Keeping Your Houseplants Healthy During the Summer

House plants need extra care to survive the steamy summer months.

There’s a lot plants love about the summer. Longer days mean more hours of sunlight for photosynthesis, and many houseplants of the tropical variety thrive in warm, humid air. But some indoor plants need extra care to stay strong and healthy during the summer. Follow these tips to help keep your indoor garden looking great when the temperature rises.

Control Pests

Keep an eye out for signs of bugs infesting your houseplants. Pests can strike at any time of year, but indoor plants tend to be more susceptible in the summertime. If they’re already struggling in the harsh weather, a pest problem could spell doom for your poor plants. Be sure to separate any infested plants from the others and take steps to it.

Water Consistently

Since the days are longer, plants need more water to keep growing during the summer. You should water at least once a day to keep the soil from drying out. It helps to water early in the morning to allow time to absorb the water before it evaporates. However, you don’t want to water at night, as leaving it plant wet for too long makes it more susceptible to pests and fungal disease.

Add Mulch

Most people don’t think to use mulch indoors, but it can be a benefit to your houseplants’ health. Adding a small layer of mulch to the top of the soil will help keep it cool and reduce water evaporation.

Keep Plants and Air Conditioning Separate

Your plants may not appreciate that cool breeze and dehumidified air as much as you do. Most houseplants are from tropical climates, so they prefer warm, humid conditions and a stable temperature.

If you only have air conditioning in certain rooms of your house, keep your plants out of those rooms during the summer. You can also keep small plants under glass or in a terrarium to protect them from the effects of air conditioning.

To Fertilize, or Not?

There are two arguments to be made about adding more fertilizer to your plants in the summer. On one hand, plants absorb more sun from June to August, so it’s important they get enough nutrients to stay healthy. Adding an organic fertilizer can help your houseplants bloom and flourish from the added sunlight. However, fertilizer is only effective if the plant has enough water to support the chemicals.

Adding more fertilizer could give your plants that extra boost they need to keep going, but only if you can provide enough water. Otherwise, it’s best to stick to your old fertilizing routine and maintain a consistent watering schedule.

Do You Really Need To Replace Your Old Windows?

New windows can boost curb appeal and energy efficiency, but your money is often better spent on repairs.

Windows are a big deal when it comes to home renovation. They’re considered a high-value upgrade, improving both the curb appeal and energy efficiency of your home. Plus, a new set of windows can also help give you peace and quiet, and even cut the time you spend cleaning.

But windows aren’t cheap. According to Consumer Reports, a full replacement can run you anywhere from $8000 to $24,000, depending on the size of your home and the quality of your new windows. And though they might boost energy efficiency, it can take decades for those cost savings to catch up with the amount you spent on the renovation.

In many cases, fixing your windows is a far better investment than replacing them. But how do you know when to repair and when to replace? It depends on the extent of the damage.

Drafts

When the seal around a window wears down, it causes you to lose heat during the winter and let warm air in during the summer. That bumps up your heating and cooling costs.

If drafts are your only issue, you can usually fix the problem without much trouble. Fill in cracks in the caulking using a caulk gun, sealing the gaps between the window molding and exterior of your house, and around the window trim inside. You can also replace worn-out weatherstripping on the exterior.

Moisture

Drafty windows don’t do much damage, but moisture is another story. Moisture can cause the paint around the window to peel, crate streaks on the walls, and rot the wooden window frame over time.

If you can get to the problem before it damages the frame, you may not have to replace the window. But if the wood is rotting or saturated with moisture, you may need to have it re-installed and re-sealed. Try pushing the end of a flat-blade screwdriver into the frame – if you can push it in easily, there’s water damage.

 

The 3 Biggest Pros and Cons of Renting Out Your Basement

renting out your basement
There’s more than privacy to consider when it comes to renting out your basement.

Last week, Brittney Morgan wrote a great piece for Apartment Therapy on the benefits and drawbacks of basement apartments from the renter’s perspective. What the article doesn’t address is the pros and cons of renting out a basement from the point of view of the landlord.

Renting out your basement is an enticing option for those of us in the Greater Toronto Area, especially young people who are buying a home for a first time. Collecting rental income is a lucrative way for young homeowners to help pay the oft-excessive mortgage. However, there are definite drawbacks when it comes to renting out a slice of the property you live in.

If you’re thinking of becoming a live-in landlord yourself, consider this rundown of the 3 biggest pros and cons of renting out your basement apartment.

Benefits of Renting Out Your Basement

  • Steady source of income. If you price it right and account for the extra utility costs a renter will bring, you can leverage the rental income to help pay your mortgage, property taxes, or other bills. This can help you pay off your mortgage years earlier.
  • Adds value to your home. Having a finished basement apartment increases the resale value of your home, as it will appeal to future homeowners who are thinking along the same lines as you. It expands the appeal of your home to a wider demographic of potential buyers.
  • Free house-sitter. When you go away on vacation, you can feel better knowing there will be someone there to keep an eye on things. If you build a good relationship with your tenant, they may even be willing to help out by feeding your pets or watering your plants while you’re gone.

Renting Out Your Basement: Challenges and Drawbacks

  • Higher utility bills. Having a tenant in your home means your water and energy consumption will go up. This can eat up any cost savings you’d earn from your rental income if you aren’t careful. If you want to track the tenant’s usage and charge them monthly utilities on top of the rent, you will have to pay to have a second meter installed.
  • Legal issues. Being a landlord means you have to follow the residential tenancies laws in your province or else face hefty fines and legal claims. You will have to stay on top of repairs, obey the law in terms of how you collect rent, etc. Renting out your business apartment can involve other legal issues as well, such as civil claims, municipal bylaws, and human rights laws.
  • Costly repairs. You will be responsible for maintenance and repairs in your basement apartment, which can quickly add up if you don’t stay on top of things. Think of how much money you spend on home renovations and repairs — can you afford to pay double that amount? As with utility bills, repairs are a potential pitfall that can evaporate your rental income.

Don’t be discouraged! Renting your home can be a great idea — if you do it right. Just be sure to crunch the numbers and consider whether you are ready for the responsibilities that come with being a landlord.

Is Hiring a Real Estate Photographer Worth It?

real estate photographer

Our previous post stressed the importance of curb appeal in selling a home. TL;DR: Buyers won’t bother to look inside if the outside doesn’t look right, so make sure your home puts on its best face before it hits the real estate listings.

This brings us to another important point: while curb appeal matters, the first time buyers see your home is not literally from the curb. It’s in an online real estate listing. More specifically, they see a photo of the exterior of your home.

90% of buyers look for homes on the Internet, and 83% of them say photos are the most important and useful feature on a listing.

If the main listing photo see doesn’t appeal, buyers will gladly scroll past it. If the interior shots disappoint, it may not be enough to keep them interested. A person’s decision to take the leap and schedule a viewing often turns on the quality of the photos inside.

That’s why it’s usually worthwhile to hire a real estate photographer.

Why Can’t I Just Take My Own Photos?

Well, you can take your own photos for your real estate listing. Your realtor can, too. After all, everyone has a cell phone. Most cell phones have cameras. And these cameras are getting better and more high-def all the time.

But should you take your own photos? In most cases, you should not.

The thing is, a great camera does not make a great photographer. Photography is an art, and it takes years of study and practice to become skilled in the art of photography. Taking great real estate listing photos is about more than setting up a tripod and taking the shots. It involves an understanding of lighting, placement, and angles.

Inadequate lighting makes your space look dreary or washed out. Bad angles can emphasize the home’s rough edges while neglecting the good. Poor placement make your space look smaller than it should.

An experience real estate photographer has the knowledge and expertise to capture your home effectively. You want your photos to provide an strong representation of your home. It shouldn’t just convey what your home looks like – it should entice buyers to take a closer look.

A professionally-shot home has a better chance to stand out among the other listings, attract higher offers, and close faster.

What if I Don’t Have a Realtor?

When it comes to selling their house, more and more people are taking the matters into their own hands.

Today, anyone can create a real estate listing with ease. There are plenty of resources out there to help ordinary people navigate the home selling process. In the spirit of DIY and the pursuit of higher returns, many homeowners decide to sell directly to buyers – no realtor involved.

The quality of your photos is even more important when you’re going it alone. Lacking the network and marketing machine that comes with a realtor, you’ll want to take every advantage you can get to sell your home. Hiring a professional real estate photographer can help.

Since professional photos can increase the value of a home, investing in good photos can pay off in the long run.

5 Quickest Ways to Boost Curb Appeal on a Budget

curb appeal

Planning to sell your home this summer? Here’s how you can do to boost curb appeal on a budget.

Curb Appeal Matters.

The hottest real estate listings don’t happen by accident. They often involve picture-perfect staging, top-notch photography, and a stunning virtual home tour.

But before you get that far, take a step back and focus on first impressions. What’s the first thing people see when they visit your listing?

Answer: the front of your home.

People judge a home by it’s cover, whether you like it or not. That’s why curb appeal matters. Just about any potential buyer will scope out your front yard before they even think of stepping through the front door.

Installing new windows, re-shingling your roof, and changing up your siding are all great ways to boost curb appeal. Unfortunately, those fixes take time – and money. If you want to boost curb appeal on a budget, you have to get creative.

Here are some budget curb appeal tips that can help you catch the attention of browsers and drive-bys.

5. Power Wash

Since we see it every day, we don’t often notice dirt and grime building up on the side of our homes. But trust me – your potential buyers will. Many people go years without scrubbing their siding, which leaves it looking cheap and faded.

That’s why blasting your siding with a power washer can be just as effective as a high-cost replacement. While you’re at it, you can point the nozzle at your walkways and patios to wash away inground moss and dirt.

If you don’t own a power washer, you can easily rent one from a hoem store or garden centre.

4. Plant Flowers

Flowers are one of the easiest and cost-effective ways to win over potential buyers. It doesn’t need to be expensive – a few well-placed gardens and potted plants are effective. Visit your local nursery to find out which plants thrive in your area.

Don’t have a green thumb? No worries! You can make a big impression with premade hanging baskets and urns. All you need to do is trim and water them.

3. Wash Those Windows

Have you ever heard the phrase, “The eyes are the window to the soul?”

Well, it’s through your windows that potential buyers get their first peek at the soul of your home. Make sure they have a squeaky-clean view.

2. Upgrade Front Door

Is it welcoming? Does it look safe and secure? The front door is a factor in the overall feel of your home. But if you can’t afford to replace your it, you can make the best of what you have.

You can spruce up your entrance with a fresh coat of paint, new hardware, and a clean doormat. Choose colours and materials that fit your home’s overall style. It’s a subtle change, but it works.

1. Prepare Front Porch

A cozy front porch can be the final push buyers need to schedule a viewing. And if you’ve already followed the previous tips, it’s already poised to succeed.

Make the most of your front porch by cleaning up the deck (that power washer can come in handy), arranging some comfortable porch furniture, and keeping the porch light on at night.

You Missed a Spot: 10 Kitchen Items Everyone Forgets to Clean

It happens to the best of us.

You have company coming over. It’s go time. And you’re not ready.

Perhaps you caught wind of some last-minute guests. Maybe you made plans weeks ago, but work left you no time to clean during the week. Whatever the reason, your kitchen is a mess, and you need to make it *somewhat* presentable in time.

Of course, that’s when we start to cut corners.

We focus our effort on the big-ticket items – the counter tops, the stove, the stainless steel fridge that holds fingerprints like an old-fashioned fridge holds magnets – and forget the little details.

But that’s alright! You’ll get it next time. Just keep these kitchen cleaning tips in mind when you tidy up and you’ll never miss a problem spot again.

10. Ceilings and Corners

In your kitchen, the walls and ceilings get dirty faster than the rest of your home. All those splashes of oil from the stovetop or bits from the blender can get grimy if you leave them alone.

Take time to clean crease, grime, and spilled food from those nooks and crannies.

9. Wall Art

Just as the walls in your kitchen get dirtier, so do the things that adorn them. Smudged glass and dusty frames take away from the beauty of your carefully-selected pieces. Dust off the tops and sides of your frames, then take them down to give the glass a good clean.

Be sure not to spray water or cleaner directly onto the frame, as liquid can seep behind the glass and damage your precious art. Instead, wipe it with a slightly damp cloth.

8. Drapes, Curtains and Blinds

Of course you remember to Windex your windows, but when was the last time the drapes got some attention? Though they may look clean, curtains and other hanging upholstery can trap everything from pollen to dust mites and bacteria.

The next time you clean your windows, take down the coverings and wash them according to the label. You can save time by vacuuming them regularly.

7. Cutting Boards

Whether you use them a little or a lot, it’s very important to sanitize your cutting boards. Both wood and plastic cutting boards can be a major source of cross-contamination.

It’s best to sanitize them with a chlorine bleach solution after each use, but if you can’t find time for that, use a different cutting board for your meats, fruits and vegetables, and other foods.

6. Sponges

Sponges are a haven for bacteria. Washing them with soap and water isn’t enough.

You can kill most of it by heating a moist sponge in a microwave for one minute, or popping them in the dishwasher with a drying cycle. But you should still replace your kitchen sponge frequently, especially if it starts to smell.

5. Ceiling Fans

Ceiling fans usually sit idle during the winter months. That’s when they accumulate mountains of dust bunnies on the upper side of the blades. If you don’t clean them often, you’ll end up with a shower of dust the next time you turn on the fan.

You can easily remove the dust with a warm, soapy cloth. Just be sure to use a stable stepladder to reach those high places.

4. Cabinet Handles and Doors

Kitchen cabinets tend to get grabbed by dirty hands, becoming a hot spot for – you guessed it – bacteria.

You can thwart these tiny pests by disinfecting knobs and handles every so often. If the cabinet hides something messy, like a garbage bin or dog food, you should wipe down the inside of the doors as well.

3. Garbage Can

Sure, you take out the trash every week. You know not to leave dirty bits and pieces on the bottom of the can. But your kitchen garbage can will still accumulate grime.

If you garbage can smells bad even when empty, it’s time to give it a thorough clean with a disinfectant and odour cleaner.

2. Dishwasher

Who washes the dishwasher? You do – or at least you’re supposed to. The filter gets clogged with food debris and soap scum, and the sides are marred by hard water deposits. Neglect it for too long and you’ll have mold.

Luckily, cleaning the dishwasher is a fairly simple process.

1. Small Appliances

Perhaps the most neglected corners of our kitchens lay with our humble appliances. We love our toaster, blender, and coffee maker, but rarely do we remember to clean them inside-out.

To keep your food tasting fresh (not funky), be sure to clean your little appliances when you clean the oven and stove top.