Home Detective of Minnesota Home Inspection Services

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Be Snow Storm Ready!

Winter weather has a way of catching people by surprise. Even if you know a snow storm is coming, the amount of snow or speed of accumulation can sometimes take you by surprise. Unexpected snow can create a number of dangerous situations, so it’s important to be as prepared as possible in case a snow storm hits. To that end, here are a few ways that you can be ready to face snow storms or other hazards that winter might throw your way. Some of these tips may be useful for facing down other types of bad weather as well. Regardless of what the weather’s doing, though, make sure that you stay safe first and foremost.

Get Travel Done Early

If you need to go to the store, help relatives get ready for the snow or otherwise get out on the roads, try to get everything done as early as possible. If you can, try to be back home before the snow falls. If that’s not an option, head out at your earliest opportunity and avoid the temptation to break the speed limit. You shouldn’t waste time, but trying to rush increases your likelihood of an accident, so avoid going too fast while you’re behind the wheel.

Stay Inside

Ice and low temperatures typically accompany snow storms, so it’s best to stay inside where it’s warm. This will also eliminate the risk that you might slip on ice and injure yourself in a fall. Also remember that this rule applies for pets, too; either bring them inside or provide a safe and warm place for them while the weather outside is frightful.

Stock Up

Dry goods and canned foods are important staples to have when the snow is coming down outside. They might not be as tasty of an option as fresh-cooked meats and other meals, but the tastier options are sometimes harder to cook if your power is flickering due to the snow storm. Be sure that you include pet food, bottled water and similar items that you might not always get on a shopping trip! (And no, you most likely won’t need bread and milk unless you’re running low on those items anyway).

Stay Warm

Power outages can be a real hazard during snow storms. Make sure that you have multiple blankets available to cover up with in case the power should go out for a while. Home generators or even portable generators can be very useful if the power goes out, but remember to keep them outside as they often produce dangerous exhaust. The same goes for gas-powered heaters; you shouldn’t place them in the house since it can be hard to ventilate the gases that can build up when using those heaters indoors.

Have a Plan

Before a snow storm hits, take the time to develop a plan for your family in case of snow emergency. This should include making sure that everyone in the house knows where emergency supplies are located, how any generators you have work and other details like whose responsibility it is to go on a grocery run or evaluate potential damage after the snow stops falling. Make sure that you include something in your plan about checking in on your neighbors as well, since it’s important to make sure that nobody gets stuck in the cold once the snow starts to fall.

Is Your Roof Snow Storm Ready?

One part of your home that takes a real beating during snowy weather is your roof. To help prevent leaks or other roof failure during the winter, have your roof checked out by a professional each year. HomeKeepr can help you find a roofer to check the integrity of your roof and make any repairs that might be necessary. Sign up for your free account today to get your roof checked before the big snow hits.
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Insulation 101

Insulation is an essential part of your home. Not only does it help keep the home warm during the winter, but it also plays an important part in keeping you cool during the summer. Once you start looking at the different insulation options that are available, though, the whole thing can get a bit confusing. To help you make sense of it all, here are some of the basics you need to know about home insulation.

How Insulation Works

Insulation works by providing a physical barrier to the transfer of heat through parts of the home such as the walls, ceiling and roof. Depending on the type of insulating material used, it may simply provide a barrier to heat transfer, or it could actually reflect some of the heat back in the direction it came from. In the summer, this means that heat is prevented from entering from outside; in the winter, the insulation stops heat from moving out of the house.

Understanding R-Values

Insulation effectiveness is measured by R-Value. The higher a material’s R-Value is, the more resistant it is to heat penetration. Insulations that have a higher R-Value tend to be thicker or made of denser materials able to resist greater amounts of heat transfer than thinner insulations. Some forms of insulation may have a lower R-Value but are still effective; an example is aerosol can spray foam, which can’t be placed very thick, but seals out air. So keep in mind that R-Value isn’t the only measure of how effective insulation is.

Types of Insulation

Insulation isn’t exactly a one-size-fits-all product. There are different types of insulation available to meet different needs. Though the specifics of different insulation types may vary, these are the most common types of insulation you’ll see:

  • Batt Insulation – This is what most people think of when they picture insulation. Batt insulation comes in rolls of material such as fiberglass or cotton that is applied in walls, floors, ceilings or other areas where large amounts of insulation is needed.
  • Spray Foam – As the name implies, this insulation comes in the form of a liquid foam that is sprayed onto the surface where insulation is needed. The foam expands and hardens, providing a layer of insulation that can fill gaps, cracks and other areas that other insulation types often miss.
  • Blown-In Insulation – Similar to spray foam insulation, blown-in insulation is applied by a blower instead of coming in rolls. Instead of originating as a liquid, however, this insulation is made of small bits of fiberglass or cellulose and fills in the area where it is blown. It provides excellent heat retention and creates a sound barrier where applied as well.
  • Radiant Barriers – A specialty insulation generally made of layers of perforated aluminum, this insulation is applied in the attic walls and rafters in areas with warm climates. The insulation reflects radiant energy from the sun, reducing attic temperatures and making heating and air conditioning more efficient.
  • Window Insulation – This can come in the form of films applied to the window surface, plastic sheeting applied over the windows or even insulation built into the windows themselves.

You may encounter other types of insulation as well, though they are typically intended for more specialty uses than those listed here.

Air Sealing

Even high-quality insulation can’t do much if there are cracks and gaps in your walls or foundation that let air flow in and out freely. Finding and filling cracks with a sealant is an important part of insulating your home. There are different sealants available for this purpose, though spray foam insulation works as both an insulator and an air sealant.

Insulation Installation

Making sense of different types of insulation and figuring out which is best for your needs isn’t always easy. Fortunately, HomeKeepr can help you find a professional installer who will match you to the best insulation for your home and seal up any air leaks as well. Sign up today for a free account so you can get to work on insulating your home.

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Are Smart Homes Here to Stay?

There’s been quite a bit of hype about smart homes in recent years. These aren’t the top-to-bottom smart homes that were envisioned by science fiction for years, of course. Those were houses that had a central artificial intelligence that controlled everything and inevitably went rogue at some point. Instead, modern smart homes are usually traditional homes just like the one that you live in. They’ve simply been enhanced with sensors and devices and the occasional digital assistant. Some people are thrilled with how technology is changing the way we interact with our home environment. Others aren’t quite so happy with the direction that this trend is heading. Love them or hate them, though – there’s one thing that you need to accept: The smart home isn’t going away.

What Makes a Smart Home?

A smart home is one that has a variety of sensors and controls within it that give you additional information or functionality when it comes to your home. This can range from information like whether you left the front door unlocked or what the temperature is in your living room to functions such as controlling your lights with your voice. Some smart homes use a central hub or device to control everything, while others use components that connect via wifi and are controlled by your phone. Some smart homes feature appliances or other major fixtures that have “smart” capabilities while others just use devices or sensors to make day-to-day life more convenient. Because of the device-based nature of modern smart homes, homeowners can choose exactly the components they want to help make the smart home installation meet their specific needs.

Smart Home Devices

There are a wide range of smart home devices available for homeowners. Some of these are fairly well known, such as smart thermostats that feature programmable temperature controls that “learn” how best to keep you comfortable. Others are less common but very handy, such as leak sensors that alert you when your pipes leak or window sensors that let you check to see whether your windows or locked or unlocked. You can get smart lighting that can be controlled remotely and can even change colors, smart locks that you can lock and unlock with your phone or a key fob, smart smoke and CO2 detectors, motion sensors that activate security cameras but that are able to ignore pets and small animals… the list is quite extensive. Most of these devices are programmable so you can automate specific tasks, or can at least be paired with things such as a digital assistant (like Amazon Echo devices or Google Home) to schedule automation and even voice control.

Safety and Privacy

There are a number of advantages to using smart devices, including saving money and increasing convenience in your daily life. However, some people have security and privacy concerns as well. Some smart devices have been exploited in the past, allowing hackers to listen in or speak through the devices to people in a smart home. Some devices featuring video also raise security concerns as people worry that others will be able to record them going throughout their day. While these are valid concerns, security breaches and flaws are taken seriously by manufacturers. The majority of cases where unwanted access has occurred were either due to flaws that have since been patched or due to someone gaining access to the password that secures the devices. This is why it’s important for those who buy smart devices to use strong passwords on their accounts and to make sure that their devices have up-to-date software, as these two actions will mitigate the majority of security concerns.

Get Smart

Whether you already have smart home devices installed or you’re just curious, there are installers and consultants who can help you determine exactly how your home could be a little smarter. If you’re interested, HomeKeepr can help you connect with a consultant in your area that can help you along your way. Sign up now for your free account and get ready for your home to be that much smarter.
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17 Mistakes to Avoid When Selling Your House

Selling your house can be both exciting and stressful, especially if it’s your first time. Regardless of why you decided to sell your home, there are a number of pitfalls you can easily fall into, making your home selling experience less than ideal. Luckily, we’ve put together a list of the most common home selling mistakes people make so you can sell your home knowing you have your bases covered. A home for sale

Underestimating the cost of selling your house

While you should ultimately profit from the sale of your home, many home sellers forget about the costs associated with selling a house. For starters, you should expect to use five to six percent of the total sale price of your home to cover the commissions of both the seller and buyer agents. For example, if you sell your home for $300,000 you could wind up paying upwards of $18,000 in commission. Furthermore, this hefty cost doesn’t include possible concessions homebuyers might want you to make during the negotiation phase, such as making repairs suggested by a home inspector.

Not budgeting for your move

When you consider the moving process, you have two options: hiring a moving company or borrow your buddy’s truck and doing it yourself. By hiring a moving company, rather than doing it yourself, you’re getting someone who will pack, move, and then unpack your belongings. This means that a full-service mover can be well worth the investment when you’re preoccupied with all of the other tasks associated with selling your home. Not to mention, when you hire movers your belongings are insured so you’re covered if anything breaks.

Selling a house you owe more on than what it’s worth

If you still have a remaining balance on your mortgage, you’ll most likely use a portion of the sale proceeds of your home to pay off the existing mortgage. Make sure you don’t owe more on your mortgage than what your house is actually worth or you won’t make enough money on the sale to pay off your mortgage. The best option is almost always to wait on selling your home so that it can build more equity. This way you can sell your home and buy a new one without having two mortgages at the same time.

Pricing your home incorrectly

If you price your home too high, your home may fall into seller’s limbo, sitting on the market for what feels like an eternity. On the other hand, if you price too low then you will likely sell your home quickly but you risk missing out on a significant amount of money. The first step to understanding how much your home is worth is utilizing an online calculator. Afterward, meet with your real estate agent to discuss a good pricing strategy for your home. They will look at other comparable properties in your neighborhood that sold recently as well as bring keen insights into what the housing market is currently doing. Together, you’ll determine a good starting price as well as a pricing strategy that will incentivize buyers if your house begins to sit on the market for too long.

Skipping a pre-listing home inspection

Selling a house is stressful enough, even when everything goes right. But if a homebuyer hires an inspector who catches an issue like mold, pests, or a cracked foundation, then your stress levels will multiply as you risk losing a potential sale entirely. Given the affordability of home inspections, there’s not much reason to avoid them. Getting a pre-listing home inspection will put your mind at ease as you’ll either know that your home is in sound condition or you’ll be able to tackle problems before homebuyers have the chance to bring them up during the negotiation phase. If an issue does arise, you can either fix it or you can let buyers know and then make a concession during the negotiation phase by reducing the price of your home accordingly.

Not refinishing hardwood floors or cleaning your carpet

If you’re reading this at home, look down. How do your floors look? Even if they don’t look terrible, there’s a pretty good chance they’re starting to show their age. Since potential buyers are going to be inspecting every aspect of your home, you should start thinking of refinishing your hardwood floors and cleaning your carpet. A living room with wood floor The best time to have your carpet cleaned or hardwood floors refinished is right before you stage your home. Since you’ll already be moving most (or all) of your furniture to either a new home or a storage unit, this is a great time to get your floors done (like the floors above) and make them a selling point to potential homebuyers.

Not staging your home for a quick sale

The main point of staging your home is to allow potential homebuyers the chance to picture themselves living in your space. They get to see a home with furniture and art that’s arranged in a way that highlights key features of your home, rather than an empty house that echoes every sound. Staging your home pays off too as 21 percent of agents told the National Association of Realtors that staging a home increased its’ sale price by as much as 10 percent, making it a worthwhile investment.

Forgoing professional real estate photos

With the advent of cameras on smartphones, everyone likes to think of themselves as a photographer these days. Even though that picture you took of your dinner last week looked like it could be featured in advertisements, you’re still probably not ready to take your own real estate photos. A real estate photographer will make sure that your home looks great when you list it because not only do they have the equipment, they understand the angles that best sell a home. If you have a large home, a stunning view you want to show off, or a large amount of land, you may also want to consider having aerial photos taken of your home. The views that drones are able to capture are impressive and can help show off your home in a way that will make sure it stands out from other houses in your area that are on the market. Even better, drone technology makes this option more affordable than ever before, allowing you to get a lot more bang for your buck.

Trying to sell a poorly lit home

You want to show your home in the best light, so take the time to really gauge the quality of your lighting by closing your curtains/blinds and looking at each room as though you’re a potential homebuyer. Make a note of any rooms that are poorly lit or just seem dark and then call an electrician so that you can have some additional lighting installed. a well lit home for sale Even worse than a poorly lit room, however, is when the lights don’t work at all. Sometimes the light bulb is just burnt out, while other times the socket itself is in need of repair. Consider calling an electrician before you begin showing your home to make sure it’s shining its brightest like the one above. Potential buyers (and your bank account) will thank you for the investment.

Not making your home energy efficient

If you’d like to spend less on your utility bills, you aren’t alone. A study by the National Association of Realtors found that 33 percent of homebuyers see high-efficiency HVAC systems as an important factor when looking at a new home. If you have an older home, you should look into either retrofitting or replacing your HVAC unit altogether as your current system might be using a lot more energy than it needs to be. This will ensure that you have a system that is meeting your home’s needs, while also lowering your utility bill. If you’re committed to energy-efficiency then there are a few extra things you can do. These options include making sure your home is properly insulated, ensuring that you don’t have any leaky air ducts, and buying a smart thermostat. Whichever route you pursue, having an energy-efficient HVAC system will make your house stand out from the competition.

Not cleaning your house before trying to sell it

Most of us would probably be lying if we said our homes weren’t overdue for a good cleaning, so don’t forget to check this box before listing your home for sale. There’s nothing more off-putting during a home tour than realizing the house is dirty, and potential homebuyers may wonder what else you’ve been neglecting. By hiring a professional cleaning company, you’ll guarantee that not only is your home spotless but that you’re going to make a great impression on homebuyers when they tour your house.

Not addressing the exterior of your house

Over the years, your home’s exterior has taken a beating from the elements. With everything mother nature throws at it every year, the paint on your home’s exterior and the stain on your deck have likely lost a bit of their luster. So before listing, be sure to pressure wash your house first. In addition to making sure your house looks its best in the listing photos, you will also enhance the overall curb appeal when buyers eventually show up for a tour. In addition to pressure washing your house and deck, you can also take the time to pressure wash your garage door, fence, patio, driveway, and any walkways you may have.

You never got around to repainting

One of the first things a potential buyer will notice when they pull up to your home is the paint. If you want to make a good first impression, then you’ll need to ensure that your home is painted an inviting color and that the quality of your paint job is top-notch. While the job of repainting your house might take a few days, the value of painting your house before selling will be well worth the effort.  A recent study found that painting the exterior of your home has a 51 percent return on investment. Don’t stop with the exterior though! We’ve all seen some pretty questionable color choices on the walls of homes. If you happen to have a lime green or bright purple wall, you’ll want to repaint them to be a more buyer-friendly neutral color. Doing so will make it easier for buyers to be able to picture themselves living in your home as it makes them think of your walls as a blank canvas.

Selling a home with a yard in need of some TLC

The other way to make a great first impression is by wowing potential buyers with your yard. Start by cleaning up anything that may be cluttering your yard, porch, or pathways (things like gardening equipment or a child’s bicycle). Then you can move onto mowing the lawn, weeding your garden, and planting some new flowers. If your yard has a damaged pathway, you may also want to think about fixing or even replacing it as well. If these touch-ups seem like a lot to tackle while you’re trying to sell your home, don’t be afraid to hire a landscaper as the cost is well worth it. A study by Turf Magazine found that a home’s value tended to increase by as much as 10 to 12 percent after making upgrades to the landscaping.

You have mismatched appliances

Maybe your black stove died a couple of years ago and you replaced it with a brand new stainless steel one. Or maybe you swapped out that white kitchen faucet you always hated with a copper one that caught your eye. Either way, the result is mismatched appliances. While it won’t necessarily impact the overall sale price of your home, many homebuyers are going to find the mismatched color scheme off-putting, so consider making some changes before you sell – the kitchen below is great inspiration. kitchen with matched appliances The best way to proceed is to decide which kitchen appliances are your favorite and base the color scheme off of them. So if that fancy new stove you bought last year is stainless steel, then make sure your other appliances are too. Luckily, many appliance manufacturers offer discounts if you purchase multiple appliances with them at once.

Lingering during a home tour

Nobody likes a lingerer, especially when they also happen to be the owner of the home you’re currently touring. If you don’t leave the home during a showing, then potential buyers feel awkward as they attempt to discuss what they like and dislike about the house. You also prevent your listing agent from being able to do their job to the best of their abilities as you’re naturally going to want to answer any questions the buyers have rather than leaving those questions to your agent. So instead of staying in your home during a showing, try taking the opportunity to go shopping, run errands, or visit some friends instead. Your agent will thank you.

Taking a Lowball Offer Personally

Regardless of your reasons for moving, the fact that you’ve probably lived in your home for years means that you have a lot of strong feelings attached to it. So when you receive a lowball offer, it’s natural to be offended. Instead of walking away, send them back a counteroffer that you and your real estate agent think is fair. If they really are interested, then you’ll be glad you didn’t let your emotions get the better of you.
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Are You Sure You Own Your Fence?

As Robert Frost (somewhat facetiously) said, “Good fences make good neighbors.” While many people have much better relationships with their neighbors than the saying implies, there is something to be said for a good fence on your property. Not only can fences add some visual appeal to the property, but they can also be functional. Fences are often a godsend if you own animals and don’t want to keep them chained up outside, and a fence around your backyard can afford you some privacy with your family or friends as well.Sometimes, though, fences need to be updated, removed or replaced. At these times, homeowners have found themselves in conflict with their good neighbors over the question of who actually owns the fence between their properties. While this might seem like an odd question, if the fence was already there when you moved in, are you completely sure that it belongs to you? Just whose side of the property line does it really fall on?

Figuring Out Ownership

Before you start tearing down an existing fence, it’s important to figure out if you actually have legal ownership of the fence itself. Friendly neighbors can become bitter enemies pretty quickly if you start tearing down a fence that belongs to the people living next door. You can also cause some hurt feelings if you start taking the fence down and accidentally tear up gardens or other plants that grow next to or on the fence. This is why it’s essential to determine ownership before you make any move on the fence. Not clearing things beforehand can not only cause hurt feelings and ruin a neighborly relationship, but in some cases a neighbor might even get the police or lawyers involved.

A Neighborly Conversation

One of the first things that you should do if there’s any question about the ownership of the fence is go over and have a chat with your neighbor. Explain that you want to replace the fence, provide your reasoning on why the fence has to go, and ask if they know whose property the fence falls on. If the fence is on your property, the neighbor should tell you; if it’s on theirs, then you can open up a larger conversation about replacing it. This also gives you an opportunity to talk about any plants or other features that might be disturbed during the process and make accommodations for pets or other animals that gaps in the fence might put at risk. Be sure to approach the topic casually and with a friendly tone; if you come across as too aggressive or seem defensive about the question then it can cause the conversation to head south pretty quickly.

Checking That Property Line

Unless your conversation with your neighbor sorts things out neatly, it’s a good idea to get a survey done to settle the matter of where the fence lies. A surveyor will ensure that the property line is clearly marked so you can see exactly where the fence lies on the property line. In some cases, it will clear the matter up readily, since the fence will obviously fall on one property or the other. In other cases, you might find that the fence actually straddles the line or moves from one property to the other. In this case you may need to discuss the issue more with your neighbor or consult the property deed or other official description of the property to see whether the fence is mentioned. Regardless, knowing where the property line falls gives you a lot of leverage in solving the issue.

Solving Your Fencing Woes

Whether you’re in need of a surveyor to help you figure out ownership or a contractor to replace the fence, HomeKeepr is here to help. With a free HomeKeepr account you can connect with professionals in your area that will assist you in getting your fencing issues cleared up in no time. Sign up for a free account today so you can get started on your fencing project tomorrow.
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Should You Rent Your Home Decor?

It might seem like kind of an odd concept, but there are a number of companies that let you rent your home décor these days. Companies like Feather and CasaOne allow you to lease your furniture and other décor for a limited period or until you decide to buy it outright. Even some older rent-to-own companies have options to change furnishings after completing a portion of your lease. The big question is, how viable is this as a way to decorate your home?

Renting vs. Buying

With just about any situation where you have the option to rent or buy something, there will be proponents on both sides extolling why that option is the better deal. People will discuss markets when talking about renting or buying a home, or depreciation rates when discussing automotive lease options versus outright purchase. With furniture, however, the discussions have long been fairly one-sided due to the excessive cost associated with many rent-to-own furniture options. Unless you had another other choice, buying your furniture was the only way to avoid paying nearly twice as much in some cases. The difference here is that these new options are intended as a way to provide flexibility in your décor instead of simply providing a path to purchase. While you do have an option to purchase, you also have the option to change your furniture options as your needs and tastes change. Because services like Feather are focused more on providing an actual service than simply selling furniture with installment plans, they have a larger focus on benefits than what you would get from a standard rent-to-own purchase.

Is It a Viable Option?

There are two questions to ask when trying to decide if renting home décor in this fashion is a viable option for you. The first concern is the cost: is it really worth it to you to have the sort of flexibility these services provide, versus owning your furniture outright? Feather, for example, has a $19/month service charge in addition to the monthly furniture payments for members on annual contracts. If you don’t plan on taking advantage of all the services that Feather offers, it might not be worth paying this extra cost in your case. On the other hand, if you’re the sort that would like to be able to reinvent your living space on a regular basis, then the discounts and annual free change that membership provides might be more than worth that added monthly fee. The second thing to consider is how viable these companies are in the long term. If there’s no market for this sort of a service, then you might find yourself without a service to use a few years down the road. This may not be a concern, however; the market has supported multiple more traditional rent-to-own services over the years, but companies like Feather aren’t really competing with those. Instead, they’re taking an updated version of their model and targeting a slightly higher income bracket. With reasonable pricing, some great style and a solid service model in place, these early movers into this new bracket could have significant staying power.

Nailing Your Décor

Regardless of whether you plan to rent or buy, it’s a good idea to plan out your décor before you start decorating. This is especially important if you’re using an online service like Feather where you’ll be doing your planning and shopping online. This is where it can help to have a professional interior decorator or designer there to assist you in choosing the pieces that will work best together. Fortunately, HomeKeepr can help you with that. Sign up for free today to find a decorator who will really help you pick the perfect accents for your home and tie everything together. Signing up is free, so you’ve got nothing to lose.
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49 Life Hacks You’ll Wish You Knew Sooner

These life hacks will make your daily to-dos (plus a few random projects) so much easier!

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HH handy hints spaghetti noodle lighter candleFAMILY HANDYMAN

Pasta Lighter

We’re sure you’re stocking up on sweet smelling candles to make your home extra cozy for the colder months. But, if your candles are burning too low to reach the wick, there’s no reason to go without your favorite scent. Instead of burning your fingers, light a piece of uncooked spaghetti. It’ll reach into those deep candles and burn long enough to light the candles on grandpa’s birthday cake!  
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HH lemon juice remove highlighterFAMILY HANDYMAN

Remove Highlighter Stains

Ever wish you could remove highlighter marks from a book? Lemon juice fades highlighter enough to make it virtually undetectable. Cut a lemon in half and get some juice on a cotton swab. Run the swab over the highlighted text and watch the color fade. Lemon juice from a container also seems to do the trick. Though not quite as well on the pieces we tested, and the older the mark, the more stubborn it is to remove.
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HH Puppy PVC slow feeder dogFAMILY HANDYMAN

Puppy Slow Feeder

My puppy was eating his food too fast, resulting in him vomiting it back up. Instead of buying a slow-feed bowl, I drilled holes into a 12 in. length of 2 in. PVC pipe and capped the ends. I fill the tube with puppy food, and he has to roll it around to get the food to fall out of the holes. My puppy gets all the food he needs without the mess that comes from eating too fast. Be sure the holes are large enough for the food to come out! – Charlie May 4 / 49

HH Handy Hint color coded key nail polishFAMILY HANDYMAN

Identify Your Keys at a Glance

“It seems the older I get, the more keys I carry around. Between the car, house, shed and garage, I have a whole pocket full of keys. To make it easier to quickly find my most used keys, I paint both sides of the key head with brightly colored nail polish. I use a different color for each key. The nail polish is extremely durable and you’ll be surprised how much longer it lasts than spray paint.” —Joseph Grayson Check out these other.
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HH Pool noodle hose extenderFAMILY HANDYMAN

Pool Noodle Water Hose

If you need to fill up a bucket that won’t fit under your sink’s faucet, bust out a pool noodle. Set the bucket on the floor, slip the pool noodle over the faucet and run it down to the bucket.
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HH silica packets gardening seeds freshFAMILY HANDYMAN

Keep Seeds Fresh

If you don’t use up all of your seed packets, store them in an airtight container with silica packets to keep them fresh for next year. The silica packets prevent the seeds from germinating or getting moldy. Plus, check out these 10 seriously useful gardening tips every beginner needs to know. 7 / 49

HH Handy Hint fog free mirror car waxFAMILY HANDYMAN

Fog-Free Mirrors

Prevent your bathroom mirror from fogging up after a hot shower with car wax. Apply a small amount of car wax to the mirror, let it dry, then buff with a soft, dry cloth.
 
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HH disinfect legos in dishwasherFAMILY HANDYMAN

Easy Way to Disinfect Legos

Children’s toys are a breeding ground for germs. A dishwasher makes quick work of disinfecting toys that are washable, like Legos. To quickly clean Legos:
  1. Drop the Legos in a laundry bag to keep them contained.
  2. Run your dishwasher as usual.
  3. But, remove the Legos before the drying cycle, letting them air dry completely on a towel.
This method also works well for other treasures like seashells, dish brushes, rags and sponges.  
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easy sticker removal HHFAMILY HANDYMAN

Renew Your Furniture in Minutes

My son plastered all of the furniture in his room with stickers from skate shops, arenas and gumball machines. Once he moved out, I wanted to use his furniture in the new guest room, without the stickers. I peeled off all the stickers using a putty knife in combination with hair dryer, to soften the adhesive. Some are harder to remove than others, but I had them all off in a couple hours. – Steve Winter  
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HH painters tape shelf hanging templateFAMILY HANDYMAN

Tape Template

Take the guesswork out of hanging picture frames, shelves and other items with “keyhole” hangers. To begin:
  1. Stick a piece of masking tape over the keyholes, and then trace over the keyholes with a pencil, making a template.
  2. Making sure it’s level, stick the template on the wall where you want the shelf.
  3. Drill your anchor holes or screws into the template and remove it.
 
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HH Handy hint ice cubes wrinkle remover dryerFAMILY HANDYMAN

Get Wrinkles Out of Your Laundry with Zero Effort

Ditch the time-consuming iron or handheld steamer to get wrinkles out of a shirt or slacks. Throw a few ice cubes or a wet washcloth in the dryer with your wrinkled clothes. As the ice melts and the water turns to steam, it will remove the wrinkles. This trick isn’t as effective with heavier clothing but is a miracle for lighter fabrics. The best part is that you don’t have to set the dryer for longer than 10 minutes for it to work.
12 / 49

plant in a pot landscaping design seasonal mums HH Handy HintFAMILY HANDYMAN

Plant-in-a-Pot Landscaping Design

Ever wish you could reorganize your garden after seeing how the mature plants look? Here’s a clever way to do it. You’ll need a bunch of pots of the same size, so they’ll nest in each other. Put your plants in doubled pots, and then bury them at ground level. Whenever you want a change, lift out the top pot and put in a different one. This method is also really slick for bringing plants indoors over the winter. This method is great for quickly changing out seasonal plants, and allows for easy experimentation with color and placement of plants and flowers.  
13 / 49

HH lint log fire starter

Dryer Lint Fire Starter

To properly build a fire, you need to have tinder (easy-lighting material), kindling (finger-size sticks) and fuel (logs). We all have a readily available supply of tinder: dryer lint! To make fire starters, I stuff empty toilet paper tubes with dryer lint. My dryer lint “logs” light quickly and easily burn long enough to light up the kindling. And I don’t have to resort to lighter fluid!
 
14 / 49

HH zip-tie phone stand propped up

Zip-Tie Phone Stand

When referencing projects plans or a photo for inspiration while working on a DIY project, most of us use our phones to display images or instructional videos. The only problem with this method is that our phones don’t prop themselves up, making it difficult to see at the images while working. You can make a smartphone stand out of just about anything these days, but it doesn’t get much simpler than looping zip ties around your phone (1 on each side). All you have to do is tighten the zip ties until they are snug to the phone with the zip-tie heads facing down and near the edge of your phone. Now you can watch video instructions or look at project drawings without having to hold it in your hands the whole time.  

lip balm cash stash

Secret Cash Stash

“Sometimes I don’t want to carry my wallet around. At the beach, for example, when I have to leave my belongings unattended while I go for a swim. But I still need cash on hand for food, drinks, etc. So I turned an empty tube of lip balm into a secret cash stash. You could do the same with an empty stick of sunscreen, too. A long nail works great for digging out any remaining bits of lip balm, and a cotton swab wipes away any waxy residue. Not only is the tube small enough to fit in my pocket, but it’ll also fool any potential thieves. I mean, who would steal someone’s used lip balm?” — Jenny Stanley
16 / 49

HH DIY hose drip watererFAMILY HANDYMAN

DIY Drip Waterer

Here’s an easy way to turn any hose into a drip-watering hose. Drill 1/8 in. holes every 2 in. and screw a cap the end. Weave the hose around your plants and turn on the spigot. You’ll have to do some testing to figure out the right setting. To make watering even easier, I added a programmable faucet timer to the hose. — Matt Boley  
17 / 49

FH19MAY_594_08_030-1200 plywood sheet carrier HHFAMILY HANDYMAN

The Ultimate Extra Hand

Carrying a sheet of plywood by yourself is awkward and hard on your back. The best method I’ve found is to make a loop from an 18-ft. length of rope and wrap it around two corners. Now I can use the rope as a handle. – Ken Porter Now that you can carry plywood across your shop,
18 / 49

double your resealable bags HHFAMILY HANDYMAN

How to Double Your Resealable Bags

This might be the coolest way to turn sandwich-size bags into snack-size bags! Here’s how to do it: Heat up an old butter knife with a lighter and slice the bag in half. The hot knife cauterizes the edges of the two new bags. The cauterized edges are as strong as the factory sealed edges! – Julia Trenton  
19 / 49

Handy Hint HH flamingo blow up pool toy shop vac nozzleFAMILY HANDYMAN

No Air Pump? No Problem! Use a Shop Vacuum

If you don’t have an air compressor to inflate your air mattresses or pool toys, you can use your shop vacuum instead. Just pop the top off of a plastic squeeze bottle and fit the top to your vacuum’s hose. You may have to use duct tape. Once the top is secured to the hose, attach the hose to your vacuum’s exhaust port. It’ll blow up your inflatables in no time. To deflate, attach the hose to the vacuum port and suck the air out.  
 
20 / 49

Picture Frame Bumpers 2 HH

Instant Picture Frame Bumpers

Stop wall frames from slipping out of place and scratching the wall paint by putting small dots of hot glue on the back corners of the frame. The hot glue not only prevents movement, but it also holds the picture away from the wall to prevent scratches and nicks.
21 / 49

Painted Carpet HHFAMILY HANDYMAN

Clean Up Paint in Carpet

I used to think dropping a loaded paintbrush on the carpet meant replacing the carpet, until a former foreman told me this little tip. Pour some denatured alcohol onto a rag and scrub away the paint. Use a rag that is as close in color to the carpet, as the alcohol can transfer some of the rag’s color to the carpet. – Tom Gerdowsky  
22 / 49

HH message board picture frameFAMILY HANDYMAN

Picture Frame Message Board

I’m all for dry-erase message boards, but they’re usually pretty unattractive. So I make message boards using nice picture frames. To make these message boards, grab a picture frame and some paper. Cut the paper to fit the frame and set it in behind the glass. The glass makes an excellent dry erase surface! — Jessie Dawson  
13 / 49

HH easy mulch spreading handy hint bucketsFAMILY HANDYMAN

Easy Mulch Spreading

Getting mulch up close to flowers and bushes is easier if the mulch is in a small container. So I place buckets and pails in my wheelbarrow and fill them up with mulch. It doesn’t matter much if the mulch misses the bucket and lands in the wheelbarrow. Once you’re done dumping the buckets, dump what’s left in the wheelbarrow in an open area and spread it out. — Eric Swartz
24 / 49

HH carpet padding to make plush rugFAMILY HANDYMAN

Make Any Rug Extra Comfortable

Want to make any rug feel extra plush and luxurious? Add a layer of carpet padding underneath your rug—it’s thicker and cheaper than a typical rug pad. The next time you wash that pile of dishes in the sink, your feet will thank you.  
25 / 49

Lampshade Lint RollerFAMILY HANDYMAN

Lampshade Lint Roller

Fabric lampshades are magnets for dust and pet hair. You can’t just throw them in the washing machine, so what do you do? I’ve found that a lint roller works really well. Be careful though, as lampshades are fragile and can even become brittle. A torn lampshade is worse than a dirty one.
   
26 / 49

adding pvc to table legs to make a taller table HH

Taller Table Hack

I have a typical 6-ft. folding table that I use to layout certain projects. But the height of the table is meant for someone sitting in a chair. Constantly bending over when using the table was starting to hurt my back, so I came up with a solution. I used a couple of 2-ft. lengths of 1-1/4-in. PVC pipe found at my local home center, and cut four 11-in. stilts for my table. I slipped the pipes onto the legs and it raised the table about 6 in., bringing my work surface to a more comfortable height! The bend in the table legs at about 5 in. from the ground holds the pipes securely in place, so my table is still as sturdy as ever. The stilts can be removed if I ever need to lower the height of the table to use it while sitting in a chair. — Gary Inlow
27 / 49

HH ice remove gum stuck in carpetFAMILY HANDYMAN

Remove Gum from Carpet

When gum freezes, it gets brittle and easily breaks apart. So, if you have gum stuck in your carpet, freeze it to remove it quickly and neatly.
  1. Place a sandwich bag filled with ice cubes on top of the gum and wait about a half hour.
  2. When the gum is frozen, break it apart and pull it out of the carpet. No trace left behind.
 
28 / 49

Wood plank HH Handy Hint Lawn edgingFAMILY HANDYMAN

Simple Lawn Edging

To edge your lawn, garden, or flowerbed, lay down a 2×6. While holding the board with your foot, drive a flat spade along the board’s edge. Move the board as needed to create a clean, straight line.  
29 / 49

HH DIY wood filler sawdustFAMILY HANDYMAN

DIY Wood Filler

“To make a versatile wood filler for free, just grab a paper plate and combine Elmer’s or any other wood glue with sawdust. Like other wood fillers, you can stain or finish it, but the color will likely be a bit different than the surrounding wood. But, it’s sandable, paintable and long-lasting. I haven’t bought any wood filler in over 50 years.”  — Dan Gola  
30 / 49

Quick Cold Drinks 2 HH

Quick Cold Drinks

Does wrapping a wet paper towel around a warm canned or bottled beverage and putting it in the freezer cool it faster than if there were no paper towel around it? Some folks theorize that the can is analogous to your body, and the wet paper towel is analogous to sweat. Since it’s well known that evaporation of sweat pulls heat away from your body, causing a cooling effect, the same should happen with a canned beverage in the freezer, right? There are lots of “expert” opinions about this online supporting both sides of the argument. I’ve had many opportunities to experiment, and to me, it seems to make a difference. Try it out for yourself! — Edward Kral.
31 / 49

HH Handy Hint Sponges stay plants stay hydratedFAMILY HANDYMAN

Healthy Plant Hydration

Water settling at the bottom of pots can lead to root rot. To combat this problem, cut up old sponges and put them in the bottom of the pot. The sponges retain moisture and create necessary air space. They also help prevent water from flushing out the bottom. The sponge acts as a water reserve and keeps soil moist longer.  
32 / 49

HH clean sneakers with a toothbrush and toothpaste whiteFAMILY HANDYMAN

Your Shoes Will Look New

All you need is an old toothbrush and a little toothpaste to get your old sneakers looking like new! Non-gel white toothpaste works great for cleaning white-soled sneakers (colored toothpaste may stain rather than clean sneakers). Apply toothpaste to an old toothbrush and then work the paste into the dirty spots. Leave the toothpaste on the shoes for about ten minutes, and then wipe it off with a damp towel. Repeat the process if necessary. Important: The ingredients in toothpaste may vary from brand to brand, so make sure to try this method on a small unnoticeable spot on your sneakers before applying it to the rest of the shoe.
33 / 49

tractor rope HH

Lawn Mower Grass Chute Saver

To avoid a lot of string trimmer work, I like to mow as close as possible to trees and buildings. But the grass chute on my riding mower prevents it. So I drilled a hole in the chute and tied a rope from the chute to a handle on the side of the tractor. Now I can lift up the chute without missing a beat, and cut way down on string trimmer work. — Travis Larson
34 / 49

HH durable sandpaper duct tape

How to Make Durable Sandpaper

“I do a lot of finish-sanding freehand, without a sandpaper block, so I can smooth edges and get into nooks and crannies. But the finer grits are usually bonded to thinner paper and, at least for me, the paper is too thin and ends up tearing long before the grit wears out. So I apply duct tape to the back of the sandpaper. The sandpaper is still flexible enough to sand a tight radius and it’s far more durable. You can use this super-strong sandpaper like a shoeshine rag.” — Chuck Merchant
35 / 49

HH phone charger heat shrink tubing pen spring hack

Use This Simple Hack to Save Your Phone Charger

To make your otherwise fragile phone charger last for more than a couple of weeks, try out this simple hack! Start by removing the spring from a pen. Next, stretch one end of the spring out a bit so it can fit around the charger cable. You might need to use pliers for this. Now, wind the spring around the cable until it is completely on the charger cable. Next, take appropriately sized heat shrink tubing and slip it over the phone charger and spring. Use a lighter to warm the heat shrink tubing until it conforms around the charger and spring. This simple hack will keep the cord from breaking any further or from even breaking in the first place!
36 / 49

HH blue painters tape dustpan broken glass

Effectively and Safely Sweep Up Glass

Everyone who has ever swept the floor with a standard broom and dustpan knows about that annoying line of dust. It’s the line that just won’t disappear no matter how many times you try and sweep it up. To get rid of this annoying line, simply tape the front of the dustpan to the floor with blue painters tape, so no residue will be left on the floor. It will seal and cover the gap between the floor and your pan. This handy hint also works great for sweeping up more menacing items like glass. The dustpan and tape combo will ensure that all of those little glass shards will be in the pan and not on the floor.  
37 / 49

HH Ice Pack Frozen Sponge

Make Your Own Ice Pack

Ice packs are a great way to keep your lunch cool, but they’re a bit expensive if you’re in the habit of losing them. This DIY ice pack hack is reusable, so it is good for the environment as well. First, purchase an inexpensive pack of sponges or just find some old ones around the house. Grab a big bowl of water and let the sponges completely soak up as much water as they possibly can. After soaking the sponges, put each sponge in a small sandwich bag with a zip close. These bags serve two purposes. First, as the ice melts, the bag contains the water so it doesn’t make a mess in your lunch bag. Second, keeping the water contained allows the melted sponge to reabsorb the water so it is ready to refreeze for the next day. Now, freeze the wet and bagged sponges overnight. In the morning, all you need to do is toss the ice pack into your lunch container.  
 
38 / 49

HH DIY car mat from carpet scrapsFAMILY HANDYMAN

DIY Car Mats

One simple way to keep your car clean is to cut scraps of old carpet to fit on the floor as mats.  We found our carpet scraps for less than $2 at Home Depot. And when the DIY carpet scraps inevitably get all dirty with mushy winter snow or summer sand, you could either give them a wash or toss them out and make more. A word of caution, do not put these DIY car mats on the driver’s side of the car unless grippers are attached on the bottom side to ensure that the mat does not slip forward while driving.
39 / 49

ROUND_8 HH Wood dent iron steam wet cloth

Get Dents Out of Wood

Dents in wood surfaces can be annoying. But fret not, they can be fixed! Simply soak a washcloth in water and ring it out a bit so it’s not sopping wet. Put the damp washcloth on the affected area. The water will wick through the wood, and that’s fine. Now, with your iron on its highest setting, place it on the damp washcloth over the affected area, and make small movements back and forth and in circles. Press down firmly and continue until your washcloth is dry. It won’t take long to evaporate. At this point, the wood fibers are absorbing the water and should expand back to where they were originally. Continue this process and repeat by adding more water until the dents rise up to be flush with the rest of the material.  
40 / 49

HH Staple Remover key ring

Staple Remover Hack

A staple remover has perfectly sized thin teeth that make them perfect to easily slide between the rings of a key ring. When you clamp them down, it spreads the key rings apart and makes it easy to slide a new key on. This saves you the hassle of trying to pry open the key ring with your nails.
41 / 49

water bottle cap to support tension rod HH

Support a Tension Rod with Water Bottle Caps

“My wife sews kids clothes and uses a curtain tension rod to hang them in a closet. She explained to me one day that the pole was frequently slipping and falling down. So, I searched and found an object that could be screwed into the wall and would fit around the ends of the tension rod: water bottle caps. I used drywall screws to secure two water bottle caps into studs in the closet walls, and then I mounted the tension rod inside the bottle caps. The lip on each cap provides just enough support for the tension rod, so it doesn’t fall down anymore.” — Rodney Sheets
42 / 49

coating snow shovel with car wax HHFAMILY HANDYMAN

Coat Your Snow Shovel with Car Wax

Shoveling snow can be frustrating enough, but when heavy snow sticks or freezes in clumps on the shovel, it can make the job even more difficult! You can avoid this issue by first coating your shovel with car wax before heading out to clear your driveway and walking paths. This tip works best with metal shovels: Follow the application instructions on the car wax package. Generally, car wax is applied in a thin layer using a damp cloth, allowed to dry, and then buffed off with a dry cloth. This leaves the shovel clean and lubricated, so the snow and ice won’t stick!
43 / 49

HH Handy Hint Vacuum cleaner nylons find lost itemsFAMILY HANDYMAN

Find Your Lost Items

Everyone knows how annoying it is when you can’t seem to find a dropped pill or the back of an earring. So how do you find these items quickly and easily? Use your vacuum. Here’s the trick; before you turn the vacuum on, cut off the end of a nylon and secure it on the end of your vacuum hose with a rubber band.
44 / 49

dry erase board permanent marker handy hint

Erase Permanent Marker on a Dry Erase Board

Who hasn’t accidentally written on a white board with a permanent marker? Luckily, it’s easier to remove than you think. Simply draw over your permanent marker artwork with a dry erase marker, and then wipe the marks away with an eraser or dry cloth. Your dry erase board will be good as new!
45 / 49

penny to fix wobbly furniture HH

Fix Wobbly Furniture with a Penny

Need to shim a wobbly bench or table, but don’t have time to run to the home center for furniture feet? No worries, just reach for your pocket change! You can use a coin to shim wobbly furniture in a pinch. Use hot glue to attach the coin to the problem area, adding additional coins as needed. Coins work well as a temporary fix because they come in a variety of thicknesses and cost less than a dollar!
46 / 49

writing notes on washing machine HH

Write Notes on the Washer

When you put a load of clothes into your washing machine, use a dry-erase marker to note on the lid which items should not go into the dryer. That way, whoever switches the load from the washing machine to the dryer will know which items to leave out for line drying. The enamel finish on most washing machine lids is similar to a whiteboard, and dry-erase markers can be removed easily with a dry paper towel.
47 / 49

magnetized drill HH

Magnetized Drill Hack

I like to keep screws very close at hand when I’m working on a project. How close? I stick them right to my drill. Some drills are equipped with a magnetized portion for this purpose, but if yours isn’t, here’s an easy fix. Hot glue a rare earth magnet to the back of your drill and slap a few screws on it. For small tasks, I don’t even need a tool belt. – Lucas Kuck
48 / 49

HH sharpie sharpies rubbing alcohol

Bring Dead Sharpies Back to Life

When it comes to workshop problems, dried-out Sharpies aren’t major. But they are annoying when you can’t find another one to mark your measurements or project notes. To bring your permanent marker back to life, simply remove the back from the maker. This will be different for each brand of permanent marker, for Sharpies simply remove the back nib. Next, deposit a few drops of isopropyl “rubbing” alcohol onto the felt material inside. Shake the marker a bit to ensure the rubbing alcohol is absorbed. It’s the solvent that the ink is mixed with that dries out first, making the pigment unable to flow. Once the felt absorbs the rubbing alcohol for a couple of minutes the marker will be practically good as new!
49 / 49

HH sharpening scissor blades on coffee mug

Use a Ceramic Mug as a Sharpening Stone

The bottom of most ceramic coffee mugs have a flat, unglazed ring that is the perfect surface for giving that dull knife or blade a quick sharpening. And if you find yourself in need of sharpening a utility knife, pocket blade or scissors and don’t have access to a sharpening stone, you can simply flip over a ceramic coffee mug and use the outer edge of the bottom, the non-glazed part, as an emergency sharpening stone. Just run the blade across the bottom of the mug at a 45-degree angle, working from the one end of the blade to the tip. Next, slide the blade downward in one direction, keeping your fingers out of the way as you work. This isn’t a perfect solution for continually sharpening your blades, but if you need to quickly sharpen and clean up the edge of a blade this method will do in a pinch. We do recommend eventually investing in a blade sharpening kit.
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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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SMART HOMEOWNER 13 Etiquette Rules All Good Neighbors Need to Follow!

Because civilization is built on neighbors being civilized to each other.

1 / 13

The tourist rings the doorbell to check in to the room he has booked or the student with the backpack returns home after classes at the institute or on vacation.

If you have a problem, talk to your neighbors first

Does your neighbor’s music keep you up at night? Are their kids bothering your dog? Talk to them. Having an in-person confrontation can feel scary, particularly if you need to say something you’re worried your neighbor won’t like, but talking things through face-to-face should be the first thing you try, says Diane Gottsman, national etiquette expert, author of Modern Etiquette for a Better Life, and founder of The Protocol School of Texas. “Go with a polite, non-confrontational attitude and you might be surprised how well most people respond,” she says. “Also, a plate of cookies never hurts.” If talking face-to-face doesn’t work try these 12 steps for dealing with bad neighbors. As a last resort, escalate issues to your HOA or local authorities.
2 / 13

Neighborhood watch sign in a sunny Midwest suburb.

Have a neighborhood safety plan

“Wildfires, earthquakes, floods, hurricanes—you never know what will happen these days and if you ever get stuck in an emergency situation your neighbors are going to be the people you turn to first,” says Julie Bowman, MPH, emergency preparedness and public health expert. This is why it’s so important to set up a safety plan with your neighbors, she says. It can be as simple as printing out a map and marking where people are who will need help―like the elderly—to as complex as a neighborhood watch program or more. What you need will vary by community but start with these tips for making your own neighborhood plan from the National Crime Prevention Council. This is what to do if your neighbor’s tree has grown into your yard.
3 / 13

Family Outside House On Moving Day. cardboard boxes foreground near steps

Look for ways to help neighbors instead of seeing them as problems

Does your elderly neighbor have an unkempt yard? Does the single mom next door always leave her garbage cans out? Are the kids unruly at the bus stop? Instead of gossiping or complaining, reach out and see if you can find a way to help—for instance, mowing your neighbor’s lawn, bringing her trash cans in when you bring in yours, or offering to stand outside with the kids until the bus comes. “Often there are very simple things you can do to solve the problem and not only will you brighten someone’s day but there may come a time when you need help and you’ll want your neighbors to be there for you,” Gottsman says.
4 / 13

Happy boy and dad with a ball on the basketball court

Smile and wave

Thanks to the Internet we’re interacting with people around the world more than ever but that may mean we’re also interacting much less with the people right next door to us. Fortunately, it doesn’t take much to change that, says Bonnie Tsai, founder and director of Beyond Etiquette. “A smile, a wave, a brief exchange of pleasantries, can inspire a lot of goodwill with your neighbors,” she says. It doesn’t take much and makes the neighborhood a much happier place overall.
5 / 13

Group of smiling mature women drinking tea at balcony

Learn your neighbors’ names

This is Good Neighboring 101 but you’d be surprised how many people have lived next to someone for years and don’t know the first thing about them. Good neighbors will make the little extra effort to learn their neighbors’ names and a few things about their lives, like how long they’ve lived in the area, where they work, or if they have kids or pets, Tsai says. The payoff can be great. It will make you feel more connected to those around you but it can also help make your neighborhood safer—neighbors who know each other are more likely to watch out for each other. One of the best defenses against a home break-in is a neighbor who knows your schedule and notices something out of the ordinary. Check out 15 more ways you can be a good neighbor.
6 / 13

Woman gathering dog poo in park

Pick up your dog’s poop

“It’s just plain rude to leave dog excrement in public neighborhood areas or in other people’s yards,” says Erin Askeland, certified pet behavior expert at Camp Bow Wow. “Not only is it rude, but it’s also gross; dog excrement can transmit diseases, damage plants and grass, and, let’s be honest, doesn’t have the most pleasant smell.” Good neighbors understand that it is their responsibility as pet owners to clean up after their animals, she says.
7 / 13

People fist bump hands sign power supportRAWPIXEL.COM/SHUTTERSTOCK

Give your neighbors the benefit of the doubt

Do the teens next door have crazy hair and tattoos? Does the neighbor across the way practice a “weird” religion? Does the guy next door drive a big white van? Instead of assuming your neighbors are hoodlums, terrorists, or serial killers, give them the benefit of the doubt, Gottsman says. This doesn’t mean ignoring when people do bad things or putting yourself in unsafe situations, it simply means seeing people as people first and looking for other possible explanations for their behavior besides negative ones. You don’t have to be their best friend but you should treat them with respect and kindness, no matter what, Tsai says.
8 / 13

County style wooden fence.

Maintain your fences

“Good fences make good neighbors” isn’t just a cute Instagram quote, it’s really good advice as having appropriate boundaries—both physical and personal—can head off many of the typical neighbor fights, Tsai says. “It’s totally fine to say no sometimes. In fact, saying yes to everything your neighbors ask of will likely end up negatively impacting your relationship due to resentment and exhaustion,” she explains. Start with these 10 ways to build trust with your neighbors.
9 / 13

Attractive young woman using a laptop while relaxing on a sofa at home

Don’t fight with your neighbors on social media

Keyboard warriors are everywhere these days, using neighborhood apps and social media groups to share their indignation over everything from politics to teenagers trick-or-treating to dog poop. While this might garner you a lot of support, it doesn’t do much, if anything, to solve the problem and just marks you as a complainer, Gottsman says. “Hiding behind a keyboard is a very passive-aggressive way to deal with problems you may have with your neighbors,” she says. If you have a problem with a particular neighbor, talk to them offline and certainly don’t call people out by name on social media, she says. If your issue is more widespread—say a dangerous intersection by a bus stop—you’ll get better results calling the school, the bus company, the HOA, or the police directly. Besides, engaging on social media in a negative way could make you one of these real-life nightmare neighbors.
10 / 13

Excited Children Arriving Home With Parents

RSVP promptly to invitations

If your neighbor is kind enough to invite you to their picnic, birthday party, game night, graduation party, or another event then you should be kind enough to give them a prompt answer, says Emilie Dulles, a protocol expert and founder of Dulles Designs. Unfortunately, it’s become very common today for people to either not RSVP at all or to hold back on responding, waiting to see who else is coming first, but this makes it very hard on hosts, she says.
11 / 13

Male Multi Generation Family Sitting On Steps in Front Of House

Mind your manners

We often reserve our best manners for people we’re trying to impress, like a boss or potential partner, and let them slide when we’re at home. While it’s fine to be more casual with your neighbors than your coworkers, you should always be polite, Tsai says. This means saying “please” and “thank you” or “excuse me” and other niceties. Even if you find them annoying or rude, set a good example. Civilization is built on people being civilized to each other! Do you know these 10 things your neighbors won’t tell you?
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man and woman working on their computers. the view from the top. two laptops, two persons.

Stay positive about your community online

Neighborhood apps, Facebook groups, and community message boards have replaced the backyard fence of older days, becoming the main way neighbors share information. These can be a great tool, as long as you remember your manners online as well. “The whole point of these groups is to build community and camaraderie so keep your posts and comments positive and productive,” Gottsman says. “Before posting something, ask yourself, ‘What is the benefit of this?’ and ‘How would I feel reading this?’” And if someone is mean to you online? “Take the high road and simply reply, ‘Let’s discuss this in person,’” she says. Can you guess the things your neighbor wants you to STOP doing?

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Street of residential houses

Do your best to follow community rules

Many fights between neighbors start over a disagreement about the rules and how someone is or isn’t following them. Most of these can be avoided by simply doing your best to abide by the standards set by your neighborhood, Gottsman says. Whether that’s taking down holiday decorations by the end of January or not playing music outdoors after 10 or keeping your garbage cans out of sight, these were things your neighbors have decided are important so you should make a good faith effort to follow them, even if they seem silly to you. If you live in an area with an HOA, these rules were likely spelled out in your signed contract. Otherwise, you might have to dig a little deeper to figure out what the expected norms are in your neighborhood.
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