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Activities You Can Do With the Whole Family

With the current state of the world, people are spending more time at home than ever. This provides for some great opportunities to bond as a family, and also gives some of us a bit more time to get things done around the house. Spending more time with your family can lead to some questions, though. One of the biggest is “Exactly what are we supposed to do now that we’re together?” Without the breaks afforded by work, school and other activities, trying to come up with activities for the whole family can seem a bit overwhelming. If you need some ideas on how to spend that family time, here are a few suggestions to get you started. Not only will these ideas help you to spend some quality time together as a family, but some of them might help you with some of those tasks around the house as well! Planning (and Planting) a Garden Even though the year has gotten off to a rocky start, time waits for no one. We’re already getting into gardening season, so it’s time to start prepping the soil and starting your seeds. Since you’ve got the family all there at home, try to get everyone else involved as well. Plan out the size and shape of your garden plot and make a list of everyone’s favorite fruits and veggies to help decide what to plant. You can even get younger kids involved by letting them make row markers featuring pictures of everything you plan to grow.   Family Game Nights Game nights are a classic, but sometimes it can be hard to fit them in. Timing isn’t as much of an issue these days, however, so let’s play some games! These could be anything from board games to multiplayer video games or even tabletop role-playing games. Let the family decide on the specifics and plan out a new game night every week to help keep everyone entertained.   Movie Time Going to the movies is a popular family activity. Just because the theaters are closed doesn’t mean you have to give up on enjoying a film together, though. Make some popcorn, break out some snacks and cue up a favorite film on the TV. Several studios are releasing movies for sale or rental early, and some have even put new releases up for rental on streaming services even though they should still be in a theatrical run, so you can still catch some of the films that you might have planned on seeing as a family anyway.   Plan Some Redecorations Were you hoping to redecorate this spring? You still can, and you can get the family involved in the process as well. Let everyone help pick out paint colors and decorations, especially in their bedroom or other rooms where they spend a significant amount of time. Even if you can’t get everything that you need for the project right now, this will let you plan things out in advance so that you’ll be ready to start once it’s go time.   Activities From a Hat If you aren’t sure what to do, have everyone get together and make a list of three things that you’d like to do as a family. Once you’ve got the lists made, put them all on a hat or other container and draw one of the lists out. Look at the listed items and let the family vote on which activity you’d like to do from the list. If you’re worried that the same person might win too many times, the next time you do it, have the person who won sit out the suggestions and be the one to draw the winning list instead.   Time Alone, Together Sometimes, one of the best things that you can do as a family is just relax and enjoy each other’s company. Don’t assume that you have to fill up every available moment with activities. Take some time to read books, give the kids some screen time or do some other individual downtime activities. You can take this downtime in the same room, spending casual time together without having to be “on” and actively doing things together all the time.  

Brandon Farber

Brandon Farber

 

Working side-by-side through COVID-19

It’s not every day that your spouse becomes your coworker or that you celebrate 29 years of marriage during a global pandemic. Enter Mary and Jim Tharp, a couple that we are proud to call our co-workers and work family. And especially during these uncertain times, it is a story like theirs that reminds us that we are all in this together. On March 16, 1991, Mary and Jim Tharp said “I Do” at a little chapel in Mesa, Arizona, and the couple hasn’t strayed far from the roots of where their relationship started. It was in the Grand Canyon state where they first met, at a Judas Priest concert as 18-year-olds, and where they have since raised their two boys, Billy and Anthony.   It’s also the place where their journey with us began. Six years ago, Mary became an employee in our Scottsdale office and has served in various roles, most recently as a chargeback specialist. Last October, Jim decided to make a change in his career by joining us also and now works with our customer agent success team.  As our entire workforce transitioned to a work from home model three weeks ago in light of COVID-19 precautions, Mary and Jim’s dedication to our end users, their co-workers, and each other prevails. Separated by four computer monitors back to back over a shared six-foot table where their dining room table previously was, the couple has converted their dining room into a home office.  Mary looks up to take a break in the action of her workday.And while the two work on different teams and their typical in-office routine consists of breaks and lunch together when possible, they are still making time to engage with each other and co-workers. Sharing on one of our online employee communities, Mary said of their 29th wedding anniversary last week, “If you would have told us when we got married that we would spend today smiling at each other over our combined four monitors, working from home over the internet, we probably would have told you the bar was closed.”  The creativity of their dedicated workspace, having each other, and a spirit of gratitude and humor have all played an important role in Mary and Jim’s resilience during COVID-19. Jim says of the experience, “Sitting across from my wife — I love it.” Referencing a busy house with everyone being home, Jim teases, “When the kids aren’t at work, walking around here, the traffic gets really heavy.” Mary says she is grateful that while she’s working, she can look up anytime and feel grounded that her husband is right across from her. She admits that she recently brought some levity to their home by pranking Jim and was happy to share the story with co-workers. “In an effort to maintain good workplace habits, this morning I opened and closed every drawer in the kitchen, then went into the living room and told Jim there were snacks!” Jokes aside, they share that they miss being shoulder to shoulder with co-workers in the office, but are grateful they can contribute to our end users’ own journey home by working from home. “We want everybody to stay positive, stay upbeat, and stay healthy,” Mary says. Mary and Jim at the wedding of former co-workers, Larry Hopkins and Christy Larkins, who they spend time with regularly.We know that home is everything and during this uncertain time, home is playing an even more critical role in our lives. As we navigate the implications of COVID-19, we hope you draw inspiration from Mary and Jim’s story. At the end of the day, whether we are working side-by-side with our families at home, connecting with those we hold dear from digital devices, or supporting each other just further apart, we will get through this. See you on the other side. For the latest tips navigating COVID-19 from home and all things real estate, visit our News & Insights portal. 
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What You Need to Know About Cleaning for Coronavirus

There has been a significant amount of concern raised recently about COVID-19, a relatively recently discovered disease caused by a type of virus known as a coronavirus. A lot is still unknown about the virus and the disease that it causes, and this is causing some people a great deal of anxiety about it. Major conferences and events are being canceled, people are buying up supplies (even if they shouldn’t), and the internet is filled with memes teaching people how to wash their hands. COVID-19 has the potential to be a serious illness. Here’s some info that can help you to protect yourself, especially if you’re confused by some of the contradicting advice that you might have seen online. What Is COVID-19? Even though it’s mostly referred to simply as “coronavirus”, the virus that causes COVID-19 is actually a novel coronavirus that’s been designated “SARS-CoV-2” and sometimes referred to as “2019-nCoV.” COVID-19 itself is a potentially severe respiratory illness that typically presents with fever, cough and difficulty breathing. While most people who become infected with COVID-19 recover, the disease can be severe and even fatal. Those at greatest risk from COVID-19 are individuals older than 60 years of age and those with preexisting conditions such as heart disease or diabetes.   Decluttering to Prevent Illness If you want to clean up to try and prevent coronavirus infection, a good first step is to declutter your home. This will eliminate surfaces where the virus could linger, making it easier to disinfect your home and keep it clean. Decluttering can also have a positive effect on mental health and anxiety levels, which can improve your overall wellbeing and even provide a bit of a boost to the immune system.   Disinfecting Surfaces The US Centers for Disease Control recommend disinfecting surfaces with regular household disinfectant wipes and sprays. While many of these have not been tested specifically for use against SARS-CoV-2, they are effective against some other common coronaviruses and are likely to at least reduce infectiousness if not kill the virus completely. Other household cleaners and disinfecting practices are also likely to be at least partially effective.   Handwashing Stations One of the best defenses against COVID-19 is good handwashing practices. As such, make sure that you have soap available by every sink and clean towels ready for use after washing your hands. Printing out a guide to proper handwashing and placing it near your sinks can also be a good idea, especially if you have young children who are still learning how to wash their hands properly. If you have any, having hand sanitizer accessible for times when you can’t wash your hands is also helpful.   Don’t Panic Perhaps the most important thing to remember is that you shouldn’t panic. Don’t stockpile supplies that you don’t need, buy sensible amounts of the things that you do need, and take reasonable steps like avoiding large crowds and not shaking hands. One of the best ways to stay safe from COVID-19 is to keep yourself clean, keep your home clean and apply some common sense to your preparations for the disease.
 

Ways to Support Local Businesses

Without mincing words, times are scary. People are afraid, and beyond that there is a significant amount of uncertainty about what is to come. In times like these, it’s important to pull together as a community and support each other in any way possible. This includes the small businesses in your community, since they are an essential part of what keeps your community going; without your support during the darker times, some of them may not survive to see the sun come out again. How are you supposed to do that in a limited-contact or social isolation scenario, though? Fortunately, there are still several options available that will help you to help those local businesses that keep your community running. Buy Gift Certificates One great way to support local businesses is to buy gift cards and gift certificates even if you don’t need them right now. This allows you to make a simple purchase that minimizes potential contact while giving the business that issued the certificate some much-needed income. Once things improve, you can then return to the business and take your time using the gift cards you purchased. As an added bonus, they’re also easy to give to others if you know someone who’s in need.   Buy Branded Merchandise Another good option is to buy branded merchandise such as t-shirts or coffee mugs that advertise the business. On top of the usual benefits of making a purchase, these items help to advertise the business as well. As an added bonus, buying branded merchandise helps you to show the business owner that you’re there to support the business specifically.   Order Online or On the Phone Can’t get out? Check and see which businesses in your area offer online ordering and make use of that feature. If you can’t order online, give them a call and inquire about placing an order. You can even make arrangements for delivery or pickup while you’re on the phone.   Tip for Deliveries and Carry-Outs A lot of people are relying on delivery and carry-out orders these days, especially from local restaurants. Unfortunately, a lot of people tip very little if at all for these services. Remember that a lot of employees are facing reduced hours in this stressful time, and every dollar helps. Be sure to tip even if you normally wouldn’t, and be generous when you do.   Spread the Word There are many types of support. Financial support is definitely important for local businesses trying to stay open, but not everyone can help out financially. If you can’t afford to shop right now, try to get the word out on social media and other platforms. Share posts, talk about the businesses that you’d like to support and even post pictures of yourself wearing some branded merch. Every little bit helps, and someone might see your post and decide that they need to support local shops as well.   Donate Your Refunds A major problem that small venues face is the refunding of canceled events. They’ve already spent money on advertising and racked up other costs, and now they’re losing their portion of ticket sales. If you have tickets for an event that was canceled and unlikely to be rescheduled, call the box office and inquire about donating your refund instead. While not all venues will do this, donating your ticket price lets those that do recoup some of what they spent and may even help them to stay open in the face of additional cancellations.   Be Considerate Local businesses are a part of your community, and as such they want to see the community thrive. Situations like this are very stressful for business owners and employees alike, and the last thing that they want to see is people fighting over merchandise or those in need having to do without because someone else hoarded all the toilet paper. When shopping at local businesses, be courteous to other shoppers, maintain a safe distance so no one is crowded, and avoid the temptation to grab everything when you just need one or two items.   Shop Local If you need to find local businesses and professionals to support, check out HomeKeepr. Not only can you open an account for free, but it will help you to find locals who need your support as well.  
 

Is Wallpaper Making a Comeback?

Wallpaper has been around for thousands of years in one form or another, with wallpaper-like wall coverings being used in China in 200 B.C. Modern style wallpaper with repeating patterns on continuous sheets was created by Jean-Michel Papillion in 1675, and it has remained a popular option ever since. With that said, wallpaper hasn’t been consistently loved since its invention; like most home décor trends, its popularity has waxed and waned over the years.   In the past couple of years, it’s been looking like wallpaper is poised for a comeback. As more and more homeowners turn to wallpaper as an element in their home decoration plans, new trends are starting to emerge. Does that mean that wallpaper is really making a return? It certainly looks that way, and modern wallpaper is definitely leaving its own mark on interior design.   Gradients Most people think of wallpaper as having a more or less consistent repeating pattern. This doesn’t have to be the case, however. Many modern wallpaper designs incorporate gradients that let the colors on your walls change from floor to ceiling. Sometimes this effect can be subtle, but other wallpapers incorporate transitions between bold colors that really stand out. These can be a great way to accent specific colors in your décor or help direct attention to key pieces of furniture.   Bold Prints In the past, wallpaper has run the gamut from subtle coloration to full-on tackiness. Some manufacturers are now inching as close to the latter as possible without crossing the line, offering up some bold prints that really capture the eye. Complex florals, colorful graphics and even wallpapers that create volumetric effects might seem like they’re too much, but in the right room they can really bring the décor to life.   Metallics Wallpaper that incorporates metallic tones isn’t new, but some modern wallpaper is taking it a step further. Instead of simply using metallic tones as accents or working with flat metallics, modern wallpapers use metallic coloring along with texture and design to create effects like brushed steel, metal plating and other metal-like designs. This can let you capture the look and to an extent even the feel of metal without the substantial cost and hassle that can be involved with installing actual metal plating on your walls.   Combining Wallpaper Styles One trend that’s really coming to the forefront with modern wallpaper is combining different wallpaper styles within the same room to really make the room stand out. Similar effects were created in the past using paint and wallpaper, but the modern trend uses contrasting wallpaper styles to better incorporate the textures and other features of wallpaper within the room. This can profoundly change both the look and feel of the room, transforming it from just a basic living space into an experience that really has to be seen to be believed. Even if you don’t take things quite that far, you can use this same technique to help match that couch that never really seems to go with anything.   Don’t Call It a Comeback While wallpaper may have been less popular for a while, it never really went away. If you’re ready to embrace some of the modern wallpaper trends that are emerging in interior design, HomeKeepr can help. Sign up for a free account today and find a painter or other wallpaper expert you need to help you create that unique look that you’re searching for.
 

Our noise indicator answers, “Can I hear it from the house?”

You’ve scoured the internet for the right home for you, and finally, you think you’ve found the one. You attend the open house and start imagining what your day-to-day would be like living there. As you leave the open house and explore the edge of the neighborhood, you come across a busy intersection where a train has stopped traffic in order to pass through. The train’s steady rumbling makes you wonder, “Can I hear it from the house?” It’s exactly that sort of guessing game that we believe home shoppers shouldn’t be up against. So the consumer teams developed a tool to help — our new noise indicator, released earlier this week. The first-of-its-kind feature among national real estate search sites, provides home shoppers with noise data at the property level, where others can only do so at a neighborhood level.  We show noise levels in two ways — first, we display descriptive text about the noise level — high, medium, or low. Second, we have a noise heat map which lets users drill down to see the subtle differences in noise surrounding a property. Users can see the noise sources and the factors that influence the noise level for that property. The feature takes three sources of noise into account — traffic, airports, and local sources such as restaurants, gas stations, sports stadiums, schools, and more. These sources are combined to assign each property a rating. Because the new tool can display noise levels down to the individual property level, homes in the same neighborhood, same block, or even next door may have different ratings based on proximity to major roads, hospitals, or schools.  As a team working on user features, we heard users talk about the importance of noise — sometimes saying, “I want to live where there’s good nightlife, but not too active so that I can sleep at night.” Other times the narrative was, “I’m looking for a neighborhood that is quiet and good for raising a family.” We knew that providing information about the noise of an individual property needed to be addressed so that users across the spectrum can make the right choice.  While we developed the noise indicator, it was pretty remarkable for all of us involved to start looking at our own addresses and to see how the data changed for our respective homes, and that of our neighbors. For instance, when one of us input the address of our parking lot facing unit, the noise indicator provided drastically different data than for a street-facing unit within the same complex.  These examples illustrate that data at the individual property level can be massively insightful for home shoppers. And knowing the noise level around a home is really one of our favorite parts about this release. Whether you enjoy a lively neighborhood or prefer the serenity of birds chirping outside your door, we believe you should be equipped with the information you need to make the right home-buying decision for you. With the new noise indicator, that information is well within reach.  The noise indicator is available for properties across the continental U.S. on iOS, Android, web and mobile web. 
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Kitchen Pantries You'll Envy

Kitchen Pantries You'll Envy Organizing a pantry can make it feel like the entire kitchen received an upgrade. Here are some ways to get a more stylish food storage space. By:  Melissa Dittmann Tracey Design Trends, Kitchen & Bath
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Does It Spark Joy? How Marie Kondo’s Method Can Help

Have you heard of Marie Kondo? Even if you can’t quite place the name, there’s a good chance that you’ve run across some reference to figuring out whether things “spark joy” when cleaning up your house. The idea might seem simple, but it’s a central part of her organizational philosophy, repeated again and again in her books and on her Netflix show, Tidying Up with Marie Kondo. If something doesn’t bring joy to your life, why are you keeping it around? Organizing Your Life There are a lot of reasons that you might choose to try and organize your life and get rid of some unnecessary things around the house. It might be that you’re just trying to get rid of clutter. Maybe you’re going to downscale and need to get rid of some of your belongings. Maybe you want to make it easier to find the things you care about by getting rid of a lot of unnecessary things. Perhaps you’re planning a yard sale and want to figure out what to sell. Or, maybe you’re anticipating a move and only want to have to pack the essentials.   Regardless of the reason, sorting through your belongings and figuring out what you really want to keep can be a major undertaking. This is where Marie Kondo’s method can come in handy, because it helps you to evaluate exactly how you feel about the things you’ve surrounded yourself with. By bringing those feelings to the forefront, it can make it much easier to get rid of what you need to get rid of while keeping the things you actually enjoy.   The Marie Kondo Method You’ve probably seen the basics of Marie Kondo’s method referenced even if you’ve never read her books or watched her show. She encourages people to pick up the object they’re evaluating, consider it and ask whether it “sparks joy” within them. This causes you to stop and think about your actual feelings for the item and helps you to separate those things that you hold on to for no reason from those that you actually enjoy.   Does It Spark Joy? When it comes time to go through your own belongings, you can easily implement some of Marie Kondo’s techniques into your organizational methods. You obviously don’t have to do it for everything in your house; there are some things that you know you want to get rid of, and others that have long outlived their usefulness. Go ahead and get those out of the way, by recycling them, giving them away, or otherwise ridding yourself of them.   Marie Kondo’s techniques are most useful for those things that you’re not sure about, such as items that you’ve had for years and never use. You may never even touch them unless you’re dusting or need to find something that they’re in the way of. Some of these items might have sentimental value, but that’s different than sparking real joy within you. You don’t have to rush yourself; take some time and really consider whether you have an actual use for these things or if you’re just holding on to them because they’ve always been around. You might be surprised what you’re willing to let go of once you really put a little bit of thought into it.   Making Positive Changes Decluttering and otherwise cleaning up your house can be a big chore. Sometimes you’ll find that you need to bring in some outside help after you’ve figured out what you’re keeping and what you’re getting rid of. You may also realize that you’ve finally gotten rid of enough stuff to start an exciting new project but need the help of a painter or other contractor to make it happen. Regardless of your need, HomeKeepr is here to help! Sign up for a free account today and find the cleaners, contractors and other pros that you need to help make sure that everything in your home sparks joy.    
 

Stranded Without a Kitchen Island?

When it comes to home improvements, there are few things that are requested more often than kitchen islands. Having a kitchen island can totally change the way that you work in your kitchen, and in some cases they can even add new functionality that you might not have had before. Because they’re such a hot commodity in a lot of homes, having a kitchen island in place can even increase the value of your home if you decide to put it on the market! So what makes for a good kitchen island? Long gone are the days when a kitchen island was just an additional surface to set things on while working in the kitchen. If you’re thinking about installing a kitchen island of your own, here are a few things you could consider adding to it to make it a modern, functional island. Cooking Surfaces Many modern kitchen islands contain burners, full stove tops or other cooking surfaces. Some even contain griddles or electric grills, giving you cooking options that your standard cook top might not offer. This both allows you to cook in different ways and gives you more surfaces and heat sources to work with when you’re fixing a large meal. Depending on the design of the kitchen island and the specific cooking surfaces added, you can either give the island an electric connection or hook it up to an existing gas line.   Island Appliances Cooking surfaces aren’t the only things that people include in kitchen islands. You might also see appliances such as ovens, mini refrigerators or dishwashers included in the island as well. In some homes you might see less common appliances included as well such as a steamer, warming bin or wine cooler. If there are electrical outlets built into the island, you might also include countertop appliances such as a stand mixer, toaster or can opener.   Kitchen Prep Areas One common reason for installing a kitchen island is to add a prep station to the kitchen that is separate from other kitchen surfaces. This can involve adding additional features, such as a small refrigerator to keep prepped items cold until you’re ready to cook. Some must-haves for a prep area on your kitchen island include a sink and some form of cutting surface. Ideally the sink should be deep enough to wash vegetables and other food items and should have both hot and cold running water. The cutting surface can take a variety of forms, though butcher block is a popular option. Having a rack or storage for cutting boards and possibly a built-in knife block are also popular options.   Additional Storage If there’s one thing that almost every kitchen needs, it’s more storage. Your kitchen island can help with this, giving you a place to add additional drawers, shelves or cabinets. Spice racks or other ingredient storage is also a popular option to add. If you want to make the most use of your kitchen island space, you can also add a hanging rack above your kitchen island for pots, pans and other cooking items.   Stow-Under Seating Some people want to be able to use their kitchen island as a place to enjoy a quick meal, especially at breakfast or lunch. Stools or other small seating options that store under a lip on the kitchen island can make this happen, providing easy access seating that stores out of the way when not in use. A seating space can be added on top of other features, typically by letting the side of the island that faces away from the main kitchen be used for seating while the interior-facing side is more functional.   Ready to Build Your Island? If you want to find a pro to build your kitchen island or hook up your various fixtures, trust in HomeKeepr. Sign up for a free account today and start connecting with the professionals who can make your dream kitchen island a reality.    
 

Your Spring Landscape To Do List

As the last winds of winter blow and the days become longer, it’s time to start thinking about the spring. In addition to cleaning up around the house, there are several landscaping activities that you generally want to do in the springtime. The question is, where do you start? If you’re not sure how to tackle your spring to-do list, here are a few suggestions. These are some of the most common landscaping tasks that need doing once things start to warm up, and knocking them out early can make other landscaping tasks easier as the year goes on. Who knows, taking care of some of these items might even get you inspired to take on a larger landscaping project later in the year. Clean Up That Winter Refuse The winter can be rough on your lawn, with clumps of leaves that haven’t quite decayed, sticks and branches that fell in a winter storm, muddy spots where ice formed and thawed and formed again … it can all leave a bit of a mess behind. Spend some time cleaning up the mess left by winter before you get into any other tasks and you’ll find that the rest of your spring to-do list will be much easier.   Prune the Trees and Shrubs Early spring is a great time to prune most of your trees and shrubs, since it’s before they get into a strong growth period. Early pruning allows you to shape them the way you want them to be and gives you a chance to eliminate unwanted overhangs and encroachment. If you wait until there’s new growth you can actually stunt some of that growth and make it harder to control how your trees and shrubs are forming.   Prep Your Lawn If you want your lawn to look its best, you need to show it some love in the spring. Aerate the lawn to help break up soil packed by snow and ice in the winter, dethatch it to help it grow in thicker, and sow some seed to fill in bare spots once it’s warm enough. If your lawn has an uneven surface after the winter, bringing in a roller to go over the lawn wouldn’t be a bad idea either.   Clean Up Your Flower Beds If you’ve got flower beds around your home, chances are they could use a bit of picking up after the winter. Get rid of any damaged plants, pull any weeds or grass that tried to get established during the winter, and tidy up any debris or other crud that might have found their way into your beds. You should also pull away the winter mulch surrounding your perennials and divide them to get your beds off to a good start.   Feed and Protect While you’re working on your lawn and your flower beds, go ahead and take the time to prep them for spring growth. Add new mulch to your beds as needed, give your lawn a nice dose of fertilizer, and make sure that all your other plants are similarly fed and protected. Everything’s going to be doing a lot of growing in the coming months, so you want to make sure that they have everything they need.   Plan Your Summer This is also a good time to prepare for late spring and summer projects as well. If you’re going to have a garden, take the time to start prepping it now by tilling the soil, working in compost and starting some of your spring seeds indoors. If you’re going to undertake a construction project or add new features to your lawn, go ahead and start clearing the area. The work you put in now will make things so much easier later in the year.   Ready to Get to Work? Depending on what you have planned, you may need a bit of help to get your landscaping in tip-top shape. Luckily, HomeKeepr is here it help. Sign up for a free HomeKeepr account today to connect with landscaping pros who can help you design and implement the perfect landscaping plan for your lawn.
 

Accelerating First-Time Home Buying

Buying a home can be a time-consuming and sometimes flat-out frustrating process. How do you find a real estate professional who understands your needs? How do you find the right neighborhood — the right home? These were all questions high school sweethearts Chris and Mollie were facing before they turned to realtor.com.  We caught up with Chris and Mollie to learn more about their story and just how they made their dream of homeownership a reality. “Being a homeowner was a very huge goal for us,” said Chris.  In spite of their aspirations, they ran into several obstacles early on in the process. As a young couple and first-time homebuyers, they felt they weren’t being taken seriously. That’s when Mollie downloaded the realtor.com app. She filled out her information and soon got matched to Sam Prindle, a knowledgeable and extremely friendly local agent.  When it came time to connect with Sam, it was a match made in heaven. Sam was eager to help them get better acquainted with their choice neighborhoods and to navigate the first-time home buying experience. From day one, he made it a priority to hear Chris’ and Mollie’s desires. Sam said, “I wanted to be a good listener and wanted to let them know that I take them very seriously.”  Chris and Mollie were thrilled to find the perfect neighborhood for them to raise their kids, which was right across the street from a school and a park. “The pace and life in Lewiston is not too fast, not too slow; it’s very convenient, very homey, welcoming, and everyone around here is very friendly,” said Mollie.   Realtor.com employee, Stephanie Giller, had the privilege of meeting Chris and Mollie when we learned about their home-buying story. “Being with the family and seeing how much their kids’ opinions about a house ultimately impacted the couple’s home-buying decision is a common experience for many families. At the end of the day, people want what’s best for their families, and a huge part of that starts at home.” Learning about our consumers’ stories of their journey to homeownership is one of the most rewarding aspects of our work and we take pride in pairing buyers with the right agents for them. The relationship between agents and homebuyers is predicated on trust, and in this case, that trust couldn’t have paid greater dividends.   Sam’s positive outlook and understanding of his clients’ wants and needs, combined with his knowledge of Lewiston, helped expedite Chris and Mollie’s three-year plan to buy a home into a six-month journey.  At realtor.com, we make buying, selling, and living in homes easier and more rewarding for everyone, and we couldn’t do it without agents like Sam Prindle because, like Mollie said, “Home is comfort, home is where you feel at peace.”
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Brandon Farber

Brandon Farber

 

Top Repairs to Tackle Before Listing Your Home

When you put your home on the market, you obviously want to get as much as you can for the property. A lot of things can affect your home’s value, including many items that are largely out of your control. That’s not saying that you can’t do anything to bring the value up before listing your home, however. In fact, there are some things that you absolutely need to do before you even think about sticking that “For Sale” sign in the yard. Depending on what city, county and state your home is in, there may be code requirements you need to address before you’re allowed to list or sell your property. On top of that, however, here are five fixes that you can make to help get the most from your home when you sell.   Water Stains If you’ve got water stains on the ceiling or walls, they tell potential buyers that there are leaks somewhere. It’s possible that you already took care of the leak, but a buyer isn’t going to know that, and will likely assume that there’s still a nasty surprise waiting for them somewhere. You obviously need to track down the leak and repair it, but after that’s done you should do something about the water stain as well. Don’t just slap a thin coat of paint on them and call it a day, either; take the time to do it right so that the stains don’t reappear.   Slow Drains If you have slow drains in your home, this can be a big red flag for some home buyers. They might ask about the plumbing, or even want to run more water to see what the water pressure and drains are like everywhere else. To head off potential problems it’s important to do your best to take care of the issue. In many cases it’s a relatively easy fix, though there are some causes of slow drains that will take a plumber to straighten out. Still, the effort you put into it now can result in a higher selling price once someone buys the house.   Switches and Outlets People don’t want to buy houses that have electrical problems. If your switches or outlets look discolored or beaten up, this can lead people to assume that there are problems even if there aren’t. Take the time to replace any damaged, discolored or malfunctioning switches and outlets, along with any non-working fixtures or “mystery switches” that you might have around the house. Even if it’s not a very big job, it can have a major impact on how potential buyers view your home.   Trip Hazards Are there any loose bits of carpet or wood on your floor that you’ve learned to just step around? Fix them before you have people in to look at the house. You might have gotten used to them, but a potential buyer won’t be. They’ll see potential tripping hazards as something they’ll need to fix, and they’ll negotiate the price down as a result.   Walls and Ceilings Are your walls drab, dull and damaged? Take the time to fix any holes or dings before you list the house. A little bit of drywall repair can go a long way, and this can be a perfect time to update the look of your rooms with a fresh coat of paint as well. Don’t neglect the ceiling either, since those little issues that you’ve learned to overlook will stick out like a sore thumb to potential buyers.   Need Help? If you have some repairs to make before listing but don’t know where to start, HomeKeepr can help you find the pro you need to get your home in tip-top shape. Sign up for a free account today to find pros in your area that come recommended by people you know and trust. They’ll get your home ready to sell and won’t cost you an arm and a leg to do it.

Brandon Farber

Brandon Farber

 

What’s Trending in Outdoor Kitchens?

Outdoor kitchens have been popular for years. Not only do they give you an excuse to enjoy beautiful weather outdoors but they’re also great for entertaining. Having a nice outdoor kitchen can even improve the overall value of your home! While these kitchens were once thought to be a fad, they actually seem to be getting more and more popular as time goes by. If you’re thinking of adding an outdoor kitchen to your home, you might be wondering how to make sure that your new kitchen fits with the current trends in outdoor kitchen design. While the final decision comes down to you and your tastes, here are a few hot trends to help form the design of your new outdoor kitchen.   Rustic Looks Are King Once upon a time, outdoor kitchens were little more than blocks of brick and mortar with an oven or grill built in. Now they’ve really grown, and their overall look has grown as well. One of the really popular trends in outdoor cooking spaces is to give them a rustic or even semi-rustic look; brick and stone still play a part, but so do aged wood and similar accents like corrugated metal. Brick flooring and rustic whitewashing are also fairly popular, as they give the whole kitchen area a very part-of-the-home feel.   Semi-Outdoor Chic While some outdoor kitchens are completely separate from the home, one growing trend is to build them into a covered deck area or other space that connects to the home. Adding a bit of roofing and a few partial walls or supports capitalizes on the outdoor feel of the space while still giving you a bit of privacy and control over the space you’ll be cooking in.   Accessible Food Prep When outdoor kitchens first started becoming popular, the usual approach was to do all the food prep inside and then bring things out to cook. Over time, though, homeowners have shifted toward wanting to do some if not all of their prep outdoors as well. This means that modern outdoor kitchens provide access to counter-space, butcher block cutting boards that are built in to the surface, and other prep-area essentials. They also offer up sinks and other sources of water, and many include mini-fridges to keep fresh ingredients cool until they’re needed as well. Some outdoor kitchens even come equipped with dishwashers to provide beginning-to-end cooking solutions!   Pizza Ovens Remain Popular A lot of outdoor kitchens got their start as an excuse to install brick pizza ovens, and these outdoor ovens remain popular today. The types of pizza ovens that people want have evolved a bit, however. While you’ll still see plenty of very basic brick pizza ovens, clay ovens and more traditional gas or electric ovens are also gaining popularity. The type of pizza oven you choose depends largely on personal preference, just so long as there’s a place for you to cook a pizza out there somewhere.   Outdoor Storage One other major trend in outdoor kitchens is an increase in available storage space for various tools and other kitchen implements. Some of these spaces are simple, with shelves or reclaimed crates as a place to hold items temporarily. Others are much fancier, including “windows” attached to the house that open to reveal service settings and everything else you need to enjoy a good meal outdoors. There are lockable storage solutions, open-air storage solutions and just about everything else that you can think of available. Basically, it’s a good idea to include all the storage that you would want in your regular kitchen when building a kitchen outdoors.   Building Your Dream Outdoor Kitchen Are you loving the idea of an outdoor kitchen but aren’t really sure where to start? Let HomeKeepr help! Sign up for a free account today to find a contractor who can take your outdoor kitchen dreams and build them into reality.

Brandon Farber

Brandon Farber

 

Cleaning Services: A Cost-Benefit Approach

Cleaning up around the house isn’t a task that a lot of people enjoy. It can be especially harrowing if you have a big family or just have a schedule that seems constantly packed. There are probably times when you’ve thought that it would be so much easier to just hire somebody to come in and do the cleaning. And you totally can! There are a number of cleaning services that can provide you with the cleanliness and sanitation you require. The question is, should you hire someone?   There are several factors that can go into the decision to hire a cleaning service. If you’re not sure whether you actually want to call in a cleaning service or not, here are a few things to consider.   How Much Cleaning Is Needed? The first thing that you should consider is exactly how much cleaning there is to be done. If you only have a small amount of cleaning that’s needed at any given time, there may not be much of a benefit to not just doing it yourself. If you need more cleaned up, though, the benefit obviously grows with the workload.   How Often Is Cleaning Needed? Another factor in how much of a benefit there is to hire a cleaning service centers around the frequency with which cleaning is needed. If you find that you really only need things cleaned up once every month or two, that probably isn’t an insurmountable task and there’s relatively little benefit based on frequency. If your home could use a good cleaning every week or possibly even a few times a week, however, there could be a huge benefit to hiring it out. Of course, this should also be weighed against the amount of cleaning required; needing a significant amount of cleaning once a month might still provide a strong case for hiring a cleaning service. Even if cleaning amounts differ, such as one large cleanup followed by periodic maintenance cleaning, the overall benefit could still be substantial.   Do You Have Time to Clean? The amount of free time that you have can affect the degree of benefit you’d see from hiring a cleaning service. If you’re constantly busy and have very little free time, having someone else do the cleaning would provide a significant benefit. On the flip side, if you find yourself with hours of time in which you don’t have anything to do, you could put some of that time toward cleaning tasks; this would reduce the benefit of hiring a service.   Can You Afford a Cleaning Service? After you have an idea of how much benefit there is from hiring a cleaning service, compare that against the cost of bringing cleaners in. Look up prices or request quotes from some cleaners in your area to figure out how much of a financial burden the cleaning service would be. You might even want to develop a few different cost models, figuring out how much it would cost to bring them in weekly, bi-weekly, monthly or even on demand.   Should You Hire a Cleaning Service? Once you have both your approximate benefits and costs figured out, it’s time to compare the two and make sure that there’s enough benefit to justify the cost. If the cleaning service would cause you a financial strain, then there would obviously have to be a substantial benefit for you to hire them. If it would be easy enough to fit their services into your budget, however, the requisite benefit to make it worth your while will be much less. Comparing these two factors will make your decision much easier and can provide insight into how often and to what degree you’ll want their services as well.   Finding the Best Cleaner for Your Needs If you decide that you do need a cleaning service, you’ll obviously want to get the best one in your area. HomeKeepr can help! Sign up for a free account today and find a cleaning service that will do a great job for a great price, based on the recommendations of people just like you.

Brandon Farber

Brandon Farber

 

Automatic Attic Vents: Healthy Venting?

Keeping your home cool in the summer and warm in the winter is one of the big goals of most homeowners. There are a number of ways to do this, including upgrading the windows to more energy-efficient models and performing seasonal maintenance on heating and cooling systems to keep them operating at peak condition. One thing that’s often overlooked however is the influence that attic temperatures can have on the temperature of your whole house. You may have seen suggestions about installing automatic attic vents to help regulate the temperature in your attic. Is there something behind this, or is it just another upgrade to your home that provides very little benefit? You might be surprised at how effective automatic attic vents can be. Hot Attic, Cold Attic It’s pretty common knowledge that hot air rises. The question is, where does all that hot air go? If your attic isn’t well vented, it can build up within the attic itself and increase the temperature of your attic space significantly. The problem with this is that future hot air won’t really have anywhere to go, causing it to linger in the house itself for longer. This is great if it’s the middle of winter and you’re trying to keep your house warm, but you can see how it might be a problem during the heat of summer. You can run into the opposite situation as well if you have open vents in the attic. Heat can escape more easily, but if it’s cold outside you’ll find all that heat escaping much faster than you would like. This in turn causes heat within your house to escape faster, making it harder to stay warm in the depth of winter’s chill. Regardless of the situation you find yourself in, the end result will be the same: higher energy costs to keep your house cool in the summer or warm in the winter.   Proper Attic Venting Attic ventilation is part of the key to solving this issue, but there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. During the summer, you want open attic vents to expel heat and keep your attic as cool as possible. In winter, you want attic vents to be closed to hold heat in for as long as possible. You can open and close these vents manually as part of your seasonal preparations, of course, though this won’t be a perfect solution. The truth is, unless you open or close the vents to account for all the temperature fluctuations during the year, you’ll still be losing money to unnecessary heating and cooling.   Automatic Attic Vents This is where automatic attic vents come into play. These vents are connected to thermostats (and sometimes even humidistats) to monitor the condition of your attic and open or close the vents as needed based on what things are actually like in the attic. If the temperature goes too high during the summer or if it becomes too humid, the vent opens and lets that unwanted heat and humidity escape. If temperatures drop, the vents close to prevent outside heat from coming in. The opposite happens during the winter, keeping the vents shut to keep warm air in your attic. Some automatic vents function as simple ventilation units, possessing little function beyond opening and closing. Others include connected fans to force air in or out of the attic to even greater effect. Regardless of the vent type you choose, however, adding one to your attic can make a notable difference in how warm or cool the attic air gets during the year.   Installing New Vents If you want automatic attic vents but aren’t sure where to start, HomeKeepr has your back. Sign up for a free account today to connect to pros who can install the automatic vent unit that will be the best fit for your current attic setup. All you have to lose is all of that unwanted energy waste.

Brandon Farber

Brandon Farber

 

3 Ways to Design the Perfect Kitchen Island

3 Ways to Design the Perfect Kitchen Island How remodelers are giving this kitchen staple an update. February 24, 2020 By:  Melissa Dittmann Tracey Remodeling, Design & Architecture, Kitchen & Bath
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Brandon Farber

Brandon Farber

 

What made you fall in love with your home?

It’s Valentine’s Day, and it isn’t just for lovebirds. At realtor.com, we believe there’s no place like home and that when you find the one, that’s worth celebrating. But how do you know when you’ve found the one? Maybe it’s an open-concept floor plan that conjures up images of gatherings with loved ones. Or, perhaps it’s a walk-in closet and extensive storage space that you know will be by your side for the long haul. We set out to find the regional must-have features that make home shoppers’ hearts skip a beat. Topping the list of most-loved features are the makings for man-caves, she-sheds, workshops, and granny pods. Also high on the list are features such as acreage and fenced yards, indicating that people in many states love their privacy. And as it turns out, America has fallen out of love with having to climb stairs. Buyers in several states don’t want anything to do with multi-level homes, instead opting for a single-level home, rambler, or first-floor master.   When we shared these insights with our employees, exchanges about what made them fall in love with their own homes began. Unsurprisingly, what many of our employees love about their own dwellings is not too different than other Americans.  Isabel Samano, for instance, our Workplace Services Supervisor, shared that it’s all about location. She grew up with seven brothers and sisters and as she raises her own family, it’s critical to be in close proximity to extended family. Her mom and a younger sister live just down the street from Samano, enabling their tight-knit unit to get together at a moment’s notice.  For Tracey Lewis, Sr. Director of Corporate Communications, it was all about matters of the heart. She explained that when she and her husband walked into a listing 15 years ago, her husband immediately said, “Uh oh!” Lewis, unsure what he was referencing, asked, “What?” Her husband went on to say, “I grew up in this house.” As luck would have it, the listing was designed and built by the same person as her husband’s parents’ home. When they stood that day in what would become their oldest daughter’s room, her husband said, “I threw spitballs at my brother from my bunk bed over here!” At that moment, they decided they’d found the one and bought the house. It already felt like home.  And for Rebecca Faries, Sr. Customer Care Representative, the view is what drew her in. Similar to must-have features in Arkansas, Florida, Minnesota, Missouri, Tennessee, and West Virginia, sweeping views and a heavenly location were just the right X-factor to make the home hers. She says, “I didn’t even see anything that might need to be fixed on my house because I instantly fell in love with the view!” I must say, I know that feeling well. When my husband and I bought our first home, we fell in real estate love at first sight. Before we even entered the home, we noticed a super unique fixture on the front porch. Our agent let us know that the house was built in the 1890s, and what we were looking at was an original gas light — one of the few still remaining in the neighborhood. We were so excited to be buying a little piece of history!  We all have our own story, and like the old adage: when you know — you know. It’s kismet. Happy Valentine’s Day from our home to yours! 
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Brandon Farber

Brandon Farber

 

Stage a Space as a Calming Retreat

Stage a Space as a Calming Retreat Create a Zen environment that channels nature and follows the "mindful living" trend. February 17, 2020 By:  Melissa Dittmann Tracey
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Brandon Farber

Brandon Farber

 

What You Need to Know About Debt Consolidation

If you’re carrying around a lot of debt, the number of payments and the various interest rates you have can make managing it quite difficult. Some people choose to get this under control through debt consolidation. By consolidating your debts, you can reduce multiple items to a single payment with a single interest rate, making your finances easier to manage. Before rushing into debt consolidation, though, it’s important that you take the time to understand exactly how it works and what its benefits are. Consolidating Your Debt As its name implies, debt consolidation is the process of combining multiple debts into one that is (theoretically) easier to make payments on. Debt consolidation can even combine different types of debt such as loans and credit cards into a single debt. At its most basic, debt consolidation establishes a new loan or line of credit and then uses that to make payments against the other debts to pay them off. This leaves you with a single remaining debt. Depending on how you manage your consolidation, though, there may be a few differences in your experience.   Consolidation Loans Taking out a loan to consolidate debt is one of the most common forms of debt consolidation. These loans are typically pretty straightforward, since the borrowed money is used to pay off existing debts and you simply need to pay off the loan after that point. In some cases, you may even be able to piggyback debt consolidation on top of a loan taken out for a purchase, borrowing extra to pay off existing debt. Just be sure to check with your lender to make sure this sort of use is okay before borrowing the money for it.   Credit Card Consolidation Credit card consolidations typically occur when taking out a new card, using balance transfers to consolidate your existing balances to a single card. This is especially useful if the card has an introductory interest rate such as a 0 percent APR for six months or some other promotion. The theory remains the same, however; instead of having balances across multiple cards, you have only one balance to focus on and pay down.   Debt Management Programs Though not necessarily a true “consolidation”, debt management programs are another way to get debt under control. These programs can negotiate with debtors, allowing you to make payments on a negotiated schedule without worrying about late fees and other costs piling up. You may have restrictions placed on you such as not being able to take out additional loans, but you will have the advantage of not having to work through getting your debt under control by yourself.   The Effects of Consolidation Debt consolidation can have a major impact on your financial health, both improving your credit score and helping you to pay down your existing debts faster. It can also save you time and money, since you’ll only have one set of interest charges instead of multiple to keep track of. Best of all, most forms of debt consolidation won’t have a negative impact on things like buying a house since there isn’t a special classification to the loans or transfers in most cases. Even debt management won’t necessarily interfere, since its restrictions are usually focused on unsecured loans instead of secured ones like a mortgage.   What to Watch Out For There are a few things that you should be careful of when looking into debt consolidation. Perhaps the most important is to avoid getting yourself even deeper in debt once you pay off the balance of your credit cards or other lines of credit. The goal is to pay off what you owe, so hold off on using your cards again until you’re more financially stable. You should also watch out for predatory lenders and fraudulent debt consolidation companies that will charge you a significant amount for things that you could manage on your own for free.   Is Consolidation Right for You? If you aren’t sure whether debt consolidation is right for you, HomeKeepr may be able to help. Sign up today for free and get in touch with loan experts who can advise you on getting your finances in order without having to sacrifice your big dreams like owning your own home.

Brandon Farber

Brandon Farber

 

Staging Your Home for the 2020 Housing Market

If you’re planning to sell your house, proper staging can make a huge difference. It’s important to keep in mind that tastes change over time, though, and the staging techniques that were popular when you bought the home might not impress buyers today. If you really want to get the most value out of your home when you sell, it helps to employ staging that will appeal to buyers in the current housing market. Fortunately, there are many ways you can stage your home so that it draws in modern buyers. The goal is to help them see your home as a place they could inhabit and fill with their own style, and these suggestions will help you to achieve this even if tastes have changed since you last decorated your home. Maximize Your Lighting A lot of modern buyers are looking for function as well as form when they’re looking at houses. One example of this comes in the form of good lighting. Make sure that the windows are clean and that your window dressings allow natural light to come through. Check that you have sufficiently bright bulbs in your fixtures, and double check that none are burned out. You might also consider adding spotlights or other accent lights in places like the kitchen and bathroom where the potential buyers might want additional light. If you really want to wow people, you could even install smart bulbs that can be controlled from a smartphone or smart speaker.   Keep It Earthy Color trends change over time. At the moment, warm colors are hot. When staging your home, work with accent colors such as chocolate, olive green, beige and wine to tie your various decorations together. This will add splashes of warm, earthy color that’s neither too bright nor too dark. As an added benefit, these shades go well with a wide range of wall and floor options, so you can add some nice earthy accents without having to completely redesign your home beforehand.   Touch Up the Walls If your walls are too mild or too wild, consider adding a fresh coat of paint before you get ready to sell your home. There are several colors that are popular right now, including a number of shades of blue, gray and green. You can usually get away with some light pink and gold shades too, as well as the occasional off-white. You don’t want anything too bold in most rooms, just something that will give a bit of color to the room. But feel free to skew a little darker if you’re painting a bathroom or bedroom.   De-Personalize the Place You may have heard that it’s a good idea to make your home look lived in, since that can help potential buyers see it as an actual living space instead of just a showcase. This isn’t bad advice; having some unique decorative items and other accents can really help buyers to picture their own stuff in the house. Just make sure that you take out anything that’s overly personal, like family photos, items with your family name and other keepsakes. Leave your decorations a little sparse, too. The goal is to inspire potential buyers and help them picture where they would put their belongings and their own pictures, and it’s hard to do that if there are pictures of your family everywhere or decorations filling every available space.   Finding the Right Look If you’re not exactly sure how to stage your home, don’t be afraid to bring in a bit of professional help. HomeKeepr is here to help you with that, too. Sign up for a free account now and you’ll be on your way to finding the decorator or professional stager to assist you in getting just the look you need to really make your buyers want to sign.

Brandon Farber

Brandon Farber

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