Halloween Tips For A Safe Evening

No matter your age, Halloween is a festive time of year. Decorating your home with spooky jack-o-lanterns and haunted displays add to the fun.

October 31st gives individuals many great excuses to dress up as their favorite characters, and eat as many sweet treats as they’d like, so you wouldn’t want your evening tainted by a Halloween mishap.

This is why it’s important for homeowners to take precautions on All Hallows’ Eve to ensure that their home, and all of their little trick-or-treaters, have a safe evening.

1) Before heading out of the house on your trick-or-treating adventures, make sure to go over a safety game plan with your kids. Inform them to stay in well-lit driveways and pay attention to street traffic.

2) Candles are notorious Halloween staples as homeowners often use them to create a spooky glow on their homes by lining them along their walkways.  This same effect can be achieved with LED lights. Candles pose a risk as lots of little feet will be walking around your home, and they can be knocked over and cause harm to your property or to an individual.

3) If you have a loose porch step or railing you’ve been meaning to fix, now is the perfect time. Your front door will be inhabited by tiny ballerinas and ghouls for the evening, so making sure all dangerous or hazardous conditions are repaired will be important to ensure safety.

4) Don’t forget your pets. Unfortunately, a fun spooky Halloween for you can be an actual terror for many pets. Create a safe environment for your pets as the constant doorbell ringing and stream of visitors can spook them right out of the front door. A confined space like a crate or small room they feel they can guard and protect may be more comfortable for your pet.

5) Halloween is also an optimal time to look over your home’s insurance coverage. As visitors come to and from your home, you are opening yourself up to potential lawsuits, so making sure you are sufficiently covered is important.

Now that you’ve taken the proper measures to safeguard your home from any catastrophes, you’re ready to enjoy a fun family filled evening!

The Exodus From The Suburbs

Remember the days when getting married, finding a home in the suburbs with a white picket fence, and having 2.5 kids and a dog were the epitome of the American dream? Yeah, me neither.

It’s 2016 and people are staying single longer and trading suburbia for city dwelling.

As the social generation, millennials are constantly looking for ways to interact, whether virtually or face-to-face. Paying attention to their preferences and lifestyle choices will be especially important to developers looking to profit from the largest generation of consumers.

Major cities and metros appeal to the communal side of millennials, allowing them to be within walking distance to social interactions. Urban centers full of individuals with diverse backgrounds as well as countless shops and restaurants are seeing an increase in city dwellers at a rate higher than years past.

This doesn’t necessarily mean the suburbs will become deserted as years go by.  Offering millennials a more city-like feel may prove beneficial in luring individuals back to the burbs. Concepts such as New Urbanism are all about creating urban designs in suburban spaces. This is done by incorporating more mixed housing options and adding public spaces that are pedestrian friendly, like parks for community gatherings.

Counter debates would say, and history has shown, as millennials grow older and expand their families, they will return to the suburbs they left behind in their youth. But, if major cities continue to focus on bettering their public school systems and decreasing crime rates, the very things that cause individuals to move away from city life, we may begin to see a more permanent shift in where families are opting to raise their children.

Renters Can Actually Afford To Buy Homes… Why Aren’t They?

When it comes to homeownership, many viable candidates take themselves out of the running before they even verify if they are actually eligible for receiving a mortgage. In many instances, these potential contenders can qualify to buy a home! So what’s holding them back?

False information

One common contributor to the lack of homeownership is inaccurate information. Individuals believe they can’t afford a mortgage or that they aren’t financially stable enough to get approved. Also, many may still believe that renting is the more affordable option like in years before; however, that may not be the case in many situations. Higher demand for apartments have caused soaring rent rates, driving the monthly payments to well above those of mortgage payments so it may actually be cheaper to own a home than to rent one. As reported by National Mortgage Professional, according to a survey done by Zillow, 14% of renters can afford to buy homes.

Fear

The millennial generation, which is now the largest consumer generation, grew up during the bursting of the housing bubble and the downturn of the economy. Many of them saw family members suffer major losses in their home investments. It isn’t shocking that this would have a negative impact on the outlook of home ownership.

Debt/Creditworthiness

More than 40% of Americans carry a student loan balance, with the most recent graduating class averaging a little more than $35,000. With that type of financial burden looming over their heads, it’s understandable why individuals are putting off homeownership. In fact, paying off debt before applying for a mortgage loan could save money in the long run by decreasing your debt-to-income ratio affording you better rates. However, with student loan repayment plans having 30-year loan terms, waiting until all of your loans are payed before buying a home may not be the best option for you and your family.

Lack of desire

For individuals who elect to rent, finances may not be a major concern or reason behind why they choose not to own. With renting comes flexibility, and for individuals who love to travel and don’t want to settle down in one place for too long, renting is the best option. They are able to enjoy the community an apartment may provide through amenities or living in a major city.  Not to mention, with homeownership comes a whole other set of responsibilities such as maintenance and repairs, yard upkeep, and fronting all of the costs.

These concerns may be the reasons individuals are holding back for now, but as history shows, there has always been a rising and falling in the housing market and although homeownership is currently at an all-time low, the probability of it staying this way is very unlikely.

Are You Smarter Than Your House? The Rise Of Smart Homes

Smart houses have been in development and on the market since the early millennium. As time passes and technology becomes even more advanced, incorporating augmented realities and hi-grade security for average consumers, the rise of smart houses or smart house features in homes across the country has risen.

So what are smart homes and how do they work?

The term smart home has become somewhat of a buzzword, and many may not even realize what the capabilities of such a home entails.

Our minds can quickly return to our Saturday morning cartoon days where the Jetsons’ abode consisted of a two car garage to park their flying vehicles while levitating somewhere in space. However, not everything about the Jetson’s futuristic lifestyle is too off base for 2016; robots that vacuum, video chatting capabilities, and computers we can wear are commonplace.   What these types of houses intend to do is manage all of the technology associated with your home using a single medium such as a remote, tablet or smartphone.

Connecting all of the devices and appliances in your home so that you have 24/7 access to every feature from your coffee maker to your security system further proves that we live in a country obsessed with convenience and instant gratification.

This type of technology allows you to have control over any device that has electricity, through voice commands or the click of a button, and since you can access these functions using your personal computer or phone, smart homes are no longer exclusive to the extremely wealthy.

As smart technology continues to change the way we live and interact with our homes on a daily basis, we may begin to see smart homes as not only a new norm, but as a standard and expectation in home building.

Tiny Homes: The New Trend People Are Obsessing Over

Go big or go home. To your tiny home that is. There is a new social movement gaining popularity across the U.S.

The tiny house movement has picked up traction, even gaining media attention through HGTV television shows such as Tiny House Hunters, Tiny House Builders and Tiny House, Big living.

So, what’s up with tiny houses and why is everyone talking about them?

Imagine moving you and your family from your average sized 2,600 square foot home, and downsizing to a house no bigger than 400 square feet! Sound crazy? Well people are taking the leap and living compact lives as a means to save money.

These costs savers may seem like an appealing option, and for some may be a great alternative depending on their circumstances, but tiny houses have some very distinct drawbacks as well.

Ok, tiny homes are absolutely adorable, we can all agree on that, but they’re not exactly the easiest investment to undertake. For instance, while buying or building a tiny home may be relatively cheap, without land to park your new abode, you’ll run into some legal trouble. Purchasing land isn’t the cheapest when you add in sewage and water management.

Another practical drawback of living tiny is, unless you’re single, you have to be in close proximity to whomever you live with… all the time. Even the best friend and familial relationships can use a little space and alone time.

Lastly, unless you have $23,000 at your disposal, you must figure out how you intend on financing your small dwelling space. Mortgage lenders require a minimum amount in order to lend money, and tiny house values are often too small. Not to mention, the home regulation requirements your house must meet need to be up to code. Personal, secured or unsecured loans may be an option but they can be costly.

All in all, the Tiny Home popularity has increased and they may create great possibilities for those who aren’t quite ready for homeownership, but as with most things, there are pros and cons.

Landscaping Ideas That Can Make Your Home More Secure

As crime rates in major cities increase, finding clever ways to increase your home’s security is not only shrewd but necessary.

Using landscaping in a way that deters would-be burglars could keep you and your property safe. Simple design concepts will help give your home a polished look that doesn’t take away visibility or aesthetic appearance, but can dissuade perpetrators.

Check out these landscaping ideas below:

1. Plant thorny bushes

These pointy shrubs can give your home added security when strategically placed around windows and points of entry.

2. Prune your hedges

Don’t let unkempt vegetation give potential intruders a place to hide.

3. Trim trees near your home

Trees with low hanging branches that reach toward your upstairs windows could offer access into your home. Cut branches and leave distance between your trees and windows.

4. Light things up

Motion sensor lighting and accent lights can add to your homes décor and security.

5. Use gravel

Stealthy footsteps are all but impossible when one must walk across gravel pathways.

Things To Do Before Heading Out On Vacation

Vacation season is finally here and families are making travel plans to pack up and get away for quality time with the family. Getting away for a few weeks during the summer is an excellent way to relax and recharge, but don’t forget to take these steps before leaving your home.

Have peace of mind and enjoy your time away knowing that your home will be in great condition when you get back.

1. Get unplugged

Unplug all of your counter appliances and electronics (i.e. televisions, computers, toaster, coffeemaker). This will not only help save energy and reduce your electricity bill, but it’s also a preventative measure for electrical fires.

2. Turn off the water

Returning home to a flooded house is a fast way to undue all of the good vibes and relaxation you experienced during your vacation. Simply turning off your main water supply will eliminate chances of a water catastrophe.  While you’re at it, most water heaters have a “vacation” setting to lower the temperature while it’s not being used.

3. Hire a house sitter

If you can afford it, a house sitter is well worth the expense. This individual will either stay at your home while you’re away or check in at different intervals to pick up mail, water plants and generally just make the house look lived in.

4. Stop your mail

Before you head out for vacation, call your local mail service and put a hold on your mail and newspaper delivery before you leave. An overstuffed mailbox or stacks of newspapers on your curb is a tell-tale sign to home invaders that your house is unoccupied.

5. Use or get rid of perishable foods

Depending on how long your trip is, your food may spoil and go bad before you return, and coming home to smelly rotten food is never pleasant. Plan on not going to the grocery store the week before your trip and just eat what you already have.

6. Park your car in your garage – ask neighbor to park in your driveway

Leaving your car unattended for a period of time, even parked in front of your home, is just asking for shattered windows. Having a neighbor park in your driveway gives the illusion that someone is coming and going and therefore the house is occupied.

7. Don’t leave your spare key

Leaving a spare key under your front door planter or mat is not a wise decision when you are planning on leaving your home unattended. Instead, give your spare to a trusted neighbor or family member.

8. Purchase automatic light timers

Another inexpensive way to keep your home looking lived in is to purchase light timers. Schedule them to come on and off at periodic times throughout the day.

9. Be careful what you post on social media

We all love to post pictures and updates of the exciting things going on in our lives, and what’s more exciting than getting away for a relaxing vacation. Just be careful with the information you are putting out there, most times, that information is accessible to any and every one. Instead of posting your vacay itinerary, share pictures with your friends and family after the fact.

10. Clean the house

After a fun time relaxing on a beach enjoying your summer getaway, the drive or flight back home can be brutal. The only thing that could make the experience worse is coming home and having to clean. Plan ahead and clean your home before you leave, that way you can come home to a clean home and all you have to do is jump into the bed and continue your relaxation!

School’s Out For The Summer: 15 Things You Can Do With Your Kids

The sun is out and blazing, and the kids are at home complaining of boredom. That could only mean one thing – it’s summertime. Don’t let yourself, or your kids, fall prey to the mind sucking vortex that is the television set.

Check out this list we’ve compiled of summer fun you can have in or outside of the house. Don’t let summer pass you by on the couch. Get up, get out and get active!

1. Go berry picking

This family fun activity is sure to create lasting memories and leave you with full bellies and sticky fingers. There’s nothing better than picking your own fresh fruit straight from the vine. Check out this guide on the best times in the summer to pick specific fruits and berries.

2. Volunteer

Summer usually opens up a pretty wide space of available free time. What better way to fill it than by giving back to the community? Visit this site to find volunteer opportunities near you.

3. Canoe or paddle boat at a local lake

Is it really summer if you don’t spend some time on the water? Renting a canoe or paddle boat is a fairly inexpensive way to enjoy the sun and take a quick dip to cool off.

4. Break out the sprinklers and slip n slides

Does this really need any explanation? Send your kids outside and hookup one of these easy sprinkler systems and bam, instant water park for a fraction of the cost!

5. Bake summer treats 

Some of the best memories start in the kitchen. Cookie baking and decorating is the classic choice or check out this list of summer treats and make something new!

6. Play in the dirt again

Nothing makes you feel more childlike than getting a little dirt under your fingernails after a day of playing outside with friends. Get outside with your kids and dig some holes,plant some flowers, and strengthen those immune systems!

7. Having fun isn’t hard, when you’ve got a library card!

In an age where eBooks and Kindles are trying their best to make paper publishing all but obsolete, remind your kids what it feels like to browse the rows of old books. Getting a library card is a rite of passage for kids; make it a special event, or as the kids might say, something worth tweeting about. #LibraryWednesday

8. Turn yard work into a fun activity

If you work this one right, it could be a win-win for you and the kids. Is your lawn littered with weeds? Make up a game to see who can pull the weeds fastest. Nothing wrong with a little healthy competition, right?

9. Fort building

No matter what age you are, no one can say no to camping out in a well-built fort. On the next rainy day when you and the kids are stuck in the house, grab all of your blankets, pillows and chairs, move some furniture around and get to it!

10. Side walk chalk murals

Take coloring to the next level and make epic murals outside in front of your home! The great thing about chalk is the easy clean up. Allow your kids’ artistic abilities to shine and get the whole family involved! Click here for a glow in the dark chalk recipe.

11. Camp out in the back yard

Enjoy the fun of camping outdoors with the benefits of running water, electricity and your own bed just a few feet away. The kids will love backyard camping and if you don’t have a backyard fire pit, microwave s’mores are the best! (pro tip: use marshmallow fluff in place of marshmallows)

12. Take a hike

This activity is a great way to get off the couch and get active. Make it an adventure you and the whole family look forward to! Check out this list of the best hiking trails in America and go to the trail closest to you, or if the trail is too strenuous, find one that fits your family’s experience level!

13. Picnic in the park

Grab your family’s favorite snacks and sandwich ingredients, and head out to your local park. Check and see if your city has any special event’s such as pet day or picnic and a movie day; parks usually host many of these free events during the summer.

14. Homemade ice cream

Summer and ice cream are like peanut butter and jelly, they go hand in hand. Grab some of your favorite toppings and add-ins (how about fresh picked fruit from your berry picking trip) and enjoy the tasty treat from the comfort of your home.

15. Lemonade Stand

Depending on the ages of your kids, this is an activity that is not only fun but valuable. A lemonade stand teaches your kids about entrepreneurship and how to manage money. Stray away from the typical and try out one of these lemonade flavors for a yummy twist on the original!

Summer is a great time to relax and recharge, but like most great things it’s usually over in the blink of an eye. Start making plans now so you and your kids can have a summer to remember!

Check out our “Fun in the Sun” Pinterest board for even more fun summer family activities and don’t forget to follow us!

Benefits Of Bathroom Renovations

Renovating a bathroom is not an easy undertaking but the added value and aesthetic appeal it can bring to your home may be worth the challenge. Investing in strategic updates on key fixtures could lead to a big return and you don’t have to spend a fortune. Check out these tips on basic renovations that will help make your home a hot commodity:

1. Paint, paint, paint!

A new coat of paint in your bathroom, or any room, is an inexpensive update that can be done for less than $200 for a DIY project and less than $750 with a professional. Calm, neutral shades are great for giving your bathroom a peaceful spa-like vibe.

2. Shine some light on lighting.

Installing a great lighting fixture not only adds aesthetic value to your bathroom, but also offers practical benefits. Lighting that is dull or overly florescent can change the entire look of an otherwise great bathroom. A simple upgrade, or a more luxurious installation, can make all the difference in the value of the room.

3. You can never have too much storage.

Besides closets, bathrooms are usually the smallest room in your home so creating space saving storage can make the room more functional. Try utilizing unused space between wall studs to create small nooks that hold soaps, towels or other toiletries. Don’t forget, a well-placed hook for hanging wet towels and/or bathrobes goes a long way in increasing functionality.

4. Nothing wrong with a little luxury.

Who says luxury additions can’t be practical? For anyone who hates cold bathroom floors in the mornings, heated floor tiling is a desirable upgrade. Also, although this can get pretty pricey, why not splurge on a steamer/sauna installed in your shower and bring the spa to you!

5. And the big ticket upgrade goes to… exhaust fans?

Yes, you read that right! The number one item people want to see in their bathrooms is an exhaust fan. These inexpensive add-ons can increase the value exponentially. Who would have thought? According to a report done by the National Association of Home Builders, 90% of those surveyed ranked exhaust fans as the number one feature homebuyers look for in a bathroom.

(check our our article on how solar panels can boost your home value)

So there you have it folks. Implementing these 5 renovations could add value for you and your family, as well as future buyers. Most of these tasks won’t break the bank, especially for those that are particularly handy and ready to take on DIY projects. Just remember, your bathroom is your sanctuary and should be a place of soothing and calm. Less really is more, and although you can and should have fun with your renovation projects, try not to get carried away with too many bells and whistles that could jeopardize resale value.

(click for inspiration from our bathroom renovation Pinterest board) 

What’s So Great About Solar Panels And Why Is Everyone Talking About Them?

Many question the benefits of going green when it comes to boosting the values of their home. Can improvements such as solar panels and energy conserving fixtures actually increase the value of a home?

Well, according to an article in Clean Technica a study shows that adding solar panels could increase your home’s resale value by thousands. Our society is more aware and concerned with environmental issues than we’ve ever been. As more and more individuals begin to understand the effects they may be having on the environment, a new market for green appliances opens up to the masses and solar panels are at the forefront.

According to The National Bureau of Economic Research, solar panels increase a home’s value roughly $20 for every $1 decrease in energy costs; this could save you $600 a year and increase the value of your home by $12,000. Although the price of adding a solar installation to your home may have a hefty upfront cost, it could end up being financially beneficial in the long run.