Benefits Of Houseplants

Houseplants are great natural decoration pieces to occupy a corner, window sill, table, or shelf, but they also offer many health benefits that can enhance your physical well-being.

Air quality. In the late 1970s, many buildings were constructed with limited fresh air exchange and ‘superinsulation’ in an attempt to minimize energy costs. However, occupants began to report various health problems. This phenomenon, known as ‘sick building syndrome,’ was caused by the lack of fresh air entering the building and emissions of ‘various organic compounds’ from synthetic insulations. In 1989, NASA conducted a study to counteract ‘sick building syndrome’ and their results were nothing short of remarkable. They found that certain houseplants can absorb pollutants in the air through their soil and improve air quality dramatically. The study found that plants, such as Chrysanthemums, peace lilies, English ivy, and ficuses, do a great job combating indoor air pollution.

Decreasing stress. According to a 2015 study conducted by scientists at Chungnam National University, interacting with plants “can reduce physiological and psychological stress.” During the study, half the participants completed a task on a computer while the other half repotted a plant. They found that working with plants inspired comfortable feelings and reduced more stress compared to completing the computer task.

Sleep. The 1989 NASA study discovered certain plants have the ability to remove pollutants from the air and this natural process could improve your sleep. We release a lot of carbon dioxide when we are sleeping, but plants like aloe vera or snake plants can absorb that carbon dioxide and replace it with oxygen.

Minimalism Ideas For Your Home

Minimalism has been a dominating theme in design and architecture over the past few years. What started as an art movement in the 1960s has become a mainstay for interior designers that creates peaceful, eye-catching spaces with limited furnishings and selective decorative pieces. Minimalist decor is focused on the concept of ‘less is more’ and this idea places a lot of importance on functionality, tidiness, and organization in the home. Here are a few tips to bring minimalism into your home.

Eliminate the Clutter. There are many things homeowners keep around the house on the off-chance they are needed, but usually they never are. Take control of your space by throwing away any loose papers, magazines, or trinkets that aren’t getting any use and do a weekly check to see where clutter is piling up.

Choose Decorations Wisely. It’s a natural inclination to try to fill all the empty space on a wall, but in many cases, this design style can become a bit overwhelming and noisy. Instead, try to find a defining piece of art or decor that can act as a focal point or centerpiece. Then, the empty space surrounding it will accentuate the piece.

Focus on Function. When you’re deciding on whether or not to keep something in your space, just ask yourself, “Do I actually use this?” If it’s an item that is used daily, it makes sense to keep it, but if you can’t remember the last time you used it, it might be better to toss it. If something is used intermittently, you can still clear your space by finding a cabinet or drawer to keep it out of sight.

If You’re Selling, Improving Your Curb Appeal Can Make A Huge Difference

Curb appeal is a big factor for home buyers. The exterior of your home is the first thing buyers will see when they come to a showing or open house, and you want to make a great first impression. And even if you’re not selling your home, these are low-cost, low-time investment fixes that can make a big difference.

Fix Landscaping Eyesores
A brown, dead lawn—or an overgrown one—isn’t the best way to welcome buyers to your home. If your lawn is in need of repair, consider watering it regularly. If your grass is healthy, keep the lawn freshly mowed. An appealing lawn can be worth more than $1,500 in the final price of your home.

Shutters And Siding
It’s easy to let your exterior walls fall into disrepair, or even to let them get a little dirty. A good scrubbing or power washing can make your siding look brand new, and you can touch up any major issues with some paint. The same goes for your shutters.

Add Some Living Accents
So far we’ve covered fixing what’s broken. Next, it’s time to add a little personality. Planting flowers will add some much-needed color to an otherwise ordinary outdoor space. Potted plants will do the trick too, especially if you have a deck or patio that needs a little decorating.

Work On Your Walkway
The path to your front door should be inviting. A stone walkway from the driveway instantly upgrades your curb appeal. And if you’ve already taken care of that part, tidy up by removing weeds and debris, and then line the walkway with some subtle lighting. It’ll make your home look cozy and appealing, day or night.

What Do First-time Homeowners Want?

As a first-time homebuyer, it’s understandable that you would be very selective about the home you purchase. This is likely the largest financial investment you’ve made in your life so far so you want to ensure you’re going to get exactly what you want. That’s why, as a seller, it’s important to be aware of the most desirable features for buyers. Check out the five below.

Location. This one should come as no surprise. Location has always been key. Buyers are looking for low crime rates and nearby stores. Families with young children are looking for great schools and parks nearby. Young professionals are looking for easy access to work, restaurants, and nightlife.

Extra storage. A garage with floor space and shelves. An extra bedroom that can be converted. A backyard shed. Or a closet under the stairs. Adequate storage space is highly sought after.

Updated kitchen and bathroom. Many buyers are in the market for high-end, modern appliances, finishes, countertops, and more in their kitchens and bathrooms.

Large patio or backyard. This feature may make or break a first homeowner’s decision to purchase. Many times, these buyers are coming from smaller living spaces like apartments and are looking for a place to entertain guests, enjoy the fresh air, and play with kids or pets.

Smart appliances. These have been on the rise for years and aren’t going away anytime soon. Homeowners are looking for these devices to help them save money on energy, connect with friends and family, secure their home, and add convenience.

Your Guide To The Home Appraisal

You’ve found your dream home and now it’s time to cross all your T’s and dot all your I’s before it’s all your own. And one of the first items on your closing checklist is the home appraisal. So, what exactly is that?

The home appraisal is essentially a value assessment of the home and property. It is conducted by a certified third party and is used to determine whether the home is priced appropriately.

During a home appraisal, the appraiser conducts a complete visual inspection of the interior and exterior of the home. He or she factors in a variety of things, including the home’s floor plan functionality, condition, location, school district, fixtures, lot size, and more. An upward adjustment is generally made if the home has a deck, a view, or a large yard. The appraiser will also compare the home to several similar homes that were sold within the last six months in the area.

The final report must include a street map showing the property and the ones’ compared, photographs of the interior and exterior, an explanation on how the square footage was calculated, market sales data, public land records, and more.

After it is complete, the lender uses the information found to ensure that the property is worth the amount they are investing. This is a safe-guard for the lender as the home acts as collateral for the mortgage. If the buyer defaults on the mortgage and goes into foreclosure, the lender generally sells the home to recover the money borrowed.

Entertaining At Home

One of the joys of homeownership is getting to host your friends and family on various occasions. Here are a few hosting tips for your next party!

Pick a theme. Once you select a theme, planning the rest of the party is simplified. The menu options are pared down, finding decor inspiration is as easy as a Google search, and guests will have attire direction. Some common themes are fiesta, backyard BBQ, wine and cheese night, and garden party.

Plan your menu. Whether you are serving small appetizers or a formal dinner, it’s important to survey your guests for food allergies or preferences (ie. vegan, vegetarian) to ensure you offer options for everyone.

Stock up on refreshments. When it comes to drinks, it’s better to overstock than understock. Make sure to have alcohol staples on hand, such as beer, wine, vodka, and bourbon. Equally important is ice, fruit garnishes, and a good supply of juices and soda that can be used for mixing as well as drinks for children and those who don’t partake in alcohol.

Don’t forget the kids. Hosting a party with children in attendance? To ensure their parents get to enjoy the party, plan a few child-friendly activities. Purchase coloring books and crayons, pick up children’s board games, or have a couple age-appropriate movies queued up.

Make sure you have fun too. By having a flexible timeline for the party and setting aside time to prep ahead of people arriving, you can minimize the stress of hosting. Make sure you take time to talk to all your guests, enjoy the food you’ve prepared, and have some drinks (alcoholic or not) too!

Save Or Pay? Which Route Should You Choose

The balancing act between paying more than the minimum payment to rid yourself of debts and building solid savings can be a difficult one for some. Here are some things to consider when making this decision.

What’s the interest rate on your loan or credit card? If your debt carries high interest, choosing to pay more and settle that bill first can be more financially beneficial in the long run. You will likely gain more by paying it off than the return on the average savings account or stock if you were to invest that sum.

Do you have a cushioned savings account? Failing to maintain a solid emergency fund can potentially get you into bigger financial trouble down the road. Anything from a tire replacement on your car to an expected doctor bill can throw you off track. It is recommended to try and pad your account with enough money to cover at least three months of living expenses.

Do you have an employer match through your job? If your job offers a retirement savings plan that has an employer match available, you want to contribute at least the maximum amount each month for the match. Forfeiting that benefit is essentially turning down free money.

Will payments reduce your monthly minimum? Making payments to standard loans such as student loans and mortgages generally only reduces the outstanding principal. Paying over the minimum usually doesn’t cause your lender to recalculate and lower your monthly payment. In a case like this, it may be more beneficial to save some extra money instead.

Mortgage Interest Deductions 101

Purchasing a home comes with many tangible and intangible benefits. One that is commonly overlooked until the start of the year rolls around is the deductions you get on your taxes. As a homeowner, you’re likely able to deduct most, if not all, of your home mortgage interest resulting in a lower tax bill.

Interest paid on a loan that was used to buy, build, or complete substantial renovations on your primary or secondary home falls into the deductible mortgage interest bucket. The property can be a house, apartment, condominium, mobile home, house trailer, or co-op. The amount of interest you can deduct does cap out at $750,000, although most homeowners do not reach that threshold.

At the end of each tax year, your lender will provide you with a mortgage interest statement, or Form 1098, that states the total amount of interest paid for that year. You are responsible for reporting an accurate total of interest paid when you file. This requires you to itemize your taxes. If you have purchased a home with one or more people, each homeowner can deduct the amount of interest they personally pay.

There are a few others payments that may count as mortgage interest and could be added to your deductible amount. These include mortgage points, late payment charges, prepayment penalties, interest on a home equity loan, and certain mortgage insurance premiums.

By deducting mortgage interest from your taxes, you are reducing your taxable income. As a result, you have less tax liability and reduce the amount of taxes you owe which is more money in your pocket!

Put More Money In Your Pocket Each Month

Reviewing your monthly expenses once a year is a great practice to get into. As you look at your monthly budget, you will find some expenses that are fixed, like your rent or mortgage, car payments, and child care expenses. But there are several other common monthly expenses that should be reviewed and re-negotiated each year.

Call your current car insurance provider and shop other providers to make sure you have the lowest possible premium at that time. Contact your cell phone carrier to make sure you have the best and lowest cost package currently available. Shop health insurance each year to make sure you are covered at the best possible price. Contact your gym to make sure you are paying the best current pricing for your membership.

Research your cable and internet provider’s offers online then give them a call to make sure you have the best pricing for your services. Cable and internet companies often have promotions or package pricing that could be lower than your current bill. Do an audit of all online and app subscriptions you have to make sure you are not paying monthly fees for apps you signed up for in the past that you are no longer using. You will be surprised what the small fees add up to!

Don’t stop here! Analyze your monthly recurring payments and see how many of them you can bring down. The compound effect will give you a nice monthly raise.

Tips To Light Your Home

Lighting is such a crucial aspect of your home and can affect the ambiance, energy, and vibe in each room. However, sifting through the various styles, bulbs, and placement options can feel overwhelming. Here are a few tips to get you started!

Types of Lighting
There are three different types of lighting. Ambient lighting (or general lighting) fills the room, accent lighting is used to highlight something, such as art, and task lighting is used to help you complete various tasks, such as desk lamps and vanity lights. It’s recommended you have at least two types in each room.

Task and Accent Lighting
Start with selecting task and accent lighting in each room. Many times, the combination of these two provide enough light in a room so overhead lighting may not be needed.

Will it Mesh?
To ensure lighting fixtures will mesh well together, try placing images of the fixtures on a Word document or Pages to see the full picture before purchasing.

Choosing the Right Bulb
Light bulb selection is equally important as fixture selection. By choosing incandescent or halogen bulbs, you can add a warm, sunny feel to a room. Fluorescent bulbs can provide warm white, cool white, or daylight color temperatures and radiate light 360 degrees around the bulb. Finally, LED bulbs can range from blue-white to neutral white to yellow-white and are the most energy efficient option.

Dark Areas
Factor natural lighting into your light design by mapping out where the sun falls and how it moves across the room. Then, place lighting in darker areas.