Jumping into Spring with Tips to Get Ready for a New Season

Spring has sprung and we couldn’t be happier to start packing away the winter clothes, snow boots and basically anything winter related. It’s time to embrace this new season with an appreciation for all it promises to bring. It’s a known fact that the shorter days and colder weather can make you feel down; there’s even a name for it, season affective disorder (SAD, an appropriate acronym). As a result, we are ready to not only dust off of our state of mind but also get our home in order. Just like us, they take a beating from the cold, so it’s important to take care of things we’ve had to neglect due to the weather.  Tackling these projects now will ensure you’re ready to enjoy spring before moving into summer!

Since the exterior of our homes bear the brunt of the cold season starting outside is best:

  • Check all windows and doors – the cold weather can break down the caulking and stripping that seals your doors and windows so take a walk around your home to check for any damage. Replace any old, cracked caulk and/or stripping for proper insulation. You don’t want to let the warm air inside especially when you’re running your air conditioner this summer!
  • Clean out gutters and downspouts – During the winter leaves and other debris can accumulate inside so it’s important to clean out and ensure proper functionality. Gutters direct water away from the perimeter of the home and with rainy months ahead you don’t want clogged gutters, they’ll only cause trouble.

Gutter

  • Service your air conditioner –To ensure you’re prepared for the hot summer days that follow spring, it’s a good idea to begin servicing your air conditioners Begin by replacing the filters to ensure the efficiency of the unit. Clogged filters make it difficult for the unit to work properly. For anyone with allergies, consider replacing the filter about every 60 days or so. For the more complicated servicing consult an HVAC professional at least once a year.
  • Landscaping – Check the surrounding areas of your home, both front and back, and sweep away any old leaves, debris, and tree branches. If your yard contains any bushes or plants give them a trim; most likely they’ve gotten a bit overgrown during these last few months. And don’t forget to replace that winter ravaged door mat for a fresh new look.

Trimming

  • Trim and siding maintenance – Icy and windy winter conditions can wreak havoc on the exterior which can be fragile. Contact a professional if you spot any damage.

Once you wrap up outside, here are some inside spring cleaning tips to get your home in order:

  • Replace damaged or torn window screens – For anyone who likes to keep their windows open it’s important the screens are in perfect condition. This will allow the maximum amount of fresh air to get into your home as well as keep insects like mosquitoes and flies outside where they belong.
  • A deep clean – Give extra care to cleaning your windows; take down and launder the window treatments, dust off the blinds, and clean them with a damp sponge. Carpets and rugs take a hit during the winter months so a deep steam clean will revitalize them. You can either hire a professional service or if you have some extra time, there are places that will rent the machine to you on an hourly basis.

Window Cleaning

  • Test all emergency systems – Check all of your systems (house, smoke, carbon monoxide alarms) to make sure they’re working properly. These units should be tested regularly and spring and fall maintenance are the best times to do this.
  • Ceiling Fans – You might not realize this but the direction of the blades makes a difference. In addition to giving the fan a good cleaning, you’ll want to change the direction of the fans to blow air down to give the room a breeze and make it feel cooler.
  • Store dry goods in airtight containers – With the warmer weather insects return so it’s important to store all your dry goods in sealed containers as well as wash out your pet’s bowls after every meal.

Food Storage

  • Organize, organize, organize – File, shred, and eliminate any clutter. Clean out cabinets, toss anything old such as medicines and cosmetics, and donate or discard get rid of any unnecessary items you don’t use or need.

Be Sure to Insure

There are so many things to organize when purchasing a new home, that home insurance probably isn’t the first thing you’ll think of. Your mortgage lender however, will probably require you to have homeowners insurance. Especially for first time buyers, you should take the time to research and be sure that you’re choosing a policy that will give you peace of mind and protect your investment. Here are some things to consider.

 

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You worked hard to find the perfect home, now you have to work hard to find the right insurance. Each provider has a different algorithm for determining customer premiums so the price of home insurance varies widely from carrier to carrier. It pays to shop around, compare and contrast rates. A U.S. consumer financial services company recently conducted a survey of home insurance costs from four companies. The survey, based on addresses in 15 cities nationwide, revealed home insurance rates ranged by as much as 188 percent depending on the location. Contact several companies to compare coverage but shop for value, not necessarily the cheapest price. Since you’ll mainly deal with insurance companies during times of disaster, be sure to find a company that is financially stable and has a high customer satisfaction rating and reviews.

 

More is More
Of course you’re looking to save money on insurance and don’t want to pay more than you need, however you need to be sure that you’re getting enough coverage. Standard home insurance policies offer protection from a variety of potential risks, ranging from liability to damage from weather-related perils. However, you may want to adjust or add coverage depending on your needs. Pay close attention to the part of your policy that protects the structure of your home – you should have enough dwelling coverage to rebuild completely in case the house is destroyed. That amount, however, is often different from the purchase price. Many homeowners buy only enough insurance to cover the amount of their mortgage, which may only be 80 or 90 percent of the value of the house, depending on the original down payment. Some homeowners insure an amount equal to the current value of their home but this figure may be less than the actual cost of rebuilding (including labor and supplies, which may rise sharply after a storm when there’s big demand and short supply). Be sure to notify your insurance agent whenever you make significant improvements to your property, which will affect your home’s replacement cost. To avoid calculating your home’s value every year, ask your insurer about an automatic inflation provision.

 

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It is so important that you read the fine print of your policy and fully understand it, so that there are no surprises later and you’re home free. Understand the terminology, like deductibles, liability, premium, sub-limits and riders. Study the exclusions section of the policy and know what isn’t covered so that you can purchase additional coverage. For example, flood insurance is not part of a standard homeowners contract, and if you live near a river, the ocean, or area affected by hurricanes, you may need to buy additional flood protection. Consider additional living expenses if ever forced from the dwelling. If a house becomes uninhabitable due to a flood, fire or other disaster, you will need to pay for living accommodations and may need additional money for food and transportation, etc. This coverage is “additional living expenses” (ALE) and is a benefit that is usually worth about 20 percent of the home’s replacement value. Be aware of the benefits, limitations and exclusion. A mistake homeowners often make is believing they are covered for mold or sewage backup – many policies don’t offer this protection or have claim limits. Another is thinking that they have one, flat deductible – ask your agent if your policy has different deductibles depending on the cause of damage.

 

Where Credit is Due
Give yourself credit! You know that it matters when getting a favorable interest rate on your mortgage, but it also matters for home insurance. Providers use your credit report as part of the formula for assessing the risk you pose as a policyholder. Their models show that consumers with good credit are much less likely to file claims. Studies have found that people with poor credit may pay at least twice as much as people with excellent credit when it comes to homeowners insurance. So before you get too far into the buying process, assess your credit and take steps to improve your score. At the very least, make sure to correct any errors. There are many simple ways to improve your credit score, including paying your bills on time and keeping low balances on your credit cards. Improving your credit score can result in big savings on your mortgage and your home insurance premiums.

 

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Bundling your policies and sticking with one insurance company can help you save on your home insurance costs. Some providers offer discounts that commonly range between 5 to 15 percent off your premium of you obtain your home and auto insurance for them. You may save even more if you purchase multiple policies from them, for example if you have multiple vehicles or a boat. See if you can bundle all items with one carrier to save money. Some insurance companies also offer special discounts for long-term policyholders. You may be able to lower your home insurance premium by up to 10 percent if you stay with certain providers for six years or more.

The Perfect Productive Home Office

When you work from home it is easy to become distracted and lose focus. It is worth spending the time to create a home office that encourages productivity, comfort and concentration so you can work hard for the money. Here are a few tips for crafting a stylish and functional work-space.

 

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Let there be light in your home office! Draw back the curtains and draw inspiration from natural light. Don’t put your desk in the darkest corner of the room. Hit the bright spot and move your desk close to windows but parallel to the panes. Give yourself a view and try to position the desk where you can stare at something more interesting than a blank wall when you look up from the computer. A window’s natural light is ideal, and when you let the light in, it will cut down on eyestrain and headaches and improve mood, energy, alertness and productivity. Position your monitor so there’s no glare from windows or overhead lights – the object is to create balanced lighting. Even with great natural light you’ll still need additional lighting for darker hours. Put a small lamp with a nice soft glow on your desk for task lighting or a floor lamp that can give concentrated lighting to your specific work area.

 

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You don’t get to choose the perfect desk height and chair at an office, but you do have this option at home! You spend hours parked in your office chair every day, so don’t hurt yourself by sitting in a non-ergonomic position every time you work at your desk. Your comfort is worth every dime, so spend the money and invest in your health and a stylish, supportive, comfortable chair with an adjustable seat and backrest height. Ensure that the top of your computer screen is at eye level or a little below. As you scan down the screen, your eyelids will naturally close a bit and moisten, which reduces eye fatigue. Position your keyboard so your forearms are parallel to the floor. Adjust your chair so that your feet rest firmly on something. Even if you sit perfectly however, you shouldn’t do it all day long. Move regularly – set regular breaks or take a stroll around the block.

 

adcbe033aa7ad05e656df4fff60f5eeaa5b9af65Dream Design
If you’re going to be spending a lot of time in this space, you want it to be a space you enjoy. Don’t hold back – create your dream office and add personality to its aesthetic. Paint the walls a color you love and one that creates the right mood – perhaps a cheery orange or a calming shade of sea foam blue. Get a great rug. Personalize thoughtfully and inspire yourself with a piece of framed art, a scent that makes you happy, a special photo, or a few cherished knickknacks. Add greenery to bring what’s outside your window into your space. Get creative with storage – if filing cabinets don’t tickle your fancy, consider organizing vertically and horizontally. Hang floating shelves and use vertical file folders on the desk to keep important papers within arm’s reach. Consider magazine type racks, bookshelves or wooden cube storage. Choose accessories that enhance a comfy feeling in your home office and decorate in a style that energizes your space.


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You need the right tools to get the job done and being successful in a home office requires creating an office space that promotes efficiency in a non-traditional work environment. Master your technology and invest in the right equipment – a phone, a good desk with plenty of space, an ergonomic chair, computer with efficient memory and performance, a fast internet connection, a clock, and any specialized equipment, tools or software that are key for performance in your area of expertise. Take the time to organize your equipment properly – hide unsightly cords by running a power strip behind your desk and plugging everything into that. Tame the cord jungle on the floor with cord winders, tubing or an organizer that’s attached to the desk and lifts cords off the floor. Keep all your office supplies handy and stocked, so you don’t need to dart out of the office every few minutes.

A Solo Success

Having roommates can be a dream! They can help you save money on rent and utility costs, be great company, give you outfit advice… or they can be noisy, messy, inconsiderate and an overall nightmare. Living alone is a big move but if you’re in a position to do it, why not? There are a few things to keep in mind though if you’re about to go solo.

 

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Don’t be a shut-in! When you live alone it can be easy to shut yourself in to your own world. This can sometimes magnify any insecurities or regrets, and be detrimental psychologically. Be sure to throw your curtains open every day and let the light in. Open the door and say hi to your neighbors. If you have an outdoor area, make it a place where you can comfortably sit and observe the world. Opening yourself and your home up helps keep things in perspective and reminds you that you’re not actually alone.


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We fully support your decision to trade-in your annoying roommate for a furry friend. Although they may be messier and demand to be fed, we guarantee they’ll take up less room and probably give you more cuddles. Plus, studies have shown that people with pets are healthier and live longer lives! Pets can fulfill our natural need for touch and companionship which can help manage stress and actually lower blood pressure. The perfect way to combat loneliness, they help give your life day-to-day structure because they must be fed and cared for. A canine companion for example needs to be exercised, which can get you outside, and up and moving, improving your own physical health in the process. Check out Brooklyn Animal Care Center for information on adopting or fostering a new furry roommate.


51f5571a74c5b641fa003410._w.1280_h.1280_s.fit_Be Prepared
Humans are social creatures! Don’t be in denial – living alone can get lonely. Get to know yourself and learn what triggers feelings of loneliness, and when these feelings hit, have a plan. Schedule a favorite weekly activity, join a Meetup Group, or embrace the best parts of living alone – wearing your underwear around the house, singing and dancing to Beyoncé. Make sure you’re taking care of yourself and practicing self-discipline – don’t stop showering, getting dressed, exercising or start eating poorly just because no one is watching! Learn to cook for one, and have a plan for when you get sick and there’s no roommate or family member around to take care of you. Make sure you’re still spending time with friends and not cutting yourself off from the outside world.

 

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You can finally escape from your roommate’s terrible artwork and creepy doll collection and decorate your home to your taste! Make your place interesting to look at. Find items that are visually and tactilely appealing. Don’t hold back! Go above and beyond with decoration. Paint an accent wall and get art. Change up your lighting, bedding, curtains, etc. and rearrange your furniture. Make your home truly enjoyable, comfortable and a place that makes you feel good and that you want to come home to every day. Make your home welcoming to visitors too of course and keep it clean, because as we’ve talked about before, clutter can have a detrimental effect on your well-being and be a major source of stress.

 

The Lord of the Residence

Being in NYC, we know finding great housing can be a challenge to say the least. When you finally do find that perfect apartment (in Brooklyn, naturally), you don’t want to ever let it go! You might feel like the king of the (Boerum) hill, but the real lord of this land is the person you pay rent to, and if they are your best bud, you could be home sweet home forever. Here are some tips for fostering a flourishing landlord-tenant relationship.

 

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This should go without saying, but pile the smile! Be friendly, be honest and be reasonable. Wave hi or stop for a quick chat when you see your landlord. Come holiday time, send your landlord a small gift. Report any problems as soon as possible, because small problems can turn into catastrophic ones if ignored. For minor stuff, DIY! Replace the light bulb or batteries in the smoke detector yourself. Be clean and respectful – be the kind of neighbor you would want to live next to, and the kind of tenant you would want to rent to.

 

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How do you behave in the workplace? Are you courteous, efficient, a good communicator? Your relationship with your landlord is an investment, and you should consider your interactions in a professional context. Respect the rules set out in your lease and treat your landlord’s property with care. As with important business interactions, get everything in writing. Try to correspond via email when possible – this will protect both of you and reduce the risk of miscommunication. In the event that something goes wrong, be aware of your rights. There is legislation in place nationwide to protect tenants from discrimination, negligence and other issues that may arise.

 

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Rent Well Spent
A day late really is a dollar short if you get in the habit of paying rent late. Just as a homeowner needs to pay a monthly mortgage, many landlords depend on rental income to fund their mortgages. Late rent is not only disrespectful but can result in late fees, or even eviction. Of course there are legitimate reasons for late rent, and having a positive relationship may mean your landlord is open to negotiation. It is essential to discuss any concerns regarding rent with your landlord ASAP. Always strive to pay your rent on time, if not early!

 

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The Company You Keep
If you have a bad track record with landlords, it might be time to consider a building with a management company. Generally these companies have a good reputation and they require good reviews and positive ratings to stay afloat. Although this means living in a larger complex or building with more tenants, management companies usually have more organized and professional systems in place for maintaining and fixing your apartment. Oftentimes they’ll even give you a checklist when you move-in to make sure everything is satisfactory.

 

 

 

How D-I-Wise are you? 4 Skills to Brush Up On

There are some home repairs that we wouldn’t recommend – think asbestos removal and electrical, gas and roof repairs… For the smaller tasks though, why pay a pro when you can do it yourself? Having these tricks up your sleeve will save you money, give you the satisfaction of having done the job yourself, and give you the right to tell people you’re “handy”!

 

showerGet A(Shower)head
Let your worries wash away – replacing your shower-head is one chill skill! If your current shower-head is old, has poor water pressure, or maybe you want to install a filtered unit or save water with a low-flow variety, don’t put off updating it any longer. Remove your old shower-head using an adjustable 8-inch wrench. Remove any excess dirt, rubber gaskets or tape from around the pipe with a rag. Wrap the threads of the pipe with a couple of layers of Teflon or Plumber’s Tape. Hand-tighten your new shower-head onto the pipe clock-wise. Turn on the shower and if there are any leaks around the seal, hand-tighten more and test again.

 

drainNo Pain, Clear Drain
Some of those older Brooklyn buildings come with some sensitive pipes! Don’t go putting your plumber on speed dial just yet though. If water is backing up in your sink and a liquid drain treatment hasn’t worked, don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty and unclog it yourself! If you have an attached drain plug or stopper that is controlled from a latch behind your sink, detach that first from under your sink. Then use needle nose pliers or a long piece of wire to pull up the hair or dirt clog creation, and voila! A skill that could save you a big bill!

 

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Stained for Good
This is one stain that’s good for your reputation! Top-grade professional wood staining can cost big bucks. In most cases, this is a project you can do yourself. First mix up the stain until you get a consistent color. Dip a brush into the stain and paint the wood going along the grain. Let the stain set for 15 minutes – the longer you leave it, the darker the wood! After you’ve let it set, wipe the wood with a rag, again along the grain. Leave the wood somewhere cool and dry for at least four hours.

 

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A Skill to Fill
Holes in your walls from hanging art, shelves, clocks, mirrors, photos? Guilty! Lucky there’s a quick, cheap fix to those unsightly spots. Purchase some lightweight spackle, a putty knife and some sandpaper. Use a corner of the putty knife to scoop out a small amount of spackle and fill the hole. Use the straight edge of the knife to smooth and even out the spackle. Let it dry for a few hours then sand the area lightly with your sandpaper, blending the spackle into the surrounding drywall.