Since the days of Adam and Eve, homeowners have been battling pests and weeds in the garden and in the home. But the benefits of growing plants far outweigh the challenges. I thought I would share with you some tips that can help keep your plants happy, indoors and out!

For an environmentally safe insecticide boil five or six chopped garlic cloves in a gallon of water until soft. Add one tablespoon of biodegradable detergent and let sit for a day before spraying on plants.

A spray bottle of two parts vinegar and one part water is good for getting rid of slugs on your garden plants.

For indoor and outdoor plants clay pots are better than plastic. Clay pots allow the plants to breathe and are cooler for the plant roots.

When you change the water in your aquarium save it to use on your houseplants. They will love it!

A paste of baking soda and water will remove most stains from your plastic garden furniture.

When planting flowers, first scrape a bar of soap across your fingernails to keep them from getting soil stained.

Sprinkling pepper in the garden will repel cats and other critters from digging or lying on your plants.

You’re more likely to kill your houseplants by over-watering than under-watering. Once a week is sufficient for most houseplants.

Brown edges on your indoor plant leaves may mean not enough humidity. You can water them until they die but if the air is too dry (especially with the heat on in the winter) watering the roots won’t fix the problem. If you don’t want to buy a humidifier, place your potted plants on top of a large plate of fine gravel. Keep the gravel plate filled with water, which will evaporate and create moist air around the plants.

Got ants in your pants? Get even by sprinkling some uncooked grits on the ant hill. The nasty little brutes will chow down, then swell up and die…revenge!

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I want to share some simple ways that you can improve the curb appeal of your home. Whether you have just moved in or are getting ready to sell, curb appeal is something every homeowner needs! I hope you are finding my Homeowner’s Tips useful as you get settled into your new home.

Walk across the street and look at your overall landscape.

Are shrubs trimmed neatly? Windows and doors shouldn’t be overshadowed by overgrown bushes.

Clear your entry, sidewalk, and plant beds of leaves and debris.

Add a new layer of attractive mulch to all planting areas.

Are there bare spots or weeds in the lawn? Your local garden supplier can tell you the best way to remedy this problem.

Hardscape (bird feeders or houses, simple water features, statuary) can add warmth and character to an otherwise drab terrain.

Make your front door more appealing with a fresh coat of paint or stain and new hardware.

Speaking of hardware, install new light fixtures on both sides of your door and change your old, scratched house number plates with shiny new ones.

Consider shutters or awnings to dress up your windows.

Well placed, low voltage landscape lighting is fairly inexpensive and will dramatically enhance your home when the sun goes down.

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Some people work harder than they have to in order to have a beautiful lawn. Grass is pretty tough. If you give it the right growing conditions your grass will defend itself from most weeds and diseases. One of the main mistakes people make is in when and how to water the lawn. Here are some watering tips that will help your lawn be strong and healthy.

DO water every five to six days during the warm season.

DO water early in the morning.

DO set sprinkler water spray close to the ground, not in high arcs.

DO soak the area for 30 minutes to 1 hour.

DON’T water during the heat of the day (you lose ⅓ of the water to evaporation).

DON’T over-water, as you will lose nutrients and encourage rot and disease.

DON’T water too frequently, as it encourages shallow roots and weak grass.

DON’T water at night, as it encourages disease.

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You can use steel wool to:

Fill a screw hole that has become too big for the screw. Stuff the hole with steel wool and re-insert the screw.

Make an instant pincushion. Stuff an old sock with steel wool and tie tightly for a pincushion that will keep pins and needles rust free.

Repel kitchen pests, by placing steel wool around the pipes under the sink.

You can use nail polish remover to:

Remove sticker residue from glass objects.

Unstick your fingers after a superglue mishap.

Remove marker and ink from appliances, glass, and stainless steel.

You can use olive oil to:

Revitalize leather shoes and baseball gloves.

Clean greasy hands.

Repel moles in the yard. Soak a cloth in olive oil and stuff it into the mole hole. Moles hate olive oil!

You can use cola to:

Remove grease stains from the garage floor.

Clear a sluggish drain.

Loosen a bolt that is rusted on.

Remove stubborn stains from the toilet. Pour in the cola and wait one hour before scrubbing.

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Home Selling

When To Cancel Your Homeowner’s Insurance

When you are ready to sell your home, there are a number of steps to getting everything taken care of. One of the last steps in the process should be the cancellation of your homeowner’s insurance. Even if you have already moved out of the home, you need that insurance in place for a variety of reasons.

Liability Risks While Selling

When you are selling your home, you have a number of people entering the home and walking around the property. If one of them is injured, you remain responsible for that injury even if you no longer live there. As long as you are the homeowner of the property, you remain the person who is liable for anything that happens there.

Having a lot of people coming and going can increase the odds of something going wrong, and you could find yourself facing a lawsuit or claim against you. Keep that homeowner’s policy in force throughout the selling process to ensure you are protected.

Keep Contents Protection

With strangers coming and going from your home, your valuables are at risk. Although you hope that everyone who enters your home will respect your property, it might not always be the case. Homeowner’s insurance will protect all of the items in your home and ensure that if something is stolen or damaged, you will have coverage.

It also covers your personal property anywhere it goes, so you will have coverage while in transit or in storage during the move.

You’re Still Responsible

Until everything is signed and official and the home is sold, you remain the person responsible for anything that happens there. Your mortgage company requires that you maintain homeowner’s insurance until the loan is paid off either by you or by selling.

If anything happens to the home and it’s not insured, you will find yourself still owing on that loan and without the means to replace or repair the home. It’s vital that you keep the homeowner’s insurance in place until you are completely free of any liability or responsibility for the home.

Wait until you no longer carry any risk of facing lawsuits or having to pay for repairs on the property or contents before you cancel your homeowner’s insurance. And make certain that you have the policy for your new home in place as well so that you have no interruptions in your coverage. This will ensure there aren’t any potentially costly gaps in insurance.

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Home Selling

When Should You Accept A Low Bid?

If you are selling your home and are motivated to get the deal done quickly, you may be tempted to accept a low bid. Whether you need to sell because you are being relocated or need to downsize to save your financial investment, there are several things you should consider before accepting a bid that is below your asking price. Here are a few tips on making that decision a bit easier.

How Motivated Are You?

The decision to accept a low bid should always be influenced by your actual financial position rather than simply wanting a quick sale. If you are in a situation in which you may lose your home due to foreclosure, accepting a low bid may be your only option. If, on the other hand, you are simply tempted to take a low bid because it is more than you originally paid for the home, you may want to reconsider. For most people, the motivation will lie somewhere in the middle, and balancing your motivation to sell and the potential financial loss of accepting a low bid should be carefully evaluated.

Avoid Becoming A Motivated Seller

The best way to sidestep having to take a low bid is by avoiding the position of being a truly motivated seller in the first place. If you are having trouble paying your mortgage, be sure you have exhausted any refinancing options that may exist. Another common reason people feel obligated to accept a low bid is that they have already purchased a new home and do not want to be in the position of paying two mortgages at once. So before purchasing a new home, first sell your existing home.

No matter your reason for considering accepting a low bid for your home, be sure you get the advice of both a REALTOR® and a financial advisor to ensure you are making the right decision.

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Home Selling

When Is The Right Time To Reduce The Price

Every homeowner must set an asking price when listing their home on the market, but what happens when you don’t receive any offers? Just as it’s important to know when it’s time to sell, it’s important to recognize the right time to reduce the price.

Supply & Demand

If a lot of homes are currently listed on the market or your home is overpriced, it may be time to consider a price reduction if you hope to stay competitive. If five different stores sold your favorite soda, what would motivate you to buy from one over the others? If you are like most, the cost would be a leading factor. The same is true with home buyers, who are looking to get the best value for their dollar.

Hurry Up & Wait

If your home has been listed on the market for what is considered to be a lengthy time for your area, it may be time to consider a price reduction. This is especially true if you are in a hurry to sell, which may be the case if you are planning to purchase another house upon selling yours. In some cases, a homeowner will make an offer on another house and that offer will be contingent upon selling their current home. When this happens, the homeowner is likely to be in a hurry to sell so that they can honor the terms of their new agreement before it expires. Real estate can often be a waiting game, but sometimes it may be necessary to hurry up the process, through a price reduction, if you need to complete the sale.

Market Value Fluctuations

We all know how the market fluctuates. If you own real estate, property values can go up one year and fall the next. If your house is currently listed and the property values have fallen, you may want to consider reducing the price in order to remain in the running with potential home buyers. If your house is priced far above market value, most lenders would refuse to approve a loan for your asking price. Having an appraisal would be one way to know how much your home is worth.

REALTOR® Recommendations

If you’ve hired a REALTOR®, you obviously trust him/her to guide you through the process of selling your home. If your REALTOR® suggests a price reduction, it may be in your best interest to consider it. Nobody knows the business like a real estate agent. They know what buyers want and, in most cases, what they are willing to pay. If you’ve trusted a REALTOR® enough to hire them, trust them enough to value their opinion.

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Home Selling

What To Remove From Your Home Before A Showing

Showings are the main method by which homes are sold; people who take time out of their day to schedule and attend a showing are generally serious buyers. To make the most of each showing, you want your house to be clean and neat—but there are also a few other things to consider. Here are a few things you will want to remove from your home to ensure it shows at its best.

Pets And Pet Items

Yes, it is hard to get pets out of your home every time someone wants to see it, but it’s an important step to make sure the showing experience is pleasant for buyers. Take dogs, cats, and any other pet that moves freely about the house with you when you leave during a showing. Fish tanks are fine, but if you have an unusual pet like a snake or a spider, you may want to remove them as well, as buyers may be squeamish about such creatures.

Along with your pet, remove any pet accessories that you can. This means the dog’s bed, cat toys, and other items that may be lying around. If possible, move cat litter boxes to an outdoor, hidden location during the showing.

Family Photos And Kids’ Art

It’s your home, and you want to display your photos and your children’s latest art projects, but buyers don’t want to see them. Buyers are looking to picture their own family in the home, and not yours, so it’s helpful to create a cleaner slate.

Removing photos and similar items also reduces clutter on walls, the fridge, and surfaces, creating a more open look to your home.

Visible Valuables

Sadly, not everyone who enters your home for a showing may be entirely trustworthy; this is especially true of an open house when anyone can walk in. It’s best not to leave expensive items in plain sight, including jewelry, electronic equipment, musical instruments, and valuable collectibles.

In addition to protecting your items, removing them from the home will once again reduce the clutter and create a home that shows more easily. Like the family photos, removing your collection of sports memorabilia helps take your personality out so buyers can superimpose their own.

Removing items from your house each time you have a showing is difficult, so you may want to simply put them in storage during the sale process—although of course that doesn’t apply to pets. The fewer things that need to be stashed away before a showing, the more ready you will be when the call comes in.

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Home Selling

What Season Is Best To Sell?

So you are ready to sell your house, but you look out the window and see several feet of snow on the ground. Should you bother putting your house on the market in the winter, or should you wait until spring? Is there a better season in which to sell your home? The answers to these questions depend on a few basic factors.

Where You Live

In a place where the climate is very cold in the winter, it can be wise to wait until spring to sell, because fewer buyers will be venturing out to look at homes. In an area where the sun shines year round, weather is not a concern, and people will have no trouble coming out to see your house. This doesn’t mean, however, that season doesn’t matter in a warm climate! It can still affect how many potential buyers will come out and the odds of selling.

Watch Out For The Holiday Slump

People are usually too busy from Thanksgiving through Christmas to spend much time house hunting, and in January they are often recovering financially from holiday over-spending. Most experts will recommend that you avoid listing your home until after the worst of the holiday slump in the market is over and people are looking to buy again. This is true no matter what the climate!

Particulars Of Your Home

If your home is near a high school, you might want to consider selling in the summer when things nearby are a bit quieter. The noise and traffic of the school year might put some buyers off. If your home is near a lot of fun winter activities, this might actually be a selling point that will be highlighted better in the winter months. Looking for these details of your area and capitalizing on them will help you to get your home sold.

The season does matter when it comes to home buying, and spring is usually a good time to list. Your REALTOR® can help you to determine what season makes the most sense for listing in your particular case, providing you with market information in your area and helping you pinpoint the particulars of your home that make it appealing in a specific season.

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Home Selling

What Are Lockboxes? How Do Lockboxes Work?

When a homeowner lists their house with a REALTOR®, they may choose to store their house keys in the lockbox for easy access for the REALTOR® showing the home. In fact, these handy accessories have all but replaced the need to keep a key under the mat. And not to mention, they are a lot more effective and secure.

Why REALTORS® Use A Lockbox

It’s no surprise that REALTORS® like to sell houses, but they wouldn’t be in business for long if the homes they show were to be vandalized or illegally accessed by an unlawful individual. A lockbox works to prevent anyone, other than approved REALTORS®, from being granted access into the home. Not only does it allow the REALTOR® to be more effective in showing homes, but it also gives the owner some added peace of mind in knowing that their home is being protected.

The Cost

Lockboxes vary in price according to the unit itself. For instance, some lockboxes use a standard key to open while the more modern approach is a combination lock. In some cases, the seller may be required to purchase a unit if they prefer a REALTOR® use it when showing their home to potential buyers. In other instances, the REALTOR® will provide the lockbox free of charge. The best way to know for sure is to ask your REALTOR® about their policy relating to lockboxes and what, if any, cost will apply to its use.

Lockbox Safety

When it comes to protecting any vacant home, careful planning is a must. Many experts and homeowners alike believe that having a lockbox alone will not protect the home, but rather the unit together with proper placement would be the better combination for optimal security. Most REALTORS® recommend placing the lockbox in an area that’s concealed, one that’s not obvious at first glance, as opposed to leaving it in plain sight. Some may prefer to leave the lockbox near the entrance of the home because, after all, how many burglars would ever walk right up to the front door?

Now that you know where to place the lockbox, you need to know where not to place it. Never choose a location that’s far from the home or is inconvenient for the REALTOR® to access. In order to show your house to potential buyers, your REALTOR® needs to be able to get in the door and it’s not likely that they will be thrilled at the prospect of wading through an overgrown lawn, reaching blindly into a flower garden or sliding through the mud just to find your house key.

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