A Few Reminders To Keep Your Home Safe

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home safety

No one has to be “sold” on the idea of home safety. After all, safety in the home affects not only ourselves, but visiting family and friends as well.

Here are some areas around your home where a lapse in attention to safety can have dire consequences:

Lights – A number of accidents in the home occur as the result of poor lighting. Keep extra floor and table lights close to stairs and work areas, instead of relying on overhead lights alone.

Mold – The best advice is to prevent mold to begin with, by keeping your home clean and dry in order to discourage mold growth. Quickly repair any plumbing leaks, and clean up water thoroughly when it’s spilled. Bleach can kill mold, but it can also makes things worse, as dead spores can be even more dangerous than the living mold. If the problem looks severe, or if you are experiencing any health issues related to the mold, it is best to call in a professional to remove the mold, rather than to tackle it yourself.

Emergencies – Everyone in the home should be aware of how to shut off gas, electricity, and water. In an emergency, this knowledge could save lives.

Electrical cords – Be sure that all of the cords on your electrical devices are in good condition. You should never use cords that are frayed, cut, or that spark when plugged in. Avoid tripping hazards by keeping cords out of high-traffic areas; hiding the cords underneath the carpet is a good trick to use when cords absolutely must run across walkways.

Electrical load – Too many electrical devices plugged into the same power strip or outlet can overload your circuit, causing the circuit breakers to catch fire. If you are chronically underserved by the outlets that you have, an electrician can always add outlets in any room. Never use extension cords beyond their capacity; an overloaded extension cord is in great danger of sparking and starting a fire.

Waste – Hazardous waste can be found throughout your home, and it needs to be disposed of properly. Appliances, batteries, paint, antifreeze, etc. contain chemicals that need to be disposed of carefully, rather than just being thrown in the trash; contact your waste services department for information on how and where to dispose of these products. Also, be sure to keep these items well out of the reach of children, who could be severely or fatally harmed by ingesting such substances.

Vents – Another fire hazard, often overlooked, is to be found in clogged laundry dryer vents. Lint is highly flammable, so the dryer’s trap should be cleaned after each load. The main dryer vent should be cleaned out and inspected once a year, to make sure there are no kinks or blockages causing a buildup of lint.

Detectors – Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors need to be tested at least once a year. Why not designate a day you won’t forget for the task? This can be a holiday an anniversary, or any particular day which is meaningful to you. Check the batteries on these devices, and replace any leaking, weak or dead batteries.

Mounted T.V. – If not attached properly, the heavy components of your entertainment system can be dangerous, particularly if you have a large, flat-screened television. A professional should always be used for mounting a television, or one should be consulted to check on any wall-installation job you do yourself. The mounts themselves should be strong, and should be centered on a stud to ensure that the mount doesn’t pull off of the wall. If you don’t wall-mount the television, be sure that the television is housed on a sturdy base that is able to bear the weight of the television. If you have children, position the television so that the kids can’t reach it, or, if they can, that they aren’t able to accidentally pull the television down upon themselves.

Defining Your Home’s Style

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Home Design

One of the great joys of owning your own home is that your home is truly yours, and you are no longer shackled by the whims of a landlord when it comes to giving your home the personality and style that you long for. Yet decorating can be a daunting task, particularly for first-time homeowners who have never had the complete freedom to decorate as they please. Most people know what they like or dislike, but haven’t had the opportunity to define their style, which can make shopping for accessories and furniture—even paint and lighting fixtures—difficult and overwhelming. One of the best things you can do before you begin to decorate your new home is to stop and consider what your style truly is, providing a focus for your efforts and helping you target the look that is right for you.

While there are as many styles as there are homes in the country, most households find their tastes falling into one of a few main decorating styles. Reading through the following list, paying attention to the characteristics of each style, can help you determine what your style may be, and can start your decorating endeavors off on the right track.

Modern homes are characterized by a sleek, geometric minimalism, and muted neutral tones. Modern style is inspired by the mid-century aesthetic of the 1950’s and 1960’s, which emphasized clean lines, and eschewed excessive decoration; a paragon of the style was achieved by the designers Charles and Ray Eames. Today’s homes that adopt the modern style tend to have a casual feel, functional furniture, and an open, bright look. Modern homes suggest a simplified, efficient lifestyle that prizes form and function, and embraces innovation.

Traditional homes are inspired by the traditions of Colonial styles, harkening back to the architectural and design elements of the affluent Colonial Americas, which in turn were taken from English Country style. Elements of traditional décor include matching furniture sets, precise symmetrical alignments of furniture and accessories, and deep, saturated colors like scarlet, robin egg blue, or mahogany. The overall feel of a traditional room is orderly, and calm, refined and elegant, and has a formal air. All Traditional homes offer a peaceful and serene environment, imbued with an historical homage.

Country style is actually an umbrella term that covers a variety of different rustic decorating styles. The common theme among all of the country styles is a preference for an understated, casual and comfortable look that incorporates vintage or antique items; a light, colorful palette; and accessible, functional furnishings. Country styles range from the floral, gilded-accents of French Country (think roses and golden mirrors), to the heavily rusticated Early American (think farmhouse sinks and dining room benches). The feel in all of these homes is relaxed and eclectic, with an inviting, lived-in look. A Country home suggests the slow, relaxed and simple life of the country, and its attendant celebration of natural materials, flora and fauna.

European is also a general term for a Continental-inspired décor, which incorporates the warm, antique elements of Spain, France and Italy. Elements of this design approach include wrought-iron accent pieces, pottery and ceramic tiles, warm color palettes and rustic accents that evoke the European countryside: think “Italian Villa” or “Winecountry Resort”. The feel in a European-style home is aged and elegant, with restrained aesthetics focused on quality, heirloom pieces, and special focus on lounge areas, the kitchen, and the bedroom. A European-style home is a wine-and-cheese type of house, built for the daily-comfort and warmth of friends and family.

Whatever decorating style you may gravitate toward, it is worth the investment of time to read further about the style, and peruse examples in books, magazines, and on the internet. You may find, after all, that you don’t fall neatly into any of these decorating categories, but rather prefer to pull elements from each one, to create your own, unique look and feel. Or, if you are a by-the-book type of person, this research will serve to guide you as begin the process of decorating and furnishing your new home. Either way, the journey of defining your own style can be extremely rewarding, and is part of what the joy of homeownership is all about.

Investing in Homeownership

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Tax Refund as Downpayment

As the snows of Winter transition slowly into the rains of Spring, the thoughts of many households turn to that yearly festival of finance and frustration: taxes. While the paperwork may worry, and the numbers may sometimes confuse, the happy reality is that more and more people are actually receiving tax refunds each year, instead of paying additional taxes to Uncle Sam. Receiving that refund now puts many into the “early filer” category, as the rush to receive the refund check drives many to get their taxes in as early as possible, far advanced of the April deadline. The biggest worry on their minds this year? What to do with their refund money!

According to the IRS, taxpayers received an average tax refund of $3,000 last year, up almost 5% from 2009. That sum just happens to be an ideal inroad toward a downpayment on a new home, a happy circumstance for those who are looking to become homeowners. The convergence of low interest rates and high-value builder incentives has created a buyer’s dream in today’s real estate market, and downpayments of as little as a few thousand dollars can be enough to get buyers into an affordable new home. Whether funded through an FHA (Federal Housing Administration) loan that requires only 3.5% down, or via a homebuilder’s downpayment program that matches (or covers the entirety of) the buyer’s downpayment amount, there is a proliferation of options for those looking to buy a home right now, at terms that may come only once in a lifetime.

Still not convinced? Consider this: last year, a survey by Bankrate.com found that over 84% of those who received refunds decided to save or invest the money, with only 7% deciding to use the funds for a shopping spree or vacation. Wisdom on the street seems to suggest that consumers are working harder to make more of their money, and are taking the time to make solid choices for their financial futures. As everyone knows, real estate is an important part of the overall financial plan in any household, and by translating a tax refund into an investment in a primary residence, homebuyers can begin to reap the rewards of homeownership. These benefits include the building of equity in a home, and the increased tax-refunds they will see in subsequent years, thanks to the federal mortgage interest deduction!

This year, when you receive a tax refund, ask yourself: how can this money help me to achieve my goals? You just might find that turning that refund into an investment in your family’s new home may be the best answer of all.

Green Ideas for your Home, How To Make Your Home “Greener”

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Going Green-Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs Will Save Energy

Today’s houses are increasingly built with the environment in mind. Home builders have begun to focus on construction elements like better insulation and tightly-wrapped frames, all of which mean more efficient use of power when cooling and heating your home. But in addition to the improvements made in the home’s construction, there are a number of areas in which homeowners can make changes, all in the effort to make their home as green as possible. Below I have listed some green ideas for your home.

Landscaping – Trees are good for the environment and they are good for homeowners, too, as they provide shade that helps keep the house cooler, cutting down on the use of the air conditioner. Similarly, ceiling fans can make the inside of a home feel markedly cooler, reducing the tendency of the occupants to ratchet up the a/c on a warm day.

Lighting – Replacing incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent light bulbs will save energy and money. It’s estimated that just by replacing the bulbs in the five most used lights, a homeowner can save around $100 per year. If each household used compact bulbs, greenhouse gas emissions would be reduced by one trillion pounds.

Hot Water – Hot water heaters can waste a lot of energy through thermal waste. It is recommended to wrap an insulating pad around the hot water heater and to insulate the pipes coming out of it. The investment is small—the insulating jackets cost less than $20—but the benefits are significant. Homeowners can also investigate new technologies such as “on-demand” (or “tankless”) water heaters, which heat water instantaneously when called upon, instead of continually keeping a large vat of water hot. These heaters can cut down on energy-consumption associated with water heating by up to 50 percent.

Automation – Going green doesn’t have to mean discomfort, because a little goes a long way. Use a programmable thermostat and light timers, so that your heater and air conditioner are used minimally while you’re at work, and so that the lights stay off until right before you come home.

By adopting a just few “green” habits you can make a considerable difference to the environment while saving money and improving upon the foundation of sustainability laid down by your home’s builder.

Painting Tips for Homeowners

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Homeowner Painting Tips

While neutral white walls may be recommended when selling a house, once the home is yours, choosing a color scheme is the most obvious way to put your individual style and personality into the décor. By following some simple tips, you can make your home look designer-perfect.

Start by painting the walls in the main rooms or living spaces, such as the foyer, living room, and dining room. Keep in mind that your color scheme needs to complement your primary furniture and/or accessories. If you have a painting that dominates the room, choose colors found in that painting. Patterned rugs, such as a Persian rug, provide lots of great color options to explore. Likewise, if your couch has a pattern, you can start with the colors found in that pattern to find a color palette for your walls.

After the main areas are painted, use other shades from your color scheme for secondary rooms like bedrooms, bathrooms, the den or office spaces.

It is well known that color can affect mood. Red, for example, is said to be invigorating, making it a popular choice for living rooms and dining rooms, because it’s a color conducive to conversation. Plus, red always creates a strong first impression, creating an upbeat environment for company. Consider the mood you want in each room, then choose your colors accordingly.

Lighter shades of paint make a room appear larger, so make sure the hue you choose matches the space you are painting. In you have a small guest half-bath, avoid dark shades, which can draw the walls in and make the space feel tight. Remember that a color can be rich or vivid without being overly dense or dark. Plus, lighter shades better reflect sunlight, adding to the warmth of any room.

If you prefer neutral colors, remember there are more shades available than pearl white. Consider a neutral color with some depth, such as bronze, gold, tan, or peach, which still fall within a neutral scheme but add some pizzazz and energy to a room.

Just remember, there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to picking out paint colors. Choosing the color scheme that best suits your sensibilities is the surest way to turn your new house into your home.