Cook Fish In Your Dishwasher: Alternative Uses for Common Appliances

Ever wondered what else you could do with your toaster oven or rice cooker when you weren’t using them to cook with? The common household appliances you can find in your apartment’s kitchen come with their intended use, but with a little imagination and some know-how, you can find clever and alternative uses for the most basic of appliances. Here’s our list of everyday appliances and unique ways you can use them.

Dishwasher

The steam and heat produced by your dishwasher is perfect for steaming up fresh fish or vegetables. Season the fish with a little olive oil and lemon juice, and wrap the raw fish liberally with foil (salmon particularly holds up well in the dishwasher). Place the fish on the top rack of the dishwasher, set it for a hot pots and pans cycle and let the dishwasher run through a cycle. In no time at all you’ll have a perfectly poached piece of fish. Just make sure not to add any dish soap to the washer!

Microwave

We all know that your microwave’s powerful heating capabilities are perfect for warming up your favorite foods, but that technology also makes the microwave great for disinfecting and deodorizing common household items. Instead of reaching for antibacterial soap, soak your kitchen sponge or dish rag in water mixed with white vinegar or lemon juice, then throw it into the microwave and heat on high for 30 seconds to disinfect and deodorize. You can also disinfect plastic cutting boards this way – wash the board well, rub it with the cut side of a lemon and microwave on high for one minute.

Rice Cooker

Give your guests the spa treatment by steaming towels to offer them before dinner. Wet and wring out several small washcloths, fold in thirds horizontally and roll and place inside the steamer. Steam for five minutes, or until hot. Remove with tongs and place on a tray or plate for each dinner guest.

Coffee Maker

If you’re short on time and low on clean dishes, but still need to eat lunch or dinner, you can use your coffee maker to prepare soup. Start off simple by using your coffee maker to cook your favorite canned soup, like tomato or chicken noodle. The coffee pot not only heats up the soup, but the convenient handle makes it easy to pour the soup into various cups and bowls. Or, take it one step further by preparing ramen noodle soup in the coffee maker. Open the packet of uncooked noodles and put them into the carafe. Fill the water tank with just enough water to cover the noodles, never filling more than halfway. Put the seasoning packet in the drip station and push the button to start the pot. Within minutes you’ll have a steaming, hot bowl of ramen noodle soup. Make sure to clean your pot thoroughly before making a pot of coffee.

Blender

Blenders can be used for more than just making smoothies or milkshakes. A decent quality blender can be used much like a food processor, crushing ice or chopping nuts to make peanut butter. You can also make salsa in the blender. Combine four ripe roma tomatoes, one jalapeno with the seeds removed, ½ chopped sweet onion, lime juice and olive oil in the blender on the pulse setting. If you prefer a chunkier salsa, just pulse a few times. Add chili powder, cumin, salt and pepper and pulse a few more times. Remove salsa from the blender and chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour before serving.

Toaster Oven

A counter-top toaster oven is the perfect appliance for cooking in small spaces. And, it’s a great alternative for energy-conscious consumers, since you don’t need to heat up a big gas or electric oven to cook something small, like a baked potato or small pizza. But in addition to cooking, a toaster oven can also warm your plates before serving good. Many standard ovens only go down to 200°F, which may be too warm, but a toaster oven can be set at a lower temperature. Try warming a set of plates for five minutes at 170°F.

Coffee Grinder

Avid coffee drinkers know that the freshest, best-tasting cup of coffee is brewed from coffee beans that have been ground in small batches. But a coffee grinder can also grind spices like cloves, cardamom pods or peppercorns. You can make your own homemade bread crumbs by tearing up a piece of bread into small pieces and grinding according to how large or fine you want the crumbs. Create your own potpourri by grinding up dried flowers, orange or lemon peel and cinnamon sticks. Or, turn recycled white or colored paper into confetti with a few pulses of the coffee grinder.

Photo credit: iStockphoto/ZargonDesign

Comments

comments

Source: apartmentguide.com

Pretend Your Apartment is a Car: Cleaning Tips for Guys

Are you a man? Is your apartment appalling? Why not consider joining the cult of men who clean?

You owe it to yourself to investigate the mysteries of the livable apartment. A new year requires new ways of doing things, so read on for a few quick cleaning tips that will help keep your apartment presentable. (You may discover it’s not as bad as you expect.)

Pretend your apartment is a car
Many a woman has lamented the fact that her man could spend hours detailing his car, but seem blind to household grime. Why not tackle your apartment cleaning in the same way you would your car? Vacuum under all the furniture, dust every corner and surface, and scrub away every bit of mildew in the shower — all with the same single-mindedness and dedication you reserve for keeping your car clean! Once you’ve done a thorough apartment cleaning initially, the gleam will be much easier to maintain and in even less time.

More on cleaning your apartment:
Declutter Your Apartment: What’s OK to Throw Away?Prioritize Your Apartment Cleaning EffortsHow to Clean Your Space in a HurryHow to Keep Your Apartment Cleaning Earth-Friendly

Assemble your tool kit
What man doesn’t like assembling tools for a project? Apartment cleaning is no different than a workbench scheme. Get the right tools for the job, and clean-up will be a breeze.

Here are a few things you may already have on hand to gather together in your cleaning tool box.

• A squeegee for windows, mirrors, shower doors and tile.
• A wet/dry vac. Attach a soft brush attachment and you can spin away cobwebs and dust.
• Car polish. Wipe down your shower stall and door to keep soap-scum from sticking.
• Tennis ball. Spray with a general cleaner and buff away scuff marks on floors and walls.
• Steel wool (fine, synthetic). Good for scrubbing pots and counter gunk.
• Sponges, scrub brushes.
• All-purpose cleaner.
• Mop or Swiffer WetJet.
• Electromagnetic duster.

Create a plan
Guys like solutions to problems, right? So look around. Even the worst mire can be cleaned up with a bit of smart planning. Come up with your own system on your own time. If you’re a night owl who gets inspired at 3 a.m., work your cleaning magic then. Or maybe you’re self-employed and want to get your clean on first thing in the morning. Don’t fight it; go with your particular flow, grabbing any time you can get.

Multitask for success
You likely value multitasking in your work endeavors, so try double duty to clean your apartment, as well.

• Start your bathroom cleaning while you’re getting clean yourself. Scrub the shower while you’re taking one, wipe the sink right after you brush your teeth, and quickly wipe down the toilet with a flushable cloth, after giving it a scrub with a little cleanser.

• Throw on a load of wash while you’re getting dressed or undressed, and start the dishwasher as soon as you’ve finished your last bite of breakfast or dinner.

• Sweep or vacuum your kitchen floor every morning or evening, and never leave a mess in the sink or on counters overnight.

• Vacuum, dust and straighten your living room during the commercial breaks of your favorite show.

A man can take good care of his living space without giving up the image that he just doesn’t care about those things! Implement these cleaning steps, adapting them to your own schedule and needs. Remember that some effort is required – preferably, a little each day – to maintain an apartment space that’s comfortable, livable… and sharable. Your buddies will be impressed — and you can even bring home a friend without wondering where you tossed your boxers!

Photo Credit: Shutterstock / Yuri Arcurs

Comments

comments

Source: apartmentguide.com

6 Garage Sale Setup Tips to Best Display Your Items & Make More Money

Picture this: You’re cruising down the street one day, and you spot two garage sales on the same block. The first has racks of clothes, bins of books and records, and a few high-value items prominently displayed near the curb. The second features jumbled, messy piles and boxes scattered across the yard.

Which one would you stop at?

Presentation is crucial to a successful yard sale. You can and should advertise your sale, but you also want to encourage passers-by to stop and look at your wares. If your sale doesn’t make a good first impression, most will just keep going.

No matter how much good stuff your sale has, it won’t bring in shoppers who can’t see it easily. People passing on foot only have your sale in their sights for a couple of minutes at most, and drivers on the street see it for as little as a couple of seconds.

To draw them in, you must show off your sale items so effectively their first glimpse convinces them to take a closer look.

Garage Sale Tips for Presentation

A garage sale has two purposes. It’s a way to declutter your home and bring in some extra cash. And the best way to achieve both goals is to attract as many customers as possible.

When you’re trying to draw in shoppers, pricing isn’t the most crucial factor. Yes, yard sale shoppers love bargains, but if your garage sale items don’t look appealing, no one will even stop to look at the price tags.

So before you even get out the price stickers, you need to spend some time thinking about how to set up your yard sale display to catch the eye.

1. Clean Your Items

Suppose you’re shopping yard sales looking for outdoor furniture. You come across a set that looks sturdy, but the chair arms and backs are coated in grime and their cushions are mildewy. Would you buy them or keep looking for a set in better condition?

That illustrates how important cleaning is. Something that’s otherwise in perfectly good shape becomes a complete turn-off for buyers if it’s covered in dirt. Even if you haven’t used something in years, it can come out of storage sporting a thick coat of dust that makes buyers pass it over.

So before you even think about how to display pieces, give each of them a quick touch-up with a dusting cloth. If anything is especially dirty, take the time to scrub it down with soap and water.

Some garage sale items need more specific cleaning treatment. Run clothes through the washer and dryer to remove dirt and odors, and give shoes a quick polish to remove scuff marks. If you have purses or other bags to sell, clean out dirt and debris from their interiors (and while you’re at it, make sure there’s nothing of value left inside).

2. Show Off the Good Stuff

Shoppers get their first glimpse of your garage sale from either the street or the sidewalk. If all they can see in that first look is a bunch of cheap junk, many will keep moving instead of stopping to browse.

There may be some real gems hidden toward the back of your yard or garage, but many prospective buyers will never see them.

If you want to hold a successful garage sale that attracts as many buyers as possible, put your most appealing merchandise front and center. In my experience, the best yard sale items for attracting buyers include:

  • Antiques of any kind — furniture, houseware, jewelry
  • Appliances
  • Board games
  • Clothing and accessories in good condition, such as shoes and purses
  • Electronics like TVs and stereos
  • Furniture
  • Musical instruments
  • Sporting equipment, including bicycles and camping gear
  • Tools, including garden tools like lawn mowers

In general, large items have more curb appeal than small ones. For one thing, they’re easier to see from the street. Also, little things like cheap toys and kitchen utensils aren’t that expensive to buy new, so they don’t offer the potential for a major bargain.

Another helpful strategy is to display merchandise likely to appeal to men, such as golf clubs or power tools, as close to the road as possible. In my experience, women are more likely to stop at a garage sale than men, so you don’t need to go to as much effort to reel them in.

By displaying things that typically appeal to them most prominently, you’ll attract men as well as women to your sale.

3. Group Like Items Together

Once you’ve drawn customers to your sale, you want to keep them there as long as possible. It might seem like the way to do that is to place everything randomly so shoppers looking for specific finds have to hunt through every table at the sale to discover them. But that strategy is likely to backfire.

As a shopper, I always find it frustrating when a yard sale has no clear layout. If I’m looking for something in particular, such as clothing or books, I want to see all the clothing or books available in one place. If they’re scattered across all the tables at the sale, I’m likely to get frustrated and walk away.

To make shopping easy for your buyers, group similar items together. Make one table for clothing, one for books, one for housewares, and one for toys, for example. That way, people can go directly to the table that interests them and start browsing.

If you have a lot of one type of product, sort it into narrower categories, such as children’s books and adult books.

To make it easier for yourself, sort your merchandise into boxes by category before your sale. On the day of the sale, you can simply bring each box to its own table and start laying everything out.

4. Keep Everything Visible

The easiest way for you to sort goods into categories is to leave them in their boxes. But that isn’t easy for your buyers. No one wants to bend over a box pulling out one baby onesie after another until they find the size and color they’re after.

Haphazard piles of stuff aren’t appealing either. I’ve walked away from more than one rummage sale because all the clothes were in massive, unsorted piles on the tables. Digging through them all to find the few outfits in my size would have taken hours with no guarantee I’d find anything I liked.

To make your sale appealing, lay your wares out in ways that make them easy to see at a glance. There are multiple ways to display different types of merchandise, depending on how much of it you have and what condition it’s in.

Clothing

The best way to display clothing is on hangers on a portable clothes rack. That keeps garments off the ground and makes them easy to sort through. If you don’t have a clothing rack, look for a makeshift alternative, such as an old ladder or a sturdy clothesline strung between two trees.

If there’s no way to hang clothes, the next best option is to arrange them in neatly folded piles on a table. That’s also a suitable way to display clothes for babies and small children.

But note your neatly folded and stacked garments will invariably get unfolded and strewn about as the day goes on, so you have to tidy up your piles from time to time.

Whichever method you choose, try sorting clothes by size, type, and gender. That makes it still easier for buyers to find what they want. A nice added perk is to display garments like coats with their extra buttons if you still have them.

Accessories

There’s nothing more frustrating than finding one shoe in your size and then having to hunt around for the other before you can try them on. You can significantly increase your shoe sales by taking the time to line pairs up together, either on a table or on a sheet or blanket on the ground.

You can display purses and bags on tables, on the ground, or neatly lined up in boxes. Or if you have a large tree handy, you can make an eye-catching display by hanging handbags from its limbs.

Jewelry is a high-value commodity, so it’s worth making an extra effort to display it well.

Wrap a piece of cardboard in fabric, then stick in pins or small nails to hang necklaces, earrings, and bracelets. You can pin brooches directly to the fabric. If you have coordinating pieces, such as necklace-and-earring sets, display them together.

Books & Recordings

Books are easiest to see if they’re arranged side by side with their spines facing out so people can view the titles at a glance.

The easiest way to accomplish that is to line them up on a bookcase or shelf. But don’t use a bookcase you’re also planning to sell because if someone buys it, you’ll have to remove all the books in a hurry and find a new location for them.

You can also display books by lining them up in a box with their spines facing up. Or if you have a smaller selection of books, you can fan them out on a table faceup so shoppers can see their covers.

Whatever you do, don’t stack books in boxes or pile them on tables so shoppers have to lift each one out of the way to see what’s below it. For all but the most dedicated book buyers, that’s simply too much work to be worth it.

These same display ideas work well for audio or video recordings, including CDs, DVDs, video game cartridges, records, and cassettes. (Yes, there are still people who have held onto their old boomboxes and are willing to buy tapes if they’re cheap enough.) Make the titles visible, and don’t force your buyers to dig.

Furniture & Home Goods

When displaying furniture at a yard sale, consider what type of buyer it would appeal to.

Place sturdy pieces suitable for families near the street, where they’ll draw buyers in. Older, worn-out pieces might appeal to students furnishing a dorm room or DIY fans looking for pieces to make over. Display these pieces farther back but with prominent labels indicating their low prices.

Antique furniture creates a bit of a dilemma. On one hand, it’s an appealing item that can attract shoppers. However, if you place a lightweight piece too close to the street, an ambitious thief could snatch it when you turn your back. Large and heavy furnishings can go in the front, but it’s best to place smaller ones close to the checkout where you can keep an eye on them.

For smaller home decor, consider maximizing its visual appeal by creating little vignettes.

For instance, you can toss a bedspread over a couch to show off its pattern and add a couple of matching throw pillows. To sell a set of dishes, lay out one whole place setting on a table, complete with a napkin and flatware, and keep the rest stowed in a box.

Finally, if you’re selling old electronics, make sure you have all their parts — remotes, cords, and the manual if you have it — bundled along with the primary equipment. You can wrap them up and stash them in a clear plastic bag taped to the side.

Customers will appreciate being able to see at a glance that the equipment has all the necessary parts. And if they want to test the device to make sure it works, all the pieces they need are available. Consider running an extension cord to the house for testing purposes or at least having one handy for shoppers to use.

5. Make Space for Everything

Ideally, most of the goods at your yard sale should be on tables, so shoppers don’t have to bend down to look at them. If you don’t have enough tables to display your wares, borrow from neighbors or friends.

Also, look for ways to create more “table” space from scratch. For instance, you can lay plywood over a pair of sawhorses, milk crates, or even cardboard boxes. You can also use any naturally elevated surfaces in your yard, such as porch steps or retaining walls.

If you’ve tried all these tricks and still don’t have enough table space for everything, prioritize. Reserve your table space for high-value merchandise you really want buyers to see and delicate pieces that could break if left on the ground. Everything else can go on blankets or tarps.

Set out comfortable chairs for yourself and any helpers so you don’t have to spend the whole day on your feet. Set them near a small table or another surface you can use for making change and bagging purchases.

6. Promote Your Sale

No matter how good your yard sale looks, it won’t attract customers if no one comes close enough to see it. That’s why even the best yard sale needs adequate signage.

Before putting up signs, check to see if your town has any regulations about them.

For instance, it might regulate how many signs you can put up, how large they can be, what materials you can use, and where you can display them. It may also have rules about how long before the sale you can put signs up and how long you have after the sale to take them down.

While you’re at it, check all the other local regulations.

Some towns require you to get a garage sale permit, and others limit you to a certain number of sales per year. Putting up signs puts you on the local authorities’ radar, so make sure you’re not running afoul of any rules. Otherwise, the fines could eat into if not exceed your profits.

Once you have any necessary permits and are clear about the signage rules, it’s time to set about making them.

Good yard sale signs are large, clear, and easy to read. Include the address as well as an arrow to point passing motorists in the right direction. If your town allows it, hang signs at all the busiest intersections near your house. From there, leave a trail of signs all the way to your house, pointing shoppers the right way at every turn.

Ensure your yard sale signs include the date and times of your sale as well. I always find it frustrating to see a sign that says, “garage sale,” with an address and no date because I never know if the sale is coming up, currently going on, or already over.

Listing the date and taking down signs once the sale is over ensures shoppers don’t show up on the wrong day.

You can advertise your sale online as well. Sites like Garage Sale Finder exist specifically for this purpose. Many local Craigslist groups have a section for garage sale advertising as well. Other places to put the word out include social media sites like Facebook and Nextdoor.


Final Word

A well-organized garage sale takes more work to set up than a haphazard one.

But putting in this extra effort maximizes the chances your sale will succeed once it gets going. Shoppers are more likely to stop for an attractive sale, and those who stop are more likely to stick around long enough to find something they want to buy.

By taking the time to display your goods well and price them right, you can host a great yard sale instead of just an OK one. And that helps you turn more of your clutter into cash.

Source: moneycrashers.com

Robot Vacuums: Fun Floor Cleaning Technology for Your Apartment

Wouldn’t it be nice to have a robot maid to clean your apartment for you, just like Rosie the Robot on “The Jetsons?” While cleaning technology hasn’t come quite THAT far, there are some modern-day solutions that make floor cleaning less of a chore.

[find-an-apartment]

We take a look at some cleaning technology for apartments that makes the robot maid seem plausible. (Who knows? You may be able to talk to your robots, someday soon, and they may complain right back!)

How do they work?
Robot vacs use infrared sensors and multiple motors to assess and cover the room in which they are left to do their dirty work. While the exact formula for determining how long the device should roam is unknown to all but the manufacturer, the theory seems to be that enough time spent zigzagging in a systematic pattern should allow the machine to reach every accessible inch of a room. (Sensors warn and divert the device when an obstacle like a drop-off comes near.)

Like any vacuum, the robot collects dirt and dust. The latest models return to a home base to empty themselves and recharge. Current techie wisdom about robot vacuums is that they are much improved from their early days, but still somewhat hit or miss when left to their own devices to cover an entire room.

The Roomba and other iRobots
The Roomba by iRobot is the first product many think of when they hear the term “robotic vacuum.” It was the first of its kind to market and has won a lot of loyal fans. Once the Roomba is charged, it goes to work cleaning your floors and can be programmed to clean carpet or hardwoods.

Like the idea of a robotic maid, but have more of a mobile mop in mind? Look into iRobot’s Scooba. The Scooba has a squeegee-vacuum system that washes floors without pushing around dirty water, as a conventional mop would. (This might be the way to go if your apartment is carpet-free.) The iRobot Mint is another robotic cleaner which uses microfibers to sweep and mop hard floor surfaces.

More on cleaning your apartment:
10 Tips to Detox Your ApartmentTips to Keep Your Apartment Allergen-Free17 Cleaning Essentials for Your ApartmentHow to Get Your Space Cleaned in a Hurry10 Ways to Eliminate Home Allergens

Neato Automatic Vacuum Cleaners
The Neato line of robotic vacuum cleaners share a lot of the features of their competitive counterparts. They also map a room (using their own proprietary formula), clean in a pattern and work on different types of flooring. While Neato only offers vacuums, they have come out with a special pet and allergy model for those who desire a deep level of clean.

Samsung’s Smart Tango Corner Clean
As of this writing, Samsung has just announced its new Smart Tango Corner Clean. Along with the usual functions found in robotic cleaners, this automatic vacuum has special attachments that are designed to clean corners, spots that are traditionally difficult for robotic vacuums to reach.

No matter which robotic vacuum or cleaner you want to purchase, do your homework first! Check out reviews by editors and users on sites like CNET, PCWorld, or Amazon. Make your informed choice, and then sit back, relax and let your personal robot assistant do the floor cleaning for you!

Photo Credit: Shutterstock / Jirsak

Comments

comments

Source: apartmentguide.com

What to Know about FHA 203K loans

Buying a fixer-upper is sometimes romanticized by pop culture. While it’s fun to dream, the reality of home renovation is that it can be laborious and draining, especially if the home needs serious help.

Repair work requires energy and resources, and it can be difficult to secure a loan to cover both the value of the home and the cost of repairs—especially if the home is currently uninhabitable. Most lenders won’t take that sort of chance.

But if you have your heart set on buying a fixer upper, an FHA 203(k) loan can help.

The Federal Housing Administration (FHA), part of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), insures loans for the purchase and substantial rehab of homes. It is also possible to take out an FHA 203(k) loan for home repairs only, though it might not be your best option if that’s all you need.

If you have the vision to revive a dreary house, here’s info about FHA 203(k) loans and other home improvement loan options.

What Is an FHA 203(k) home loan?

Section 203(k) insurance lets buyers finance both the purchase of a house and its rehabilitation costs through a single long-term, fixed- or adjustable-rate loan.

Before the availability of FHA 203(k) loans, borrowers often had to secure multiple loans to obtain a mortgage and a home improvement loan.

The loans are provided through HUD-approved mortgage lenders and insured by the FHA. The government is interested in rejuvenating neighborhoods and expanding homeownership opportunities.

Because the loans are backed by the federal government, you may be able to secure one even if you don’t have stellar credit. Rates are generally competitive but may not be the best, because a home with major flaws is a risk to the lender.

The FHA 203(k) process also requires more coordination, paperwork, and work on behalf of the lender, which can drive the interest rate up slightly. Lenders also may charge a supplemental origination fee, fees to cover review of the rehabilitation plan, and a higher appraisal fee.

The loan will require an upfront mortgage insurance payment of 1.75% of the total loan amount (it can be wrapped into the financing) and then a monthly mortgage insurance premium.

Applications must be submitted through an approved lender .

What Can FHA 203(k) Loans Be Used For?

Purchase and Repairs

Other than the cost of acquiring a property, rehabilitation may range from minor repairs (though exceeding $5,000 worth) to virtual reconstruction.

If a home needs a new bathroom or new siding, for example, the loan will include the projected cost of those renovations in addition to the value of the existing home. An FHA 203(k) loan, however, will not cover “luxury” upgrades like a pool, tennis court, or gazebo (so close!).

If you’re buying a condo, 203(k) loans are generally only issued for interior improvements. However, you can use a 203(k) loan to convert a property into a two- to four-unit dwelling.

Your loan amount is determined by project estimates done by the lender or the FHA. The loan process is paperwork-heavy. Working with contractors who are familiar with the way the program works and will not underbid will be important.

Contractors will also need to be efficient: The work must begin within 30 days of closing and be finished within six months.

Mortgage LoanMortgage Loan

Temporary Housing

If the home is indeed unlivable, the 203(k) loan can include a provision to provide you with up to six months of temporary housing costs or existing mortgage payments.

Who Is Eligible for an FHA 203(k) Loan?

Individuals and nonprofit organizations can use an FHA 203(k) loan, but investors cannot.

Most of the eligibility guidelines for regular FHA loans apply to 203(k) loans. They include a minimum credit score of 580 and at least a 3.5% down payment.

Applicants with a score as low as 500 will typically need to put 10% down.

Your debt-to-income ratio typically can’t exceed 43%. And you must be able to qualify for the costs of the renovations and the purchase price.

Again, to apply for any FHA loan, you have to use an approved lender. (It’s a good idea to get multiple quotes.)

Home Improvement Loan Options

The FHA 203(k) provides the most comprehensive solution for buyers who need a loan for both a home and substantial repairs. However, if you need a loan only for home improvements, there are other options to consider.

Depending on the improvements you have planned, your timeline, and your personal financial situation, one of the following could be a better fit.

Other Government-Backed Loans

In addition to the standard FHA 203(k) program, there is a limited FHA 203(k) loan of up to $35,000. Homebuyers and homeowners can use the funding to repair or upgrade a home.

Then there are FHA Title 1 loans for improvements that “substantially protect or improve the basic livability or utility of the property.” The fixed-rate loans may be used in tandem with a 203(k) rehabilitation mortgage.

The owner of a single-family home can apply to borrow up to $25,000 with a secured Title 1 loan.

With Fannie Mae’s HomeStyle® Renovation Mortgage, homebuyers and homeowners can combine their home purchase or refinance with renovation funding in a single mortgage. There’s also a Freddie Mac renovation mortgage, but standard credit score guidelines apply.

Cash-Out Refinance

If you have an existing mortgage and equity in the home, and want to take out a loan for home improvements, a cash-out refinance from a private lender may be worth looking into.

You usually must have at least 20% equity in your home to be eligible, meaning a maximum 80% loan-to-value (LTV) ratio of the home’s current value. (To calculate LTV, divide your mortgage balance by the home’s appraised value. Let’s say your mortgage balance is $225,000 and the home’s appraised value is $350,000. Your LTV is 64%, which indicates 36% equity in the home.)

A cash-out refi could also be an opportunity to improve your mortgage interest rate and change the length of the loan.

PACE Loan

For green improvements to your home, such as solar panels or an energy-efficient heating system, you might be eligible for a PACE loan .

The nonprofit organization PACENation promotes property-assessed clean energy (or PACE) financing for homeowners and commercial property owners, to be repaid over a period of up to 30 years.

Home Improvement Loan

A home improvement loan is an unsecured personal loan—meaning the house isn’t used as collateral to secure the loan. Approval is based on personal financial factors that will vary from lender to lender.

Lenders offer a wide range of loan sizes, so you can invest in minor updates to major renovations.

Home Equity Line of Credit

If you need a loan only for repairs but don’t have great credit, a HELOC may provide a lower rate. Be aware that if you can’t make payments on the borrowed funding, which is secured by your home, the lender can seize your home.

The Takeaway

If you have your eye on a fixer-upper that you just know can be polished into a jewel, an FHA 203(k) loan could be the ticket, but options may make more sense to other homebuyers and homeowners.

SoFi offers cash-out refinancing, turning your home equity into renovation money.

Or maybe a home improvement loan of $5,000 to $100,000 seems like a better way to turn your home into a haven.

Check your rate today.



SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Lending Corp (dba SoFi), a lender licensed by the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation under the California Financing Law, license # 6054612; NMLS # 1121636 . For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal.

SoFi Home Loans
Terms, conditions, and state restrictions apply. SoFi Home Loans are not available in all states. See SoFi.com/eligibility for more information.

Third Party Brand Mentions: No brands or products mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.
External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.
Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

MG18110

Source: sofi.com

Clutter vs. Hoarding: When to Worry About Your Roommate

Living styles can vary greatly from one person to the next, especially when it comes to cleaning and tidiness. Many times it is beneficial to discuss these traits before moving in with a roommate — if you’re a self-described “neat freak,” you might find it easier if your cohabitant is on the more organized side of things as well. That’s not to say that clean and messy roommates can’t successfully live together.

Maybe your roommate is just messy, a sentimental collector or a little bit of a packrat. If this is the case, there are plenty of ways to work through your differences and find a way to live peacefully together. But when is your roommate’s mess potentially the sign of hoarding?

hoardinghoarding

Messy and disorganized

If you’re noticing more mess than usual or if it seems like your roommate is struggling to keep up with normal housework, it might be a sign that something else is going on in their life that is causing stress or taking all of their attention.

Stress and other bigger issues going on outside your home can often disrupt normal patterns, with cleaning and organization falling to the bottom of the priority list.

If personal items are stacking up on tables and counters, more than a day of dirty dishes are piling up in the sink or you notice some extra loads of unwashed laundry from your roommate, you probably don’t have anything to worry about.

The mess (and maybe a slight smell) might be a nuisance, but try to check in with your roommate to see if anything has changed recently that might be causing them to neglect their housework.

If they are apologetic or willing to cooperate with your requests, you’re good to go.

When it becomes hoarding

There are a few red flags that are cause for concern — especially if you notice multiple signs or extreme conditions.

  • Overwhelming smells or visible mold, mildew or pests
  • Rooms or common areas become difficult to navigate
  • Unnecessary items rapidly accumulating in outdoor or garage areas
  • Denying access to certain rooms or areas
  • Vehicle full of personal belongings and other items
  • Unwilling to cooperate with cleanup requests or giving constant justifications for the mess

Noticing any one of these signs doesn’t necessarily mean your roommate is struggling with hoarding, but they are usually good indications that the problem is heading in that direction.

Knowing some of the warning signs can help you come up with an action plan before the situation gets out of control.

hoardinghoarding

How to handle hoarding

If you do suspect your roommate is struggling with hoarding tendencies, it’s important not to make quick judgments.

Someone unorganized, messy or has trouble letting go of extra personal belongings may get overwhelmed or stressed about something going on in their lives, but individuals struggling with hoarding might be dealing with a bigger mental health issue, finding it difficult to make changes or set limits without help.

A little empathy and patience can go a long way in getting cooperation from a messy roommate.

Try to find out the root cause of the problem and see if you can offer your roommate any support. Let them know that the clutter is beginning to affect you. See if you can agree on a cleaning schedule and set other expectations that you can both agree to.

Find a starting point that focuses on immediate items related to your health and safety including issues like addressing any mold or mildew. Focus on common areas since that is a shared space between the two of you. Suggest beginning with less daunting tasks like removing and emptying all garbage or organizing entryways and walkways.

If your roommate is seriously struggling with hoarding, don’t be afraid to ask for outside help. Your landlord is a good place to start. They may have suggestions or even be able to point out cleanliness clauses written into your lease agreement.

Comments

comments

Source: apartmentguide.com

10 Characteristics of the Best Growth Stocks (for High Investment Return)

Your investment strategy plays a major role in your profitability, or lack thereof. One of the most popular strategies investors employ is known as the growth investing strategy. The strategy is centered around finding and investing in stocks that have experienced compelling growth in recent history, and tapping into the ongoing growth potential.

But what exactly is a good growth stock?

Characteristics of the Best Growth Stocks

If you’re looking for stocks with incredible growth potential, ultimately hoping to cash in on the upward volatility to generate profits, you’re looking for stocks that display the following characteristics.

1. Stock Price Growth

For a stock to qualify as a growth stock, it has to be experiencing growth in its share price. Without price appreciation, the stock simply doesn’t fall into this category.

So, how do you determine if a stock is on an upward trend?

The easiest way is to take a look at the stock chart.

  • Look at Three-Month and One-Year Stock Charts. It will be clear whether a stock is trending upward when you look at the chart. If the share price has seen relatively consistent upward movement, there’s a strong chance you’re looking at a growth stock. It’s important to look at the chart over the past three months and one year. The three-month chart will tell you whether the trend is currently upward and the one-year chart will tell you whether the growth in the stock has been sustained over a significant period of time.
  • Forgive Dips. Even in bull markets, stocks that are climbing will dip from time to time as investors take profits or digest pieces of news. What you’re looking for is an overall performance in the upward direction, ignoring short-term dips in the data.
  • Compare the Growth to the S&P 500. The S&P 500 index is the primary benchmark of the United States market. By comparing the growth of the stock you’re interested in over the past three months and one year to growth in the S&P 500, you’ll be able to determine whether the company’s stock price has underperformed, performed in line, or outperformed the wider U.S. market. After all, the goal here is to find high-growth stocks that outperform market returns.

After looking at the charts, if you find that the stock has outperformed Wall Street averages over the past three months and one year, chances are you’ve landed on a solid opportunity to beat the market with your investing dollars.

2. Earnings Growth

Sustained gains in the value of a stock will only be possible if the company you’re investing in sustains growth in profitability. Who wants to continue piling money into a company that’s losing it all?

Determining earnings growth is a relatively simple process, thanks to a tool provided by Nasdaq. To access the tool, visit the Nasdaq website and look up the stock ticker you want to research. On the left of any stock’s profile is a link titled Earnings you can click for more details.

The resulting page will have a graph that shows the earnings per share on a quarterly basis over the past year. Look for consistent quarter-over-quarter growth in earnings. Also, pay attention to the earnings surprises. Stocks that have all positive earnings surprises consistently beat analyst expectations — a great sign for a growth stock.

3. Revenue Growth

It’s also important that the stock you invest in has a track record of impressive revenue growth. There are ways to reduce costs to inflating earnings while revenue is either plateauing or falling. These methods will only last so long, and earnings will begin to falter at some point if there isn’t real revenue growth underneath.

So, it’s important to make sure that the stocks you’re interested in are experiencing consistent and compelling growth in revenue.

To determine whether revenue is growing, simply look into the company’s last four quarterly earnings reports. Take note of the revenue reported in each quarter, keeping in mind normal peaks and valleys seen in the sector.

For example, tech companies tend to do best around the holidays, leading to strong fourth quarter revenue. As a result, companies in this space may see a plateau in revenue, or even slight declines, from the fourth quarter to the first quarter, which would be acceptable as long as revenues sequentially rise throughout the rest of the year.

Pro tip: Stock screeners like Trade Ideas and Stock Rover can help you find companies that meet or exceed most of your requirements for things like revenue growth, earnings per share, and other key metrics.

4. Market Growth

You may be noticing a trend here. The key to growth investing is finding a stock with sustained growth across all metrics, but the stock and the company it represents aren’t the only factors you should be paying attention to.

Growth in the addressable market the company you’re interested in targets is also crucially important to its ability to realize sustained gains in revenue, earnings, and ultimately share price.

If a company is beginning to capture the majority of the market it addresses, it may be going through a growth spurt, but that upward movement won’t be sustainable if the market size remains flat. At some point, the company will have saturated the market and will eventually plateau itself.

So, it’s important to look into market data to determine whether the market in which the company operates is growing at a rate capable of supporting continued upward movement in the stock you’re investing in.

To do so, simply go to your favorite search engine and type “(industry) market size” into the search bar and read through the results. In most cases, several statistics companies have performed detailed analyses of the market, determining the current market size and the size the market is expected to achieve over the next several years.

If the company you’re considering is working within a market that’s plateauing, look into how much of the market the company has already penetrated to determine how much more room is left for upward movement.

5. Free Cash Flow Growth

Money flows in and out of businesses like water. Free cash flow represents the net amount of money that flows into a business once all outflows are taken into consideration. This differs from profitability because free cash flow does not measure non-cash expenses such as depreciation.

It’s important to make sure there’s consistent growth in free cash. This can be seen by looking into the company’s balance sheets over the past four consecutive quarters.

6. A Fair Valuation

Growth stocks are notorious for reaching significant overvaluations after big runs higher, resulting in dramatic declines when investors take profits and move on to the next opportunity. While an average valuation is to be expected, risk levels increase when prices fly too high.

One of the best ways to determine if a stock is undervalued, overvalued, or valued fairly is to look at the price-to-earnings ratio, or P/E ratio. A metric commonly used by investors looking for value stocks, the P/E ratio compares the price of the stock to the earnings per share generated by the company over the course of a year.

Every industry will have its own average ratio. By comparing the ratio of the stock you’re interested in to that of the market in which it operates, you’ll be able to determine if the current value of the stock you’re interested in is fair.

7. A Strong Balance Sheet

This has little to do with growth and more to do with general investing due diligence. Any time you buy a stock, you want to make sure that the underlying company has a strong balance sheet.

The balance sheet will clearly outline the value of the assets the company owns as well as the debt it owes, giving you an idea of whether the company is sitting on a strong financial foundation.

8. Clear Competitive Advantages

In order for a company to maintain an upward trajectory, it has to have clear competitive advantages. For example, compare BlackBerry and Apple when it comes to their activities in the smartphone space.

BlackBerry was a clear pioneer, creating some of the first devices classified as smartphones. Over time, competitors came in, taking market share from the company until “BlackBerry” became “Black-What?”

On the other hand, Apple jumped in with a clear competitive advantage. The company consistently innovated new ways to use smartphones, put together an ecosystem including an app store, music service, and more. Apple continues to improve the experience for users of its smartphones to this day, many of whom refuse to switch to other devices despite there being many choices in the smartphone market. As a result, Apple is touted as one of the best growth stocks on the market today.

9. A Solid Management Team

Like a chain, a company’s team is only as strong as its weakest line, and those weak links are sometimes found in management.

When investing in a company, you’re trusting that company with your money, meaning you’re trusting the company’s management team to make moves that will lead to growth.

Why would you trust a team of people you know nothing about?

Before investing in any stock, you should dig into the management team at the helm of the company. How long have members of the team been with the company, and what have they done since taking on their positions? Where did these team members work before, and did their work with previous companies lead to positive outcomes?

These are questions you should know the answers to before you dive in.

10. Forward-Looking Growth Prospects

Finally, before buying a stock you expect to grow substantially ahead, it’s important to take a look at the company’s growth prospects. What is its story for how it will grow and expand into the future?

For example, Gevo, a company focused on the production of clean fuels, is a hot topic among growth investors at the moment. Investors are excited because the company has signed several agreements that will open the door to expanding revenues in the years ahead. Moreover, the company is working to expand its infrastructure to meet increasing demand. Based on the activities taking place at the company, investors are excited about the expectation of meaningful growth in the value of the stock moving forward.

Any growth stock you invest in should have compelling forward-looking growth prospects, such as a plan to enter a new market, a strategy for making their products or services more widely available, or new products in the pipeline.


Consider Investing in Growth ETFs

Finding and taking advantage of growth opportunities in the market can be a cumbersome process, taking quite a bit of time. If you don’t have the time to dedicate to the process, or the expertise it takes to research each and every investment opportunity before risking your money, you may want to consider investing in exchange-traded funds (ETFs) with a focus on growth strategies instead of picking individual stocks.

Although investing in growth-focused funds will reduce the amount of research required, it’s still important to look into each fund’s historic performance, expense ratio, and dividend yield before diving in.


Final Word

Investing in growth stocks has the potential to be a lucrative business. The potential to produce market-beating returns has made the growth investing strategy one of the most popular among retail and institutional investors alike.

As with any other investing strategy however, research forms the foundation of successful investment decisions. Taking the time to dive in deep and make sure the stocks you invest in display the above characteristics will greatly increase your potential profitability.

Source: moneycrashers.com

7 Tips on How to Take Pictures of Items to Sell

To put it simply: knowing how to take pictures of items to sell online has almost as much of an impact on your success as the actual object. It’s the presentation, the first way a shopper sees your product.
Before Christine Soojung Han of Vintage Sooj even shoots a photograph, she asks herself some philosophical questions. What is she trying to achieve with this photograph? What is she hoping to emulate or what kind of mood does she want to evoke? In essence, what story is she telling with the photograph.
Lighting was the first piece of advice that Chen offered. Finding the right place in your home is a matter of finding south-facing windows and, ideally, more than one window. You want to have lots of natural light. How the light comes through your window will change by season and time of day.

Pro Advice on How to Take Pictures of Items to Sell Online

Han found natural light to be too fickle. She started out with simply soft sunlight, but that was too dependent on the weather. So she bought soft boxes for light and studio lighting for about 0 and that upgraded her lighting set-up.

1. Decide What Style Photography You Want

“Avoid a crazy wallpaper wall,” she said. “That’s not for everybody and it really becomes a distraction. You want to be able to look at your furniture and not your wallpaper.”
Privacy Policy
Chen would post as many photos as possible if she could, but social media sites limit how many photos a seller can post. Chen’s adage is: take as many photos as possible. More photos offer more details and more chances for someone to fall in love with your item.

2. Find the Right Background. Be Consistent.

Ready to stop worrying about money?
You don’t have to have fancy equipment to start: smartphone cameras work fine.
When Han first started, she used props in some of her photos, like pampas grass or a stool. She found the props to be distracting, so now she models the clothes in most of her photos and adds accessories to the outfits. She doesn’t want to take attention away from the product itself.
But don’t worry, we’re about to let you in on some tips to make bank on. We consulted with the pros so you don’t have to do all of that legwork. Instead, let two eCommerce gurus guide you through the art of putting your best foot forward — photographically speaking, that is.
For Chen, staging is pivotal to creating a lived-in scene with her furniture. The important thing with staging is to strike a balance between domestic beauty and distraction. Chen suggests simple objects like a round mirror or a couple of white or black-covered books. She always likes to have vases on hand to hold flowers cut from her garden.
With clothing, much of that comes down to style: do you want something moodier with shadow or do you want crisp and clean images? Is this a stylized portrait or is this simply about the clothes? Researching and having a style of image in mind that you want to achieve makes it easier from the outset.

3. Lighting Matters

Elizabeth Djinis is a contributor to The Penny Hoarder.
Source: thepennyhoarder.com
Chen takes photos to show how deep a dresser drawer is or what the top surface looks like. She shares photos of the furniture legs and hardware, because that can make a difference to a buyer and is often another aspect of her design. If she can add a video, she does. A video gives people the sense of the full scope of an item and what it looks like in natural daylight.

4. Stage Your Photograph

Chen echoes the same premise for furniture.
When it comes to furniture product photos, Chen says, capturing the details is key. What makes your piece special? Take a photo of that. Examples of Chen’s clean photo styling can be studied on Instagram.

5. Capture the Details of Your Items

Chen calls taking a good photo “50% of the work.” She recently bought a dresser online for . Although Chen usually sands, paints and refurbishes the furniture she sells, this piece was in such good shape that she did nothing to it. She took some well-lit and aesthetically appealing photos and sold it for 5. She made almost 0 off of the dresser with little additional work.
Both Han and Chen say photos have made a difference in attracting buyers. Han will often reshoot a piece that hasn’t sold after some time. She might try different lighting or a different background to highlight the piece. Once she posts that new photo, she can usually sell the item right away.

6. Edit Your Photos

Often, entrepreneurs who start an online business aren’t photographers. Sometimes, they don’t even have a background in a creative industry and it’s unlikely they will have camera equipment beyond their smartphones. They’re passionate about their businesses selling vintage clothing or refurbishing vintage furniture, but they’re self-taught. For many, the internet has been their teacher.

7. Use Multiple Photos

Chen doesn’t like to use artificial lighting, because she finds it changes the color of the furniture in photos.

Photos Make a Difference

The axiom “photo, photo, photo” may be to online selling what “location, location, location” is to real estate.
“You see people use printed backgrounds or landscapes, but I think, no matter what you decide to use, it shouldn’t be distracting, because you want the attention to be on the clothing,” Han said.
Both Han and Sara Chen of the upcycled furniture company Sara Chen Design suggest keeping the background clean and neutral. Chen uses white walls as her backdrop, but in the last year, she has spruced it up by adding board and batten wood paneling to her staging wall. Chen has a space in her house specifically designated for staging, a luxury not everyone has.
Han, who started her business in a tiny apartment, began taking photos with a bedsheet as her background. That got tedious because she had to steam the wrinkles out each time. Now, she uses color paper backdrops that she bought cheaply from a photographer who was looking to downsize equipment. Examples of Han’s backgrounds can be studied on Etsy. Scroll through the pages to see where she used bedsheets. <!–

–>




“Photos make such a big difference,” Chen said. “You need to take time to take better photos if you want to sell for more money.”

Spring Cleaning: 6 Tips to Keep Your Apartment Allergen-Free

Indoor allergies caused by dust mites, pet dander and mold trigger allergy and even asthma symptoms in millions of indoor allergy sufferers each year. Spring cleaning is on the horizon!

While it is impossible to make your home completely allergen-free, below are a few tips to clear most of the bothersome allergens from your apartment.

Dust your surfaces

dusting surfacesdusting surfaces

Dust is the most common cause of indoor allergies, but be careful how you dust, because you can actually make your allergies worse by kicking up dirt and debris while you’re cleaning.

Use a wet or treated cloth that attracts dust, minimize dust-catching clutter and clean dusty surfaces, such as ceiling fan blades, regularly so that dust doesn’t have a chance to accumulate.

Vacuum

vacuumingvacuuming

To really ensure your space stays allergen-free, any carpet or rugs should be replaced with hard flooring, but that might not be an option in your apartment. Instead, use a vacuum that has a HEPA filter that traps dust mites, pet dander and other allergens, and try to vacuum at least once or twice a week.

Wash your bedclothes

washing bed sheetswashing bed sheets

Dust mites thrive in bedding, so wash your sheets, blankets and pillowcases once a week in hot water, then dry them in a hot dryer, to kill all the dust mites. Also, encase mattresses, comforters, pillows and other non-washable items in allergen-proof covers.

Go green

eco cleaning productseco cleaning products

Many cleaning products have harsh chemicals that can trigger allergic reactions in people. Opt for environmentally-friendly cleaning products instead. These contain plant-based, natural ingredients. You can also make many common household cleaners using things like baking soda, vinegar and lemon juice.

Reduce pet dander

dog on floordog on floor

A protein found in the saliva and dead skin of dogs and cats is a common indoor allergen. If you have pets, vacuum frequently and wash your pet once a week. You can also keep them off your bed and furniture and even designate certain areas of your apartment as pet-free areas. And if know there’s a certain pet that you know sets off your allergies, don’t get that type of animal. Unfortunately, a short-haired dog or cat will still cause an allergic reaction.

Go on mold patrol

bathroom moldbathroom mold

Spores from mold and mildew can get into the air and cause allergies and even sickness. Run an exhaust fan after you take a shower, and replace any bathroom wallpaper with tile or mold-resistant paint. Replace moldy or mildewed curtains and moldy carpeting.

Following these guidelines should keep your apartment relatively allergen-free, and you’ll be much more happy and healthy.

Comments

comments

Source: apartmentguide.com