A DIY Guide to Spring Cleaning

An annual spring clean will no doubt your home feeling refreshed.

Spring cleaning. It’s the ultimate household chore that is so daunting to begin, but so rewarding once it’s done. Knowing where to start and how best to maximize your time is half the battle. Luckily there are several ways to put your energies in the right direction to be super efficient with this year’s spring clean.

Try two types of cleaning on doormats

Use a garden hose to clean your outdoor mat and then leave it out to air dry. As for your mat on the inside of your front door, make sure to vacuum it on both sides. By vaccuming the back, you will push any trapped dirt onto the floor. This will make it easier to pick up and leave the mat itself nice and clean.

Refresh your bed

Giving your mattress a good clean will no doubt freshen up your bed. Use the upholstery tool on your vacuum to get into the nooks and crannies. Once that’s done, clean any noticeable stains with upholstery cleaner. When it’s dry again, use a disinfectant spray to sanitize the mattress.

Next, give your pillows and comforter a wash to make sure every part of your bed gets a spring clean. Just make sure to check the labels and see if they are machine washable.

Unclog your shower drain

It’s not the nicest spring cleaning task, but so necessary to make your shower clean. Start by getting rid of anything that’s in your shower drain. Then, make this solution to help water flow through your drain more easily. Just combine half a cup of baking soda with a quarter cup of table salt. Pour this down the drain and then pour down a cup of warm vinegar. Let it be for about fifteen minutes, and then run hot tap water down the train for at least thirty seconds.

Spring clean your windows

It’s best to clean your windows on a cloudy or overcast day. You will get a better idea of how much dirt you need to tackle. Not only that, but direct sunlight on your windows while you’re cleaning may dry up your cleanser faster than you can clean it. This can leave streaks – the opposite of what you’re going for during your spring cleaning.

 To get the best shot at getting rid of dirt, tackle your windows on a cloudy day when you do your big spring clean

Get rid of clutter

This can be done year round and certainly isn’t limited to your big spring clean, especially if you have ever thought of selling your home. Regardless, it always makes sense to include de-cluttering on your spring cleaning “To Do” list.

Things like magazines, extra hangers and old or unused make up are some of the first things that make the cut to get rid of. Extra dishes that you never use will create more space in your kitchen cabinets if they’re gone. And not everything has to go in the garbage either. It’s worth checking out what you can sell online or give to a second hand store before you head straight for the bin.

Scrub the grime out of your grout

Cleaning the stains between tiles will leave a bathroom looking refreshed. There is an easy way you can DIY this spring cleaning task. Mix ¾ cups bleach with a gallon of water. Then, put on rubber gloves and eye protection. Now, use a stiff brush to put the mixture on one small area after another. You will need to let the mixture stay on the tile for a few minutes before you give it a scrub and a rinse.

Get stains out of kitchen cutting boards

This may be one of the easiest spring cleaning DIYs yet. Cut a lemon in half and run it over cutting boards to get rid of food stains and any lingering smells. Putting a bit of salt or baking soda on first will give this trick a little boost.

Prepare your patio

Summer is on its way which hopefully means spending more time outdoors. Factor this into your spring cleaning by getting your patio furniture ready. Clean it by using a small amount of dish soap in a bowl of warm water. Once you’ve given everything a good scrub, wash it down with your garden hose and let it air dry.

Give your dishwasher a different kind of task

It’s not just dishes that can be cleaned in a dishwasher. Save yourself time and energy by letting the dishwasher help you with your spring cleaning. Load it up with things like plastic toys. bathroom cups and toothbrush holders so it can clean those things while you focus on something else.

Dishwashers and appliances are important to consider when prioritizing the tasks of your spring clean

Give your dishwasher a spring clean, too

Once your dishwasher has taken some spring cleaning off your plate, it wouldn’t hurt to give it a clean too. First, remove bits of food from the filter at the bottom. Next, take the filter and wash it under hot water. Then, run a normal cycle using any kind of dishwasher cleaner.

Clean out your fridge

It’s one thing to give the shelves in your fridge a quick wipe every now and then. When you’re spring cleaning though, it is worth taking this a step further. Take out the door shelves and vegetable bins. Wash everything with warm water and soap.

Not only will it leave the inside of your fridge looking great, it also gets rid of food bacteria.

Make your microwave shine

On the inside that is. It’s easy for a microwave’s interior to get covered with splotches of food. But there are also DIY ways you can get rid of the mess quickly. You will need a 4 cup bowl that is microwave safe. Add a cup of water and a chopped up lemon or a few tablespoons of vinegar. Next, put the bowl in the microwave and turn it on high for a few minutes. You want the water to boil and the window to be steamy. Once done, let the bowl sit and cool for about 15 minutes before you open the microwave door. After that, take the bowl out and it should be easy to wipe out the inside (and outside) of the microwave with a sponge.

There are countless ways to DIY your way to an effective spring clean. Prioritize the spaces in your house that you feel need the most attention, and start from there. These tasks can be broken up over the course of a few days. By tackling a few things a day for a week, you will have your house feeling and looking refreshed.

Cheap DIY Backyard Ideas to Refresh Your Outdoor Space

There are dozens of cheap ways to refresh your backyard with DIY projects.

There are endless possibilities when it comes to cheap DIY backyard ideas. Refreshing your outdoor space doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg. And the best part is, there are countless things that you can do by yourself, without getting into any sort of renovation.

It’s amazing what a few simple touches can add to your outdoor space. With a few weeks of summer still to go, now’s the time to try doing something new with your backyard.

Cheap DIY backyard ideas range from gardening to aesthetics to toys for the kids. Here are 30 to get you started:

1. Paint a few concrete squares

Sounds simple enough, right? It is. If you have concrete squares that make up part of your backyard, consider applying some latex floor paint onto a few select ones. These accents will brighten up the area, especially if you select colors that pop.

To make sure the color lasts, consider starting with primer. Then, paint multiple coats, allowing for time to dry between each. Finally, finish the tiles by using a concrete protective sealer.

2. Create pillows out of grocery bags

This is a great DIY idea for the backyard, with the added benefit of being able to recycle used grocery bags. Simply create a “bag of bags” as your pillow filling. Lay each individual bag flat, and roll it up loosely before placing it in the main bag. This will make your final product less lumpy.

Continue to stuff the bag until you get the density of pillow that you prefer. Then, once finished, simply use two tea towels and staple them together to create your pillow case.

Pillows not only add some color to your outdoor furniture, they also provide a bit more comfort as well.

3. Make a cinderblock couch

Using cinderblocks and long pieces of wood, you can make an outdoor couch. You will need 12 cinderblocks in total to be able to have 6 for each side. Make sure that the ground you are working on is completely level before you begin. If it’s not, consider relocating the couch.

First, set up your cinderblocks. On each side of your couch, you’ll want 4 cinderblocks standing vertically, and 2 placed on top, horizontally.

Next you will need to use your 4 pieces of 4” x 4” x 10 foot lumber. Feed each piece through the cinderblocks on either side. Make sure that there is at least 6 inches of wood sticking out on either end.

Make sure the placement and size of the couch looks good to you, then temporarily remove the beams. Use concrete adhesive to seal the cinderblocks. Once dry, put the beams back in. Decorate your new cinderblock couch with pillows and enjoy.

4. Add a cinderblock coffee table

If you have cinderblocks left to spare, you can paint and arrange them into an outdoor coffee table, similar to the way in which you would make the sides of the cinderblock couch.

5. Use a mailbox for storing outdoor tools

Not only is this one of the easiest cheap DIY ideas for your backyard, it’s fast to install. Simply purchase a mailbox with a lid from any hardware store. Then, install it on the fence near where you do your gardening or other yard work. A simple storage solution also tides up tools in your backyard.

6. Make colorful planters out of recycled tires

Using a few recycled tires is one way to make planters for your garden. You can spray paint them to add some color first. Place wooden slats in the bottom of each tire for support. Then, line the bottom with a burlap bag. Next, fill your tires with soil and plant seeds as you would normally do.

Old tires are the start of an easy and cost effective backyard DIY

7. Turn a large metal bucket into a coffee table

A metal bucket that’s approximately 3 feet wide can be the base of a coffee table. Use ¼ inch plywood as your base for attaching 2×6 boards. Next you’ll need to draw a circle and cut your plywood accordingly. You can add some stain on the top once the wood is attached.

8. Use concrete crack filler to stop weeds from sprouting up in your pathway

This is as easy and efficient as cheap DIY backyard ideas come. Simply apply concrete crack filler to the gaps in your walkway to create a smooth, even path with no more weeds.

9. Make a tool hanger out of an old rake

If you’ve got a green thumb, chances are you have lots of tools kicking around in your backyard too. An old rake fastened to fence or wall of the garage can make the difference between a mess and good organization.

Simply secure the rake in place, and use each piece as a separate hanging space for each of your individual tools.

10. Use an Ikea curtain system for optional shade

Ever wondered how to make a shady spot in your backyard without an umbrella? You can find all that you need at Ikea to make an horizontal curtain system.

A combination of the Swedish home outfitter’s Dyning Canopy, Dignitet curtain wire and Syrlig curtain rings are just the ticket. Install the curtain wire above the length of the space you wish to create optional shade, and simply add the curtains. You can pull them open or closed as you see fit. The best part is, unlike an umbrella, this DIY idea takes up no space on the ground itself.

11. Make a swing out of a skateboard for the kids

An old skateboard can easily double as the seat of a swing. After finding a suitable location (and a tree with a sturdy branch), remove the wheels from the skateboard. Sand it and paint it however you wish, then drill holes in the skateboard on either side. You will then use these holes to thread the rope through. Fasten it securely to the sturdy branch, and prepare for hours of fun for kids (and grown-ups) alike.

12. Use mirrors to make your backyard space look bigger

Just like with the inside of your house, a mirror tosses light and creates the illusion of space. Consider adding a mirror to your backyard to create the effect of a seemingly endless garden. If you are able to get an old wooden window frame from a flea market or antiques store, this could work as a creative border to a mirror that you could hang on the side of your house or a backyard fence.

13. Collect pinecones and use them as bedding for your garden

Cover the soil surrounding your plants with pinecones. They look nice, and also have the added benefit of keeping pets or another animals out of your garden.

14. Spray paint pebbles with glow-in-the-dark paint, and create a path for night time

Line the cracks in your walkway with pebbles that you’ve spray painted with glow in the dark paint. Night owls in particular may favor this of all the cheap DYI backyard ideas. Once the sun goes down, you’ll have a unique and visible walkway throughout your yard.

15. Cover your trampoline springs with pieces of pool noodles

It’s not only an extra safety precaution, it also looks cool. Take pool noodles of several different colours and slice them into pieces long enough to cover the springs in a trampoline. Place them on at random to create a rainbow effect that will also be handy in the event of an accidental tumble.

16. Create stepping stones using rubber door mat moulds

Rubber door mats come in all kinds of patterns and textures. If you’re planning to create some stepping stones for your backyard, why not use a rubber mat as a mould?

You can start by purchasing a stepping stone kit. Then, once in the process of working with the wet concrete, apply your rubber mat. You will need to be careful to gently pry the mat out of the wet concrete. Your stones will then need some time to dry.

Once done, a beautiful set of patterned stones will be the result of this budget friendly backyard DIY project.

Rubber mats have unique design and textures perfect for backyard DIY

17. Make a fence shelf (or side table)

Attaching a shelf or side table to your fence gives you more room to put stuff down in the backyard, and can be tucked away easily when not in use.

You’ll need one 8 foot 2×2 board, four 6 foot 5×8 pine dog ear picket boards, two 4” heavy duty tee hinges, and a box of 1 ¼ inch screws. When it comes to tools, you’ll need the following:

  • Sander
  • Level
  • Drill
  • Tape measure
  • Circular saw or hand saw
  • Speed square
  • Pencil

The first step involves cutting your boards to 48 inches. Then, cut the remaining part of the board so that it will fit underneath the 48” pieces. After you line them up, you can screw everything together. Once you have one solid piece, you can attach it to the fence with the tee hinges.

You can add scrap of wood to the underside of the table to hold the detachable legs stable at the top. Then, you will need to custom fit the legs of your table according to your fence. After you’re done doing that, you can sand it down and have a fence table that can pop up whenever you need it.

18. Sew pillows together to create a giant pillow quilt

If you have old pillows that no longer have a use indoors, think twice before you toss them. Sewing multiple pillows together into a large rectangle or square will make a comfy outdoor picnic blanket. It’s also perfect for kids’ sleepovers, outdoor movie viewings, and just spending time outside with a good book.

19. Make a giant outdoor movie screen for the backyard (the best of all cheap DIY backyard ideas for film buffs) 

You will need a projector to complete this DIY project for your backyard, but making the screen itself is both cost efficient and worth it for all the outdoor movie-watching fun that will result.

You’ll need a few things before you get started:

Once you’ve gathered your supplies together, you can begin. First, you will want hang your curtain wire between two trees or posts. You may want to consider using exterior screws that are 3” long for this part.

The next step is building the frame. This can be adjusted or customized depending on the viewing ratio that you prefer. Then, once you have created the frame out of your boards, you will need to staple the screen to the frame. First, make sure the fabric is centered and apply a few staples to the top and bottom, then the sides. Pull the fabric and staple your way to the corners, being careful to stretch out any wrinkles so as to create a smooth and tight screen surface.

Finally, hang up your screen. Add three hook screws to the top of the frame, and then hang the frame on the wire. You can add an extra step to stop the screen from moving too much in the wind by fastening bungee cords between the posts or trees, and the screen’s bottom corners.

20. Plant mini gardens inside steel pipe edging

Using the interior of steel pipe edging, add soil and seeds to plant a tiny garden. Try lining up multiple pipes with mini gardens inside along your path or walkway for another cheap backyard DIY.

21. Go big with long grass in galvanized tubs

The opposite of the mini garden, another cheap backyard DIY involves using galvanized tubs and planting tall grass in them. You can use a series of these to create partitions, or for extra privacy in your backyard. If mosquitoes are a problem in your area, consider planting lemon grass. The scent of lemon is a natural mosquito repellent.

22. Use upside down wine bottles to create garden edging

It’s as simple as planting a wine bottle upside down in your garden. Bottles will create a garden edge that is both effective and visually interesting.

23. Make a table that doubles as a storage container out of a terracotta pot and tray

All you need is a large terracotta pot, a terracotta tray that can sit on top as a lid, and outdoor paint that will weather well. You will want to make sure that the pot is large enough to sit at a good height for a coffee table or side table. You also want to ensure that the tray fits over the top of the pot without sinking in.

To add some color, apply tape around the outside of the pot’s rim, and paint this and the edge of the tray in a color of your choice. You may want to consider doing a few coats. Make sure to allow for plenty of time to dry between each coat. Once done, you’ll have a small table with the added benefit of storage. This cheap backyard DIY is especially great for a smaller outdoor space.

24. Try some DIY landscaping by making a buried pot garden.

It’s exactly what it sounds like. Try a “sunken garden” effect by burning a few terracotta pots in your garden so that only the rims are visible. Then, plant flowers or other plants in them as you would normally.

25. Apply stone or tile to the siding of your home’s foundation

Wherever siding is visible, try adding some stone or tile to refresh the appearance.

26. Paint some stones for your rock garden

Give a rock garden a ‘pop’ of color by painting a few stones with whatever pattern or design you like. It’s a great DIY summer project for kids and will result in a personalized touch for your backyard.

Get the kids involved in this budget friendly backyard DIY

27. Make a new tool for planting seeds more easily with wine corks

Your gardening is sure to be easier (and more even) with this cheap backyard DIY for seed planting. Start by taking a 2” wide piece of plywood, and cutting it into 2”x2”. You will then need to measure it into 2” grids.

At each 2” mark, apply a ¾” wood screw. Then, screw a wine cork in, after cutting them into 1” in length each. You can use a regular box cutter to cut the corks to the right size. You can also add a small amount of liquid nail at the base of each screw to ensure that the corks will remain firmly in place.

When you go to plant your seeds, use this new tool by firmly pressing it into the soil. You’ll have created a grid of 1” holes in one simple step.

28. Edge your garden with stone bricks or cement tiles to maximize your lawn mowing

By using stone bricks or cement tiles, you can create a distinct boundary between the end of your lawn and the beginning of your garden. This is a great way ensure you can mow as much of the lawn as possible without getting into the plants. At the same time, it will also keep soil and mulch contained within your garden.

29. Plant a multi-level herb garden with window boxes and stair risers

You can make a multi-level garden for your herbs with just a few window boxes and a stair riser. Simply place a window box on each level of the stairs, and let stand in a sunny corner of your backyard.

30. Create a foot-rinsing station out of a waterproof frame and flat stones

Ever wanted a simple solution to dirty feet coming into the house all summer long? A waterproof frame and some flat stones are your solution. Simply fill the frame with stones and set it up outside near your garden hose. Not only is it visually attractive (it will look like a mini rock garden), it will also serve as an effective foot washing station.

Maximize Your Sales Price Using Feng Shui to Sell Your Home

Stage your home for sale by implementing feng shui

Many people are somewhat familiar with the ancient practice of making a space more harmonious, but there are many ways to use feng shui to sell your home. Feng shui, as well as vastu shastra, both focus on the importance of creating a balanced, tranquil home environment.

When it comes to staging any home as a seller, an important thing to remember is that you want your prospective buyer to envision themselves living in your space.

If your buyer is someone who practices feng shui or vastu shastra, having a space that caters to these systems can be beneficial. For instance, what if you buyer was torn between putting an offer in at two different places they viewed? Chances are, if they are followers of either feng shui or vastru shastra, they will prefer a home that appears to be set up according to these principles. They will likely be more able to envision themselves in that space.

From this, you’ll have created an emotional attachment with the buyer, and therefore will be more likely able to increase your final sales price.

But first, let’s start from the beginning.

What is feng shui?

Feng shui is the Chinese philosophical system of harmonizing everyone within the surrounding environment. In English, it literally translates to ‘wind-water’, and has close ties to Taosim.

Feng shui looks at architecture in a metaphoric lens, wherein invisible forces bind the universe, earth and humanity. This is known as qi. Feng shui incorporates five elements, which are fire, water, earth, wood and metal.

In the past, feng shui was used to orient buildings of spiritual importance, like tombs. But it has since evolved to being practiced in many different buildings, including in houses.

Finding out whether a building has good feng shui essentially involves testing the architecture or set up using a collection of metaphors. The test may be static, or some kind of  stimulation.

For example, a test might involve moving an imaginary person or creature like a dragon through a floor plan to uncover tight turns and tiny spaces before a building is actually built.

Similarly, when thinking about feng shui to sell your home, it’s important to make sure that a buyer can easily pass through an area. You will want to create easily followable, open pathways and make sure you don’t make buyers feel claustrophobic.

What does feng shui look like in a home?

If you’re thinking of using feng shui to sell your home, you may find that some of your property’s features are hard or impossible to change. One example is a staircase that directly faces the front door. While this is considered bad luck according feng shui, it is something that homeowners can do little about without undergoing a major renovation.

Despite this, there are ways to add feng shui to your home without having to undergo changes to the overall structure of your house.

Sell your home for the highest price at only a 4% real estate commission

How to get started with feng shui when selling your home

First, you will need to look around your home and figure out which rooms need feng shui the most. It’s tempting to focus on an already ‘good looking’ areas that you spend the most time in, such as the kitchen or living room, and ignore somewhere that might be a lot of work, like the laundry room or garage. But really, you should be focusing on the latter, especially when considering feng shui to sell your home.

Why? According to feng shui, the house is one entity, and it’s all about energy. One area that is neglected can eventually spread negative energy throughout the rest of the house.

Start with the main entry

When you’re getting ready for your first open house or viewing, make sure that your front door is the main point of entry. According to feng shui, the front door is how qi comes into the house. Although many houses are designed so that people can go in directly from the garage, one good feng shui tip is to make a habit of coming and going through your front door – something to keep in mind when inviting viewers to see your place.

Create a ‘landing’ place  that is noticeable as soon as people walk in your front door. This could be a table with a nice lamp on it. A beautiful rug will also do the trick.

Place some type of fountain near your entry way to represent the element of water. It can be right inside or outside, so long as the water itself is flowing toward the entry to your home. The idea here is that wealth will be able to flow into your life, and will give prospective buyers a sense of how they can do something similar when they move in.

Little details matter

Making buyers feel like they belong in your home from the minute they arrive is important. Make sure that when they arrive in the next space of your house, the furniture is arranged so the backs are not toward the person entering the room. Instead, you want to create a space that is visually inviting.

Make sure to fix any squeaking hinges on your entry door. This sound is something you will hear at the beginning and end of each day, and your buyer, when coming to visit, will notice too. Since the entry way is such an important aspect of the practice, it makes sense to focus on every little detail if you are implementing feng shui to sell your home.

Staging a bedroom for good feng shui to sell your home

The location of the bed in the bedroom is important. The ideal situation is to be facing your door, but not in line with the door, while lying in bed. (Having the bed at a diagonal to the door would be best, but it’s not always feasible). So, to address this, simply find a mirror and adjust it so that it is possible to see the front door from the bed. Free-standing mirrors are useful for this because they are easy to move around. This way, when staging your home, a potential buyer can clearly see how they too could set up the same bedroom for good feng shui.

If there’s a TV in the bedroom, cover it. You want the bedroom to exude a space of quiet and calm. It’s a reality now that many people do have TVs in their bedrooms. If you can’t get rid of your TV before putting your house on the market, cover it with a pretty piece of fabric. Make sure that any images on the walls are calm and soothing, like landscapes. As with any home staging, no family photos or personal objects should be on display when preparing to sell your home.

Feng shui in the kitchen

Check out your kitchen cabinets. It’s not ideal for feng shui to have space between the top of your cabinets and your ceiling. This is because this space collects dust, which can attract negative energy.  If you do have space, adding plants on top of your kitchen cabinets will help bring good feng shui.

What about other rooms in the house?

In the bathroom, try to have multiple sources of lighting, and mirrors. Keep the room warm.

Keep the bathroom door shut and toilet seat covered. Most real estate agents will tell you to make sure your toilet seat is closed before a viewing any way. So, what does this have to do with feng shui? It all goes back to the five elements. The bathroom is water’s way out of the house, and water is connected to wealth.

If you have a home office, it should ideally be as far away from your bedroom as possible. The design or decor should encompass the ideas of success, well-being and productivity. Make sure that you are mindful of the quality of air and light that come into the office as well. This is something prospective buyers who adhere to feng shui are likely to notice when looking at real estate.

One final but important tip if you are staging and using feng shui to sell your home: clean your windows. They represent the eyes to the world, and you want them to be as clean as possible in order to show your seller that they will be able to see and experience everything.

What is Vastu Shastra?

Vastu shastra is a practice from ancient India that involves finding harmony and prosperous living.  It focuses on eliminating negative energies and enhancing positive energies around us. Many people of Indian and Hindu descent still practice it today.

The idea behind vastu shastra starts with the fact that humans spend most of their time inside, be it in their home or their office. Every environment has some kind of energy to it. People will experience both negative and positive energies in places that they visit. We are constantly surrounded by different energies 24/7.

Vastu shastra aims to make buildings more in line with nature to make people happier.

Directions are very important, and can be good or bad depending on the room or piece of furniture in it. Many vastu shastra best practices dictate rooms and large appliances to be in or face certain directions. But this can be difficult or not feasible to change when selling your home. So, what can you fix?

How to add vastu shastra to your home’s bedroom

Make sure that the bedroom is not in the South East of the house. This area is associated with fire. If this is the case for your home, there is a possible solve. Before a viewing, consider the furniture’s layout in the bedroom. Set up the bed to show that someone could potentially sleep with their head toward the south and feet toward the north. This will lessen the negative effects of the room being in the south east.

Don’t have mirrors in your bedroom, as they are associated with misunderstanding and quarrelling between couples. If you can, avoid having beds in the centre of bedrooms.

Since the South brings a deep sleep and ensures longevity, while the East brings enlightenment, the best way to position a bed in a bedroom is to have the head of the bed facing the South or East. Make sure there is no window directly behind the bed.

Vastu shastra in the rest of the house

It may be hard to alter the direction of your appliances to be completely in line with vastu shastra best practices. But there are other things you can do instead.

In the kitchen, Avoid the colour black on the walls, instead use yellow or rose. Avoid clutter, and make sure that your food, grain and utensil storage doesn’t create any mess. Ideally, store things in the southern or western side of your kitchen. The north east side is perfect for storing any type of water vessel.

In the bathroom, your walls should be light in color. Luckily, a new coat of paint before staging a home can be both budget friendly and extremely effective. It’s something that would be recommended to most sellers anyway, regardless of their practices.

In the home office, make sure the space is well lit, and ideally, with light coloured walls. Avoid clutter and ensure that there is space in the centre of the room. If you can, put bookshelves on the north, east, or north east side of the room

In the living room, paintings or pictures on the wall of waterfalls or the rising sun provide positive energy. Avoid images of animals or birds. Ideally, the colour of the walls will be yellow, white, blue or green. If possible, ensure that all furniture is square or rectangular.

Feng shui and vastu shastra in Silicon Valley

Chinese and Indian homebuyers make up a considerable portion of the real estate market in some metro areas like Silicon Valley.

When selling a home, things like the property condition and upgrades make it more attractive to potential buyers. Tie in some elements of feng shui or vastu shasta, and you have a space that appeals even more greatly to a significant percentage of people looking at homes. This, along with ensuring your home has maximum exposure on the market, will ensure that it sells for highest possible amount.

As a homeowner, you will likely work with a real estate agent. They can help you figure out how to use vastru shastra or feng shui to sell your home. They should be able to work with you to see how you can go about addressing or improving areas of your space that may not be fully in line with the principles of these ancient schools of thought.

Getting Your Home Ready to Sell

There’s a lot of work that goes into getting your home ready to sell. It’s one of if not the biggest financial transaction you’ll make in your life. You want to make sure that when you’re ready to sell your home, you have a good idea of the steps you need to take to prepare.

A Common Misunderstanding

A common misunderstanding of first time sellers is that it takes a lot of money and potential renovation to get your home ready to put on the market.  It is true to that improvements to your home can add value in the long term. If you are making major updates to your house just because you want to sell in the future, it’s important to know exactly how to prioritize. It also helps to understand what things you can skip altogether. There is no point in spending a lot of time and energy on updates that won’t bring back a return on your investment.

Less Is More

Wondering how to get a home ready to sell? In many cases, less is more. It can be overwhelming in the beginning when you start thinking about exactly how to sell your house.  But even a few minor improvements can make a big difference.

At the end of the day, you want to create excitement for your buyer when they come to view your property that results in an emotional pull toward your home. This is how you are going to be able to maximize your profit. When a potential buyer arrives for a viewing, they usually know within the first ten seconds or so whether your home interests them or not. Things that play a role in this thought process can sometimes be directly linked to the layout and furniture placement. But repairs or upgrades can be attention grabbing as well.

Getting Your Home Ready to Sell

So, as a seller, where should you begin? It may seem tempting to just dive right in and make as many updates to as many areas of your house as possible. But regardless of the property you’re selling, the most important first step remains the same, and often is not the first thing that comes to mind: start with a home inspection.

What’s Involved In a Home Inspection?

A home inspection typically takes about two to three hours to complete. A home inspector will do a very thorough assessment of the structure as well as major systems of a home. Doing a home inspection is a great way to get some tips for getting your home ready to sell. This is because in addition to the structure and major systems, it will also assess the exterior of the property and the foundation. A home inspector will take a look at the attic, the basement, the insulation and the garage if your property has one. They will also look at the electrical, plumbing and central air and heating systems.

Home inspections typically don’t evaluate pools or check for pests. But it is possible to have these evaluations done independently. In California, a termite inspection may be a good idea as well, due to the prevalence of termites in the area.

One of many important tips for getting ready to sell your home is to start with a home inspection

 Why Get A Home Inspection?

There are two main reasons why it’s important to get a home inspection when getting ready to sell a home. First and foremost, getting a home inspection done will allow you to prioritize your updates. A home inspection can pinpoint specific areas that are the most in need of repair. This allows you to make sure you’re using your time and money exactly where it’s most necessary.

Secondly, a home inspection before selling will allow you to provide more information to potential buyers before they even make an offer. This means that they in turn can make a more informed decision on their offer price. On the other hand, with no home inspection having been completed before the property goes on the market, buyers will be more likely to include related contingencies in their offer. This may mean that they might not offer as high of a price in the first place.

Smoke Alarms And Carbon Monoxide Detectors

Your smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detector will almost certainly come up in the process of any home inspection. The laws around smoke alarms vary by state. Carbon monoxide detectors are mandatory by law in 26 states across the country.

When the home inspection is complete, you’ll be able to make any necessary repairs. After this, there are still some other minor updates that can help you generate the best possible sales price for your property.

But before you get started remember this: the trick when figuring out how to get your home ready to sell is to keep it subtle.

If you are trying to figure out the best way to get your home ready to sell, working with an experienced Realtor® can be advantageous. They will be able to assist with pricing and creating a marketing plan for your property. They will also be able to give a professional opinion on what updates would be the most worthwhile.

Sell your home for the highest price at only a 4% real estate commission

Focus On Replacements

Focus your attention on making replacements to anything that looks outdated, like windows and doors. This is a much better use of your time and money than an upscale addition or pricey renovation. When it comes to single-paned windows, it’s a good idea to get replacements. Replacing these will signal that your home has been well maintained.

Two of the most important areas of the home to prospective buyers are the kitchen and the bathrooms. But of the two, updates to a kitchen tend to get a better return on investment. So if you have to choose, it’s a safe bet to assume that energy directed toward the kitchen will turn out to be the most rewarding when you sell. Worthwhile fixes that you can make to your kitchen include tasks such as updating cabinets.

A Splash Of (Neutral) Color

Some of the updates that can have the biggest return on your investment when you get your home ready to sell may not be the most obvious. Instead of immediately going for the power tools, consider picking up a paint brush. A new coat of neutral colored paint can do wonders to refresh your space. Painting a room white is not only neutral, but will have the additional effect of allowing it to look open and airy.

Two other relatively low cost upgrades that tend to generate the greatest return are insulating the attic and replacing the entry door. Again, these are things that may not be seemingly obvious. From a buyer’s perspective, both are things that will be nice to have in good shape when they get their new home. It’s one less thing for them to think about as a new homeowner.

Once you’ve given your place a new paint job and are done updating the attic and entry door, what’s next? It’s time to get outside.

Get Outside

Curb appeal is crucial to creating buyer demand for your property. The outside of your house is, after all, the first thing your prospective buyer will see when they visit for a viewing or open house.

A well-maintained lawn, trimmed bushes and colorful plants and flowers will all work to create a positive emotional reaction to your property from prospective buyers. A fresh coat of paint also helps just as much outside as indoors. Consider also some special touches. These could include putting up a new mailbox, or installing a new address plate or house number. Adding exterior lights to the entryway is also another option. A well-lit entrance also signifies a place of safety and a sense of security. This can be an added plus in the mind of your buyer.

Putting some attention on the exterior of your house is also worth it. There are often larger returns on these types of updates than others. Stone veneer is another great update choice for outside. It is relatively low cost, but can often look almost indistinguishable from the real thing.

What Not To Do When Getting A Home Ready To Sell

With so many potential update options to choose from, how can you avoid wasting any money or time? It’s true that most upgrades will add some kind of value to your property. But there are a few things you can avoid altogether to maximize your return.

Decks are the exception. They are almost always going to add value to your property. But most midrange and upscale additions likely aren’t worth your while if the sole purpose is for selling. (If you plan to live in your home for a few more years and could enjoy the outcome of a major renovation yourself, it’s different). But for the most part, large additions likely won’t be worth it in the long run if you’re looking to generate the most from your sale. It is true that the outside of your house is important. But fancy patios or fire pits are extras that very likely won’t bring you much bang for your buck.

Stylistic choices are another area in which to tread with caution. You should avoid spending too much time and money on a particular style in the kitchen or bathroom. Specific stylistic choices for these important areas of the home could actually turn off buyers. You also never want your home to appear overly dated. When in doubt, neutral and timeless is always the way to go.

Preparing For A Viewing

When it comes time for a viewing, make sure all your personal belongings, such as photos and souvenirs, aren’t visible. It’s important to ensure your home does not appear cluttered. But perhaps more importantly, you don’t want your home to look overly personal. Photos and mementos that are of sentimental value to you are meaningless to prospective buyers. Your goal when getting your home ready to sell is to create a space that possible buyers can picture living in. If it looks ‘lived in’ already by the time they arrive, buyers will have a much harder time imagining your home as their own.

The importance of de-cluttering doesn’t just apply to areas that are visible either. Organization of all spaces is essential, including your closets. Closets should be tidy and relatively clear so as to create the idea of lots of storage space. You want your house to look as open and neutral as possible. This is to allow a buyer to imagine what they could do with the space if they were living there.

A list of what to prioritize and what not to do when you get ready to sell your home

The Bottom Line

Major renovations or lofty home improvement projects may not be the way to go to get the best possible return on your home sale. Instead, focus on the little things. They may seem small, but they can have a big impact on your final selling price.

Ready to sell your home? A reliable Realtor ® who can provide insight on the specifics of your property can be incredibly helpful. A local expert who understands buyer demands and desires in your area will be able to help you create a strategic plan for any updates your property may need before you sell.

At SoldNest, our real estate agents work on salary as opposed to commission. This means that you will never experience a high-pressure sales pitch from us. Instead, we want to help you with each and every step of your home sale, from day one to closing day. Our goal is to provide valuable tips as you get ready to sell your home. We know it’s a challenging and sometimes stressful task. We also know that the right digital marketing and targeting can generate a much higher sales price than the standard advertising practices of most traditional real estate agents.

If you have questions about getting your home ready to sell, we can help. We’ll provide an accurate home value so you can know how much your home is really worth. By paying less for better service, you’ll be well on your way to getting your home ready to sell.

Home Maintenance Checklist Made Easy: 12 Tasks To Do Over 12 Months

Make home maintenance easy by following a regular checklist over the course of the year.

A home maintenance checklist is arguably something that not every homeowner currently has, but definitely something they should. With homeownership comes many advantages, as well as many responsibilities. Gone are the days of being able to call up a landlord to fix a leaky faucet or cracked tile. Everything to do with your home, from minor upkeep to more lengthy repairs, falls down to you and you alone.

Carrying out regular maintenance over the year will not only keep your property in good shape, but can also diminish the likelihood of costly repair work in future.

It doesn’t have to be an intimidating prospect though. Following a home maintenance checklist can be a helpful starting point, and the good news is, you don’t have to do everything all at once. Instead, break up the list over the course of a calendar year. By doing a handful of upkeep related tasks every so often, you can save yourself time and money in the long run.

Here, we break down twelve important tasks for any owner’s home maintenance checklist, as well as how regularly you should aim to do them over the course of a year.

Once a month

Check the water softener.

Water softeners remove ions that cause water to be hard, like calcium and magnesium. If your water softener isn’t correctly looked after, it won’t continue to get rid of hard water and has the potential to damage your plumbing, or create noticeable mineral deposits throughout your shower, toilet or dishes that have come out of the dishwasher.

Take a look at your water softener once a month to ensure salt levels are adequate. You most likely will not need to add salt to it every time, but a good rule of thumb is to make sure that the salt level never falls below one-third of the brine tank. If you do notice it to be low and turning into a ‘mush,’ be sure to remove the mushy salt before adding any more.

Check the fire extinguisher.

A fire extinguisher is an essential item for any household – if you don’t have one, your first step should be to purchase one for your home immediately. One of those things that you don’t need until you do, a fire extinguisher could quite literally be a lifesaver. Even if it has yet to expire, according to the National Fire Prevention Association, it’s important to check your fire extinguisher once a month.

First, make sure your fire extinguisher is easily accessible and that no other objects are in the way of potentially being able to grab it in a flash. Next, take a look at the tamper and safety seals and ensure they are undamaged. Finally, check the pressure gauge to make sure that the extinguisher has maintained the correct pressure. If there’s a test indicator, use that to ensure the pressure reading is within the correct range.

Any obvious signs of damage, like a noticeable leak or corrosion, are signs that you should purchase a new fire extinguisher.

Tackle the bathroom. 

Properly. We’re not just talking about a quick ten second wipe-down, but rather a two-fold approach. First, thoroughly clean the shower heads and faucets to remove unsightly soap scum. It builds up quickly, and only gets more difficult to remove over time.

The next task? (And probably one of the less appealing aspects of any home maintenance checklist). Unclog the drains. Remove any hair or other debris that may be clogging the drain in your shower or tub. Similar to faucets and shower heads, the longer you put off this task, the worse it gets. The good news is that once you’re done, your bathroom will look and feel significantly cleaner.

Once every three months

Replace air filters.

The smaller the family and the fewer the number of pets may mean you don’t have to replace air filters quite as often, but it is still worthwhile to give them a check at least every three months. If the filter appears dirty, it’s time for a swap. Some say that purchasing cheaper filters and replacing them more often is a better option than using expensive filters.

Do a deep clean. 

This includes everything. Give every room in the house a thorough scrub down. This includes getting rid of grime to dusting every nook and cranny. Make sure you clean out your kitchen appliances too – both inside and out.

While largely dependent on the ‘wear and tear’ your home experiences, (for instance, a home with multiple children will likely get messy more often than that of a professional couple with no kids), a regular deep clean regardless will make sure that dirt doesn’t build up over time. The end result is tangible. Once you have a sparkling-like-new space, you will thank yourself for your efforts.

Clean the carpets. 

Steam clean your carpets to get rid of both visible dirt, and what you cannot see. Mildew spores and mould can often go undetected in carpeted spaces, but can be removed with a steam cleaner, making this an important task every three months or so.

Twice a year

Vacuum fridge coils.

Cleaning the coils in your refrigerator once every six months can potentially save you from bigger repairs in future. It can also reduce your utility bill. And considering your fridge can use up to 15% of your home’s total power, that’s not insignificant. When fridge coils get dirty, the fridge itself requires more power.

The good news is that cleaning the coils is not a difficult task. Simply unplug your fridge and remove the grate that covers the coils. Then, give them a quick vacuum or wipe down, being sure to get rid of any resistant dirt.

Check your smoke alarm and carbon monoxide detector.

It’s another quick and easy addition to the home maintenance checklist that could potentially save your life. With $12 billion in personal property lost every year in house fires, as well as a total of 5,149 people losing their lives between 1999-2010 from unintentional carbon monoxide poisoning, checking smoke and carbon monoxide detectors should be a priority for every home maintenance checklist.

Most detectors will have an expiry date on the back that shows when they need to be replaced. Running a quick test at least twice a year is still a good idea. If you have done any home repairs or renovations since the last time you checked, it’s even more important to make sure the detectors are still fully functional.

Test your water heater pressure.

Not only is this task important in preventing leaks, making sure that your water heater maintains the right pressure will allow it to run more efficiently. It’s also really easy. Just raise and lower the test lever multiple times to that lifts the brass stem attached. Hot water should rush out the end of the drainpipe. If that doesn’t happen (no water or a very small amount), it means it’s time to replace the valve.

Once a year

Get outside.

While you may spend the majority of your time at home inside, it’s equally important to ensure that outdoor work is a part of your home maintenance checklist. Once year, take a look at the gutters of your home and remove any fallen leaves or other debris. Make sure as well that your roof is in good shape, and replace any shingles that may have become broken or dislodged.

If you have a deck, check to see whether it is in need of any upkeep. Always avoid putting carpets of any kind on a deck that is waterproof, as water can easily become trapped for long periods of time. If you have outdoor plants, make sure that they are placed on pot feet to allow for space between the bottom of the plant and the deck for water to drain and dry off.

Do a general maintenance check on your HVAC system.

It’s a home maintenance checklist item that’s easy to forget about or put off, since your HVAC system isn’t necessarily something visible in your home. But just like getting your car serviced regularly is critical to its longevity, so to is maintaining the HVAC system in your home. It will also prevent unexpected breakdowns and ensure that it is running at the best possible efficiency.

Draining your hot water heater is a good place to start. Then, trim shrubs that may have grown around your outdoor AC unit to ensure maximum ventilation. Make sure to clear any ducts that may have accumulated dirt. This includes the lint duct attached to the back of your dryer.

Check your electrical outlets.

Do a top to bottom sweep of all the electrical outlets in your home once a year, including ones that may not get much if any use. Test to make sure that they are all still functional.

Using a surge protection strip to plug in electronics is a good idea, but it still only offers minimal protection. While power surges as a result of a lightening strike are sometimes unpredictable, another culprit of a surge is electric rust. This refers to the gradual build up of rust as a result of smaller, less noticeable surges over time. Investing in home surge protection is a worthwhile idea. The cost can easily come in significantly lower than cost associated with damage from a significant electrical surge.

Crossing items off the home maintenance checklist

The first thing that often comes to mind with home ownership is the financial responsibility it entails. Should the time ever come when you are thinking of selling your home, SoldNest can help. We make sure that you net more from the sale by charging just a 1.5% listing fee and preparing a customized marketing plan tailored to your property that will generate a higher interest from home buyers.

But in addition to financials, understanding the ins and outs of maintaining a property is important for every homeowner. Use this home maintenance checklist that breaks up important tasks over the course of a year to make it easy. It will ensure that your home is in top condition and ultimately save you time and money in long run.

How to Increase the Value of Your Home Without Renovating

Home upgrades like refreshing a kitchen possible even on a low budget

Low budget home upgrades allow you to refresh your home while saving on the cost of a major renovation. And a cost effective refresh may just be the answer to selling a home that resonates with today’s largest property buying demographic.

According to a 2016 study by the National Association of Realtors, people born between 1980 and 2000 make up the largest portion of the buyer market at 35%. Unlike generations before, which may have been more inclined to purchase a home that requires some additional work, most millennials are in search of turnkey homes that are move in ready and don’t require any renovations.

Even going through your house and doing a deep clean or applying new paint can be a great starting point, but of all the places to consider for a refresh or some low budget home upgrades, the most important rooms of a house to a buyer are the kitchen and the master bathroom. Since these are the two rooms in a house that are the most expensive to renovate, it’s critical, especially to millennials, that these spaces are the most up to date.

Here, we break down the top five most important aspects of a house when it comes to potential buyers, with tips and advice on how you can refresh these spaces in your home without the hassle or cost of a renovation:

#1: The Kitchen

Why it’s important
The room with the most appliances in one place is one that demands functionality. It’s also often the focal point for social gatherings. It makes sense that a kitchen can make or break a home in the mind of a prospective buyer.

What you can do without renovating
Findings from Bankrate.com indicate that open floor plans are at the top of the wish list for potential buyers. But you don’t necessarily have to start knocking down walls to make your kitchen feel more spacious.

To start, try getting rid of any bulky furniture and finding symmetrical pieces. (For example, two chairs at a breakfast bar). Clear your countertops of clunky kitchenware as much as possible. Perhaps add a mirror on the wall to toss light around the room and provide the illusion of space.

There are many ways that low budget upgrades can spruce up your kitchen. Another easy refresh starts by taking a look at your cabinets. Switching up knobs on cupboards or doors can do wonders for making the space feel new.

Try adding tile stickers to accent a tile or two on your backsplash to refresh your walls without having to retile.

#2: The Bathroom

Why it’s important
Like the kitchen, the bathroom is one of the trickiest and most costly rooms for renovations in any home. Despite often being one of the smallest, it’s also one of the most essential. The bathroom is a room that buyers will almost certainly scrutinize when viewing a property.

What you can do without renovating
Before anything else, clean. It sounds simple, but it also may be the most practical of all low budget home upgrades. Giving your bathroom a good scrub down alone can make it feel like a new space. In addition to the appliances and fixtures, cleaning grout between the tiles of your bathroom will make it shine.

But aside from putting in some elbow grease, what else can be done? First, try stepping back and assessing what items appear to be the most out of date. Maybe you haven’t replaced your shower curtain in ages. Maybe the light fixtures look a bit tired. Between these things and other aspects like cabinets, faucets and the vanity, figure out the top two things that look like they need updating the most, and then focus on those. Even refreshing just one or two features will make a difference to the overall feel of your bathroom.

Like other rooms in the house, a new coat of paint is also a great option to make the bathroom feel new again. Alternatively, replace the shower head with a spa-like rain shower. These are easy to install and available at most hardware stores. Not only will you be able to enjoy it yourself, it will also be a bathroom feature to highlight to future buyers down the road.

#3: The Bedroom

Why it’s important
While it may not hold the same level of priority as the kitchen or bathroom, the average person spends one third of their life asleep. It only makes sense that a nice bedroom is important to many homeowners. As a place associated with rest and relaxation, it’s a space that should not only be functional, but calming too.

What you can do without renovating
Similar to a fresh coat of paint, updating the lighting in a room is one easy way renew the space. Try new bedside lamps to give your room a newly refreshed yet cozy vibe. Alternatively, take a look at the overhead lighting and consider replacing light fixtures. Many options are available that don’t necessarily require the work of an electrician.

If a new paint job doesn’t sound appealing, try removable wallpaper instead. Countless patterns and colors are available and are relatively easy to install. This is one of those low budget home upgrades that can make your room look as if it was decorated professionally. The best part is that if you decide you don’t like it, you can take it down just as easily as you put it up. (Just make sure that you purchase the right kind from the get go).

Beyond the walls, patterns in other parts of a room will draw the eye and set the tone for a space. Try adding throw pillows with new patterns that differ in scale. This range will make each pattern stand out.

If you have bookcases or a shelf in your bedroom, try stacking books to complement the room’s overall color scheme. Placing framed photographs or small pieces of pottery on shelves are another quick and easy way to create focal points within the space. It’s one of the more cost effective of the low budget home upgrades.

Another all too often overlooked feature of a room when considering an upgrade is its windows. But curtains and blinds arguably make up a huge component of a room’s overall décor. Consider updating the window treatments in your bedroom, maybe new patterns, new colors, or a new type of treatment altogether. You may be surprised to find out how much of a difference it makes.

#4: Flooring

Why it’s important
While not confined to one particular part of a house, floors are another feature that buyers will notice when viewing a home. They’re also an aspect that can require extremely costly renovations to replace completely. As a piece that ties a room together, updated flooring can refresh any part of a house.

What you can do without renovating
Tearing up your floor and laying down hardwood is both timely and expensive. But according to the National Association of Realtors, 54% of homebuyers are willing to pay more for a home with hardwood floors. Luckily, there is one option that can give your floor a hardwood refresh without the reno. Swiss interior design company Ruckstuhl has created Legno-Legno. It’s a carpet made out of real wood, but that rolls up just like a typical rug. Available in multiple colors, it is possible to get the hardwood floor look in your home without being drawn into a costly renovation.

But leaving hardwood aside, even a regular rug is one of several options for low budget home upgrades when it comes to your floor space. Investing in a quality rug that will stand the test of time is always going to be more cost effective than renovating.

To refresh a larger amount of floor space quickly, carpet tiles are an easy way to completely change the floor of room. Both readily available and easy to install.

#5: Outdoor Landscaping

Why it’s important
Curb appeal has the potential to make or break a sale. So much focus goes toward the interior of a home, but there is no denying that the front of your house is very first thing any visitor or prospective buyer will notice before they even set foot on the property. If it doesn’t look attractive, this can potentially set the tone for their overall impression of your home.

What you can do without renovating
Like with other spaces of the house, cleaning and tidying your outdoor space in itself is important. While landscaping is usually costly, it is also possible to do a few things on your own, even if gardening isn’t your favorite hobby.

Start by asking at your local greenhouse and get the opinion of someone who works there. They may have advice on what you can do with plants they have in stock that you would not have thought of on your own. Then, begin the process slowly with just a couple of shrubs of flowers. Make sure to layer the heights of plants, keeping the tallest ones in the back. Plants you purchase should come with instructions that include space requirements and the estimated height when fully grown. This way, you can get a rough sense of how tall they will be in your front yard.

Low budget home upgrades: The cost effective solution to renovating

If a renovation isn’t part of your plans for a while, you don’t need to forgo a refresh to your home entirely. Even just a few of these low budget home upgrades can make your space feel brand new. Best of all, you can most likely do them on your own.

Top 10 Ways To Prepare Your Home for a Safe and Spooky Halloween

Prepare for Halloween with these easy tips to make your home safe

It may have been a while since you found yourself agonizing endlessly over your costume possibilities or strategizing how to bring home the maximum amount of candy after trick-or-treating. But as a homeowner, there are several things that can be done to prepare your home for a safe Halloween this year.

And if you live in San Jose, you have all the more reason to get the house ready. According to Zillow’s 2016 trick-or-treat index, San Jose takes second place in the top 20 cities to go trick-or-treating in the United States. The cities on this list are those that require the least amount of walking between each house, the most kids under the age of ten, and the fewest safety risks based on a lower crime rate. San Jose has consistently hit one of the top places in the trick-or-treat index for the past few years.

Prepare Your Home for a Safe Halloween

So, what can you do to make sure that your home is Halloween ready? Carving pumpkins is one thing. But it’s also critical to ensure that your house is safe for all trick-or-treaters and their parents. Here are the top ten things you can do to make sure your home is ready for All Hallows’ Eve:

#1: Make your decorations scary, not your staircase.

Ever thought about fixing a loose step on your porch? How about fastening down a wobbly railing? If you’ve been putting it off, now is the time to get on it. Kids and adults alike will be making use of your outside staircases and railings. The first step to prepare your home for a safe Halloween is to make sure any stairs and handrails are firmly secure. Not only are you well equipped to handle a large volume of trick-or-treaters, but you and any future houseguests will be able to benefit from your efforts for the rest of the year.

#2: Clear your walkways.

Minimize the risk of accidents by making sure your walkways are clear. Things like garden hoses, sprinklers and other loose objects like pet toys or children’s toys should all be put away. Make sure there is no loose gravel on walkways or moss on steps or paths. Kids often have costumes that can sometimes obstruct visibility, and will be running around in the dark. The more you can eliminate any potential tripping hazards, the better. If your lawn has an irrigation system, prepare your home for a safe Halloween by ensuring to turn it off well in advance of trick-or-treater arrival. This will allow the front yard to have a chance to dry.

#3: Clear your (other) walkways.

Equally as important as clearing your walkways is clearing ‘alternative’ routes to your front door. (How often do excited children stay within their boundaries?) There will likely be a few kids who stray off the main walkway to get to your front door. Do a quick check of the entire front yard. Prepare your home for a safe Halloween by getting rid of any and all tripping hazards. (whether on the main pathway or not).

#4: Make sure the only firefighters you see come bearing trick-or-treat bags.

Each year between 2011 and 2013 approximately 10,300 fires were reported to fire departments nationwide over a three-day period around Halloween. The result for homeowners was a spooky $83 million in property loss. Avoid putting up any potentially flammable decorations such as corn stalks and crepe paper. It’s also worth avoiding candles on your front porch to ensure your home does not pose as a fire hazard this Halloween. The Jack-o-lantern is an undisputed piece of iconic Halloween décor, but the good news is that you don’t have to forgo the look entirely. Battery operated candles are a great alternative. They will still allow for that glowing grin on your festive gourd, while making sure the only firefighters you see on Halloween are little ones in costume.

#5: Light up the night.

Make sure that the front of your house is well lit for all trick-or-treaters and adults. It’s an easy way to avoid preventable trips or falls. With the countless Halloween lights available, you can have a little fun decorating while you’re at it. In addition to decorations, make sure all of your exterior lights are functioning at least a week before Halloween to allow yourself time to go out and purchase any necessary replacement bulbs. Consider using floodlights to illuminate the darker corners of your yard. Even if you don’t plan to be home or participating in Halloween night, it’s a good idea to leave lights on anyway to deter potential vandals.

#6: If you have a garage, tonight’s the night to use it.

Studies suggest that criminal activity has been found to be higher than normal on three specific days of the year: New Year’s Eve, Independence Day, and…Halloween. It’s worth taking a few minutes to clear a space in your garage in order to secure your car indoors on Halloween night.

#7: Contain the loveable furry monsters.

You know that they’re perfectly friendly, but a barking dog can be a little scary for kids of any age. Prepare your home for a safe Halloween by making sure that your pets are inside the house. Not only will your trick-or-treaters and their parents appreciate it, your pet will be better off being away from constantly opening doors and multiple people coming and going in quick succession.

#8: Clear valuables away from the front porch.

Clear anything of value away from your front porch or anywhere in the front of your house. By doing so you will prepare your home for a safe Halloween and be able to focus on handing out candy rather than having to worry about your outdoor decorations.

#9: Stock up on candy.

This is a given, but an important point to remember when getting ready for Halloween. Nothing’s worse as a trick-or-treater than arriving at a house to discover they’ve run out of candy. Stocking up (and maybe even buying a little more than you think you’re going to need) is key. Try to get some peanut-free options as well so that you have something on hand for any kids who might have allergies.

#10: Put up decorations.

And now, the fun part. Decorate your house for the occasion to make sure your neighbors know that you’re participating in the festivities. In addition to carving a pumpkin, there are lots of other simple and cost effective things you can do to make your house a little spooky:

  • Add some spiders cut out of card stock to inexpensive paper lanterns to hang above your front porch.
  • Create a spider web welcome sign for your entrance. Remove the glass from a dollar store picture frame. Fasten some tacks to the back. Next, criss-cross ribbon and stretchable cotton between the tacks to create a web. Add a message with some letters cut out of cardstock.
  • Make a wreath of eyeballs by draping a black leather boa over a Christmas wreath. Adorn it with ‘eyes’ made out of ping-pong balls and the help of some colored permanent markers.
  • Put out some ‘specimen’ jars in your entrance hall. Fill mason jars with water. Then, add a couple drops of food coloring, and a creepy plastic toy such as a bug or a rat.
  • Line your staircase with creepy “candles.” Use dripping glue from a hot glue gun over top of some PVC pipe and a foam cup. Then, pop a battery operated candle inside once dry. The result will be what looks like a dripping candle. It’s made all the more spooky with a glow-in-the-dark effect if illuminated by a black light.

Enjoy the holiday by taking simple steps to prepare your home for a safe Halloween. It’s easy and worthwhile, and the little ghosts, witches and monsters of your neighborhood (as well as their parents) will greatly appreciate it.