How To Prepare For The Unknown When Buying A Home

“You never know what’s behind the walls.” This renovation mantra is so important and should be tattooed on the forearm of everyone about to embark on renovation or even small updates to their home. Before you get started on renovations, protect yourself by taking a few key steps.

Load-bearing walls

Many times a renovation has gone off the rails because a load-bearing wall made it difficult and expensive, or darn near impossible, to move. While you may not be able to eliminate every potential surprise, you can give yourself a leg up by hiring a professional to take a look before you buy, and certainly before you swing the hammer.

“An experienced general contractor can do an initial consultation and assess your wall for as little as $100,” builder Jeff Andreson told Houzz. An architect is another possibility because they may approach the situation differently, which could save you money. “A structural engineer may also be required,” and is often your best bet for achieving peace of mind.


“Homebuyer inspections are the rule these days,” said Angie’s List. “Sometimes plumbers are called in to do a more thorough follow up inspection. Unfortunately, this often happens after the home has already been purchased.”

And the issues can be costly. Hiring a plumber to check everything out before you purchase could uncover problems throughout the house, from the main sewer line to water heaters that could cause extensive damage if they leak or burst, to leaky toilets. “One problem homeowners often neglect to have fixed is a leak at the base of a toilet,” they said. “The leak often appears small or insignificant, but over time the water will begin to rot the subfloor and even get between the subfloor and the finished floor. Someone unaware of the damage this kind of problem can create, may try to seal this themselves, sometimes making it worse.”


If you have a home inspection, which you obviously should ALWAYS do, your inspector will look for signs of foundation damage. But, there are things you can look for ahead of the inspection that may impact your decision to purchase, such as: cracks in exterior and interior walls, cracks in floors, gaps around windows and doors, and doors that stick. Foundation issues can arise regardless of the age of the home, and could be indicative of a serious problem in places that are prone to earthquakes. But you also want to take them seriously in areas with known soil issues, like Texas. A few settlement cracks may be normal and safe, but you need an inspector to tell you one way or the other. Foundation repair can be expensive, something to keep in mind when you consider the price of the home.”


Back to the old knob-and-tube situation. If someone has deliberately tried to hide illegal or dangerous wiring, that’s obviously a huge issue, both ethically and financially. And, it’s one you likely won’t find out about until you get inside the walls. Also, you may or may not have recourse against the seller since it will be difficult to prove there was knowledge that necessitated disclosure. Even in a newer home, issues with the way electrical fixtures were installed could make what you thought was a quick and easy update into a larger undertaking.

The best way to prepare for any type of renovation:

  • Add time to any job – You just never know what’s going to come up

  • Research potential issues so you’re better prepared to roll with whatever comes your way

  • Have a Plan B – See first bullet point

  • Set aside extra money

Most importantly: Establish a good relationship with your contractor – When problems or unexpected issues arise, it may just be your good humor and the rapport you have established with your contractor that keeps you at the top of his schedule instead of having to wait weeks or longer to get your updates done.

Source: Realty Times

Hidden Gems Around Arizona

Arizona offers its lovely desert life for those who love the sun, enjoy nostalgic architecture, and love to feel like they are in the wild wild west. Specifically speaking, Phoenix and all of the other major cities are thriving with incredible things to do. I know, when you think of Arizona, it might not seem so appealing at first, but there is a reason so many people are flocking their way over to this incredible state. With all of these new visitors and movers, it might be interesting to find the hidden gems around the area. Sure, the mainstream things to do will keep you and your friends and family occupied, but seeking that hidden layer of Arizona is what it’s all about! Here are some of the best hidden gems hidden around Arizona.

Arizona Desert Mountain Jeep Tours

What better way to step into Arizona and get to know the place than to hop into a jeep and drive right into the desert. The Arizona Desert Mountain Jeep Tours are not your ordinary tour, either. This tour will give you a first hand experience as to how gorgeous and incredible the desert really can be. Once in the rugged, open aired jeep, you can sit in amazement as the dry air runs through your hair. What makes it a hidden gem though, is the southwestern cookout they offer. This is a barbeque made just for you and your friends deep within the Sonoran Desert. Afterwards, you can top it off with a gorgeous sunset tour. Keep in mind, these trips can last up to 3 hours. This can all be located in Scottsdale, Arizona.

The Desert Botanical Garden

The Desert Botanical Garden is where you can take your friends and family to cool off. Interestingly enough, the Desert Botanical Gardens is about 10 degrees cooler than the rest of the city of Phoenix. This is thanks to strategically placed water features that act as a coolant for the area. While you are cooling down, you can walk around and really see what makes the desert life so beautiful and outrageous. This is definitely a good spot if you are aiming to convince friends or family to move out to Phoenix, Arizona.

Saguaro Lake

There’s nothing quite like some refreshing water to swim in on a hot summer day in Arizona. The Saguaro Lake is the perfect spot to take a dip. This can also be a great spot to take your friends fishing. No matter, you will find bliss and peace here. You can also find yourself ramping things up with a live cruise and music. Take a nice sunset cruise that will take you through the lake and some forests, too – all while being serenaded by some amazing local music. Nothing quite beats the view when the sun starts to fall, and the sky starts to glow orange and purple. Major win.

Flagstaff Extreme Adventure Course

Do you like speed? Do you also like flying through the air and getting your adrenaline pumping? Then this place might just be the spot for you. The ziplining course offers more than 30 exhilarating and adventurous ziplines that will help you satisfy your adrenaline cravings. Just to give you and idea, you could find yourself suspended from just 15 feet to 80 feet high in the air! You will also be monkeying around by climbing ladders and bridges that will test your strength and balance. Just know that this is not considered an ‘easy’ zip line experience. Be sure to check out local deals online for group discounts for your family or friends to sling along. You will be trained briefly beforehand, and will not have to worry about going off course due to it being self guided.

Dick’s Hideaway

Funny enough, this is a delicious restaurant that is tucked away and hidden to even the locals. It has no sign and tries to go full incognito by hiding right next to a hardware store. Dick’s Hideaway has delicious menu choices for each breakfast, lunch and dinner. They try to aim for a more casual, rustic, and upscale feel in the restaurant itself, so you can pretty much wear whatever makes you comfortable to the place. They have a New Mexican style cuisine that will sit in your taste buds until the next time you come back. They also have burgers, salads, steaks, and fresh fish. It is truly one of Phoenix, Arizona’s hidden gems. 

It boils down to exploration in Arizona. If you have that drive to seek more and find the hidden gems, you will find many and have a great time doing so. From amazing eateries, to great hikes, to romantic getaways. You never know what Arizona can bring to you on any given day. If you truly want to dive deeper into Arizona’s secrets, try asking the locals. They will tell you about the real go-to spots that will make Arizona be the number 1 spot to be! Just make sure to pack your sunscreen, and some nice, cold water. You’re going to need it once the heat kicks up. Do not worry though, the adventures will all be worth it!

By: Jeremy Alderman, ZOG Digital

3 Reasons Why Spring Is Best for Selling Your Home

It’s spring and that means the real estate market is in full force throughout the valley. If you have been thinking of selling your home this year, now is the perfect time!

Here are 3 reasons why spring is the perfect time to sell your home:

1. More Convenient for Buyers

Spring is a much better time of year for most buyers to start focusing on moving. Because most buyers want to get settled into a new home before a school year begins, buying in the spring and having the summer to get adjusted appeals to many families. Right now we have the perfect weather, but don’t be fooled, the hot summer will come and no one wants to be moving during 100F. Right now more buyers are out there looking at homes in the spring. And more buyers mean more foot traffic to your home and more opportunities for you to sell your home in a timely manner.

2. Better Curb Appeal

Although we have beautiful weather all year round, it’s not easy to keep up with all the flowers and trees. Lush green grass and beautiful azalea busher.. every buyer falls in love with that! Sellers can take advantage of this “free” bonus of better curb appeal in the spring. You can highlight your home’s best features and draw in buyers who can imagine themselves living there. Buyers can imagine themselves sitting out under the patio with a light breeze going and they are much more easily drawn to buy.

3. Higher Prices

The spring is blooming not only with flowers, but also with buyers. More buyers means a higher change for multiple offers and, ultimately, a higher sales price for you.

5 Reasons Why Your First Home Should be an Investment Property

If you’re young and you’re looking to purchase a new home to live in, maybe you should consider turning your first home into an investment property. While most people wait until after they’ve bought their first or second home to begin investing in real estate, you could start much sooner than you think. We’ll explain why jumping into the real estate investing game might be a good idea.

Many people, especially in the wake of the mortgage crisis, have found themselves wondering: “Is buying a house a good investment?” One way to ease your worries about whether buying a house will pay off is by renting out the first home you buy. By turning your home into an investment property, you can leverage your less-than-perfect credit, less-than-perfect lifestyle and limited responsibilities into an investment. All it takes is a little bit of smarts and real estate shrewdness.

The idea of making your first home an investment goes against the general notions of personal finance. In fact it goes against how most people approach post-college life. The typical financial timeline for your average American adult might look like this:

  • College

  • First Job

  • First rental

  • Second/third rental

  • Marriage

  • Starter Home

  • Children

  • Second Home

  • Education

  • Investments

There’s nothing wrong with following that timeline, since it can give you plenty of time to build credit, save money and enjoy being young. But if you’re a 22-year-old college graduate with a solid job (good for you), waiting until you’re well into your 30s or 40s to start investing might not be wise.

Here are five reasons why you should entertain the idea of investing in real estate while you’re still young.

1. You’re Young

Being young and independent can be pretty amazing. You can make your own rules, live where you want, buy what you want and travel whenever you want. But that can get old pretty quickly, especially if you have other goals in mind.

All the money you’re currently spending “living the life” while living in a crappy apartment could be spent on something else. Saving money and building credit aren’t impossible and they’re part of what you’ll need to qualify for a mortgage loan (more on that below). Your current lifestyle might actually allow you to cut costs in a way that might not be possible later in life when you have larger obligations.

If you can learn how to effectively manage your money, you can come up with enough cash for a down payment.

2. Real Estate Prices

According to recent reports from National Association of Realtors home prices are on the rise. However, most real estate markets present many bargains to potential buyers in the form of distressed sales. Distressed sales are homes or properties that have usually been foreclosed on that the bank is willing to sell at a loss in order to clear its books. These distressed sales also help drive down the cost of all properties in the area.

There are plenty of distressed homes for sale. Buying one would allow you to own an investment for significantly less than market value, especially as prices begin to rise. Before buying any property, however, it’s important to make sure you purchase a house that you can afford.

3. You’ll Have Another Source of Income

If you are purchasing a property that you plan to rent out, you’ll be able to profit off your investment as soon as you find tenants. Then you can take the money you earn and reinvest it in your property or use it to pay off other bills and debts.

4. FHA Loans

Industry standards say that you’re required to put at least 20% down when buying a house. But if you can’t afford to pay that much, you might be able to purchase an investment property with much less than that by getting an FHA loan.

FHA loans give people who don’t have the greatest credit the chance to become homeowners. If you decide that investing is for you, an FHA loan could be the perfect way to finance the purchase. There is one catch, however, FHA loans require that you live in the property you seek to purchase. To get around that rule, you can purchase a property with up to four rental units and make one unit your primary residence.

5. Changing Demographics

According to a report produced by the Research Institute for Housing America, homeownership among immigrants nationwide is expected to account for 36% of housing growth over the next decade. This is due in large part, according to the report, to the strong desires among immigrants to become homeowners.

As more individuals and families move to become homeowners, property owners have more of an opportunity to capitalize on that shift. Would you want to miss out on the opportunity to own property in a neighborhood that is set to see values skyrocket? Your future self probably wouldn’t. If you think real estate investing could be right for you but you aren’t sure how to start, you may want to find a financial advisor who can help you understand all your options.

If you don’t know how or where to start, we are happy to help! Call us at 480-359-6789 and we can discuss all your options and can connect with you a great lender as well!


7 Spots in Your Home You’ll Probably Forget to Clean This Spring

No matter how thorough a housekeeper you are, there are certain blind spots in every home that are all too easy to overlook. As a result, they get bypassed during your spring-cleaning tirade, growing grimier … and grimier.

Curious where these surprising cesspools lie? Check out this hit list of areas in your home that we’ll bet you forget to clean this spring—and read on to find the best way to give them a thorough scrubbing.

Tile grout

If you have tile floors or countertops, the grout may harbor germs and mold, according to Mark Welstead, president of Rainbow Restoration. Not only is that awfully gross, the grout will eventually start to stain, meaning an even bigger cleaning job down the road.

How to clean it: Wipe the grout with vinegar, then scrub with baking soda and a brush. You can also try scrubbing with borax or olive oil-based Castile soap. For visibly moldy grout, you need to spray on 3% hydrogen peroxide diluted by half in water. Let it sit for 45 minutes, then rinse. Here’s more on how to clean tile grout.

The tops of door frames, cabinets, and bookshelves

If you can’t see it, it doesn’t exist, and therefore doesn’t need cleaning, right? Sadly, no. The tops of door frames, book shelves—anything above your sight line—are primo dust collection spots. If your upper kitchen cabinets don’t go all the way to the ceiling, the tops are probably coated in dust mixed with sticky kitchen grease. Charming!

How to clean it: Wipe door frames and bookshelves with a damp cloth. For greasy gunk, try rubbing dish detergent on, leaving it for a moment, then wiping it off. If that doesn’t cut it, level up to Goo Gone Kitchen Degreaser. For bonus points, take the glass globe off any ceiling lights or fans, and rinse out the dust and dead bugs.

Garbage disposal

You know that thing is gross, right? I mean, think about what you put into it! Beside general yuckiness, it’s important to clean, because, according to Doyle James, president of Mr. Rooter Plumbing, grease buildup can seriously back up your sink drains.

How to clean it: Run hot water and turn on the disposal. Pour a tablespoon of dish soap down, and let the water run for 15 to 30 seconds. Turn off the disposal and let the water run until there are no more bubbles. Scrub the underside of the drain flaps with a brush, hot water, and dish soap.

Toilet brush and holder

You don’t need me to explain why your toilet brush and holder are disgusting. But how do you fix them? What cleans the cleaning implements? There are options other than just throwing them away and buying a new one when it gets nasty (yes, we all know someone who does this).

How to clean it: First off, you can prevent some germ build-up by spraying down the brush with disinfectant right after you use it. Leave it to drip-dry into the toilet, smushed between the seat and the rim of the bowl.

For deep cleaning, you can either soak the brush and holder in a bucket of warm water and a few capfuls of bleach for about 10 minutes, or you can spray them both down with disinfecting spray, let sit for 10 minutes, then rinse with warm water. Yes, bleach is a harsh cleaner, but if you’re going to break out the big guns for anything, it should be the item that scrubs the inside of your toilet bowl.


Curtains are pros at passively catching dust, pet hair, and other particulate gunk from the air. If you’re not cleaning them, you should be.

How to clean it: Start with vacuuming them. And check the tag: Some fabrics can be machine washed, while others need to be hand washed and dried. Very heavy fabrics require a steamer, which you can rent.

Remotes, phones, and keyboards

All three of these items fall into the category of things your grimy fingers touch every day. Research shows that cell phones are dirtier than toilet seats, and keyboards have the added problem of snack crumb infiltration (don’t pretend you don’t know what I’m talking about). Almost nobody is cleaning this stuff often enough.

How to clean it: For your phone, grab a microfiber cleaning cloth (of the kind you’d use to clean glasses) and spray it with a 50/50 combination of distilled water and vinegar or distilled water and isopropyl alcohol. Wipe down your phone thoroughly, without getting it too wet. Use a toothpick or Q-tip to dislodge anything stuck in the crevices.

You can use the same disinfectant and cloth (clean, obviously) on your remote control. Wipe with the cloth, use a Q-tip to go around the buttons, and a toothpick can help with crumbs.

Keyboard time: Flip the keyboard or laptop over and shake it out. Clean with compressed air while the keyboard is upside down, so the dust will fall out. Finally, use a Q-tip and alcohol to wipe anything gross off the keys. To sanitize, you can do a quick swipe with your handy cleaning cloth, lightly moistened with an alcohol or vinegar solution.


When your wintertime fires are over, it’s time to clean your fireplace. If you don’t, you risk a chimney fire, smoke, or even deadly carbon monoxide gas seeping into your home, says Richard Ciresi, owner of Aire Serv in Louisville, KY.

How to clean it: Since cleaning a chimney involves getting up on the roof, and doing it wrong can have serious consequences, you should call in a professional to tackle this task. Once a year is the minimum for having your chimney swept if you want to use your fireplace safely.


How to Create the Perfect Home Office

A research from a recent Harvard Business Review article suggests that people who work their same office schedule from home get more done per day. The employees’ explanation? The quiet environment helped their productivity. Whether you are using your home office for running your own business or just as a place for paying bills, you want to make sure it’s a productive space that you feel comfortable in.

But what does a home office really need? Here are 6 essentials to get the perfect home office:

Pick a Good Location

You will be spending lots of time in your home office, so make sure that you don’t limit yourself to a space that is small, dark and devoid of natural light. Make sure that your home office isn’t in a high-traffic area where you will find yourself distracted. Depending on how you work best, you may need a room that is completely silent, or you may want a room that has some background sound.

Make the Space Functional

Your shelves, desk and storage should be easily accessible but not overwhelming. Consider your workflow and what items you need handy at your desk before investing in specific furniture for your home office. Your home office furniture should complement the rest of your home’s décor. Make the space your own by adding personal touches.

Invest in a Comfortable Chair

You will spend countless hours at your desk, so make sure that you treat yourself to a comfortable and ergonomically correct office chair. Every penny you spend on a chair that keeps you comfortable while working will be worth it. The last thing you want is to develop back problems because you chose a chair that has poor back support.

Give Yourself Access to Light

Make sure that your home office has plenty of natural light, which will allow you to cut down on eyestrain and headaches. Position your computer monitor so that there is no glare from any windows or overhead lighting. Place a small lamp on your desk to give yourself extra light.

Choose a View

Place your desk in a space with a view of more than just a blank white wall. You’ll want something to fix your eyes on while you’re taking a break from work. It would be ideal if your desk could face a window, but if you can’t find an efficient way to position your desk near a window, make sure to decorate with a pleasant painting or other items you would enjoy seeing above your desk. An inspiring quote is another great option.

Manage Your Technology

Unfortunately, there isn’t much you can do to glamorize your computer, printer and speakers, but you can hide the cords. Make sure your equipment is close to outlets for easy access. Encase the cords on your desk in a nice fabric cord cover, and feed the cords into a desk grommet. Then tame the jungle of cords on the floor with tubing or a wire organizer that is attached to your desk and lifts the cords off the floor.

Keep these tips in mind when designing your home office. Doing so will ensure that you are left with a space that you will enjoy working from.

Source: Walmer Enterprises, Inc.

Top 5 Spring Break Ideas for Families Around Phoenix

Lounging by the pool, exploring the city and just spending time with family. For many, this is the ideal spring break. However, it’s hard to know the best way to spend your short amount of time and get the best bang for your buck. Spending spring break in Phoenix means having near-perfect weather while also having access to water activities, sports and so much more. Whether you’re planning on going big this spring break or keeping it low-key, we’ve got the rundown on the best things to do for families around Phoenix. Here’s our list of the top 5 spring break ideas to do in Phoenix that are sure to bring smiles to every member of the family:

Stay at a resort that has something for everyone

One of the best ways to be sure everyone has a good time is finding a resort that has a little bit of everything. The Arizona Grand Resort & Spa is just one of the options that will make this spring break the best one. First, let’s start with the fact that this resort is near family-friendly Phoenix attractions and entertainment including the South Mountain Preserve, Phoenix Zoo and dozens of restaurants. However, for those who want an all-inclusive experience, this resort also has an 18-hole golf course, luxury spa and a seven-acre waterpark. Get a private cabana and enjoy the endless amenities while the kids play in the wave pool. The resort also has six dining options if you want to stay close to your room.

Spend a day at the lake

Many are surprised that Phoenix is surrounded by beautiful lakes perfect for cooling off and water sports. One of the most popular is Saguaro Lake, about 45-minutes from Phoenix in Tonto National Forest. This lake is popular for not only its views, but the activities that come with it. At Saguaro Lake you can rent a boat, kayak or even go Salt River tubing through the desert landscape. Bring a waterproof camera, as you may spot some of the area’s famous wild courses that hang around the river. While in the mountains, take a cruise on the Desert Belle and see what the area’s really about. Some cruises even include live music or wine, how can you beat that?Finish off the day watching the sunset in the Usery Mountain Regional Park on one of the many trails with stunning views of the desert.

Have a wild time at Wildlife World

Going to the zoo may sound the obvious choice, however, the Wildlife World Aquarium & Safari Park is something your family shouldn’t miss. With a giraffe feeding station, loray parrot feeding and more wildlife encounters, photos from this spring break will be epic. Be sure to hop on the skyride for a birds-eye view of the park. Other rides include an Australian boat ride, family-friendly roller coaster and zip line. After your safari adventure, try the delicious Dillon’s world-famous K.C.-style BBQ with a stunning view of the aquarium while dining.

Make it to a game or two

Phoenix is a destination for sporting events that bring millions of fans to the desert escape. One of the most popular sporting events each year is Cactus League Spring Training, where MLB teams around the country come to practice for the season. Whether you’re a fan of the Diamondbacks hometeam, Chicago Cubs or another baseball team, you can see them right here in the Valley of the Sun. Stadiums are located in Phoenix, Scottsdale, Mesa and Tempe with games available nearly everyday into March. Be sure to get your tickets early and check the site for special promotions.

Don’t forget desert

If you’re thinking of day trips outside of Phoenix, Sedona is a must-see with things to do for the whole family. While on the way to the red rock town, make a stop at Rock Springs Cafe in Black City Canyon, about an hour drive north of Phoenix. With the best pie in the state and local shopping, this is the perfect stop on the way out of the city. Once in Sedona, the family will love hiking the famous Cathedral Rock trail. You’ll also want to check out the Pink Jeep Tours, which give a variety tours around the rugged yet peaceful land. One of the most popular Pink Jeep Tours will even take guests to ancient ruins, giving a bit of a history lesson on your spring break adventure. Then, treat yourself again to prickly pear ice cream (or dozens of other flavors) at Black Cow Cafe. Or, have dinner at the dozens of restaurants lining the city’s charming streets.

Now that you have the breakdown on what’s hot to do in Phoenix this spring break, get booking. These are activities you don’t want to miss out on. Don’t forget the swimsuit and sunscreen and have a blast!

By: Jeremy Alderman, ZOG Digital

How to Make Your Home Pet Friendly

Pets are more than just animals. Our furry, feathered, and finned friends require time, attention, and as safe and comfortable a home as we do. “Most people don’t think about pets when buying or building houses—not even the pet owners themselves,” says David Beart of, a Canadian company that will start building “the world’s most pet-friendly house” at the end of this year. “Over half of all homes have pets living in them, but animals are still an afterthought when it comes to home improvements,” says Beart. “What I really want to get across is much more than just creating the world’s most pet-friendly house,” Beart adds. “It’s about making people think of pets with importance rather than as possessions, or even disposable.”

When you’re planning a home for both you and your pets, consider their particular needs. Think about whether you’re putting your door-dashing dog on a high-traffic street. Will your protective pup go postal on guests? How can you make your multi-story home comfortable for your elderly dog? What common household items are hazardous to pets and not humans? (Last year, the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (APCC) handled more than 140,000 cases of pets exposed to toxic substances and hazardous things in their own homes.) Keep reading to learn what you should be looking for, and how a little planning can go a long way to help you streamline your daily routine and keep your pet safe and happy.

All-Fours Inspection

Try to think like your pet to get a sense of what might be dangerous to them. The pros at Purina suggest that the best way to start is by taking “a puppy’s eye-view” of things. You have to put yourself in your pet’s place—and get down on all fours—to take a look around. Make sure you inspect areas that your pet can access by way of climbing or jumping. You’d be surprised at the dangers a periodic inspection of your home can reveal. Here are some hazards to look for (although they may not be all you find):

•Look for choking, strangulation, electrocution, and suffocation hazards. Keep window treatment cords short and cut through any loops, and unplug or cover wires and electrical cords.

•Don’t leave human foods and medications where pets can access them. Eliminate “ladders” that curious pets can climb to access elevated areas like countertops and tabletops. Discard perishable trash daily to keep pets from rummaging through it. Between trips to the curb, keep trash odors (and pet temptation) low with baking soda and a tight-fitting lid. One pet-owner favorite is the stainless steel and rubber Vipp Trash Can with foot-pedal.

If pets get into the trash, they can chew chicken bones into shards, get to choking hazards like fruit seeds and cores—and your house is going to be a mess. Note that many fruit seeds contain natural contaminants that can result in potentially fatal cyanide poisoning in dogs: Grapes and raisins can cause kidney failure, caffeine in coffee grinds and chocolate are also toxic, sugar-free foods and gums containing Xylitol can cause liver failure, and nutmeg can cause tremors, seizures, and central nervous system damage. See the ASPCA’s list of Foods to Avoid Feeding Your Pet.

•Make sure indoor plants are varieties that are pet-safe. Lilies can cause kidney failure in cats. Other common, but toxic, plants include amaryllis, poinsettia, mums, and aloe vera. See the ASPCA’s database of Toxic and Non-Toxic Plants before bringing a new plant home.

•Pets can often maneuver cupboards open to access home cleaning products, pesticides, fertilizers, and other hazardous items. Consider latching them shut. Keep rooms where you set out rodenticides and traps off limits to your pet.

•Not letting your pet ingest antifreeze seems like a no-brainer. But, the smell and taste of the stuff is especially appealing to both cats and dogs. In fact, approximately 10,000 pets die every year as a result of antifreeze poisoning from as little as a drop. Keep it stored in a latched cabinet or on a high shelf, and use it carefully, cleaning up any drips or spills immediately.

•Keep your toilet lid down, especially if you use automatic bowl cleaners, to eliminate risk of poisoning. Keeping the lid down also eliminates a drowning hazard.

•The number of cats that fall out of windows is so high, that the veterinary profession has coined the term High-Rise Syndrome. If you must open windows, make sure that screens are sturdy and properly installed. Window guards are not adequate protection for cats, who can easily fit through the bars.

Carving Out a Space

Kittens and pups will sneak into an opened dryer (or other small, dangerous places) the first chance they get. Give them their own space and you won’t have to worry about them seeking refuge where they don’t belong. A hazard-free zone, with a cozy bed, water source, and safe toys will do the trick. Other convenient features include a sink to wash feeding bowls, and adequate storage for accessories. Remember that well-exercised pets are less likely to get into trouble, and more likely to rest well at night instead of barking or whining for attention. If it’s possible, create a pet area in a mudroom with cat or doggy door access to a fenced-in yard, corral, or dog run so that they can head outdoors at their leisure.

Litter boxes should be placed away from feeding areas and in a place that’s private, but not too isolated. If your pet doesn’t feel safe or comfortable using a litter box, he won’t. Elderly pets should be given an area on the ground level, and weepads should be accessible. Consider placement of ramps to furniture if you allow your elderly pet that kind of access. If you’re not home for most of the day, you’re presented with a special set of concerns: Consider a pet fountain so that fresh water is readily available. Leave your pet with sturdy toys that won’t break to reveal small parts. Interactive treat toys made of high-impact plastic, like the Buster Cube from Doctors Foster and Smith, will keep your pets occupied and stay in one piece. If your pet is especially curious, consider crate training him or blocking off a small, safe area with a baby gate.

Paw-Safe Flooring and Fabrics

Go with fabrics and flooring materials that’ll make less work for you. Stylish, easy-care leather or ultrasuede can be wiped clean and won’t be dramatically affected by wear. Crypton Super Fabric is a synthetic germ- and stain-resistant option made with pet owners in mind. It’s available in a variety of custom colors and patterns and the Crypton online store offers couture pet beds, “Throver” furniture covers, and decorative pillows.

Carpet isn’t the best choice for pet owners, but if you must go wall-to-wall, choose a color that matches your pet (it’ll mask pet hair) with a performance rating of 3.5 or higher. For lightweight dogs, hardwood with adequate urethane finish is a common and easy-clean choice. For heavier dogs, ceramic tile or another nonporous hard surface flooring would be best.

Clean Pet, Clean House

Groom your pet yourself, and you’ll save up to $100 per visit to pros. You’ll also spend less time cleaning house. Regular nail clipping keeps scratch damage down, while regular brushing keeps hair in the brush instead of, well, everywhere else. Brush before and after a wash to keep drain-clogging hair to a minimum. Vacuum twice a week with a machine like the DC17 Animal Vac by Dyson designed especially for homes with pets. It features a mini turbine head to lift hair and dirt from upholstery, stairs, and vehicles. The design allows for hygienic bin emptying and includes a lifetime HEPA filter. For a quick clean up, pass strips of packing tape or a wet plastic kitchen glove over clothing and surfaces to pick up stray hairs.

If your pet inherits furniture and flooring that isn’t ideal, then you’ll have to become a master at stain removal and disinfecting. Monitor your pet so accidents can be handled promptly. The longer a stain sits, the harder it’ll be to remove, and your pet will be more likely to sniff out the same spot for a repeat offense. Look for special cleaning products with natural enzymes to break down stains and odors. Pros recommend OdorLogic CleanAway and OdorLogic OxyQuick (for fresh stains). Finally, pay attention to flea and tick prevention and control. If the pests are on your pet, then odds are flea eggs, pupae, and larvae are in your carpeting, bedding, and yard.

Petscaping Your Yard

If you let your pets out into the yard, flea and tick prevention isn’t your only concern. You’ll have to determine whether you need to build or add structures, install invisible fences, and identify toxic plants in your landscape. The ASPCA keeps an extensive database of plants that are hazardous to dogs, cats, and even horses. Some such plants are azaleas, some ferns and ivies, daffodils, and daylilies. Pet-friendly plants include bamboo and, of course, catnip. Search the ASPCA Toxic and Non-Toxic Plants database before you put something in the ground. Insecticides and fertilizers were among the ASPCA’s top 10 pet poisons in 2008, so consider organic gardening.

Feeding Time

Buying bulk to save on pet food? Then you have to store it appropriately to avoid contamination and slow the vitamin and nutrient degradation process. Check for tears in food packages before you buy them. The Food & Drug Administration (FDA) advises against using feeding dishes to scoop food out of packages. Assign a clean spoon or small container for scooping. FDA guidelines for food storage call for leftover wet food to be refrigerated at 40 degrees Fahrenheit, and dry food to be stored in its original bag, then placed in a clean, food-grade plastic container, and stored at 80 degrees Fahrenheit or less. Placing the bag in a container will also keep unwanted insects and rodents away. Note that dry foods are more nutritious and less susceptible to contamination or spoilage than wet foods are.

Storing bulk food in large trash cans in the garage is a fairly common practice, but this exposes food to temperature extremes in a container that can leach dyes and additives into food over time. Make sure you purchase a special food storage container, or visit a local food establishment to claim a food-grade plastic bucket that’ll soon be headed for the trash heap.

Small Animals

“Too often parents buy small pets and fish for their children as learning tools, but those pets are even more fragile than cats and dogs,” Beart explains. “The average lifespan of a hamster, for example, is about 3 years. In many homes, the pet hardly ever lasts more than a few months.” Here are some helpful tips that’ll ensure the safety and longevity of your small pets:


•They tend to be active at night and asleep during the day. For that reason, you’ll want make sure your pet’s exercise wheel isn’t a squeaky one.

•Provide at least 2 inches of bedding to allow for normal burrowing behavior. Use shredded tissue or paper, or clean processed corncob. Commonly used cedar chips are associated with respiratory and live disease in rodents. Clean cages and refresh bedding at least once a week.

•Many hamsters must be kept in cages by themselves after the age of 10 weeks. Adult females are especially hostile to one another, so do your homework before you consider grouping.

Guinea Pigs

•Their bodies cannot produce Vitamin C, so you’ll have to supplement it with an appropriate product from your pet supply store.

•Guinea pig’s teeth grow constantly, so chew toys are essential.


•They actually learn litter box habits quickly and easily. Keep in mind that they like to chew and may hide in small, dark spaces. When you allow your pet time out of his cage for exercise, consider cord protectors, securely cover ducts and vents, and always locate your pet before sitting down and opening and closing recliners.


6 Garage Door Security Tips to Prevent Break-Ins

You have checked and double-checked all the windows and doors to make sure they are closed and locked and activated all the passive security systems in your home, but the garage is often an overlooked gateway for thieves. If your garage is attached to your home—or if you keep anything of value in that area—you should implement these tactics to keep trespassers out.

1. Use Your Garage

Park your car in the garage when it is not being used or if you are leaving by other means. Many people leave their garage door remote in their car, and all it takes is something like a broken window in your car to give a thief access to your home. If you are parking outside of the garage, get in the habit of bringing your garage door opener into the house with you.

2. Use a Door Devil

If your garage has a side door, thieves can kick it in. That’s where devices like Door Devil come in handy. These doorstops screw into the ground and prevent your door from being compromised. You can install a Door Devil or similar product on other exterior doors in your home to heighten your security, too.

3. Keep Windows Frosted

People who can see into your garage are a lot more likely to try to break in. If you have garage door windows, use a frosted spray paint to increase privacy, or install shades to prevent anyone from peeking inside.

4. Keep It In Good Condition

Make sure the garage door is properly functioning and that there is no damage to the panels through which a thief could access your home. If your garage door is falling apart, it’s that much easier for people to break in. You should install a metal or solid wooden garage door, so it’s strong enough to stand up to thieves.

5. Install Motion Sensing Lights

Keeping your garage well-lit will deter thieves. You can shop for awesome motion sensing lights that do everything from basic motion detection to alerting you through an app when its light flicks on. To keep a complete eye on your garage, take a look at home security cameras too

6. Keep It Contained

Do not leave important items in the garage and make sure to lock the door to your home. If thieves do break into the garage, you want to make sure that is all they can access. Place a deadbolt and anti-kick device on the door that leads to the garage.


5 Budget Friendly Curb Appeal Projects

Curb appeal is the first impression that any potential buyer receives, so you should ensure that the front of your home, from the curb to the front door, is in the best shape possible—even if you don’t have the budget to splurge on huge upgrades and services.

Follow these five easy and cost-effective suggestions to improve the curb appeal of your home:

1. Glam the Front Door

Adding pizzazz to your home’s front entrance is an easy, low-cost way to up your home’s curb appeal. Try painting your door a pretty hue that coordinates with your home’s color. “Make sure there is a contrast between the front door and the facade of the home,” says Kristine Ginsberg, owner of Elite Staging and Redesign in Morris County, N.J. If your house is gray or white with black shutters, consider painting the front door red, she suggests. Other ways to beautify your home’s exterior are adding appealing house numbers to your entrance and hanging a pretty wreath on the door. For extra pop, place a potted plant or two by the front entrance.

2. Manicure the Lawn

Tending to your lawn is a do-it-yourself task that can add instant curb appeal to your home. Get out the lawn mower, cut the grass regularly and conquer those weeds. “I think it’s always a great idea to edge your lawn for a professional look,” Kristine suggests. If you need to green your lawn in a hurry for an open house or for showings to potential buyers, you can spray your lawn with a green lawn spray paint that’s especially formulated for grass, is nontoxic and is environmentally safe. You can do it yourself, or hire a professional lawn painting service.

3. Wash Off Dirt

Turn the nozzle on your garden hose to its strongest setting and use the water to blast dirt and debris off sidewalks, your driveway and the front of your home. Be careful not to dislodge or get any water underneath your home’s siding. You could rent a power washer at an extra cost, but you probably don’t need to go to the trouble — a simple garden hose can do the job, and a power washer can be too powerful and could damage siding. “If you do use a power washer, don’t put it close to windows or doorways,” suggests Stephen Boehler, owner of Mr. Handyman of NE Monmouth County in New Jersey. “The pressure can remove caulk and other materials sealing your home.”

4. Tidy Up the Driveway

Buyers won’t be impressed by your garbage or recycling containers, so store those on the side of the house (preferably behind a bush, a small fence or a screen) or in the garage. Take care of minor cracks in your driveway by patching or resealing it yourself. Determine how much sealant you’ll need by using the length and width of your driveway to calculate its square footage. Then match that up against the product’s use recommendations. “Plan on getting 10 percent extra because some areas will absorb more than others,” Stephen says. “You can always return unopened pails of sealer.” Stash your car in the driveway or down the block to give your driveway and the approach to your home a neater appearance.

5. Trim Trees and Bushes

Your home needs to be visible from the curb in order to have curb appeal, so cut overgrown bushes and trees, removing branches that block walkways, windows, the driveway and views of the home from the street. “People need to see the front of the house,” says Kristine. Except for very large tree limbs, you most likely can use a pair of hedge or pruning shears for the job. If you don’t have your own pair of shears, look into borrowing a set from a friend or neighbor to keep costs down.

Implement these simple and cost-efficient ideas to help spruce up your home’s exterior and attract potential buyers.