Improvements for Independence: Make Your Home More Accessible

By Susanne Dwyer

(Family Features)—Being safe and comfortable at home is a large part of living well. Home modifications and repairs can help everyone, especially older adults and people with disabilities, maintain an independent lifestyle and prevent accidents.

Many older adults prefer to stay at home for as long as possible, but too often don’t think about whether their homes will meet their needs as they age. Making improvements for independence before they are needed is a good way to ensure that a home is ready for aging in place. Forward-thinking improvements may also help prevent falls, which often cause the need for long-term care.

Many changes, such as adding grab bars in bathrooms, can be done without a major redesign or full-blown renovation. Depending on your circumstance, it may also make sense to consider things like widening doorways and lowering countertop heights for someone who uses a wheelchair.

Here’s how you can get started:

Home Assessment
Before making any changes, assess the entire home. This checklist can help identify areas that might need improvement. Everyone has different needs, but in general, a “no” answer may be cause for action.

  • Are exterior walkways and entrances well-lit?
  • Is there a step-free entrance to the home?
  • Are entrance doors easy to lock, unlock, open and close?
  • Does the main floor include a kitchen, bedroom and full bathroom?
  • Are doorways wide enough for someone using a wheelchair, walker or service animal?
  • Are hallways, staircases, bathrooms and the kitchen well-lit?
  • Is wall-to-wall carpeting secure and in good condition?
  • Are area rugs secured to the floor with grips?
  • Are walkways free from obstructions and hazards like cords and furniture?
  • Do stairways have sturdy handrails on both sides?
  • Can bathroom and kitchen cabinets be easily reached?
  • Is there a step-free shower entrance?
  • Are grab bars available in or near the shower and toilet?
  • Do showers have non-slip mats or adhesive strips?
  • Will smoke detectors provide visual as well as audio alerts?
  • Are telephones and emergency supplies easily accessible on all floors?

Cost and Contractors
Minor improvements can cost between $150-$2,000, and major renovation costs vary depending on the job. However, many contractors offer reduced rates or sliding scale fees based on income and ability to pay. Public and private financing options may also be available.

If hiring a professional, remember to get a written agreement with specific tasks, a timeline and cost estimate. Make sure the contractor is licensed, bonded and insured for the specific type of work.

More information about home modifications, including financial assistance, can be found at eldercare.gov.

Source: Administration for Community Living

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From: Home Spun Wisdom

    

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5 Simple Ways to Stage the Exterior of Your Home Before an Open House

By Susanne Dwyer

Editor’s Note: This was originally published on RISMedia’s blog, Housecall. See what else is cookin’ now at blog.rismedia.com:

If you’re selling your home, chances are good you’re familiar with the concept of staging your home. Real estate agents recommend your home look its best to prospective buyers, and home staging is a great way to ensure you receive top dollar.

Did you know you should stage the exterior of your home, too? Failing to update the look of your home’s exterior can cause buyers to get a bad first impression when they initially arrive to view your home. Whether your target is luxury homebuyers or you are selling your starter home, staging the exterior will have a major impact on the sale of your home. If you want to put exterior home staging to work, here are five elements you should consider tweaking.

Clean Your Exterior Windows and Screens
Nothing says poor maintenance like dirty windows and window screens. If your windows are caked with dust or muck from the last rainstorm, open house visitors are going to wonder what other maintenance jobs you haven’t attended to. Don’t give visitors the opportunity to question whether your home has been properly maintained or not; clean those windows and screens before hosting an open house.

Refresh Your Gardens and Walkways
Just like dirty windows are a real estate faux pas, so are unkempt flower beds. Weeds and overgrown bushes tell visitors you can’t be bothered with the small stuff. Spend a day removing weeds and trimming flowers, or hire a professional landscaper to refresh your gardens. It is amazing what a refreshed garden can do to your home’s curb appeal.

Refresh Your Home’s Siding
No, you don’t have to replace your home’s siding prior to an open house. A quick power wash could be all it takes to remove years of dust and grime. You can attempt this task yourself, but it might be worth your while to hire a professional—some homeowners have been known to damage their home’s siding by using too forceful a water stream.

Update/Clean Door Fixtures and House Address Signage
Something as simple as a new door knob or address signage can give your home a refreshed look. You needn’t spring for a new door; just update the face plate and/or door knob. Purchase new address numbers from the local hardware store and you’ll have tweaked the look of your home’s exterior in just a few minutes.

Clean Patio Furniture
Whether you have chairs on your front veranda or a dining set on your back deck, tired patio furniture can cost you big dollars when it comes time to negotiate with a potential homebuyer. Dilapidated patio furniture instantly gives a bad impression and can cause potential homebuyers to request replacement furniture as part of their deal. Spruce up your existing furniture with a quick power wash, or replace it if it is beyond cleaning.

Simple tweaks to the exterior of your home can have a big impact on your home’s final selling price. By spending just a few days improving the look of the outside of your home, you can increase the amount buyers are willing to offer and make your home the cleanest real estate listing on the block. Will you be trying these exterior home staging tricks when you list your home for sale?

Charles Muotoh is the owner of dcrealestateguru.com, a full-service real estate firm focused on leveraging digital marketing strategies to serve buyers and sellers of real estate in the Washington D.C. area.

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From: Remax Real Estate Advice

    

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Want to Save for a Down Payment? Skip the Pre-Wedding Shenanigans

By Susanne Dwyer

Zillow_Bachelor_Party

Would-be homeowners can easily plunk down savings for a home—if they forgo their friends’ one last hurrah before the big day.

A recent report by Zillow reveals the cost of destination bachelor or bachelorette parties can equal up to one-third of a down payment on a median-priced home. With attendees spending an average $1,106 (for destination bachelorette parties) and $1,532 (for destination bachelor parties), according to The Knot, partaking in just nine pre-marriage celebrations—or three each year for three years—would total 34 percent, or $13,788, of a 20 percent down payment on a median-priced home.

Without question, the amount of parties needed to rack up one-third of a down payment varies by market:

Bachelor and bachelorette getaways are just one of several stereotypically “millennial” spending choices called into question as of late. Earlier this year, one real estate developer singled out avocados, telling Australia’s “60 Minutes”: “When I was buying my first home, I wasn’t buying smashed avocado for 19 bucks and four coffees at $4 each.”

“Buying a home is one of the most expensive purchases someone will ever make, and for most first-time buyers, that means years of saving money to afford a down payment,” says Jeremy Wacksman, CMO at Zillow. “Attending your friends’ bachelor or bachelorette parties can be a trip of a lifetime. While everyone’s budget and priorities are different, big-ticket expenses like vacations can add up surprisingly quickly—a lot faster than a $19 avocado toast.”

For more information, please visit www.zillow.com.

Suzanne De Vita is RISMedia’s online news editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at sdevita@rismedia.com.

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From: Consumer News and Advice

    

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Tips That Can Prepare You for Bringing a Puppy Home

By Susanne Dwyer

Editor’s Note: This was originally published on RISMedia’s blog, Housecall. See what else is cookin’ now at blog.rismedia.com:

Bringing home a puppy is exciting because he becomes a new member of the family, but raising one is hard work, so the whole family needs to pitch in and do their part. The new puppy needs to be fed, walked, bathed and more.

You’ll need to make sure each family member knows his or her job to help out. Plus, you’ll want to follow a few more tips to keep your puppy healthy and your home safe from any potential damage. This includes supplies to buy beforehand.

General Puppy Supplies
You’ll need to have some supplies on hand when the puppy comes home, such as:

  1. Crate
    Why is a crate important? The crate not only serves as a safe place for the puppy at night, but it can also help with the house and behavioral training. Learn more about crate training, so you’ll get the best use from this important tool.
  1. Leash
    Your puppy needs a leash for walks, but what type is best? A good start is buying a lightweight but strong leash at least 10 feet long. You can buy a longer leash as the puppy grows.

Use the leash to train your puppy to come back when called and obey commands when on walks.

  1. Food and Water Bowls
    You may think a bowl is just a bowl, but there are some things to consider. Plastic bowls often become chew toys. The chew marks left on the bowl can harbor bacteria that can make your puppy sick. Find a bowl that is dishwasher safe and chew-proof.

The shape of the bowl matters, too. Learn more about what shape is best based on the type of dog you’re bringing home.

  1. Toys
    Choosing safe toys for your puppy can get confusing. Keep in mind that puppies are aggressive chewers, and any toy he can tear into pieces becomes a choking hazard. Learn to recognize unsafe toys.

Care Supplies
You’ll also need several different supplies to specifically care for and keep your puppy healthy. Keep in mind the following:

  1. Bath Care
    Bath time can be stressful for both puppy and pet parent, and there are many things to consider. Should you bathe your dog in a sink or tub? Should towel dry or air dry?

Take some time to learn the best options for bathing your dog at home to avoid causing your puppy the anxiety of going to a groomer. As a bonus, this can serve as a great bonding time for you two!

  1. Puppy Pen
    Part of puppy care is making sure your pet gets enough exercise so he’s strong and healthy. If you don’t have a fenced area for him to run, consider a puppy pen that allows a little freedom to run outdoors.

A long line and tether can also be helpful to allow your dog room to run while remaining safe and confined to a certain area.

  1. Flea/Tick Treatments
    If you plan to take care of the pests yourself, you should take the time to learn about your options in flea and tick treatments for puppies. These treatments aren’t recommended until puppies are of a certain age, so make sure you know when and how to use these products safely.

House Rules
The house rules are for the family to follow. This way you know that each person understands what their responsibilities are to care for the new addition to the family:

  • Who will feed the puppy?
  • Is the puppy allowed on the furniture?
  • Who is in charge of training?
  • What correction is needed when the puppy makes mistakes?
  • Where will the puppy be during the day, and who in in charge?
  • Who takes the puppy for walks and where?
  • Where will the new puppy sleep?

Setting rules are the best way to ensure your routine is followed, so the puppy is cared for and learns to obey.

Puppies grow up to be loved family members, so it’s important to be prepared to care for your furry friend properly. Working as a team, the whole family can help make sure your new puppy is healthy and happy.

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From: Home Spun Wisdom

    

Remember I am just a phone call away to help with all of your real estate needs!

Nancy Wey
281-455-2893

How to Give Your Bathroom a Tropical Vibe

By Suzanne De Vita

Editor’s Note: This was originally published on RISMedia’s blog, Housecall. See what else is cookin’ now at blog.rismedia.com:

Looking to redo your bathroom? Adding a tropical twist is all the rage these days. From lush houseplants to rich hues, now you can have a mini vacation every time you use the toilet. Here are a few tips to boost your island vibes.

Lush Plant Life
The No. 1 tip for a tropical vibe in your bathroom is to add indoor plants. Whether you train a creeping vine to travel across the wall or tuck a potted philodendron into the corner, plant life is key for that jungle vibe. Try lining succulents along the window, a rubber tree on the floor, or even add an orchid or shade-loving fern to your shower.

Natural Colors
For cabinetry, choose a rich brown to pair with your white walls and lush flora. Try a natural slate floor or slate tiles for your bathtub or shower.

Minimize
Clean lines and open space are popular with tropical-themed bathrooms. Tuck toiletries into the cabinets and leave the walls bare. The only thing you can’t have too much of in a tropical bathroom is tropical plants.

Need more tropical bathroom inspo? Turn to Pinterest, of course!

Zoe Eisenberg is RISMedia’s senior content editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at zoe@rismedia.com.

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From: Home Spun Wisdom

    

Remember I am just a phone call away to help with all of your real estate needs!

Nancy Wey
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How to Stay Cool and Save Money

By Suzanne De Vita

Staying cool can be difficult during uncomfortable summer spikes and dreaded heatwaves.

According to fan manufacturer Lasko, an average homeowner spends nearly $2,000 annually on energy bills, with 25 percent of that consumed by air conditioning. By simply turning the A/C thermostat up, and adding fans to any space, consumers can still stay comfortably cool while saving money.

Lasko reminds consumers they can also keep cool by:

Creating a refreshing party space. Summer is the season for entertaining, so keep cool air moving by strategically placing a fan with a head that tilts fully back—like an 18-inch pedestal or “tornado” model—to create ongoing airflow throughout multiple rooms.

Turning the thermostat up. Day and/or night, simply raise the thermostat a few degrees and add one or more fans for up to 10 percent home energy savings without sacrificing comfort. Consider a portable, lightweight fan that can go from room to the room with ease.

Staying in summer shape. If you’re working out at home, save more with a small fan in your workout area to keep body temps in check from warmup to cooldown. An oscillating high-velocity fan (with wireless remote) is a perfect workout partner.

Moving in and cooling out. Students gearing up for next semester or entering the working world need to stay on budget. Every dorm room, campus home, or first “after college” pad—with or without A/C—can benefit from fan cooling, saving more money for necessities and activities.

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From: Home Spun Wisdom

    

Remember I am just a phone call away to help with all of your real estate needs!

Nancy Wey
281-455-2893

5 of the Best Cities to Flip Houses In

By Susanne Dwyer

Flipping a house can be a profitable endeavor—especially in cities where flips thrive. The best cities, according to recently released findings from a study by WalletHub, boast a combination of a desirable quality of life, cost-effective renovation expenses and prime market potential.

The following cities, based on those criteria, are best for flips:

  1. El Paso, Texas
    El Paso earned the No. 1 ranking in WalletHub’s study, with a total score of 69.6. El Paso has the third-lowest bathroom remodeling costs, on average, of the 150 cities evaluated.
  1. Sioux Falls, S.D.
    Sioux Falls earned the No. 2 spot in the ranking, with a total score of 69.52.
  1. Fort Wayne, Ind.
    Fort Wayne earned the No. 3 spot in the ranking, with a total score of 67.38.
  1. Peoria, Ariz.
    Peoria earned the No. 4 spot in the ranking, with a total score of 66.6. Peoria has the fourth-lowest whole-home remodeling costs, on average, of the 150 cities evaluated.
  1. Oklahoma City, Okla.
    Oklahoma City earned the No. 5 spot in the ranking, with a total score of 66.56. Oklahoma City has the fifth-most real estate agents per capita of the 150 cities evaluated.

Source: WalletHub

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From: Consumer News and Advice

    

Remember I am just a phone call away to help with all of your real estate needs!

Nancy Wey
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Gardening for Your Small Deck or Patio

By Susanne Dwyer

Having limited outdoor space is no reason to curb your love of gardening or to settle for less than a thriving green space. From tasty fruits and veggies to flowering plants, trees and shrubs, container gardening is a great way to enhance your small deck or patio, say gardening editors at HGTV.

Test your green thumb with these:

Dwarf Citrus Trees – If your space provides a little sunlight, dwarf lemon or lime trees will typically do well when planted in terracotta pots.

Strawberries – Try planting them in a hanging basket that gets lots of sunlight and get a season’s worth of sweet, ripe berries.

Red, Ripe Tomatoes – You can grow smaller varieties in pots. Start with young plants or establish seed plantings indoors first, then transfer them in pots to a sunny spot on your deck or patio.

Potted Roses – If the area gets at least five hours of daily sun, planter pots of dwarf or mini-sized roses will produce colorful blooms all summer long. Prune them out of season as you would prune their larger cousins.

Mini Herb Garden – Group varying sizes of containers together and get ready to season your dishes with mint, chives, and other herbs grown in a limited space.

Sunflowers – There is nothing as cheerful as these summer favorites. Choose colorful pots, or let the kids paint tin cans with enamel paint, then plant dwarf sunflower seeds in each.

Low-Care Succulents – Because they store water in their fleshy leaves and stems, these evergreen plants do well even when you don’t water regularly. They need a little sun, though, so group pots of succulents in a light, bright corner.

Flowering Vines – Compact climbers, like jasmine and clematis, are great container plants. All they need to thrive is a pot with good drainage, a trellis or post for support, and regular watering and feeding.

Bonus Tip: For an engaging change from store-bought pots, plant your favorites in colorful vintage tins scooped up at thrift stores or garage sales.

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From: Home Spun Wisdom

    

Remember I am just a phone call away to help with all of your real estate needs!

Nancy Wey
281-455-2893