Creating a Pet-Friendly Home

carpet-cleaning-derby2A pet-friendly home is not just a fun and safe space for your pet, but also a space that can stand up to the kinds of things pets do to houses. Making pet-friendly choices in landscaping, design, and the materials you use will ensure that both you and your pet can enjoy your shared space together.

Opt for durable flooring – Even if your pet is perfectly well house-trained, they’re bound to have an accident or two. Choose a flooring material that’s easy to clean and won’t be damaged by accidents. Linoleum cleans easily and is naturally anti-microbial. Bamboo, cork, tile, and stone are also good picks. If you want carpet, try a modular kind, made of separate carpet squares. Buy back-up squares so if a section gets ruined, you can pop it out and replace it. Avoid wood and laminate floors. Wood is easily scratched and damaged by water and slippery laminate can cause injuries.

Choose pet-friendly materials and décor – Opt for satin paint instead of flat paint on walls. A glossier finish won’t show stains as prominently and wipes clean. Chose low VOC (volatile organic compounds) paints, especially if your pet bites or licks walls. Match the colors of throw rugs, upholstery, and other décor to your pet’s fur color to give yourself a little more leeway in how frequently you’ll be vacuuming and de-furring the furniture. Set up a feeding area in a spot where you won’t be accidentally kicking over the water bowl. Find a nearby place to store dog food, ideally in a sealed container, like a plastic bin or a metal garbage can with a lid.

Protect furniture – Choose upholstered pieces covered in tough, easily-cleaned fabrics like leather or ultrasuede. Consider washable slipcovers, throws to protect furniture, or extra-durable fabric designed especially for pet owners. Keep pets from chewing furniture by spraying with store-bought, anti-chewing spray or applying a bit of cayenne pepper to their favorite biting spots. If you need to keep a pet out of a particular area, put up baby gates and provide the pet with plenty of sturdy toys for diversion. Set up a special bed or blanket so your pet has a comfortable, cushiony place of his own.

Eliminate dangers around the house – Walk around your house and assess possible pet hazards. Move chemicals and cleaning materials to high shelves or locked cabinets. Make sure trash cans are safely secured so pets don’t get into something that could be harmful to them. (Many common household articles are toxic to pets including: coffee grounds, onions, grapes, and even nutmeg.) Latch lower cabinets with child locks if necessary and keep curtain and electrical cords out of pet reach. Put screens in upper level windows and make sure they’re intact and securely attached. Keep toilet lids closed and avoid automatic bowl cleaners. Wipe up spills in the driveway and garage immediately so pets don’t ingest poisons like antifreeze. Remove any indoor plants that are toxic to pets. You can find a list of toxic and non-toxic plants on the Humane Society’s web site (www.humanesociety.org).

Consider a pet door – If you are frequently away from home, consider putting in a pet door. Pet doors can be put in windows, doors, and walls. Smart models recognize your pet electronically and will only open for them, not for other animals. The doors can be controlled remotely and deactivated if you need the pet to stay inside. If you’re worried about the resale value of cutting a hole in the wall, consider a model that’s built into a glass sliding door. When you sell, you can replace that part of the door with a regular slider.

Create a yard for pets and people to share – Find safe, pet-friendly materials for plants and hardscape. Put in some mint or catnip for cats and a clover ground cover for dogs because it won’t yellow with urine. Outdoor cats like places to hide and things to climb and will make good use of trees and bushy areas. Dogs instinctively patrol the perimeter of the property and like running paths that follow the yard’s circumference. If your dog has already created a path, embrace it, covering it with mulch and lining with attractive plantings. Make sure your fence is in good condition with no secret ways out (including benches, large rocks, or other items that can serve as pet launching pads). Consider putting in a small eye-level panel in the fence so dog can peek out and keep a watch on things. For safety, keep sharp tools put away, keep compost bins covered, and avoid chemical like fertilizers and pesticides. Make sure plants are non-toxic and avoid plants with thorns. And pets like a lot of the same things humans like, so you’ll both be pleased if your yard has a shady spot to cool off and comfy places to sit.

Tackling Tricky Cleaning Jobs: 7 Jobs Just Got Easier

clean house funnyThere are a few tricky cleaning jobs universally dreaded for being time-consuming, hard, or just plain confusing. How are you supposed to clean off a ceiling fan without getting dust all over the house and your head? How do you clean a fireplace without creating an indoor dust cloud? The tips below won’t make any of these jobs fun, exactly, but they will make them quicker, easier, and maybe even tolerable.

 

 

Ceiling FanCeiling Fans
Put a drop cloth or old sheet on the floor and furniture over an area about twice the radius of the fan blades. If you want to keep your hair dust-free, pop on a hat as well. Use an old pillowcase to dust blades, sliding the case around the blade so the dust falls into the case. Make a second pass over each blade with a new pillowcase, this time spraying each blade first with a cleanser (a spray bottle of water and two tablespoons of white vinegar works too.) Hop on a sturdy chair or ladder and wipe around the rest of the fixture with a dust cloth or use a long handled micro-fiber duster.

RefrigeratorRefrigerator–Interior
To clean the interior, first take everything out the fridge. Remove shelves, bins, and drawers and wash in warm soapy water (don’t plunge cold glass shelves directly into hot water because they might shatter). Wipe down interior with a mixture of two tablespoons baking soda and a quart of hot water. For extra cleaning power, let mixture sit for a few minutes before wiping off. Use a plastic–not steel wool–scouring pad for stuck-on food and spills. Clean seals with a baking soda paste or undiluted hydrogen peroxide, getting into crevices with cotton swabs. While interior parts are drying, wipe down jars and containers, removing drips and spills. Check expiration dates and toss any out-of-date items. Follow the same procedures for the freezer, adding a plastic scraper to remove frozen-on ice or food.

 

 

 

refrigerator interiorRefrigerator—Exterior
For the exterior of the fridge, wipe down the outside surfaces with soft cloth and a gentle cleaner. Use a toothbrush or plastic scouring pad for grime on handles. Unplug the fridge to clean the condenser and coils. Remove the trim panel from below the door (you may need to unscrew it.) Vacuum or dust the panel, or if it’s plastic, soak it in warm soapy water to loosen dirt. Using the brush or crevice attachment, gently vacuum dust from coils and condenser. You might need to move the unit away from a wall to get at the back. When you put it back, make sure to leave enough space between coils and wall so the unit can run efficiently.

 

baseboardsBaseboards
Make a first pass over the boards with a dust mop, vacuum or a dusting cloth. If there’s leftover grime, wipe down with damp cloth and mild detergent. Use wood cleaner for wooden baseboards. Try a cotton swab to get at intricate designs and corners. Touch up scuffs and scrapes with a bit of matching paint. Finish off by wiping down clean, dry baseboards with dryer sheets to repel future dust.

fireplaceFireplace
Prepare for the job by donning old clothes and a pair of gloves. Cover the area around the fireplace with old sheets or newspaper. Remove grate and andirons and put outside on a tarp. Put a handful or two of used coffee grounds into the ashes to minimize flyaways, then shovel out the old ashes and put in a double-bagged trash can. Use the fireplace brush to sweep up remaining ashes. You can scrub the inside further by scraping with a wire grill brush and a fireplace cleaner, if desired. Clean the andirons and grate with the wire brush and a hearth cleaner or a paste of baking soda and warm water. Let everything dry thoroughly before putting back in.

groutGrout
Grout can be a challenge to clean because it’s porous and often light-colored. To clean, you will need a cleaning agent and a scrubbing tool, like a scrub brush or toothbrush. Use a baking soda and hydrogen dioxide paste, a half and half solution of white vinegar and water or a mix of oxygen bleach and warm water. Spray or apply the solution to the grout and let sit for about 20 minutes. Scrub the grout, reapplying the solution for tougher stains. For mold that won’t come off, you can use a chlorine bleach spray, but the bleach will weaken the grout over time. To maintain your grout and delay another deep cleaning, spray weekly with vinegar and wipe clean.

blindsBlinds
Gentle vacuuming with a brush attachment works for all types of blinds, including cloth, wooden, and metal/vinyl blinds. Close the blinds so they’re fully extended and brush each slat individually, working downward. Swivel the slats to do the other side, again moving downward. You can also dust with a micro-fiber cloth or a duster. Again, you have to go over each slat, front and back. For dingy vinyl and metal blinds, make a mixture of one part vinegar and one part water and go over each slat with a dampened cloth or, for more flexibility, an old sock turned inside out and worn on your hand. Cloth blinds can be spot treated with a damp cloth and a bit of dishwashing liquid. You can cut down on scrubbing time by removing metal and vinyl blinds and taking them to the bathtub or outside to hose them down, then scrubbing with warm soapy water, but you run a greater risk of bending or breaking the blinds. Make sure the blinds are fully dry before rehanging.

6 Things Homebuyers Should Avoid Once They are Preapproved for a Mortgage

black couple loan approved

You have done the hard part in the home-buying process and chosen a lender and a real estate agent to work with. You have also gone out and found the home of your dreams! Best of all, your team has done a great job of negotiating the best deal for you.

Now, as a buyer, all you have to do is sit back and wait for your loan to close … right? Wrong!!

Getting a home loan these days is a very interactive process. I am always amazed by how many clients I work with who come to me unaware of all the pitfalls they face during the loan process. To help avoid any surprises while waiting for final approval, I provide my clients with a short list of “do’s and don’ts” to follow.

Let’s start with the “do’s” …

  1. Do keep the process moving by responding to your loan officers’ requests for documentation as soon as possible.
  2. Do make decisions as soon as is reasonably possible.
  3. Do convey questions or concerns you
  4. Do continue to make all of your rent or mortgage payments on time.
  5. Do stay current on all other existing accounts.
  6. Do continue to work your normal work schedule with no unplanned time off.
  7. Do continue to use your credit as normal.
  8. Do be prepared to explain any large deposits in your bank accounts.
  9. Do enjoy purchasing your home but remain objective throughout the process to help make decisions that are best for you.

After you have been preapproved for your mortgage you will want to refrain from the following…

  1. Do not make any major purchases (car, boat, jewelry, furniture, appliances, etc.).
  2. Do not apply for any new credit (even if it says you are preapproved or “xxx days same as cash”).
  3. Do not pay off charges or collections (unless directed by your loan officer to do so).
  4. Do not make any changes to your credit profile.
  5. Do not change bank accounts.
  6. Do not make unusual deposits into your bank accounts or move money around from one account to another.

Follow these simple rules and you will help to make your loan closing as smooth and hassle-free as possible! Good luck!

5 Simple Ways To Increase Your Property Value

Selling your home? Make improvements to your home to increase the likelihood that you will get a higher offer. Even small and inexpensive updates can make a difference. Do these projects before you put up your listing and schedule a staging.
(By CENTURY 21 on August 6th, 2014)

Property Value Image

Here are five simple ways to increase your property value when it’s time to sell:

1. Rethink your home’s layout: If you have three bedrooms and a home office, take out the office to make your house a four bedroom home. Removing bedrooms may decrease the value of your home. Turn it into an office, gym, or craft room then turn it back to a bedroom when you’re ready to sell. (Forbes)

2. Remove clutter: Making rooms look neat and clean is always a necessity, but take it one step further and remove the clutter and personal items from your rooms. Taking out photos, magazines, and little decorations will make the room look bigger and taking away personal items will help your buyers envision their lives there. (Forbes)

3. Front yard makeovers: The saying goes, “Don’t judge a book by its cover” but when it comes to real estate, that is hard to live by. The first impression of your home is the front yard so make sure it is neat and tidy. Plant some new flowers, mow the lawn, and touch up any exterior paint that might need some attention. (DIY Network)

4. Maintenance work: The last thing buyers want to see when they walk into your kitchen or bathroom is rusty, leaking pipes, or a faucet that looks like it has seen better days. Take a weekend and give attention to any little repairs around the house. It could be as easy as replacing old door knobs and faucets. Paint your home neutral colors to minimize the chance that your design aesthetic will clash with the aesthetic of your potential buyers. (This Old House)

5. Update appliances: The kitchen is a huge selling point for potential buyers. If your kitchen appliances are old and outdated buy newer versions. While you’re at it, take your kitchen from good to great without breaking the bank.

Complete these simple tasks before selling your home to increase the likelihood that you’ll get a higher offer.

- See more at: http://blog.century21.com/2014/08/5-simple-ways-to-increase-your-property-value/#sthash.1K2Ufjic.dpuf

Changes to the B of A Short Sale process

Considering a short sale as a Bank of America mortgage holder? Well make sure you hire an experienced, proven short-sale agent and that they are current on that lender’s process.

Below describes some new changes to B of A’s shot sale process imperative tot he successful completion of your short sale.

(Re-Printed from B of A email correspondence 07/31/2014)

Bank of America Help for Homeowners in Sacramento and Elk Groveac

Bank of America Help for Homeowners in Sacramento and Elk Groveac

The new Initiation Package assists a homeowner through the Short Sale process.  Starting mid-July, homeowners will receive a short sale Initiation Package upon initiating a short sale and not being reviewed for a home retention option. Included in the package is the Borrower Election Form that will now be required before proceeding with a short sale.The short sale transaction will no longer continue and no other homeowner documentation or offers will be reviewed until the signed Borrower Election Form is received and verified by the Short Sale Specialist. As a reminder, for your agent, a valid Third-Party Authorization Form is also required and must be verified in order to proceed with the transaction.

As a homeowner, thoroughly read this package including the Homeowner Checklist. This package contains a list of financial documents that may be required to complete a short sale. B of A’s ability to evaluate the homeowner for a short sale, as well as postpone collection and foreclosure efforts, depends on their receipt of all necessary documents. Upon initiation, a Short Sale Specialist will continue to contact your agent, to discuss the next steps in the short sale process.

Initiation Package Includes:

  1. Homeowner Checklist
  2. Information on Loan Assistance Programs
  3. Frequently Asked Questions
  4. Important Notice to Help You Avoid Foreclosure Scams
  5. Borrower Election Form – now required upon initiation
  6. Third-Party Authorization
  7. Request for Mortgage Assistance (RMA) form
  8. IRS Form 4506-T

Please note: initiating directly into a short sale, through Equator, is not an option for Federal Housing Administration (FHA) investor properties. Homeowners must always discuss their situation with their Customer Relationship Manager (CRM), who can help them identify if they qualify for an exception to proceed with a short sale without doing a full home retention review.


Short Sale Customer / Agent Care
1.866.880.1232

bankofamerica.com/shortsaleagent

If you have questions, first contact your short sale specialist (or closing officer) through Equator messaging. If there’s no response after two days, escalate to the team lead.

For urgent needs (such as a foreclosure postponement) or for escalation beyond the team lead, contact Short Sale Customer/Agent Care at 1.866.880.1232.

Visit the Agent Resource Center at bankofamerica.com/sh

Buyers: How High Should You Go? Creating the perfect real estate purchase offer

How Much is Too Much?

How Much is Too Much?

Deciding how much to offer a seller for a home you’d love to own is rarely easy. Ideally, your offer price should not be above what you think the property is worth or what you can afford, but tempting enough to the seller that he can’t refuse to accept.

Arriving at that perfect offer price is harder in some markets than others, and it depends on a lot of factors that are beyond your control. For example, in buyers’ markets where there is a lot of inventory, you may find more realistic sellers who understand that they need to be flexible if they want to sell. In sellers’ markets where there are more buyers than sellers, you may have no choice but to offer more than the asking price if you hope to be the successful bidder.

The first step to arriving at an effective offer price is to find out how much properties similar to the one you’re interested in have been selling for recently. Look at the relationship between the list and sale prices of each listing. Did they sell for more or less than the asking price? How long did it take them to sell? Your real estate agent can provide you with this information. Ask for a Comparative or Competitive Market Analysis (CMA) for the listing in question.

Then ask your agent to talk to the listing agent and find out how much attention the listing is receiving. Are there any other buyers serious about writing offers? If so, you’ll have to offer more than you will if there is no other serious interest.

How much you need to offer to pique the seller’s interest will depend a lot on how long the listing has been on the market. A seller may snub a less-than-asking-price offer if the listing is new on the market. However, if the listing is weeks old and there are plenty of new listings coming on the market each week, you may be successful with an offer for less than asking.

How much a seller will negotiate usually depends on several factors: how long the property has been on the market, whether the seller is motivated (that is, he really needs rather than just wants to sell) and how realistic the seller is about the current value of his home.

HOUSE HUNTING TIP: You can save yourself a lot of time and aggravation by asking your agent to have a heart-to-heart talk with the listing agent before you make an offer, particularly if you intend to offer significantly less than the list price. If the seller is adamant about his price, and there are plenty of other similar listings on the market, devote your energies to a seller who is willing to sell at market value.

Some buyers wonder if they should pay over asking in a strong market that could lose steam over the next year as interest rates rise. That depends on how the listing is priced. If it’s priced below market value, it could attract multiple offers. If the property will suit your long-term needs, it may be reasonable to pay more than the list price as long as it’s not more than you can afford now and for the long term. You won’t lose money unless you have to sell during a down market.

Don’t be afraid to negotiate if you’re not in competition. Some motivated sellers still can’t resist trying for a higher price. Several rounds of counteroffers back and forth could bring about a successful conclusion.

THE CLOSING: But, promise yourself to walk away if the seller doesn’t see the light.

 

(Article courtesy of “ClientDirect – by By Dian Hymer)

WHAT’S YOUR STYLE? A Guide to America’s Most Common Home Styles

What's Your Style? This modern home is usually accompanied by minimalist interior design. Is that your style?

What’s Your Style? This modern home is usually accompanied by minimalist interior design. Is that your style?

Styles of houses vary across the country. From the New England Cape Cod to the Victorians of San Francisco, the choices are almost endless. Knowing which style you prefer is one of the basic elements in your hunt for the perfect home.

Following is a quick guide to help you recognize and use the professional terms for many of the most prevalent house styles:

Ranch Style

Ranch Style

Ranch: These long, low houses rank among the most popular types in the country. The ranch, which developed from early homes in the West and Southwest, is one-story with a low pitched room. The raised ranch, which is also common is the U.S.. has two levels, each accessible from the home’s entry foyer, which features staircases to both upper and lower levels.

Cape Cod

Cape Cod

Cape Cod: This compact story-and-a-half house is small and symmetrical with a central entrance and a step, gable roof. Brick, wood or aluminum siding are the materials most commonly seen.

Georgian Style

Georgian Style

Georgian: Popular in New England, the Georgian has a very formal appearance with tow or three stories and classic lines. Usually built of red brick, the rectangular house has thin columns alongside the entry, and multi-paned windows above the door and throughout the house. Two large chimneys rise high above the roof at each end.

Tudor

Tudor

Tudor: Modeled after the English country cottage. Tudor styling features trademark dark-wood timbering set against light-colored stucco that highlights the top half of the house and frames the numerous windows. The bottom half of the house is often made of brick.

Queen Anne Victorian

Queen Anne Victorian

Queen Anne/Victorian: Developed from styles originated in Great Britain, these homes are usually two-story frame with large rooms, high ceilings and porches along the front and sometimes sides of the house. Peaked roofs and ornamental wood trim, many times referred to as “gingerbread,” decorate these elaborate homes.

Pueblo Santa Fe Style

Pueblo Santa Fe Style

Pueblo/Santa Fe Style – Popular in the Southwest, these homes are either frame or adobe brick with a stucco exterior. The flat rood has protruding, rounded beams called vigas. One or two story, the homes feature covered/enclosed patios and an abundance of tile.

Dutch Colonial

Dutch Colonial

Dutch Colonial – the Dutch Colonial has two or two-and-one-half stories covered by a gambrel roof (having two lopes on each side, with the lower slope steeper than the upper, flatter slope) and eaves that flare outward. This style is traditionally make of brick or shingles.

New England Colonial

New England Colonial

New England Colonial – This two-and-one-half story early American style is box like with a gable roof. The traditional material is narrow clapboard siding and a shingle roof. The small-pane, double-hung windows usually have working wood shutters.

Southern Colonial

Southern Colonial

Southern Colonial: this large, two-to-three-story frame house is world famous for its large front columns and wide porches.

Split Level Home

Split Level Home

Split-levels: Split-level houses have one living level about half a floor above the other living level. When this type of home is built on three different levels, it is called a tri-level.

 

 

These are just a few of the many styles of homes available across the country – some are more prominent in different areas than others. Knowing home style terms will help you zero in on the type of house that will fill your needs and suit your taste.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About Century 21 Real Estate LLC – Century 21 Real Estate LLC (century21.com) is the franchisor of the world’s largest residential real estate sales organization, providing comprehensive training and marketing support for the CENTURY 21 System. The System is comprised of approximately 7,100 independently owned and operated franchised broker offices in 74 countries and territories worldwide with more than 100,000 sales professionals. Century 21 Real Estate LLC is a subsidiary of Realogy Holdings Corp. (NYSE: RLGY), a global leader in real estate franchising and provider of real estate brokerage, relocation and settlement services.

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