Learn how Apartment Guide is responding to coronavirus and taking steps to help renters and property managers during this challenging time.
There has been a flood of information online about how to keep yourself safe from being exposed to or contracting novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) as it spreads across the world and the nation.
Preventing coronavirus in your apartment
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has offered a number of reference articles and official statements on how to best protect yourself and your family.
But for apartment dwellers, those with common spaces, mailbox clusters, lobbies, trash chutes and a plethora of door handles, keeping safe and practicing prevention habits is a bit more difficult. From your own personal hygiene to how to manage your apartment to what to expect from your landlord, here are all the tips, suggestions and instructions straight from the CDC just for renters and apartment tenants.
1. Wash your hands often
Wash your hands after you touch another person or a common surface. Wash your hands before and after you touch or prepare food. Wash your hands after using the restroom. Wash your hands after you cough, sneeze or blow your nose. Wash your hands when you get home from being out.
Wash by covering all surfaces of your hands and rubbing them together until they feel dry. When you wash, rub with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Experts have recommended singing “Happy Birthday” twice. If you’re tired of that, try other songs with 20-second choruses like:
“Take on Me” by A-ha
“Jolene” by Dolly Parton
“Raspberry Beret” by Prince
“Truth Hurts” by Lizzo
“Stayin’ Alive” by the Bee Gees (like that CPR scene from “The Office”)
If soap and water are not available, disinfect your hands by utilizing a 60 to 95 percent alcohol hand sanitizer and following the listed instructions.
2. Avoid close contact with people who are sick
This seems obvious. But since you never know who is sick, minimize contact in general, as well. Spread out on the bus or subway or in line. Touch elbows instead of shaking hands or fist-bumping, or politely decline to touch at all. Try to avoid touching common surfaces others touch in public places and in your apartment building or common areas as best you can. Don’t share food or drinks.
3. Avoid touching your face
No matter how hard you try, you’re going to touch unsanitary surfaces or people. To prevent infecting yourself, do your best to refrain from touching your eyes, nose or mouth, as these are the main entry points for disease.
4. Cover your mouth
If you must cough or sneeze, cover your mouth with a tissue, then throw the tissue into a trash can that has a closed cover. The same goes for blowing your nose. If you don’t have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve like you’re doing “The Dab,” not into your hands.
5. Wear a face mask
The CDC is now encouraging people to wear face masks when they go into public areas. Since everyone is home right now, you should treat all common spaces in your apartment complex as a public place. If you can’t find a face mask, consider DIYing a no-sew face mask with items you might already have in your apartment.
6. Clean and disinfect
Keep your apartment neat, clean and organized to maintain a healthy environment. Clean regularly and sanitize often using items like Lysol spray and Clorox wipes on “high touch” surfaces including countertops, tabletops, doorknobs, nightstands, bathroom fixtures, toilets, refrigerator handles, kitchen faucets, light switches, TV remotes, cell phones, computer keyboards and tablets.
7. Stock up but don’t hoard
While unlikely, it’s possible you may wind up quarantined in your apartment, or even just sick and self-quarantining. For that scenario, which shouldn’t last longer than two weeks, you should stock up (but not hoard) a few basic items:
Non-perishable items like canned meat, fish, beans, soups, broths and stews, fruits and vegetables, and canned or powdered milk
Ready to serve items like peanut butter, jelly, crackers, nuts, trail mix, dried fruits and granola bars
Baby food and pet food
Bottled water, fruit juices and fluids like Pedialyte or Gatorade
Hand sanitizer that’s minimum 60 percent alcohol, over-the-counter cold and flu medicines and any refills of prescriptions
Coronavirus protection in your apartment building or community
When you live in a public space like an apartment building or complex, protections from coronavirus become more communal. Precautions are no different than the CDC encourages you to take in your own home, but the difference is you don’t have control of everything that happens.
If you’re concerned about your management’s preparation for coronavirus prevention, sit down with your landlord or property manager and find out if they’re following CDC guidelines. Here are some suggestions for protections they can take based on CDC recommendations.
1. Make hand sanitizer available everywhere
You don’t have sinks to wash in all over your lobby or common areas, so your building should provide hand sanitizer everywhere — at the front desk, at the gym, by the mailboxes — and encourage residents, staff and visitors to use it often.
2. Clean a lot
Just like in your apartment, high-traffic surfaces in common areas should be cleaned and sanitized, and it should be repeated multiple times a day. The staff should be instructed to disinfect commonly-touched surfaces in places like the front desk, lobby restroom, mailroom, game rooms, elevators, door handles and delivery areas. All deliveries should be left in the lobby for pickup and not taken to apartments.
3. Close the garbage
All trash cans, both outdoor plastic garbage cans and lobby wastebaskets, ought to have working lids which should be kept closed. No one wants to, or should be forced to, pick up used tissues that have fallen on the ground.
4. Don’t come in if you’re sick
Apartment management should implement flexible sick leave policies and make sure all workers and staff know that their jobs are safe and they won’t be docked pay for staying home if they’re sick. Sick employees will only spread infections to residents. Ask management to ensure all contractors are following the same policies.
5. Be transparent and communicative
All employees, residents and visitors should be encouraged to alert property management if they believe they might have contracted coronavirus, especially if they have used common areas. That way, other residents and staff can be notified and take appropriate precautions.
If you’re sick or feel like you’re getting sick
Even with all of the precautions, there is still a chance you’ll contract the disease. Follow these steps the moment you begin to feel sick, even if it just feels like a cold.
1. Stay home
Unless it’s to see your doctor or go to the hospital, stay in your apartment and don’t go out. Don’t go to work, school or to public areas. Try to avoid public transportation, taxicabs or rideshares. Not only will you not infect others, the more you stay at home and rest, the faster you’ll recover. Utilize food and personal item delivery if necessary.
2. Separate yourself from others at home
As best you can, stay in a designated sick room and keep away from other people. Eat separately from others. If your apartment has more than one, designate a bathroom just for you. Avoid touching pets, as well. If you must feed or clean up after a pet, wash your hands before and after as detailed above.
3. Don’t share household or personal items
Set aside drinking glasses, plates, silverware, sheets and blankets, towels and toiletries for your use and your use only. Clean them thoroughly with soap and water after every single use.
4. Wear a face mask
While it’s only a recommendation for everyone to wear a mask, people who are already sick (or people caring for those that are) need to wear one around other people (or pets) or if they go to the doctor.
5. Cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze, wash your hands
See above for details.
6. Clean and disinfect even more
Sanitize your apartment as explained above, but do it every day.
7. Call before going to the doctor
Keep an eye on your symptoms and seek medical attention if needed. Give them a heads up before you go to allow them to take precautions to keep others visiting their office from being infected or exposed. If you suspect you only have a cold or flu, consider a virtual doctor’s visit. If you must call 9-1-1, inform them of your symptoms before they arrive, as well.
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My husband Travis and I paid off $78,000 of debt in less than two years.
We paid off $53,000 alone in ONE YEAR!
Today I’m sharing 20 ways you can change things up, save money, etc, for how to pay off student loans faster… and what I would change if I had a do-over.
How to Pay off Student Loan Debt
Let’s start with some baseline facts. Throughout our debt payoff, our combined income was roughly $88K meaning we lived off $35K and put 60% of our income towards loans.
While we put $53K toward debt the first year we only put $25 toward it the second. That’s because we also bought a house around six months before we became debt-free. It’s not the order I’d recommend doing things but we were forced out of our rental and decided we’d rather put off our debt-free scream a few months than wait another year to buy.
Now for the hard truth: It was really easy signing for these loans but it was not easy paying them off.
Over $12,000 of my personal income alone was from side jobs and I (no lie) contracted shingles early on in the process from how stressed I was about the task at hand.
What’s also true, aside from the discipline it took to turn down trips to Disney and dinners out, is that I had a great year. I had fun, went out, and we even took a vacation. Even though sometimes I felt deprived in the moment, looking back I wasn’t deprived at all. Every “no” made me a stronger person.
There are countless stories on the Internet about how people paid off massive amounts of debt in short amounts of time and they mostly say the same thing. So I wanted to give you something a little different and tell you what I think are the 20 most important things we did to tackle this big problem as quickly as possible.
1. Determine Your “Why”
This is the first and most important step we took. We decided we want to travel and buy a home big enough to foster children (one of my side jobs was at a foster group home.) Every time it got hard I reminded myself of why we’re doing this and it influenced every financial decision I made. You’re gonna need this one to succeed.
2. Have Clarity
You can’t finish a race if the route’s not laid out. The next thing we did was take inventory of our debt, savings, income, recurring bills, etc. to have a clear picture of our financial situation. Some couples don’t combine their finances, for us it was necessary to be transparent with each other since his earned income would be paying off my loans and vice versa.
3. Make a Budget
You’re gonna need a specialized budget. It’s 100% necessary to have a written budget before every month begins. We do ours in EveryDollar, it’s the easiest user interface I’ve worked with. We’ve never made a perfect budget, we’re always tweaking throughout the month but we always spend less than we bring in. We’re able to meet and exceed our loan payment every month because of the budget.
4. Change How You Shop
I traded Publix for Aldi, Target for Walmart, and the mall for Goodwill. Some changes were better than others (LOVE Aldi, hate Walmart) but it’s all for the sake of saving money.
While getting out of debt we committed to not paying full price for anything. I sit in my car or stand in line looking for coupons before I make a purchase. Here are some of the ways I save on full-priced items
Groupon and LivingSocial for deals on activities.
Shopping through Rakuten when making any purchases online will get you cash-back from virtually any retailer. (I never get a Groupon without getting Rakuten cash back!)
Use Blink to save on prescriptions.
EyeBuyDirect to save on prescription eyewear.
Energy saving methods like buying low-flow showerheads to reduce our utility bill or using wind power through Arcadia (it doesn’t save me money but it’s better for the environment!
Sites like Restaurant.com for dining deals.
ThredUp for nice secondhand clothing at steep discounts from retail.
I take advantage of free trials at gyms.
Apps like ibotta to save at grocery stores and other big box retailers.
5. Pick Up Extra Jobs
There are only so many things you can cut out of your life but there’s virtually no limit to the amount of money you can bring in. We started with hourly side jobs and since starting this blog I’ve had opportunities to freelance that have given me much more flexibility with my time.
You have to start somewhere and I am convinced bringing in extra income is the key to paying off large amounts of debt fast. If you can’t work any extra then negotiate a raise or find a higher paying job. This is that vital of a step.
I’ve laid out some 21 ways to make extra money and if you’re interested in blogging you can start here or check out my post about how to start and monetize a blog in any niche.
6. Drive Old Cars
We both drive Toyota Corollas and will drive them until we need something bigger. IMO, you don’t deserve a new car if you’re in debt, you don’t even deserve a nice used car. I don’t care how shiny it is.
You need something to get you back and forth from your 2 jobs and when you can pay cash for an upgrade then you deserve whatever you can afford.
7. Buy Used or Find Free
I don’t buy new clothes anymore and half of our furniture we got for free next to dumpsters and repainted. New doesn’t always mean better. We’ve saved a lot of money this year by not falling into that trap.
8. Meal Plan
I’m so passionate about this I wrote a book on it.
Meal planning is essential to saving money on food. I worked in restaurants during college and they did inventory every week and planned specials around it to minimize food waste and save money. So I do the same in my kitchen. I plan meals around what I have and the grocery budget has become the one section I never exceed because of it.
If you need help:
Making a simple DIY meal plan
Buying less and saving money at the grocery store
Preparing food once you plan it
And reducing the food waste in your house
Then check out my book Meal Planning on a Budget (It’s available on Amazon!)
If you’re bad at doing stuff like this or don’t have a lot of time, Cook Smarts is the meal planning I recommend. It’s the best value out there and I always say work smarter, not harder.
9. Celebrate Milestones!
Every time we pay off a loan or hit a milestone we have a little celebration. It’s usually dinner out (using Groupon or Restaurant.com) or a glass of whiskey and a movie on Netflix. If you have big loans that don’t have little milestones, make your own. $3K and $5K increments are a good start.
10. Sell Stuff
We didn’t have any big things to sell but we got a few nice appliances from our wedding so we sold the old stuff and made enough for gas for the month. We regularly sell clothes at Plato’s Closet and random stuff on OfferUp or Facebook Marketplace.
11. Find Cheap Housing
We own our house now but living in something small and cheap was clutch while we were paying off debt. You get smaller utility bills and have less room to buy “stuff” for. We live in a growing city in a pretty nice neighborhood and I’ve kept no secret that we paid $800 for a 1/1 in a duplex.
As the housing market rises so do rent prices so you have to get creative while looking. My husband went for runs in different neighborhoods and found it on one of those. It wasn’t listed. We also negotiated adding water & sewage into the rent.
12. Stop Eating Out Alone
We still eat out, even when we don’t have a gift card, but we stopped grabbing food out of laziness. I used to get tacos every Wednesday after work (not on Tuesday? Gasp.) and grits on Saturday before I went in.
For millennials, eating out is part of our culture, it unites us, but these taco and grits trips weren’t bringing me closer to anything but my fork. So now I only eat out if it’s with friends or my husband.
We had a 4 ft paper thermometer on our wall (next to our thermostat, lol) that we fill in after we’ve made our loan payment for the month. I used to just watch numbers get smaller in all my accounts but with this corny visualization trick, It’s been fun to see that red bar go up and the white space above it get smaller and smaller.
I made a free printable debt thermometer for you here if you want to try it!
Seems a little counter-intuitive doesn’t it? We could be making an extra $500 payment on our loan, shave a month or two off our total repayment. Only 67% of households give to charity & religious organizations.
It’s over half but Americans still get a D in social justice. It’s important to me to give what we can now so in the future giving more will be a natural progression.
15. Chill Out
Where all my Type A brothers and sisters at!? Let me hear you say “Ahhh. Omg. This is too much. I’m freaking out…” I used to live somewhere on that level.
It’s gotten a lot better since my Shingles outbreak (at the ripe age of 26) but I still have to remind myself to just go with the flow. Whatever happens, will happen and it’ll all work out in the end.
16. Unfollow Your Friends on Social Media
Confession: I unfollowed two of my best friends on Instagram and I didn’t tell them. I love them but they’re always traveling to cool places, eating great food, buying new stuff, and I just couldn’t handle it.
In no way has it affected our relationship (it’s probably improved it) and I can scroll a little safer now.
Also Read: Why Unfollowing my Friends Helped my Finances
17. No-Spend Challenges
I’ve done a few no-spend challenges and they’ve all taught me more about my spending habits. I still bought groceries and went out to eat but I didn’t buy any personal non-necessities. The beauty of a no-spend challenge is that it can look different for everyone and you’re guaranteed to save money for as long as you do it.
If you want to learn how to do a no-spend challenge that transforms your habits and causes you to spend more intentionally you can check out my other book on Amazon, The No-Spend Challenge Guide. (#shamelessplugs)
18. Check Your Bills
Whenever it’s time to renew or we see an ad for a good offer (on something we already pay for) we call to negotiate a better deal. It’s unfortunate that companies take advantage of their customers like they do but that’s how it is and it’s on us to keep our necessities affordable.
19. Ditch Cable
We never signed up so this one is a no-brainer. I don’t care how much you love sports or how many kids you need to keep occupied. There are cheaper, if not free, ways to do it than cable. Try Fire TV Stick or Roku to fill your cable sized void.
Our friend knows our budget is tight while paying off debt so she let us use her Netflix account for free. You never know, maybe one of your friends will do the same while you’re getting your finances together. And football isn’t going anywhere.
20. Stop Investing
I wouldn’t stop for more than a year or two but it motivated us to go that much faster. I know we missed out on future compound interest but the fire it lit under us helped pay way less in interest.
And now we max out a 401k, two Roth IRA’s, and an HSA. Which is way more effective than just $50 or $100 a month toward these accounts.
If you want to pay off your loans fast, then pile on the money you would be investing to your loan. And remember it’s not forever.
You Can Pay off Student Loan Debt!
So what would I do differently? I would’ve chilled out a little more but that’s really it. I’m proud of how flexible we were able to be and still stay motivated to get the job done so quickly. But there are still things I missed out on that I wish I would’ve spent the money and done.
Whew! That’s a lot, right? Don’t expect to start all these at the same time. We worked up to doing all these things. Start with the first four and work your way down, you’ll be surprised at how naturally they all come over time.
Jen Smith is a personal finance expert, founder of Modern Frugality and co-host of the Frugal Friends Podcast. Her work has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Lifehacker, Money Magazine, U.S. News and World Report, Business Insider, and more. She’s passionate about helping people gain control of their spending.
When people receive their tax returns, they are quick to spend this money on frivolous purchases that may bring them temporary joy. Even though people know there are ways to spend their tax return responsibly, the temptation to splurge on things they don’t need is too strong.
Ultimately, you can spend your tax return on whatever you want, but you should really consider what you should be using it for.
Pay Down Debts
Between student, home, and auto loan and credit card debt, people can easily find themselves owing thousands of dollars. Consumers often have no choice but to pay down their debts little by little over time, but if it is possible to make an extra payment or two using your tax refund, the debt can be repaid much faster.
Keep in mind that it would be most helpful to pay down your debts based on interest. High-interest rates should take priority since they are the most expensive. If you pay them down sooner, you will save money because you can shorten the repayment period and pay less interest.
Start or Add to an Emergency Fund
How prepared are you for the unexpected? If your car needed a major repair tomorrow, would you have the money to cover the cost? When emergencies happen people need to be prepared if they don’t want to take a big financial hit.
Emergency funds are designed to cover the cost of the unexpected. If you don’t have an emergency fund, use your tax refund to start one. And if you already have one, add to your fund. If and when something happens, you don’t have to stress about how this unexpected expense will set you back because you’ll have a financial safety net in place.
The traditional age of retirement is 65, although some people may choose to retire earlier than that. Your retirement may not be in the near future, but it is never too early to start saving for this phase of your life.
Just because you are retired, doesn’t mean you won’t have expenses. Between rent or mortgage payments, gas, food, utilities, and other monthly expenses, you will need to have a lot saved up since you will no longer be working. The money you save over the years will add up, so allocating some of the funds you receive from your tax return for your retirement savings will only help future you.
Homeowners are responsible for their own home maintenance and improvements. It is a well-known fact that maintaining a home can be costly. Landscaping your front yard, insulating your attic or remodeling your kitchen may all be on your list of things to do, but with the cost of these home improvements being high, you haven’t been able to afford either.
Your tax return, regardless of how small or large it is, can be used to create the home you deserve. Even if you can’t tackle all of your projects at once, getting one done is better than none. Additionally, consider using the money to start a home improvement fund that can be used specifically for any home expenses you may have in the future.
Not everyone considers how they can help someone else. And when they do, they may focus on material items, such as clothes and shoes, but if there is an organization that you would like to support, why not make a monetary donation? You’ll feel good about having helped those in need, but another bonus to donating is that depending on the donation, it is tax-deductible.
People view their tax return as free money that they can throw away. If there is work that needs to be done to improve your life or financial health, this money shouldn’t be wasted. When you receive your tax return, consider the many responsible ways to use this money that can positively impact your life.
Unhappy with your credit score or financial situation? Give Credit Absolute a call today for a free consultation!
Mindy Kaling just got herself a new home in Malibu, and boy is it one for the history books! According to the Los Angeles Times, the actress bought Frank Sinatra’s former Malibu home for $9.55 million.
After selling two other homes in the Los Angeles area in the past three years, Mindy Kaling seems to have settled on Malibu as a place to call home, and will be moving into her new place on Broad Beach with her adorable toddler, Katherine. And it only makes sense that the Sinatra beach house was the one to lock her down, as Frank Sinatra rightfully once called it “the happiest place on Earth”.
A coastal estate with seven bedrooms and nine bathrooms, 5,824 square feet, and plenty of outdoor spaces to soak in the vast ocean views, it’s easy to see why the oceanfront estate served as a frequent hangout for Sinatra’s star-studded crew.
When we first reported on the listing (back in December 2018, when the property first came to market), and got in touch with one of the real estate agents in charge of the listing, I was humbled to learn that Leonard Rabinowitz (of Hilton & Hyland) was a real-life friend of the Sinatras. One that has actually passed through the doors of their home as a guest, and one that can help tell the story of the home where “The Voice” had spend his final years.
“I met Mr. & Mrs. Sinatra in the early 90’s when mutual friend and poker pal Angie Dickinson invited me to their beach house for a Sunday afternoon” Leonard Rabinowitz said. “When you enter the front door of the Sinatra Beach House there is an expansive view straight through the house and grounds to the ocean. As spectacular as the ocean view is, I was just as struck by those seated in the living room. There were Mr. & Mrs. Gregory Peck, Jack Lemmon, Dick Martin, Robert Wagner, Louis Jourdan, Steve Lawrence, Edye Gorme, and Dick Van Dyke. A room full of legends!”
The story of how Frank Sinatra made Malibu his home
According to Mr. Rabinowitz, at the beginning of the 1990s Frank Sinatra and his wife Barbara would often visit their friends Steve and Eydie (Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gormé.) The Grammy Award-winning husband-and-wife duo were close friends of the Sinatras and would often invite them over to their Broad Beach home.
That’s how the two fell in love with the area and bought a lot there in 1990, lot that they used to built what was later on their ‘happiest place on earth’: a 7-bedroom, 9-bathroom dream beach home that opens up to the ocean.
With lots of space for entertaining, the 5,800-square-foot Sinatra Beach House comes with a state-of-the-art gourmet kitchen, endless dining and living spaces (fit for a world-class entertainer), a stunning indoor-outdoor bar, and a patio overlooking a grassy lawn out to the ocean. There’s also a sauna, a hair-salon, and an elevator with leopard-print design. Don’t know how Mindy Kaling feels about all that, but I do know is that one Mindy Lahiri would be ecstatic about the leopard-print elevator!
The Sinatra house of love
Working with designer Edward “Ted” Grenzbach — who also designed homes for the likes of Johnny Carson, Barbara Streisand, Rupert Murdoch and Cher — Barbara and Frank Sinatra saw their dream home come to life.
And they were so happy with the results that, according to Mrs. Sinatra’s autobiography, “Lady Blue Eyes: My Life with Frank“, they decided to renew their vows in the house’s backyard in 1996.
In an intimate setting, with friends and family attending, the Sinatra Beach House stood witness to a ceremony celebrating renewed commitments of love and friendship from Frank and Barbara Sinatra. Now isn’t that a wonderful story to tell visitors when they come visit Mindy Kaling’s house?
After his death in 1998, Frank Sinatra’s house was passed on to a trust linked to Mrs. Sinatra. Following her own death in 2017, the house was brought to market by her son from a previous marriage, Robert Oliver, and initially priced at $12,900,000.
Agents Leonard Rabinowitz and Jack Friedkin with Hilton & Hyland, and Chris Cortazzo with Coldwell Banker were in charge of the listing, with Cortazzo also representing Kaling in the transaction.
More celebrity homes:
Sir Anthony Hopkins is Selling His Malibu Home Perched on a Cliff’s Edge Shaquille O’Neal is Selling his L.A. Home… on Instagram Inside Supernatural Star Jensen Ackles’ ‘Very Hip’ Lake House in Austin The Mysterious Allure of Stephen King’s House, the Beating Heart of Bangor, Maine
Now that you’ve invested in a home, how do you increase its value?
That’s called “building equity.” Equity is the market value of your home or property, minus your outstanding mortgage debt. So, for example, if you can sell your home for $450,000 and you still owe $100,000, you have $350,000 in equity. Building equity is one the biggest financial benefits of ownership.
If you live in a market where home values are rising, yours may float up with the rising tide and your equity will increase without doing a thing.
Or you can work on growing your home’s value by decreasing the amount you owe and/or increasing the value of your property. Here are some ways to do both.
Part of every mortgage payment goes towards paying off your loan’s principal and interest, with most of the payment going to interest in the loan’s early years. You can use Zillow’s amortization calculator to estimate how much money will be paid over the life of your loan for principal and interest. If you pay down the principal faster, your equity should increase faster. This can be done a few different ways.
Paying more: If you have a 30-year mortgage, adding more to your payment either monthly or when you have extra cash can help you gain equity. If you pay more, make sure your lender applies it to your principal. This is a great way to use your tax refund, a bonus from work or an inheritance.
Paying faster: You could divide your monthly mortgage payment into two bi-weekly payments, for a total of 26. So instead of 12 payments a year, you make the equivalent of 13, paying down your mortgage faster and gaining more equity. But make sure to check with your lender first to make sure they accept bi-weekly payments. And make sure all the extra money goes immediately to the principal instead of waiting for the second half-payment. Reputable lenders will not charge a fee for bi-weekly payments.
Refinancing: If you have a 30-year mortgage, you might want to consider refinancing to a 15-year loan, which has a lower rate. Most consider this worthwhile only if you can drop your interest rate by at least 1.5%. Factor in any closing costs before making this move. Also make sure your mortgage doesn’t have a penalty for pre-payment. It’s not common, but it’s better to check.
Before you decide on any of these options, consider if it’s really the best use of your money. If you’re not maxed out on employer-matched saving accounts, perhaps you should be putting extra money into your 401(k) rather than paying off a low-interest mortgage. It’s smart to talk with a financial advisor to determine the best investment strategy for you.
Also make sure you have an emergency fund, typically 6 months of savings in case you fall ill or lose a job.
Making smart improvements and adding the right amenities to your home can also increase its market value, which means more equity for you.
How do you know which projects will bring the best return on your investment? Even though you’ve just moved into your new place, there are home improvements buyers typically love: bathrooms, attics, entrances, kitchen updates, garage doors and siding. Popular features can vary by area and home type, so consider what’s in demand in your market.
Also, be mindful of your market as you’re thinking about how much to invest in improving your home. The realities of a buyers or sellers market will have an impact on how much return you’ll get when you sell.
You can find more inspiration, ideas and guidance in Zillow Porchlight home improvement articles.
For new homeowners, Zillow’s design and home improvement videos show you how to tackle your first project.
It’s essential to have the right marketing plan, pricing strategy and real estate agent.
When shopping for a home, it’s not uncommon to come across one that truly stands out. It’s not because the home is an old fixer-upper or that it’s a newly renovated home with a designer kitchen. It’s a home that’s architecturally significant or in some way conveys a “different” attribute. For instance, it might be a castle, a church or even a fire station that has been converted into one or more living spaces.
With an unusual home, pricing and marketing can be a challenge. Here are three things to keep in mind when either buying or selling a truly unique property.
1. Buyers should be cautious
As crazy as it sounds, a would-be buyer may want to reconsider purchasing an offbeat home. While it may be a home you love, it is also an investment. A home with a unique, unchangeable structural feature will likely alienate a large portion of the market.
If you’re faced with the opportunity to purchase a unique home, don’t get caught up in the excitement of it all. Think long term. Understand that when it comes time to sell, it may be a burden, particularly if you try to sell in a slow market.
2. When selling, don’t assume buyers will love what you love
As the owner of an interesting or different home who is considering a sale, be aware that not everyone will have the same feeling about the home as you did when you bought the place. While you’re likely to get lots of activity, showings and excitement over your property, a lot of that may simply be curious buyers, nosy neighbors or tire kickers.
Time after time, sellers with unique homes believe that since they fell head over heels, another buyer who might feel the same. But that person could be hard to find.
3. Hire the right agent and have a serious marketing/pricing discussion
A unique home requires a unique marketing plan and pricing strategy as well as a good agent. The buyer may not even live in your local market, and instead might be an opportunist buyer open to a unique property. So you should consider advertising outside the mainstream circles. Media and press can help get the special home the attention it may need.
The buyer may not want to live in your town but is fascinated by an old church or castle. The more you get this out there, the better your options for finding the specific buyer.
If you get lots of action but few offers, you may need to drop the price below the comparable sales to generate interest, particularly if you really need to sell. Just like a home with a funky floor plan, on a busy intersection or with a tiny backyard, the market for your unique home is simply smaller.
With online home listings, blogging and real estate television shows, unique homes stand out and get more exposure than ever. But selling a distinctive or offbeat property requires out-of-the-box thinking early on, and with a top agent. You only have one chance to make a first impression. Be certain to price the home right, expose it to the masses and have a strategic plan in right from the start.
By now most of us have thought of organizing everything in our house including the closet that houses all the things and the drawers we never want to open. Once you run out of things to do then what? Don’t sweat it, we’ve created a list of five projects that might not have crossed your mind yet!
Clean them. Go around the entire house and actually clean your baseboards room by room. A Magic Eraser goes a long way.
You can also freshen up your baseboards by painting them. Yes, go take a look at how beat up those get. We like to give our baseboards some love more often than you’d think, at least yearly. They get so much traction and make a major impact on your space.
Give Your Walls Some Love
Create a gallery wall of art, images and things that make you happy. Paint a new color in your space or change your ceiling color! We love a creative ceiling color or a completely cohesive color palette!
Kitchen Deep Clean
If you haven’t cleaned all the things in the house yet, start in your kitchen next. From every inch of the appliances to inside your cabinets, drawers and pantry, it all needs some love. Then move on to your cutting boards, knives and small appliances. It will completely change the vibe of the space.
Light Up Your Space
Switch out light bulbs– this is life changing you guys! Having the right light bulb in your light fixture changes everything. From the paint color to the flooring color to the overall vibe of your room. It’s all about the kelvins and lumens… feeling so lost with those words, we got you. Here’s how to pick the best lightbulb and a handy visual guide on determining the best bulb for you.
Change light fixtures – a new light fixture gives your room a whole new look and it really isn’t that challenging to do on your own.
Transform Your Living Space
You’re probably spending a lot of time, perhaps too much time, on that couch. Time to switch it up a bit. First, empty everything out and give it a deep clean all around. Then reposition the space and see if you can swap decor from other spaces in your home to create a completely new vibe. Even if it’s not forever, it will serve as a new space to enjoy for the coming weeks.
Michael and Danielle Gutelli
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Danielle and Michael Gutelli creators and owners of Clark + Aldine, a residential design to build team specializing in home design, customization, and styling. Together with their two little dudes, they are helping people experience life by looking at existing space in a completely new way and offering solutions for a more functional and purposeful space for their clients. On their blog they share content related to home design, decor and styling, DIY tips, and how they manage all the things while prioritizing time with their family, traveling and embracing the everyday moments life brings them! Follow their journey at clarkandaldine.com or on Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest.
While this time of year is usually about all things red, green or at least metallic, today’s home tour is filled with warm color palette, filled to the brim with chocolatey brown goodness that still feels equally cozy and inviting – and I would argue appropriately seasonal.
The delicious chocolate brown floors that stretch throughout the home anchor the minimal white walls without the stark contrast of black (as you see here). Pops of golden-mustard, be it in pillows or throws, combined with candles being dotted throughout are the perfect understated nod to the celebratory season.
The mix of textures keep the use dark brown hues from becoming one note. I spy woods, leather, velvet and wool all mix to a very inviting effect.
If you’ve ever shopped for a vintage oil jug, you’re used to seeing the clear versions. You might be lucky enough to happen upon a green one. But an amber jug is particularly stunning. It has me scrambling for an amber accessory or two to add to my Christmas decor.
The checkered floor in this space could feel too retro, but instead it offers a bold contrast to the modern, minimalist kitchen. Golden amber glassware helps further soften the look.
The caramel-y wood dining chairs pop off the black dining table.
If you swapped out this bunch of pampas grass for a sprig of pine, you’d immediately feel the holiday mood.
I think I need to add a milk-chocolate brown throw on my bed for winter! Are you loving this color palette as much as I am??
Have you ever forgotten to take the trash out before vacation? You come home to a house ridden with a very unappealing smell. Even when the garbage is disposed of, the odor can linger for days.
While it can be tempting to spray down the home with a store-bought air freshener, these contain chemicals that are harmful to human health. Over 20 percent of the general U.S. population have reported having adverse health effects from air fresheners.
To help you get rid of common household smells in a safe way, we’ve created a guide on how to deodorize a room. It includes a natural DIY room deodorizer recipe and 7 hacks for getting rid of specific home odors. Read through to find what household items you can use to rid these unwanted smells.
How to make a basic DIY room deodorizer
To create a natural air freshener that isn’t harmful to your health, you only need four items. Make this spray and use it when an unwanted smell comes into your apartment.
1 ½ tablespoons baking soda
3 cups water
30-40 drops of essential oil
Misting spray bottle
Step 1: Add 30-40 drops of your preferred essential oil with the baking soda. Stir until it’s completely mixed together.
Step 2: Pour this baking soda and essential oil combination in a spray bottle.
Step 3: Add the three cups of water to the bottle. Shake to mix.
Step 4: Spray the area on the light misting setting.
This natural DIY home deodorizer can be personalized with any scent. Each essential oil has its own unique properties, so be sure to pick one that fits the space you are using the cleaner in. For example, a scent that promotes slumber is better for the bedroom than the kitchen.
Why does baking soda work to deodorize a room?
Many room deodorizing recipes, including the one above, call for baking soda. Why is this? Baking soda or sodium bicarbonate has a low pH level. Most bad odors have a high pH level, meaning they are acidic. By adding baking soda to the environment, you are neutralizing the area, causing the odor to fade.
Essential oils to add to each room
When making this DIY room deodorizer, you can choose your preferred natural scent to use. If you aren’t sure what will smell best, here are some essential oil suggestions for each room.
The living room is an area you’ll be hosting people as well as relaxing. Depending on the tone you are trying to set, vanilla or cinnamon essential oil could be a good fit. Vanilla is known to improve relaxation and create a tranquil environment. If you want to relax after a long day in your sparkling-clean living room, vanilla is the right choice for you. For those who are having friends over for a book club or social event, cinnamon might be a better fit. The scent of cinnamon boosts memory and increases alertness.
Make the kitchen a productive place by using a citrus or peppermint essential oil when scenting your DIY deodorizer. If you have a long afternoon of meal prepping ahead, citrus is known to boost energy and improve your mood. For the non-chefs who can get frustrated in the kitchen, a peppermint scent will alleviate stress and reduce irritability.
A restful space, the bedroom can benefit from lavender or chamomile essential oils. These calming scents both reduce anxiety. Lavender also promotes relaxation which can help you fall asleep. Chamomile can improve your mood, great for those who wake up on the wrong side of the bed.
If you have a laundry room, playroom or any other room that needs to be deodorized, you might consider tea tree or eucalyptus oils. These natural smells each have their own unique properties. Tea tree oil has antifungal benefits and is an immune booster. Eucalyptus essential oil is cleansing and known to lift moods. Both will help keep your space clean.
7 common household smells and how to rid them
Whether your home is new to you or you’ve lived in it for multiple years, you’ve probably come across one of these common household smells. We explain why they happen and how to rid them from your home. In addition, we suggest an essential oil that you can use to keep the space smelling fresh.
1. Stale air
Stale air is a smell that’s hard to describe, but easy to identify. It’s usually caused when the indoor air begins to feel stuffy or humid due to a lack of fresh air. If the weather is nice, you can rid this smell by opening the windows and letting fresh air in. However, if it’s too hot or too cold out, this might not be an option.
In that case, you can create your own stale air deodorizer by cutting lemons in half and placing them throughout the home. Another quick solution is to rub a little vanilla essential oil on the outside of your light bulbs. Be sure to do this when the light is off. Once you turn the light on, it will heat up and start smelling sweet.
2. Carpet smells
Whether you are moving into a new apartment with carpet or you spilled something on your rug that has caused a stench, this absorbent flooring is prone to smell.
To get rid of carpet smells, baking soda is your friend. Sprinkle baking soda on the entire carpet and let it sit for a few hours. Then vacuum it up. The baking soda should soak up any bad smells. It’s best to do this when you are out of the house for a period of time. The baking soda doesn’t have any chemicals, but it can leave a mess if people in your house walk through it.
3. Fridge odors
Does your fridge smell even after you clean out your leftovers? This is because the plastic in the refrigerator absorbs odors. Even if you’ve scrubbed out every crumb and spill, the plastic might still stink.
To prevent or mute this odor, try putting a box of baking soda in the fridge. Baking soda will absorb these smells and leave your fridge smelling clean after just a couple of days. Another alternative to this is leaving coffee grounds in a container in your fridge. Similar to baking soda, coffee grounds can absorb odors and leave your fridge smelling like a freshly brewed cup of joe.
4. Garbage disposal stink
If you go to wash dishes and notice there is an odor coming from your drain, it could be your garbage disposal. It’s easy for food to get caught in hard-to-reach places, preventing it from being washed down the drain.
Some people put citrus peels down their garbage disposal to mask this odor, but this doesn’t clean the food that is causing this smell. To clean, place a handful of ice in your sink drain. Then pour a cup of salt on top. Run the water and turn on the garbage disposal. The ice and salt will slowly drain into the garbage disposal, cleaning it and sharpening the blades.
5. Mold or mildew
Mold and mildew can leave a musty smell in your home. If you have a serious mold issue, it’s important to have a professional take care of it. Mold is known to cause many respiratory issues.
If the smell of mold persists, you can use an odor absorber to dull the scent. Baking soda, charcoal and kitty litter are all items that can soak up any moisture in the air and get rid of the smell. Place one of these in a bowl near the musty smell. Be sure it’s out of reach of small children or pets.
6. Washing machine smells
Your washing machine is meant to make your clothes fresh and clean, but what do you do when it begins to have a mildewy or sour scent? Washers are prone to a build-up of soap, dirt or hair. Over time, this can lead to an unnatural moldy stink.
To clean, begin by getting rid of any debris that’s caught in the gasket, or rubber liner, of your machine. Wipe this rim down with a mixture of vinegar and tea tree essential oil. This is an antifungal formula that will clean off any leftover dirt. Then use this same mixture, measuring two cups of white vinegar and 20 drops of tea tree essential oil into the liquid tray. Run on a hot cycle or cleaning cycle. When done, wipe the interior with a microfiber cloth.
You can prevent some of this build-up by leaving the lid open after each wash cycle. This will allow your washer to dry out completely. It’s also helpful to use the correct amount of detergent. Creating too many suds can leave a leftover residue that dirt clings to.
7. Skunk stench
If your clothes or your pet has been skunked, the attacker will leave a pungent smell that can last for weeks. This stink can easily be transferred to the house.
For houses that smell like skunk inside (but not outside), open the windows and turn on the fan. Heat up a tray of vinegar on the stove on low heat. This should overpower the skunk smell.
If the smell is on your pet, The Humane Society suggests mixing together a quart of 3 percent hydrogen peroxide, a quarter cup of baking soda and a teaspoon of dish soap. Use a pair of gloves and wash your pet with this mixture. Be sure to avoid their eyes and don’t store this mixture, it has the potential to explode in a bottle.
Keep your apartment fresh
Regular cleaning will keep your home clean and free of these unwanted smells. For more home hacks like these, check out our cleaning and maintenance advice page.
Are you a savvy shopper? Then you probably know when to catch the best sales and biggest discounts. Did you know the same is true when it comes to renting apartments? If finding the cheapest rent is a top priority for you, it’s all about apartment hunting in the winter months when you can get the best deals on apartments and moving costs. Learn about the benefits of searching in the “off-season,” and find out how to use the cold winter months to your advantage when negotiating rent!
There is less competition during the winter.
The busiest season for apartment hunting is between May and September, for several reasons. Students are out of school, graduates are moving home or moving to new cities, and you’re not stuck moving in snow or the bitter cold.
Because so many people are eager to find new apartments mid-year, landlords have it pretty easy. They often have several applicants applying for one apartment, so they can cherry pick tenants who agree to their terms.
In the winter, landlords don’t have it so easy. Fewer people are apartment hunting, and it can be hard to fill a vacant apartment. As a renter, you’re in high demand. The odds are in your favor. Landlords are eager to fill their empty apartments, and they want YOU! That being said, there are also fewer apartments to choose from in the winter. Make sure to prioritize the factors that are really important to you in an apartment, and decide which things you’re willing to compromise on.
Rents tend to be lower during the winter.
Vacant apartments aren’t bringing in any money, and landlords want to get their apartments filled ASAP. However, because there are fewer renters searching for places in the winter, landlords may try to entice you with low rents. This is your major advantage. An apartment that might rent for $1,000 in the summer could go for $900 or even $800 a month in the winter when the demand has slowed down.
Landlords may be more willing to negotiate during the off-season.
Renters don’t come around often in the winter, and landlords know this. They don’t want to lose their opportunity to rent their apartment and may be much more likely to negotiate with you in the winter than in the summer. Approach the prospective landlord or leasing agent with confidence and see what you can get.
What should you try to negotiate? Some things to negotiate include:
Lease terms: If you want a shorter or longer lease term than what they’re offering, ask!
Fees: See if they’re willing to waive fees, like a pet deposit or certain utilities.
Amenities: Maybe you love the unit but wish there were nicer appliances in the kitchen – see if you can get upgraded appliances before you move in!
Rent: Negotiating rent is the holy grail of apartment hunting! During the peak months, landlords probably won’t be willing to negotiate. After all, there are plenty of renters to choose from. During the winter months, they need renters and will likely be more flexible on the details!
Now that you’re in the know, go ahead and strike while the iron is hot – or cold, in this case. Get help finding an apartment you like at a price you can afford on ApartmentSearch, the only apartment site that actually pays you for using it!