Spruce Up Your House for Holiday Hosting

The holiday season is one of the most-traveled periods of the entire year. People drive and fly across the country or around the world to visit friends and loved ones. It’s wonderful to have those you care about coming to visit, but it can also be very stressful if your home is in disarray. Even though you tell yourselves that people won’t really care about what your home looks like, there’s always that fear that they’ll judge you if your house isn’t ready for guests.You don’t have to worry, though. There are a number of ways that you can make your home more festive in preparation for holiday visitors. Here are just a few suggestions to help get you started.

Rearrange the Furniture

Even something as simple as rearranging some of the furniture can have a big impact on the look of your home when company arrives. Changing the positioning of couches, chairs and other large pieces can open rooms up and make them seem more inviting to your visitors. Best of all, you can easily focus the changes around a Christmas tree or other holiday centerpieces to really tie things together and create a unified holiday look. Once your guests leave, you can either move the furniture back to its usual spots or leave it where it is to keep the new look going throughout the year.

Clean Up the Outdoors

Another place that you can make a big impact is cleaning up around the outdoors. Rake and mulch leaves, clean up flower beds, trim back trees and bushes… do whatever needs to be done to get everything looking great before the temperatures drop too low. If possible, you may even want to clean the bricks or siding and clean out your gutters. While you’re up there, you may as well install some hangers for holiday light strings, too!

Update Your Accents

One seemingly small change that can make a big impression is to change the accent colors on your home by painting the doors and shutters. This option isn’t right for everyone since it’s a permanent change, but for those wanting to update the look of their home it can make a big difference. While the color you choose is dependent on the color of your home and your personal preference, going with red or green can add a splash of holiday flair that will still look great the rest of the year through.

Spruce Up the Floors

If your carpets are stained, worn or otherwise need a refresh, don’t just install a similar carpet in their place: Consider going for woodgrain vinyl slats or laminate wood flooring instead. These flooring options add the beauty of a natural wood floor without the frustration, standing up to stains and other issues while requiring significantly less work to maintain. Best of all, a change to a wood look near the holidays can enhance the charm of your home when your visitors finally arrive.

Change Your Decorating Style

Consider ditching the tired old holiday decorations that you put up every year and go with a bit of a different look this time around. If you usually go cartoony, consider something classier like white lights and pine accents. If your decorations are usually sparse, do something a bit more over the top this year. It doesn’t matter how you refresh your decorations, just give your visitors something to see that they haven’t seen before. While this is especially effective if combined with other updates to your home, you can still wow your guests just by subverting their expectations of your holiday décor.

Bring in the Pros

If you can’t come up with a solution you like, consider bringing in a decorator to help you find the holiday updates that work best for your house. HomeKeepr can help you find the perfect decorator to wow your guests when they arrive. Sign up for your free account today!
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Home Programs Vets Should Know About

Veterans sacrifice a lot for this country. To help honor these sacrifices, special programs were put in place to aid vets in getting and keeping a home. Unfortunately, not all veterans know that these programs exist. Even for those who do, they may not realize exactly what options are available for them and may apply for a program that doesn’t really match their situation ideally. To help sort out some of the confusion, here are a few of the most common home programs that vets might be interested in. As requirements and availability can change over time, be sure to find out more before attempting to apply for any specific program.

VA Home Loans

One of the most commonly used home programs for vets are VA home loans. These loans are subsidized by the Veterans Administration itself, similar to HUD home loans or rural loans subsidized by the Department of Agriculture. Thanks to the VA subsidy, vets can qualify for better-than-average interest rates and may be able to reduce or eliminate down payments or closing costs as well. Houses must meet the livability requirements of the VA to be purchased with a VA home loan.

VA Foreclosure Programs

Another useful home program for vets is the VA foreclosure program. This features homes that have been foreclosed upon that meet livability requirements, allowing vets to buy the homes at a discount from their market value. This lower price can make VA loans even more affordable since there is less to repay from the start.

Loan Forbearance

One problem that vets sometimes face is getting behind on mortgage payments and running the risk of losing their home. The VA offers loan forbearance programs that can help with this. While this doesn’t serve as loan forgiveness, the forbearance does temporarily stop repayments to give veterans more time to catch up. There are no penalties accrued during the forbearance period – and pending foreclosures won’t move forward while the loan is in forbearance. Once the forbearance period ends, the vet can begin making payments again at their normal rate.

Loan Modifications

VA-backed loan modifications are another option for vets that are struggling with their mortgage payment. These modifications can make changes to the interest rate, interest type or even the repayment period of the loan to reduce the amount of the monthly payment. There are a few different types of loan modifications available for vets ranging from basic loan refinancing to specialized repayment plans designed to keep vets in their homes when times are tough. The specific terms of the modification will depend on the specific program or plan that the veteran uses to modify their loan.

In-Home Care Programs

For veterans who were injured in service or who experience other chronic health issues, the VA offers programs to aid in getting in-home care. These programs pay out directly to the care provider and may also cover the cost of specialized care equipment or home modifications that are necessary to help the vets get through their day. These programs may be a good option for injured vets who need minor remodeling for medical reasons but who are unable to get it done on a fixed income.

VA Disability Status

It is important to point out that some VA programs require a veteran to have disability status before they can qualify. Disability through the VA can take a while to certify, so vets who have ongoing mobility or health issues should apply early before applying for other programs. Some programs may have options available while a disability decision is still pending, but there are at least a few VA programs that can’t do anything for you unless you’re already certified as disabled by the VA.

Finding the Right Program

If you’re struggling to navigate the complexities of some of these programs, there are mortgage and loan experts out there who can help you. They have experience dealing with VA programs and may be able to advise you on which programs are best for your situation. Sign up for a free HomeKeepr account and get connected with an expert today!
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Care and Feeding of Brick Siding

Having brick siding installed on your house gives it a classic look. Unfortunately, a lot of people view brick as an install-it-and-forget-it option and allow that look to deteriorate over time. Brick homes require basic maintenance and care just like vinyl and wood siding do, though the specifics of maintenance may be a little bit different. It’s just like with anything: If you want the look, you have to put in the work to keep it up.Fortunately, maintaining your brick isn’t that difficult. Even better, the maintenance you do now can help prevent your brick siding needing major repairs in the future. So long as you’re willing to put forth a little effort, you should be able to keep your home looking great for years to come.

Cleaning Your Brick

The brick on your home is exposed to the elements on a 24/7 basis, and the rough surface of most bricks make them ideal for picking up dust and dirt. This can lead to damage over time, so once or twice a year you should take the time to clean your bricks. Most of the time this is as simple as spraying them down with a garden hose to remove any dirt and grime that’s built up on your home, though particularly tough spots and areas may need a scrub brush with soapy water as well. Avoid the temptation to use a power washer as the high water pressure can damage the brick.

Vegetation and Mildew Removal

While some plants such as ivy provide what some consider a dignified look, any vegetation that grows on your brick will damage it. Remove any vines, moss or other plants that you notice growing up your brick wall, making sure to wear gloves in case the plant is something that you don’t want to touch like poison ivy. You should also periodically check your brick for signs of mildew or mold, both of which can damage the brick surface as they grow. Scrub the area where you notice these growing, spraying them with a diluted solution of bleach and water to kill off any remaining remnants or spores. It’s a good idea to wet down the brick before you spray it, though, as this will prevent bleach from collecting in deeper contours of the brick and causing discoloration.

Checking for Damage

There are two types of damage you should check for at least once per year when you have a brick home. The first is impact damage, resulting from something hitting the brick and causing cracks, chips or other damage to it. This can come from a variety of sources, including things as ordinary as a lawnmower throwing a rock. The second type of damage to look for is water damage, which occurs when rain or splashing water repeatedly hits an area of the brick and starts to wear it away. Both of these can damage not only the bricks but the surrounding mortar as well. When damage is found, scrub the area to remove any loose material and keep an eye on the area to see if the damage gets worse over time. If the damage is caused by splashing water or other environmental issues, you might also adjust your landscaping or install additional drainage to redirect water and prevent further damage.

Repointing and Repair

As brick and mortar become damaged, you may need to make repairs from time to time. If the damage is just to the mortar, scrape and chisel away any damaged portions and apply new mortar to the entire area where wear and damage is present; this is typically known as repointing. If there are bricks that are damaged to the point that they need to be replaced, chisel away the mortar surrounding those bricks until they can be removed. Apply fresh mortar and new bricks to fill the damaged area.

Getting It Just Right

If the thought of replacing bricks or mortar intimidates you, we can help. Sign up for HomeKeepr today and we’ll help you find the masonry professional that can get the job done exactly the way you want it.
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What Color Should I Paint My Walls for the Best Return?

Painting your home is a great way to express yourself and let your personality shine through in your living space. The colors you choose for your rooms can really bring them to life in ways that few other changes can. However, a fresh coat of paint can do more than just give your rooms some personality. With the right colors, the paint you choose can even increase the likelihood that your house will sell at a good price when you put it on the market. To maximize this effect, there are a few colors you should consider (and a few you should avoid.)

Picking the Right Color

If you’re looking for a good color to apply throughout the house, consider a light shade of gray or beige. Both of these colors help to liven up rooms by adding just a bit of color but are neutral enough to let each room’s other accents take command. If you want something a bit different, taupe or so-called “greige” colors (mixes of gray and beige) can also work well. Some off-white colors, especially those with hints of brown or other warm shades, can also brighten up your rooms. Many of these colors pair well with white or beige baseboards and trim.

Good Kitchen Colors

If you’re going room by room, the kitchen is a good place to add a bit of darker color. Darker grays and grays mixed with darker blue shades do well in the kitchen; in fact, some reports have shown that homes with a gray-blue shade in the kitchen sell for an average of $1800 more than similar homes with other kitchen shades. Depending on the size of your kitchen and the amount of wall that’s actually visible behind the cabinets and appliances, you may be able to get away with hotter colors such as deep red or dark orange. Just avoid going too bright with whatever color you choose.

Living Room and Bath Colors

The living area and bathroom both benefit from more neutral shades such as beige and gray, but that doesn’t mean you can’t change things up in some cases. Consider the flooring and other fixtures as well as the amount of natural light that comes into the room and look at colors that take advantage of what’s already there. Light green, blue or brown can sometimes work wonderfully, especially if they include hints of gray to keep them from being too bright. You can even choose a bit stronger blues in the bathroom as homebuyers tend to respond well to blue there, just so long as you don’t go for too bright of a shade.

Bedroom Colors

Blue is a popular bedroom color, especially in shades such as cerulean. There are several bold color choices that you can get away with in the bedroom, though. Don’t go crazy with the bedroom colors and avoid anything that’s too bright – but giving the bedroom a splash of color in blue, green or even red or brown can work well so long as it’s not too much of a departure from the rest of the house.

Colors to Avoid

There are, of course, a few colors that you should avoid when painting your walls. Anything too bright or garish should obviously be avoided since it could turn off potential buyers. Black is another color to avoid; not only do many people find it depressing, but it will also be difficult for future homeowners to cover up. Also on the list of colors to avoid? Bright white. You might think that this would give your home a clean look or make it ready for a new homeowner to customize, but bright whites (especially when paired with white trim) often create a clinical look that actually makes buyers less interested in the space.

Making the Choice

If you’re not sure which colors will work best in your home, consider bringing in an interior designer or painter to help you pick the perfect hue. Sign up for a free HomeKeepr account today and you can find the perfect helper for your budget and your sense of style.
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Halloween Decor Trends

Decorating for Halloween is a tradition that many families take part in year after year. As with most traditions, though, the decorating trends that dominate Halloween change from time to time. Giant inflatables and laser light shows were all the rage just a few years ago, but now things are starting to shift a bit more toward subtle. The over-the-top Halloween decorating style will likely never fully go away, of course; there’s at least one house in every town that goes all out with its display and people always love it. If you’re looking for something simpler (and easier on the power bill), here are a few trendy options to keep in mind.

Candles

With the right candleholders, basic white candles can add a spooky ambiance that hearkens back to older Halloween traditions. Specialty candles are available that are carved to look like bones or horns as well. No need to go overboard with effects-candles, such as those that “bleed” when lit; just a few tapers burned to different lengths and then extinguished serve as the perfect subtle candle accent to your other decorations.

Pumpkins

What would Halloween be without pumpkins? While the traditional jack-o-lantern is still great, there’s an increasingly common trend to display uncarved pumpkins as well. White pumpkins are also seeing an upswing in popularity to really help set your decorations apart from the norm.

Halloween Wreaths

Also seeing an increased popularity are Halloween wreaths. Coming in a variety of styles, these wreaths have a lot more room to experiment than more traditional Christmas wreaths because of the generally spooky nature of the holiday. You can DIY a wreath yourself or buy one of multiple pre-made varieties to give your home a really unique Halloween look.

Lighting and Signs

Halloween lights have been growing in popularity in recent years, providing a decorative option that can be enjoyed even once the sun goes down. Signs, both lighted and non-lighted, are also firmly establishing themselves as Halloween must-haves. Combining the two can give your home a unique look that neighbors can enjoy both during the day and after the night descends.

Window Décor

Instead of going all-out with inflatables, animatronics and big clunky pieces made of plastic and rubber, an up-and-coming trend is to make use of silhouettes in front of plain curtains to give your decorations a more subtle flair. Some homes even take this a step beyond, using white sheets or similar coverings on the interior windows and then using creative lighting and figure placement to actually cast shadows onto the waiting windows. The shadow puppet feel gives the effect an extra layer of spookiness.

Black and White and Purple Trappings

While black and orange are the dominant colors of Halloween, a big trend in recent years has been to move away from the orange and embrace the holiday’s darker tones. White is used for contrast, with the predominant colors in decorations being black and dark purple. Splashes of other colors may be added as well, but the black, white and purple theme is definitely striking.

Zombie Flamingos

While there has been a move away from some of the cheesier parts of the holiday, the kitsch of putting zombie flamingos on your lawn is a bit too fun to ignore. There are a variety of styles of flamingoes available ranging from silly to gory, giving you plenty of room to find birds that match both your personal tastes and decorating style. Best of all, they can be mixed with a few traditional pink flamingos to give everything a splash of color while totally buying into the Halloween fun.

Need Some Halloween Style?

If you’re not sure what sort of decorations would look best with your home, consider consulting a decorator who has experience with Halloween trappings. Not only will they help you pick the best décor options, but they’ll aid you in choosing accents that go perfectly with both your home style and the decorations you choose. Sign up for a free HomeKeepr account and get matched with the decorator you’re searching for today!
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Home Detective of Minnesota Receives 2019 Best of Brainerd Award

Press Release FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Home Detective of Minnesota Receives 2019 Best of Brainerd Award Brainerd Award Program Honors the Achievement BRAINERD October 11, 2019 -- Home Detective of Minnesota has been selected for the 2019 Best of Brainerd Award in the Home Inspector category by the Brainerd Award Program. Each year, the Brainerd Award Program identifies companies that we believe have achieved exceptional marketing success in their local community and business category. These are local companies that enhance the positive image of small business through service to their customers and our community. These exceptional companies help make the Brainerd area a great place to live, work and play. Various sources of information were gathered and analyzed to choose the winners in each category. The 2019 Brainerd Award Program focuses on quality, not quantity. Winners are determined based on the information gathered both internally by the Brainerd Award Program and data provided by third parties. About Brainerd Award Program The Brainerd Award Program is an annual awards program honoring the achievements and accomplishments of local businesses throughout the Brainerd area. Recognition is given to those companies that have shown the ability to use their best practices and implemented programs to generate competitive advantages and long-term value. The Brainerd Award Program was established to recognize the best of local businesses in our community. Our organization works exclusively with local business owners, trade groups, professional associations and other business advertising and marketing groups. Our mission is to recognize the small business community's contributions to the U.S. economy. SOURCE: Brainerd Award Program CONTACT: Brainerd Award Program
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Mold & Mildew: How To Clean Black Spots In the Bathroom

Have you ever been taking a relaxing bath, only to look up and notice black mold growing on the ceiling? Yuck. It’s a problem no one wants to deal with, but unfortunately is a common occurrence in bathrooms—especially if your home is located in a moist climate. The good news is, you don’t have to live with that mold and mildew forever. Find out how to clean black spots in the bathroom with a few supplies and a little elbow grease. Secret bathroom cleaning tips from the pros.

What Causes Black Mold on a Bathroom Ceiling?

Mold on the ceiling is caused by moisture that has no where to go. Mold loves moisture. Steam from hot showers and bathtubs rises to the ceiling, and without proper ventilation it can settle there. If the moisture remains too long, mold spores begin to grow. In addition to being unsightly, mold can also cause health issues. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, mold can cause “nasal stuffiness, throat irritation, coughing or wheezing, eye irritation…or skin irritation.” And even more alarming, serious lung infections can occur in people with weak immune systems.
Is black mold deadly? Find out what is true versus what is myth when it comes to mold.

How to Clean Mold From a Bathroom Ceiling

To clean mold from the ceiling, wash the affected area with a store-bought mold cleaner, or a mixture of dish soap and water. Let the area dry. Now it’s time to get out the big guns to kill the mold—bleach. Mix one-quarter cup of bleach with one quart of water and apply the solution with a spray bottle or sponge. Remember when working with bleach to crack a window for ventilation and wear gloves and eye protection. If you prefer to not use bleach, white vinegar can also be effective. Apply straight vinegar to the area with a spray bottle and allow it to sit for an hour, then wipe the area clean and allow it to dry. Are you making these 10 bathroom cleaning mistakes?

How to Clean Mildew From a Bathroom Ceiling

Think of mildew as mold’s less threatening cousin. They’re both fungi, but mildew is not as invasive and is easier to clean because it only lives on the surface. Mildew is usually light gray or white in color and has a flat, powdery appearance. To clean it from your bathroom ceiling, simply wipe it with a damp cloth sprayed with any household cleaner. You can use a bathroom cleaner specially formulated to clean mildew, or white vinegar will also do the trick. Fill a spray bottle with equal parts vinegar and water, spray the mildew, and wipe away. Here’s how to use essential oils to get rid of that mildew smell.

How to Clean Mold in the Shower or Bath

Cleaning mold from the shower or bath can be done with the same methods used on the ceiling. Clean the area with a household bathroom cleaner first, then use either a bleach solution or vinegar to kill the mold. To prevent mold from growing in the shower or bath again, keep the bathroom ventilated and control moisture as much as possible. Use a bathroom exhaust fan, crack a window when showering, and make sure to wipe away any leftover moisture with a squeegee. Take further measures by keeping a spray bottle full of vinegar in the bathroom, spray your bath and shower after use to prevent mold growth. Psst! Now that you know how to clean black spots in the bathroom—prevent mold and mildew from growing back with an exhaust fan. Here’s how to clean your bathroom exhaust fan to ensure it’s running properly.

Erica Young is a freelance writer and content creator, specializing in home and lifestyle pieces. She loves writing about home decor, organization, relationships, and pop culture. She holds a bachelor's degree in Journalism and Mass Communication.
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15 Trees You Should Never Grow in Your Yard

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