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Today's Top Real Estate News

Provided by RISMedia News
7/9/2020  9:07:37 PM

Common Practices That Can Damage Your Home Appliances
We all rely on appliances to make home life convenient and comfortable, but many of us make mistakes that cause appliances to break down or wear out faster than they should. These are some of the most common blunders:

Washing Machine
If you have a mountain of laundry, it can be tempting to stuff as much as you can into the washing machine. Overloading a washer can damage the suspension and coils and may also damage clothes.

If items such as coins and zippers rattle around inside the washer, they can cause damage. Check pockets before putting clothes in the washer, and zip up any zippers so they don’t damage the machine.

If you start a load of laundry and then forget to put it in the dryer when the cycle finishes, your clothes can get moldy. In addition to causing an unpleasant odor, mold can spread and damage the electronic components of the washer

Hair, lint and dirt can accumulate inside a washing machine and clog the motor, which can prevent the washer from agitating and getting clothes clean. The washer needs to be cleaned periodically to remove any accumulated waste that could cause damage.

The compressor in a refrigerator is usually located in the back. If it isn’t cleaned regularly and gets covered in dust, it’ll be unable to provide the condenser coils with enough air, which means the refrigerator will be unable to cool.

Overfilling your fridge can lead to problems. Blocking the air vents in the back of the refrigerator can prevent it from cooling food adequately and can cause the condenser coils to overheat.

Leaving the refrigerator door open unnecessarily can cause it to adjust to the outside temperature. That can cause strain and make the refrigerator less efficient.

An oven is designed to cook food, but homeowners sometimes run into problems when they use the appliance in a way that wasn’t intended. Using an oven to heat a house can damage the internal components.

Keeping the oven clean can keep it working efficiently. Failing to clean up spilled food can cause damage to electronic parts and make the oven struggle to cook food.

A dishwasher can help you avoid expending a lot of time and energy to scrub dishes. When it comes to particularly dirty dishes, some people think they should use extra dishwasher detergent. The truth is that too many suds can damage electronic components. The normal amount of dishwasher detergent should work fine.

Avoid Unnecessary Bills
Broken or worn-out appliances can be expensive to repair or replace. Appliances often become damaged by common mistakes. If you’ve been making any of these blunders, change your habits and use your appliances the way they were intended so they’ll last as long as possible.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

5 Ways to Prevent Wildlife From Invading Your Home
Squirrels, raccoons, opossums, bats–these types of so-called “nuisance wildlife” often try to find shelter in and around homes, especially through attics and basements. In addition to being unwelcome guests, wild animals can damage property and pose serious health risks.

To help you critter-proof your property, the National Pest Management Association (NMPA) offers the following five tips:

Screen Vents
Raccoons and squirrels often find their way into homes via uncapped chimneys, broken vents and other openings along rooflines. Ensure that these items are fully screened to prevent wild animals from making your home their own.

Cover the Trash
Many types of nuisance wildlife, especially raccoons, are attracted to piles of trash left outside. You should store all garbage bags in plastic containers with sealed lids to make it difficult for animals to dine on your leftovers.

Cut Back Vegetation
Squirrels and other small wildlife are known to use tree branches to gain access to rooflines, where they can then find a number of ways to move indoors. Be sure to cut back any tree limbs or branches that hang too close to the foundation. A good rule of thumb is to keep vegetation at least 6 to 8 feet from the roofline.

Clean up the Yard
Don’t let brush, leaf piles or other debris accumulate in the yard, as these materials make the ideal harborage site for small animals. Also, make sure firewood is stored at least 20 feet away from the house during the cooler months.

Keep Bird Feeders Out of Reach
Ensure bird feeders are only accessible to birds. Squirrels, raccoons, opossums and even bears are drawn to birdseed. Homeowners should also place birdbaths where small animals can’t reach them. Birdbaths and fountains may attract wildlife to the property, especially in areas where water is scarce.

If you encounter nuisance wildlife on your property, the NMPA says it’s extremely important to contact a local wildlife control specialist or pest control professional instead of attempting to trap and remove the animal on your own.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

The Best and Worst Places to Hide a Spare House Key
Having a spare house key hidden on your property can come in handy, especially if you need a house or pet sitter while you’re on vacation or, of course, if you lose your main set of keys. However, leaving a key in an obvious spot can make it easy for potential burglars to find it and walk right in through your front door.

If you decide to leave a spare key, you’ll need to be clever and avoid the most common hiding spots burglars are likely to check. According to home security specialist ADT, these are the best and worst places to put a spare:

Best Hiding Spots
  • In a hollow, realistic-looking false rock that blends in with its surroundings.
  • In a small lockbox under the porch.
  • In the barbeque grill in the backyard.
  • Under the foot of a chair on the patio.
  • Under a loose brick in the walkway.
  • Inside or under a children's toy in the front yard.
Worst Hiding Spots
  • Under your doormat.
  • Under a potted plant by the door.
  • Under a garden statue.
  • On the door jamb.
  • In the mailbox.
Even the best hiding spots for spare keys aren’t fail-safe, though. For added security, ADT suggests installing an alarm system and cameras. To eliminate the need for a spare key altogether, you could also invest in smart door locks, which offer keyless options and can also be controlled and monitored remotely on your smartphone.

By taking the proper security measures, you can have peace of mind knowing your home is safe while you’re away.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

Preventing Dust Buildup in Your Household Appliances
Have you ever turned on one of your household appliances that hasn’t been used in a while and watched dust fly out of it? That’s a clear sign it's time to bring out the dusters and blow some clean air through your home to eliminate dust buildup and tiny debris particles like pet dander.

Keeping your household appliances clean isn’t that hard when you follow a few basic steps:

Clean Your Home Routinely
Running a dust mop and wiping the smooth surfaces on your furniture can help get rid of accumulated dust in your home. Be sure to shake the dust mop before and after each use. If the dust head is washable, launder it every month or so. Vacuum your carpets and rugs every week to remove dirt, sand and tiny particles that have inadvertently been carried into your home. A thorough mopping of every non-carpeted floor will help remove dust and debris from those areas as well. Avoiding dust buildup in the house in the first place will help keep it from accumulating in your harder-to-clean appliances like air conditioners and laundry machines.

Keep Dust Away From Appliances
Family members who work in dust-related jobs like road repair, construction or lumber should be sure to change their clothes and shoes as soon as they get home and before using any appliances. Someone wearing dust-covered work clothes while using the microwave with a kitchen fan running or a breeze blowing through the window can spread dust into tiny crevices of home appliances. Removing dirty shoes at the door is also a good idea. When cleaning your chimney or drapes, think about covering nearby appliances or shielding the work area to prevent dust from settling.

Routinely Clean Your Appliances
As you notice dust building up in or near your appliances, remember to wipe them down periodically to remove even fine dust debris. This will help prevent buildup on the surfaces of appliances that you don’t use that often. You might be able to buy covers for toasters, blenders and other appliances to protect them from dust accumulation. Refrigerator coils can be vacuumed occasionally, but refer to your manufacturer’s guidelines.

Have Your Air Conditioning Serviced
Air conditioning service should be performed regularly to ensure the equipment is working effectively without parts at risk of breaking anytime soon. As your AC controls the flow of air through your house, its filters must be changed regularly as well to avoid dust buildup that can then taint the airflow. Also, remember that an AC technician can provide maintenance to clean the unit and keep it working properly.

Taking care of your home and household appliances can control the buildup of dust that often contributes to health issues. Follow these steps to keep your appliances dust-free and your house comfortable and sanitary to live in!

Source: Brooke Chaplan/RISMedia's Housecall

Published with permission from RISMedia.

How to Save Up for a Down Payment
Saving up for a down payment is one of the biggest challenges for aspiring first-time homebuyers. A typical down payment can range from 5 to 20 percent of a home’s purchase price–that’s no small chunk of change. Although it might seem overwhelming to rack up thousands of dollars, practicing some discipline and using the right tactics can help you pull it off, making it possible for you to go from renter to proud homeowner.

To help you save for a down payment, consider these tips from the American Bankers Association:

Develop a Budget and Timeline. Start by determining how much you’ll need for a down payment. Create a budget and calculate how much you can realistically save each month–that’ll help you gauge when you’ll be ready to transition from renter to homeowner.

Establish a Separate Savings Account. Set up a separate savings account exclusively for your down payment, and make your monthly contributions automatic. By keeping this money separate, you’ll be less likely to tap into it when you’re tight on cash.

Shop Around to Reduce Major Monthly Expenses. It’s a good idea to check rates for your car insurance, renters insurance, health insurance, cable, internet and cellphone plan. There may be deals or promotions available that allow you to save hundreds of dollars by adjusting your contracts.

Monitor Your Spending. With online banking, keeping an eye on your spending is easier than ever. Track where most of your discretionary income is going. Identify areas where you could cut back (nice meals out, vacations, etc.) and instead put that money into savings.

Look Into State and Local Home-Buying Programs. Many states, counties and local governments operate programs for first-time homebuyers. Some programs offer housing discounts, while others provide down payment loans or grants.

Celebrate Savings Milestones. Saving enough for a down payment can be daunting. To avoid getting discouraged, break it up into smaller goals and reward yourself when you reach each one. If you need to save $30,000 total, consider treating yourself to a nice meal every $5,000 saved. This’ll help you stay motivated throughout the process.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

10 Healthy Snack Ideas for Kids
If you were like most kids, you probably dreaded eating fruits and vegetables during your childhood. But now that you’re a parent who understands the importance of healthy food for a child’s well-being, you might find yourself struggling to talk your young kids into doing exactly what you once refused to do.

Pretty ironic, right?

To help you overcome this common challenge, suggests encouraging your children to eat fruits and veggies by trying to make it fun. Depending on their age and abilities, your kids may even be able to prepare their own healthy creations, making it all the more enjoyable for them. offers these 10 kid-friendly ideas for fruits and vegetables:

Delicious Dippers. Kids love to dip their foods. Whip up a quick dip for veggies with yogurt and seasonings such as herbs or garlic. Serve with raw vegetables like broccoli, carrots or cauliflower. Fruit chunks go great with yogurt and cinnamon or vanilla dip.

Smoothie Creations. Blend fat-free or low-fat yogurt or milk with fruit pieces and crushed ice. Use fresh, frozen, canned and even overripe fruits. Try bananas, berries, peaches and/or pineapple. If you freeze the fruit first, you can even skip the ice!

Caterpillar Kabobs. Assemble chunks of melon, apple, orange and pear on skewers for a fruity kabob. For a raw veggie version, use vegetables like zucchini, cucumber, squash, sweet peppers or tomatoes.

Personalized Pizzas. Set up a pizza-making station in the kitchen. Use whole-wheat English muffins, bagels or pita bread as the crust. Get tomato sauce and low-fat cheese, and cut up vegetables or fruits for toppings. Let kids choose their own favorites. Then pop the pizzas into the oven to warm.

Fruity Peanut Butterfly. Start with carrot sticks or celery for the body. Attach wings made of thinly sliced apples with peanut butter, and decorate with halved grapes or dried fruit.

Frosty Fruits. Frozen treats are bound to be popular in the warm months. Just put fresh fruits such as melon chunks in the freezer (rinse first). Make “popsicles” by inserting sticks into peeled bananas and freezing.

Bugs on a Log. Use celery, cucumber or carrot sticks as the log, and add peanut butter. Top with dried fruit such as raisins, cranberries or cherries, depending on which type of “bugs” your children want.

Homemade Trail Mix. Skip the pre-made trail mix and make your own. Use your favorite nuts and dried fruits, such as unsalted peanuts, cashews, walnuts or sunflower seeds mixed with dried apples, pineapple, cherries, apricots or raisins. Add whole-grain cereals to the mix, too.

Potato Person. Decorate half a baked potato. Use sliced cherry tomatoes, peas and low-fat cheese on the potato to make a funny face.

Put Kids in Charge. Ask your children to name new veggie or fruit creations. Let them arrange raw veggies or fruits into a fun shape or design.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

5 Alternative Uses for an Empty Garage
As hard as we try, it often seems like there's never enough space for everything we want to do. However, if you're a homeowner who finally won the war on clutter, you might be wondering what to do with a now-empty garage.

Here are five great ideas for what you can do to transform your garage:

Home Gym
If you want to work out but hate schlepping to the gym, turn your empty garage into a versatile home gym. Depending on which types of exercise you prefer, you can look online for inexpensive pieces of equipment. You can check out local yard sales or go online to find gently used equipment. You can also invest in mats, free weights and whatever else motivates you to work out.

As your family continues to grow, you might find yourself with less wiggle room. If your garage is suitable, you can transform it into a kids' sanctuary where they can play in the sand, have painting stations and even play on a few low-sitting swings. The key is to make the space as child-friendly as possible, so that means upgrading your garage door opener, if necessary. It's important if you do use your garage as a playroom that your little ones aren't able to open the garage door. In addition, don't forget to pad the floor with high-quality padding and carpeting for your little ones to play on.

Spare Bedroom
If you love to entertain but simply don't have the room for overnight guests, you can transform your garage into a spare room. But before you start decorating, you need to make sure the space is insulated to keep guests warm. You also want to make sure it remains pest-free. Depending on the space, you might need only a coat of paint and a comfy bed to make your guests feel at home, or you may also need to invest in carpeting.

Office Space
You can use your garage to create the home office of your dreams. Even if it's only in a corner of the garage, you can liven things up with a fresh coat of paint and new office furniture. Since the floor is probably concrete, you can easily warm things up by using throw rugs around your workspace. The garage makes a great office space because it's separate from the rest of the home, meaning you'll have minimal distractions.

If you need a place to store coats, boots and book bags without cluttering up your entryway, use your garage as a mudroom. With a little creativity and elbow grease, you can install wall hooks for everyone's coats, as well as backpacks. You can also create a space where your family can leave wet umbrellas and muddy shoes outside.

When it comes to making use of an empty garage, there are a lot of things you can do. The key is knowing how to make the most of the space without pushing your budget.

Source: Anita Ginsburg/RISMedia’s Housecall

Published with permission from RISMedia.

3 Overlooked Rooms Primed for a Remodel
When you think of remodeling your home, your mind likely jumps immediately to your kitchen or bathrooms. While these are excellent spaces to remodel, there are plenty of other rooms throughout your home that can benefit from a little extra attention.

If you’re in need of some inspiration for your next remodeling project, here are three rooms you should definitely consider:

Laundry Room
Laundry rooms are known more for their utilitarian value than their beauty, so it makes sense that they’re not often considered for remodeling. A spruced-up laundry room, however, can allow you to be more productive by getting more laundry done, more easily. For example, you can add automatic laundry detergent dispensers that allow you to use the correct amount of detergent every time. Plus, you can add large countertops so you can prepare clothes more easily for washing and fold them when they're done. If nothing else, it makes sense to beautify the space where you do one of your least favorite tasks to help make it a little more enjoyable.

You park your car and store various items there, but, beyond that, your garage probably doesn’t demand much of your attention. However, a remodeled garage can provide a multi-purpose space that you can be proud of. Remodelers can add enhanced insulation to make the space usable year-round. Then, with the addition of amenities including speakers, game tables and some comfortable chairs, you’ll wind up with a great hangout space where everyone will want to congregate.

Mud Room
Given the clean-up that it helps prevent, it’s a wonder that the mudroom isn’t more appreciated. It makes sense, though, given that your mudroom serves as a simple pass-through on the way to a welcoming home. Renovation makes sense, though, to ensure your mudroom stays as clean and organized as possible and thereby helps the rest of your home stay clean, as well. By adding hooks for backpacks and hats, extra shelves for shoes and improved mats to capture dirt, you can make your mudroom just as welcoming as the rest of your home.

When it comes to any repair project, it’s important to understand the parts of the project you can complete yourself and those you need to hire out. Proper delegation will ensure you can complete your project quickly with minimal interruption to your daily activities. This also ensures that you stay safe as you avoid any aspects of the project that you’re not properly equipped to complete. With a quick completion, you may be inspired to renovate even more rooms around your home.

Source: Brooke Chaplan/RISMedia’s Housecall

Published with permission from RISMedia.

A Home Equity Loan Could Affect Private Mortgage Insurance Requirements
Homeowners often use their equity as a resource when they need to finance home improvements, a child’s college education or another major expense. Before you tap into your home equity, consider the possible effect on your private mortgage insurance (PMI) requirements.

What Is Private Mortgage Insurance?
If a homebuyer puts down less than 20 percent of the purchase price, a lender considers the loan risky. Most conventional lenders therefore require a borrower who puts down less than 20 percent to obtain PMI so the lender will be compensated if the borrower defaults on the loan. A borrower must continue to pay the premiums until reaching 20 percent equity.

How Can Borrowing Against Home Equity Affect PMI?
Premiums for PMI are based on your loan-to-value (LTV) ratio. If you currently have less than 20 percent equity and pay for PMI, you may be able to obtain a home equity loan, but that’ll increase your LTV ratio and, thus, your PMI premiums.

If you take out a home equity loan before you reach 20 percent equity, you may reach that goal much later than you would’ve without the home equity loan, and you’ll have to continue to pay for PMI in the meantime. Depending on the amount you’re currently paying for PMI, the amount you’d pay for PMI after taking out a home equity loan, and the interest rates on your mortgage and home equity loan, the additional cost might not make a home equity loan a good idea.

If you have more than 20 percent equity now, you aren’t paying for PMI. If you take out a home equity loan that causes your LTV ratio to rise above 80 percent, however, your home equity lender and your primary mortgage lender may both require you to purchase PMI.

Should You Take out a Home Equity Loan?
A home equity loan can be a useful tool to pay for large expenses, but you should think things over carefully. If you’re currently paying for PMI, a home equity loan could raise your PMI premiums substantially, and you could be on the hook for PMI payments for a much longer period of time than you would if you didn’t tap into your home equity. If you’ve been working for years to pay down your mortgage and the combination of your existing mortgage and a new home equity loan would cause your equity to fall below 20 percent, you could have to deal with the additional expense of PMI, on top of mortgage and home equity loan payments.

Talk to your lender about your current LTV ratio and how a home equity loan would affect your PMI obligations. If your monthly costs would rise significantly, you might be better off postponing a large purchase or exploring other financing options.

This article is intended for informational purposes only and should not be construed as professional or legal advice.

Published with permission from RISMedia.

3 Tips for Low-Maintenance Landscaping
Having a beautifully landscaped property makes your home instantly more welcoming and can also increase your home value by boosting your curb appeal. However, unless you are willing to get down-and-dirty, or want to budget for a consistent landscaping team, a beautiful yard can seem like a daunting undertaking. Thankfully, there are some excellent options for low-maintenance landscaping for any home that you will love.

Go For Mulch
Whether you opt for an expansive lawn with easy to care for foliage surrounding it, or you opt for an even lower maintenance option to cover the expanse of your yard, you will no-doubt want to create a few planting beds to add visual appeal and variety. In these areas, keep it simple by covering the bed with a barrier cloth and mulch for weed control. You can opt to replace organic mulch (which will provide your garden with nutrients) annually, or select rubber mulch for a truly hands-off option. There are pros and cons for both options depending on your climate, so consult a local garden expert to find out what is best for your needs.

Choose River Rock
While river rock requires a larger upfront investment than mulch, it can be used in areas where mulch may have been used. Its benefits are similar to that of inorganic mulch--it will not decay over the course of the year and will not need to be replaced. Large river rocks can serve as an accent or focal-point in an otherwise plant-based yard, while smaller river rocks can take the place of full lawns.

Low-Maintenance Plant Choices
Native or Xeric plants are the perfect options to ensure that your yard has greenery without needing to be constantly tended to. Plants that grow locally are less-likely to need excessive care to flourish in your yard and climate, making them a logical inclusion in your landscaping. Alternatively xeriscaping your yard by adding Succulents like Aloe Vera, hearty ornamental sages, and Artemisia is an excellent way to add texture and beauty while remaining relatively drought resistant. This can allow you to conserve water and reduce your need to water often, but still have a visually appealing yard.

Having curb appeal doesn’t have to mean sacrificing your hard-earned weekends on the yard. A little knowledge of your local climate can do a lot to ensure that your landscaping is low-maintenance and lasts for years to come.

Published with permission from RISMedia.