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5 Ways to Make Your Home Safe for Kids

Categories: Home Owner Tips | Posted: February 11, 2020

Accidents happen. Any parent with a young kid knows this – whether it’s bumps and bruises or scrapes and burns. It’s hard to think about anything worse happening beyond a bloody nose or skinned knee, but it’s essential to take the time to make sure your home is safe for children to avoid a more significant injury.

Here are five ways you can ensure your children’s safety in the home:

  1. Watch out for drowning hazards.

You would be surprised at how little water it takes to cause a big problem for small children. Never leave buckets of water around, especially outside. Even dry buckets can fill with rainwater, and sturdier ones won’t tip over if a child climbs inside. Make sure pools, or hot tubs are also fenced off with a locked gate.

  1. Fire safety is a top priority.

When was the last time you checked your smoke detectors? Do you have fire extinguishers in your home? Do you have a quick escape route upstairs in case of fire? Make sure every room in your home is prepared for a fire, whether it’s safety ladders to climb out of second-story windows or a kitchen fire extinguisher. Also, keep flammable materials away from small prying hands, including lighters, matches, stovetop burners, and hot appliances.

  1. Avoid falls with gates and guards.

Falls are one of the biggest causes of ER visits for young children. Make sure you have sturdy safety gates installed at the top and bottom of every set of stairs in your home. Even a few stairs could injure a young child. Check the latches regularly to make sure they are steady. Additionally, make sure you have window guards protecting children against falls – remember, screens aren’t meant to hold weight and won’t protect against a fall. Any window above the first floor should have window guards.

  1. Keep chemicals, cleaners, and medicines behind locked doors.

Any parent will tell you – kids will eat just about anything they can find. Keep all cleaning supplies, cleaners, chemicals, and medicines behind locked cabinets or drawers. Don’t rely on tall shelves to help you out here; children can climb or knock things off high places easier than you’d think. To safeguard against a medicine getting into their hands, make sure to buy ones with child-resistant caps.

  1. Avoid electric shock or choking hazards by managing your cables.

Keep electric cords and power sockets away from your kids, especially toddlers who are curious about different colors or objects. To avoid electrocution, install safety switches (with the help of a professional) that cut off power and use socket covers for unused outlets. You’ll also want to consider how you manage cables. Are they tangled up and running amok? Bundle them up with cable organizers to keep them neat, tidy, and out of the way of small children.

There are many ways to protect your children from hazards in the home. Besides following these five safety tips, keep your young child within sight whenever possible. You may not realize you have a bottle of aspirin sitting out, or a bucket of water that filled up during a storm in your yard. But, with a few precautions and a bit of prep work, you can rest assured in the safety of your home and your children.

Weather Any Storm in Your New Home by Taking These Precautions

Categories: Home maintenance tips | Posted: January 30, 2020

For every perfect 70-degree day, there are dozens of ones filled with brutal wind chills, torrential downpours, severe thunderstorms, and high winds. And your new home is going to have to brave them all. But don’t worry – by taking just a few precautions (and channeling your inner handiness), you can protect your home against nearly any type of inclement weather.

Does Your Insurance Cover That?

Before diving into any DIY projects (we’ll get to that), check to see what your home insurance policy covers. If you’re a super-new homeowner, you probably purchased this policy recently, so there shouldn’t be any surprises. Make sure your new home is covered for losses resulting from natural disasters – you may need to purchase flooding, earthquake, or tornado policies separately.

Keep Your Gutters Clear!

It’s not just a chore you put off until the last minute. When you realize how much damage water can do, you’ll be out cleaning your gutters every weekend. Gutters keep water flowing away from your home and its foundation, so don’t let those downspouts get clogged with leaves or debris.

Bring Home Good Grades.

If you recently bought a newly built home, your lot’s grading may not be an issue. But it’s crucial to ensure water can flow away from your home. One way to do this is to keep your gutters clean. Another way to do this is to make sure the grade of your lot keeps water moving away from your home and into somewhere its meant to be, like a ditch or storm drain.

Don’t Be a Chump – Get a Sump Pump.

Do you have a sump pump? If not, now’s the time to get one in working order. Basement flooding can cause a ton of extensive damage in just a short amount of time, so it’s best to take any preventative measure possible to avoid it. We might even suggest having a backup sump pump just in case.

Groom Your Trees.

Wind can do a lot more than knock off a few shingles. During high winds, heavy tree limbs can snap and cause severe damage to your home, your car, and your neighbor’s property. Don’t wait until a storm hits to realize your trees have a problem – regularly trim your trees (hiring a professional is the way to go) can help protect your property.

Have a Plan and Communicate It Often

When bad weather hits, have a plan in place to protect yourself and your family. Make sure everybody in your house knows where to go during a severe thunderstorm, tornado, or (in some cases) an earthquake. Pick a safe place to hunker down and wait out the storm away from windows, glass, and anything that could hurt you.

There are many ways you can protect your home from inclement weather. Don’t consider any of this a one-and-done type of action, either. Make sure you regularly inspect your home for water damage, leaking windows or doors, or problem trees. And remember: Your home is replaceable, but the people who live in it are not. Keep your house safe, and your family even safer.

The U.S. Housing Market is Picking Up Steam as the New Year Unfolds

Categories: Real Estate News | Posted: January 15, 2020

It seems like 2020 could be a big year for home builders. The U.S. market closed out the last month of 2019 with the highest level of new housing projects since 2006. The surge of home starts was even higher than what economists had predicted – by a decent margin. Economists point to the stable job market and low mortgage rates among the factors contributing to this growth. As we head into the new year, buyers and builders alike are optimistic as the market gains momentum.

How Much Growth, and What Does That Mean?

So, the last month of 2019 saw the highest rate of home groundbreakings in 13 years. How much is it actually growing? According to Bloomberg economists:

  • Single-family homebuilding has risen 11.2%
  • Residential home groundbreakings rose 16.9% (the biggest in three years)
  • Homebuilding permits rose to 3.9% at the end of 2019

The rise of single-family housing is particularly important because this segment has the largest share of the housing market. An 11.2% increase is higher than the U.S. has seen since 2007! And what does all this mean? More homes (often entry-level or “starter” homes) are coming to the market, bringing in new homebuyers and possibly converting renters.

Good News: Rates Are Likely Staying Low

Of course, mortgage rates and housing prices play a critical factor in the market’s growth. When mortgage payments stay affordable, more people can afford to buy a home. There’s good news on that front for 2020: Keeping in line with 2019’s low rates, 2020 is expected to see 30-year fixed mortgage rates around the 3.8% mark. This could lead to more renters making the leap to buying a home.

What’s Ahead

Optimism is growing along with the housing market, which is rising alongside a stable job market and low mortgage rates. Groundbreakings have surged at the start of this new year, prospective homebuyers and renters are taking advantage of the low mortgage rates, and the market is looking good. If you’re looking to buy a new home in 2020, keep an eye on rates and new developments in the coming months.

Keep an Eye on Your Home from Anywhere with These Gadgets

Categories: Home Owner Tips | Posted: December 31, 2019

It’s vacation time! You’ve spent weeks planning the trip and double-checked your packing list. But on your way to the airport, you have a moment of panic. Did you close the garage door? Did you turn all the lights off? That gnawing feeling won’t go away, even if you’re sure you took care of everything.

Isn’t that feeling the worst? Luckily, we’re in the age of technology, where the ability to monitor your home remotely is as simple as opening up a smartphone app. Even if you’re gone for just a few hours, now you can check up on your home, your backyard, and even your pets from anywhere. These home automation gadgets can help you monitor everything in your home, no matter how many miles away you’re traveling.


You’re probably already familiar with Ring. It’s a smart video doorbell that records activity near whichever door it faces. You can watch it in real-time or be alerted to activity when USP delivers a package, when girl scouts come knocking, or even when strangers walk up to your door. This clever doorbell also has the option for you to speak to people at your door through the app.

Remote Pet Monitors

Ever wondered what your cat or dog gets up to during the day? You can keep an eye on your pets from anywhere with pet monitors like Nest, Furbo, and TOOGE dog cam. Set them up in high-traffic areas throughout your home to keep tabs on what your pet is doing. These are great for highly anxious pets or for those who jump onto places they’re not allowed (counters, couches, you name it!).

Remote Light Control

Controlling lights today is so much more sophisticated than just a few years ago. We’ve replaced clapping (do you remember those lights?) with high-tech apps that work with smart light switches to remotely control different lights inside or outside your house. You could be halfway across the world and still be able to turn lights on or off strategically inside your home. This is perfect for when you’re away on an extended vacation and don’t want your house looking vacant.

Security Apps

Security smartphone apps allow you to monitor your security system remotely. If it detects any unusual activity, you’ll be alerted right away and can opt to send the police over to check it out. Most security systems today have an app connected to your system so you can arm it, disarm it, or check on its status day or night from anywhere.

 Fully Connected Smart Home Options

Each of these options allows you to control a specific function in your house, like adjusting the outdoor lights or monitoring your cats and dogs. If you’re looking to fully automate all these functions and bring them into one system….now you can. Automation systems like Kasa Home, Google Home, or the Amazon Echo allow you to connect multiple smart devices in one place and operate them all from a single dashboard. You can control lights, speaker systems, TVs and screens, even your window blinds or refrigerator for a truly smart home.

So breathe a sigh of relief the next time you’re out of town for a few days. With home automation gadgets like these, you can check in on your home, turn off the lights you forgot to hit on your way out, and relax knowing you’re protected.

Top 5 Pet-Friendly Plants to Spruce Up Your Home

Categories: Interior Design | Posted: December 10, 2019

Vibrant, hardy plants brighten any space and have the added benefit of purifying the air in your home. Bringing in vibrant greenery can also add a splash of color to any space. But there’s a hidden danger lurking in household plants for animals: Some plants are toxic to pets, like aloe or branching ivy. Don’t worry; there are still plenty of options for cat and dog lovers. Here are five of our favorite pet-friendly indoor plants.

  1. Parlor Palm

We promised you a list of pet-friendly AND easy-to-manage plants, so we’re starting with the parlor palm. Pet owners who love the look of a small tree in their home will appreciate this non-toxic palm. Better yet, it’s extremely easy to care for, so beginners can enjoy the benefits of the parlor palm without fussing over it too much. There are actually a few other types of palms that are perfectly suited for pet-friendly homes, so explore your options here!

  1. Christmas Cactus

These succulents are easy to care for and are non-toxic to all pets. These spiny plants bloom during the coldest days of winter, making them a festive plant that adds a pop of color to the room even when the weather outside is frightful.

  1. Friendship Plant

This fuzzy green plant is sure to put a smile on your face – and your pets’ too! It’s easy to divide and share this fast-growing plant, which is where it got its name. So share this plant to your heart’s content with your friends, especially those with curious, furry friends at home.

  1. Spider Plant

Don’t let the name throw you. You’re not bringing ANOTHER animal into your home when you purchase a spider plant. These pretty plants are hardy and grow quickly, and the long tendrils add a nice decorating touch to your room. You’ll probably want to hang this plant for two reasons: The spider plant sprouts long, dangling shoots that need the space, and if it’s not high enough, your cat may pounce thinking it’s a toy.

  1. Calathea (or Prayer Plant)

Last but not least is the stunningly beautiful Calathea! It has lovely red, cream, and green leaves that position themselves toward the sun during the day and curl up at night. These plants are perfect for small spaces you want to brighten up, and they’re incredibly easy to grow. And – of course – they are perfectly safe for your dogs and cats.

There are plenty of other pet-friendly plants that didn’t make our list, but it’s always better to err on the side of caution when bringing plants into your new home. Besides causing a tummy ache, some innocent-looking indoor plants are downright deadly to your furry family members. But don’t let your dog or cat stop you from benefitting from indoor plants! There are so many wonderful ways you can decorate your home with these beautiful green plants.

Stress-Free Ideas for Hosting Thanksgiving In Your New Home

Categories: Home Owner Tips | Posted: November 25, 2019

It’s the holiday season! The weather is getting colder, the Halloween candy is almost gone, and turkey day is right around the corner. Depending on how recently you moved into your new house, tackling Thanksgiving dinner may be a tremendously gutsy thing to do. Even if it’s been a couple of months, you probably still have at least a few boxes left unpacked. But that’s just fine because we’ve got some ideas that will help your Thanksgiving dinner be a little less stressful.

Roll Your Housewarming Party into Thanksgiving

Even the happiest host is going to feel fatigued having people over when there are pictures to hang and rooms to paint, so make it easy on yourself. You’re already inviting people over, whether it’s your group of friends or family, so why not host a double-feature? Combine your Thanksgiving dinner with your housewarming party.

Who knows — you might even convince those friends or family members to help you unpack or set up a room or two. It’ll be a way for your guests to stave off the post-turkey nap, at least.

Give a Potluck Spin to Thanksgiving Dinner

Instead of spending the entire day (or several days, if we’re honest) preparing dishes, digging out roasting pans, and shopping for last-minute ingredients you couldn’t find in the post-move chaos, why not ask your guests to help?

Ask each guest to sign up for an item to bring on the big day. That way, you’ll only be responsible for one or two dishes and can focus your energy on getting your new home ready for your friends and family.

Serve Food You Can Eat on the Go!

Every single person who walks into your new house is going to want a tour. Like, right away, please. It’s going to be a blast showing off your new home to your loved ones, but make sure nobody’s feeling peckish while you’re taking on the role of a tour guide. Put out plenty of snacks and finger foods for guests to nibble on while you take them through the rooms of your new home.

Don’t Just Prep Dinner — Prep the Cleaning Station, Too

Thanksgiving dinner is a warm, cozy meal that makes you want to curl up and take a nap, not spend hours washing dishes. Save yourself the hassle by preparing for the Big Clean Up even before guests arrive. Make sure your dishwasher is empty and ready for business. Clean your pots and pans while you’re cooking, so there’s not a mountain of dishes to wash before you even eat. And finally, fill your sink with soapy water and encourage guests to pop their plates right in after dinner. You’ll be happy you put the time into this when you’re deep into the post-turkey haze.

Have Fun and Be Thankful!

Finally, Thanksgiving is about spending time with your family and friends. So enjoy it! Even if you’re eating off of paper plates, or you’re sitting on uncomfortable folding chairs between boxes, what’s important is the time you’re spending together. Enjoy your holiday!

Preparing for the First Night in Your New Home

Categories: Home Owner Tips | Posted: November 10, 2019

You’ve been waiting all week, all month, and maybe all year for this day: It’s move-in day! Maybe you’ve hired movers, or you’re enlisting the help of friends and family. Regardless, today is going to be a long day filled with heavy lifting, excitement, and probably a good deal of exhaustion. After the last box makes it into the house and the keys are in your hand, now what? You don’t want to scramble around looking for blankets or paper towels or anything else when you’re tired and just want to relax before going to sleep.

Here are some ways you can make the first night in your new home a ton of fun and not incredibly stressful. After all, this is a big change. Make sure you enjoy it. Here are some tips for spending the first night in your new home.

Don’t Even Think About Cooking

Moving is expensive. We get it. But the last thing you want to do is to try and save money at this exact moment by avoiding takeout. Every cooking utensil and pan you own is probably packed up in a box that made its way into the living room anyway, so don’t waste your time or energy. Go ahead and order a pizza or your favorite takeout option. Now’s the perfect time to try out a restaurant in your new neighborhood.

Pack a “First Night” Bag

Yes, you did just pack up everything you own, so it seems silly to have this as a tip. But most people don’t think beyond the moving in itself, and when you’re ready to go to bed on that first night, you’ll be glad you thought ahead.

Pack a bag that contains your essentials, like:

  • Toothbrushes, toothpaste, and toiletries
  • Chargers for your phone, computer, smartwatch, and other devices
  • Medication
  • Pajamas
  • An extra set of clothes (for tomorrow morning!)

Basically, anything you use every day should be in this bag.

Set Up A Home Essentials Kit

You know all those super necessary items that you never think about but always need? That’s what should be in the home essentials kit. You’ll pack a few of these items separately and will want to unpack it immediately. What’s a super necessary but often forgotten item?

We’re talking:

  • Toilet paper
  • Hand soap (for kitchen and bathroom)
  • Paper towels
  • Kitchen sponge
  • Kleenex
  • Trash bags
  • Lightbulbs (you’re guaranteed to need at least one)

Unpack Your Bedroom Right Away

No matter which room you’re most excited to set up, always set up your bedroom first. At the very least, set up your bed complete with blankets, pillows, and sheets. Even if you’re unpacking bright and early in the morning, and you’re hours away from needing to go to bed.

You will be so happy when you’re ready to fall into bed exhausted that first night if you just take the time to do this right away. Sleep will come with no extra work needed.

Pour a Cup of Tea, or Crack a Beer and Just Chill

This one’s the last and most important tip for having a stress-free moving day. At the end of the day, when you’re sitting between boxes on the floor, take an hour or so to relax. You did it — you’re home! Enjoy a few quiet moments in your new house. Congratulations!

With Interest Rates Lower Than Ever, It’s a Good Time to Be A Buyer

Categories: American Classic News | Posted: October 22, 2019

If you’re in the market for a new home, even just casually looking, you’re in luck. Right now, interest rates are incredibly low, which means you might be able to afford more home than you think. In fact, rates just a few years ago were double what they are today – which is 3.75% for a 30-year fixed rate as of October 24th. 

In other words, if you’re looking to purchase property in the next few months, it’s good to be you. 

How Interest Rates Affect the Buying Process 

You may not realize how much purchasing power you have right now with such low mortgage interest rates. These rates affect your monthly payment, so you could conceivably increase your home price range without paying more if rates were higher. 

Let’s look at an example: 

A buyer who secures a 3.75% mortgage rate (today’s current interest rate) could have the same monthly payment on a $450,000 home as someone who locked in a rate of 4.75% would spend on a $400,000 home. The lower the interest rate you can secure, the more home you can afford. 

Today’s buyers can afford more home for the same monthly payments. You can extend these numbers to larger, more expensive homes depending on your budget. 

What You Can Do to Take Advantage of Low Rates 

Use today’s low-interest rates to your advantage for opting for a fixed-rate mortgage, rather than a lower interest adjustable-rate mortgage. Though an adjustable-rate mortgage may save you money right now in the form of lower monthly payments, it might come back to haunt you in the future. If interest rates increase over the next few years, your rate on that mortgage will increase right along with it. 

That uncertainty makes long-term financial planning difficult. By going for a fixed-rate mortgage, you can lock in today’s lower interest rates for the entirety of your loan. 

Don’t Miss Out on Historically-Low Interest Rates! 

If you’re considering buying a new home, now’s the time to do it. You can go beyond your expected price range without paying higher monthly payments if you can lock in a number like today’s rate. The market might be cooling down as we head into November, but don’t let that stop you. Lower interest rates help home buyers like you get more bang for their buck. 

Meeting Your New Neighbors During Halloween Doesn’t Have to Be Spooky!

Categories: Home Owner Tips | Posted: October 5, 2019

Moving into a new neighborhood comes with a lot of change. The prospect of meeting all your new neighbors and getting to know the people who live nearby can be daunting. But if you’re moving in the fall, making new friends in the area is a lot easier. Why? Because Halloween, celebrated by walking around the neighborhood and greeting everyone – from friend to stranger – is the perfect time to meet your new neighbors.

Here are a few ways to quickly meet your new neighbors this Halloween:

Stock Up on Candy for Trick-or-Treaters

Moving can be hectic, but even if your move-in date is October 31st, don’t skip handing out candy. Stock up on candy for kids, and be sure to chat up parents that tag along. They’re probably curious about their new neighbor, and nothing says “great first impression” like handing out some top-tier candy.

Dress Up Your House with Spooky (But Wholesome) Decorations

Besides candy, the best part of Halloween is all the fun decorations! Jack-o-lanterns, dancing skeletons, flying ghosts… take some time to dress up your home in some fun and spooky decorations! The goal is to be festive and inviting rather than genuinely creepy or gory. You want an opportunity to greet kids and their parents, so keep the decorations wholesome and not terrifying.

Make Halloween Gift Bags for Neighbors Close By

If you have the time, consider putting together a cute and fun Halloween gift bag for your next-door neighbors. Put aside any shyness and ring your neighbor’s doorbell with the treat – it’s an excellent excuse for walking around the neighborhood to meet the people who live nearby.

Join in Neighborhood Halloween Celebrations

Many neighborhoods hold block parties or group celebrations, especially those with small children who won’t be out past 7 p.m. Keep an eye on your neighborhood’s Next Door feed, billboards around the community, or your HOA board for any events. Attending these gatherings near your new home is a stress-free way to get out and meet your new neighbors.

Celebrating Halloween is a great way to get to know your neighborhood and community. If you have young trick-or-treaters in your house, be sure to greet neighbors along with your kid. And be sure to attend any neighborhood gatherings! If it’s a costume party, be sure to dress up. You’ll get comfortable with your new community in no time.

How to Take Control and Organize Your Pantry Like a Pro

Categories: Home Design Trends | Posted: September 29, 2019

Think quick – do you have brown rice in stock? How about macaroni noodles? After spending time finding a recipe, making a grocery list, and planning out your meal, the last thing you want is to reach for a staple and realize you’re out… or worse; you can’t find it in the chaotic mess that is your pantry. Don’t let this be your reality.

An unorganized pantry is the bane of every cook’s existence. And the problem is, it’s so easy to let it get out of control. It’s time to take back your pantry and learn how to organize it like a pro. Here are a few easy steps you can take right now to tame the chaos and create an HGTV-worthy pantry.

Get a Fresh Start!

Don’t just move everything from your old pantry into your new home’s pantry because you had it at the last house. When you’re packing check expiration dates and get rid of the out of date, open containers, and unwanted items. It is much easier to build your stores of staple items if you know exactly what is usable from the start.

Take Inventory and Keep it Updated

Sit down and make a list of all your pantry staples, whether it’s old-fashioned oats, tri-colored quinoa, or packets of ramen noodles (don’t pretend you’re above reliving your college days now and again). Whatever you use most, put it on the list. Keep track of what’s in your pantry and what you’re running out of, and add it to your grocery list every time you’re getting low.

Categorize Your Food

While all your pantry items are sitting out on your counter, start grouping food by categories. Grains, beans, baking ingredients, and so on. By doing this now, you can add these items to your pantry at once and keep them together, making it easy to find what you need when you need it.

Put it in a Box!

Store your food in containers or bins whenever possible. There are two benefits to this: first, irregular shaped items (packages of chocolate chips, fresh bags of dried rosemary) fit better in a container, and second, it will be easier to move items around to find what you need. Use clear containers to store grains, flour, and other dry ingredients to see what’s inside easily.

Hello, My Name Is…

Make it super simple to find what you need by labeling those bins or containers. You’ll be able to give your pantry a quick scan to locate whatever it is you’re looking for, and you can also take this opportunity to practice your calligraphy. Hand-written labels, printed stickers, or even chalkboard labels add a unique touch to an otherwise bland space.

Hang In There

If your pantry has drawers (or you’re using a wide cupboard to store pantry items), make use of the doors. Add a spice rack to the inside of the pantry or cupboard drawers, or attach a thin container to the door. Unless your pantry is extra narrow, doing this will allow you to use every single inch of the area.

Keep It Up!

There are probably a dozen chores you’d rather do than meticulously upkeep your pantry. It’s just so easy to shove a half-full bag of lentils or packet of taco seasoning into the depths of your pantry, but that’s how you got into this mess in the first place. Stop making excuses and take the time to keep your pantry under control. Regularly take inventory, clean out expired food items, and put things back where you found them. You’ll be so much happier if you get into this habit.

It may seem like a monstrous project right now, but start it out in steps. Even just removing outdated & half-used unwanted items before packing up your pantry, makes a big difference when getting your new pantry unpacked. So get started and organize the pantry of your dreams!

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