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5 Genius Landscaping Tricks that Will Pay Off

A home with a gorgeous yard isn’t just easy on the eyes! Well-landscaped homes also sell for more money, but you don’t need to spring for a professional service. These cheap tricks will make your lawn look lush and rake in cash later.  In fact, well-landscaped homes sell for 5.5% to 12.7% more! First impressions mean everything when it comes to selling your home. So if you want to get top dollar you have to make a good first impression and an easy way to do that is by upgrading your curb appeal. Here are 5 tips that will help you get more money when selling your house.

Install Drought-Tolerant Plants

invest in some easy-care, drought-tolerant plants such as coneflowers, lantanas, or yarrows. Their ability to survive in dry conditions and need minimal need for water can be nice selling points to home buyers. Also, many landscaping experts suggest using naturally occurring plants in your area. Plus, this will keep your yard looking nice year-round!

Use Gravel or Granite

Instead of concrete, try a cheaper more natural looking alternative! Pea gravel will run around $30 per cubic yard. Versus concrete will cost $98 per cubic yard.

Buy Plants in Bulk

By choosing 3 varieties of plants for your garden instead of 10, you can buy in bulk and often save money. This will also give your landscaping more unity versus looking like a jungle.

Brighten Up Outdoor Lighting

Many home buyers schedule viewings in the evening since they work during the day. By having your home lit up at night and in the evening it increases the curb appeal of the home.

Hire a Landscaper … for Free

Landscape architects typically charge $70 to $150 an hour. However, many local garden centers provide landscaping consultations for free if you buy plants from them. That way you can get the advice you need from a professional and get flowers and other plants.

5 Tips for a Healthy Home

We often think of our homes as safe places, but they can be rather unhealthy. The Environmental Protection Agency has dubbed poor indoor air quality as one of the top five environmental health risks. From reducing plastic use to opting for hard surfaces for flooring and nontoxic materials, there are a plethora of things you can do right away to start reducing the toxic exposures you are unknowingly subjecting yourself to. Every improvement will make a difference in your health today, in the future, and in the health of our planet.

Don’t Ignore Mold

While you might be able to turn a blind eye to windows that need washing or lawns that need mowing, you don’t want to mess with mold. It is something you probably don’t want to think about, but ignoring it can lead to severe health problems. To keep mold at bay, the key is to reduce moisture in the home.

  • Check for leaky pipes or plumbing that could result in excess moisture, especially in poorly ventilated areas like the basement, attic, garage, and bathroom.
  • Always use an exhaust fan when showing, and leave it on even after you’re done. Investing in a small dehumidifier is another way to keep humidity levels in check.
  • Service your HVAC system. Rather than let dust and debris, a prime source for mold, sit all spring and summer in the filters and vent, clean the system now so it’s ready for next season.

Rid Your Home of Radon

A naturally occurring gas that causes lung cancer, radon can be found indoors and even in drinking water, but because it has no color, odor, or taste, you likely have no idea it’s there. It causes approximately 21,000 lung cancer deaths per year, which is even more than the annual deaths caused by drunk driving. Most of it come from the soil under your home, forming as uranium breaks down and seeping up into your home.

Testing your home for radon is both easy and inexpensive. If high levels are found, radon reduction systems can reduce them.

Catch Carbon Monoxide

While most people know that smoke detectors are a must in any home, too often carbon monoxide detectors are overlooked. Unlike smoke, carbon monoxide has no taste, no color, and is poisonous. What makes carbon monoxide so dangerous is its ability to displace oxygen in the blood, which deprives your heart brain, and other vital organs of the oxygen needed to function properly. Prolonged exposure or large amounts of CO can overtake a person in minutes without warning. So long story short you need a carbon monoxide detector.

No Smoking

Not only is smoking bad for your body but it can have horrific effects on your home. Besides the stench, secondhand smoke contains more than 7,000 substances, several of which are known to cause cancer. Just because smokers take their cigarettes out to the garage doesn’t necessarily help. Secondhand smoke has been shown to travel between rooms of a home, and even between apartment units.

Don’t Clean Your Home Sick

While dust and pests can cause problems of their own, the chemicals often used to get rid of them can be even more dangerous. For example, some pesticides can cause serious damage to a person’s nervous system and kidneys and even increase the risk of cancer, while many common household cleaners can release volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, which can cause serious health damage as well. The EPA recommends using nonchemical methods of pest control and cleaners without VOCs.

6 Unexpected Money Pits Hiding in Your Home

Normally when people think of “money pits” in their home they typically think of the big issues like foundation issues and new roofs. However, the small money pits that are reoccurring can definitely add up. Here is where these money pits are hiding and what you can do to keep them at bay.

Lightbulbs

If you have regular incandescent light bulbs in your home, they are burning through your heating bill. Only 10% of the energy they consume goes to the light. The rest gives off heat, which results in a higher AC bill. That is why the US government encourages all homeowners to switch to energy-efficient bulbs such as LEDs.

LEDs might be more expensive but they will save you cash over time. According to Energy.gov, if you replace just five of your most frequently used lights with energy-friendly models, you will save $75 a year. In fact, if every household replaced just one incandescent bulb with a LED, Americans would save more than $460 million in annual energy costs.

Air Conditioner

American homeowners spend $11 billion on cooling costs every year, according to the Department of Energy. So once summer rolls around, it is important to make sure to replace the filter to keep your air-conditioning unit in good condition. Don’t forget about the vets outside your AC as well. Your units need free, unconstricted airflow to operate efficiently. Oftentimes shrubs grow around these units, blocking airflow, causing the units to work harder, longer, and using more energy. They will also burn out quicker.

Refrigerator

The refrigerator is a black hole in more ways that one. For starters, it is easy to spend too much money on food to fill it up. Plus, when food gets “lost” in the fridge that becomes, even more, money being thrown away. Nearly everyone has food in the back of the fridge that gets buried and is left to rot. In fact, 40% of all food in America goes to waste and that adds up to around $2000 a year per household. The best solution is to keep perishables or other items you use at eye level to stay on your radar.

Another way your fridge eats up money is the electricity this appliance consumes. A way to reduce that is to simply clean the coils. Those long tubes snaking along the bottom or back of your fridge collect dust over time and hinders how well they cool your food. Keeping a refrigerator well-ventilated and free of dust can knock 6% off its power consumption.

Landline Phone

The proliferation of cellphones has rendered landlines nearly obsolete, though many consumers still like having one for emergencies. At an average of $40 per month it’s a lot of money to dish out on a phone you rarely use. However, if you just can’t bring yourself to ditch the idea of a landline you might want to consider a free internet home phone provider like Ooma.

There is an upfront cost, but it pays for itself in just 2 months. Connect the phone to your high-speed Internet and regular home phone, and pay only applicable taxes. Opting for this free service will save you about $480 annually.

Energy Vampires

Technology and appliances such as TVs, laptops, coffee makers, printers, space heaters, and cable boxes continue to suck energy even when turned off. The solution is to get in the habit of unplugging these electronics when you aren’t using them, and you will save big.

Power strips are easier and less timely alternative, some even come with a remote control for easier use. This will save you 5% on your energy bill. Considering that the average American home electricity costs are $1,300 a year, 5% savings can keep an extra $65 in your pocket.

House Pets

Unfortunately, our furry friends are arguably at the top of the list. People often underestimate the cost of a dog or cat. A dog can eat roughly $80 a month worth of food, nearly a thousand dollars a year. Plus another $1000 at least to cover pet accessories, veterinarian costs, boarding, pet sitting/walking, and grooming. The dog will likely live for about 12-15 years so you are looking at $24,000 in expenditures over the life of the pet. Yes, our pets might be well worth every cent we spend on them, but just know what you are getting into before adopting a new pet.

7 Signs of a Good House to Flip

HGTV has several shows featuring people raking in big bucks flipping houses. It seems like an easy and fun way to make an extra $20,000+. However, it is definitely not as easy and as flashy as it is portrayed on TV. Veteran home flippers often keep a mental checklist to help steer them towards homes that are primed to gush cash with the right upgrades.

Is the Home in a Neighborhood where Homes Sell Fast?

One of the first clues that a house is “flip-worthy” is that it is in an area where homes sell quickly. In the flipping game time is literally money. The longer your house either isn’t done or is sitting on the market means the longer you have to pay the mortgage and maintenance costs. Fast-moving selling markets generally mean overheads won’t last long.

The House Meets the 70% Rule

For a flip to be worth your time, effort, and money, you should between 10%- 30% return on your investment. To determine your potential return, see if the flip meets the 70% rule. Meaning can the house be bought for 70% of what it will be worth once fixed up, minus any needed repairs, closing costs, and real estate agent fees? For example, if you can buy a house for $100,000 and fix it up for $30,000, you will want to sell it for around $200,000 in order for it to be worth it.

The Price Is Right

To get a ballpark figure for how much you can sell a house for once it is fixed up, one safe rule of thumb is to check the median home price for that market. So in the 33813 area code of Lakeland, the median listing price is $260,000 while the median closing price is $203,000. Which means the price per square foot is about $109. The price obviously varies on the number of rooms, upgrades, neighborhood, and a number of other variables.

The Property has More than One Bedroom

Do not buy a one bedroom house to flip, because most home buyers are looking for at least two bedrooms. Anything smaller will minimize the demand at resale. Another flip worthy must is a functional floor plan. Meaning you should not have to go through a bedroom to get to the kitchen.

The Needed Repairs are Mostly Cosmetic

The physical condition of the home should be fair and correctable without draining your bank account. Repairs that should give you pause include foundation and structural issues. Tackling these two problems can destroy a reno budget with overages and stretch the time from of the flip. The home needs to be in good shape, to begin with, unless you are planning a very large gut and addition, which is unlikely in most flips.

Understand What Scares

Most home buyers touring an open house can deal with a lime-colored wall they need to repaint or one appliance that predates the stone age. What many buyers can’t handle, though, are intimidating and pricey projects like replacing an old furnace, putting on a new roof, electrical upgrades, or plumbing issues. Not only do these issues spook homes buyers, they also could make the home hard to finance with lender money. Last but not least, a home shouldn’t have any crazy characteristics like a railroad in the backyard, a very busy road out front, or other problems that can’t be changed.

The Neighborhood Itself Doesn’t Need Flipping

People don’t just live in a house, they live in the surrounding area too. A potential flip should be in a good neighborhood with access to transportation and amenities like parks. Perhaps the biggest indicator of a flip-worthy home is the quality of the schools since a large segment of buyers are looking for good schools.

How to Build a Backyard Bar Shed Perfect for Summer

Outdoor rooms and firepits are all the rage these days and for good reason! Outdoor entertaining is the best and a great way to break in the summer. So one of the many ways to liven up your outdoor living area is to build a backyard bar shed. We break down how you can turn your existing shed into your neighborhoods favorite Friday night hot spot!

Claim an Outbuilding

The first thing you are going to need is a shed. If you already have one in your backyard clean up it up a little bit and make sure you have enough alternative storage space. If you don’t have anywhere else to store your landscaping equipment, it would be a good idea to get another shed.

Plan for Elbow Room

Factor in size, because a really small shed probably won’t be ideal for a bar. Think about how many people you plan to host on a regular basis, as well as your ideal seating. Keep in mind that your local building department might have a size restriction on backyard sheds built without a permit. Around 120 sq ft is usually a safe bet.

Consider the Bar Shed’s Location

If you already have a shed, you might want to relocate it away from a child’s bedroom. Also, it would be a good idea to leave enough room to set up tables and chairs near the bar area. This would create a little outdoor entertaining area perfect for summer nights.

Pick A Bar Theme

Start by considering the basics when designing the interior of your bar shed. Meaning flooring, wall paneling, and paint. then decide on the vibe you’re going for, Tiki, pub, lounge, dive, beach, or sports bar to name a few ideas.

The shelves for wine and liquor, as well as the bar itself, can be purchased or made. You might want to design the bar around a small fridge or cooler tucked under the serving side of your bar to avoid taking up additional square footage in the shed.

Electrical

If your bar dreams contain a mini fridge, icemaker,  and blender for frozen margaritas, you are going to need power. Before you get started, consult an electrician on the resources available in your backyard. Depending on the type of exterior power outlets you already have, you might need to trench in extra power.