Most of us do all we can to keep our families safe in and out of the home. One big risk for families is carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning. In large quantities, carbon monoxide can cause illness or death if not detected and remedied. Young children and the elderly are particularly vulnerable, and CO poisoning symptoms include headaches, nausea, dizziness and other flu-like symptoms.
“The problem with CO is that you can’t see it, smell it or taste it, but the good news is that you can take easy steps to keep your home and loved ones safe,” says Justin Carrol, president of Perfect Home Services.
With that in mind, Carrol recommends families do the following to minimize their CO exposure risk:
Check CO detectors’ batteries every month. Detectors typically come with a test button to make sure the batteries are still working. It’s also a good idea to replace the units every five years.
Make sure heating units are well-maintained. Seasonal tune-ups performed twice a year allow service experts to look for potential problems. They will make sure that vents, flues and chimneys are cleaned and getting proper airflow.
Practice proper ventilation. Make sure any fuel-burning appliances are in well-ventilated spaces and never in enclosed areas. Never start your car without opening your garage door first.
Don’t use outdoor products inside. Items such as generators and camping stoves should only be used outside. Also, avoid using solvents such as paint and varnish remover indoors whenever possible, as these can release a chemical that can break down into carbon monoxide when inhaled.
Source: Perfect Home Services.
Nothing throws a monkey wrench (no pun intended) into your daily life faster than a plumbing problem in the kitchen. From a leaky faucet to a clogged garbage disposal, unexpected issues in the most-used room of the house can wreak havoc on your schedule and your wallet.
To troubleshoot problems before they turn into large and costly repairs, Roto-Rooter offers the following maintenance tips:
Prevent Leaky Faucets
Keep your faucet in optimal functioning condition by removing lime build-up and sediment from its aerator. To do so:
– Unscrew the aerator from the faucet by turning it counterclockwise.
– Take the aerator or spray head apart.
– Remove sediment using a small brush dipped in vinegar.
– Reassemble and screw the aerator back on to the faucet.
Avoid Clogged Drains
The following best practices will help prevent a clogged kitchen sink:
– Be selective about what goes in your garbage disposal. Never put hard-to-grind, stringy or fibrous waste down the garbage disposal. That means no poultry skin, carrots, celery or banana peels.
– Run cold water down the drain for 15 seconds both before and after using your garbage disposal.
– Never pour liquid grease down the drain. Instead, let it solidify a bit, then wipe it from your pots and pans with a paper towel, which you then dispose of in the trash.
Maintain Your Garbage Disposal
Keep your garbage disposal clog and odor free with these simple steps:
– Grind citrus peels or ice cubes in the disposal for about 30 seconds.
– With the disposal running, pour in a small amount of dish detergent.
– Rinse away remaining debris by running cold water for 30 seconds.
Bathroom and kitchen upgrades are among the most popular home renovations, but not just because the improvements are likely to increase the home’s value. Renovations to these high-use areas can enhance the practical enjoyment of your home while adding aesthetic appeal and style.
A Better Bathroom
Bathroom makeovers can take many forms, from simple updates to total overhauls. Consider these common approaches, identified by the home experts at JCPenney Home Services, to determine the best match for your home and needs.
According to the National Association of REALTORS®, more than 60 percent of homeowners prefer a stall shower without a tub. Whether you want to join the ranks of homeowners transforming their outdated tubs to modern showers, need a larger tub to soak away the day or simply want to update the look of your space, converting your tub or shower is a simple way to add functionality while transforming your bathroom.
Aging and Accessibility
More than 200,000 injuries occur in the bathroom each year, according to the National Safety Council. Especially for those with mobility challenges, water and slippery surfaces can be a dangerous combination. If you’re taking on a bathroom upgrade with accessibility in mind, be sure to consider options like slip-resistant flooring, strong grab bars, shower seats and a practical walk-in tub or low-threshold shower base.
If you’re looking for a substantial change, a complete remodel may be your best answer. This approach allows you to integrate a consistent look and style throughout the room and create a truly custom experience. However, a project of this scope often requires professional assistance.
Create a New Kitchen
It’s the hub of the home, so it’s no surprise that many homeowners start with the kitchen when they’re planning functional upgrades. New appliances, countertops and tile work all add to the style and function of a kitchen, but don’t overlook these highly functional features that can make your home more enjoyable.
Features like the faucet and sink, and even refrigerators with ice-makers and water dispensers, can take a real beating through basic everyday use. One way to minimize the wear and tear, and take your kitchen upgrade to the next level, is a water filtration system. Cleaner, clearer water can benefit your home in a number of ways. It eliminates the need for expensive bottled water, produces cleaner, spot-free dishes, lets you save on soap and detergents, results in less build-up on fixtures and helps increase the life of appliances that use water.
Updating the floor of your kitchen is another easy way to upgrade the space, even if it’s the only enhancement you make. For example, JCPenney Home Services offers a broad line of hardwood, laminate and luxury vinyl, all of which are affordable and practical solutions for a high-use area like the kitchen.
If there’s one place in the home where task lighting really matters, it’s the kitchen. Proper lighting can help ensure you can see well for safe food handling. It also helps set the mood for the room, whether it’s a lively gathering with guests or a quiet candlelit meal at your eat-in nook. You can create a focal point with exquisite fixture over a feature like an island then be sure to complement your standout fixtures with recessed lights on multiple switches with dimmers so you can customize the lighting as needed.
Planning Your Project
Define your desires. Although obvious, many homeowners find this to be among the most challenging aspects of a renovation. Start by determining the scope of your project. It may be just a new tub or shower, or it may be the entire kitchen. Some homeowners find it helpful to consider their project in terms of must-haves and nice-to-haves so it’s easier to make adjustments as obstacles or finances require.
Set a budget. The easiest way to overspend on a renovation is to go into it without an established budget. If you specify what you can afford from the outset and plan against that budget every step of the way, you’re more likely to feel satisfied with your investment in the long run.
Expect the unexpected. If possible, review a blueprint of your home (or have your contractor take a look) to identify details behind the wall, like the layout of the plumbing and electric lines, which can be costly to relocate. It’s also a good idea to take a thorough inventory of your current space so you’re aware of any damage or wear that will need repaired before you begin.
Hire the help (or not). With some preliminary information on the complexity of the job and a better idea of exactly what you’re hoping to accomplish, you should be able to make a decision about whether the project is something you’re prepared to tackle on your own or if hiring professionals is more likely to provide the results you’re seeking.
Monitor progress. Even if you’re handling the project on your own, it’s a good idea to continually monitor the project in terms of budget, timeline and quality of work. It’s easier to make corrections as you go than to get to the end and discover a problem that needs reworking.
Visual tricks are a very important tool of interior design. Colors, light, furniture and decorative pieces can be arranged the right way to make a statement or to make a space look smaller…or bigger. You no longer have to sacrifice comfort because you live in a small, enclosed place. With a few visual tricks and some key elements, any room can appear bigger than it really is.
The key is to think ahead and make buying and decorating decisions with one thing in mind-make the room appear more spacious and more comfortable. To do so, there are three main elements to take into consideration: color, decoration and organization.
Light hues will open up the space, and painting the walls white will definitely maximize that effect.
Go monochromatic. If all white doesn’t work for your lifestyle, try painting the walls, trim and detailing in different shades of one color. Pick from off-white, beige, any pastel or neutral color.
Match the color of the furniture with the color of the walls. Stay away from contrasting colors, especially in big pieces such as the sofa.
Medium-size furniture pieces work better than a big, prominent one. Avoid having many small pieces scattered all over the room, and arrange furniture at an angle to add visual interest to the place.
Track or recessed lighting works best for small spaces. Use a torchiere lamp to bounce light off the ceiling, and get rid of heavy drapery. Let the natural light come in as much as possible.
Mirrors are also a great way to make a room feel and look bigger. A big wall mirror right in front of a window will reflect light and color; so will a collection of smaller ones, distributed along one wall.
Any small space – even a tiny closet – will look bigger if it’s clutter-free. Get rid of little furniture dispersed all over, and move around pieces that block the view and walkway space.
Designers recommend getting pieces of furniture with open arms and legs, as well as small glass-top tables, so the light can filter through.
Make the most out of the space with multifunctional furniture. Invest in good quality pieces such as drop-leaf or removable-leaf tables and ottomans for storage and sitting purposes, among others.
Choosing whether to rent or own a home is not an easy decision. It requires you to carefully examine the factors and costs associated with each option. Which is better? That depends.
Your unique economic situation, lifestyle and goals play the largest part in deciding what is better for you. It’s important to go into your calculations with open eyes. As much as you want a home, you may not be able to afford it. Or it may not be the right decision for the way you like to live.
Factors To Consider When Buying/Renting a Home
The following four points are the largest factors to consider when weighing the pros and cons of home ownership vs. rental.
1) What are the total costs?
Many people look at the economics of home-ownership as a mortgage payment only. In reality there are insurance, repairs, property tax, homeowners association dues etc. that all have to be factored in to your monthly costs. Check out this calculator from the New York Times to see more.
Use a calculator and compare to see if:
- The monthly cost as a homeowner is less than renting.
- You can afford the monthly cost (if it works out more than renting in your area)
- Saving a 10-20% down-payment is feasible for you.
If owning a home definitely the way to go for you, you need to be able to answer the above questions definitively.
2) What is important to you?
Are you more interested in building for the future, or reducing your financial risk until you can figure out a plan? You may want to own if you are thinking about starting a family. But as someone who is single, you may enjoy your freedom and having less financial debt. (Even if it is building your net worth in the long run)
Undoubtedly, buying a house only makes sense if you plan to set up roots. If you plan to move within (or every) 5 years, your transaction costs will likely bring the equity you build in your house to zero. Thus diminishing your upside while carrying all of the liabilities that come along with home ownership. Owning a home is a smart decision if you plan to stay for 10 years or more.
3) What is your preferred lifestyle?
Do you want to build a career in a specific city or travel around? Do you have long-term goals in mind? It’s okay if you don’t. The most important part is being aware of where you are at. You may want to get some international work experience or try your luck in another part of the country. Or not.
Really think about what you want. You could lose some serious money if you buy a house and sell within a few years because you decide it isn’t for you.
4) What are the opportunity costs?
Think about the pros and cons of home-ownership. On one hand, you will always have a home base. On the other, you have a property that ties you down to a geographical location. Can you make more money in another city? With a home, you can’t move to pursue those opportunities.
If rent is equal to monthly payments as an owner, think about the opportunity costs of having all of your money tied up in the house. For example, some investors may rent and opt to invest their money in the stock-market or other investments in their portfolio. Can you make higher percentage returns yearly with the money you would be using for a down payment?
Rent vs Buying
The above were things you will want to consider. If you need to be realistic to make the right decision about renting vs owning a home. The below two situations may help if you aren’t able to come to a conclusion.
When is Renting a Home Better?
Despite popular belief, owning a home is not always the best decision. Let’s not be black and white. It depends on your particular situation.
You may want to rent if:
- You want to travel and set-up shop in different places every few years.
- You do not have the job or financial security to (realistically) guarantee payments for years to come.
- You have demonstrated the ability to make better financial returns through other investments.
There are other factors. However, this is a good starting point to help you determine your argument for renting versus owning a home. The benefit of renting is not being tied down to a geographic location and being able to leave when your lease runs up.
When is Owning a Home Better?
Owning a home is the long-term game. You need to have your goals in mind and understand if you can afford it.
You may want own if:
- You are okay with staying in one place for 10 years or more.
- You have the financial stability to afford the home (and float payments if you lose your job)
- You want to leverage your home as an investment property down the line (through rental)
Owning a home gives you an anchor. It helps you stay grounded by having a home base. At the same time, you can increase your upward potential by leveraging the home as an investment property.
Choosing to rent or own your home is a big decision. It depends on your individual situation and vision for the future. In short, owning is traditionally the better long-term strategy. However, that’s not to say that you can’t do as good or better with the right investment portfolio.
Before jumping into anything, analyze yourself. Think hard about where you are and what you want for the future. Speak to a realtor and see if they have any advice for your individual situation.
If you are looking at purchasing property in the area, give me a call. I’d love to discuss your options and see if buying is the right path for you.
I believe that. In fact, I know that. Starting my start-up career at Zillow (see this for some perspective) was a very good and very bad pre-cursor for my entrepreneurial journey over the past few years.
It was great in the fact that I now KNOW building a technology business at massive scale is possible; I’ve seen it done from the inside. Most people seriously question whether building something that reaches millions of consumers is possible, because they haven’t seen it with their own eyes
It was bad in the fact that, prior to starting my own company
I thought start-ups were easy. As an employee at Zillow, sure there were challenges, but from my perspective there was never any real risk the company wouldn’t succeed. That’s why I took a personal loan when I left in 2010 to buy my options; I knew there was basically zero chance I’d end up on the short end of the stick (and I didn’t). Of course, Zillow’s not the average start-up. Most start-ups don’t have $6 million in funding pre-launch, a team of 50+ without having shipped a product, or a founder with a multi billion dollar company that transformed an entire industry under his belt.
They seek product feedback and strategy. They want to know about problems and incentives for agents as well as consumers. They are looking to get a handle at how to gain adoption, traction, and partnerships in this massively complex and wide-reaching industry we operate in.
Many have no prior history in the industry. Others were agents at one time or another. Still others grew up in a real estate family.
I’ve seen 10 years of what has worked, and what hasn’t. When I hear a pitch or play with a product, I tell it how I see it, regardless of whether that’s what the founder wants to hear. Sometimes, it doesn’t validate their strategy.