Five Tips For Maintaining House Plants

Adding plants to your home will give it a fresher and brighter feel and will also improve your home’s air quality. Although it does take a little bit of work and consistency to maintain your plants, but it’s well worth the effort. Here are a few tips for keeping your plants looking great.

 1. Use leftover water from cooking. Plants love the extra nutrients from your leftover cooking water that can’t be found straight from the tap. Instead of dumping the water right after boiling vegetables, let it cool and use it to water your plants.

 2. Coffee makes great fertilizer. Rather than throwing your used coffee grounds in the trash, empty out your French press or coffee filter straight into a planter.

 3. Dust your plants. This should be part of your regular dusting and cleaning routine. Keeping your plants’ leaves dust-free keeps them healthier.

 4. Pay attention to soil types. Different plants require different soils. Do some research to discover each plant‘s preferred soil. For instance, succulents require sandy, dry soil.

 5. Beware of root rot. Houseplants are prone to root rot because there’s often no where for excess water to drain from the planter. Prevent root rot by putting pebbles in the bottom of the planter, which elevates the roots. Use a water-hydrogen peroxide mixture for plants that are already showing signs of root rot.

A Little Extra Preparation And Ingenuity Goes A Long Way Toward A Better Paint Job

Painting is one of the most inexpensive ways to give your home a makeover. Whether it’s updating an old bathroom paint scheme or adding a bold accent wall, painting can totally transform a room. But painting can be a big hassle and come with tons of prep work and clean up. Here are a few of Breakthrough Broker’s top tips to make your painting experience more enjoyable and lead to a more professional finish.

Prep beyond tape and drop cloths
A drop cloth will protect your floors, but a thick and durable drop cloth is also a little clumsy to maneuver. For smaller, awkward items that are in danger of paint splatter, use plastic wrap. It’ll make it much less frustrating to protect a toilet or bathroom sink.

Be ready for spills and splatters
At the very least, a few drops of paint are going to end up where you don’t want them. Have a rag and some Q-Tips ready for the inevitable paint splatter, so that you can quickly wipe them off before they dry and set on your frames, countertops, or hardwood floor.

Use heat to remove tape Patience is key when removing painter’s tape, but it can still tear and leave splotchy edges no matter how careful you are. Hold a heat gun or hair dryer a few inches away from the tape as your remove it little by little. The heat will break down the adhesive and make removing the tape a much less frustrating task.

Mortgage Rate Math

Shopping around for the best possible mortgage terms is an important part of the home buying process. A few percentage points can make a difference of thousands of dollars over the life of the mortgage. Mortgage rates can be a bit of a mystery—especially for first-time homebuyers—so here’s an overview of the most important factors.

YOUR FICO SCORE

This is the part of the mortgage equation that should come as no surprise. From a lender’s perspective, your financial history is the best indicator of whether you’ll be a stable, responsible borrower. It’s the primary factor in determining your mortgage rate, so if you’re planning on purchasing a home in the near future, concentrate first and foremost on improving your FICO score.

LOCATION AND SIZE MATTERS

“Location, location, location” is an old cliché in real estate, but it also applies to mortgage rates. The city, county, and state that you live will factor into your mortgage rate. Mortgage rates can also vary among local lenders and the size of the loan will come into play. The more money you borrow, the higher your interest rate is likely to be, unless you’re also increasing your down payment.

LOAN LENGTH AND TYPE

Lenders incentivize shorter mortgage terms with lower mortgage rates, so you’ll get a more favorable rate for a 15- or 20-year mortgage versus a 30-year mortgage. If you can afford the higher monthly payment, you’ll pay much less in interest over the course of the loan term.

Five Ways To Increase The Value Of Your Basement

The basement is usually an afterthought in homes, especially if it’s not already finished when you move in. The lack of natural light compared to the ground floor and above doesn’t always make for the most inviting space. However, there are plenty of ways to improve your basement that will both increase your home’s value and give you more space to enjoy.

 1. Home theater: Basements can be the perfect space for a home theater, as they already have little lighting and offer ample space and an escape from summer heat or winter cold. A TV mount and some simple built-in seating can be accomplished for under $2,000.

 2. Play room: Kids have a tendency to scatter their toys all over the house. Creating a playroom helps keep the mess confined to one area, plus basements often offer great storage capabilities. Just update the space to make it kid-friendly with features like egress windows, carpet, and a safe, finished staircase.

 3. A bar: Grownups need a play space too! Creating a bar in your basement is an easy upgrade and allows you to keep your gatherings focused in one room, making post-party clean up easier.

 4. Utility room: If you do a lot of gardening or other DIY projects around your home, add a sink and hose to give yourself a space for cleanup and storage. This is especially useful if you don’t have much room in your garage.

 5. Family room: You can keep your formal living room upstairs and add a second space that’s more focused on relaxation and watching TV as a family.

A Great Lawn Starts Now!

Fall may have just began, but winter will be here before you know it. The best way to have a great lawn come spring is to get started now, and here are four tips that will kickstart your lawn before the snow arrives.

Aerate
Aerating pulls up pellets of dirt from your lawn, giving the remaining turf room to breathe and allowing water to and nutrients to get deeper. You can rent an aerating machine if you don’t want to purchase one, or you can call a professional.

Seed
Fall is a great time to seed your lawn, because that’s when turf roots are very active. The seeds need to germinate, so once you’ve seeded your lawn, water it every two weeks or so.

Fertilize
Fertilizer helps your grass survive those bitter cold winter temperatures. This is your last chance to fertilize before the snow covers your lawn, so use a fertilizer that’s high in phosphorus.

Mulch
Don’t feel like raking up leaves all the time? No problem—you can use them for mulch! Make several passes over the leaves with your mower, and it’ll grind them into a mulch that first serves as a barrier from the wind, and then will decompose into valuable nutrients for the grass.


How to Check Your Home For Air Leaks

We’re well into the fall season and winter is right around the corner. This is the time of year when it’s especially important to make sure your home is properly sealed. Air leaks can make it difficult to keep your home properly heated and can lead to high utility bills. Here’s quick guide to checking your home for air leaks.

Do an air pressure test. You can quickly check for air leaks with a simple test using household items. Seal your home by completely closing all doors, windows, and vents and turning off exhaust fans. Then pass a burning incense stick along the edges of all doors, windows, and other openings to the outside. If the smoke is forced into or away from an opening, you’ve found a leak.

Inspect doors and windows. To check for leaks near your windows, attempt to rattle the frame. This will reveal whether there are gaps along the edges. Also check for cracks in the frame, loose screws in locks, or gaps anywhere in the window.

Door hinges and thresholds are common places for air leaks. Deteriorated weather stripping can also lead to leaks and the door itself can develop cracks that allow air to pass through.

Skylights are a little trickier to test and examine, but you can still do it yourself. Check for water stains near your skylights, which is a dead giveaway of a leak. If you suspect there is one, you’ll have to get on the roof for a closer inspection. Look for loose shingles, cracked roofing cement, and debris.

Five Fall Maintenance Tips

These simple maintenance tasks can save you from expensive repairs and big headaches over the next few months.

 1. Take care of hoses and faucets: Disconnect your hoses before the freezing temperatures arrive, because they can cause water to back up in your faucets—and eventually cause the plumbing to crack. Then, if possible, shut off the valves for your exterior faucets.

 2. Winterize the lawn mower: Either run the mower dry, or use a fuel stabilizer to prevent the gas in your mower from degrading and damaging the engine.

 3. Clean the gutters: Twigs and leaves will build up in your gutters throughout the fall. Make sure to clean the gutters before there’s heavy snow, because the weight of both the leaves and the melting snow could cause the gutters to break away from the house. 

 4. Get the furnace ready: Your best bet is to call in a professional to give the furnace a tune up, but at the very least you should change the filters.

 5. Inspect the roof: As snow accumulates and melts from your roof, it can cause major water damage if the roof isn’t in good shape. Look for loose shingles, rust, moss—anything that could lead to decay or water damage. It’s best to be proactive with your roof—repairs can be extremely expensive—so don’t hesitate to call a roofing professional if necessary. It’s worth it in the long run!

Dog-Friendly Dwellings

Even the most happy-go-lucky dogs and cats have some preferences about the spaces they occupy. If you want to keep you pet as happy and comfortable as possible, here are some things to take into consideration.

Dogs don’t like hardwood
Carpet is more comfortable for your dog when it comes to laying down and sleeping, but it’s also preferable when your dog is on its feet. Dogs typically don’t like hardwood floors because they feel less traction under their paws. They may even try to dig in with their claws to improve traction, possibly damaging your floors. As a compromise, you can place soft, thick rugs on the floor to help your pets relax. You can also place booties or rubber rings on your dog’s feet for better grip.

Fireplaces can be scary
You’ve surely seen a dog get spooked by the sound of 4th of July fireworks. A fireplace isn’t nearly as loud, but can still have a similar effect. Plus, those pops and crackles from the flames are a far more regular occurrence. A quieter gas fireplace is more dog friendly. You can also give your dog a chew toy or bone as a distraction before lighting a fire.

Ignorance is bliss when it comes to fences
A chain-link fence can cause stress for your dog, because it can still see other animals and strangers, but is confined to the yard. If you’re considering a new fence, your dog will appreciate a solid one made of wood or vinyl panels. With fewer lines of sight to the outside, your dog will be less anxious.

Why Wait?

Save yourself money in the long run by purchasing your dream home today! Waiting even one year could cost you a lot!

Five Inexpensive Home Improvements

The cost of some home renovations can seem daunting, but not every home improvement has to break the bank. Here are five simple improvements you can make that will have a major impact, but are still relatively inexpensive.

 1. Add some trees: Want to add some curb appeal to your home and feel better when you’re pulling into the driveway after work? You won’t believe the difference a few trees can make. And compared to the cost (mature trees starts at around $1,000), they provide a great return on investment for you property value and can lower energy bills by providing shade.

 2. Add molding: Molding instantly adds a classy, sophisticated touch to any room, and if you do it yourself, it can cost less than $2 per foot. If you ever sell your home, buyers consistently say that molding is a big plus.

 3. Upgrade your ceiling fans: An efficient ceiling fan costs far less than air conditioning, and if your current ceiling fan is on its last legs, a replacement can totally change the look of a room.

 4. Energy efficient appliances: Still using the appliances that came with the home? Upgrading your range, fridge, or dishwasher won’t just give your kitchen a sleeker appearance. Newer, more energy-efficient appliances will also lower your utility bills.

 5. Invest in storage: One of the biggest ways to improve your home is to declutter. Throw out what you don’t need, and invest is some good storage solutions for what you keep.