How to Make Space for a New Pet at Home

Getting a furry friend is always an exciting time, however, it’s definitely a good idea to make a few tweaks to your home and take some precautions to ensure a happy, healthy life for the newest member of your family. Here are a few starter tips whether you’re getting a cat or dog.

 

In the kitchen. The biggest danger in the kitchen is when pets help themselves to toxic foods left out on the counter, or worse, from the trash. Just like humans, raw meat of any kind can be dangerous for them to ingest, as well as chocolate, onions and grapes. Some of the best ways to prevent them from eating human food are to keep counters clear, store food in hard-to-reach upper cabinets, use a pet-proof trash can and put up a pet gate during food prep and mealtime.

 

 

In the bathroom. Toilet bowl water is commonly contaminated with chemical cleaners, so you probably don’t want your pet drinking or falling into it. You can use the same toilet locks used with young children to prevent this. It’s also smart to keep bathroom counters clear of small accessories, such as hair ties, bobby pins, jewelry and makeup. Keep cleaning solutions, both here, in the kitchen and the laundry room, out of reach too. If you’re prone to keeping a dirty laundry pile in the bathroom, be sure to keep loose clothes off the floor so they don’t get torn or chewed up.

 

Lastly, especially for big dogs, you may want to consider integrating a pet washing station into the bathroom, mudroom or laundry room. This can be done by building out an entirely new setup or installing an extra ledge in an existing, spacious shower. Smaller dogs and cats can be easily washed in oversized utility or even kitchen sinks.

 

 

In the living room. One of the biggest concerns here is ensuring your pet doesn’t claw up your furniture. Leather and synthetic fibers are great options for sofas since they can easily be wiped clean, and carpet tiles are great alternatives to regular carpets and area rugs because you can replace any tile individually for a small price if it gets damaged.

Many pets love having a great view of the outdoors. If you have expansive windows nearby, set up a nice lounging area for them by putting a pet bed or cushion along a window seat. In addition to that, many pets also love cozying up by the fire. Be sure to protect them from getting hurt or burned by an open fire with a simple screen.

 

 

In the home office. Protect yourself against having to use the age-old excuse of “my dog ate my homework” by filing loose papers away in a cabinet or binder and away from pesky paws. Another concern here is exposed bundles of cords, which can electrocute your furry friend if they chew on them. Tuck them away or cover them with concealer cables, which have the added benefit of helping declutter your workspace.

 

 

Give them their own space. Although you’ll probably want to spend most of your day snuggling your pet, it’s also important to give them a space of their own. Their cozy corner can easily be integrated into any low-traffic zone such as the laundry room or garage where you can arrange their bed, favorite toys and food and water bowls. Crates and litter boxes have come a long way from their traditional bulky look and can now be hidden under a desk, integrated under the staircase or custom made to match your room design.

 

 

The great outdoors. Just like many of us, dogs and cats love basking in the sun and exploring nature. Consider installing a pet door so they can go in and out as they please. Add a fence or gate around your yard so they don’t run off and get lost. It’s also a good idea to have a boundary or cover for outdoor features, such as pools, ponds and fire pits, so they don’t fall in and injure themselves. Finally, exercise caution when planting garden favorites, such as daffodils, tulips and hydrangeas, since they can be toxic to dogs and cats if ingested.

 

 

Integrating technology. It’s always important to show your furry friend some love. If your budget allows, invest in one of these new technologies to keep your pet happy and healthy. Automatic pet doors that are linked to a device on your pet’s collar beat traditional versions by blocking wildlife, rodents and even snow or rain from coming in too. GPS smart collars also help keep your pet safe and able to locate in worst case scenarios. Lastly, automated water and food feeders are great alternatives to manual feedings, especially for people with busy lifestyles, and can even help your pet diet and lose weight.

The Lazy Guide to Spring Cleaning at Home

After a long winter, nothing feels better than having a clean and sparkling home. But, actually jumping into a deep clean is another story. Here are some simple tips to whip your home into shape without breaking a sweat:

#1 Wall Cleaning

Magic Eraser is your best bet for tackling walls — it can spot clean anything from splatters to crayon marks. It’s tough enough to reach the cobwebs that collect in the corners of your walls and ceiling. You can also cover the bristles of a broom with a cloth or old T-shirt and use it to knock down any dusty spots.

#2 Carpets and Rugs

Take a little more time vacuuming the high-traffic areas of your house. (Make sure you don’t forget to spot treat any stubborn stains with a stain-removal product.) If your rug or carpet has lingering odors, sprinkle some baking soda over it and let it sit for a few hours. Vacuum up the baking soda and you’ll find the odors have disappeared.

#3 Mattress Ideas

Give your mattress cover a thorough cleaning in the washing machine — don’t forget to throw in a cup of white vinegar to boost the cleaning process. Sprinkle baking soda on your mattress while you’re washing the cover. You can vacuum it up later when you’re making the bed.

#4 Shower Care

Don’t knock yourself out trying to clean glass shower doors. Add a couple drops of water to your dryer sheets and use them to wipe down your shower doors. You can even let your showerhead clean itself overnight while you sleep. Simply tie a bag filled with white vinegar around your showerhead and let it soak overnight. Remove the bag in the morning for a non-clogged shower experience.

#5 Toilet Scrubbing

Have water stains built up in your toilet? Cola can help you attack these stains with little effort.  Just pour some in the toilet, let it sit for several minutes, then flush.

#6 Oven Shine

If you have an oven with a self-cleaning feature, spring is a great time to finally run that cycle. Otherwise, mix baking soda with a bit of water and use it to quickly clean up grease and various other spills inside the oven.

#7 Clutter Solutions

When you don’t have time to clean but you need your house to look presentable, tackling clutter is the quickest way to create the illusion of a clean house. Zip through each room of the house and put anything that doesn’t belong into a basket. This strategy requires very little work and can make a big difference in your home’s appearance.

Conclusion

Although these tips won’t completely eliminate the effort involved in spring cleaning, they’ll make the job a whole lot easier. Spring is a time of new beginnings — if you use even a couple of these ideas, your home will enjoy a clean and fresh start to the upcoming season.

Size Matters: Finding the Perfect Size Home for You

If you’re house shopping, there’s probably one question that’s been on your mind often: “What size home should I buy?” At a glance, the answer seems obvious: as big as you can afford! But that’s only a small piece of the puzzle. Home size matters on many levels from personal preference to resale value, future plans, your budget, and more.

How do you find the ideal home size for you and your family? Here are three things you need to consider:

The Truth About Square Footage

A foot is a foot, right? When it comes to the square footage of your future home that may not be the case. Measuring the size of a house isn’t incredibly precise. More often than not, the size will change depending on which appraiser is measuring and what mechanism they’re using to determine the square footage: measuring tape, laser measure, or eyeball. The reality is that there are no universal standards when it comes to measuring your home size.

What does this mean for you? You need to choose your home size not by the numbers but by the feel. Don’t put too much stock in the listing size on paper, but instead find out in person if each room, bathroom, and living area is large enough for your needs. It’s not about how other individuals answer the question, “What is a good sized house?” It’s about you, your family, and how big a place feels in person.

Your Budget

While your budget isn’t the only thing you should consider, it needs to be one of the critical factors in determining your ideal home size. And that may be little more complicated than you think. What matters when it comes to your budget?

  • Loan Size: The larger the house, the more expensive—most of the time. Make sure the average house size of your real estate listings fits with your pre-approved loan budget.
  • Monthly Budget: Large houses are expensive to keep up. As you increase your square footage expect to pay more in electricity, water, gas, cleaning, and more. If you have a tight allocation for monthly expenses, don’t go overboard on a large house without factoring in these other costs.
  • Your Future: Are you planning to have more kids? Do you need a new car? Are you counting on getting a raise at work? If you’re expecting your financial situation to change, make sure your home budget fits the modifications.

Your Preferences and Needs

Your particular wants and needs should have the most significant impact on the home you choose. Make sure you’re truthful and honest with yourself about your expectations and needs. For example, if you eat out regularly and hate cooking, there’s no need to spend on a gourmet kitchen! You’d be better served looking for a home with a smaller kitchen and a bigger living room.

To help you determine your preferences, here are ten questions you should ask yourself:

  1. Do you like small and cozy or do you need room to spread out?
  2. How many people are in your family and how much space does each person need?
  3. Do you have any hobbies or jobs that require extra space? (If you work from home, you’ll need an office. If cars are a passion, you’ll want a more substantial garage)
  4. How often do you have visitors over? (If you have parties every few weeks and relatives visit a few times a year, you might want more space for guests)
  5. Are you planning to have more kids or have an elderly relative move in with you?
  6. What size of house have you been excited about in the past?
  7. How much storage do you need? (Closet space and built-ins can be a big space saver)
  8. How large is your furniture, and how much do you have? (If you have a king-sized bed, you want a big master bedroom)
  9. What’s your five-year plan? (Upgrading your home to a larger size can be difficult; make sure the home you choose can last for years)
  10. How much outdoor space do I want?

The key to purchasing the right-sized home for you is being realistic. Make sure you really sit down with your family to discuss what you need, want, and can afford. Then, ask your local Coldwell Banker real estate agent to help you search for the perfect sized house for you.

Spruce Up the Half Bath Before Guests Arrive

Hosting family or friends is an equally exciting and stressful experience for all. Having a comfortable guest bathroom is key and you’ll want to deck it out with all the necessary supplies to avoid awkward run-ins, like guests asking for more toilet paper. Envision what you expect from hotel bathrooms and incorporate some of these must-have details to get a gleaming five-star review from your houseguests.

 

All about appearances. The first thing you should establish in your guest bathroom is a good look. Replace flickering and ill-placed lights with new sconces or vanity fixtures to create a warm and welcoming ambiance. Since this is also where your guests might be getting ready for the day or touching up in the evening, provide an adequately sized mirror. A full-length mirror is ideal, but if your room or budget doesn’t allow, look for an inexpensive over-the-door option.

 

Storage and supplies. It’s imperative to provide sufficient storage space and supplies for your houseguests. Load up your vanity with basics such as towels, tissues, soap, lotion, air fresheners, a first-aid kit and feminine supplies. If you’re hosting overnight guests, allow them their own storage space to lay out the toiletries they bring along. Empty a drawer or bring in a freestanding storage unit for their personal belongings.

 

A tidy toilet. Two of the most important items to include in any bathroom are plungers and toilet paper. Making sure these items are available will reduce potential awkwardness and embarrassment for both parties. There are many discreet plungers for sale today and you can store extra TP rolls in a stylish wire basket for a trendy look, as seen above.

 

Tip-top trash. Function is often sacrificed for style, but in the case of wastebaskets, practicality should reign above all. You’ll want to provide a large bin, preferably with a lid and empty it on a consistent basis. Hampers are also a nice touch to keep soiled linens out of sight. Be sure to replace them with new, fluffy towels regularly too.

 

Open up for overnighters. If you’re hosting long-term or overnight guests, a stock of toothbrushes, toothpaste and face washes will come in handy. Fresh towels and a hamper for dirty linens are also must-haves. For bonus points, pamper your guests with soft robes and slippers. If you have a finicky shower faucet system in your master bathroom that your guests have access to, leave a note explaining how to adjust the dials for a stress-free wash.

Tax Breaks for First Time Home Buyers

Buying a home can sound like an intimidating undertaking if you’ve never done it before. The thought of relocating and the sheer level of financial investment gives many people anxiety. Luckily, the government wants to make the process easier and less scary, with a range of tax breaks for first time home buyers.

To get the most out of your purchase, don’t settle for the standard deductions and write-offs. Instead, make sure you take advantage of the many tax breaks available to you. So, what exactly is tax deductible when buying a house for the first time?

Mortgage Interest Deductions

Mortgage interest is the second half of your monthly mortgage payment—the rest goes toward the principal balance. Though interest rates are hovering near historic lows, they can still be a financial burden unless you take advantage of the option to deduct mortgage interest on up to $1 million of debt.

Claiming this tax break is easy. Each year, your lender will send you Form 1098 listing the interest you paid during the previous year. Simply enter this number on Form 1040 Schedule A—under itemized deductions—and claim your tax break. 

Mortgage Points Deduction

Beyond the typical interest deduction, you’re eligible for a tax break based on mortgage points—prepaid interest that represents 1 percent of your total mortgage. You are allowed to deduct Discount Points, or the fees paid directly to the lender in exchange for a reduced interest rate. This is also called “buying down the rate.”

Mortgage Credit Certificate Program

A tax credit for buying a house is more valuable than a deduction because it cuts back on your taxes owed, dollar-for-dollar. For low-income home buyers, the Mortgage Credit Certificate program gives back 20% to 30% of the interest you pay every year as money back in your pocket.

You will need to qualify for the Mortgage Credit Certificate program before purchasing your home to claim this credit.

Real Estate Taxes

Each year, you can deduct your local property taxes on Form 1040 Schedule A. To find the amount you can deduct, check Form 1098 if you pay through an escrow account or check your records if you pay directly to the municipality.

Additionally, for the first year in your home, you should earn an even bigger tax reduction. If you reimbursed the seller for their prepaid real estate taxes, you can take those as itemized deductions as well.

IRA Payouts

If increased investment opportunity is one of the reasons for buying a home, then you’ll appreciate this benefit for your IRA. If you pull from your IRA to cover your down payment and other purchasing costs, first time home buyers do not have to pay the $10 penalty fee for early withdrawals.

Additional First Time Home Buyer Advantages

  • Home Improvements: If you purchase a fixer-upper, all improvements you make to your home from landscaping to new doors and windows can be deducted when you sell your home.
  • Energy Efficiency: Upgrading your home with energy-efficient appliances and home improvements—such as an insulation system—can offer an energy tax credit of up to $500.
  • Home Sale Profit: If you own and live in your home for at least two years before selling, much of the profit you make is tax-free. Up to $250,000 for single returns and up to $500,000 for married, joint returns. 
  • Mortgage Insurance Premiums: This tax deduction ended in 2016 but is currently under legislative review for renewal. It offers a write-off for the premium paid if your down payment was less than 20% of the home’s cost.

The First-Time Homebuyer Credit is no longer available. It ended in 2010 and has not been renewed.

Now that you know the many tax breaks for first time home buyers, visit your local real estate agent at Coldwell Banker to learn how to take advantage of all the perks of being a first time home buyer.

When Was the Last Time You Cleaned These 20 Items in Your Home?

Did you know there are 10 MILLION bacteria per square inch of a kitchen sponge? (dailymail.co.uk) What about the fact that your pillow is as germy as a TOILET SEAT! (NY Post) Those are just two of the mind-blowing (and scary) facts about common household items that are probably not getting cleaned as regularly as they should be. With that said (or rather written) here are 20 items that you should give a little extra TLC to this weekend!

Remote Control

Good Housekeeping spilled the dirty truth on the Today Show by reminding us that while we know remotes are often the dirtiest item in a hotel room, the same holds true for our homes. You should clean this, and game controllers, once a month with some rubbing alcohol and a q-tip for those hard to reach spots.

Portrait of handsome young black man watching tv at home.

Stove Knobs

Cleaning stove knobs can be a pain but it is an important part of keeping your kitchen free of icky germs we spread from handling food. For a quick clean simply pull off the knobs and soak them in a bowl of white vinegar.

Oven knobs

Dishwasher

Sometimes we forget to clean the things that clean 🙂 Add cleaning this appliance at least once a month to your to-do list. Here is how to do it.

Smiling man using dishwasher.

Light Switches

“When cleaning your house, keep one thing in mind: If hands touch it, it needs cleaning,” says Karen Gibbs of TODAY. So, how often should you actually clean switches? The answer is weekly! Learn the best way to clean them here.

Baby hand touching a panel with five light switches

 

Door Knobs

I think we are all guilty of forgetting this one…especially the doorknobs outside! Cleaning professionals recommend wiping down doorknobs with a household cleaner or disinfecting wipe about once a week.

Children hand open door handle

Garbage Cans

Sure you take the trash out when the bag is full but when was the last time you actually scrubbed the inside of the can? And how about the can(s) outside?

Open trash can in empty room with wood flooring, blue wainscoting and a power outlet.

Comforter

You may change your sheets every week (or every other week) but when was the last time you cleaned your comforter? The experts at Good Housekeeping suggest cleaning it once a season.

Teddy bear on bed

Pillows

Dust mites, pet hair and dead skin…oh my. Gross, right? Yes, I agree. But sadly, all of these things might be living in and on the place where you lay your head to sleep each night. Interior design expert Robin Wilson recommends washing your pillow cover every three weeks in the washing machine. Then, wash the pillow itself every three months. (Huffington Post)

Unmade bed with white pillow and messy

Keurig/Coffee Maker

Is your morning cup of Joe contaminated? We hope not. To be sure, experts recommend that a Keurig be cleaned (and descaled) every 3-6 months. Wondering how to clean it? Here you go.

coffee maker

Dish Sponge

Did you know that a kitchen sponge is actually 200,000 times DIRTIER than a toilet seat?  (dailymail.co.uk) If your sponge is over a month old then toss it.

Hand with sponge above kitchen sink

Drying Rack

Anything that has standing water in it tends to be…well…stinky. Be sure you scrub down that drying rack every few days to avoid a slimy mess.

Dish rack on kitchen countertop

Top of the Fan

Cleaning a ceiling fan can be a dirty and dusty job if you let it go too long. Real Simple suggests cleaning fans every other month if you use the fan year-round. Here are some helpful tips for getting it clean.

A spinning ceiling fan -- but it's not in a home, it's in a rural barn -- that's why you can see wooden rafters and a steel roof, and lots of dirt, dust, and cobwebs if you zoom in.

Pet Toys

If your house is anything like mine then there are more toys than your little fur baby could possibly ever need. It is important to give their toys some cleaning TLC regularly as they often end up in their mouths. 

Brown sleeping dog with paw on pink monkey cuddly toy

Lint Trap

This is a super important one not only to keep your home clean but also safe! “The U.S. Fire Administration (part of FEMA) cites that there are 2900 home clothes dryer fires every year resulting in an estimated 5 deaths, 100 injuries, and $35 million in property loss. And the leading cause: failure to clean them.” (cushmaninsure.com)

Dryer vent in a home being cleaned out with a round brush. There is a large pile of lint that has been removed from the vent on a white tiled floor. The walls and baseboards are white. The lint is gray. Taken with a Canon 5D Mark 3 camera. rm

Dryer vent in a home being cleaned out with a round brush.

Washing Machine

Washing machines are pretty clean since you often use hot water to clean your clothes, but they still need attention about once a month. To clean your washer, just run an empty load with hot water and bleach.

Shot of a young family having fun while doing laundry

Toothbrush Holder

According to NSF International, this is one of the germiest items in a home. Pretty gross considering it holds the item you clean your mouth with.

Single toothbrush in white beveled cup against blue tile

 

Sofa

According to thesweethome.com, you should be cleaning your sofa with a vacuum every 2 weeks and it should get a deep clean once a year. Hey, the silver-lining is you may find some spare change while you are flipping those couch cushions over!

Cleaning Sofa Pillow

Toilet Bowl Handle

Think outside of the box bowl. Use a disinfectant wipe and make sure to close the lid to avoid airborne germs!

All done!

Ice Trays

Does your ice taste funny? There is a chance that may be from the ice tray being dirty and not actually your water. Here is a quick way to clean it.

Stacked ice cube trays in a freezer

Makeup Brushes

Brushing bacteria onto your face may not be your first thought you have as you apply powder, blush or eyeshadow to your face, but if you aren’t cleaning them regularly it is exactly what you are doing. Make sure to clean all of your brushes once a month.

brushes on eye shadows palette

10 Surprising Ways to Find More Space in Your Home

How are you doing with your 2018 New Year's Resolutions? Most people dust off the running shoes or sign up for a gym membership to tackle their new goals. However, how are we supposed to eat healthier if our pantries are overflowing, or be inspired to hit the pavement every morning if we are looking at piles of clothes? To lead a more organized and inspired life in 2018, the clutter around you must be cleared. It’s simple– if your home is organized, your mindset will be too.

A clean and balanced home is actually a launching pad for all of your other resolutions. So, if you are already starting to fail at your self-resolutions, try this home resolution: find more space in your home by clearing out the clutter. Follow these ten tips and I promise it will inspire you to complete your other resolutions and lead you to a more organized, happier year!

1The pantry. Create room by removing the large and awkward food packaging. Purchase clear, air-tight containers, take the box of your food item, and cut out the product name, nutritional facts and expiration date. Tape them to the inside of your clear container and then seal the food.

2. The pantry shelves. Arrange the food on your shelves to help keep your resolutions. Make “first choice” shelves for the food that you want to stay on that diet. Make shelves that are for the kids snacks or foods that you’re just not going to have on a regular basis anymore… You get the idea. Some shelves are just for the once a week treat. Some are for every day.

3. The pantry. If you like to buy in bulk, put the bulk of your paper goods in another location, perhaps a closet or the garage, and place only what you need in your pantry— restock as needed.

4. The kitchen. When storing pots, pans and other durable items, stack them on their sides like files. This simple step not only creates more room, it also allows you to see exactly what you need. Caddies or sorters from a shelf or container store are great tools for vertical organizing

5. The dresser. Place clothing in drawers vertically (not the traditional horizontal piles) because it not only maximizes space, it allows you to find items more quickly. You can purchase wooden planks or plastic planks to use as dividers. This way you can see all of your clothes at once when you open the drawer.

6. The closet. If your shoes don’t have a place, they end up in a pile taking up valuable space. Place shoes and accessories in clear plastic containers so you can see everything and tape their photo to the inside of their container with photo facing out. This little step gives you triple duty: more space, you can find it easily and better yet, you can put it away in the exact same spot for next time that hot date rolls around…

7. Use color to keep it straight. Organize your closet and drawers dark to light. It can be great way to find out that you really have way too many black blouses… and you can keep your resolution of being a kinder, gentler you by donating the extras!

8. The kids’ rooms. Purchase bed raisers for under-the-bed storage. You can store everything from shoes, laundry basket, books and any bulky items that might otherwise clutter their room.

9. The baby’s closet. Is there room to add another bar? Take advantage of the fact that baby clothing is smaller and if you can, add an additional bar to hang the clothing to maximize space. You can purchase premade closet organizers that you can customize to make the most out of baby’s closet.

10. The best trick to more space in your home, less is more! So, if you find you have extra things laying around, throw a reverse housewarming party! You will be starting a new party trend. Set aside your unwanted items and instead of having your friends bring a housewarming gift, they are to pick one of your items and take it home with them. This is a great way to reunite with friends, find your unwanted things a good home, and de-clutter all at the same time!

Now that the clutter around you is cleared your mind will be clearer to meet all those 2018 goals!