Mortgage Rates Start Summer Near 2017 Lows … Will It Hold?

This month the Federal Reserve hiked rates for the third time in seven months. Does this mean the end of low mortgage rates? Let’s take a closer look to see how it impacts your home-buying and refinancing plans.

What is a Fed rate hike, anyway?

The Fed Funds Rate is an overnight bank-to-bank lending rate. While this rate isn’t available to consumers, the Federal Reserve (America’s central bank) uses it to help influence overall rate levels in the economy.

When times are tough, the Fed lowers the Fed Funds Rate to stimulate the economy. In the heat of the 2008 financial crisis, it cut the Fed Funds Rate all they way down to .25 percent, and kept it there until December 2015, when it felt the  economic recovery had solidified.

Then it started hiking in increments of .25 percent, and have done so four times: December 2015, December 2016, March 2017, and June 2017.

Even though the Fed Funds Rate has now risen to 1.25 percent, traditional mortgage rates haven’t risen much – and, in fact, are near 2017 lows as summer kicks off.

Certain mortgages are already up 1%

When we say “traditional mortgage rates” are holding near 2017 lows, we mean rates on primary mortgages that most people get on their homes.

However, one mortgage product that’s directly impacted by these Fed hikes is the Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC).

HELOC rates are based on two components: a set base rate called a “margin,” plus a fluctuating rate called an “index.”

The index for HELOCs is the Prime Rate, which is a rate that is directly tied to Fed Funds. In fact, the Prime Rate is the Fed Funds Rate plus 3 percent.

We know that the Fed Funds Rate is now 1.25 percent after recent hikes. This means that the Prime Rate is now 4.25 percent.

Therefore anyone with a HELOC now has a rate of 4.25 percent plus whatever their margin is. Margins are typically somewhere between zero and three percent in addition to Prime, and your margin is based on your credit quality and how much or little you’re borrowing relative to the price of your home.

HELOC rates rising 1 percent because of recent with Fed hikes means that your monthly interest cost on a $ 100,000 HELOC is now $ 83 more per month.

If have or need a HELOC to get cash out of your home but don’t want to risk your rate rising further, here’s how to evaluate the difference between a HELOC, home equity loan, and a cash out mortgage.

Traditional mortgages are holding at 2017 lows

The reason rates on primary mortgages most people get haven’t spiked like HELOC rates is because primary mortgage rates are tied to trading in mortgage bonds, not the Fed Funds Rate.

Most U.S. mortgage loans up to $ 424,100 are packaged into mortgage bonds, and these bonds trade daily in global markets. Mortgage rates fall when prices of these bonds rise on economic uncertainty, and vice versa.

Rates have been holding near 2017 lows as demand for mortgage bonds remains strong. The reason for this demand is that these bonds are considered a safe investment when policy initiatives in Washington and global economic growth looks uncertain (like it does now).

Where do mortgage rates go from here?

Thirty-year fixed mortgage rates on loans up to $ 424,100 are currently at or just below 4 percent as of  this writing – please note mortgage rates change throughout each day.

The Mortgage Bankers Association updates its rate forecasts monthly, and the June forecast calls for rates to rise very slightly – about .125 percent to .25 percent – from current levels as we move through the summer. And they call for rates to be around 4.375 percent as we move into the holidays.

These projections can change monthly as the economic and political environment evolves in the U.S. and globally, but for now you can see that rates might rise by about .375 percent by year end.

On a $ 300,000 loan, this would mean your payment rising by $ 66.

Not that $ 66 is small, but in the context of the global rate market, this is a relatively small increase that shouldn’t fundamentally alter how much home many people qualify for.

Looking for more information about mortgages? Check out our Mortgage Learning Center.

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Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of Zillow.

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Mortgage Rates Start Summer Near 2017 Lows … Will It Hold? was originally published on Southern Classic Realtors – Nivla Calcinore – Bringing You Home

The Colors of Summer: Mixing Cool and Warm Tones

Summer means bright sunny days spent next to cool blue waters, and brilliant pink and purple sunsets. As the days warm up outside, it’s a great idea to bring a little of the season into your home. Mixing the cool and warm tones of summer creates a fresh, sophisticated look in your decor.

coral and turquois small1. Framed Art Print, West Elm, $ 130 | 2. Turquoise Cushion Cover, H&M, $ 6 | 3. Coral Pillow, Target, $ 25

4. Striped Throw, Target, $ 25 | 5. Woven Basket, Urban Outfitters, $ 60 | 6. Framed Seascape, Urban Outfitters, $ 99

To make this look feel cohesive, find an inspiration piece like this colorful framed print. For a quick room update, lean artwork like this on a mantel or prominent piece of furniture so it’s the focal point of the area.

Once you have your inspiration piece displayed, work it into the rest of the space. The main color palette in the print consists of shades of coral and turquoise. Pull those into the rest of your decor with textiles, complementary artwork and accessories. A few colorful pillows on the couch and a vase on the coffee table filled with flowers goes a long way.

You can get any room in your home summer-ready in just an afternoon with this inspired color palette. Now you won’t have to get outside to enjoy summer’s brilliant hues.

See more home design inspiration.

Related:

Zillow Blog – Real Estate Market Stats, Celebrity Real Estate, and Zillow News » Home Improvement

The Colors of Summer: Mixing Cool and Warm Tones was originally published on Southern Classic Realtors – Nivla Calcinore – Bringing You Home

5 Ways to Have a Swingin’ Summer

Nothing says carefree, lazy summer days like a swing. Whether it’s a tire swing, board swing, or cool skateboard hack, you can get as creative as you like, and find something “swinging” that will fit your time available and budget for the project.

You can find myriad kits online, and there’s something gratifying about taking an afternoon and putting together a swing that suits your style and personality. And of course, if you’ve hung a hammock or bed swing, you can rest after your hard work!

1. Tree Swing

 

Tree Swing

 

You’ll find a number of tutorials with a quick search online, but be sure to consider the following tips.

  • Select a tree and placement to hang the swing:

Your tree should be solid, not near other trees or bushes in case of any falls. The branch you hang the swing from should be approximately 8 inches in diameter. Hard woods are best, like oak or maple. Note: The branch should not be more than 10 to 15 feet above the ground, or it will make the arc of the swing too high, which is not safe for children. You’ll want to hang the swing 12-18 inches above the ground. Chains or rope should be at least 3 feet away from the trunk.

  • Stand up to the elements:

Polypropylene rope, manila rope for a natural look, or a galvanized chain will not deteriorate after exposure to rain and other weather over time, unlike general purpose rope. Same goes for enamel paint – if you’re painting the seat of a board swing, it will stand up to exposure to the elements. Make sure the chain or rope is strong enough to hold the weight (load) of the swing and how many people will be on the swing at one time.

  • Protect your tree:

To protect the bark of the tree, cover the chain or rope that will be rubbing against the tree bark with a piece of old garden hose that’s got a vertical slit along one side so you can encase the chain in it. Or, get a carpet sample and wrap it around the tree where the rope or chain will rest against the bark. Use flexible wire to secure it.

2. Tire Swing

 

Tire Swing

 

  • Repurpose an old tire:

If you hang the tire parallel to the ground, you could have 2-3 children swing on it. You can also create more stability by hanging it from three points.

Drill drainage holes in the bottom so water won’t collect inside and become a mosquito breeding ground. Also, be sure to check for wasp nests occasionally.

  • Don’t get tied up in knots:

If you’re using rope, there are two general types you can use: the bowline, probably what you picture in your head when you think of tying a knot, and the hitch.

For the bowline, you can use it for the top of the tree, and to tie the tire, if you’re hanging it upright. Once the rope is over the limb, leave about 12 inches to hang past the limb on one end. Make a loop on the longest side of the rope right below the limb. Pass the other end of the rope through the bottom of the loop, then around the long end of the rope, then back through the loop. Pull it to tighten.

3. Porch Swing

 

Cat on Porch Swing

 

You could build it from scratch, but if that isn’t your skill set, you can still build something that can become a family heirloom and save money by purchasing a kit. Before you glue the pieces together, assemble the swing so you can confirm you have all the pieces, and even sand some of the parts that may not fit perfectly. You can choose to stain or paint the swing to match your house or surroundings.

For hanging, if you use galvanized steel chain, it will last a long time. Rope is another option, just make sure your rope is strong enough. Add the swing’s weight to the maximum weight you expect it to hold at one time (600 pounds is a good estimate). The total weight should be less than or equal to what the rope’s safe working load is (printed on the package).

Allow enough “swing room” – at least 2 feet of clearance at the ends and 30 inches front and back to avoid colliding with the house, the porch railings, or people.

4. Patio Swing

 

Patio Swing

 

No porch? Head to the patio! You can build a simple A-frame to hang your porch swing from. Using five 4x4s, some A-frame brackets and a couple of 2x4s, you can build two “V” shapes out of the 4x4s, then add the 2x4s to the middle of the “V” shapes to make the A-shape, and then connect the top of these with the last 4×4. Paint or stain to match your decor and to protect it from the elements. Use the hanging hardware that came with your porch swing kit, and center the swing to hang in the middle of your frame. Use a level to make sure it’s hanging straight.

5. Hammock

 

Hammock

 

A hammock really is a symbol of relaxing summer days. Hammocks without spreader bars give you more flexibility in tight spaces. There are many ways to hang a hammock. The simplest way is to find beams and drill into them, or if you’re hanging it between trees, there are straps to use to protect the tree. Hammocks usually need anywhere from 10 to 15 feet of space to stretch out. Your needs will be based on the size and style of your hammock, and if you want it flatter or more arched when you’re lying in it.

If your chosen spot is longer than the length of the hammock, use hanging straps or extra lengths of chain or rope to make it adjustable. Or, use a hammock stand and you’re free to move it wherever you like. Fun variations include hammock chairs, ones that hang from four corners, or recycle a pallett for a hanging bed.

 

Do you need help with a home improvement project? Use our instant estimate tool to get a price in seconds and find certified professionals in your area. Get a price. Get a pro. Get it done.

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5 Ways to Have a Swingin’ Summer was originally published on Southern Classic Realtors – Nivla Calcinore – Bringing You Home

3 Favorite Outdoor Spaces for Summer Fun

Summer is our favorite time of the year to work with clients. Whether we’re curating an outdoor kitchen or styling a beautiful new deck, something about the warm weather makes us want to blur the lines between the indoors and outdoors with thoughtful design and fashion-forward functionality.

Here are some of our favorite ways to create an inspirational outdoor space this season.

The rooftop deck

Those of us who aren’t blessed with the square footage to have a backyard, need to get clever to find other solutions. If you live in a townhouse or apartment in the big city, don’t hole yourself up in the living room. Head to the roof!

Courtesy of Zillow Digs.

Courtesy of Zillow Digs.

Rooftop decks are making a comeback with stylish sunproof fabrics and durable appliances perfect for an outdoor soiree or afternoon sipping cocktails. With a smaller area to work with, every detail counts, right down to the trim on the cushions.

Each piece should speak to your style, whether you’re going for a Hamptons retreat or Miami Beach-inspired entertainment area. Make sure you have plenty of seating with umbrellas available for an afternoon siesta.

We love the way bright citrusy colors and patterns help brighten outdoor decks made of concrete or stone. Add a summery vibe with plenty of greenery potted in patterned vases, and flowers on every bistro table to greet your guests.

The California room

Here in California, we can’t imagine a home without a space that easily transitions into the great outdoors. Enter the California room: a space perfectly situated just outside a sliding glass door with transitional elements like interior furnishings and exterior fabrics.

Courtesy of Zillow Digs.

Courtesy of Zillow Digs.

This space usually consists of a small outdoor kitchen and dining area for nights when the weather is too beautiful not to enjoy. The California room is often home to an entertainment center like a television for the big game, or speakers to enjoy relaxing music.

The key to creating the perfect California room is to keep it fluid. Use gauzy curtains and outdoor fabrics to maintain a soft vibe while also adding elements usually found indoors like couches, chaise lounges, and coffee tables for an interior-inspired look.

The outdoor kitchen

Last but certainly not least, the outdoor kitchen is the epitome of an inspired space. Whether you’re enjoying a dinner for two or a summer-themed fete, an outdoor kitchen is key to keeping your guests happy all evening long.

An outdoor kitchen usually consists of a few major components. First, you need a grill and complementary appliances. We love a great stainless steel grill with multiple features for when you’d rather serve fish than burgers, or vegetable skewers instead of tri-tip. Equally stylish and useful features could include a built-in wine fridge or drink cooler, a sink, and a food prep station.

Next, pick materials that are both durable and fashion-forward like stone and quartz to help make after-meal cleanup that much easier.

Finally, choose accessories that help create a dining area suitable for families and guests like placemats, centerpieces, and plenty of lighting.

What are some of your favorite ways to style your outdoor space?

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3 Favorite Outdoor Spaces for Summer Fun was originally published on Southern Classic Realtors – Nivla Calcinore – Bringing You Home

DIY or Hire a Pro? 5 Popular Summer Home-Improvement Projects


DIY deck projects can be a pretty easy and satisfying feat — with the right equipment.

This post originally appeared on LearnVest.

For many, summer’s arrival signals the end of school, summer Fridays at the office, and, of course, a chance to kick back at the beach.

But for ambitious homeowners, it means just one thing: It’s time to tackle those outdoor home-improvement projects that have been waiting in the wings.

Just one question remains: When should you save some green and tackle a project yourself — and when is it smarter (and safer) to call in the big guns?

To find out, we talked with contractor Danny Lipford, a nationally syndicated TV and radio host based in Mobile, AL, and Rory McCreesh, a master builder and founder of Duce Construction in New York City, to get advice for getting the job done right.

Summer project No. 1: Pool cleaning

Your husband’s eighth annual water polo tournament. The kids’ birthday parties. Your pool is poised to get plenty of use this summer — which means it will need to be properly cleaned and treated for safe swimming.

While you’re probably well equipped with mesh skimmers and brushes to remove leaves and algae, there’s one area in which you may need help: shocking the water with chemicals.

DIY or hire a pro? This surprisingly simple chore is all yours.

Getting the job done: “[Maintaining your pool] is a great DIY project,” Lipford says. “Retail pool supply stores like Leslie’s, are very helpful in analyzing your pool’s condition and recommending the needed chemicals to have a summer-ready pool.”

All you have to do is take a sample of pool water to the supply store in a sanitized container. Once you tell the clerk your pool’s dimensions, they can calculate the proper ratio for agents like chlorine and cyanuric acid, and provide detailed instructions on how — and when — to add them to your pool.

Summer project No. 2: Landscaping

From planting petunias to installing a flagstone path, a little landscaping can go a long way when it comes to beautifying your property.

But with so many types of flora to choose from and the perplexing science of soil to contend with, you might be wondering whether you need a landscape architect to make your yard really sing.

DIY or hire a pro? For the most part, small-scale tasks — mulching beds, shrub pruning, and weeding — can easily be successful DIY projects. “The beauty of minor landscaping is that it requires few yard tools, very little skill, and, in most cases, little time to achieve fantastic results,” Lipford says.

The only exception: breaking out the chainsaw and going to work on that overgrown oak in the front yard.

“Pruning large trees should be done by a reputable, experienced tree-care company or arborist,” McCreesh says. “Not only is it a skill that requires talent and expertise, but it also poses safety hazards, as the work entails ladders and sharp tools.”

Getting the job done: If gardening is one of the top landscaping projects on your list this summer, Lipford recommends first researching your location on the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map to ensure you’re working with the right plants for your region of the country, climate, and sun exposure.

Regardless of the plants you choose, Lipford says they all have one thing in common when it comes to successful care. “All plants need proper irrigation. Installing a soaker hose is an easy DIY way of providing a constant stream of water,” he says. “A soaker hose will run about $ 15 to $ 20, can be partially buried, and can even be attached to a simple timer for another $ 15.”

Ready to hire someone to help you with that tree-trimming project? Lipford issues one word of caution: “Never let anyone work in or around your home without having proper insurance, like general liability and workman’s comp. This is important because it protects you in the event of an accident.”

Summer project No. 3: Pest control

From mosquito bites to chewed-through vegetable plants, creepy-crawlies are an unwanted reality of the warm-weather months.

Sure, you can load up on citronella candles, but how much sweeter would it be to enjoy a bug-free summer — for your family and your tomato plants?

DIY or hire a pro? Call in the experts.

“Typical services include pest control for termites, ants, spiders, cockroaches, beetles, biting and stinging insects, rodents, and wildlife control,” McCreesh says. “Most homeowners do not have the necessary chemicals on hand or the knowledge required to effectively and safely manage this task.”

Getting the job done: Just how much you’ll shell out varies based on the size of your yard, whether the interior of your home is included in the work, and if there are any issues to address — such as a termite infestation, McCreesh says.

He recommends seeking out a seasonal contract as opposed to a one-time treatment. Good pest control companies providing longer-term services will monitor their work and re-treat as necessary.

Just confirm the fee structure for follow-up appointments. “It should be very clear if there is an additional charge or if it is included in the plan,” McCreesh says.

Summer project No. 4: Gutter repairs

Clean, secure gutters keep wastewater, leaves and other natural nuisances from weighing down your roof. So unless you want debris hanging out like a ticking time bomb overhead, it’s important to repair and patch any holes, seal leaky joints, and secure any part of the gutter that’s pulled away from the house as soon as you notice it.

DIY or hire a pro? Go with the pro.

“Even though [certain types of] gutter repair can be easy to do yourself, this type of project can frequently result in injury from falls,” Lipford says. “Gutter specialists have unique equipment to create custom gutter sections and links on-site for a home, and can do it inexpensively for about $ 75 to $ 180. It’ll give you a better result than using gutter repair materials from a big-box store.”

Getting the job done: When it comes to seeking out a qualified, licensed, and insured gutter repair company, Lipford suggests relying on references from friends, family or a list of recommends from your local chapter of the National Association of Home Builders.

“You might get a cheaper price by taking a chance [on a random company], but you also take a risk with the possibility of further damage, or someone not performing the work that was agreed upon,” Lipford cautions. “It can cost you peace of mind and additional expenses if you need to have work re-done or get damage repaired.”

Summer project No. 5: Deck work

One of the greatest pleasures of summer is spending a warm evening on the back deck, under the starry sky.

But thanks to the wrath of winter, you may have some repair work cut out for you first.

DIY or hire a pro? It depends on the scale of the project.

“Deck repairs that involve replacing or securing loose or damaged wood and staining are all manageable DIY projects,” Lipford says. “But if a deck is in need of structural repair or needs to be completely replaced, it would be better to bring in an experienced carpenter or decking company.”

Getting the job done: DIY deck projects can be a pretty easy and satisfying feat — with the right equipment.

“I recommend using a pressure washer for cleaning,” Lipford says, adding that renting one from a hardware store could run about $ 100 per day, depending on your location. “It does not require experience or great skill, but take care not to get the tip too close to the surface of the deck boards, which can cause damage.”
If the thought of wielding a pressure washer is too intimidating, try a deck brightener, which Lipford says you can easily snag at a home center in one-gallon cans. “Apply it to the deck’s surface, and wait 15 minutes,” he says. “Then lightly scrub the deck with a nylon brush, and rinse away grime with a regular hose.”

But if you’re leaning toward a project that’s larger in scale or more labor-intensive than a simple cleaning and staining, do your homework.

“Solicit bids from two to three professionals,” Lipford says. “And get everything in writing, including the scope of the work and total cost. Taking the time to make the right selection for someone working in your home is time well spent.”

Want more? Check out this article from LearnVest:

5 Protect-Yourself Rules for Booking a Vacation Home

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DIY or Hire a Pro? 5 Popular Summer Home-Improvement Projects was originally published on Southern Classic Realtors – Nivla Calcinore – Bringing You Home

5 Essential Summer Lawn Care Tips

Keeping your grass green and lush during the summer months is an uphill battle. When the sun scorches it regularly, followed by low amounts of rain fall, you’ve got your work cut out for you. Instead of trying to coax new growth and wiping out all the weeds, moss and discolored grass, consider summer a time of maintenance.

 

Dog Playing Fetch

 

Follow these tips for stress-free lawn management, enabling you to spend more time barbecuing, playing games and enjoying your yard.

1.  Watering

When grass grows in compact soil, water evaporates more quickly. Aerating a few times in the summer helps. Water early in the morning to help with evaporation and deter fungal growth. Also, water slowly with either a sprinkler system or a hose with a sprinkler head attached. Lawns require one inch of water each week unless the heat becomes severe. Then they need more.

Watering Lawn With Hose

2. Mowing

The first order of business is to have your mower blades sharpened so they actually cut the grass, not rip and shred it, which stresses your lawn. Then, raise your mower blades to about three inches or slightly higher, because taller grass tolerates drought better. Conversely, short grass helps moss to thrive. The grass also develops deeper roots when taller. Mowing regularly keeps the grass healthy and defends against weeds because they can’t get the light they need to germinate.

Mowing Lawn

3. Mulch Grass Clippings

Spread your clippings back over the lawn to keep the moisture levels stable, add nutrients back into the soil, keep the soil temperature cooler and supply shade. You can even buy a lawn mower that lets the cuttings fall back onto the grass.

Mower and Mulch

4. Dealing with Worn Spots

If your lawn is showing signs of high traffic in certain areas, think about placing stepping stones or pavers in those spots to decrease the damage.

Stepping Stone

5. Delay Fertilizing

This goes for reseeding, thatching and spraying weed killer, too. Late August through early September is the best time to proactively take care of your lawn and implement those practices. In the height of the summer, if you can mow regularly, water and mitigate the foot traffic, you’re doing great.

Summer Lawn

 

Do you need help with a landscaping project? Use our instant estimate tool to get a price in seconds and find certified professionals in your area. Get a price. Get a pro. Get it done.

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5 Essential Summer Lawn Care Tips was originally published on Southern Classic Realtors – Nivla Calcinore – Bringing You Home

Barbecues, Balloons and Windows: Watch Out for These Summer Dangers

For most of us, summer has well and truly arrived. Flowers are in bloom, the weather is brighter, days are longer and we may even get to wear our shorts and flip-flops at some point, but with summer comes a whole host of household dangers we need to be aware of. Here are some of the most common summer dangers to look out for.

1. Drowning

Drowning is said to be the sixth leading cause of death in people of various ages and it the second leading cause of unintentional death for children aged one to 14. If you’re going swimming whether that’s in a pool, the sea or another natural water setting ensure you are a confident swimmer first.

Never leave children unattended in water and familiarize yourself with the terrain. For boat trips, ensure you use a life jacket regardless of the size of boat or the length of your trip.

If you own a swimming pool, install an isolation fence with self-latching gates to prevent entry.

Summer Dangers - Gas Barbecues

Gas barbecues can lead to fires and carbon monoxide poisoning if not used correctly. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

2. Barbecues

Barbecues offer a fun alternative to normal cooking during the summer months but it’s important to be vigilant. Research suggests that a third of people use a gas barbecue on a weekly basis during the summer which exposes them to a number of dangers.

Check to make sure your barbecue is in good condition and check to see if there are any loose or missing parts as these may need to be repaired before use.

Carefully choose the location to make sure the barbecue is away from any sheds, trees or shrubs that could catch on fire and never ignite a barbecue in an enclosed space as this increases the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Keep a bucket or water or sand nearby in the event of an emergency.

3. Cooking

The kitchen is generally the most active room in the house and receives much traffic. Slips and spills may be common place but be aware when cooking, too. If you need to leave the kitchen ensure you take any pans off the heat and keep towels and cloths away from the cooker.

Why not make it fun? Teach your children about the importance of cooking and kitchen safety and get them involved in the preparation of your food but don’t leave them unattended.

Also, make sure your appliances are in good working order and ensure they are regularly serviced and maintained. Faulty appliances are one of the biggest causes of fires and carbon monoxide poisoning within the home.

Finally, check your smoke detector! Change the batteries annually and test it regularly to make sure it works.

4. Windows

When the weather gets hot and stuffy, you’ll probably want to open your windows to let some fresh air in. But be careful! If you’ve got kids, don’t place furniture near windows where they can access an open window and fall out.

Check safety latches and use window guards if necessary but be sure that at least one window in each room can be used as an emergency exit in the event of a fire.

5. Camping

Camping can be a great way of getting back to nature and really helps us to appreciate the great outdoors but a fire can be a significant risk whilst camping. Never cook inside the tent and change any gas canisters outside the tent too.

Use torches instead of lighters or candles for illumination and pitch your tent during the day so you can clearly see your surroundings.

Furthermore, don’t position your tents under a tree as falling branches may injure you and position your tents with sufficient space between them to prevent fire spreading, if one does occur.

6. Balloons

Latex balloons pose a significant choking risk for children when chewing or blowing them up. In fact, since 1973, more than 110 children have choked to death on latex balloons.

Store any balloons out of reach of children, preferably in a locked cabinet or drawer.

Supervise your child when playing with balloons and if a balloon pops, pick up the pieces immediately and throw them all away.

7. Power Windows

Many cars now have electric, power windows but these windows cause hundreds of children to lose or crush their fingers each year.

Never leave children alone in the car and pay close attention when their windows are down. Where possible, ensure you have an adult passenger in the car sitting with the child to keep an eye on possible accidents whilst you drive.

Most European cars have an auto-reverse mechanism now which lowers the window when it comes into contact with an object however it’s always better to stay vigilant as not all American cars have this functionality.

About Anna Gillespie
Anna is a freelance journalist currently writing for a number of sites including The Huffington Post. An experienced writer, her interests include homes, interior design, current affairs and the occasional cat video!

Note: This is a guest post; the views and opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of Redfin.

The post Barbecues, Balloons and Windows: Watch Out for These Summer Dangers appeared first on Redfin Real Estate Blog.

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Barbecues, Balloons and Windows: Watch Out for These Summer Dangers was originally published on Southern Classic Realtors – Nivla Calcinore – Bringing You Home

A Guided Tour of Summer Vacation Insurance

vacation-ins

By Samantha Alexander

Summer is here, and in between neighborhood cookouts and days by the pool, you might be taking that much-needed vacation. Whether you plan to spend a relaxing week at the beach or fly overseas for a big European adventure, there’s a lot to consider when packing and preparing for your trip. Insurance should be one of those considerations.

Insurance may not be your first thought when it comes to planning a vacation, but overlooking it could cost you. What if a hurricane hits Florida right before your prepaid trip to the Keys? What if someone steals your belongings from your hotel room? What if you get in a fender bender in your rental car?

Life throws too many curveballs your way to neglect your insurance. From protecting the financial investment of your trip to securing your home while you’re away, here are some considerations to help prepare you and your family for some of the unforeseen twists you could encounter.

If you’re flying

Flying is generally faster and safer than other modes of travel, but it’s also often pricier. If you are shelling out big money for plane tickets, consider purchasing travel insurance. Travel insurance covers issues such as flight cancellations, lost or stolen bags, trip cancellations due to illness, medical emergencies in foreign countries and more.

According to a survey by the U.S. Travel Insurance Association, nearly 17 percent of Americans say their travel plans have been impacted by medical conditions, natural disasters including severe weather, or mechanical or carrier-caused problems.

When you consider that a family of four spends an average of about $ 4,000 on a vacation with airfare, according to American Express, the cost of travel insurance may be worth it to protect your trip. Just make sure to do a little bit of research before settling on a policy. Pay attention to both the price and the coverage.

If you purchased your trip using a credit card, you may have built-in travel insurance. Many cards cover trip interruptions or delays, trip cancellations and lost baggage. Before you invest in a travel insurance policy, call your credit card company and see whether you’re already covered.

If you’re driving

Hitting the open road instead of the friendly skies? Review your auto insurance policy. Do you have sufficient coverage? Should you add any additional coverage, such as roadside assistance? Once you’ve gotten a refresher of your auto policy, make sure you’ve got your insurance ID cards handy for your trip.

If you’re renting a car, your personal auto insurance policy may extend its coverage to your rental car. However, call your auto insurance company to nail this down. Depending on the type of policy you carry, you may not have sufficient coverage.

If you plan to pay for the rental car with a credit card, your card might cover damage to a rental car. Again, call the credit card company ahead of time to check.

Taking these steps means you know the answer without even thinking when the rental car agent pitches the company’s insurance coverage. If you don’t have the coverage on your personal auto policy or a card, you might want to take the plunge on the rental car plan. Otherwise, you could wind up paying for costly repairs to the vehicle and for income lost to the company while the repairs are being made.

Protecting your belongings

While you’re on vacation, it’s easy for your personal belongings to get lost or stolen. Burglars love the summer, too. That’s why it’s important to take extra precautions in securing your belongings both on your trip and back home.

On your trip

From the airport to the hotel, there are plenty of opportunities for your possessions to go missing or get damaged. Luckily, your standard homeowners insurance policy likely includes personal contents coverage, which can protect your things even when they aren’t at home. Call your insurance company to find out for sure if you’re covered.

While your home insurance policy may give you peace of mind, there are still ways to prevent your items from winding up lost or stolen. Here are a few tips:

  • Keep your money, passport and credit cards with you at all times. Leave any unnecessary IDs or credit cards at home.
  • Utilize your hotel room’s safe for valuable items — or better yet, don’t bring them.
  • Whether you are at the airport or hanging by the pool, never leave your personal belongings unattended.
  • It may not be tangible, but you don’t want your identity stolen, either. Always be wary of public Wi-Fi. If there’s no password, it’s probably not a secure network.

Back home

While you’re away, your home could be more vulnerable to break-ins. Here are a few ways to keep it secure:

  • Before you leave, ask a close friend or neighbor to keep an eye on your house and notify you or the police if something looks awry.
  • Be careful when posting details about your vacation online. You could tip off criminals in the process. You can always brag and show off photos after you return.
  • Purchase light switch timers. You can program lights to go off and on at certain times so it looks like someone is home.
  • Unplug electronics and appliances. You won’t just protect them from power surges, you’ll also save on electricity.

A vacation should be fun and relaxing. Don’t let it become stressful by forgetting to consider insurance.

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Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of Zillow.

Zillow Blog – Real Estate Market Stats, Celebrity Real Estate, and Zillow News » Tips & Advice

A Guided Tour of Summer Vacation Insurance was originally published on Southern Classic Realtors – Nivla Calcinore – Bringing You Home

9 Summer Touches to Add Around Your Home

Summer is finally here! The days are longer, the flowers fragrant, the fruit even more delicious. But is your home a still few seasons behind?

With the weather warming up, it’s important that you heat up your decor in and around your home as well. Brighter colors and lighter fabrics will ease the transition from outside to inside so that you don’t feel like you’re stepping back into winter.

You don’t need to completely overhaul your home, and with our nine simple tips, you can add touches of summer that will bring the most out of the summer days.

1. Replace Your Linens

In winter and fall, we love to snuggle up under thick, warm linens—but we really don’t need that level of warmth as the temperatures rise during summer. Swapping out your heavy duvet with a light quilt will not only help you sleep better, but your bedroom will look summer-ready. Stick with bright or airy colors, florals and light fabrics. The same goes for swapping out your thick rugs.

Summer Linens

2. Summer Blooms

You don’t have to go to the store anymore for a fresh bouquet, instead, you can simply step outside to pick your own fragrant flowers. Flowers throughout your home signal that summer is here and brighten up the mood. You can even place a bouquet or large plant in your now out of use fireplace.

Bouquet in Living Room

3. Window Seat

You don’t need to install a built-in bench—just by rearranging your furniture, acquiring a piece to put under the window or utilizing a wide windowsill will do. Adding seating by the window to enjoy the long summer sun is a seasonal pleasure not to be missed.

Window Seat

4. Brighten Your Palette

Rich, warm colors are great for the cooler months, but now is the time to add energy to your decor. You can easily swap out accents, stow heavy throws and swap cluttering decor that feel cozy in fall but are overwhelming in summer. Opt for light fabrics and cheery colors and summer accents. Like a galvanized serving tray—it automatically says you’re ready for a impromptu summer soiree or for picnics outside.

Bright Living Room

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5. Tidy Up Outside

Speaking of outdoors, who doesn’t hear summer and think of picnics and dinner parties. Make sure your existing outdoor summertime furniture is clean and ready to go, or look into purchasing a set so you can enjoy the sunny weather as much as possible. Umbrellas and chaise lounges are nice ways to laze around, and at the very least, add a bench you can read or catch some rays on.

White Patio Furniture

6. Outdoor Lights

Although the days are long, the nights are still warm, so you may be staying out later than you expected to enjoy the cooler evenings. String lights and paper lanterns turn your backyard into an enchanted getaway you’ll never want to leave.

Outdoor Lanterns

7. Make an Art Swap

One of the quickest ways to brighten a dark room is simply by switching out the art. You can find inexpensive options just about anywhere and the colorful pieces will instantly make your room summer-ready.

Art On Bedroom Wall

8. Summer Scents

Candles are a wonderful touch year round, but cinnamon and evergreen scents seem very out of place when there are sandals and sleeveless shirts in the mix. Opt for summer scents like ocean breeze, crisp linen and citrus to welcome in the season.

Candles and Shells

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9. Outdoor Canopy

Protect yourself and your family from the summer sun and make enjoying the outdoors more comfortable with an outdoor canopy. Unlike an umbrella, it covers more ground, can go anywhere and you can easily DIY it. String it among your trees, extend it from your house, wherever you need shade! Basically, all you need is a thick cloth and some string and you’ll be set to lounge around and enjoy the outdoors.

Backyard Canopy

 

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9 Summer Touches to Add Around Your Home was originally published on Southern Classic Realtors – Nivla Calcinore

18 Nontoxic Ways to Keep Pests at Bay This Summer

Insects have their place in the natural world, but when the weather warms up, they occasionally take residence in the most inconvenient of places — our homes and gardens. Some bugs are more of an unwelcome nuisance (especially when selling a home), while others can carry disease or harm your home, family, or belongings.

Using noxious chemicals to keep either at bay comes with its own set of consequences. And while sometimes turning to the big guns is a necessity, there are plenty of DIY pest control remedies you can try first.

Here’s a list of 18 tips that will help you tackle some of the most common pest problems.

1. Be tidy

If you don’t want pests in your home, start by eliminating things that attract them. That means keeping food in tightly closed bins, cleaning up food scraps and crumbs promptly, and keeping lids on garbage cans and emptying them frequently.

Moisture will also attract many pests, so fix any leaks and use a dehumidifier. Outdoors, don’t allow water to pool, which provides a breeding ground for some bugs, like mosquitoes.

2. Use borax to deter ants

To create a nontoxic ant trap, mix ⅓ cup of borax, ⅓ cup of sugar, and 1 cup of water in a jar. Add a wad of toilet paper, then poke a few holes in the jar’s lid before fastening it on.

Trapping ants won’t affect their colony, though. To attack them at the source, sprinkle borax along their pathways, where they’ll pick it up, bring it back to home base, and share. One caveat: Keep borax away from curious pets and kids.

3. Lure fruit flies with vinegar

Who says you’ll catch more flies with honey than vinegar? Fill a small jar with apple cider vinegar, then affix plastic wrap over the top with a rubber band, poke a few holes in it, and wait.

4. Deter flies with a basil cocktail

Keep fruit flies away by soaking a pint of packed basil leaves in water overnight. Pour the infusion into a spray bottle and douse infested areas.

5. Houseflies are haters
Houseflies can’t stand a host of great-smelling plants, including basil, lavender, sweet woodruff, lemon verbena, mint, thyme, rosemary, bay, chamomile, and basil, according to Annie Berthold-Bond, author of Better Basics for the Home. Plant these near doorways or keep potted specimens on windowsills.

6. Let roaches belly up to the bar

Since cockroaches are attracted to moisture, fixing any leaky faucets or pipes should be a priority. You can also lure them with a saucer of beer; once drunk, kick them out. Alternatively, sprinkle borax or diatomaceous earth around to keep them away.

7. Send pantry moths flying

Pantry moths are a nuisance because they can quickly infest your cupboards, eating through dry goods and reproducing rapidly. Discard any food packaging where you find larvae or pods and wipe shelving clean. Placing dried bay leaves in your cabinets can also help.

8. Put the heat on closet moths

Nothing’s more annoying than pulling out sweaters from storage in the fall to find them full of holes. Using cedar blocks or lavender sachets will help deter closet moths, but the best practice is to dry-clean or wash woolen clothing before you put it away. High heat will kill moths, and you can put wool garments through the dryer — only when they are dry, of course, to avoid shrinkage.

9. Say goodbye to fleas

Fleas are the worst — but flea bombs are pretty bad too. If you find yourself infested, scrub floors and other (nonfood) surfaces with a cleanser containing d-limonene, which is made from citrus peels. Bathe pets using Dawn blue dish soap and use a nit comb on fur. It’s hard work, but it does the trick.

10. Send mice and rats scurrying

To avoid rodents, it’s important to keep your home clean from the get-go. Barring that, choose traps, not poison.

11. Go garlicky with garden bugs

Sometimes it’s possible to handpick bugs off garden plants. When it’s not, try this all-purpose concoction from Berthold-Bond: Peel and mash one head of garlic, then place it in a Mason jar. Cover with boiling water; allow to sit overnight. Strain, place in a spray bottle, and spray on affected areas.

12. Blow away mosquitoes

Mosquitoes are known to dislike citronella and lemon balm, but they won’t always do the trick. One friend found that adding an oscillating fan to her arsenal gave the scents extra power and blew the bugs away.

13. Plant companions

Many plants — such as nasturtiums, chrysanthemums, and marigolds — can be planted alongside others to act as natural protectors. Known as companion planting, it helps repel unwanted bugs. Native plantings also tend to be more resistant to local critters; it’s just how they evolved.

14. Shrug off snails and slugs

Place eggshells, sawdust, or salt in the soil to avoid snails and slugs; they hate crawling over scratchy stuff. Or put out a saucer of beer; they’ll feast on that instead of your tomatoes.

15. Avoid ticks with simple tricks

When working in the garden, wear light-colored clothing, which will help you spot ticks more easily. Pull socks up over the cuffs of your pants; tape gloves over shirt sleeves. Undress directly after you’re finished with your tasks, always perform a tick spot-check, and take a shower immediately.

You can also make a homemade tick repellent using one part tea tree oil to two parts water mixed in a spray bottle.

16. Natural bug spray

Here’s a DIY bug spray that’s safe for kids and adults alike. Place ¼ teaspoon of salt and 5 drops of essential oil (try citronella, lemongrass, tea tree, myrtle, or rosemary — you can use all of one or mix them together) in a 4-ounce spray bottle. Allow the mixture to sit until the oils soak into the salt. Add water, shake, and spritz (avoiding eyes).

17. Indoors or out, try a cat

Cats are all-natural predators. Mine have also been known to clear out critters including mice and bunnies (sorry, bunnies). They’re worth considering!

18. Could you do nothing?

How badly do you need those bugs gone? “I have found great success in letting insects do their thing in my house with no ill consequences,” says Starre Vartan, founder of Eco-Chick.com. “It works particularly well for ants, which are mostly just dedicated to their pathways. I also let spiders keep their webs as long as they are not directly in my way and find that they end up with plenty of food — that is, insects I then don’t have to worry about.”

Like everything else in life, a healthy home is all about balance.

Trulia’s Blog

18 Nontoxic Ways to Keep Pests at Bay This Summer was originally published on Southern Classic Realtors – Nivla Calcinore