Pet Friendly Indoor Plants

Sep 08, 2020

Having a pet, no matter how old, is a lot like having a toddler around. You’re constantly having to make sure it’s not going to put itself in harm’s way by doing something unexpected, like chewing a cord, vaulting off the furniture like a circus performer or eating a poisonous houseplant. Saving your dog or cat from your houseplants isn’t always easy, but it sure helps if you know which plants are safest in a household with pets. Fortunately, most of the plants that are safe for dogs are also safe for cats, which can make life a little less complicated if you have both.

The Official Plant List

The ASPCA maintains an ever-evolving list of safe and unsafe plants for dogs, cats and horses. Since you’re unlikely to have a horse in your house, we’ve focused the advice in this article on the other two. This list is in no way meant to be totally exhaustive, but should help you get started if you’re shopping for new plants to add to the house or are simply curious if your existing plants could be a hazard. Poisonous plants, by the ASPCA’s definition, aren’t necessarily toxic, but they will make your pet very, very sick, and that’s definitely not something you want to experience.

Pet-Safer Plants

There are always exceptions, allergies and absolutely unexpected accidents that happen, but by and large, you can trust that these groups of plants will be fairly safe around your pets:
  • Carnivorous Plants. Believe it or not, the plants that consume insects are unlikely to be dangerous to your pets. You still want to check with your nursery specialist when purchasing exotic carnivorous plants, but the most common you’ll find in stores, like the California pitcher plant and the Venus flytrap, should be safe for Fluffy and Fido.
  • Ferns. True ferns, by and large, are great additions to a pet-friendly household. Not only do they tend to be hung or mounted on walls, which keeps them out of reach of pets, but true ferns also pose almost no threat to your beloved animals. Boston ferns, which are probably the most popular of the indoor ferns, and are a great choice!
  • Kitchen Herbs. Keeping live herbs in the kitchen is a great way to maintain a green living space with a lot of purpose. You have a lot of herbs to choose from when growing indoors with pets. Try basil, cilantro, dill, fennel, sage, savory (summer or winter) or stevia in indoor gardens. Strawberries are also a tasty and safe indoor food plant.
  • Orchids. A huge range of orchids are safe for pets, even if they’re not always the easiest things to grow. The popular epiphytic Cattleya and Phalaenopsis orchids will grow in different household conditions, as will the terrestrial jewel orchid.
  • Palms. True palms are generally safe, but cycads are not. Make sure you know which you’re purchasing before committing to a plant. Cycads tend to have squatty, highly textured trunks that resemble pineapples, where palms are much smoother generally. A few safe palms to look for include areca palm, bamboo palm, dwarf palm and the ponytail palm.
  • Peperomia. This huge group of plants is generally known for its intricately textured leaves and ease of care, making peperomias perfect plants for busy households. Most are pet safe, but if you’re not sure, you can stick to the basics like blunt leaf peperomia, ivy peperomia and metallic peperomia.
  • Succulents. Succulents and cacti, as a group, are pretty safe for pets, with a few notable exceptions. It’s important to consider how your pet may interact with plants before bringing anything covered in spines into your home, so while cacti by and large are safe if the flesh is ingested, they’re not safe when it comes to pointy things stabbing your animals, who probably have never encountered such a thing in the world.
If you must keep cacti, consider Christmas cactus or other fairly spineless varieties. Succulents like Echeveria and Hawthornia are good substitutes, as well as other, less cactus-shaped choices like Hoya. PLEASE NOTE: Aloe vera plants, jade plants, Kalanchoe and many others are considered to be poisonous to pets.

Need Help Choosing Your Next Houseplants?

Knowing beyond a shadow of a doubt that your plants are safe for your pets can be difficult, especially since many plants go by various common names, and sometimes several different plants share the same common name.
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Attic Ventilation Basics

Sep 03, 2020

When you think of your home, the last thing you probably imagine is that it can breathe. Well, maybe not literally breathe, but it does have a way of moving air in and out, whether you like it or not. One of the most important, and intentional, places for this to happen is in your attic. Attic ventilation is key to exceptional climate control in your home. This may seem a bit counter-intuitive; wouldn’t you want to keep all the warm air trapped up there when it’s cold?

Attics and Heat Retention

In an unfinished attic, the insulation that lays on top of your living areas is generally what keeps your home warm. The space above that is kind of a heat sink, just a place for the warm air in the summer (and, on a bright day, in the winter) to collect and move out of your living space. Since you can’t really have a safe indoor space without a roof on it, it makes sense to have a holding space that keeps all the warm and moist air tucked out of the way. But the more of that hot air that accumulates in your attic, the warmer your home can become. In the summer, that excess heat can cause your shingles to age prematurely. In the winter, extra heat may not seem like a bad thing, but hot attics with poor rafter insulation can cause rapid roof snow melts, which turn into ice dams when the water refreezes at night. On top of that, warm air can hold a lot more moisture than cooler air; that moisture is the absolute enemy of wood, especially in an unfinished space. In short, overheated attic spaces aren’t great for your house, inside or out.
Attic vents were developed to help deal with this problem of too much heat accumulating in unfinished attics, where it doesn’t belong. There are many different kinds on the market today, but they all have the same end goal of moving cooler outside air into your attic and pushing that hotter air out (known as the stack effect). When you’re looking for an attic vent, remember that it’s more than just the exit vent; you’ll need vents to bring cool air in, too. In many homes, these intake vents come in the form of soffit vents. These simple, easy to install vents let cool air come in to replace the hot air in your attic, which escapes through either a roof-mounted vent or a gable-mounted vent. That’s how a house breathes: soffit vents bring in cool air and roof vents let out warm air. In and out, in and out, helping to keep the climate in your home much more stable and drier than an exit vent alone would allow. In older homes, enlarging your gable vents may be enough to create the airflow you need, especially if your home is short on overhangs to install soffit vents. How much to enlarge them is pretty subjective, but a good rule of thumb is that you should have one square foot of attic ventilation per 300 square feet of ceiling space. A lot of factors can influence this number, but it’ll never be lower than 1:300.
Needed Some Help Venting Your Attic?
Venting your attic can be a challenge, even for the most experienced homeowner. Getting things just right can require complicated calculations based on the unique geometry of your attic and a solid understanding of the latest ventilation technology available.  
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Stayin’ Cool With Ductless Mini-Split Systems

There’s nothing like a glass of cool lemonade on a hot summer day, unless of course the reason it’s so hot is that your air conditioner needs to be replaced. In that case, a new air conditioning system is pretty much the best thing ever. Maybe yours has lived a long and full life and is ready to be replaced, or perhaps you’ve added on to your home and need a solution for cooling that EZ Bake Oven you’ve created. In either case, installing a new ducted air conditioning system or plopping a window unit into the nearest window aren’t your only choices. You could go with Door Number Three: the ductless mini-split system.

What is a Ductless Mini-Split System?

Ductless mini-splits are air conditioning systems that are made to cool (and sometimes heat) smaller spaces. They can work together to improve climate control in entire homes and can even replace a traditional ducted system. Much like a central air conditioning system, there are two parts: the condenser, which is installed outside, and the inside air handler. The main difference from traditional systems is that they don’t use ductwork, so they eliminate a ton of temperature loss that would normally occur in your crawlspace or attic. And unlike a window unit, a ductless mini-split system can be hung out of the way of windows, since it only requires a three-inch hole to run the refrigerant lines and electrical controls.

Advantages of a Ductless Mini-Split System

There are a lot of reasons to love a ductless mini-split, but energy efficiency has to be up there among the top. These systems can have SEER ratings of around 28, which is substantially more efficient than a ducted system’s 13 SEER national minimum requirement. Of course, a ducted system’s rating will vary by unit, but generally speaking, the higher the SEER rating, the higher the price tag. Ductless mini-splits systems also boast these advantages over a traditional central HVAC system:
  • More precise control of room temperatures. Mechanically, one of the most important differences between ductless mini-split systems and traditional systems is that mini-splits are controlled by an inverter system that allows your heat or air to come out of the air handler at the temperature you set. This is different from a ducted air conditioner that only blows air at one temperature, constantly switching on and off to maintain room temperatures.
  • Ability to set room temperatures independently of one another. Although zoning is possible with ducted systems, it can be costly to install and is not a reasonable solution for many rooms that need different temperatures. This is especially a concern in multi-generational households or those where the home heats or cools irregularly throughout the day. With a ductless mini-split system, you can set the living room to stay a constant 72 degrees despite the heat baking your picture window, without your office having to become an ice cave. Everybody wins!
  • No more dirty air cycling endlessly. Ducts are filthy, there’s no question about it. This is just an inevitable side effect of their design, especially in an older house that’s had decades or generations to collect substantial amounts of dirt in the home’s ductwork. Ductless mini-splits are just that: ductless. Each unit has its own filtration system, and there are no ducts for dirt to settle in, keeping room air significantly cleaner all the time.

When Not to Split?

Not every house is going to be a great candidate for a ductless mini-split system, no matter how awesome they seem. Newer homes with highly efficient central HVAC systems that are in great shape or those that don’t generally have a lot of temperature differential across the structure likely won’t recapture the cost required to install these systems. However, if you’re not sure if your home can benefit from a ductless mini-split system, you can always consult an HVAC expert for more specific recommendations. Sign up for your free HomeKeepr account to find the professionals you need.
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Basic Tools for Homeowners

When you own your own home, there are a lot of small repairs and similar tasks that you’ll have to do at some point. You may also want to tackle some DIY projects or make some changes around the house from time to time. Regardless of what’s going on, you’re going to need some tools to get things done. Which tools should you get, though? A lot of homeowners opt for basic premade tool kits but find that they don’t always contain everything that they’ll need for various home repair and improvement tasks. Whether you’re thinking of getting a kit or wanting to build your own tool collection from scratch, here are some of the basics that you should make sure that you have.

Measuring Tools

One big thing that you should always have around the house is a few tools for measuring things. The most obvious tool for this is a tape measure, but there are a few others to consider as well. Pick up a level (or two, in different sizes) and a carpenter’s square so that you can always tell when something is level and when corners are actually squared off. A stud finder and a plumb bob should also be in your collection.

Hammers

When it comes to hammers, most of the time you can get by with just a standard claw hammer. Picking up a rubber mallet to supplement your tool collection isn’t a bad idea, though, especially if you plan on working outside or want to go camping. There are a few other specialty hammers that you might have specific need for, but you should only pick one of those up if you actually need it.

Screwdrivers (Plural)

Despite what most people think, screwdrivers aren’t a one-size-fits-all tool. You should have both flathead and Phillips head screwdrivers (and star and square head screwdrivers wouldn’t hurt), and ideally you should have at least two or three different head sizes to accommodate different screws. While the wrong size driver head will often work, you can damage both the head and the screw by not matching the tool to the job. Picking up a screwdriver with interchangeable head bits is a great way to make sure your needs are met.

Wrenches and Sockets

You’ll almost certainly run into bolts at one point or another, and having a wrench and socket set will ensure that you have what you need to handle them. Get a decent wrench set and a decent socket set, making sure that you have both metric and imperial options. In most cases you can find a tool set that includes both, along with Allen wrenches (which are sometimes called hex keys); get that set, since it’ll cover you on all three fronts.

Pliers and Channel-Locks

There are a few different types of pliers and adjustable wrenches out there, and it’s hard to say exactly what you’ll need from the beginning. Having a set of channel-lock pliers, a good adjustable wrench or two and both basic and needle-nose pliers will meet your needs most of the time. You may run into a few instances where you need more specific tools such as a pipe wrench as well, but that’s not a must-have when you’re still building a tool collection.

Clamps

Locking clamps or adjustable clamps are great to have; even if you don’t use them very often, they’ll be more than worth it in those instances where you actually need one. Other fasteners such as zip ties are also good to have on hand. If you’re planning on getting into woodworking or similar DIY projects, then you might want to pick up some extras.

Other Tools

There are a many other tools that you might consider, though whether you need them will depend on you and the sort of work you plan to do. A drill with a basic assortment of bits is good to have, and an electric sander can be useful on some jobs. Utility knives, wire cutters and other cutting tools can be handy as well. You may even find a need for a table saw or other larger power tools. Just make sure that you have a good reason for bigger purchases to keep from buying things you won’t actually use.

Is the Job Too Big?

Having the right tool for the job is important, but so is realizing when the job you’re facing is a bit too much for you to handle alone. If you hit that point, HomeKeepr can help. Sign up for a free account today to find the professional you need to get the job done quickly.
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Are You Ready for Storm Season?

As spring turns to summer, more and more focus is shifting to outdoor activities and enjoying the wonderful summer weather. Unfortunately, not all of the weather is going to be so wonderful. Depending on where you live, you may face several severe storms during the summer as well as the usual summer storms and rain. Now is the time to prepare for storm season to make sure that you aren’t taken by surprise when bad weather hits.

Clean Your Gutters

One big thing that you can do to get ready for storm season is to make sure that your gutters are clean and free of debris. This is the time of year when everything is in bloom, and that can produce seeds that have blown off trees and plants, ending up in a nice wet gutter environment. Add in dust, decaying leaves and other items that may have collected over the winter then washed into your gutters, and you’ve got a lot of potential blockages to deal with. Clear them out to help your gutters work properly, diverting water away from your roof and home to prevent leaks and flooding during storms.

Trim the Trees

Falling limbs and trees are one of the big causes of property damage associated with storms. A lot of this can be prevented with some forethought, however. Trim back or remove heavy or dying limbs that hang over your house, vehicles or power lines. Diseased, damaged or dead trees should also be removed to prevent them from falling as a result of heavy winds.

Inspect the Roof

A roof is easy to ignore until it starts leaking, but at that point a significant amount of damage may have already been done. To help you get ready for storm season, take some time to walk around your home and see if you notice any visible damage such as missing shingles or notable divots in the roof material. You might also consider bringing in a roofing crew that offers roof inspections as part of your storm preparations. The more potential damage you find now, the easier it will be to avoid leaks and other damage when storms hit.

Secure Everything

Wind can do a lot of damage during storms. Double check any shutters, downspouts or other wall fixtures to make sure that they’re well secured, tightening screws or replacing securing straps as needed. If you have items in your yard that could be moved by the wind, such as a trampoline, consider getting straps and pegs to secure it to the ground as well. The more secure everything is, the less chance that there is for property damage to occur in strong winds.

Mind Your Electricity

Between high winds and lightning, storms can spell bad news for your electrical power. Installing a lightning rod or a full-home surge protector can help protect you in the event of lightning strikes or power surges, and hooking critical electronics up to an uninterruptable power supply (UPS) can keep them running for a little while even if your power drops out. If it’s in your budget, you might also consider getting a home generator that you can switch on if the power goes out.

Check Your Insurance

If you have homeowner’s insurance, it’s worth double checking to see what is and isn’t covered by your policy. While insurance might cover several common forms of storm damage, a lot of policies don’t cover flood damage unless you take out additional coverage. By understanding what is covered, you can get a better feel for what additional coverage you might need to be secure even in the worst of storms.

Get Storm Ready

If you need to do some work around the house to really get it ready for storm season, HomeKeepr is here to help. Sign up for a free account today to find roofers, electricians and other home pros who can hook you up with everything you need to protect yourself from the storms.
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Lawn Mowing Best Practices

Whether you love mowing the lawn or hate it, it’s a job that needs to be done. As with most things, though, there’s a difference between doing it and doing it well. If you find yourself wondering why your neighbors have an amazing lawn while yours looks all the worse for wear, it could be more than just a matter of perspective; it’s possible that the grass really is greener on the other side. This doesn’t have to be the case, though. Part of the problem might be how you’re caring for your lawn. If you haven’t put much thought into the specifics of yard care, here are a few things to think about. Changing how you think about mowing the lawn can have a big impact on the lawn itself, and your grass will thank you for it.

Prep Your Mower

Too many people approach the beginning of the mowing season the same way that they do the entire rest of the season: they put some gas in the mower and go. This is a good way to damage your lawn and wear out your mower at the same time. Start each season with an oil change and fresh gas, and check your mower blades for cracks, dullness or other signs that they need to be sharpened or replaced. Keep an eye on your grass as you mow; if it’s becoming ragged, this is a sign that your blades are getting dull again. Even a little bit of mower maintenance will make the cut easier on your lawn and keep your mower running in tip-top condition.

Learn Your Lawn

A lot of people think that grass is grass, but there are actually a lot of differences between grass species. Take a little time to find out what sort of grass you have growing in your lawn. If necessary, you can take a sample to your local agricultural extension office to get the job done. Once you know what kind of grass you have, you can learn the seasons when it actively grows, what sort of water and fertilizer needs it has, and even details about how it should be cut. If you need to reseed part of your lawn, knowing the existing grass type will also ensure that you get the right type of seed so that everything matches.

Cut to the Right Height

If your lawn is going to flourish, the grass needs to have enough blade area to absorb sunlight to meet its growing needs. Cutting it too short can damage it, causing the grass to wilt or brown, in some cases even killing off patches. As a general rule you’ll often hear that you should leave around 3 inches of grass when you cut, but this can vary depending on the type of grass you have. If in doubt, you can set the blade height between the 3-inch to 3 ½-inch mark to be safe, but you’ll have much more control over your lawn if you learn the grass type and find the optimal cutting height based on that.

Mind Those Clippings

It’s usually best to leave your clippings on the ground, as they provide much-needed nutrients to the lawn as they decompose. If you don’t like the look of them, consider a mulching blade and guard for your mower to ensure that they get cut into smaller pieces, or make multiple passes over the same area. The main exceptions to this are the first and last cuts of the year; in those instances, your lawn will do better if you bag the clippings instead.

Adapt Throughout the Year

One important thing to keep in mind is that grass is a living thing and grows differently depending on the time of the year and the local weather conditions. During the heat of the summer, make your lawn more drought resistant by adjust your cut height up a little; this gives the grass more blade area to collect dew on. In early spring and into the fall, cut less often to avoid shocking the grass. Even the direction of your cuts is important, especially if it’s been raining a lot; to prevent damaging the grass or compacting the soil too much, change direction every two or three cuts, switching to a cutting pattern around 90 degrees off from what you’ve been doing.

Keep It Under Control

A well-manicured lawn can be a big job. Fortunately, there are professionals out there who can take that burden off your shoulders. If you need to find a lawn service that comes highly recommended, sign up for a free HomeKeepr account today. You’ll be able to find a service based on real recommendations for mowers and landscapers that best match your specific needs.
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Tips for Bringing a Pro Into Your Bubble

While everyone is home trying to stay healthy, there are a lot of people who have taken to trying to do things around the house on their own. This has helped homeowners keep busy when they have little else to do. Unfortunately, there are some jobs that are just too big for a DIY; for these jobs, you’ll need to bring someone in to tackle the issue. This can be anxiety-inducing if you’re still trying to practice proper social distancing and avoiding contact with others. Fortunately, there are ways to reduce your risks when bringing someone into your home. Not only will these steps keep you safe, but they will also protect the worker who has to come in to do the job.

Schedule and Screen

When scheduling a service call, don’t be afraid to ask whether anyone at the company has been sick recently. While it won’t guarantee that the service person isn’t ill, knowing whether there have been sick employees in recent weeks can give you at least an idea of how well the company is managing social distancing and keeping its employees safe. There’s a good chance that you’ll have to answer similar questions, so the company shouldn’t have any problems with the questions that you ask.

Open Everything

Before the service call arrives, open any doors, cabinets or other barriers between the worker and what they’ll be working on. If there’s a wall panel or other basic covering that needs to be removed, go ahead and take that off too, provided that you can do so safely. The goal is to eliminate as many possible points of contact that the service person would otherwise have to touch or open. Once they arrive, explain what you’ve done and ask them to let you close everything back up. This will let them come in, do the job and leave without touching every door, panel or similar objects in your house.

Keep Your Distance

Social distancing is very important when someone new is coming into the home. Maintain a distance of at least 6 feet between yourself and the worker, and try to avoid being in the same room once they’ve started their work. Greet them and see if they have any questions once they arrive, then find ways to busy yourself elsewhere. You can check in periodically to make sure that they don’t need anything, but be sure to do so from a distance. It may be helpful to wear a mask while they’re in the home as well, which they should be doing already.

No-Contact Payment

If possible, opt for a no-contact payment option or request that an invoice be mailed to you. If you’re able to pay online, this is likely your best option; you can make a payment from your computer or smart device without having to hand anyone your credit or debit card. If online payments aren’t an option, you may be able to pay over the phone or through some other no-contact method. If you aren’t able to use a card for your payment, there are still no-contact options available. If you’re paying with cash, put the money in an envelope and place it somewhere that the person making the service call can easily pick it up. The ideal way to do this is to have part of the envelope hanging over the edge of a table or other piece of furniture so that they can pick it up without actually touching your furniture. This is also a situation where writing a check can come in handy, as you can simply fill it out and then leave it to be collected without having to bother with an envelope.

Clean Before and After

Before the service worker arrives, take the time to wipe down the area they’ll be working in with sanitizing wipes. This will present a clean, safe environment for them to work in that they will surely appreciate. Once the work is finished and they’re gone, go over everything again and clean up to remove any germs that might have traveled in with them.

Stay Calm

While this is a stressful time, it’s important to reassure yourself that it’s possible to have a service call while also staying safe. Keeping your distance and reducing possible points of contact will go a long way toward keeping yourself and your family healthy. You wouldn’t be calling in someone if it weren’t necessary right now, so treat the situation with the respect that it deserves, and you should be fine.
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Considering a DIY Interior Paint Job?

There are a lot of people tackling DIY projects at the moment. Some of these are necessary projects that people are doing themselves to avoid bringing strangers into their homes. Others are simply a way to pass the time and shake off some boredom. Regardless of the reason, you might find yourself considering some interior painting. This can be a great idea, especially if you find yourself going a bit stir-crazy while you wait for everything to reopen. That said, it’s important that you don’t rush into a DIY painting project since that can lead to results that are less than optimal. Here are a few things to think about to help ensure that your painting project turns out well.

Measure First

A can of paint only goes so far, so it’s important to know just how much paint you need before you buy it. Since most paint colors are mixed, there’s no guarantee that paint mixed at different times will look exactly the same even if it’s all supposed to be the same color. A can of paint covers an average of 400 square feet, though this can differ based on the paint type and other factors. To begin, measure the width and height of each wall and multiply to get their area. Be sure add the area of any ceilings if you’re painting them as well. Once you know exactly how much surface area you need to cover, you can check the coverage of the specific paint you’re getting and buy accordingly.

Make a Single Trip

Even though some areas are opening things up again, that doesn’t mean you can stop respecting social distancing rules. Figure out exactly what you need and make a list so that you can buy it in a single trip. Wear a mask, avoid getting too close to anyone else and go get your supplies at a time when the store isn’t crowded.

Prep Your Rooms

Don’t underestimate the importance of prepping your rooms. Fill any holes, sand rough surfaces and take the time to clean everything. If possible, wash the surfaces you’re going to paint with soap and water a day or two before you plan to start painting. Even if you aren’t painting them, you should also clean the ceiling, baseboards and any other surfaces so that any cobwebs, dust and dirt on them doesn’t mess up your freshly painted surfaces. Remove any outlet covers, light switch panels and anything else that’s attached to the walls. Once the room is ready, be sure and use an appropriate primer to coat everything you’re going to paint before you start painting.

Paint in the Proper Order

You might be tempted to jump right in and start working on the walls. Doing so can actually make things more difficult in the long run, though. If you’re painting your baseboards, start with them first. Move on to window and door frames, then the ceiling. Once these are all painted, give them plenty of time to dry, then put easy-release painter’s tape over the painted surfaces. After everything is taped up, you can then paint the walls and not have to worry about getting paint on those areas you’ve already painted. Any paint that got on the walls while you were painting your trim and ceilings will be painted over with your wall paint.

Working With Tape

Putting down painter’s tape is easy but pulling it up can be very frustrating. A lot of people don’t think about the fact that paint from the walls will overlap onto the tape, so pulling the tape off can take paint with it, leaving an uneven edge on the paint. Before pulling, take a utility knife and cut the paint right at the edge of your trim or taped surface. Pull the tape at a 45-degree angle behind where you’re cutting, ensuring a nice crisp edge to your painting. Just make sure that the paint has dried for at least a day so that it’s not still soft or gummy.

Give Yourself Time

When you start painting, allow yourself at least a few days per room. You’ll need time to prep the surfaces you’re going to paint, time for the primer to dry and then additional time for the paint itself to dry. If you’re doing multiple coats, that time will be even longer. It will all pay off in the end, though, with the extra time resulting in a more professional look with even coverage and nice clean edges. Once everything’s dried you can start replacing anything you removed, but give yourself at least a few more days before trying to clean the newly-painted surfaces.
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6 Home Inspection Tips for Buyers That Sellers Can Learn From, Too

In fact, 90% of homeowners believe that home inspections aren’t a luxury but a necessity, according to a poll from the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI).Realizing that each side ultimately wants the same thing—and that you can work together toward closing a deal—should set all parties more at ease. Start with these 6 home inspection tips for buyers that offer hidden lessons for sellers, too.
Papers outlining a home inspection contingency for buyers.
Source: (Kristine Isabedra/ Death to the Stock Photo)

Tip #1: Make the inspection official by writing it in as a contract contingency.

It’s not enough to tell the seller of a house verbally that you plan to get the house inspected before closing. You’ll need to work with your agent to make sure it’s written into the contract as a contingency clause, which “defines a condition or action that must be met for a real estate contract to become binding,” according to Investopedia. The inspection contingency clause in particular allows a buyer to stipulate that they have a certain amount of time (typically 10-14 days) to inspect the property after both parties sign the purchase offer. This gives the buyer the chance to back out of the deal and get their earnest money back if they can’t come to an agreement on repair negotiations. In the event that you’re buying the house from a friend or relative—or trying to compete in a hot market with fierce buyer competition—you might be tempted to waive the inspection. Bad idea—says Frank Lesh, who also has inspected houses since 1989 and is the executive director ASHI. “Unfortunately, that could be a serious mistake,” he said. Even if a seller isn’t deliberately hiding something, some maintenance issues aren’t apparent to an untrained eye. Jesus Cardenas, a top-selling agent in Pembroke Pines, Florida, echoes that inspections are always part of the contract in the West Broward County area, where he works. “All properties are sold as is with the right to inspect within the first 10 days,” he said.

What that means for sellers:

95% of purchased homes go through an inspection before closing so there’s very little chance that you’ll wiggle out of this step. The only exception may be in a white-hot market where buyers are clamoring to compete, giving you all the power to sell “as is” for market value (but it’s rare). Because the inspection is written in as a contingency, you should know your options when it comes to repair negotiations: agree to fix the issue, offer a credit to the buyer at closing, or refuse to take action with the risk that the buyer could walk away with their earnest money. The upside of a home inspection is that it puts everything out in the open. Both sides know what a property’s problems are and can negotiate with all facts on the table. For more tips on what’s the right call in varying negotiation scenarios, check out HomeLight’s guide: “Fix it or Fight It?” which is all about how to handle repair requests before closing. Many agents will suggest a pre-listing home inspection to either tackle maintenance issues early or give buyers a heads-up about certain issues, creating transparency. Cardenas, for instance, incorporates an inspection into his pre-listing routine because his area has a lot of 1990s homes with Spanish-tile roofs near the end of their life expectancy. One such inspection found that a client’s roof had perhaps one or two years’ life left. Cardenas knew a roofing company that his client hired to perform about $6,000 worth of repairs, plus provide certification of another year on the life of the roof. “The seller was a nervous wreck, but you know what? The inspection went through completely fine,” he said. “We sold the place to the first buyer.” He’d rather know of any problems upfront than have the buyer’s inspector unearth a surprise maintenance issue.

Tip #2: Temper your expectations for a perfect inspection.

Although a home inspection report is detailed, it doesn’t cover every nook, creak, and cranny. “One expectation that first-time buyers have is that the inspector is going to find everything wrong with the house—and that’s not the case. We’re there as a guest of the owner, so we’re limited in our ability to inspect things,” Lesh said.
“We can’t tear behind the wall to see if there’s a leak behind the bathroom faucet or the bathtub. We can’t take things apart to see why the dishwasher is making a funny sound. Other than removing the electrical panel, we don’t move furniture or appliances.”
So if there’s a sectional sofa in front of the living room windows, for example, the inspector may not be able to reach all the windows to test if one sticks.

What that means for sellers:

The inspection report assesses a home’s condition. It’s not a report card on how good a homeowner you’ve been or a “pass or fail” test. You may be used to your home and its quirks, but a buyer isn’t, so try not to take anything in the report personally—and remember, minor things will always crop up. “Listen, you’re buying a 30-year-old home … even a ten-year-old home or brand-new construction, you’re going to have issues. Every house has an issue,” Cardenas said. Trust your agent to help weed through what’s minor and what’s a potential deal-breaker.
Buyers inspecting home before selling.
Source: (Monkey Business Images/ Shutterstock)

Tip #3: Be prepared to attend the inspection and ask lots of questions.

When buyers pay for the home inspection, it’s fairly standard for them to watch the inspector at work. “The first thing I always do is I ask what their concerns are. Maybe they had an issue with a previous house, so they’re sensitive to that,” Lesh said. Although he also explains that he needs elbow room—he might go into and out of the house several times, crouch down to examine something, and make sudden stops—he’s glad to answer any questions the buyer has. “You’ll still get a report, but it’s easier to understand a problem when I can explain it to you, and you see what the issue is,” Lesh said.

What that means for sellers:

Although buyers need this opportunity, a seller already knows the home—and more often than not can get in the way. Lesh and Cardenas both have had experiences with buyers clashing with sellers who became defensive or emotional during the inspection. Let your agent supervise the inspection and tell you what the inspector found. (If you’ve had a pre-listing inspection or a maintenance inspection done recently, you’ll already know what’s in store.)

Tip #4: Know when to ask for a repair, take a credit, or leave it be.

The home inspection can trigger some delicate negotiations over a property’s flaws. For each, a buyer can request that the seller hire a contractor to fix it, obtain a credit (a reduction in the purchase price) toward fixing it themselves, or let it be. Sellers can opt for either or simply reject both and negotiate from there, although that puts the transaction at risk of the buyer walking away. Sellers should repair major structural issues or safety problems, such as a dated roof or any requirements for a government-backed mortgage like an FHA loan, or offer credit if they don’t have the funds. Cosmetic imperfections, such as chipped paint or peeling wallpaper, can be left to the buyers to handle once they purchase the property. “Most of the time, a seller will say, ‘No, I’m not going to give you a credit because the door doesn’t close properly,” Cardenas said.

What that means for sellers:

If your electrical system, appliances, or water heater are older, talk to your agent about offering a service contract to sweeten the deal. Cardenas said these cost about $300 a year and reassure sellers that any repairs that might arise after closing will be covered. “That takes away a lot of problems,” he said.

Tip #5: Request documentation to prove completed repairs.

While not essential, this can help verify any amenities the seller’s advertising, such as a new roof. “If the receipts are out, I’ll look at them,” Lesh said. “I think it’s a good thing for a seller to do if they actually did have work done.”

What that means for sellers:

You might already have your receipts handy for a home appraiser, so it doesn’t hurt to let a home inspector view them, too, as well as your agent. “If the buyer asked for the documents about the repairs, and it was recently [done], then it’s better to give them to me,” Cardenas said.
Source: (Fevziie/ Shutterstock)

Tip #6: Now’s your chance to get specialty inspections, too.

Although home inspectors are trained and certified to assess several parts of a home, they also can specialize in what are called “ancillary inspections,” or more detailed reviews focusing on individual components. If they don’t have the right expertise themselves, general inspectors might refer the buyer to specialty inspectors who can more accurately assess components such as the home’s foundation or signs of termites. These types of specialty inspections are an additional fee. Depending on where you live, radon inspections are a common one for home buyers to get, Lesh said. This colorless, odorless gas is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Radon comes from the natural breakdown of uranium in rock, soil, and water, so any home can have a radon problem, the EPA says. However, people tend to think of radon testing more readily in homes that use well water or that have basements. Other specialty inspections include termite or pest inspections, swimming pool inspections, and well or sewer scans, where they insert a special camera into the sewer line underground to make sure the pipe is functional. If your home is older than 10-15 years, an electrical inspection can point out any repairs needed to bring the property up to code, such as replacing the electrical panel and any outdated wiring and receptacles.

What that means for sellers:

Be prepared for your home to be scrutinized and have patience throughout the various inspections—but do keep tabs on the deadlines of the contract and when the buyer is supposed to have each appointment scheduled by.
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Public Spaces and Social Distancing

It goes without saying that no one expected 2020 to turn out the way that it has. The last several weeks have been especially difficult, with businesses shutting down and people needing to stay at home. Though the measures seemed extreme, they were necessary as a way for people to protect both themselves and others in their community. This isolation is finally starting to wind down, with many areas either reopening businesses or releasing a roadmap for reopening. This doesn’t mean that everything is immediately going back to normal, however. There are still some risks associated with going out in public, especially in certain parts of the country. Here are some things to keep in mind to help you stay safe even as restrictions are lifted.

Social Distancing Is Still a Thing

One big thing to be aware of is that just because more places are opening doesn’t mean you can ignore social distancing guidelines. When out in public areas, you still want at least six feet between you and those around you. To help you navigate this, many stores and other places open to the public are placing tape, stickers or signs out to show you how far six feet is. Even if those indicators are not present, you can estimate six feet by picturing how much room you take up holding your arms out to your sides; if you’re close enough that you could touch another person’s hand or arm if you both had your arms stretched out, then you’re a bit too close.

Avoid Crowded Public Spaces

Just because a place is open for business doesn’t mean that you have to visit it right now. Many businesses or other public venues that were previously closed will have a sudden rush of people who have been waiting to visit. This can be bad, as crowds make it difficult to maintain proper social distancing. Wait for things to clear out a bit or choose a time early in the morning to avoid the crowds and keep yourself and others safe.

Use Curbside Purchasing

You may have already used some curbside pickup options while buying supplies during the lockdown period. As more stores open, many of them will offer curbside options as well. Most will use curbside pickup for online purchases, but some places such as pharmacies, vets and specialty stores may let you call in orders directly from the parking lot. The rules for curbside pickup vary based on the specific store you’re visiting, but for the most part you simply pull into a specially marked space and give the store a call. Let them know that you’re there to pick up an order and give both the identifier for the space you’re parked in and your name or order number. They’ll deliver the order to you with minimal contact.

Real Estate Concerns

The real estate market has been hit by the COVID-19 outbreak, with many buyers and sellers being hesitant to physically interact with each other. As things open back up and the economy starts to improve, we’ll likely see more open houses and showings. Care should still be taken to ensure that social distancing guidelines are followed at all times. Doors, windows and any other barriers should be opened by the homeowner beforehand to reduce or eliminate the need for contact with surfaces inside of the home.

Home Improvement Options

While everything was in lockdown, a lot of people put off home improvements and other non-essential activities that might bring new people into the home. Many turned instead to DIY projects, and they’re still a great idea even as things start to return to something closer to normal. With that said, you might be ready to bring in a contractor for your home improvement project. Just make sure to maintain distance away from any workers and check with the contractor to make sure that everyone will wear a mask or other facial covering while in your home.

Getting Out of the House

While we may not be out of the woods yet, this doesn’t mean that you can’t get out of the house if you do so safely. To help prevent the spread of disease while outside, wear a mask and maintain your distance from others. It’s ok if things still feel a bit weird, and you’re more than welcome to ease back into things at a pace that you’re comfortable with. Just remember that there are a lot of outdoor activities in parks and other public areas that let you stay away from crowds while still getting out of the house. Even if it’s just a brief trip, you might be amazed at how much good getting out can do after weeks of seeing the same four walls.
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