Working 9 to 5 (with a Clean House)

When you dedicate more than 40 hours a week to your job, oftentimes other obligations fall to the wayside—like the upkeep of your home. Although balancing your time is a juggling act, these tips will help you stay ahead of the cleaning throughout the week.

Start small.  
When it comes to cleaning, small efforts can make all the difference. In fact, just simply straightening up before you to go bed—i.e. washing the dishes, folding and putting away laundry, and picking up after your family—will help you start the next morning off on the right foot. Because really, who doesn’t want to wake up to an organized living space?

Ensure that every minute counts.
With a busy schedule, time is of the essence. Since nobody enjoys coming home to a mess, there are a few things that can be done while you’re away at work. Before you leave, consider throwing in a load of laundry, and hanging it to dry once you return. Since most dishwashers have a heated dry feature they can run during the day. Another option is utilizing a robotic vacuum that can run on a set schedule.

Create, and stick to a schedule.  
Like anything else in life, a schedule can help immensely with cleaning. Creating and sticking to a schedule will enable you to chip away at the chores throughout the week, and not feel completely overwhelmed on the weekends. Consider breaking down the tasks into daily, weekly, monthly, and seasonal goals. Download this printable household cleaning schedule to keep your housework running like clockwork.

Make it a game.
If you have children, getting them involved can make a world of difference. To keep them interested, consider making the cleaning process a game. Simple things like hanging a chart on the refrigerator and offering an incentive once they complete a certain number of tasks will keep them entertained. Keeping it fun will help to teach them how to clean up after themselves, all the while making less work for you.

Practicing these tips will help keep your house in tip-top shape, regardless of your work schedule!

Stuck in the Renting Rut

If you’ve been renting an apartment for longer than you’ve had a Facebook, don’t worry—you’re not the only one. But if you’ve been teetering on the fence of buying or renting, going over the pros and cons, all whilst watching your friends settle into their own place, it might be time to say goodbye to the landlord.

It’s normal to be afraid to take the plunge into home-buying territory, but with the help of a great agent and a little research, you can determine if the time is right for you.

If you have a healthy savings account.
Perhaps the scariest part about buying a home is making the financial commitment, but if you’ve managed to save enough (and then some) to put a down payment of at least 10 percent, you should feel confident in your ability to make the purchase.

If you’re ready to commit.
Another common qualm about buying a home is the uncertainty of where you will be a year or two from now. However, if you have a steady job and are happy with the location, there’s really no reason for concern.

If the price is right.
An agent can help you determine whether or not the price you are looking to pay is reasonable for your specifications and needs in a home, but ultimately, if the market is favorable and you’ve found the right deal, there’s no better time than the present.

If you’re sick of pouring money into someone else’s pocket.
It sounds harsh, but if you’ve been renting for three, five, or even ten years, you have been spending thousands of dollars on something that doesn’t even truly belong to you when all is said and done. Sure, a mortgage is likely more than your current rent, but you’ll have a place to really call your own.

To Rent or Not to Rent

Today’s market shows that really no matter where you live, you are likely to have renters interested in your property. People are utilizing sites like VRBO and Airbnb in record numbers, but there are plenty of things to consider before putting your space up for rent this season.

Know the rules.
First and foremost, it’s important to make sure that renting your home falls within the specific guidelines and regulations in your state and county. These rules vary greatly depending on what part of the country you are in, so you’ll need to make sure you are following protocol.

Clear your schedule.
Preparing your home for rental can be time-consuming to start, but once you get in the swing of things, it shouldn’t involve too much time and energy on your end. Some of the basic tasks you will need to consider are advertising, responding to inquiries, handling taxes, managing maintenance, and hiring service people (e.g. housekeepers and handymen).

Market your home.
Getting renters to want to stay in your home shouldn’t be difficult, so long as you know what people are looking for. When searching for a vacation property, most people consider its proximity to popular attractions, accessibility and size, available dates, and cost. Be sure to check the going rates for other rentals in your area, and focus on advertising your space’s closeness to must-do activities, fine dining, and kid-friendly spots.

Make it stand out.
Your home will likely be up against hundreds of other rentals, so you’ll want to make sure to emphasize special deals and amenities. If you have things like a pool, an HD television, a large movie collection, or beach equipment in the shed, you will want to highlight it so you let potential renters know that your space is one of the best!

Protect yourself.
Anytime you open your home to strangers you, are leaving your personal property and belongings in the hands of others, and, accidents do happen. If you plan on renting your space for an extended period of time, it’s a good idea to consider taking anything valuable with you or placing it in storage. It might seem like a pain to have to remove these things, but it’s worth the hassle to prevent damage or added expenses later.

Your Home, Your Investment

When you purchase a home, don’t just think of it as a new place to live, think of it as an investment in your future. Real estate can be a solid, long-term investment for you and your family when you consider the pros and cons of your acquisition.

Market health

The real estate market has its ups and downs, but, generally, the health of a particular area is predictable by looking at trends over time. Do your research on the neighborhood before you buy.

Selling or renting

Buying a home with the intention to sell or even rent later can sometimes be a lucrative option for buyers. Research the property thoroughly, and make sure there aren’t any hidden factors or rules to negatively impact its value.

Little by little

There’s no need to completely renovate your home overnight. Investing your money back into the property little by little—through small changes over time—will keep you from going under financially.

Increasing value

Like the overall market, your home’s value will likely fluctuate over time. But there are plenty of simple ways to increase your home’s value such as adding environmentally friendly appliances and updating the floor plan.

The Facts about Fall Home Buying

People love autumn for many reasons. For buying homes? Not so much. But this doesn’t mean autumn doesn’t have its own distinct benefits if you’re in the market for a new home.

fall leaves

Crunch time has arrived.

For homeowners whose property is still on the market after summer, nervousness is likely settling in—their house still hasn’t sold, and the holidays are approaching—so they might be motivated to negotiate, sell, and settle before the holidays hit.

Less competition.

Looking for a home in peak buying seasons can be a war of attrition. Warm-weather home buyers are like shoppers who fight crowds to pay full price for the holiday’s must-have gift. By home shopping in autumn, you’ll be like the shopper who gets the same gift—without the competitive stress.

Better values abound.

A RealtyTrac study found that October is the best month of the year to find home-buying bargains, with a 2.6 percent discount on market value. And a recent Trulia study determined that fall is even more advantageous for first-time home buyers because of the availability of starter homes peak in autumn.

empty road

More personalized attention.

Your real estate agent likely has much more client activity during the spring and summer, so come fall, he or she will have more time to focus more on you and your home-buying needs.

Move on It: Finding a Hot Neighborhood

Trying to get in on an up-and-coming neighborhood before it gets big? The signs are clear—all you have to do is keep your eyes open for some of these big changes.

Catch a ride

Improvements in transportation—mostly in public transit—are a marker of an uptick in residents. As a neighborhood grows, so too does the need for increased mobility for its inhabitants.

Setting up shop

Large corporations won’t simply open a store just anywhere. Retail and wholesale giants like Walmart are a good indicator that there is about to be a population surge, or at least that a town is not going downhill anytime soon.

Back to work

People will always gravitate to where there are jobs. A healthy employment rate can also be a good sign that, even if the population isn’t booming yet, there should be plenty of people moving in soon.

An eclectic menu

A trendy restaurant has a knack for bringing in not only locals but also out-of-towners who will spread the word. Pretty soon, other hip businesses open up and, before you know it, the town is full of cultural attractions.

The cost of being cool

Generally speaking, as a neighborhood becomes more in demand, the cost of living will increase. Rising rent, increasing home prices, and price hikes in surrounding stores are a gauge that an area is on the rise.

In the know

Before doing the work yourself, talk to a local real estate agent who’s knowledgeable about the area. This can help you understand the rise and fall of the market as a whole, helping you move into your dream area before it gets too expensive.


Check out americanlifestylemag.com/home for even more real estate tips.

4 Reasons to Buy a Home During the Fall

Let’s face it, the fall market gets a bad rap. The majority of buyers assume that they’ll be unable to find a house that fits their needs during the fall—hence the mad rush during the summer. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Here are four reasons why a buyer should disregard the myths, and make a fall real estate purchase.

Star of the show  The realty market clears out as soon as the weather turns crisp. The majority of warm-weathered buyers have already found a home, meaning a fall buyer will have less competition for the available houses on the market that spark their interest.

Exhaustion is real
Countless showings and no offers makes for one tired seller.  After months of no action, lingering summertime sellers are more than ready to make a deal. This puts the buyer in a prime position to negotiate a price that more than fits their budget.

Home for the holidaysNot only are sellers tired after an unsuccessful summer, the holidays are looming. The majority are aware that if they want to be settled in time for the holiday season, they have to close quickly. Buyers can use this time crunch to their advantage.

Season of deals
After settling, furnishing the house is next on a buyer’s list. Fortunately, December proves to be an ideal time to purchase large ticket items. According to Consumer Reports, appliances like refrigerators, stoves, washers, and dryers are at their very cheapest. Buyers can also snag great deals on furniture and home decor during an end-of-year sale.

If you’re serious about moving, there’s no reason to wait until the spring. With just a little patience and persistence, you can be in your dream home before the start of the New Year!

8 Easy Ways to Eliminate Pet Odors from Your Home

If you’re one of those families that has multiple pets, you know it can be hard to keep your home clean and smelling fresh. Here are some tips on how to keep your home from smelling like a pet store!

Bathe and groom your pets regularly.
This will keep excess dirt, oils, dander, and any odors that may be on your pets’ coats from being carried throughout your house. Brushing and grooming can be done more often, since it is just as important. Whenever possible, brush your pets outside to prevent loose hair from finding its way onto and into furniture and carpeting.

Get rid of the hair on your furnishings.
Use a vacuum cleaner with a pet attachment or a lint roller to do away with loose hair at least once a week. If the lint roller or vacuum attachment isn’t working, try using a rubber glove (assuming that a little dampness is all right for your furniture, of course). Put in on your hand, moisten it a bit, and gently glide it over the surface.

Vacuum the floors.
You should try to vacuum your floors once or twice a week, depending on the number of pets you have in your home. This will help lessen the amount of hair and cat litter on the floor that leaves behind those lingering pet smells. You can also use a squeegee to pull up the stray hairs in your carpet that your vacuum can’t get to.

Check your air filters.
Pet hair can build up and clog your air filters. Be sure to change your air-conditioning or furnace filters at least every three to six months.

Be sure to always use disinfectants.
Many odors are caused by bacteria. Try using high-quality sanitizing cleaners that kill more than 99 percent of germs for those lingering odors and surface bacteria. Be sure to use products that are safe for curious tongues and noses!

Eliminate those urine odors right away.
If your pet has an accident inside, clean the area right away using an enzymatic cleaner. These are designed especially for eliminating pet odors and destroying any pheromones and molecules left behind.

Don’t forget to wash their bedding.
If your pet has a bed with a removable cover, be sure to wash that, as well as other pet bedding, at least twice a month.

Keep up with the litter box.
You should scoop the cat litter at least once a day. Keep the litter fresh with baking soda, as this can be used to absorb the smell. Try using a plug-in air freshener in the room where you keep the litter box.

Beginner’s Guide to Being a Landlord

Taking on the role of landlord is a huge undertaking. You have renters to find (and trustworthy ones at that), a property to look after, and being the go-between for the many different people involved in this process. Follow these tips to ensure that being a landlord is rewarding, rather than being a headache-inducing responsibility.

Screen tenants properly

Too often, landlords don’t screen potential tenants as thoroughly as they should, often causing mishaps further down the line. Don’t get so bogged down by other responsibilities that you forget to screen the people who will be living in your property. Look at credit scores, references, and if they have adequate employment before moving forward with an application.

Don’t short yourself

Your profit is coming from the rent, so make sure you’re charging the right amount to maximize your revenue. Look at the comps in the area, as well as accounting for any renovations you made to the space, and set the amount accordingly. You don’t want to short-change yourself, especially after the contract is signed and rent is locked into place.

Be as organized as possible

When it comes to managing a property and the tenants who live there, spreadsheets are your best friend. Keep track of important documents, make copies of everything, and stay on track with the various transactions and events that pop up throughout this process. You don’t want to be scrambling at the last minute if anything were to come up.

Make your guidelines clear

All of your rules and regulations should be outlined in the lease, but remember to reiterate in person. This is especially important concerning any pet restrictions, what day of the month rent is due, and what (or if) interior changes can be made to the space. Having these guidelines in writing is important, but it’s even more crucial to emphasize in person before the lease is signed.

Being a landlord can be a breeze if you follow these simple tips!

Improvements to Increase Your Home’s Value

If you want to increase the value of your home, it’s important to do some key renovations. But not all renovation projects are created equal. Some are worth the pretty penny spent, but many can be a waste of time and money, with the return not being quite as high as expected. When thinking of what renovations to make to your home, consider the following improvements that could boost the value of your property.

Flooring (Average ROI: 90%-100%)

While carpeting may have been popular at one point, now it could seriously deter a potential buyer from putting an offer in. Hardwood floors may be a large expense, but they’re the way to go for any flooring renovation projects. If you have the time and money, this is an investment to think about. But if hardwood is too much out of your price range, consider laminate wood flooring, which gives you a similar look at the fraction of the cost.

Exterior (Average ROI: 85%-100%)

When potential buyers pull up to your property and notice overgrown grass, poor landscaping, and a neglected walkway, that doesn’t give them the best first impression. The opportunity that curb appeal presents for your home is substantial. This includes everything from your front door to your roof to your garage door, which, let’s face it, could always use a fresh coat of paint.

DIY tip: Put out seasonal doormats, decorate your front door, and power wash the walkway.

Kitchen (Average ROI: 80%-98%)

There’s a reason many consider the kitchen to be the heart of the home—it’s the room where the most time is spent. People walk in and immediately look to the kitchen to make a quick judgment. If your microwave, stove, dishwasher, countertop, or any other commonly used appliance is over ten years old, it may be time to start thinking of updating.

Making improvements to your home can be quite the commitment, but it’s important if you want to Improve your home’s value on the market.