After a long day at the office, keeping your home clean can be a challenge. Zillow.com offers some advice for those of us that continue to put off this undesirable task.
If you begin and end each day with a little picking up, you’ll never get swamped with housework again. Keeping a clean house begins with good habits like making your bed every morning and cleaning the dishes while you cook. Nobody wants to navigate through a minefield of yesterday’s mess to make coffee, so never allow yourself to fall asleep with dirty dishes or a disheveled living room.
Before you leave for work in the morning, take one to two minutes to tidy up. That way, you can look forward to returning to a clean and stress-free house.
Even the most reviled of household chores can be enjoyable if you have some headphones or a portable speaker. Truth be told, cleaning the house is a hidden source of me time that you’ll eventually learn to love.
For example, if you think vacuuming kind of sucks, listen to an energetic playlist of your favorite songs and sway to the music like nobody’s watching. If you haven’t had much time to read lately, listen to audiobooks and podcasts while you do the dishes. If you’re a parent and miss watching movies and shows without singing princesses, prop up your phone or tablet and use some wireless headphones to do a little binge-watching. Yay for chores!
Simplify your chore list
Rather than making a never-ending list of unattainable projects, break it up into manageable, bite-sized pieces.
Get a blank sheet of paper and make four columns: Daily, Weekly, Monthly and Yearly. Everyday chores like making the bed, picking up the house and doing the dishes can go in the Daily column. Chores like vacuuming and dusting can go in either the Weekly or Monthly column, depending on what’s realistic for your lifestyle. Reserve the Yearly column for big projects like cleaning the oven, shampooing the carpet and wiping down the fan blades.
Even if you fall behind on your chore list, seeing it all laid out on one page will reduce your anxiety and make procrastination a thing of the past.
Stock your cleaning caddy
Instead of using one caddy to store all your cleaning supplies, only fill it with what you’ll use on a weekly basis: spray bottles of all-purpose cleaner and window cleaner, paper towels, a rag, dusting cloth, scrub brush, heavy-duty sponge and an old toothbrush for hard-to-reach places.
To ensure that you’ll actually use the caddy, keep it in your bathroom so it’s easily accessible. Store specialty kitchen cleaning products (stainless steel and cooktop cleaners) in the kitchen, and keep big bottles of bleach, vinegar and floor cleaner in the garage. And of course, keep any cleaning products out of the reach of young children.
Even though your sink is caked with toothpaste, soap scum and beard stubble, you still haven’t found the time to clean your bathroom lately. Well, fellow procrastinators, here’s a little secret: You can wipe the sink while you get ready in the morning! Keep a roll of paper towels underneath the sink so you can wipe the countertop and basin whenever you brush your teeth.
To keep the shower clean, fill a hollow dish scrubber with a mixture of half dish soap and half vinegar, keep it in the shower and scrub the tiles a little every time you shower.
To spot clean the kitchen floor and put off mopping another week, save any damp paper towels whenever you clean the kitchen counters. Before throwing them out, use them to clean up messes on the floor.
Aim for finished, not perfect
Nobody’s going to go over your cleaning job with a fine-tooth comb, so don’t bother sweating the small stuff. The goal is to make cleaning an attainable habit that fits in nicely with your busy lifestyle; worrying about not doing a good enough job will only make you procrastinate more.
Another problem is biting off more than you can chew. If mopping the whole house at once seems too daunting a task for one afternoon, settle for the kitchen floor for now. You can always move on to another room if you feel the urge.
If you follow these tips, cleaning may actually become enjoyable…well…maybe just not as overwhelming as what it has been in the past. However, you are sure to enjoy the results.
Have you tried house hunting with your spouse? It’s hard enough to find a house that meets the desires of one person, so how do you get two people to agree on a dream home? Dave Ramsey explains more in his “Married and House Hunting” blog below…
Home buying can be a stressful process, but when you throw two different opinions in the mix, it can be downright agonizing. Maybe you’re dying for a cute home in the suburbs, but your spouse loves the idea of lots of land in the country. These disagreements can create roadblocks on your way to arriving at the perfect home.
With low inventory and rising home values in popular housing markets, you have to act quickly when you find your dream home. Don’t let a stalemate with your spouse cause you to miss out. Check out these tips to help you get on the same page as your honey and keep your house hunt from turning into World War III.
Make Separate Must-Have Lists
Your best shot at a compromise is to find out what you and your spouse have in common. When Amber Gunn, an Austin, Texas-based real estate agent, works with married couples, she has each person list out their top 10 must-have features along with their top 10 wishes.
“I like [for couples] to make these lists separately, independently of each other, and then if they don’t have at least five matching things on the must list, I make them go to 20,” says Gunn. “Just so we can find five common things that are really important to both of them.”
Start crafting your own list, and have your spouse do the same. Compare the lists and identify a handful of home features (location, number of rooms, size of backyard) that are important to both of you. These agreed-upon features will serve as the foundation to your home-buying discussion. When you and your spouse start the home search on common ground, you’ll be more likely to compromise later down the road.
Take Your Emotion Out of the Budget
House-hunting couples most often disagree on how much money they should spend on a home, according to a Facebook poll of Dave’s fans. Should you take on a higher mortgage to get your forever home? Or should you go the conservative route and get slightly smaller digs?
Do your best to take emotions out of the equation and look at the facts. Your monthly payments should be no more than 25% of your take-home pay. Veto any home that doesn’t fall within that price range. Don’t get caught up imagining holidays and family gatherings in a huge, extravagant kitchen. A forever home won’t be yours forever if it’s out of your price range.
Jessica R. fell in love with the highest priced home that she thought was still in her budget range, while her husband favored a home that was about $10,000–20,000 less. They bought the more expensive home but only lived in it for a year before renting it out. Despite being approved for the loan amount, Jessica realized after they moved in that the house payments were too high. As time went on, the house began draining them of every penny.
Eventually she and her husband had to sell—learning a tough lesson in the process. “If our home had been affordable, we may have been able to keep it and, at the very least, enjoyed our first home for more than one year,” she explains.
By removing your emotions from the decision, you’ll be able to choose a home you and your spouse will enjoy (and still have!) years from now.
Be Willing to Postpone the House Hunt
If you and your spouse are butting heads, take a step back from the conversation. There will always be new homes for sale, but digging in your heels over a home-purchase disagreement will only create a divide between you and your significant other. Gunn often advises couples who are having trouble finding common ground to take a two-week break from the discussion then reconvene. “I do believe their marriage is more important than a house. I would rather them get on the same page than it be a really rocky situation,” she says.
A home isn’t worth straining your marriage. Compromise is key to finding something that will fit both of your needs. When Jenny J. was looking for a home with her husband, she focused on three things during the search: necessities, budget and partnership. If couples don’t prioritize these things, she says, “You might as well be single again and buy a house on your own.”
So if you and your spouse can’t agree on a home, take a breather. Make a pact that you will not discuss locations, square footage, price and so on for at least a couple of weeks. Then come back to the discussion with a fresh perspective and outlook.
For all you house hunting pet-lovers out there, here are some tips from Realtor.com on how to find a house that fits the needs of you and your furry friend…
If you have dogs, cats, or other pets in your family, you’ll want to take their needs into account when you’re looking to buy a house. Yes, really. Your furry roommates might seem easygoing, but certain homes—and neighborhoods—are more pet-friendly than others.
Here are six questions to ask that often get overlooked; keep them in mind to find a place where you and your pets can live in peace.
1. What are the local pet laws?
Even if you own a piece of property, it’s not guaranteed that your pets will be welcome there. Depending on the number and the breed, there can be restrictions within an HOA, condo development, or even the city or state at large.
“Check your city and state for breed-specific laws and limits on the number of animals per home,” advises Amy Ference, a Realtor® in Bozeman, MT, and owner of two pit bull mixes. “For example, Bozeman requires a kennel license if you have more than two dogs.”
- Some HOAs or condo developments restrict the number or type of pets you can have, or spell out how your pet must be restrained in common areas.
- In condo developments, there is often a limit on the number of dogs allowed per unit, or even per floor. “It’s important not to assume dogs are allowed because you saw one during your tour,” explains Ference. “Sometimes they are only allowed on the first floor, or in end units.”
- If you have a breed that tends to bark a lot (ruh-roh), find out if your HOA or city enforces any noise ordinances.
2. What’s up with the yard and fencing?
Having a yard where pets can roam is amazing, of course, but keep in mind that if you want to keep your pets in (or other critters out), you’ll have to have a fence—or build one. Yet again, check your HOA or condo covenants on this front.
“I’ve seen covenants that only allow underground electric fencing, restrictions on the size or materials allowed for outdoor kennels or dog runs, and most neighborhood covenants outlaw animals running at large, so if you’re looking for a country setting where Fido can run free, it pays to give those a careful read,” says Ference.
3. Is the neighborhood good for pets to roam?
With dogs, finding a location that’s good for walks is key. That might mean being close to a park, dog run, trail, or other green space. But even if your pup doesn’t mind the commute, think about the sidewalk situation for everyday bathroom walks.
“You want to find a place where you’re happy to walk,” says Ference. “In snowy climates, that also means places with sidewalks, or you’re stuck walking in the roadway—which is super dangerous—or trudging through snow, which is exhausting.”
Be careful about choosing a location right on a busy road or highway; for dogs that get out frequently (or cats that like to roam), car traffic is a danger. Cat owners should also think about the local wildlife. In some areas, proximity to a green space means being closer to coyotes and foxes, which like to snack on smaller critters.
4. Does the house have pet-friendly floors?
Pet-friendly flooring is a big issue. Flooring expert Debbie Gartnerrecommends solid hardwood since it can be refinished when it’s scratched, and suggests looking for very light or very dark wood, and triple-sealing it with high-grade polyurethane (use a water-based poly for light floors, and oil-based for dark).
If you’re putting in new flooring anyway, consider reclaimed or distressed wood so that the scratches just add more character. Other good flooring options include poured concrete, tile, luxury vinyl, or laminate.
So what’s not so great? Wall-to-wall carpet. “Carpeting is not great for resale value,” says Ference. Cats will claw it, dogs track in mud and dirt. Carpet also traps smells from accidents, stains easily, and collects pet hair. If your dog or cat (or hey, human family members) needs something softer underfoot, go with an area or throw rug, which can be cleaned or replaced.
5. Does the house have a pet-friendly floor plan?
Consider the size and layout of the home if you have a large dog, or several dogs.
“You’ll be pretty sick of your house in short order if you’re always tripping over the dog—trust me on this one,” Ference says.
Is the space big enough for your dog’s breed? Is there enough room for a cozy dog bed or cat tree? If you’re downsizing, you should take into account how a tighter space will stress your pet.
6. Can your pet handle the stairs?
If you’re looking at a multilevel home, consider whether your dogs will be OK with the stairs, particularly as they age.
“When dogs get older, they can get joint problems that make it difficult for them to do steps,” explains Gartner. Just like their owners!
If you do choose a multilevel home, look for a place that has a carpet runner on the stairs, or be ready to install one. “It’s the No. 1 request for people with dogs,” says Gartner.
You have decided it’s time for a new place. That’s great! Are you stuck wondering whether you should buy or build? Here are some tips from financial expert, Dave Ramsey, that will help you weigh out the pros and cons of buying an existing home or building a brand new home…
It’s the classic home buyer’s conundrum: Should we build, or should we buy?
Each option has its pros and cons. For instance, a new build will give you the floor plan you want, but it will take months to construct. If you buy an existing home, you might have to compromise on the floor plan, but you’ll get to move in right after you close!
Before you decide on your next home, take time to explore the arguments for and against each choice with the help of your real estate agent.
The Case for Building a House
Pros: According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), the average time an existing home is on the market has hit a new low of 29 days! With homes flying off the market so quickly, competition to find an existing home can be tough. When you build a home, the competition factor decreases.
Customization is another huge pro. You’ll get to personalize the details of your house when you construct from the ground up—from the layout , cabinets and flooring to the sinks, lighting, paint colors and doorknobs! Even tract homes that are built within neighborhoods allow for some customization in color choices, flooring options and certain finishes. Limited choices reduce labor costs—and your bottom line.
Obviously, new homes are built to meet current building codes, are often more energy efficient, and can incorporate up-to-date technology. For the first few years, you’re less likely to deal with big-ticket maintenance issues like leaky roofs or failing heating and cooling systems in a newly built home. Plus, many homebuilders offer a limited warranty if something should break.
Cons: So, why not build a new home? For starters, it takes an average of seven months to construct a new build, according to the National Association of Realtors. This means you’ll likely have a gap in residence between the time you sell your old place and build your new one. You’ll need to be prepared to cover the cost of renting until you can move into your newly built place. On the flip side, most buyers can move into their new-to-them home just weeks after making the initial offer.
Here’s another biggie: Most buyers go into a home purchase expecting to wheel and deal on the price. While that’s certainly common in the resale market, new homes are a little different. Usually there’s not a lot of leeway on closing costs or purchase price.
This is where having your own real estate agent comes in handy. An experienced agent knows what makes the different builders in your market tick and brings a creative mind to the negotiation table. If your builder won’t bend on price, your agent may be able to work other incentives into the contract price.
Another con: unexpected out-of-pocket expenses. They have a funny way of sneaking up on new home buyers. That’s because those dollar signs you see on the sticker are just the tip of the price-berg. Upgrades cost money and may or may not be rolled into your contract price. Play it safe by budgeting for only those you can cover with cash. Don’t know where to start? Begin by asking your builder these questions:
- How much does your typical buyer actually spend on upgrades?
- What’s included in the base price?
- What will be an additional cost at closing?
Knowledge is power. Work with your real estate agent to gather as much information possible about building a house so you’re not blindsided by extra costs.
The Case for Buying an Existing Home
Pros: The benefits of buying an existing home are more than financial. Buying a home is often less stressful than building one. When you build a house, you’ll have to purchase land, decide on a home design, pick out flooring, fixtures, cabinets, countertops, interior trim, exterior trim, and on and on it goes. You’ll have to do all of this and stay under your budget. Managing all the details that go along with building a home takes time and effort. Don’t underestimate the depth of stamina you’ll need to make sure it’s all done the right way.
On the other hand, purchasing an existing home is usually less stressful than building because you have fewer decisions to make about the house itself! It’s already built!
Here are some other pros for buying an existing house:
- Your real estate agent can help you negotiate the best deal possible. You could potentially get more bang for your buck with an existing house.
- You can move in right after you close.
- You can upgrade at your own pace as you have the time and money.
Cons: Clearly, there’s a higher risk you’ll face maintenance issues in an existing home. But a professional home inspection can root out many of those potential problems before you close on the home. You may also need to update some of the outdated features of an older home, but if you play your cards right, that old carpet and ugly wallpaper could land you a better deal.
Other cons include:
- Buyer’s remorse if you end up not loving your home’s floor plan.
- Higher energy costs if you purchase an older home.
- Neighbor remorse if you end up living next to someone who blares hard rock music at 1 a.m.
The most important detail about buying an existing home is choosing your real estate agent wisely. The right agent will help you make informed decisions about buying an existing home.
Ready to Decide?
With all that said, every market is different—just like every buyer is different. The best way to choose the option that’s right for you is to talk it over with an experienced real estate agent. Your agent will know where the deals are, whether you’re interested in the long-time neighborhoods or the up-and-coming communities. And they’ll help you decide whether building a house or buying an existing home will suit your needs best.