9 Home-Buying Costs Veterans and Active Military Should Keep in Mind

By  | Sep 29, 2017

For veterans and active military, VA loans are a great way to achieve the dream of homeownership. More than 22 million service members have used these flexible, no down payment loans since 1944.

But when people hear “no down payment,” they often don’t realize they’ll still need some cash on hand to finish the deal.

“Zero down does not mean zero to close,” points out Gwen Chubirko, broker in charge at Genesis Realty Co. in Kannapolis, NC.

The good news is that buyers don’t have to go in blindly: Your VA loan-savvy real estate agent will be your ally in helping you estimate the costs you will need throughout the process, no matter where you live.

“Our goal is to save veterans money and get them into a home that they’re happy with,” says Realtor® John Ulrich, broker associate with Illustrated Properties in Manalapan, FL.

While the amount you need to close will vary according to your location and situation, experts say you can usually expect to need about 3% of the purchase price on hand to close.

Want to break it down? Here are some home-buying costs that veterans and active military shouldn’t overlook.

1. Credit report

Buyers will often pay this fee, which runs, on average, about $30, to their lender when they first apply for a loan. Be aware that this fee is nonrefundable even if the loan doesn’t close.

2. Earnest money

The earnest money deposit is key to the home-buying process. It essentially allows you to put a “hold” on a house while you conduct the inspections and appraisal. Without earnest money, you could theoretically make offers on many homes, essentially taking them off the market until you decided which one you liked best. As the name suggests, it shows that you are earnest about moving forward on the purchase.

“The seller wants that buyer to have some money in the game when they take the house off the market,” Chubirko explains.

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.)

But don’t worry! Whatever you put down for earnest money will go toward your down payment and closing costs as soon as the deal goes through. (If the deal falters, you could lose some or all of your deposit, depending on the reason why the agreement tanks.)

3. Appraisal

All VA loans require an appraisal to ensure the property is up to acceptable standards and meets the VA’s Minimum Property Requirements. What does that mean? Well, an appraiser will calculate the square footage, confirm the property is worth the price you’re offering, and that it’s safe, structurally sound, and sanitary. Among other things, the appraiser will check for safe mechanical systems, acceptable roof life, and hazard-free basements and crawl space. VA buyers will often pay for the appraisal upfront, but they may be able to recoup the cost at closing.

4. Home inspection

While the appraisal is required, a home inspection is technically optional (except for a pest inspection, which is required in certain states and can cost roughly $50 to $150). But you never want to take a pass on the inspection, unless you’re buying a tear-down (not with a VA loan!).

The home inspection is your all-too-crucial opportunity to uncover any problems with the house before you make it official. It’s also your chance to point out repairs you can ask the seller to make on your behalf (and those repairs could cost much more than the inspection itself, which is going to run about $300 to $500.)

5. Recording fees

Recording fees must be paid out of pocket at the time of closing. This is the fee you pay the county to record your mortgage in the public record, and the cost varies from county to county.

6. Real estate transfer taxes

These costs vary by state—from none in Indiana, to a $2 flat fee in Arizona, to $2 per each $500 in value in New York. States, counties, and municipalities collect these taxes to transfer the title of the property from the previous owner to the new owner.

7. Title insurance

Title insurance protects you (and your lender) in the event there are title issues from previous owners of the home. The average cost of title insurance is around $1,000 per policy, but that amount varies widely from state to state and depends on the price of your home.

8. HOA fees

If you buy a home in an area where there is a required homeowners association, you will need to pay the application fee, which is variable depending on the local rules. Then there are your monthly dues. For a typical single-family home, HOA fees can cost homeowners around $200 to $300 per month, although they’ll be lower or much higher depending on the size of your unit and the amenities.

9. Loan origination fees

An origination fee is one of several that will make up your closing costs. The VA allows lenders to charge up to 1% of the loan amount to cover origination, processing, and underwriting costs.

The bottom line? While VA loans are a great option for any veteran hoping to buy a house, being prepared before you apply will ensure no surprises throughout the process.

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Leavenworth is the Best Town for Fall Foliage

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As the heat of summer begins to fade and the crisp fall air takes its place, the foliage of Leavenworth, WA comes alive with vibrant colors of orange, yellow, and red. Beginning in late September, you won’t want to miss the spectacle of our Bavarian village during the autumn season. If your fall getaway plans include a stay at Pine River Ranch, here are some of the best spots for viewing the Leavenworth, WA fall colors!

If you love the Leavenworth, WA Fall colors, you’ll also enjoy the wide variety of activities and attractions we have listed in our free Vacation Guide!

When to See the Leavenworth, WA Fall Colors

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When do leaves change in Washington state? The answer to that question varies from year to year. Usually, the leaves begin to change at the end of September and stay through the end of October. The color duration also depends on that year’s weather conditions. For example, dry summers usually lead to spectacular fall colors whereas the occasional wet early fall shortens the fall season.

3 of the Top Spots to View the Leavenworth, WA Fall Colors

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  1. Lake Wenatchee

Located halfway between Stevens Pass and Downtown Leavenworth, the 489-acre Lake Wenatchee rests majestically in the Cascade Mountains. The lake provides over 12,000 feet of waterfront, meaning there is plenty of space to relax along the shore and take photos of the stunning fall scenery. The reflection of the lively autumn colors on the lake is truly a sight to behold!

  1. Apple Capital Loop Trail

The Apple Capital Loop Trail is the perfect place to stay active while viewing the Leavenworth, WA fall colors! The 10-mile loop is ideal for taking a relaxing stroll or a bike ride through the Columbia Valley. You’ll also enjoy lovely views of the city of Wenatchee, public parks, and the Columbia River.

  1. Tumwater Canyon

Located along the Stevens Pass highway, Tumwater Canyon is one of the top fall foliage viewing spots in the region! There are multiple pull-off areas along the road that you definitely won’t want to skip! The towering cliffs standing above the roaring Wenatchee River make for incredible photo and viewing opportunities.

Enjoy the Leavenworth, WA Fall Colors During These Fun-Filled Events

Leavenworth Autumn Leaf Festival

The Leavenworth Autumn Leaf Festival celebrates the vibrant colors of fall with parades, fall festivities, music, and more. Not only is it one of the largest Leavenworth events of the year, but it is also the town’s original festival.

Leavenworth Oktoberfest

The Leavenworth Oktoberfest is one of the largest Bavarian events in the nation and the best in the Northwest! Visitors from all over the country flock to our village September-October to indulge in traditional festivities, fantastic food, and of course, lots and lots of beer.

Plan the Ultimate Fall Getaway to Pine River Ranch

Leavenworth, WA Fall ColorsOffering charm, romantic ambiance, and unparalleled hospitality, Pine River Ranch is the perfect destination for a visit to Leavenworth! Whether you are here to attend a fall celebration or enjoy a romantic escape, you’ll love our one-of-a-kind amenities, delicious daily breakfast, and stunning suites. Our location in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains also places you in a tranquil and peaceful setting. It’s everything you need and more to make memories that will last a lifetime!

Book your getaway to Pine River Ranch today! We look forward to welcoming you to Leavenworth soon.

If you haven’t already, don’t forget to request your free copy of our handy Leavenworth, WA Vacation Guide!

 

How to Organize and Beautify Your Entry Hall in 7 Days

Image result for pictures of entryway houses

Take your entry from scuffed up to spiffed up, restoring total cleanliness and order in just a week.

Houzz Contributor, Laura Gaskill

A neat, chic entryway gives visitors a positive first impression and makes coming home a pleasure. But between the daily influx of mail and a household’s worth of coats, shoes and bags, this space is often one of the most challenging to keep clean and clutter free. Give your entryway a fresh start with this weeklong plan to clean and declutter from top to bottom — and learn to maintain a serene space long-term.

Day 1: Address the outside.

Cleaning tasks: The entrance to your home really begins outside your front door, so let’s start here. Sweep your porch or stoop, including the siding, and wash the exterior windows at the front of your home. Using a soft cloth, wipe down your mailbox, doorbell, porch lights and front door.

Decluttering tasks: Remove everything that doesn’t belong on the porch and find another home for it. Toss dead plants and store empty pots elsewhere.

Day 2: Clear the decks.

Decluttering tasks: Think of your entryway as a busy but temporary holding area — like a train station, not a permanent storage area. Scoop up all of the mail, shoes, coats, scarves, cell phone chargers, tote bags and so on, and move them away where you can deal with them more easily.

Find a permanent home for the items you remove from the entry — you should be able to do this for nearly everything, except perhaps your keys. Even if you think you can’t find another place to store that jacket or bag, challenge yourself to find a place … anywhere but the entry!

Cleaning tasks: Once all of the stuff has been removed, cleaning will be much easier. Vacuum and mop the floors, vacuum cobwebs from the corners, clean mirrors and wipe scuff marks off the walls.

Day 3: Bring back the essentials.

Decluttering tasks: Rather than keep all your shoes and coats by the door, try keeping only the one or two you use most often. Store the rest elsewhere.

The same goes for bags, sunglasses and other accessories — if you find this difficult, try taking a picture of your entryway looking fresh and clean with only the absolute minimum amount of stuff in it, and use it as a reminder of why it’s worth the effort.

If your entry has room, your essentials may include a rug, a boot tray or bin to corral shoes, a surface for mail and keys, hooks for coats and bags, a place to sit while putting on and taking off shoes, and adequate lighting.

Day 4: Tackle a problem zone.

Decluttering tasks: If you have a large household, consider adding extra closed storage — piles of coats out in the open look messy, even when the coats are neatly hung on hooks. If you have children, make sure the storage is easily accessible and clearly marked.

Cleaning tasks: The biggest cleaning challenge in the entry is dirt tracked in from outdoors. Rugs are your first line of defense against street dirt, so make sure yours are in good shape. If your area rugs are dirty, launder them; if they are getting worn out, consider buying new ones. Instead of choosing a typical doormat-size rug by default, consider if a larger rug or runner would better suit your space — a larger rug has more dirt-trapping power.

Day 5: Improve the flow.

Decluttering tasks: Step outside your home for a moment and come back in through the front door, taking the time to really notice how you naturally move into the space. Is your furniture arranged in a way that is convenient, or do you nearly bump into something on the way in?

Would it be easier to toss your keys on a floating shelf by the door instead of taking four steps to a bigger table down the hall? Today is the day to try something new.

Day 6: Beautify.

Cleaning tasks: Wipe down surfaces; polish wood furniture.

Decluttering tasks: Pay attention to what is kept out in the open in your entryway and what is behind closed doors. You can choose to keep your cutest rain boots and cheery umbrellas on display, and hide the less attractive gear. Add something fresh and pretty, like a bouquet of flowers, to bring your space to life.

If you don’t have a closet or cupboard for hiding utilitarian items, use baskets. But beware of going overboard and providing too much storage — it will only get filled up and then overfilled.

Sometimes a minimalist setup actually helps reduce clutter, because it forces you to put things away where they actually go instead of plunking them down in the entry. Strike a balance that feels right to you.

Day 7: Master a daily routine.

Cleaning tasks: A quick daily sweep will help keep dirt from accumulating in the entry. Storing a broom and dustpan or a small stick vacuum in the closet nearest the door will make things easier.

Decluttering tasks: Get in the habit of opening your mail as soon as you walk in the door, while standing over the recycling bin. At the end of each day, put away anything sitting around in the entry that doesn’t belong.

 

Fall May Be Best Time for Buyers to Move

Image may contain: plant, flower, tree, outdoor and nature
Daily Real Estate News | Thursday, September 21, 2017
A slower fall season in home buying may help more lingering home buyers to jump in.
Prices are easing somewhat. For the second month in a row, the median price of an existing home dropped. It reached $253,500 in August, after reaching a record high of $263,300 in June, according to the latest data from the National Association of REALTORS®.
Read more: 4 Home Maintenance Tasks to Tackle Now
“Median sales prices typically decline a bit heading into the fall,” says Danielle Hale, realtor.com®’s chief economist. “Summer is a big time for home purchases, so that families settle in before school starts in the fall. In the fall, the types of homes that sell are smaller for people without kids. So they tend to be less expensive.”
Existing homes are proving to be a bargain compared to newer homes. The median price of a new home reached $313,700 in July, which is 23.7 percent higher than an existing home.
Home buyers may find attractive mortgage rates this fall. Mortgage rates are still under the 4 percent psychological threshold, which can be a luring incentive for borrowers. Freddie Mac reported last week that the 30-year fixed rate averaged 3.78 percent, holding steady at a 2017 low.
Studies have shown that fall can be the best time to buy. A study conducted by RealtyTrac in 2015 found that October was the best month for home buyers. Purchasers in October paid 2.6 percent below the estimated market value at the time for their home, according to the analysis. In other words, buyers interested in a $300,000 home tend to see a $7,800 discount on it in the fall. Oct. 8 was found to have the best day for bargains too, with an average of 10.8 percent below estimated market value, according to the study.
Home sales in August started to decline heading into the fall season. Sales of existing homes fell 1.7 percent from July to August, but NAR mostly blamed the decrease on the limited number of listings for sale on the market.
Properties are staying on the market for less time, so buyers will need to be ready to act fast. Fifty-one percent of homes sold in August were on the market for less than a month, according to NAR. Properties typically stayed on the market for just 30 days in August.
Source: “Why It’s a Better Time for Buyers on a Budget to Purchase a Home,” realtor.com® (Sept. 20, 2017)

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Staging Your Home for a Successful Sale This Fall

Consider these key points when you are staging and marketing your home for success this fall!

The following is guest post from Patti Stern of PJ & Company Staging and Interior Decorating. The photos are examples of design and staging work by PJ & Company Staging. 

With a competitive fall real estate market ahead, it may be challenging to get your property noticed and on the top of buyers’ lists. The best advice we give our clients is to step back and look at your property from the perspective of today’s sophisticated buyers and then present it as a product that will help them envision living there. The following are some key points to consider when marketing your home for success in a competitive market.

 

Keep It Simple

Less is always more with home staging. After decluttering and depersonalizing, find the proper balance of furniture and accessories that will enhance a room so that buyers won’t be distracted and can focus on its unique features, size and flow. Keep decor simple, fresh and bright to help buyers visualize what it would be like to live there with their own furniture in the space.

Boost Perceived Value With a Cosmetic Facelift

The majority of first time buyers are willing to pay more for a home that doesn’t need improvements. Instead of spending time and money on expensive renovations, increase perceived value with basic updates and repairs such as repainting kitchen and bathroom cabinets, new hardware, modern lighting, eco-friendly faucets and neutral wall color. These updates are all that is needed to suggest a home is in move-in ready condition.

Create a Lasting Impression

Most prospective buyers can’t visualize beyond what they see so if they don’t connect with a property right away, they’ll simply go to the next listing around the corner. Whether vacant or occupied, make the home memorable from the entry to the basement with key pieces of furniture, rugs, lighting and wall art. This will add warmth and personality so that buyers can emotionally connect and be more likely to make an offer.

For more examples of interior decorating and home staging, visit www.pjstagingdecorating.com.

 

Patti Stern, principal, interior decorator and professional stager of PJ & Company Staging and Interior Decorating, has been decorating and staging homes since 2005. She and her team provide turnkey, full service home staging and interior decorating to clients across Connecticut, New York and Massachusetts. Her company has received Houzz 2015, 2016 and 2017 Awards for Customer Service. Patti has been featured in Connecticut Magazine, the Hartford Courant, Danbury News-Times and on NBC Connecticut and FOX TV.  She is a regular contributor to the National Association of Realtor’s Blog, “Style, Staged and Sold.”

For more information, contact Patti Stern at 203-640-3762 or patti@pjstagingdecorating.com.

7 Things to Do Before Moving into Your New Home

Image result for pictures of new homeowners looking at their homes from the outside

The keys are yours, now what?

Congratulations! You’re a new homeowner. While you may not be able to wait to move in, there are a few things you should consider tackling before hanging those family photos on the walls.

lock

1. Change the locks – For peace of mind, it’s a good idea to change out the locks on your exterior doors to ensure that anyone the previous owners may have given a key to can no longer access the property. According to Home Advisor, the average homeowner spends between $100-$300 hiring a locksmith.

2. Paint – Don’t love the lemon yellow the previous homeowners chose for the master bedroom? Painting your new home will be infinitely easier if you can do so before moving furniture into the space. Head to your local paint store to pick up a few samples to test before committing. Take your time and be sure to view the color swatches in different lights before committing. There are also handy online visualization tool like the Benjamin Moore Personal Color Viewer.

floors

3. Take care of your floors – Like with painting, treating and refinishing floors is much easier without furniture in the way. Costs for this project will vary depending on the size of the job, but you can estimate roughly $200 for supplies and equipment. Check out this useful guide to refinishing wood floors from This Old House before heading to the hardware store.

repairs

4. Make any necessary repairs – Does the bathtub need to be re-caulked or the tile re-grouted? Do the floor boards creak? Make a list of priority repairs and tackle them one by one. You’ll be happy you did a few months from now when other projects crop up on the honey do list.

5. Clean from top to bottom – The only thing better than a new home is a clean new home. Now is the best time to give every nook and cranny of your home a deep clean. Scrub the inside of appliances like the refrigerator, oven, dishwasher and microwave. Wipe down walls and baseboards with a damp cloth. Looking for clever ways to banish grease and grime?

utilities

6. Set up your utilities – Call your electric, gas, cable and water utility providers to make sure service is transferred to you after closing. You’ll also want to research when trash and recycling pick-up are scheduled for your zone.

7. Change your Address – While you may want those mortgage bills to be sent elsewhere, it’s important to file a change of address with the US Postal Service to ensure that all mail is forwarded to your new address following your move. Also be sure to alert friends and family of your new address. They’ll need to know where to send that housewarming gift!

Generations Make a Move Together

generations at home blog.jpg

 2017


Buying, First Time Buyer, Local Real Estate, National Real Estate, Real Estate Broker,Real

Late boomers, like myself, are busy people. We’re still raising kids or about to send them off to college. Many of us are at the apex of our careers or juggling fast-paced schedules at home for everyone in the family. Adding to the fever pitch, we’re often already caring for aging parents.

Multi-generational homes, a trend that became more popular as a way to endure the Great Recession, continues to grow for completely different reasons. Extended families are coming together under the same roof by choice, as a way to spread around the physical and emotional demands associated with caring for an elder while also sharing the financial responsibilities.

This increasingly common homestead can come in many shapes and sizes. Each family’s circumstances will have unique implications for how realtors search for just the right property that will satisfy multiple needs. Here are some options for families considering moving in together:

  • Sell two homes to combine generations into one large home
  • Look for separate entrances and more than one kitchen, or the ability to install a small kitchen, in different wings or levels of the house
  • Build a backyard cottage fully equipped and appointed for aging adults
  • Have one generation move closer to, but live separately from, the other generation
  • Avoid homes with stairs, slick floors and small doorways for safety
  • Work to establish degrees of privacy for all members of the household
  • Outline who pays for what well ahead of putting a plan into motion

Interdependence within the extended family is how people have lived for centuries all over the world. It can make perfect sense for many reasons, but it’s not right for every family.  Weigh the options carefully, and be realistic about your own abilities, limitations and true desires.

You Think You’ll Love These Luxury Features—But Almost No One Ever Uses Them

By  | Feb 25, 2015

If you’re anything like us, you spend your days endlessly clicking through photos of luxury homes, dreaming of the day when you can upgrade to a villa with a wine-tasting room, free-standing tub, and home gym—the high-end features that suit your fantasies of affluent relaxation.

But think again: You’re likely to find that some of your longed-for luxuries will simply gather dust—and worse, taking up space. And no matter how large your home is, square footage is always a valued commodity.

So, which luxury features are worth a splurge—and which aren’t? Here you go:

 Not worth the upgrade

The pot filler over the stove in this gourmet kitchen is destined to go unused.
The pot filler over the stove in this gourmet kitchen is destined to go unused.slobo/iStock

A realtor.com survey of prospective home buyers last year found that their most-wanted luxury feature was a chef’s kitchen. But if you’re not an actual professional chef feeding dozens of people at least twice a day, well, you probably won’t be getting the most out of these features.

Giant high-end stove: The centerpiece of a gourmet kitchen, of course, is the stove. A true professional model, though, is a major investment. “These stoves can range from $6,000 to $10,000, whereas a quality stove aimed at a regular consumer, rather than a professional, can cost under $2,000,” says interior designer Jennifer Farrell. Realistically, most home cooks will be just fine with a stove in the $1,000 range, she says.

Pot filler: A special swiveling faucet right next to the stove seems like the perfect way to save you from lugging a pot full of water across the kitchen. “The problem is, water doesn’t flow as quickly from a pot filler than from a regular sink faucet, so you’ll likely end up filling up at the big sink,” Farrell says. And the money you spent on that pot filler will go right down the drain.

Warming drawer: This is meant to keep prepared food at serving temperature, but… “Every client I know that has one ends up using it to store pots and pans!” Farrell says.

Whirlpool tub with jets: Fantasize about being massaged by powerful jets of water? Luxuriating in mounds of bubbles? Wallowing in germs and slime? Yup, germs and slime. Those jets tend to clog or grow bacteria or mildew, Farrell says. Plus, people tend to use showers more regularly. You’re better off with a plain soaking tub and a separate shower (you can jazz it up with multiple shower heads, a popular upgrade).

Home gym: It seems like a slam-dunk: With a gym at home, you’ll never have the excuse of not being motivated enough to go out to the gym. It turns out, you’d be better off having the entire gym come to you. “Many people find that without the motivation of a trainer and other gym members working out, it’s hard to stay focused on a regimented exercise routine,” Farrell says. You’ll end up with expensive exercise equipment cluttering up precious space. Just pony up for that gym membership and get your butt over there.

Ah, a glamorous walk-in closet where you'll sip wine and peruse your clothes. Not.
Ah, a glamorous walk-in closet where you’ll sip wine and peruse your clothes. Not.phototropic/iStock

Walk-in closet with sitting area: It’s like something out of the diary of Marie Antoinette: “Lounged around inside my closet, eating cake.” Oh yeah, you fancy. But that sitting area is just taking up space that you could probably use for actual storage. “Better to devote more square footage to the master bedroom,” Farrell advises.

Wet bar: “These drink-prep stations with a sink were popular back in the martini era of the ’60s and ’70s and have seen a new popularity in recent years,” Farrell observes. But unless you’re constantly throwing Rat Pack–style parties and serving a flood of cocktails, you’ll probably just wash your glassware in the kitchen.

Outdoor hot tub: Unless you are an avid hot tubber, most likely a hot tub is going to be more money than it’s worth. “They cost thousands of dollars and require a lot of upkeep, but most homeowners say they only use theirs a few times a year,” Farrell says.

So worth a splurge

A great view is a major asset—and you can make the most of it with floor-to-ceiling windows.
A great view is a major asset—and you can make the most of it with floor-to-ceiling windows.piovesempre /iStock

Floor-to-ceiling windows: “Natural light is one of the greatest assets for any property,” Farrell says. If you’ve got great views (another highly desired feature), upgrading with floor-to-ceiling windows is a great investment.

Heated floors: Once you’ve tried heated floors, you’ll never go back. Not only are they a very comfortable luxury feature to have in any bathroom or throughout the house, they also cut down on your electricity bills. Plus, they add value to the home. “This is a luxury item worth the price,” Farrell says.

Granite/quartz countertops: A quality countertop, like granite or quartz aggregate, can be well worth the money, Farrell says. Both materials are durable, heat-resistant, and long-lasting—which makes them much more practical than softer surfaces such as soapstone, marble, or wood.

You have the money and you’re gonna do it no matter what

Candy wall—if you're a billionaire man-child, this is for you.
Candy wall—if you’re a billionaire man-child, this is for you.realtor.com

Let’s face it, some people are so wealthy, they’re going to go ahead and get whatever they want—and they’ll probably enjoy it, no matter what. Case in point: the candy wall (above) in the house that Minecraft founder Markus “Notch” Persson smacked down Beyoncé and Jay Z to get.

Wine cellar with tasting room: Apparently, this is a thing among the wealthy. But even with cash to burn, you have to be a really, really serious collector for this architectural flourish to be worth your while. “These cellars with tasting rooms have to be kept at precise temperature, which add to the cost of the cellar,” Farrell says. To create a high-end wine cellar, this budget buster can cost tens of thousands of dollars.

This over-the-top pool with water slide can be yours—for a price.
This over-the-top pool with water slide can be yours—for a price.realtor.com

Naturally landscaped (but still totally artificial) pool, with waterslide(this one still available)

In-home hair salon

Tennis courts, spa, 27-car garage, vineyard, and discotheque… OK, we give up.

Cicely Wedgeworth is the deputy managing editor of realtor.com. She has worked as a writer and editor at Yahoo, the Los Angeles Times, and Newsday.
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33 Tried and True Tips for a Sparkling House

Houzzers from around the world share their tips for transforming housework into child’s play.

Houzz Contributor,  Pauline Warlet

Household chores are a fact of life — no matter how we tackle them, there’s no getting around them. Sometimes we divide them up among family members and try to turn them into a game; at other times, we simply integrate them into our weekly routine. Either way, we’re eager to make them as easy as possible, and we want our tactics to be both cheap and effective.

Because 33 opinions are better than just one, we’ve asked the global Houzz community for household cleaning tips that will transform the novices among us into veritable pros. From herbs for deterring insects in Australia to green tea for banishing bad smells in Japan, these magic tips have one thing in common: They’ve been tested and approved by the best experts around — you!

KITCHEN


Refresh Your Storage

1. Scatter a handful of bay leaves in the pantry to deter critters, such as flies and weevils, says Houzz Australia user georgi02.

2. If a plastic food container still has a food odor after washing, leave it outside overnight with the lid off, suggests American Houzzer decanio3. “By morning the odor will be gone.”

Keep Your Countertop Spotless

3. Houzz Russia user Liubov fiore advises covering the counter with parchment paper or aluminum foil while peeling fish or vegetables. “You just throw away the paper with the garbage — fast and easy.”

4. Putting out a saucer of cotton balls steeped in vinegar will quickly eliminate cooking smells, such as from cauliflower or cabbage, says Houzz Australia user islanine.

5. Pop over to your local dollar store and grab a magic sponge, says U.K. home stager Amanda Caley of Property Reviver Ltd. “They are excellent for removing all sorts of marks and you only need to add water — no chemicals.”

Freshen Appliances and Silverware

6. Mix vinegar with detergent in the dishwasher to keep your dishes shining, says Houzz Italy user Marta Fincato.

7. Also proclaiming the power of vinegar is Houzz Italy user mikea62, who notes you can use this versatile ingredient to remove limescale from your kettle. Simply mix one part vinegar to one part water in the kettle, bring to a boil and let sit for about 15 minutes.

8. When it comes to keeping the fridge clean, Danish Houzzer Pernille Jensen says it’s a good idea to keep food away from the back wall, as bad smells can develop. “Food residues get attached to the ice [at the back of the fridge], which then melts and becomes moldy water.” Check your refrigerator once a week to avoid a big clean.

9. Here’s another easy and natural tip from Denmark from Rie Munthe-Rasmussen. “I sometimes use a lemon to dissolve the limescale that builds up on faucets or around the drain. Let the lemon or lemon juice sit for a while to allow it to penetrate.”

10. Want to know how to make your microwave spick-and-span? Try this nifty trick from Houzz France user Val Cats. “Take a damp cloth, make it into a ball and place it in the microwave. Heat the cloth for one minute until it gives off steam. This will loosen all the food debris stuck on the microwave’s internal walls, allowing you to remove it with a simple wipe of the very same cloth.”

11. “If you want to make your silverware sparkle like new again, take a container that’s big enough to hold all your cutlery, line it with aluminum foil, and fill the base of the container with salt. Now fill the container with water, place your cutlery in it, and stand back and admire the results,” says Houzz France user Yves Chasselin.

LIVINGROOM


Make Windows and Other Surfaces Sparkle

12. For many Houzzers, natural solutions work best. Baking soda, vinegar, lemons, borax, and newspaper were among the things suggested for cleaning glass and windows. “We really don’t need chemical cleaners,” says U.K. Houzzer Laara Copley-Smith of Laara Copley-Smith Garden & Landscape Design.

13. For hard water spots on the outside of windows, U.K. Houzzer Jean says it takes only a couple of drops of toilet cleaner designed for lime and rust deposits: “On a wet rag (wear gloves) wipe on, let it sit for a few minutes, then rub lightly and rinse. Works great.”

Take Care of Textiles

14. Use lint rollers to remove dust from lampshades, says Houzz Spain user Maria BM.

15. Houzz France user veillet has this little trick for removing dog and cat hair: “Put the leg of a pair of pantyhose on a broom and it will pick up everything in its path. Then simply turn it inside out and throw it away — magic!”

 

Clean Floors Quickly and Perfectly

16. “I love my vacuum cleaning robot! It works exactly as I imagined it would: It’s quiet, thorough and completely reliable. My little helper impressed me so much that I decided to buy a robotic lawn mower too,” says German Houzzer kirchmaier.

17. Houzz Italy user agnese guanella sprays vinegar diluted with water on the floor to keep ants and small insects at bay. “If you do it every two weeks, that’s sufficient. You can even use it if you have cats or other pets at home, since vinegar contains no harmful chemicals — the perfect solution!”

18. “To clean your floor tiles, mix 1 pound (about 450 grams) of oat bran with about 10 pints (5 liters) of water and let sit for roughly 25 minutes. Once the mixture is ready, use a sieve to strain the liquid, which you now use to clean your floor. Leave it on the floor for five minutes before rinsing it off with clean water. Works a treat,” says French Houzzer Germaine NGDEAN.

19. To clean and polish wood floors, make a small bag the size of your palm using a worn-out cotton cloth such as an old T-shirt. Fill the bag with rice bran and sew up the opening. Now moisten the bag a little and use it to clean and polish flooring, walls — in fact, anything made of wood, says Houzz Japan editor Atsuko Tamura.

BATHROOM


Showers

20. Try this tip from Danish Houzzer Dorthe Puccio, who uses a mixture of dishwashing liquid, vinegar and ammonia to remove soap scum, limescale and dirt from the shower. “It works every time and saves me a lot of money!” she says. “However, it should not be used on marble, as the vinegar breaks down the limestone surface!’’

21. “I don’t know if it’s unusual or a bit dangerous, but I use razor blades to remove the limescale around faucets and in the bath tub. It works very well,’’ says Houzz Denmark user Trine Nyborg.

22Tatiana Medvedeva of Houzz Russia urges us not to throw away old toothbrushes. “They come in useful when cleaning difficult-to-reach places. For example, I use them to remove hairs from the bathtub and drain.”

23. A good tip, which also happens to be eco-friendly, is to use vinegar to remove limescale from a shower door. “I macerate orange peels with a liter (about a quart) of vinegar in an airtight bottle for a fortnight — this improves the smell (although the smell of vinegar disappears quickly). Then, as already recommended, I dry it either with an old newspaper, or, if the frame is made of white plastic, I use a cotton cloth,” says Ana Triay of Houzz Spain.

24. Keep a heavy-duty bathroom cleaner and soap scum remover such as Shower Power in the shower caddy and give the door a spray with it every couple of days as you get out of the shower, suggests Australian Houzzer Sian Sampey. “I haven’t scrubbed a shower in years and my shower doors are crystal-clear.”

25. Use vinegar and baking soda to clean shower doors, stainless steel, ceramics, porcelain and drains, says Australian Houzzer georgi02.

Towels

26. “Don’t use fabric softener with towels — it creates a coating and prevents them from absorbing water when you dry off your body. Use white vinegar instead,” recommends U.K. Houzzer saratogabrown.

Toilets

27. Houzz Italy user Serena Meneghetti pours one or two glasses of vinegar into the toilet to get the bowl sparkling.

BEDROOM

 

Keep Your Sleep Zone Healthy

28. “When you’re sick, cut an onion in half and place it on the bedside table — it will absorb any harmful bacteria in the air,” suggests Houzz Australia user Jamie Bailey.

Protect Your Closet From Odors and Humidity

29. “In old apartments, the smell of damp can sometimes be transmitted to clothes stored in closets. To solve this problem, simply use a piece of newspaper rolled up into a ball to absorb the humidity and a glass of warm white vinegar to get rid of the smell,” says Houzz France user Isabelle Blanc du Collet.

30. Houzz Australia user purplewombat swears by borax, which acts as a deodorizer for shoes. “I soak my sneakers in a bucket of water with a couple of tablespoons of borax, then rinse and hang them on the line to dry. They smell as good as new.”

31. To remove ink from clothes, spray them with hairspray, then wash them as you normally do, says Houzz U.K. user 163hrd.

32. To get rid of odors in closets and shoe cabinets, place some charcoal in a small piece of gauze and leave it inside the enclosure, says French Houzzer Germaine NGDEAN.

33. Use green tea as a deodorizer and dehumidifying agent. Wrap well-dried, used green tea leaves in a small piece of gauze, washi paper or a used stocking and put it in a shoe cabinet, says Kawakami Junko of Houzz Japan. “Make sure the tea leaves are completely dry, either by drying them in the sun or microwaving them for a couple of minutes.”

 

 

 

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