You’re always on the lookout for smart ideas and hacks to manage your home (and save money!) — whether that means listening to the wisdom of your parents who’ve owned a home longer than you’ve been alive, or scouring every corner of the internet for savvy tips.
But just because a tip has been pinned, shared, and Instagrammed thousands of times doesn’t make it smart. Here are eight tips (myths, really) that most people believe are good advice, but instead will cost you cash you don’t need to spend:
Myth #1: Lemons Are Great for Cleaning Garbage Disposals
What it could cost you: A plumber’s visit (and maybe a new disposal)
Proceed with caution when it comes to this well-circulated DIY fix. Citric acid is a natural deodorizer, but plumbing experts say it can corrode the metal in your disposal. That tough lemon peel can also damage the grinding components and clog your pipes. Next thing you know you’re Googling reviews for plumbers.
The better way: Turn on the disposal and, while running cold water, dump in two or more trays of ice cubes. Despite the clamor, this will safely dislodge buildup on the walls and the impellers, which grind up the food.
Myth #2: Use Duct Tape to Seal Ductwork
What it could cost you: Pricier energy bills
Despite its name, don’t rely on duct tape to seal leaks in your HVAC’s ductwork. Testing by the U.S. Department of Energy found it deteriorates over just a few years (hot air from the HVAC system degrades the glue), letting conditioned air escape without doing its job.
The better way: Use duct mastic (a gooey substance kind of like caulk that dries after applied) to seal metal and flexible ductwork, and use it along with a layer of fiberglass mesh for gaps larger than 1/16 of an inch wide. Use gloves with metal ducts because the edges can be sharp, and mastic is messy stuff.
Myth #3: Bleach Will Banish Mold
What it could cost you: A threat to your health, plus hundreds of $ (even thousands)
Although bleach can kill mold on non-porous surfaces, it isn’t effective on absorbent or porous materials — you know, the places it loves to lurk, like grout, caulk, drywall, insulation, and carpet, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Instead, it just bleaches it so you can’t see it. And diluted bleach can feed future mold growth (yikes!) because only the water will be absorbed, which mold just loves.
The better way: Use a commercial anti-fungal product to take out mold at its roots. And only tackle mold removal yourself if the area is less than 10 square feet and you use protective gear, such as a respirator and chemical-resistant gloves. Otherwise, call in a mold remediation specialist who’ll know how to remove it without spreading it’s yucky (and potentially harmful) spores.
Related: How to Get Rid of Mold Forever
Myth #4: Change Your HVAC Filter Every Month
What it could cost you: Around $100 a year
Although the air filter should be changed regularly to keep your home’s HVAC system operating efficiently, this piece of advice is more of a convenient general rule that could cause you to throw away perfectly good filters (and money!).
“The harsh truth is that it’s easier to say, ‘Do it every month’ and know that means people might do it every three or four months,” says homeowner advocate Tina Gleisner of Home Tips for Women.
The better way: The Department of Energy recommends checking, but not necessarily changing, your air filter every month. Change it if it looks dirty, replacing it at least once every three months.
Myth #5: Buy a Rinse Aid for Spot-Free Dishes
What it could cost you: Dollars instead of cents
Most dishwashers now come with a built-in dispenser for commercial rinse aids, plus a free sample to get you started. So now you’re hooked (spot-free glasses every time!), and it has become a regular item on your shopping list, even if it does cost almost $4 for 8 ounces.
The better way: If you’ve never tried, run your dishwasher without a rinse aid. If your water is soft, your dishwasher may deliver spot-free sparkle without any extra help. But if you’re still seeing spots, just fill the rinse-aid dispenser with plain white vinegar (less than a 50 cents for 8 ounces).
Money Tip: Rinse aid does help dishes dry faster, which stops those annoying wet drips from top rack to bottom when you unload. But instead of spending money, unload the bottom rack first while letting the top rack air dry.
Myth #6: Home Improvement is Always a Good Investment
What it could cost you: Thousands of dollars in disappointment
Dreaming of diving into your own pool or adding a second bath to put an end to those morning squabbles? That’s the beauty of owning your own home, you can renovate to make all your dreams come true. And you’ll get money back on most any improvement you do, but don’t expect it for all improvements. FYI: A new bath returns 52% of its cost.
The better way: First off, your own happiness matters, so by all means, follow your remodeling bliss if you’re financially able. But if payback is important, do some research and talk to a REALTOR® who knows what buyers are seeking in your market. The Remodeling Impact Report from The National Association of REALTORS® (the sponsor of HouseLogic) is a fantastic resource to get the scoop on what projects will boost your equity the most. For example, it points out that small projects such as an insulation upgrade, refinishing floors, and even seeding your lawn will recoup almost all, and in some cases more than, your original investment.
Myth #7: Put Dryer Sheets in Air Vents for a Sweet Smell
What it could cost you: Higher energy bills and a potential fire hazard
Social media PSA: Thousands of pins and shares do not mean a remedy is smart or safe. If you follow this popular hack, you’ll block the flow of air in your vents, making your HVAC system work harder and increasing your energy costs. The blockage even can pose a fire risk when the furnace is pumping out hot air.
The better way: If fragrant air is what you’re after, there are no shortage of options available that won’t burn your house down. Give each room — or each day — a signature scent with all-natural scented candles, sprays, oils, and aromatherapy devices. If you’re seeking a scent to mask an offensive odor, however, it’s important to find and remove the source. Some stinky suspects — like mold, mildew, sewage, and gas leaks — can carry health risks.
Myth #8: Product Warranties Will Save on Repair Costs
What it could cost you: $50 to $100 or more
The last time you bought a major appliance or even a hand mixer, you were probably offered a warranty or service plan. While marketed to cover repair costs, these contracts typically cost more than you would ever spend to fix an item. And keep in mind that most manufacturers offer at least a 90-day warranty anyway.
The better way: Maintain the appliance as recommended by the manufacturer, and smartly stash the dollars you would spend on a warranty in a repair fund instead. Also, buy with a major credit card, such as AmEx or Visa. Many credit card companies extend product warranties (for free!) up to a year or so. Might be worth checking to see if yours does.
Choosing your architect isn’t a decision to take lightly. The person you select will be the brains behind your project, an invaluable problem solver, a good listener, and the one keeping your budget on track.
Here are seven questions to use as a starting point to get the candidate that’s right for you and your house.1. What Are the Biggest Challenges and Attractions of This Job?
- What’s working now, and what can be improved?
- How will a remodel blend with the rest of the house?
- What will be the challenges?
The answers are important, but you’ll also want to use these early conversations to make sure you have a good rapport and that your personalities are compatible.
“You can hire any number of architects who’ll come up with creative solutions to your job,” says Pittsburgh architect Gerald Morosco, author of the book “How to Work With an Architect.” “The differences are in how well the architect matches his design to your taste and your lifestyle.”
2. Do You Have a Signature Style?
Most architects pride themselves on their adaptability, which allows them to tailor their style to fit each house and client.
But some have an overriding design sensibility that they bring to every project. For example, an architect might specialize in sleek modernism, a beach cottage feel, or reinterpretations of historic houses.
By talking about the architect’s signature style up front, you can decide whether it’s the right fit for you.
3. Who Will Design My Project?
Unless you’re hiring a sole proprietor, there’s a good chance the person you meet initially isn’t the one who’ll handle the actual design work.
That’s OK, as long as you understand it up front. Because good communication is crucial to a successful job, you need to meet the lead architect for your job before you hire the firm.
You’ll be interacting with this person a lot, so be sure to get necessary contact information, and ask to receive a schedule of meetings with mutually agreeable times.
4. What Project Management Services Do You Provide?
Architects can do more than come up with the design and blueprints. They also can:
- Manage the project
- Help you hire a contractor
- Check the contractor’s work as the job proceeds
- Make design adjustments as the work progresses
- Review invoices to ensure that payments never get ahead of the work
- Obtain necessary lien waivers from all contractors so no one can make a claim against your property later
Ask your architect which of these services he provides, and what they cost. Some services, like site inspections and revisions, should be part of your contract. Others likely will be a la carte.
5. How Do You Charge?
Architects usually charge a percentage of the total project cost, anywhere from 5%-20%, depending on the services provided, the complexity of the job, and the renown of the architect. Ask what percentage the architect will charge for your project, and when and how payments will be due.
Architects typically bill monthly, starting as soon as they begin work. But most up-front design work happens before you bring in a contractor and know the total project cost.
In the interim, the architect may bill by the hour or charge a retainer — a fixed monthly fee — with any necessary adjustments occurring once the real numbers are known. Each billing approach can work well. What’s important is utter clarity about the plan so you can manage your remodeling budget.
6. Can You Provide Three-Dimensional Drawings?
Reading a standard two-dimensional plan isn’t easy. Even if you can tell where the walls, windows, and doors are, you may not get an accurate feel for how the design will look in the real world.
Ask your candidate how the ideas and drawings will be presented. Most architects now use software to render 3-D images that can be rotated and viewed from multiple angles. A lack of 3-D rendering capabilities may mean the candidate isn’t up to speed on the latest building techniques and methods.
7. Will You Recommend Two or Three General Contractors?
Good architects can recommend reliable general contractors in your area and help you evaluate portfolios and bids. They may even recommend someone they’ve worked with before and set up some meet and greets.
That’s a boon to the homeowner, since it means you won’t have to do another big search to find the right contractor. But don’t stop your search with the first contractor you like. It’s always a good idea to get multiple bids, which may give you some bargaining power with the one you ultimately pick.
They say timing is everything, and when it comes to selling your home, nothing could be truer. Right now in Orlando, it’s a seller’s market and home values are rising.
If you’re thinking about selling your home, for you the timing could not be any better. In fact, the stats say it all,
- Median home prices in Orlando jumped an average of 9.7 percent in the first quarter of 2018 alone, according to housing market reports from the Orlando Regional REALTOR® Association.
- The national home-price index is projected to increase by 5.2 percent on a year-over-year basis from March 2018 to March 2019, according to CoreLogic, a global property information, analytics and data-enabled solutions provider.
- In 2016, sellers received on average 98 percent of the listed price, meaning most didn’t have to lower their asking price to make a sale, according to Mashvisor, a real estate investment research and analytics provider.
Lou Nimkoff, president of the Orlando Regional REALTOR® Association, agrees. “The rebound in the real estate market has created a great opportunity for sellers. Values are their highest in years, and this is an opportune time to be a homeowner who’s ready to cash in on their investment.”
What is your home really worth?
Given these positive market conditions, it’s possible your home is worth quite a bit more than you think. The best way to determine the true value of your homeis to contact a REALTOR® who can offer a comparative market analysis of your home’s value utilizing industry resources unavailable to others.
These market comparisons not only include size and number of rooms, but they also consider the home’s condition, properties like it in the area and how close it is to amenities, such as banking, schools, healthcare, dining and shopping. This analysis helps to ensure you can set the right asking price from the beginning.
“Sellers often think property tax assessment, insurance value or a neighbor’s home value can determine their own home’s value, but only a true comparative market analysis prepared by a licensed REALTOR®, combined with their local connections and market knowledge, can provide a realistic idea of your home’s value,” adds Nimkoff.
Is now the right time for you?
The first step to deciding if now is the right time to sell is contacting a REALTOR® to get the process started. Your REALTOR® will prepare a comparative market analysis to help you understand your home’s value. Then they can help ensure you’re taking the right steps toward selling your house and walk you through the entire process. Pricing your home accurately and using a real estate agent from the start can keep your house from staying on the market for too long and selling for less than the desired price, which often happens when sellers try to sell by themselves or use instant home purchase websites.
If you’re ready to sell, this market is your market. Potential homebuyers in Orlando are searching for that perfect house, and yours could be the one. Whether you’re an empty nester ready to cash in on your investment or upgrading to a bigger and better home to fit your needs, find a qualified REALTOR® who will assist you in determining the real value of your home and who knows how to sell it quickly and hassle-free.
Volunteer work provides an organization with a free resource to help it meet its mission or goals, which often include filling the gap between an individual or community’s resources and those provided by the government. In many cases, volunteers are crucial to help maintain life, as when meals are delivered to homebound people. Sometimes volunteer work, such as renovating a playground, benefits the broader community. And while volunteer work is important for the individuals and communities served, it also benefits the volunteer.
Here are some local organizations that need our communities help.