Damage-Free Decor Ideas For Your Home

You just moved into a new apartment and aren’t sure how to decorate your new space without damaging the walls and risking to lose the security deposit? Or maybe you are a homeowner and want to preserve the integrity of your space and reverting a space back to its original might be to costly or time-consuming for you? Luckily there are plenty of damage-free decorating options that will allow you to leave your (temporary) mark on your home. Here’s a list that will help you turn your house or apartment into a home, without causing damage:

Temporary Wallpaper

If you have dreams of an accent wall with popping color or patterns but don’t want to make a permanent change, consider purchasing temporary wallpaper.  This type of wallpaper peels off just as easily as it goes on. It’s an easy way to show off your personal style.

Decals

Another option for damage-free wall decoration are wall decals. The difference to wallpaper is that they won’t cover an entire surface area corner to corner, they are basically pieces. Wall decals come in a variety of designs from silhouettes, quotes, trees and much more. Kids’ rooms are great spaces to use decals because as children grow, their room decor will change with them. Decals are great because they give you flexibility and once you are moving to another apartment or are ready to sell your house – just peel that  lime green decal of the wall.

Shelves

If you are looking to add more storage or having more space to add pictures, books and plants, stand-alone shelving units are a great option to add charm and utility to your home. Free-standing, affordable shelves or bookcases can be found in thrift stores, garage sales or any other furniture store.

String Lights

String lights

are a wonderful tool to decorate. When you think of the word ambience, this is what they mean, so don’t feel like these are limited to use during Christmas or in college dorms. When added to an existing piece, these lights can soften the most utilitarian space into a glowing place to rest. If possible, opt for battery-operated lights as they allow for more freedom in the placement.

Washi Tape

If you are stationery geek you already know what I’m talking about. If not, it’s basically glamorous masking tape and it comes in so many designs that you’ll lose your mind. Washi tape is inexpensive and available at most craft stores or online.  Most importantly Washi tape is damage free and easily removable. But besides not damaging your walls, it also won’t damage what you are hanging. A quick Google Image search reveals all the creative ways people have used washi tape for decorating.

Command strips

No matter if you plan to hang up pictures or lights or tapestries: command strips are your best friend! They can do everything from hang curtain rods to organizing an entryway with hooks and shelves to hold keys, bags, coats and mail. All this without holes in your drywall!

Use the space you have, add colorful pillows or rugs, stack books vertically to use them under a lamp or as a side table and add flowers or small plants in your home.

By: Patricia Madigan

Allergies During The Holiday Season?

There’s plenty to love about having a live Christmas tree in your home. They’re better for the environment than artificial trees and they give your home that pine-fresh scent. Unfortunately you aren’t the only one who loves the scent of freshly-cut balsam for the holidays. Christmas trees often harbor hazardous allergens that can greatly reduce the quality of air in your home and cause allergic reactions for you and your loved ones.

If you and your family have been coughing and sneezing nonstop since putting up your tree, you might be experiencing Christmas tree syndrome — an actual allergic reaction to mold spores that piggyback on live trees. The reaction is upper respiratory in nature, and sometimes quite severe. It’s hard to believe a beautifully trimmed tree that fills could make your family sick, but it’s not a totally uncommon occurrence.

Although Christmas trees do not produce pollen in the winter, mold, dust, pollen and other allergen spores that have collected on the tree while in the field or on the sales lot can cause allergic reactions. A 2011 study performed by staff at the SUNY Upstate Medical University and published in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology found that a small sample of Christmas trees carried about 50 types of mold which can multiply rapidly in the cozy warmth of your living room, two-thirds of which could cause hay fever-like symptoms.

Here are a few tips to help you cut the Christmas mold level in your home, without giving up the tree:

1. Have your real tree, but don’t bring it inside right away. Wash your tree first with the garden hose. Set the nozzle for a hard spray to get into all those little nooks and crannies on the trunk. Wipe the trunk thoroughly with a solution of warm water and bleach (1 part bleach to 20 parts water) and let it dry in the sun before bringing it in your house.

2. The longer the tree is in your home, the higher the mold level. If those in your household are prone to mold allergy reaction, but don’t want to give up the Christmas tree, put the tree up Christmas Eve and take it down on New Year’s Day. Try to only keep a live tree in your home 4-7 days max.

3. Store all of your Christmas ornaments and decorations in plastic containers (instead of cardboard ones) to keep the dust off them.

4. Run an air purifier in the same room as the live tree. Cleaner air is key during the holidays and in order to reduce your mold exposure and lessen the effects of your tree allergies.

5. Buy an artificial tree: unless you store it in a sealed plastic bag, it will still need a good shaking outside when it’s brought out of storage each year to relieve it of dust.

Other indoor air toxins are volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Especially during holiday season candles create a festive atmosphere. However, candles that are made out of paraffin are most likely to emit carcinogenic soot and particulate matter and can aggravate asthma symptoms. If you still want that ‘pumpkin pie’ scent in your home, buy natural candle alternatives that are made with vegetable/based wax and cotton wicks. Trip wicks to one-eighth of an inch and avoid burning candles in drafty areas.

For more information about indoor air quality and allergies click here and here .

2017 Homebuyer Survey Contains Valuable Information For Agents And Sellers

One of the most useful research projects of the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) is the annual survey of homebuyers and sellers. It is particularly useful because it shows sellers and their agents what works and what sources buyers use to find their new homes.

This is the 36th year that NAR has conducted an annual survey of those who have purchased and sold homes. The most recent version (2017 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers) became available in November of this year. The information is based on answers to a 131-question survey mailed to a random sample of 145,800 consumers who purchased a home between July 2016 and June 2017. (Names and addresses were provided by Experian, a company that maintains an extensive database of recent homebuyers that is derived from county records.) After accounting for undeliverable surveys, there was a 5.6 percent response rate.

In 2016, first-time homebuyers constituted 32 percent of the market. That was the lowest participation rate by first-time buyers since 1987 (30%). This year, 2017, the first-time buyer rate was 34%. Geographically, the highest percentage of first-time buyers was in the northeast (43%). Over the years the historic norms for the country have been in the 40% range. As more low-downpayment mortgage programs come into the market, there may be a good chance of returning to those norms.

The most useful information for sellers and their agents is to be found in the section on the home search process. While the survey results are not significantly different from those of recent years, the trends continue. For example, this year 86 percent of buyers said that they used the internet frequently during the search process. In 2003 that number was only 42%. This past year 55% of buyers said that they frequently used a mobile or tablet application. That is a newer and growing phenomenon. (Two years ago it was 41 %.) 68% of buyers said that they frequently relied on a real estate agent for information.

Forty-two percent of buyers went to the internet as the first step in the home search process. 17% contacted a real estate agent first, and 6% began by driving through neighborhoods looking for homes for sale. How can driving around be an option? Half the homes purchased were within 15 miles of the buyers’ previous residence. Interestingly, 8% of home buyers began the process by going to a bank or mortgage company.

Buyers use multiple sources of information in the process of looking for a home. Far and away the most used sources are on-line websites (95%) and real estate agents (89%). Mobile or tablet applications (74%) have replaced yard signs as the third most used source of information. Still though, 48% of buyers indicate that yard signs are one of their sources of information. Only 15% of buyers indicate that they used newspaper ads as an information source. A mere 2% said that they garnered information from television.

While there are a lot of intriguing data about the sources of information used by prospective homebuyers, certainly the most relevant has to do with where they actually found the home that they ultimately purchased. This year the information source that was highest in that category (49%) was the internet. Agents are second at 31%. Note that this is not to say that buyers bought their home through the internet. The typical scenario would be that a consumer sees the home on the internet, and then contacts his or her agent. 88% of those who used the internet to search purchased their home through an agent.

The differences in a little more than a decade are fascinating. In 2001, 48 percent of buyers learned about their home through a real estate agent, and only 8 percent found their home on the internet. The times they have changed.

Some things, though, remain persistently the same — or close to it. In 2001, a yard sign was the third most likely source of information leading to the home that was purchased (15%). And this year? It is still the third leading source at 7%, but this is now the fourth time in the survey history that it has been lower than double digits. Print media may not be dead, but it has shrunk to insignificance in this arena. In 2001, 7% of homebuyers found the home they ultimately purchased through a newspaper ad; in 2017, it was only 1%. It has been that way for five years now. Fewer than 1% found their home through a home book or magazine.

The 2017 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers shows what works. It is a valuable resource.

 

By: Bob Hunt

9 Ways to Save for a Down Payment

You’ve found the perfect house. Interest rates are still low. There’s just one thing standing between you and your dream home: a down payment.

Don’t abandon your homeownership dreams just yet. Here are nine ways to come up with the cash for your new home.

1. Pay Off Your Credit Cards
Paying bills will help in your hunt for down payment money. When you carry a credit card balance, the ever-accumulating interest charges mean more of your money goes to the card company each month. Keep that cash for yourself by cutting your debt load.

With the “avalanche” method, you prioritize your debts and pay the most on the one with the highest interest rate. Once that’s paid, shift your focus to the next highest rate and so on. You’ll get the most money-sucking credit card bills out of the way more quickly, freeing up more of your income to go toward building your savings.

2. Ladder CDs to Boost Savings
Once you have a few extra bucks, put it to work making more money for you. Certificates of deposit are low-risk and relatively accessible. But when interest rates are low, the return isn’t always what a saver hopes. You can maximize the earning power of CDs by opening different certificates at varying maturity dates.

For example, instead of buying one big CD, spread your money into three-month, six-month and one-year certificates. Known as laddering, this gives you flexibility to adjust your savings as rates change. Laddering allows you to lock in when rates are high and when rates are not so good. The process keeps you from being stuck for too long with low earnings.

3. Use Special Programs
There are many programs for homebuyers struggling to save for a down payment, especially for first-time homebuyers. Borrowers in a wide range of incomes, locales and professional groups may have access to aid from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the government-sponsored offices that buy mortgages and package them as investments. Various nonprofit and community groups also lend a hand to buyers struggling to put money down on a home. And don’t forget about assistance from state agencies.

4. Tap Your IRA
If you’re looking to buy your first home, let the IRS help. Tax laws allow you to use up to $10,000 in IRA funds as a down payment if you’ve never owned a house. If you’re married and you both are first-time buyers, you each can pull from your retirement accounts, meaning a potential $20,000 down payment.

Even better is the IRS definition of “first-time homebuyer.” Technically, you don’t have to be purchasing your very first home. You qualify under the tax rules as long as you (or your spouse) did not own a principal residence at any time during the two years prior to the purchase of the new home. In these instances, Uncle Sam waives the penalty for early withdrawal, but you may owe tax on the money, depending on the type of IRA.

5. Get a Gift
Aunt Edna always liked you best. Take advantage of that favored family status and ask her to make a present of your down payment. Tax law allows gifts of several thousand dollars a year to be bestowed without tax consequences to either the giver or recipient. The gift-exclusion amount is $14,000 for 2017 and is adjusted annually for inflation.

The gift exclusion isn’t limited to relatives. The monetary present can be from anyone, so track down a well-off friend now.

6. Ask for a Raise
No luck finding a benefactor? Then maybe it’s time to ask your boss for more money. Just make sure you do your homework beforehand and base your request for a salary increase on your accomplishments rather than your needs.

7. Get a Second Job
Boss turned down your request for a raise? Moonlighting could help you earn the extra money. This option makes the most sense for those who are young and not yet fully established in their professional lives.

8. Look for Lost Money
Do you have any money stashed somewhere? Around $23.5 billion worth of matured savings bonds remains unredeemed, according to the Treasury Department, ignored by owners and not earning a penny of interest. Make sure your bonds and other investments are still adding to your net worth.

You could also have money languishing in an old bank account somewhere. You can file a claim with the Treasury to claim lost, stolen or destroyed savings bonds, or check the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators to see if you have any missing money.

9. Sell Unwanted Items
You likely have some used furniture you no longer use or old clothes that are no longer in style. Sell it to make a few more bucks to use for your down payment.

You can sell your items on sites like Craigslist, eBay, Facebook and Amazon to turn your trash into someone else’s treasure.

 

Resource: RisMedia.com

Making Your Home Senior Friendly

After researching all of your senior care living options, you and your parents have decided that home care is the best option. Now it’s time to prepare your house for proper home care. Below are the basic points that you should be aware of:

1. Space

Ideally you would want to have their bedroom on the first floor of the house. If this isn’t an option, consider turning a dining room or office into a bedroom. You want to have enough privacy for everyone to feel comfortable. Adding an extra room could easily cost you tens of thousands of dollars. Compared with the costs of assisted living however this might be cheaper in the long run.

2. Floors

Falls can be very dangerous for older adults and can result in a major injury. Make all floors slip-resistant by adding anti-slip mats under throw rugs or remove rugs altogether. Eliminate or reduce trip points like thresholds as they are a potential safety issue as well. If you or your kids are used to leaving objects lying on the floor, it is time to change that habit. Pick a spot for a basket that is out of the way and put all things that end up lying on the floor into that basket.

3. Grib

Replace doorknobs and faucets with lever-style hardware as older adults might not have the strength to use them. You might even want to invest in an automatic door opener or easy window handle

.

4. Lighting

A dark room is basically an invitation to fall, so make sure there’s adequate lighting not only in every room, but also in the hallways and entryways. Lighting should be bright but not harsh or blinding.

5. Stairs

If possible create a situation where stairs aren’t needed as mentioned before. If that’s not an option, install a handrailing and consider an electric stair-climbing chair lift. Either way, having the right lighting in the stairway area is also critical. You want to have clearly defined steps that show where the edge of the tread is.

6. Baths

Grab bars in the shower, tub, besides the toilet or other places where someone may need a helping hand can be a potential lifesaver when it comes to preventing falls. No-slip adhesive strips are great to decrease the risk of slippery bathroom areas and steps. You might want to install a walk-in bathtub as those are easier to step into.

Most important point: try to make it just like home! If your parents have a pet, make room for it in your house if possible. Consider bringing some of your elder’s furniture into your home, like their favorite recliner. This will make them feel more at home right from the beginning.

You can find more information on how to make your house ready for senior home care here

and here.

By: Patricia Madigan