As the weather warms, you are no doubt yearning to be outside to get your hands working in the dirt again. If you have never tried gardening, spring is the perfect opportunity to give it a shot and plant your own vegetable garden. Growing your own vegetables is a great way to get some fresh air and exercise, and it also allows you to get the highest possible amount of nutrients from your food. Fresh vegetables are much healthier for you than those bought from the store, as they begin to lose nutritional value the longer they sit on a shelf.
Get your gardening gear out from storage. Here is a round up list of the easiest–and most practical–vegetables to grow in your garden.
If you are new to gardening, tomatoes should absolutely be your first plant to try. Homegrown tomatoes, ripened in the sun, are a delicious addition to any meal. They are high in fiber, iron, magnesium, niacin, potassium, and several vitamins (including A and C). They are also one of the only sources of the beneficial antioxidant lycopene. If you’re just starting out or have limited space, try growing tomatoes in a container on your deck first. Usually, you can get by with just an 18-inch deep container. One plant will yield dozens of tomatoes throughout the season. Just remember that tomatoes like lots of sun and heat, so if you live in a colder area, it may take a little bit longer to get them growing.
2. Beans and Peas
Beans and peas are incredibly easy to grow. Depending on your preferences and your gardening space, you can choose to grow either bush or climbing varieties. Bush beans support themselves, while climbing or “pole” varieties need a stake or trellis to climb up on.
If you’re feeling extra organic, consider planting your beans and peas next to your corn. Beans fix nitrogen in the soil which aids the corn, and also use the stalk as a natural trellis. Both peas and beans are high in fiber, iron, potassium, and a wide range of vitamins. Plus, they continue to produce basket upon basket of delicious vegetables throughout the entire season.
Broccoli is a great vegetable to grow as it is one of the most nutritionally dense. It is high in crucial nutrients such as calcium, magnesium, iron, vitamin A, vitamin B6, and vitamin C.
Although broccoli can be grown in containers, it’s just as easy to plant it directly in the ground. It is commonly known as a cold-season crop, so it can withstand a light frost–and actually tastes better after doing so. Meaning, you can plant it when soil temperatures are still a bit chilly in early spring and keep it going long into autumn.
There are dozens of varieties of peppers you can grow, but most of them are all cultivated in about the same way. Consider bell peppers for your first try at pepper planting. A cool feature of planting bell peppers is that you will have different types of peppers at every growing stage. Harvest them young for crunchy green peppers, or wait a few weeks to allow the sun to further ripen them into delicious red peppers.
Whichever type you choose, peppers are full of nutrients, such as riboflavin and potassium. They can also be planted in pots, but grow best directly in the ground. Like tomatoes, they like lots of heat. Make sure you plant them in a warm, sunny area.
A word to the wise–if you have rocky or clay soils, consider planting carrots in a raised bed or container. Carrots like fertile, loose soil and need plenty of room to stretch out and extend their roots. Carrots are an icon of healthy eating and are high in vitamins A, B6, and C. Sow carrot seeds about two to three inches apart, and be sure to thin them as they form tops.
6. Leafy Greens
There are dozens of varieties of greens you can plant in your garden. Choose the one that best works for your climate and soil type. Popular varieties that tend to work almost anywhere include spinach and kale. Both are cold-season crops that can be started a bit earlier than other crops, and can be harvested continually throughout the year. As a bonus, once they begin to die back and your harvest dips, you can reseed over the existing plants to produce new, fresh plants. Regardless of the type of greens you plant, these are easy to grow and harvest and contain high amounts of iron, calcium, potassium, and vitamins.
Make room for at least one cucumber plant in your garden this summer. Cucumber plants produce large quantities, all of which spiral out in spiky vines. They can spread up to twenty-five feet away, so make sure you have plenty of room. Whether you plant pickling or slicing cucumbers, you should plant about five seeds in 6-inch high hills, and then thin to the two strongest plants. These warm-season crops love heat, so consider planting them on top of a layer of black plastic to heat up the soil.
The last plant on our list is zucchini. Zucchini plants have a reputation for being prolific producers, developing so many fruits at a time. The roots of the plant need regular moisture, but besides that, this is a low-maintenance vegetable that will pump out a bumper crop with just a single plant. You can eat both the fruits and blossoms of these delicious giants. Like cucumbers, they prefer warm, moist soil, so the black plastic sheet method works well in this situation, too.
Growing your own vegetables is a noble task that can take very little time and skill. If you’re ready to start on your path to self-sufficiency, give these tasty plants a try this spring.
When selling a home, even tiny fixes can have a big impact. Here are 10 of the best low- (or no-) cost home improvement fixes to make your house stand above the competition:
1. Address the Heart of the Home
In real estate, the kitchen is a main selling feature and can be a make or break deal for potential home buyers. If a new kitchen just isn’t in the cards, consider replacing smaller ticket items and de-cluttering. Low- and no-cost fixes for the kitchen include:
- New cabinet hardware
- New faucets
- Installing a new backsplash
- Storing countertop appliances to create more work space
- Replacing dark valances with lighter fabric or removing them altogether
2. Update Switch Plate Covers
Switch plate and outlet covers are brittle, and can crack and yellow over time, resulting in a home that, no matter how well updated, still looks dated. New outlets and covers can be replaced in a snap for generally under five dollars, making it one of the lowest cost updates available. Consider flat switches that create a modern, streamlined silhouette and stick to white for a timeless look.
3. Beautify the Bathroom
An updated bathroom comes only second to kitchens in a buyer’s list of must-haves, so showing them a clean and uncluttered bathroom will score points with any potential buyer.
New flooring can give an otherwise tired bathroom a much needed facelift and create a newer looking bathroom overall. Coordinating linens, a new shower curtain, and thoroughly cleaned grout can top off this easy home improvement investment.
4. Address Storage
Storage is always a concern for buyers. Installing low-cost closet organizers to your existing space will increase storage and organization in your home. Add storage baskets to hide clutter and you will have beautiful storage spaces that will make any buyer envious.
5. Deep Clean for a Good Return
If your home contains wall to wall carpeting, clean carpets can make a world of difference to a buyer. Cleaning carpets can easily be completed in a weekend with a rental cleaning machine, and it creates a noticeably clean, odor free environment for buyers to tour.
6. Boost Curb Appeal
Nothing boosts curb appeal like a tidy yard. Trim and edge walkways, weed gardens, and trim shrubs for maximum impact. If you have a porch, consider potted, seasonal plants to bring the look together.
7. Improve the First Impression
As buyers approach your home, first impressions matter. Ensuring your entryway is clean and inviting with something as simple as a new mailbox or updated house numbers will make buyers feel welcome. Clean windows and doors for extra impact.
8. Add a Coat of Paint
Freshening up your living space with neutral colors will invite buyers to imagine their belongings in your home and will cover up any nicks, scratches, or dents your wall incurred over years of daily living.
9. Update Lighting
While not the lowest cost solution on our list, you will find that a new light fixture or two really breathes new life into key living spaces. If your budget is tight, look to kitchen, dining, and living rooms for the most bang for your buck.
10. Add Some Decor Pizzazz
Finally, a fresh look can be completed with nothing more than some colorful fabric. Inexpensive pillows and throws in a coordinating palette through your home will create a unified look that will have buyers hooked.
Lastly, don’t plan to tackle a home project DIY style until you read 5 Things You Need to Know Before DIY-ing A Home Improvement Project!
Source: CB Blue Matter Blog
Even though today is National No Housework Day (no, that’s not a belated April Fool’s Joke), spring cleaning season is in full swing. So, while you have permission to put off your honey do list until tomorrow, here’s a list of to do’s for your home this month.
1. April Showers Bring May Flowers – But, only if you prep the garden today! Lay mulch around shrubs and flower beds before the weeds take over next month. However, resist the urge to plant warm season annuals and vegetables until the last frost date has passed in your area.
2. Fresh Air, Fresh Paint – Planning to paint the exterior of your home, deck or front door? Start preparing exterior surfaces now by scraping and sanding so that when the warmer weather arrives, you’ll be ready to apply the first coat (without a coat on!)
3. Dust Off the Chaise Lounges – The days of lounging in the backyard are almost here! Take some time to clean and repair any outdoor furniture.
4. Get Rid of House Guests – While we all love having family and friends visit over the holidays, other unwelcome house guests can often make themselves at home in our roofs and walls during the winter. Follow this guide to inspect and repair damage from animals who took shelter in your home this winter season.
5. Organize the Garage or Shed – For most of the country, it’s finally time to stash the snow shovels and bust out the lawn mower. While you’re at it, consider Making Your Garage Smarter and More Energy Efficient
6. Spring Clean That Closet – Kick off your spring cleaning project by tackling one of the most cluttered spots of the home. Follow these three steps to a spring miracle: an organized closet.
Source: CB Blue Matter Blog
Thinking of selling your condo? Whether you live in the condo or own it as an investment property, if you’re ready to sell your home, it’s time to talk to a qualified real estate agent in your area. By evaluating several criteria, including regional markets, time of year, features of your condo unit, as well as your specific needs as the seller, he or she can create a customized marketing plan for your condo. Here are five important topics to discuss with your real estate agent if you want to sell your home:
1. Best Time of Year to Sell Your Condo
The specifics of your area do more to determine the best time to put your home on the market than whether you’re selling a condo or a house. While the conventional wisdom is that spring is the best time for selling a home, this belief simply doesn’t ring true in every locale. In recent years the historic patterns have eased, and in some cases, totally disappeared. Still, different parts of the country have periods when sellers can be more aggressive with their pricing. And your real estate agent may suggest a distinct timing strategy for condominium sales, especially if your condo is in a resort destination.
2. Open House Strategy and How to De-Clutter
A condo that shows well will sell faster and bring a higher price. Small cosmetic touch-ups can make a big difference. Buyers often suspect that more serious problems may exist if they notice the need for minor repairs. If you want to sell your home, it’s important to make sure your condo is clean, tidy and free of personal clutter. Clear sinks and counters of dishes and toiletries. Neatly stack office supplies and organize storage areas. Replace dim light bulbs and clean windows. Even though your garden area may be commonly owned, do your best to create curb appeal by cleaning front steps and porches, and clearing lawns of toys or equipment.
3. Features to Accentuate
One of the best features to accentuate when selling a condo is the lifestyle of ease that comes with condominium ownership. Many buyers are looking for the hassle-free living experience that they can’t find with a single-family detached house. Another important attribute of any condo is the amenities of the association, which can include a hot tub, fitness center, owner’s lounge, covered parking and even concierge services. If you’re considering selling your condo, take the time to walk through it methodically with your real estate agent. Together you can point out which features of the actual condo unit should be accentuated. Does your unit have a wonderful view? Perhaps the location of your condominium is unique and desirable. Your real estate agent can help accentuate these features in sales and marketing materials.
4. Desired Price and Bottom Line Price
When setting the home price for your condo, it’s important to identify your desired price and your bottom line price. By assessing recent condo sale and listing statistics in your area, your real estate agent and a licensed appraiser can estimate your house value and recommend an appropriate target price range. Working with your agent, you can set an initial asking price, as well the absolute lowest home price you would comfortably accept. One advantage of selling a condo is that by assessing the prices of other units in your association that have recently sold or are currently listed, your real estate agent and the appraiser can determine a very accurate house value.
When selling your condo, you may be obligated to disclose problems that could affect the property’s value or desirability, as well as to disclose HOA minutes and costs of common insurance and utilities. In most states, it is illegal to fraudulently conceal major physical defects in your property, such as a water heater that leaks severely. And many states now require sellers to take a proactive role by making written disclosures on the condition of the condo unit. Ask your real estate agent for the particular laws of your state.
After reading this article, read more tips on selling a home and make sure you get the best value on your property on Coldwell Banker’s Seller Resources.
Source: CB Blue Matter Blog
Hardwood flooring is often considered a must-have feature by new homeowners or those undertaking a remodeling project. Wood is a natural, renewable resource, plus wood flooring complements all types of home decor, from traditional to contemporary. Hardwood flooring is often considered a must-have feature by new homeowners or those undertaking a remodeling project. Wood is a natural, renewable resource, plus wood flooring complements all types of home decor, from traditional to contemporary. The downside is that wood floors, especially solid wood floors, can be expensive. Some exotic wood species, such as Brazilian walnut, can cost more than $15 per square foot — and that doesn’t include installation labor. However, you can find alternatives that give you the look of real wood at a reduced price — some as low as $2 or $3 per square foot. Here are some of the best budget-friendly hardwood floor choices.
Calculating the Overall Price
The products listed below go from most expensive to least expensive, but there’s a lot of overlap among the categories. For example, some solid wood products are less expensive than some luxury vinyl tiles. Before you make your final decision, factor in the cost of professional installation, which can add as much as $3 to $10 per square foot to the total cost of a flooring project. Some of the items that can drive up installation costs include:
• Removing and disposing of the old flooring
• Repairing the subfloor when necessary
• The size and shape of the room(s)
• Stair installation
If you’re an experienced DIYer, you can save money by installing the floors yourself. Beginners should leave the job to the professionals, though — you may end up making mistakes that are even more expensive to fix.
This is usually the most expensive option, but there are ways to reduce the cost, especially in the long run. When properly maintained, solid wood flooring will last as long as the house stands. You can freshen up the look at any time by sanding away the old finish and restaining and sealing the floor.
Some wood species are more expensive than others. Fortunately, many of the most common types, such as oak or maple, fall into the low- to mid-range of costs. Solid wood products can come finished or unfinished. If the floor is unfinished, the installer will stain and seal the floor once it is in place, which adds to the installation costs. On the flip side, the prefinished product may cost more up front.
These products are constructed of multiple thin layers of material that are bonded together under pressure. The top layer is made from a familiar wood species — such as oak or maple — and is usually treated with a factory-applied finish that resists dirt and scuff marks. Engineered wood floors are less likely than solid wood to wrap and twist because of moisture and humidity, so they can be installed in basements and bathrooms. Some products feature click-in-place installation — no need for adhesives or fasteners — which is an easier, faster installation method perfect for DIYers. However, a vapor barrier needs to be installed or attached to the flooring.
Bamboo floors are manufactured to either look like traditional wood flooring or showcase their distinctive grass-like look. Some bamboo products are harder than solid wood flooring. They are strong and long-lasting, but are easy to scratch and are not recommended for areas prone to moisture. Bamboo is a type of grass and grows to maturity much more quickly than trees do, which makes it a sustainable, eco-friendly option. Click-in-place installation is available for some products.
New porcelain tiles can be made to look like anything, including real wood. Some products are available in planks that have a wood-like texture. Porcelain tiles are an inexpensive, easy way to achieve a “reclaimed” wood look — many tiles mimic the texture and color variation of aged planks. As with regular tiles, they are durable and can be used in wet areas, including bathrooms. They are also stain-resistant and much easier to clean than real wood — spills wipe up quickly, and using just water and a mild soap makes them shine. Porcelain tiles must be installed using mortar and grout.
Luxury Vinyl Tile
As with porcelain tiles, luxury vinyl tile (LVT) can look like wood and come in traditional-style planks. LVTs are thicker and more durable than standard vinyl. They are usually waterproof, are easier to clean than true hardwoods, and can be installed in any room in the house. To prolong their durability, many LVTs are treated to resist color fading and scratches.
Laminate floors are composed of a high-density hardboard core protected by a melamine layer that can be made to look like anything — including real wood. The top layer protects against dirt and scuff marks, but the material should not be installed in rooms that are exposed to moisture. Click-in-place installation is available.
Hardwood flooring is a classic, timeless look that fits a wide range of design options. Thanks to today’s selection of flooring products, it’s easy to get a wood look at a lower cost. When making your final decision, be sure to include both the material costs and the installation costs. That way, you’ll get the look you want at a budget-friendly price.
DIY author Fran Donegan has written several books, including Paint Your Home. He also writes for The Home Depot about homeownership and projects that add value to your house. To see a selection of hardwood flooring options like those described by Fran in this article, please click here.
This article is editorial content that has been contributed to our site at our request and is published for the benefit of our readers. We have not been compensated for its placement.
Source: CB Blue Matter Blog
So, it’s that time of year again when we get down on our hands and knees to scrub our home top to bottom. Sponge? Check. Eco-friendly cleaning solutions? Check. Rubber gloves? Check. Ready, set, clean. You step back to admire your hard work only to realize your home doesn’t look any different after hours of scouring.
Avoid the spring-cleaning blues. Put the duster down and actually make a visual difference to your home. Remember that feeling when you just moved in? It’s like a new car smell. Everything had its place, décor was new and you had just what you needed. Find that home again! It’s simply a change of mindset, look beyond the mop to the tasks that will actually transform your home for the entire season. Follow these spring-cleaning hacks to a cleaner, brighter home:
- Out With the Poinsettias: Replace houseplants with fresh spring plants from a local farmer’s market. Fresh plants help improve the flow of oxygen in your home, bringing in that clean spring-like air.
- Toss the Pillows: In the spring, it’s time to put heavy fabrics, throw blankets and extra toss pillows in storage. Less things and textures will make you feel cool and clean.
- Raise Your Kids: Beds, that is. Purchase bed raisers for your kids’ rooms to create under-the-bed storage. You can store everything from shoes, laundry basket, books to any bulky items that might otherwise clutter their room.
- Sort the Soups: Done with winter’s comfort foods? Sort through your kitchen cabinets and box up canned foods you have not used in three months. Donate them to your local food bank. An organized pantry creates space for fresh spring meals and perhaps a cleaner diet.
- Seasonal Style Assessment: Take a look at your winter shoes, coats and purses. Will they make it another season? If so, remove them from your closet and put them in storage. If they won’t make it another season, donate them. And, no shopping for new spring clothes! That is until you make room for them. Get rid of an old item for every new item. Then say hello to your organized closet!
- Clear Clutter Magnets: What are the places in your home that attract the most clutter? By the front door? That special junk drawer? Bedside table? Coat closet? Identify your clutter magnets and pick one per weekend to de-clutter.
To de-clutter, empty everything out and create four piles: keep, give away, throw away and store. If you can’t remember the last time you used something, get rid of it! Only put the items back that you really need. Create “homes” for items that end up attracted to each spot. For example, make a basket for each family member so little Logan has a place to dump his schoolbooks when he walks in the door. Stack the baskets close by their former drop spot. Lastly, take a picture of your new “anti-clutter magnet” and place it on the inside of a drawer or underneath a table to refer to, so you can keep it that way! You will be amazed at how happy that clutter-free spot makes you feel every time you walk by.
Now step back, take a deep breath and soak in the clear clean space of your refreshed home. When your friends come over, they will be sure to ask for the name of the cleaning service you used!
Coming up with a down payment to purchase your first home can feel like a herculean task. How can you possibly save twenty, thirty, fifty thousand dollars—approximately 11% of your home purchase price in 2016 (National Association of Realtors)—to pour into a house? For most individuals, it can be incredibly tough to save enough, particularly if you’re strapped for cash. What can you do?
The good news is that if you’ve been consistent about saving for your retirement, you have a leg up thanks to the two 401k first time home buyer options. These options allow you to supplement your down payment with cash from your 401k. However, not everyone qualifies to use money from a 401k. There are strict rules, so it’s vital that you understand how the process works before you move forward.
Borrowing from 401k
When it comes to borrowing from your 401k to help with your down payment, there are two ways to go about it:
- Get a 401k loan for home purchase
- Make a 401k withdrawal
Each of these options comes with its own costs and rewards. Remember that everyone’s financial situation is different and the best way to make the right choice for your situation is to contact a financial advisor and a skilled real estate agent.
First, let’s talk about getting a 401k loan for home purchase. The good news is that, when getting a loan, you don’t owe income taxes or the 10% early withdrawal fee. The bad news is that when you take a loan, it has to be repaid with interest even if you’re just paying the money and interest back out of your own pocket.
However, unlike a typical FHA loan, borrowing from 401k is fairly limited. Your max loan is limited to a specific dollar amount OR one-half of your account balance, whichever is smaller. This means that you need to know your current vested balance.
As for repayment, your 401k loan must be repaid within five years, and payments are required on a quarterly basis—both principal and interest. And your loan payments DO NOT count as contributions to your 401k.
Please note, not all plans permit loans. You’ll need to check with your particular plan to see what is allowed. Additionally, before moving forward with this option it’s advisable to check in with a financial advisor to ensure this option is right for you.
The second option for a 401k first time home buyer is a withdrawal. Compared to a 401k loan, it’s much simpler. The money is yours once you take it out and it does not have to be repaid. But there are a few more details. To withdrawal money from your 401k, you have to meet a few criteria including age restriction and financial hardship.
Only if your employer allows withdrawals and you can prove to the IRS that you are experiencing financial hardship can you even consider withdrawal. From there, your withdrawal has a certain dollar limit, and you must pay income tax on the full amount.
The other option for a withdrawal is to cash out on an old 401k. However, if you use this option, you’ll be required to pay both the 10% early withdrawal penalty as well as income tax.
Before you pursue this path or cross it off, be sure to get the opinion of a financial advisor who has access to your personal financial details.
401k Loan vs. Withdrawal
In most cases, a 401k loan may be easier to obtain and doesn’t come with the penalties associated with an early withdrawal. Of course, the downside is that you’ll eventually have to pay it back in five years.
So, why would you use your 401k to help purchase your first home?
Depending on your financial circumstances, this option may be more financially feasible than paying private mortgage insurance, and the interest goes back in your pocket. Another option is to use your IRA to avoid the 10% penalty. IRA withdrawals up to $10,000 are allowed without the 10% early withdrawal penalty, though you’ll still owe income tax.
If you need help figuring out the best option for you when it comes to putting together your down payment with your 401k, contact your personal financial advisor. Then contact a local Coldwell Banker office to find the perfectly priced home for you.