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12 Genius Yard and Garden Maintenance Hacks to Simplify Your Summer

by Amy McLeod Group


Having a lush green yard as a retreat is fantastic. But maintaining a yard? Easier said than mowed. So the question then becomes: How can you enjoy your backyard oasis with the minimum of effort on pruning, weeding, and anxiously hovering over every blade of grass?

Look no further than "Home Hacks," our weekly series on simplifying all aspects of home life. Since yard maintenance may be looming large over you right about now, here are some smart shortcuts to make the coming warm-weather months way easier.

1. Get your garden tools in good shape

After months in cold, damp storage, your gardening tools can likely use a spring cleaning. To shine rusty tools without elbow grease, soak them in white vinegar for 24 hours, then scrub with steel wool. Keep tools from rusting again by storing them in a bucket of builder's sand. (It really works!)

2. Water less for longer

"Instead of frequently watering your grass lightly, water it only two times per week for longer periods of time," says Barbara Roueche, brand manager for lawn-care equipment manufacturer Troy-Bilt.

The reason: Not only will you save water, but this promotes deeper grass-root growth, thus enabling your lawn to better tolerate drought.


Take a cue from a good rainfall to determine how much water your grass needs. About 20 minutes, twice each week, should do the trick.

3. Use old newspaper and never pull weeds again

Weeds in your flowerbeds are a time-stealing eyesore (plus weeds steal moisture from flowers, causing them to wilt). Banish weeds for the entire summer with this simple trick.

"Pull all the weeds from your beds once, and then add a layer of newspaper beneath mulch," says Roueche.

Newspaper will block new weeds from taking root, as well as help retain moisture. It is also nontoxic and will eventually decompose into the soil.

4. Kill weeds with vinegar

You can also brew up an all-natural vinegar mixture to keep weeds away, says Roueche. Not only is this hack environmentally friendly, it's also a safe option for those with pets sniffing around the yard.

Pour 1 gallon of everyday white vinegar into a bucket and add 1 cup of table salt. Stir the solution until the salt dissolves. Add 1 tablespoon of liquid dishwashing soap to help the mixture stick, and you've got a powerful weedkiller. Funnel it into a spray bottle and spray liberally on the weeds on a sunny day. Any weeds hit with this solution will die within several days.

5. Shine outdoor furniture

Clean stains on plastic outdoor furniture by rubbing marks with a dab of white toothpaste. Toothpaste's tiny granules gently clear stains that most other cleaners can't reach.

If you need to revive sun-faded colors on plastic furniture, polish with a small amount of petroleum jelly or mineral oil. Let the jelly or oil sit for an hour, then wipe it off for a refreshed shine.

6. Prevent pests with pantry items

"Instead of using harmful pesticides, repel critters by sprinkling coffee grounds or citrus peels in your garden," says Roueche.

Both are natural repellents for pests, because of their odor and acidity. Bonus: Coffee grounds also serve as a fertilizer and improve a soil's drainage, water retention, and aeration.

7. Protect your garden from animals and pets

Hate how animals (your own, or intruders) tend to munch on your garden's offerings before you can get a taste? Some plastic forks can fix that.

"Stick plastic forks point-side up around delicate plants," says Jennifer Harder, founder and CEO of Jennifer Harder Mortgage Brokers. Most animals will steer clear lest they hurt their delicate feet.

8. Keep your roses healthy with milk

Roses are susceptible to unsightly fungus, in the form of blotches on leaves. The answer is in your fridge. Take half a cup of milk and add it to a cup of water in a spray bottle.

"Then spray the watered-down milk onto your rose leaves to kill spotting fungus," says DIY expert and Liberty Mutual Insurance consultant Chip Wade.

9. Skip watering your plants

Always forgetting to water your plants? A hack using plastic water bottles can save you the trouble. Fill them with water, then use a needle or pin to poke a few holes in the cap. From there, half bury the water bottle upside down in the dirt near the plants you want to water. The holes in the cap allow for a slow trickle to keep plants hydrated for as long as a couple of weeks (depending on the size of your water bottle).

10. Mow easier

While most people mow back and forth across their lawn, turning around once they reach the sides, there is an easier way: Mow in a spiral shape, from the inside out. This reduces the amount of turning, which is tough to wrangle with a push mower and all but impossible with a ride-on mower. Here's more on how to mow a lawn.

11. Don't bother raking up lawn clippings

Hate raking up your lawn clippings? Leave them on your lawn instead. They'll help fertilize your lawn and keep it lush. Your best bet is to keep these clippings short enough that they won't clump on top of your grass, but rather fall to the earth below. A good rule of thumb to make this happen is the one-third rule: Snip just the top third of the blades of grass so they're small enough to fall through.

12. Make your lawnmower nonstick

A great way to keep cut grass from clogging up your lawnmower's cutting blades is to use cooking spray on the blades.

"This saves a lot of time on cleanup and maintenance, by keeping grass from sticking to the blades," says Harder.

Contact The McLeod Group Network for all your Real Estate needs! 971.208.5093 or admin@mgnrealtors.com

By: Realtor.com, Margaret Heidenry 
Lisa Kaplan Gordon contributed to this post

5 Hot Hardscaping Trends Homeowners Should Try Right Now

by Amy McLeod Group


Whether you're putting your place on the market or just looking to give your crib some extra curb appeal, your property's exterior design deserves just as much attention as the interior.

But while you might've spent hours contemplating new window shutters, light fixtures, and foliage, there's a good chance one exterior improvement has fallen toward the bottom of your priority list: your hardscaping. After all, how much can you possibly change a pathway or sidewalk?

Well, a lot, apparently.

The truth is, hardscaping is one of the first—if not the first—things to consider when sprucing up your outdoor space. We're talking about the structures or materials that divide sections and provide places to walk and sit.

"Hardscaping should be the first component considered [because] it’s really the structure of the landscaping," explains Frederico Azevedo, founder and CEO of Unlimited Earth Care. "If hardscaping is left as an afterthought to the overall design, it will disrupt the flow of any property."

And, just like the plants you choose to grow in your backyard or the color you use to paint your front door, there are plenty of hardscaping trends that will help your property shine. Below are five expert-approved ways to improve your property’s walkways, sidewalks, and pathways.

1. Grass
Photo by Westover Landscape Design
 

Once upon a time, having grass sprout between your slabs of stone was considered sloppy and distasteful. Today, however, it's actually encouraged to integrate greenery into your hardscaping.

"Grass-jointed paving paths combine structured geometry, lush natural textures, and vibrant color," says landscape architect Janice Parker. "They provide an overlapping of formal and informal elements. Thoughtful stone selection, based on the architectural aesthetic of the home, ensures that the style works equally well for contemporary or traditional landscapes."

While a symmetrical and evenly spaced pathway will pair nicely with a manicured yard, it doesn't have to be perfect. Mixing different-sized and -shaped slabs will create the illusion of a naturally made pathway, which is also trending.

2. Crushed stone
Photo by Matthew Cunningham Landscape Design LLC 

Want to create a beautiful walkway but don't have the time for a big project? Consider using the ever-so-trendy crushed stone.

"It's loose, has lots of texture, and produces great sound when traversing," explains Michael McGown, senior landscape architect at KAA Design Group. "It speaks to casual informality, and lets the plantings define the path."

Not only does crushed stone look nice, it's also easy on your wallet andMother Nature. The total cost will vary based on the pathway, but a 50-pound bag of crushed stones can cost less than $40.

"It's very inexpensive, so replacing existing hardscape is probably within the means of a typical homeowner or home buyer," McGown says.

And it's eco-friendly: Crushed stones are more permeable than, say, a slab of concrete, so the water and grass underneath your pathway will still be watered and nourished, McGowan adds.

3. Reclaimed brick
Photo by The Design Build Co.

As the saying goes, one man's trash is another man's treasure—and the world of hardscaping is no exception. Specifically, McGowan says, reclaimed brick is having a moment.

"Reclaimed brick [has] color and texture," he explains. "It’s got a natural patina and looks authentic and timeless. [Bricks] blur the line between contemporary and traditional."

Don't get us wrong, we love a freshly paved sidewalk as much as the next person; however, there's something cozy and inviting about reclaimed materials.

4. Sustainable sidewalks
Hailshadow/iStock

Installing solar panels and planting trees are two obvious steps toward sustainability, but did you know you can apply the same eco-friendly ethos to your hardscaping?

“I’ve always been engaged in working sustainably, so seeing more options and materials coming forward in the past few years is really exciting,” Azevedo says. “Sustainable hardscaping materials are produced in a way that is least damaging to the environment and allow water to penetrate the ground.”

While Azevedo points to urbanite (aka repurposed concrete) and recycled granite as suitable alternatives, he encourages homeowners to think outside the cinder block.

“Crushed seashells, particularly mollusk shells, which have been a burden on landfills in recent years, make an excellent ground cover for paths, or as acidity-controlling mulch for flower beds,” he says.

5. Luxurious limestone
Photo by Hutker Architects 

All of the architectural greats feature limestone: the Pentagon, the Empire State Building, and, now, your walkway. While crushed stone and brick are suitable materials for your hardscape, they give your property a very specific look and feel. Limestone, on the other hand, is versatile enough to be a blank canvas so you can let your yard's foliage take center stage.

It "can provide elegance to either" contemporary or traditional style, McGowan explains.

And unlike brick, which has a predetermined shape, you can cut limestone any way you'd like. So whether you want a straight sidewalk or something with more curve, this is one material that can get the job done.

Contact The McLeod Group Network for all your Real Estate needs! 971.208.5093 or admin@mgnrealtors.com

By: Realtor.com, Kelsey Mulvey

2 Trends Helping Keep Housing Affordable

by Amy McLeod Group


Two positive trends have started to emerge that impact the 2019 Spring Housing Market. Mortgage interest rates for a 30-year fixed rate loan have dropped to new lows, right as reports show that wages have increased at their highest rate in decades!

These two factors have helped keep housing affordable despite low supply of houses for sale driving up prices. First American’s Chief Economist, Mark Fleming, explains the impact,

“Ongoing supply shortages remain the main driver of the performance gap as the housing market continues to face an inventory impasse – you can’t buy what’s not for sale.

 However, an unexpected affordability surge, driven primarily by lower-than-anticipated mortgage rates, rising wages and favorable demographics, has boosted housing demand.”

Mortgage interest rates had been on the rise for most of 2018 before reaching their peak in November at 4.94%. According to Freddie Mac’s Primary Mortgage Market Survey, interest rates last week came in at 4.20%.

Average hourly earnings grew at an annual rate of 3.2% in March, up substantially from the 2.3% average pace seen over the last 10 years.

These two factors contributed nearly $6,000 worth of additional house-buying power for median households from February to March 2019, according to First American’s research. Fleming is positive about the prolonged impact of lower rates and higher wages.

“We expect rising wages and lower mortgage rates to continue through the spring, boosting housing demand and spurring home sales.”

Bottom Line

Low mortgage interest rates have kept housing affordable throughout the country. If you plan on purchasing a home this year, act now while rates are still low!

Contact The McLeod Group Network for all your Real Estate needs! 971.208.5093 or admin@mgnrealtors.com 

By: KCM Crew

5 Strange Things That Can Stop a Home From Ever Selling

by Amy McLeod Group


Ever wonder what could keep a home from selling? Just ask a listing agent. They've seen some doozies.

Listing agents, as the professionals who help prep a home for sale, are often tasked with telling home sellers why their house might not sell in its current condition. It's a tough job, but it sure beats saying nothing and then watching a home sit indefinitely.

While most corrective tweaks are small—say, a fresh coat of paint or a solid decluttering—sometimes the things that stop a home from selling take everyone by surprise. Here are a few that listing agents have dealt with, and the solutions that saved the day.

1. The 'green monster'

Seth Lejeune, real estate agent with Berkshire Hathaway in Collegeville, PA, coined this phrase to describe a "horrendously colored hunter-green carpet” in his home seller's living room. This home had already been listed once with another agent with no offers; Lejeune was quite sure this carpet was the culprit.

“So I told the seller to replace the carpet with something neutral,” Lejeune says. The seller "was surprised, but receptive. I explained the importance of first impressions, and he got it after a few minutes.”

Replacing the carpet cost only $1,500. “We got four showings within two weeks, and it was the fastest townhome sale of the year,” Lejeune says. In fact, the home buyers mentioned at settlement that they especially loved the living room.

Take-home lesson: Even simple cosmetic flaws, like an ugly shade of carpet, can make some home buyers run. Luckily swapping out carpet is an easy fix.

2. Too many pets

Seattle real estate agent Matt Parker recalls meeting with a landlord who was looking to sell his rental property. The problem? The home had been rented to, as Parker puts it, a couple of “pet enthusiasts.”

“They had about 30 injured birds, squirrels, dogs, cats, lizards, snakes, and dozens of fish in a 910-square-foot house,” he says.

The snakes were in cages and the fish were in bowls, of course, but the rest of the animals roamed free.

“You can imagine what the home smelled like, how stained the floors were, and how many ‘hidden treasure’ land mines there were throughout the house,” Parker says.

The carpet, flooring, subflooring, walls, and exposed wood throughout the house had been permeated with a foul odor, Parker says.

Parker told the home seller that his odds of selling were slim, unless it were a teardown. Thankfully, the seller accepted the news without much drama.

Take-home lesson: We love our furry friends, but that doesn't mean potential buyers want to see our pets (or any of their traces) when looking at a home they're thinking of buying. (Here are tips on how to sell a home with pets.)

3. Noisy neighbors

Homeowners value privacy, but, alas, they don’t always get it.

Courtney Poulos, a broker at ACME Real Estate in Los Angeles, experienced this firsthand with a client who was looking to sell a stylishly remodeled three-bedroom home. Unfortunately, the house “was right next to a large apartment complex,” Poulos says.

“When you were in the backyard, you felt that the occupants of the apartment complex were looking right down on you," she adds.

Poulos agreed to list the house, but remembers a couple of troublesome open houses. During one, a couple living in the apartment building out back “were fighting and you could see them and hear them from the backyard,” she says. At another open house, “one of the neighbors had his TV on so loud that we had to blast music of our own in the open house to try to cover it up."

The fix? “Since we were not getting the offers we wanted after the first couple of weeks, we built a 12-foot fence, incorporated canvas sun shades, installed twinkle lights, and made the outdoor space much more private,” Poulos adds.

The costs tallied up to $3,000, but it was a modest expense considering “this backyard solution ultimately helped sell the property.”

Take-home lesson: No one likes noisy neighbors, especially those who can see right in your house without effort. So, if your home is located adjacent to an apartment building or another home, you’ll want to take steps to provide yourself some privacy.

4. An underground oil tank

“I sold a home earlier this year that an investor had purchased through a foreclosure auction,” says Christopher Pagli, associate broker at William Raveis Legends Realty Group in Tarrytown, NY. But a presale inspection turned up some unwelcome news.

“There was a buried oil tank on the property,” Pagli says. “This came as a surprise, because the home was fueled by natural gas.”

Altogether the testing, removal, and backfill for the oil tank cost the seller about $8,000. The good news? Once the oil tank was removed, the home sold in three weeks.

Take-home lesson: Underground oil tanks are rare, but if you suspect your property has one, you’ll want to have the land tested by an inspector who specializes in oil tank location and decommissioning before putting your house on the market.

5. Mold

No word strikes fear into the hearts of home buyers and sellers more than mold.

“It is a four-letter word, and most definitely has been the issue of greatest magnitude for my home sellers," says Michael Edlen, a real estate agent in Pacific Palisades, CA.

One particularly bad experience sticks out: Before listing a house, Edlen spotted mold in a relatively small area of the garage, but that was just the start.

“[Mold] remediators found that the mold had gotten into the wall framing, so they had to open walls up behind and next to primary areas,” Edlen says. “By the time the work was done, it took two full months and nearly $60,000."

Fortunately, the sellers didn't freak out over the bill—or Edlen.

“One way or another, they would have had to deal with it—and better to fix it upfront than leaving it to later,” he explains.

Take-home lesson: Mold can put a homeowner’s health at risk, which explains why it’s one of the most common fears among home buyers. Make sure you check your house for mold and address any issues before listing it.

Contact The McLeod Group Network for all your Real Estate needs! 971.208.5093 or admin@mgnrealtors.com 

By: Realtor.com, Daniel Bortz


Mortgage interest rates are a mystery to many of us—whether you're a home buyer in need of a home loan for your first house or your fifth.

After all, what does “interest rate” even mean? Why do rates swing up and down? And, most important, how do you nab the best interest rate—the one that’s going to save you the most money over the life of your mortgage?

–– ADVERTISEMENT ––
 

Here, we outline what you need to know about interest rates before applying for a mortgage.

Why does my interest rate matter?

Mortgage lenders don't just loan you money because they’re good guys—they’re there to make a profit. “Interest” is the extra fee you pay your lender for loaning you the cash you need to buy a home.

Your interest payment is calculated as a percentage of your total loan amount. For example, let’s say you get a 30-year, $200,000 loan with a 4% interest rate. Over 30 years, you would end up paying back not only that $200,000, but an extra $143,739 in interest. Month to month, your mortgage payments would amount to about $955. However, your mortgage payments will end up higher or lower depending on the interest rate you get.

Why do interest rates fluctuate?

Mortgage rates can change daily depending on how the U.S. economy is performing, says Jack Guttentag, author of “The Mortgage Encyclopedia.”

Consumer confidence, reports on employment, fluctuations in home sales (i.e., the law of supply and demand), and other economic factors all influence interest rates.

“During a period of slack economic activity, [the Federal Reserve] will provide more funding and interest rates will go down,” Guttentag explains. Conversely, “when the economy heats up and there’s a fear of inflation, [the Fed] will restrict funding and interest rates will go up.”

How do I lock in my interest rate?

A “rate lock” is a commitment by a lender to give you a home loan at a specific interest rate, provided you close on your home in a certain period of time—typically 30 days from when you're pre-approved for your loan.

A rate lock offers protection against fluctuating interest rates—useful considering that even a quarter of a percentage point can take a huge bite out of your housing budget over time. A rate lock offers borrowers peace of mind: No matter how wildly interest rates fluctuate, once you're "locked in" you know what monthly mortgage payments you'll need to make on your home, enabling you to plan your long-term finances.

Naturally, many home buyers obsess over the best time to lock in a mortgage rate, worried that they'll pull the trigger right before rates sink even lower.

Unfortunately, no lender has a crystal ball that shows where mortgage rates are going. It’s impossible to predict exactly where the economy will move in the future. So, don't get too caught up with minor ups and downs. A bigger question to consider when locking in your interest rate is where you are in the process of finding a home.

Most mortgage experts suggest locking in a rate once you're "under contract" on a home—meaning you've made an offer that's been accepted. Most lenders will offer a 30-day rate lock at no charge to you—and many will extend rate locks to 45 days as a courtesy to keep your business.

Some lenders offer rate locks with a “float-down option,” which allows you to get a lower interest rate if rates go down. However, the terms, conditions, and costs of this option vary from lender to lender.

How do I get the best interest rate?

Mortgage rates vary depending on a borrower’s personal finances. Specifically, these six key factors will affect the rate you qualify for:

  1. Credit score: When you apply for a mortgage to buy a home, lenders want some reassurance you’ll repay them later! One way they assess this is by scrutinizing your credit score—the numerical representation of your track record of paying off your debts, from credit cards to college loans. Lenders use your credit score to predict how reliable you’ll be in paying your home loan, says Bill Hardekopf, a credit expert at LowCards.com. A perfect credit score is 850, a good score is from 700 to 759, and a fair score is from 650 to 699. Generally, borrowers with higher credit scores receive lower interest rates than borrowers with lower credit scores.
     
  2. Loan amount and down payment: If you're willing and able to make a large down payment on a home, lenders assume less risk and will offer you a better rate. If you don’t have enough money to put down 20% on your mortgage, you’ll probably have to pay private mortgage insurance, or PMI, an extra monthly fee meant to mitigate the risk to the lender that you might default on your loan. PMI ranges from about 0.3% to 1.15% of your home loan.
     
  3. Home location: The strength of your local housing market can drive interest rates up, or down.
     
  4. Loan type: Your rate will depend on what type of loan you choose. The most common type is a conventional mortgage, aimed at borrowers who have well-established credit, solid assets, and steady income. If your finances aren't in great shape, you may be able to qualify for a Federal Housing Administration loan, a government-backed loan that requires a low down payment of 3.5%. There are also U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs loans, available to active or retired military personnel, and U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development loans, available to Americans with low to moderate incomes who want to buy a home in a rural area.
     
  5. Loan term: Typically, shorter-term loans have lower interest rates—and lower overall costs—but they also have larger monthly payments.
     
  6. Type of interest rate: Rates depend on whether you get a fixed-rate mortgage or an adjustable-rate mortgage, or ARM. "Fixed-rate" means the interest rate you pay remains fixed at the same level throughout the life of your loan. An ARM is a loan that starts out at a fixed, predetermined interest rate, but the rate adjusts after a specified initial period (usually three, five, seven, or 10 years) based on market indexes.

Tap into the right resources

Whether you're looking to buy a home or a homeowner looking to refinance, there are many mortgage tools online to help, including the following:

  • mortgage rate trends tracker lets you follow interest rate changes in your local market.
  • mortgage payment calculator shows an estimate of your mortgage payment based on current mortgage rates and local real estate taxes.
  • Realtor.com's mortgage center, which will help you find a lender who can offer competitive interests rates and help you get pre-approved for a mortgage.

Contact The McLeod Group Network for all your Real Estate needs! 971.208.5093 or admin@mgnrealtors.com 

By: Realtor.com, Daniel Bortz


​Home cooking is the best ... except when the smell of your curry dinner lingers for days (or weeks?) after you've finished the meal.

The truth is, cooking at home can result in a  potpourri of stubborn odors in your kitchen. After a while, the rich aroma of roasting lamb can curdle into the stale stench of fatty mutton.

So how can you 86 all these lingering cooking smells? For starters, turn on the range hood fan right off the bat, to ventilate your kitchen while you cook. And we highly advise against lighting scented candles, which will just add another heavy layer of odor. Instead, try one of the following methods, which have been proven to banish stinky cooking smells quickly.

1. Slow boil a simmer pot

The head chef of HelloFresh, Claudia Sidoti, combats icky odors after she cooks with a simmer pot of several aromatic blends based around citrus, which cuts through unpleasant smells.

She combines the ingredients—either 1) orange, cinnamon sticks, and cloves; 2) lemon, rosemary, and vanilla beans; or 3) orange, cranberries, and pine twigs—with three cups of water in a pot. She brings it all to a boil and then lowers the pot to a simmer.

The fresh and slightly sweet scent will cut through other smells and linger pleasantly in the room. But be careful! "Once the water evaporates, the citrus can easily burn," says Sidoti.

2. Break out the essential oils

A great way to neutralize offensive smells is by introducing purifying essential oils in your kitchen. Use a spray bottle filled with water and about eight to 10 drops of either lemon, eucalyptus, or lavender essential oils. Then lightly mist the mixture into the air.

"Or if you want to create a DIY diffuser with what you have on hand in the kitchen, you can soak some cotton swabs in vanilla and place them around your countertop for a quick, pleasant scent," says Dr. John Gilmer, PhD and food/cooking/nutrition expert at ActiveIron.com.

3. Neutralize with vinegar

If a cooking smell really persists, you need to step up your game and clean your kitchen cooking surfaces and countertops with vinegar, a remarkably effective cleaner and deodorizer. "Vinegar is an acid, and acid degrades the other lingering odors," says Abe Navas, general manager of Emily's Maids, a house-cleaning service in Dallas.

Let the vinegar soak into surfaces for 15 minutes, and then clean again with soapy water. Rinse with lots of clean water.

4. Clean up quickly before and after dinner

After you're done cooking, cleaning up immediately is a great way to chase away odor, according to Kealia Reynolds, an editor at HouseMethod.com. "Cleaning up right away prevents smells from aging and becoming more pungent on your kitchen surfaces," she says.

Place all strong-smelling meat and vegetable castoffs, such as onion peels, fish skin, and garlic, into a plastic bag inside a closable trash can. Take the trash outside rather than leave it in the kitchen overnight.

Rinse all cutting boards the moment you're done with them. If you've cut garlic, onions, or other strong-smelling foods on a cutting board, the scent can seep into the surface and last for days if not cleaned properly—and quickly. Stick plastic cutting boards in the dishwasher for a deep clean, and use half of a lemon sprinkled with salt to clean wooden cutting boards.

And after the meal has been served, rinse and wash all the dishes as soon as possible.

5. Absorb strong odors overnight

If you are too exhausted after cooking a huge meal to do a massive kitchen cleanup, let items from your pantry work for you as you snooze.

"Leave a small bowl of white vinegar, coffee grounds, or baking soda out overnight on the counter," says Gilmer. Each of these items are great at absorbing smells.

Another nighttime tip? Be sure to close your bedroom and closet doors before you turn in. "These rooms are full of odor-absorbing fabrics that will cause smells to permeate your home," Gilmer adds.

6. Deep-clean the drain

Many of those displeasing kitchen smells may be coming from your sink, where odors can get trapped. "We recommend freshening your kitchen drain monthly," says Jenn Nicken, founder of The Chef & The Dish, a global marketplace with chefs around the world via Skype. "Simply put about half a cup of baking soda into your kitchen drain, then pour one cup of vinegar into the drain. Let sit for 15 minutes, then run hot tap water for 60 seconds."

7. Manage the microwave

The microwave is guilty of trapping odors, in the form of splattered sauce and hardened food scraps. Be sure to wipe down the inside of your microwave a couple of times a week.

"And if you have lingering smells in your microwave, use a few drops of lemon essential oil and wipe down the interior of the appliance," Reynolds says.

Contact The McLeod Group Network for all your Real Estate needs! 971.208.5093 or admin@mgnrealtors.com 

By: Realtor.com, Margaret Heidenry


If you're a homeowner who takes pride in staying on top of interior design trends, you've no doubt been busy lately. High-end kitchen island? Check. Living wall in the living room? Sure thing! And you've most certainly got a Chip and Joanna Gaines-inspired farmhouse sink or shiplap lurking somewhere, too.

Sorry to break it to you ... but those trends are très passé. The rest of the world has moved on, and they're decking out their homes with way hipper stuff than that.

Relax, your friends at  realtor.com  are here to help! Just feast your eyes on four of the hottest, hippest home trends we've seen lately.

Kitchen islands with beds

Kitchen island with bed

iStock; realtor.com

Kitchen islands have been getting bigger and more souped up than ever. This so-called "hub of the home" can now incorporate sinks, ovens, breakfast bars, charging stations, and far more. But let's be honest here: All that kitchen multitasking can leave home chefs feeling pooped. And alas, if there's one thing kitchen islands lack, it's a place to lay your head, much less your whole body.

But that's about to change with the kitchen island's newest accoutrement: a sleeping bunk!

That's right, thanks to a stowaway mattress incorporated just underneath the counter, now you can take a power nap as you wait for your pasta water to boil. You can lounge longitudinally while you slice and dice onions. Guests who hover around your island can now really kick back with that glass of merlot, or just crash for the night if they've had one too many.

This may explain why this home feature has popped up in the kitchens of party-hard celebs including David Hasselhoff, who says, "In the past, I had to choose between staving off hangovers with sleep or a bacon cheeseburger. But now, I can do both at once!"

Indoor yards

Fun for the whole family!

iStock; realtor.com

For years, we've all been bringing the indoors outside, with outdoor kitchens and fully decked al fresco living spaces. So get ready to flip the script. Are you wishing you could enjoy the great outdoors from the comfort of your couch? Well, now you can, by rigging up your home with an indoor yard. In-floor irrigation systems now enable homeowners to go beyond a few potted plants and have wall-to-wall grass beneath their feet—all without the hassles of inclement weather, nosy neighbors, mosquitoes, or other outdoor annoyances.

Due to the added privacy, indoor yards have really taken off with celebs, including Angelina Jolie ("It's so natural and earthy") and even Barack Obama, whose Portuguese water dogsSunny and Bo, "were confused at first," he admits. "Although these indoor lawns are rigged with drainage systems so canines can relieve themselves inside, I had to 'house train' them again, only in reverse. They eventually caught on, particularly once I installed a few bushes."

Wall-to-wall wallpaper

Wallpaper wall-to-wall

Getty Images

From florals and metallics to textures, the wallpaper trend is truly taking over. But get ready for the next level.

Although many choose to paper an accent wall, this hot new trend sees paper covering not only the traditional four walls, but also the ceiling, floor, furniture ... sometimes even pets and family members!

Celeb fans include Kim Kardashian West—who might like to bare all when it comes to her wardrobe, but wants her walls completely covered at home. Kicking hubby Kanye’s minimalist style to the curb, the reality star supposedly has designers scrambling to order rolls upon rolls to paper the 15,700-square-foot Los Angeles estate she and Kanye bought for $20 million in 2014. Reportedly, their kids, North, Saint, and Chicago, have pajamas and bedspreads that match the wallpaper in their rooms.

"It can be a bit dizzying sometimes, and it's frankly even hard to find them now," Kardashian West admits. "But it's worth it. Now I never have to ask, 'Does this go with that?' ever again."

Farmhouse furniture straight from the barn

Hay, ya!

iStock; realtor.com

The modern farmhouse style has been all the rage since Chip andJoanna Gaines' show "Fixer Upper" hit the airwaves and developed a devoted following. They have their own home line at Magnolia, Target ... yet some think those aren't quite farmhouse enough.

Enter their newest venture: real farmhouse furniture, straight from the barn to you! Think: hay bale coffee tables. Side table butter churns. Manger beds. Of course, Chip and Jo have incorporated these elements into their own home too. Just ask Chip: "We swapped our regular alarm clocks for a rooster. Since there's no snooze button, he really gets us up!"

So if you love living on the very cutting edge of design, you're probably eager to incorporate these into your home. But before you do that, maybe check the date on this article first.

Contact The McLeod Group Network for all your Real Estate needs! 971.208.5093 or admin@mgnrealtors.com 

By: Realtor.com, Liz Alterman

6 Things You'll Love (and Hate) About Selling a Home This Spring

by Amy McLeod Group


For many home sellers, there’s no better time to list than the spring, and for good reason: This is peak home-buying season, folks! Buyers turn out in droves once warmer weather finally arrives, bringing people out of hibernation mode, and bidding wars abound as buyers look for ways to one-up their competition.

The bad news? Selling a home during the spring isn’t free of pitfalls.

Indeed, “Spring home sellers still face challenges that they need to prepare for,” says Chris Dossman, a real estate agent with Century 21 Scheetz in Indianapolis.

Since knowing what to expect can help you nab a great offer, here are six things you’ll love—and hate—about selling a home this spring.

You’ll love: All the demand

While home sales decline in the winter (chalk it up to bad weather and holiday obligations), many home buyers blitz the housing market in spring, says Dossman. To meet that pent-up demand, many sellers list their homes at this time of year. It’s no surprise, then, that the lion's share of  real estate agents  say March, April, and May are the best months to sell a home. With so many buyers competing for homes, sellers may be in a stronger position to spark bidding wars.

You’ll hate: All the competition

Demand is strong, but so is competition among home sellers, says Kimberly Sands, a real estate broker in Carolina Beach, NC. According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), the four heaviest home-selling months—May, June, July, and August—account for 40% of an average year’s total home-selling volume.

Want to compete with other home sellers and fetch top dollar for your house? Presenting your home in the best light is crucial. This may entail decluttering your house, having your home professionally staged, or making minor repairs so that your property is looking in tip-top shape when you put it on the market.

You’ll love: Selling in warmer weather

Open houses are often more successful during the spring than in the winter, says Dossman, since the nicer weather makes buyers more willing to emerge from the comfort of their homes to shop for houses. Another boon for home sellers: Daylight saving time gives buyers more time to look at houses, which means your property can potentially be seen by more people, says Dana Hill, vice president of Buyer’s Edge Realty in Bethesda, MD.

That said, “Sellers still need to do some prep work before holding an open house,” Dossman adds. To make sure your home is ready to be seen, do a thorough cleaning, remove such personal belongings as family photos and religious artwork, and trim your lawn for maximum curb appeal. Pro tip: Take a hike for a few hours during the open house. Buyers will feel more comfortable asking questions of your agent if you're not hovering in the background.

You’ll hate: Fighting for your agent’s attention

Because this is a busy time for home buyers and sellers, it’s also a busy time for  real estate agents . Unfortunately, some agents may take on more clients than they can handle at one time. That's why it's important to find a listing agent who is going to put the proper level of effort and time into selling your home. “If your agent is distracted, you’re not going to get great service,” Sands warns.

There’s no hard-and-fast rule for the maximum number of clients an agent should be working with, but make sure to address this topic when interviewing prospective agents. If your gut says you’re not going to be a priority, continue looking, says Sands.

You’ll love: The higher valuations

When your home’s value is assessed by a home buyer’s appraiser, the appraiser will look at data for comparable homes (or “comps”) that were recently sold in your neighborhood. The good news: With more homes selling in the on-season, the comparable data tend in your favor, Hill says. In other words, your house is more likely to pass the home appraisal, assuming that you're selling it at around its fair market value.

You’ll hate: The picky buyers

Naturally, some buyers can afford to be more selective when there are more houses to choose from, says Dossman. For instance, if your home clearly needs major repairs, they might simply pass. Add in the fact that most spring buyers aren’t shopping under pressure (as they might be during the winter), and you can expect to have a larger pool of picky house hunters in the spring than you do during other seasons.

The bottom line

Spring is unequivocally the busiest time of year to be selling a house, and though more demand from buyers can be good news for home sellers, there are still obstacles you need to plan for when selling a home at this time of year.

Contact The McLeod Group Network to find out how much your current home is worth! 971.208.5093 or admin@mgnrealtors.com 

By: Realtor.com, Daniel Bortz


As you've no doubt heard, the U.S. tax code got a major overhaul with the new Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. So what does that mean for the return you're filing right about now? It means you may not be able to take some deductions from the old tax code that saved you major bucks in the past. Ouch!

But it's not quite as bad as you might think. Many tax breaks haven't disappeared completely; rather they've just morphed a bit, redefining who qualifies and for how much. To clue you in to these new rules, here's a rundown of five major tax breaks that have changed this filing year, and who still qualifies for them.

 
 
 

1. Home office tax deduction

You may have heard a rumor that the home office tax deduction went the way of the dodo. Yes, the deduction is gone for W-2 employees of companies who work in a home office on the occasional Friday.

"For non-self-employed people, the home office deduction is going away entirely," says Eric Bronnenkant, certified public accountant, certified financial planner, and Betterment's head of tax.

The loophole: If you're self-employed full time, this deduction lives on. Here's more info on how to take a home office tax deduction.

2. Unlimited property tax

One of the biggest changes for homeowners in the new tax bill is the cap on deducting property taxes.

"Before, regardless of the amount, all property taxes were tax-deductible," explains Bronnenkant. Yet this season, "the maximum you can deduct is $10,000, and that includes state and local income tax, property tax, and sales tax."

So if you pay more than $10,000 a year between your state and local income taxes, property tax, and sales tax, anything exceeding that amount is no longer deductible. This is something to keep in mind as homeowners consider tax benefits of their current or future home.

The loophole: "It is worth noting that this limit applies to a taxpayer’s primary, and in some cases secondary, residence," says Bill Abel, tax manager of Sensiba San Filippo in Boulder, CO. "But it may not apply to rental real estate property."

Why? The $10,000 overall tax limit is applied on Schedule A as an itemized deduction, which would have no bearing on the tax deduction for a rental property on Schedule E. So if you're a landlord, your deduction could edge past that $10,000 limit; make sure to max it out!

3. Moving expenses

If you moved in 2017, lucky you: You are the last to take advantage of the ability to deduct your moving expenses.

The loophole: Active members of the armed forces who moved (or move) after 2017 can still take this deduction, according to Patrick Leddy, a tax partner at Farmand, Farmand, and Farmand.

4. Mortgage interest

One major change for homeowners who purchased a house after Dec. 15, 2017, is that they will be allowed to deduct the interest on no more than $750,000 of acquisition debt—that's a loan used to buy, build, or improve a main or secondary home, says Abel. This is in contrast to the $1,000,000 limit on acquisition debt, which still applies to existing loans incurred on or before Dec. 15, 2017.

The loophole: Homeowners who refinance their debt that existed on or before Dec. 15, 2017, are generally allowed to maintain their $1,000,000 limit from the original mortgage.

5. Interest on a home equity loan

A home equity loan is money you borrow using your home as collateral. This "second mortgage" (because it's in addition to your original home loan) often takes the form of a home equity loan or home equity line of credit. Traditionally, the interest on these loans could be deducted up to $100,000 for married joint filers and $50,000 for individuals. And you could use that money to pay for anything—college tuition, a wedding, you name it.

But now, home equity loan interest is deductible only if it's used for one purpose: to "buy, build, or improve" your home, according to the IRS. So if you're dying to update your kitchen or add a half-bath, you'll get a tax break from Uncle Sam. But if you want to tap your home equity to go to grad school, well, that's on you.

More bad news: Unlike the mortgage interest deduction—where loans taken before Dec. 15, 2018, could be grandfathered into the old laws—home equity loans have no such exemption. People with existing HELOC debt take the hit just like homeowners applying for one now.

The loophole: To reclaim this deduction, you could refinance your second mortgage and your first into a new mortgage that lumps together both debts. This essentially turns your HELOC into a regular mortgage, which means that you can deduct that interest. Just remember that refinancing can be costly, and that this new loan will be subject to the new, smaller limits on deducting mortgage interest—$750,000.

Worried about losing all of these deductions? Don't freak out!

Though the new tax plan is drastically changing how most people will file their taxes, it doesn't necessarily mean that you will end up owing more. Deductions may be dropping, but so are the tax rates for most income groups. And the standard deduction grew to $24,000 for a married couple filing jointly. So, it may all balance out.

Contact The McLeod Group Network at 971.208.5093 or admin@mgnrealtors.com for all your Real Estate needs! 

By: Realtor.com, Margaret Heidenry 

 

That's So 2018! The Most Outdated Home-Selling Advice You Should Now Ignore

by Amy McLeod Group


There's one thing more scary than buying a house, and that's selling a house.

There is so much pressure to list your house and sell it quickly—and for a great price—that you probably find yourself turning to those who've been there before for advice.

But here's the problem: The housing market changes on a dime, meaning whatever worked for them might not necessarily work for you. In fact, it may backfire, big-time! Here are some of the most outdated words of wisdom you might hear that you may be better off ignoring.

Wait for spring to sell your home

Odds are you've heard that the best time to sell your house is in the spring, because that's when the buyers are out and about. But it also means you'll be competing against a slew of sellers.

"Listing in the spring means you are positioning yourself to compete with several other homes. So as a seller in the spring, you have to price and market your home flawlessly to show buyers that your home is more desirable than the house next door," says real estate agent Cheyanne Banks, of Nest Seekers International in Jersey City, NJ. "Because buyers have more choice in the spring market, they’re more likely to negotiate a lower price."

In fact, Banks now advises her clients to list in the summer and winter, when there's less competition.

Price your home high

Not too long ago, it was a seller's market—meaning competition was so fierce between buyers that you could still almost guarantee a sale if you priced your home over market value. According to Daniel Martinez, real estate agent and founder of HOULIVING, a boutique real estate company located in Houston, that's not the way it works these days.

"We are seeing homes on the market last longer and listings become stale one after another," says Martinez. "In today’s market, we need to be realistic about what is selling for what dollar per square foot and adjust, because the market decides what it’s willing to pay for a home. Not you or me."

And if you think you're going to start it at a higher price just to test the market, you should think again.

"Testing the market with an above-market price means your home will not fly off the shelf, and the longer it’s on the shelf the more potential buyers wonder what’s wrong with it," warns Phyllis Brookshire, president of Allen Tate Realtors in the Carolinas. "This results in more carrying costs for you and dramatic price reductions later."

Leave room to negotiate

Another reason sellers were pricing high was to leave room for buyers who were eager to negotiate, but real estate broker Gill Chowdhury, with Warburg Realty in New York City, says today's buyers won't play that game.

"With supply higher than it was a few years ago, if you're not priced at market, or at least very close, you're not going to get that many people in the door to begin with," she says. "Price your property to sell."

Sell your home as is

As recently as just a few years ago, sellers were often told not to invest too much into remodeling, as buyers would want to customize themselves. Why worry about it when they're going to do it anyway, right? Well, not only has the market changed, but so have the buyers.

"With many millennials entering the housing market, one of their biggest desires is to have a turn-key home, meaning they don't want to have to make changes or repairs, such as modernizing appliances and amenities—essentially the home is move-in ready," explains Nick Giovacchini, head of client services at AlphaFlow. "Not updating an older home could leave sellers at a disadvantage, especially if other homeowners have updated their homes before selling, even if the unimproved home is priced at a discount compared to more updated homes in the area."

Even though home prices are going down, the  buyers that remain are willing to pay a premium for homes that look the part, so put in some elbow grease before you put up that "For Sale" sign.

Amateur photos of your house are fine

If you've ever sold a home before, you probably remember the real estate agent coming in and snapping a few quick photos of your home to place with your listing. Heck, you may have even taken the photos yourself. We're sorry to say that's just not going to fly this time around.

"How your property looks online will have a direct impact on the number of buyers who will be interested in purchasing your home," says Nancy Wallace-Laabs, a real estate broker with KBN Homes, in Frisco, TX. "Hiring a professional photographer and adding drone pictures are an increased cost to a seller, but well worth the investment."

In fact, it may be a good idea to take it even further, says Mark Cianciulli, real estate agent and co-founder of the CREM Group in Los Angeles and Long Beach, CA. "For instance, the benchmark has become getting professional photos taken of the property, creating high-quality videos for your property that allow buyers to see different perspectives inside and outside the home, as well as 3D tours of the home that allow buyers to navigate though the home at will and in any direction they choose," Cianciulli explains.

So much for just snapping a few pics with your smartphone.

Holding an open house is a must

There was a time that hosting an open house (featuring freshly baked cookies, of course!) was a near guarantee that your house would sell before the weekend was over. Unfortunately, open houses aren't the shoe-in that they used to be.

"In my experience, those attending open houses are just putting their toes in the water and seeing what's out there—or they're just your typical nosy neighbor. Serious buyers will be out looking at the houses they want any chance they can get and not waiting until an open house to submit an offer," says real estate agent Heather Carbone, of Heather Carbone Team Big River Properties in Boston.

"Real estate agents like open houses because they create good opportunities for them to find unrepresented buyers, or to create a frenzy around the listing. Ultimately, an open house should be just one small piece of a bigger marketing plan for the property," says Carbone.

The McLeod Group Network is here to assist with all your home-selling needs!  971.208.5093 or admin@mgnrealtors.com

By: Realtor.com, Whitney Coy

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**Disclaimer: Amy McLeod, and her team, do not initiate, process, or service mortgages.  And provide this information only as a service.  You should confirm information here with your Licensed Mortgage Lender.