant. Their blog is an amusing and instructive rain-harvesting primer.

A typical system consisting of one or two barrels and off-the-shelf parts such as spigots, downspout extensions, mesh screens, and soaker hoses costs between $35 and $600. Cobbling it all together might take a weekend or two, but it’s not rocket science. The Maryland Environmental Design Program offers easy step-by-step instructions for building your own barrel with about $15 worth of supplies.

Unfortunately, most rain barrels are not very handsome, and it’s not always easy to camouflage them. Some people like the folksy wooden water barrel look, but generally speaking, the more water you’re trying to capture, the bulkier the containers—and the harder they are to make inconspicuous or tuck behind bushes, especially since they need to be located near a downspout on your house.

Safety Requirements and Caveats

Rain barrels work via gravity, so the barrel must be level, stable, and elevated to allow water to move out of the tank. You’ll want two spigots, one at the bottom to connect a hose and the other about two-thirds of the way down to fit a watering can or bucket underneath. If you want to move water to a higher level, you’ll have to add a small pump ($50 to $150, depending on type).

You’ll also need to take a few other precautions for safety:

Covers and screens: A secure cover keeps children, pets, and wildlife out. Fine mesh screens prevent mosquitoes from breeding (a mosquito dunk, which kills mosquito larvae but is non-toxic to plants or other animals, is also not a bad idea) and block leaves and twigs from clogging the works.

Organic growth: Water that sits for days or weeks, especially in hot weather, can start to grow algae. Try adding a capful or two of bleach to the tank and letting it stand for a few days before using. If that doesn’t work, you may have to drain and scrub the inside periodically.

Overflow: A 55-gallon barrel (or even two) will quickly fill up, especially during intense downpours. An overflow system that diverts water to a storm drain or into a moisture-tolerant part of the garden is essential.

Restricted uses: Although good for plants and perfectly fine for washing cars or garden tools, water that comes off the roof is far from pure. It may be contaminated with dust, insects, bird droppings, pine needles, pollen, and other pollutants. Be sure to clearly label all rainwater-supplied fixtures as “Non-potable—Do Not Drink.” Nor is it safe to mix fertilizer or garden chemicals in the barrel, even for garden use.

Benefits That Go Beyond Saving Money

Collecting rainwater has numerous benefits apart from low-cost irrigation. Free of chlorine and sodium, naturally soft rainwater is superior for plants. Capturing roof runoff also lowers the risk of flooding and reduces the burden on storm sewers and local watersheds.

That’s one reason why a number of local and state governments are offering tax breaks or rebates for rainwater harvesting systems. A few, such as Washington, D.C., San Antonio, Texas, and San Jose, California, will even conduct a rainwater audit of your property, make recommendations, and implement rain barrels or other storm-water runoff strategies at a subsidized rate.


Farro Salad

It might seem strange to dive into a salad for breakfast, but with farro grains (an ancient variety of wheat), crisp apples, and dried cranberries, this dish will give you the energy you need to power through the rest of your day.


  • 1 cup farro or wheat berries
  • 2 cups water
  • kosher salt
  • 1 lemon
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil
  • black pepper
  • 1–2 crisp apples, Gala or Fuji
  • 1 bunch lacinato kale
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 cup spiced pecans


  1. Wash the farro or wheat berries in a sieve before adding to a 4–6-quart pot with 2 cups of water and a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil, stir, and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook covered until water is absorbed and the farro is swollen and tender, 45–50 minutes. Remove from heat, and spread onto a sheet pan to cool.
  2. Cut and squeeze the lemon into a small bowl, removing any seeds. Slowly whisk in the vegetable oil until you’ve got a viscous and balanced dressing. Season with salt and pepper.
  3. Wash and dice the apple.
  4. Wash and trim the kale, cutting out the thick parts of the spine. Stack the leaves on top of one another, and cut into thin ribbons (you’ll be eating them raw, so you want to cut them into pieces you’d be happy eating).
  5. In a large bowl, combine the cooled farro, the kale, the diced apple, and the cranberries. Stir well to combine, and add dressing so that it’s well distributed through the salad. Finally, add the pecans, and stir to mix in well. Taste for seasoning, adjust if necessary, and serve.

4 Drawbacks of Home Equity Loans

Taking out a home equity loan against the value of your property can backfire if you fail to avoid these common pitfalls in the borrowing process.

When you need a quick source of funds, a home equity loan can be tempting. Done wisely, you can use the lower-interest debt secured by your house to pay off debts with high interest rates, like credit cards. It’s also a good choice if you know exactly how much you need to borrow for a big expenditure like a new kitchen.

Home equity loans aren’t always the best choice for accessing cash. The best use for home equity is to buy things that will contribute to your home’s value, like a needed remodel, or your family’s future income, like a college education. Consider carefully before you cash in home equity to spend on consumer goods like clothing, furniture, or vacations.

The fact that you’re staking your home against your ability to pay off the debt is just the beginning of the potential drawbacks.

Drawback #1: Money Doesn’t Come Cheap

A home equity loan is a second mortgage on your house. Interest rates are usually much lower for a home equity loan than for unsecured debt like personal loans and credit cards. But transaction and closing costs, similar to those for primary mortgages, make home equity loans a pricey — and imprudent — way to finance something you may want but don’t absolutely need, like a fur coat, exotic vacation, or Ferrari.

The average closing costs on a $200,000 mortgage are $4,070. To compare offers on competing home equity loans, use a calculator that compares fees, interest rates, and how long you’ll take to pay back the loan. Ask your current mortgage lender if it offers any discounts if you get a second mortgage from the same company.

Drawback #2: Early Payoff Can Be Costly

Home equity loans almost always have fixed interest rates, so you know your monthly payment won’t rise. Do check to see if there’s a pre-payment penalty — a fee the lender will charge if you pay back the loan early because you sell your house, or you just want to get rid of the monthly payment.

Such early-termination fees are typically a percentage of the outstanding balance, such as 2%, or a certain number of months’ worth of interest, such as six months. They’re triggered if you pay off part or all of a loan within a certain time frame, typically three years. Despite the penalty, it may be worthwhile to refinance if you can lower interest rates sufficiently.

If you want to be able to borrow money periodically, it may make sense to go for a home equity line of credit instead of a lump-sum second mortgage. Although more lenders are charging stiff prepayment penalties for HELOCs too, these are triggered when the line is closed within a certain period, such as three years, not when the balance is paid off. Bear in mind that interest rates on most HELOCs are variable.

The big advantage to a credit line is that you can borrow whatever amount you need as you need money. The big drawback is that the lender can shut off the line of credit if the value of your home falls, your credit goes south, or just because it no longer wants to offer you credit.

Drawback #3: Beware Predatory Lenders

Some lenders don’t act in your best interest. Theoretically, lenders are supposed to follow underwriting guidelines on appropriate debt and income levels to keep you from spending more than you can afford on a loan. But in practice, some unscrupulous lenders bend or ignore these rules.

Always shop for the best deal, rather than accepting the recommendation of a home-improvement contractor. Some will try to pressure you into taking their loans at above-market rates — and jack up the price if you don’t. According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, you should avoid anyone who insists on only working with one lender or who encourages you to do things like overstate your income.

Drawback #4: Your House Is at Stake

A home equity loan is a lien on your house that usually takes second place to the primary mortgage. As such, home equity lenders can be left with nothing if a house sells for less than what’s owed on the first mortgage. To recoup losses, second-mortgage lenders will sometimes refuse to sign off on short sales unless they’re paid all or part of what they’re owed.

Moreover, even though the lender loses its secured interest in the house should it go to foreclosure, in some states, it can send debt collectors after you for the balance, and report the loss to credit agencies. This black mark on your credit score can hurt your ability to borrow for years to come.

There are benefits to home equity loans. Often you can write off the interest you pay on the loan. Consult a tax adviser to see if that’s the case for you. And the rates can be lower than what you’d pay for an unsecured, personal loan or if you used a credit card to make your purchase.


Concrete Painting Basics

Painting concrete surfaces requires more skill, tools, and time than throwing a coat on drywall. Here’s how to do it right.

Concrete painting is trickier than painting most surfaces: It breathes, transports moisture, and sucks up paint.

While you can paint drywall in a day or two, you’ll need a week or more to finish painting concrete. Continue reading below for tips — plus costs — on how to paint concrete surfaces:

1. Clean the Concrete

Cleaning concrete is a vital first step because the porous surface tends to trap dirt, grease, and oil.

1. Remove dirt and grease with trisodium phosphate ($6.30 per quart concentrate), or choose a more Earth-friendly cleaner like Krud Kutter’s pre-paint cleaner ($10 for 32 ounces).

2. Yank off vines and moss growing on the foundation. Use a pressure washer to finish off remaining roots and dirt.

3. Remove efflorescence, a white powder that forms on moist concrete. Try Krud Kutter Concrete Clean & Etch ($8.50 for 32 ounces); if you need more cleaning muscle, try phosphoric acid masonry cleaner ($27 per gallon).

2. Strip Old Paint

Strip peeling or blistering paint indoors with a wire brush ($3 to $5), a paint scraper ($10 to $20), and lots of elbow grease.

Outdoors, get rid of old paint with a power washer (rents for $40 to $75 per day).

3. Seal Interior Concrete

Water moves easily through porous concrete, so sealing interior walls is necessary to prevent moisture from seeping in, promoting mold growth and that cold, damp basement feel. Use a masonry sealer, such as ThoroSeal, that also patches cracks ($35 for a 50-pound bag).

Carefully follow directions for mixing, applying, and curing the sealer. ThoroSeal, for example, requires two coats; the manufacturer recommends curing for five to seven days before applying the second coat.

4. Prime the Concrete

Concrete primer, called block primer, fills pores and evens out the surface. For exterior foundations and walls, use exterior-grade block filler, such as Behr’s Concrete and Masonry Bonding Primer, which also is good for interior concrete ($17.98 per gallon). Primer dries in two hours; wait at least eight hours, but no more than 30 days, to paint.

5. Paint the Concrete

Masonry paint (also called elastomeric paint or elastomeric wall coating) is a good choice for concrete painting because it contains binders that contract and expand with the concrete. Exterior house paint can crack and peel on concrete.

Masonry paint ($20 per gallon) can be tinted and is much thicker than exterior paint. Apply it with a masonry brush ($5 to $8), a high-capacity (3/4-inch or higher) roller, or a texture roller ($5.50).

Some masonry paint is thicker than exterior paint and contains fine particles that can clog air sprayers. If you want to spray-paint cement, ask your local paint store for a product that will work well in a sprayer ($300).

No matter how you apply paint, let it dry for a day between coats. You’ll probably need two to three coats, so check the long-range weather forecast before you begin.

Article by Pat Curry

Remodel vs. Renovation: What’s the Difference?

You say potato, I say potahto. Remodel vs. renovation … same thing, right? While the terms remodel and renovation are used interchangeably all the time, they are actually very different animals. So exactly what is the difference between a remodel and a renovation?

The key difference is how deep the changes go. A renovation means you’re updating an existing structure with cosmetic changes, whereas a remodel involves changing the structure through demolition and construction, explains Jason Larson, founder and president of Lars Remodeling & Design in San Diego, CA.

So, a renovation of a bathroom, for example, might involve refreshing the tile and paint, possibly even removing and replacing the existing sink, toilet, and shower, but keeping the plumbing and electrical systems in their original locations, explains Larry Greene of Case Design/Remodeling of Indianapolis. By contrast, the same project would qualify as a remodel if you, say, moved the pipes to make room for a washer/dryer combo.

If your house feels a little dated, a renovation can add a fresh look, Greene says. But a remodel is better if you need to update your home’s functionality by, say, knocking down a wall to create more space in the kitchen or putting up a wall to create a nursery.

Who ya gonna call?

A homeowner can hire an experienced handyman or home repair expert for most renovations, says Greene. Remodeling projects, on the other hand, are often significantly more complex and require more specialized expertise.

“Home additions, converting to an open floor plan, changing the configuration of a kitchen or bathroom, or digging out a basement are all extensive projects that are best left to an experienced design-build remodeling company,” he says. In addition to the general contractor, you should also have access to an architect or building engineer to ensure that the project is structurally sound.

Remodel vs. renovation: What’s the difference in cost?

In general, renovations are the cheaper route, because you’re only altering surface details. “Most minor cosmetic work for a renovation can be done quickly and on a budget,” says Betsy Bingle, associate broker at LintonBingle in Jackson Hole, WY. Renovations also typically entail fewer surprises, since the materials and labor costs are much easier to estimate, given the limited parameters of the project.

The bigger changes of a remodel, on the other hand, tend to be more expensive—plus, you may also need to obtain permits, which can run you between $500 to $1,000 and much more, depending on the extent of the project. Also know that when getting a bid for a remodel from contractors, you should also make sure to factor in items like appliances, flooring, and paint, which many contractors leave out as they focus on the structural elements, says Larson. He recommends padding your remodeling budget by 7% to 10% to be on the safe side.

You may also want to factor in a project’s return on investment—or how much money you’ll recoup whenever you decide to sell your home. This chart can help ballpark your cost vs. value.

Cathie Ericson is a journalist who writes about real estate, finance, and health.


For the adventurous eater, this recipe has it all: a subtle, exotic flavor; heat that can be adjusted to preference; and a delicious, sweet flavor that brings out the best in Indian-style cooking. This Coconut Curry Chicken requires a bit of preparation ahead of time, but the result is well worth the wait. This is a great dish to spend a few minutes preparing in the morning – when you are ready, the actual cooking comes together very quickly.

Coconut milk provides a base for this dish that is filled with easily digestible, healthy fats. Even if you don’t care for the taste of coconut, the use of this ingredient combined with the other spices gives this dish a sweet-heat that isn’t overpowered by the coconut. However, if your preference is to avoid this ingredient, you can consider swapping with almond milk (however, this will add a noticeably nuttier flavor). For a milder dish, cut the red chili flakes by half (or omit altogether); for a spicier meal, it can be doubled. Boneless, skinless chicken breast serves as an excellent source of protein in this dish, but if you are looking for a more budget-friendly option, consider swapping this protein for a less expensive chicken cut as needed.

This recipe is wonderful as a dinner – for a complete meal, consider serving the chicken atop a light side like this simple Vegetable Curry; this will add some great texture to your meal. To create some additional flavor variety, add a tangy side like this Raw Kale Salad to accompany your plate.

Coconut Curry Chicken Recipe

Serves: 4  Prep: 10 min. + 2 h.   Cook: 20 min
Protein: 29g   Carbs: 9g   Fat: 28g


  • 2 chicken breasts, boneless, skinless, sliced
  • 2 onions, thinly sliced;
  • 2 tbsp. fresh ginger, minced;
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced;
  • 1 tsp. red chili flakes;
  • 2 tsp. ground cumin;
  • 1 tsp. garam masala;
  • 2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice;
  • 4 tbsp. olive oil;
  • 1 cup full-fat coconut milk;
  • 1 green onion, thinly sliced;
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper;


  1. In a bowl, combine coconut milk, ginger, garlic, chili, cumin, garam masala, lemon juice, half the olive oil, and season to taste.
  2. Add the chicken to the marinade; place in the refrigerator and marinate for 2 to 12 hours.
  3. Heat the remaining olive oil in a skillet over medium heat.
  4. Remove the chicken from the marinade, and reserve the marinade.
  5. Cook in the preheated skillet until chicken is browned on all sides.
  6. Add the onion and cook until soft (2 to 3 minutes); pour in the remaining marinade.
  7. Cook another 3 to 4 minutes or until chicken is cooked through and onions are soft.
  8. Serve the coconut curry topped with green onions

How to Get a Mortgage After Foreclosure (Yes, It’s Possible)

If you’ve been through a foreclosure, you’ve crawled through one of the worst real estate ordeals there is. But that experience doesn’t mean homeownership has to remain forever out of reach afterward.

In fact, it’s much easier to qualify for a mortgage after a major credit event than you may think. It all depends on the circumstances of your foreclosure—and how you’ve managed your credit since.

So if you want to get back out there, here’s how to get a mortgage after foreclosure.

How long after foreclosure can I apply for a loan?

When it comes to the necessary waiting period between going through a foreclosure and applying for a new loan, every mortgage program is a bit different. But there are some general rules.

“For a conventional mortgage, a borrower who experienced foreclosure is required to wait seven years,” says Ray Rodriguez, regional sales manager at TD Bank.

On the other hand, the Federal Housing Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture require a three-year waiting period while the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs requires a two-year wait.

How to speed up the process

You can reduce the waiting period for landing a new mortgage by showing that the foreclosure was the result of a significant financial hardship from which you have recovered.

So what’s considered significant? “I live to shop” definitely doesn’t count; legitimate reasons include a layoff, business failure, divorce, or major health problems.

Be prepared to provide documentation of the hardship you claim, such as proof of paid medical bills.

“You’ll need to provide an explanation letter, which should be short and focus on recovery from the event, rather than excuses for it,” says Casey Fleming, author of “The Loan Guide: How to Get the Best Possible Mortgage.”

Her sample sentence: “After my business failed, I landed a W-2 job with an excellent company doing the same thing I did before, but with a guaranteed salary and full benefits package.”

Just keep in mind that “there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to lenders dealing with this situation,” says Rodriguez. Every lender has different requirements aside from basic guidelines set down by the FHA, VA, USDA, Fannie Mae, and Freddie Mac.

The FHA, for instance, is particular about what constitutes a significant financial hardship, says Fleming. A serious illness or the death of a wage earner may be acceptable, whereas divorce may not be. (You might have been able to work through a divorce, but not through illness or a death.)

How to rebuild your credit

For a potential borrower, a major component of landing a new mortgage is demonstrating that you have bounced back from the financial hardship that caused you to default in the past. Job one of proving that is rebuilding your credit and keeping it sparkling clean.

To boost your credit score—lenders typically like to see a score of at least 580—pay bills on time and maintain low balances on credit cards.

“Consumers should also frequently check their credit reports to ensure there are no inaccuracies that could negatively affect their chances of qualifying for a loan,” say Rodriguez.

Keep a paperwork file

Be prepared to document everything finance-related in your postforeclosure life, advises Rodriguez. That includes pay stubs, bank and brokerage statements, and tax returns. Lenders will ask for this paperwork to verify everything you put on your mortgage application as a precaution to avoid another potential foreclosure.

And save your pennies! Unless you’re using VA financing, you will probably need a larger down payment to secure a mortgage than you may have put down last time.

“Figure 10% minimum,” says Fleming. There may be exceptions, but they are rare.

What about nonprime lenders?

You can land a new loan immediately after completion of the foreclosure in most cases. But beware: It’s expensive, the fees and interest rate are higher, and usually the terms aren’t great, Fleming says. For instance, rather than a 30-year fixed loan, you may be offered only an adjustable-rate mortgage with a high margin.

How a mortgage adviser can help

Meet with an experienced mortgage adviser soon after your foreclosure so that you can begin to work on any other long-term issues that need to be addressed and fixed.

“The three legs of the qualifying stool are income, credit, and assets,” says Fleming. If one or two are weak, you’ll pay more for a loan or may not qualify. The best corrective action for a prospective home buyer depends on what leg is weakest.

Once you’ve worked on getting your credit score over a particular threshold, you may need to conserve cash if your liquid reserves are too low, or pay down your credit cards if your debt-to-income ratio is too high.

Bottom line: Your past does not predict your future when it comes to financing—in fact, a bad experience can often scare people straight.

“Many folks have rough times in their financial life, and then are excellent credit risks afterward,” says Fleming. “If you can demonstrate a willingness and ability to make payments in the future, you can get a loan to buy a home.”

Margaret Heidenry is a writer living in Brooklyn, NY. Her work has appeared in The New York Times Magazine, Vanity Fair, and Boston Magazine.

The 5 Best Things to Do When You Move into Your New Home

Simple tasks for a healthier, safer, and more homey home.

Moving into your dream home can be a daunting task. Between unpacking, cleaning, and trying to find that stray roll of toilet paper, it may feel like you’ve lost your mind in a sea of Bubble Wrap.

That’s why I wanted to share with you five simple things that you should do during the first month in your new home. These may feel like back-burner tasks, but really, they’ll help you sleep better at night and make your new place feel less like a house and more like your home.

When we moved into our dream house, we were tired, overwhelmed, and couldn’t remember where we put the sippy cups for our 10-month-old son. Plus, we had no idea what to do first! Of course, we cleaned and unpacked, but what next?

This handful of to-dos walks you through each of those tasks and why you should tackle them first and foremost.

Let’s get to it!

#1 Lock It Up

Security is the No. 1 concern for most people in a new environment. You can easily switch out your locks and deadbolts to your new home to protect your valuables and your family.

Now’s the time to consider the lockset finish, and the options are endless. When it comes to exterior locks, make sure you choose something that looks timeless and can be cleaned easily.

A new security system is also a good idea. The options for this are endless as well. Systems with online monitoring, smartphone compatibility, thermostat control, and even video monitors for the interior including the baby nursery are super helpful. Even if that room is empty now, it might not be in the future – so go ahead and secure it!

#2 Remove Toilet Seats

Some folks may think it’s unnecessary to replace toilet seats, but my point here is to simply remove them. By removing your toilet seats, you can really deep clean under the bolts and hinges where the “yucks” like to hide. Your goal is to make sure your royal throne is YOU-worthy.

You can reinstall your existing seat or opt to shop for a new one. New versions with night-lights, padding, or even child-sized attachments are available. Either way, you’ll know your favorite seat in the house is ready for your entire family.

#3 Improve Your Home’s Air

Changing an air filter is a three-minute task, and it should be done right after moving into a new home – even if the previous owners swear the chore was just done. Changing out a filter can help improve the performance of your air conditioning and furnace and help with any allergens in the home.

This inexpensive fix can also save you money! The U.S. Department of Energy says that replacing your dirty air filter with a new one can lower your A/C’s energy consumption by 5 percent to 10 percent.

It’s a good idea to write the replacement date directly on the filter when you put it in so you can be sure you know how long it’s been since the last change.

Also, take the time to test and change out batteries in all your smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors. These are often tested during inspections, but the batteries can die and tampered-with units aren’t uncommon, especially if a house was left vacant.

#4  Paint Your Front Door

Painting your front door (or freshening it up with a coat of oil if it’s wood) can show your new neighbors that you’ve arrived on the block and are investing in your home. This simple task is so easy!

After you do proper prep work, which includes sanding the surface, make sure you pick an exterior-grade paint and use a high-quality bristle brush to give it multiple thin coats for the best coverage. It’s a great time to show off your personal style, and these days any color goes!

Every day you walk in through your newly made-over door, you’ll feel welcomed into your new home and inspired to keep creating a space you love.

#5 Choose Your Signature Scent

Every house has a smell. You know what I’m talking about. It’s that “other people smell” that’s definitely not your own particular brand of aroma. Even if the smell isn’t bad, it just isn’t yours, and that makes you feel like an intruder in someone else’s space. Make your dream home even more dreamy by filling it with your signature scent.

Don’t have a signature scent? Check out a candle store or the air-freshener aisle to peruse the options, and then regularly use your favorite in your new home. My favorite is a lemon-vanilla-rosemary mix that I let simmer all day on the stove; it fills every room of the house.

In homes that have particularly distressing “stanks,” try getting the carpets cleaned before moving in the furniture. It can eliminate the smell as well as remove allergens, dirt, and stains.

Article by 

Debunking Common Misconceptions About Pet Adoption

Millions of animals in the US are currently in shelters waiting for new homes. However, many people choose not to adopt because they are unsure of what to expect. With some basic knowledge about shelters, however, these common misconceptions can be cleared up. Here are the facts for some of the more prevalent concerns you may have about adopting a pet from a shelter.

MISCONCEPTION: “They won’t have the breed I’m looking for.”

FACT: An estimated 25 percent of dogs in shelters are purebred ( 2014). Also, there are many rescue groups that specialize in finding homes for specific breeds or types of pets.

MISCONCEPTION: “There must be something wrong with them.”

FACT: In reality, local animal shelters and rescue groups offer a variety of healthy, lovable pets who need a home for no other reason than because they are lost or their owners can no longer care for them. Many rescue groups screen pets for health and behavioral concerns, will make you aware of any extra needs, and provide training before you make the decision to adopt.

MISCONCEPTION: “Adopting only one animal doesn’t make much of a difference.”

FACT: When you adopt a pet, you’re not only changing the outcome of one pet’s life, but also opening a spot in that shelter for another animal to come along and get a better chance of finding a new home. And when you do adopt, you can make the choice to spay or neuter your animal to help prevent future animals from overcrowding shelters.

To help you take the next steps for determining if adopting a pet is for you, you can download this pet adoption checklist to get key questions to ask yourself before adopting, as well as a list of must-have items for cats and dog owners. If you’ve chosen to adopt, download these pet information sheets to track important information about your pet and these fun printables to make your own pet tags.


Master Closet: DIY vs Custom

Personalize your master closet with special storage features that you select and install, or hire a professional to do the work.

Every master closet — and probably every other closet you have — can use a facelift.

But deciding between a do-it-yourself closet system and hiring a professional to design and install your master closet storage isn’t only about budget. The time you have available, the desired appearance, special options, and quality all factor in your decision.

The DIY Option

At the low end of the price range are do-it-yourself master closet kits, made from melamine (laminate-surfaced fiberboard) or coated wire. Installation is fairly easy — you just screw the attachment brackets to the wall and attach the shelves and poles.

The hard part is planning the layout. You’ll need to measure your space, then choose modular components from the home center or at online sites like EasyClosets or The Container Store.

Easy DIY Design

A typical master closet is about 8-by-10 feet. Most closet modules are 1-3 feet wide and 7 feet tall, so you need to figure out the best combination of units to fill the wall. Check online sites for free tools that suggest the best combination of modules for your master closet dimensions and layout.

You’ll likely have four basic components to choose from: a shelf unit, a drawer unit, a unit with two closet poles — typically spaced about 42 inches apart — for hanging shirts and pants, and a unit consisting of a single closet pole for hanging dresses and long jackets.

Then add components that will accommodate your storage needs and fit in the space. For enough components to outfit an 8-by-10-foot master closet, expect to pay $800-$2,000.

Your Custom Master Closet

Hire a closet company, a contractor, or a kitchen and bath designer to outfit your custom master closet, and you’ll get a setup that uses every inch of space. Instead of fiberboard or coated wire, components will be made of high-density melamine or even solid wood.

You’ll also have a much wider range of storage options — jewelry drawers, tie and belt holders, shoe racks, hamper baskets — and accessories, like a fold-down ironing board, a lighted beauty/makeup station, or a full-length mirror that slides out from between the shelves and swivels open for use.

Plan to keep your master closet design flexible, so you (or a future owner) can change shelf and pole heights and compartment configurations as needs change.

The Cost of Custom

All those bells and whistles come with a big price tag, ranging from $3,000-$5,000 and up for a typical 8-by-10-foot custom master closet, installed. Luxury appointments can take the price to $10,000 and beyond. That’s a lot of money, but your deluxe closet is an upgrade you’ll use and love every day.



Barley, Corn, and Black Bean Burritos

Are you ready to lighten up the New Year? Slow cooker recipes are the ideal plan when it’s cold and dreary outside. They warm us from the inside and help keep us cozy when the days are short and the nights are long. You simply prep the ingredients in the morning, set them in your slow cooker, and let it do all the work.

Barley, Corn, and Black Bean Burritos

Serves: 8


  • ¾ c. whole-kernel corn
  • ¼ c. chopped red onions
  • 1 (10-oz.) can fire-roasted diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 (15-oz.) can lower-sodium black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tsp. chili powder
  • ½ tsp. ground red pepper
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 c. uncooked pearl barley
  • 2 c. fat-free, lower-sodium vegetable broth
  • 1 tbsp. fresh lime juice
  • ¼ c. chopped fresh cilantro
  • 8 (8-inch) low-carb, whole-wheat flour tortillas
  • ¾ c. shredded fat-free cheddar cheese
  • 2 c. thinly sliced lettuce
  • ½ c. salsa
  • ½ c. light sour cream

Step 1: Combine ingredients.

In your 3-to-4-quart slow cooker, add the corn, red onions, and diced tomatoes. Rinse the black beans in a colander and add to the slow cooker. Next add the cumin, chili powder, red pepper, garlic and lime juice. Stir in your barley, then cover evenly with vegetable broth. With a spoon, mix all ingredients together thoroughly.

Step 2: Slow cook.

Cover and cook on low for 4-5 hours or until barley is tender and liquid is absorbed. Stir in ¼ cup of cilantro.

Step 3: Assemble the burritos.

Heat up each tortilla in the microwave for 10-15 seconds. Using a tablespoon, spoon the mixture evenly down center of each tortilla, about 10 tablespoons each. Sprinkle each with 1½ tablespoons of cheese and ¼ cup of lettuce.

Fold each end just about 1-1½” over the point edge of the mixture. Then roll up the tortilla along the long edge. Plate and top each tortilla with 1 tablespoon of salsa and 1 tablespoon of sour cream.

Nutritional Information (Estimated):
Calories: 289 | Fat: 4g | Fiber: 20g | Carbohydrates: 51g | Protein: 15g