How You’re Destroying Your Lawn

estate, grass, meadowIf you’ve noticed that, regardless of how much you care for it, your lawn just seems to dead? There are common mistakes that people make when it comes to caring for their lawns. Here are some of the things you could be doing that kills the grass.

1. Improper watering

The number one mistake made is watering incorrectly. Home owners either don’t water at all or drown their grass. You should be watering approximately an inch a week if you live where there is good rainfall. If you don’t, you may need to adjust it based on where you live.

You could also invest in an irrigation system to help you monitor the watering level. Not only can it help maintain a schedule, but there are some systems that have rain or moisture sensors.

2. Planting one type of grass or the wrong kind

You may not have known, but the more variety in your lawn the healthier it is. When you’re planting seeds, you should choose a variety, so your long is more likely to last through bad weather conditions. You should also determine what type of grass will be better for your environment.

3. Not taking soil health seriously

The health of your lawn starts from below the surface. You should be aerating your lawn every one or two years, depending on the soil. Aerating is when you put small holes in the lawn, so water, air, and nutrients can reach the soil.

You should be soil testing every 3 years or so to determine what nutrients your lacking to purchase the right fertilizer. Then, make sure you’re applying the correct fertilizer during the right time of year, in proper amounts, and with the correct applicator.

4. Mowing the lawn at the wrong time

Lawn mowing isn’t exactly a fun chore. But, it’s important to mow your lawn under the right conditions. It should be trimmed 2 ½ to 3 inches based on the grass type, and no more than a third of the glass blade should be removed at one time. Cutting grass too short stresses the grass blades and they become more susceptible to disease.

Mowing wet grass is also a mistake because moisture weighs down the grass blades and makes it difficult to cut straight. Failing to keep your lawn mower blades sharp will also increase the chances of the grass from developing disease because of the ragged cut.

5. Not knowing environmental stressors

Environmental stressors are conditions that affect the ability of the grass to grow. These stressors can include precipitation, drought, temperature, extremes, construction, and foot traffic – all which can take a toll on your lawn.

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10 Gifts for Mom on Mother’s Day

Silhouette of Man Touching Woman Against Sunset SkyIf you’ve waited until the last minute to get Mom a gift, you’re probably not alone. Here are some easy, last minute gifts that you can throw together to make Mother’s Day special for your mom.

1. Thoughtful Tea Gift Set

If your mom is a tea drinker, then there is no better gift to encourage her to relax, reset, and enjoy a cup of tea. You can create your own with a cute box from a craft store and stopping at your local tea shop (Argo Tea, Teavana, David’s Tea).

2. Massage Gift

Further encourage relaxation for mom and gift her the gift of a massage. To make the gift a little more fun, you can make it into a gift set with some face masks, lotions, nail polish, and other pampering items.

3. DIY Mug Set

Give her a new set of personalized mugs this year to brighten her days in the morning. No doubt she’ll love the mugs and the personal touch. Using a Sharpie and some stencils (if your handwriting isn’t the best), create fun sayings that will make her smile like:

  • “I’m winging it”
  • “I love being a mom”
  • “Good enough mom”
  • “Resting mom face”

4. Bouquet of Flowers

You can’t go wrong with flowers! There are many different delivery services to choose from that will personalize the bouquet and add unique touches to make it more than just your standard bouquet. If she doesn’t like flowers, go for the bouquets of food like fruit, chocolate, cheese, and even bacon!

5. Subscription Boxes

For the best-dressed mother in your life, or the one who is always spoiling everyone else, opt for a service that sends her designer fashion, jewelry, or makeup samples. This gift can keep on giving anywhere from the next 3 months to a year.

6. Wine!

If your mom likes to enjoy a little bit of wine here and then, what harm is one more bottle? Select a unique wine she hasn’t tried before, or maybe even a bottle from a local winery. You could also sign her up for a subscription for a bottle of wine every month!

7. Yoga or Spin Class

For the more athletic or active mom’s, you can purchase her a membership for yoga, spin classes, aerobics, or other activities that she enjoys. Find a local gym that offers these classes to see what the rates are.

8. Robotic Vacuum

There are many different robotic vacuums on the market, and you’d just have to pick one. These vacuums take away the chore by cleaning the house and vacuuming up debris when everyone is away or at school/work. That means less chores for mom if she’s the one that always gets stuck vacuuming the house.

9. Bath and Body

Give her everything she needs to feel fresh and beautiful! Buy her favorite perfume, lotions, or sprays and combine them with body washes, bath salts, bath bombs, and maybe a candle to top off the at-home spa experience!

10. Family Portrait

It’s not too late to take a family picture for mom! Get you, your siblings, your children and spouse, or the whole big family together for a picture to give to mom for Mother’s Day. This will surely make her heart warm and give her a Mother’s Day to remember.

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The Shady Backyard: Why You Should Think Twice

Apple treeWhile you dream home might mean a big tree in the yard, you might want to think twice before you decide. Big trees can either be a plus or a negative. They can bring you money if it’s the right tree – whether you sell the home or the tree. But, you should be prepared for the problems it could also bring.

1. Big trees can be dangerous.

Having a big tree in the yard is a double-edged sword. Trees can offer an investment and raise the value of your home by $1,000 to $10,000, while also reducing your heat and cooling bills, creating clean air, improving your attitude, and helping curb appeal. On the other hand, they can be a huge liability the bigger they are. There could be rotting issues that lead to property damage and bodily harm.

2. It’ll need an extra inspection.

If you ever decide to sell a house with a tree or buy one, it’ll need an extra inspection by an arborist. They will spot any illness, determine if it needs trimming, and eye potential pitfalls. They’ll ultimately help determine if it’s an asset or liability. Arborists can charge anywhere from free to $75 for their services.

3. Prepare for a mess.

Wherever you live, be ready to dedicate a half-dozen fall afternoons to raking. Pine trees will leave needles behind, while branches can fall on houses and cars. If it causes damage, it could be a painful expense to repair. Trimming costs to maintain a tee can be about $200 and go up to $1,000 for larger trees.

4. Some trees have to go.

Keep an eye out for any trees that might need removal. Look for insect holes, and stay away from trees with vertical fractures, are uprooted, or have a prominent lean.

5. Root Problems

Big trees are usually old trees, who can come with wandering roots. Roots expand and grow as the tree looks for nutrients and water. They can grow three times farther than foliage and cause a problem if the roots pop through the ground or into structures, pavements, pipes, and utility service lines. Whatever the case, it could lead to a costly fix.

6. Big trees can attract mosquitos and pests

If you’re not quick about cleaning your gutters, piled up leaves can create pockets of water which attracts mosquitos. Also, if your branches are touching the siding on your home or roof, it can serve as a bridge for pests like ants and termites.

7. There’s such a thing as too much shade

Having too much shade over your gardens or grass can dramatically affect its success, With the lack of light, the plants can’t grow properly.

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Spring Deep Cleaning Part 2: Eco-Friendly Ways to clean Your Home

Close-up of Hand Holding Plant Against SkyWe’re all trying to be more environmentally conscious these days. But it can be difficult if you don’t know where to start. Here are some sustainable tips and tricks to make it easier for you to go green when it comes to spring cleaning!

  1. Use Natural Household Cleaning Products Natural products like lemons, white vinegar, and baking soda all contain strong antibacterial properties without the harsh chemicals found in conventional cleaning products, all while cleaning and disinfecting just as well. Even better, you already have many of these products at home.
  2. Use Natural Deodorizers Chemical aerosols can do more harm than good for your family’s health. Instead try some natural air fresheners. You can boil a cinnamon stick over your stove top, burn essential oils or incense, or even burn some sage and mugwort bundles that you can find in convenient packs at your local health foods store.
  3. Allow for Proper Ventilation A simple but important way to keep your home clean is to open some windows. This allows fresh air to circulate within your home and contributes to a clean environment.
  4. Filter Air with Plants Plants are awesome natural air conditioners. Add some low maintenance plants around your home for fresher air and an overall balanced environment.
  5. Avoid Antibacterial Products On top of not even cleaning your hands any better than their counterparts, antibacterial cleansers have been found by the FDA to produce chemically-resistant bacteria. So, definitely avoid any products that carry this label.
  6. Use Natural Mops, Sponges, and Accessories It’s not just your cleaning products, cleaning accessories can have harmful chemicals and use unsustainable ingredients that make them unrecyclable as well. Be sure to use reusable products when you can, and if you really need to use paper towels, make sure they’re made with unbleached and recycled paper.  
  7. Conserve Water This is especially important for those of us who live in areas of drought, as clean water is an important natural resource. Don’t let water run unless you need it, and only use as much as you need to for cleaning.
  8. Steer Clear of Conventional Dry Cleaners The chemicals used by conventional dry cleaners are extremely toxic to the environment and to people when we wear dry-cleaned clothes as well. Do your research and look for green dry cleaners, who employ methods like carbon dioxide cleaning and Green Earth.
  9. Dispose of Toxic Cleaners with Care If you’re dedicated to environmentally-safe cleaning methods and you want to ditch your old toxic cleaning products, be sure to dispose of them in a safe manner. You don’t want to spill them down the drain or throw them in the trash as they’ll just end up in our water supply and ecosystem. A lot of communities have places or certain events where you can dispose of you toxic cleaning products and electronics. The internet is a great resource for finding resources like this that are close to you. 
  10. Use a Green Cleaning Service We can lead some pretty busy lives, so it’s understandable that you just don’t have time to maintain green cleaning methods. For times like these, green cleaning services are a great resource. They can clean your home using safe and effective, environmentally-conscious cleaning methods. With a little bit of research you can find one that fits your budget and preferences.
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Rubenstein Listing on the American Dream!

On today’s airing of the American Dream TV Show, I had the opportunity to speak on the show about my listing in the Composer District – 1366 Rubenstein. The show airs today at 10:30 am PST on Cox Channel 4, or you can head over to YouTube andwatch the segment where I talk about the home on Rubenstein and all the amazing benefits it can offer its future residents.

About 1366 Rubenstein

Located in the Cardiff-by-the-sea composer district, it’s listed at $3,999,000 with 4 bedrooms, 4 bathrooms, and 5,600 square feet. It can function as one big home, or you can split it into two separate living areas with the east and west wings.

Some of the amazing benefits about this home is not only the proximity to the beach, but also:

  • A private gated .8-acre lot
  • Rear loggia
  • Outdoor fireplace
  • BBQ area
  • Two large upper decks
  • Wine cellar
  • And so much more!

This home has been completely renovated and updated, featuring the highest quality of design and custom finishes. Visit the listing and see just how beautiful this house is!

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Spring Deep Cleaning Ideas Part I: What to Clean

brush, cleaning, scrubberIt’s that time of year where you open your windows to let the congested air out and the fresh air in. It is also the perfect time to deep clean some of the furniture or appliances that you let slide during the winter time. Here are some spring-cleaning ideas to tackle for your home.

1. Dishwasher

To keep your dishwasher running smoothly, remove bits of food from the bottom of the dishwasher. Then, run a cycle with a specialty cleaner that you can find at your convenient store. This should be done at least once a month in the future.

2. Cabinets

Grease and dirt can build up and collect on your cabinets, especially if you don’t always use the exhaust hood when cooking. You can use a cabinet cream to cut through the dirt and leave the wood looking moisturized.

3. Windows

Not only should you clean the inside but take a trip outside and use a glass cleaner on all the spots and smudges. A quick tip: do it on a cloudy day so the sun won’t dry your cleanser before you’re done wiping it down.

4. Wood Flooring

Technically, you should only wet-clean your hardwood flooring once every 1-2 months with hardwood cleaner. You can spot cleaning in case of accidents as needed.

5. Refrigerator

Make sure you clean the outside and inside of the fridge. Pull out the shelving and wash it with warm, soapy water. Wipe down the surfaces that can’t be removed with a sponge before putting the shelves back. For the outside, if it’s stainless steel, make sure you’re using a specialty cleaner.

6. Bedding

While you should be cleaning your sheets every two weeks, your pillows and comforter need cleaning as well. Throw them into the washing machine about 2-3 times a year (or how the label advises).

7. Washing Machine

Washing machines can build dirt and grime, especially after the winter and flu weather. Disinfect the washing machine with distilled vinegar and baking soda. Run it with hot water, add the cleaning agents, then let it sit for about 30-60 minutes. Once it’s sat, restart the machine and let the water drain before wiping it dry.

8. Oven

If it smells like something is burning when you cook, it might be time to clean it. Spritzing ammonia on the burnt food, chip off all the loose pieces. Then, sprinkle baking soda and a few drops of vinegar on the bottom and let it bubble. Wipe away grime with a sponge.

9. Painted Walls

You’ll want your paint looking crisp. Spot clean the walls with a cloth or sponge and water. If it’s a tougher stain, use water with a little bit of dishwashing liquid to scrub.

10. Mattress

Using the vacuum crevice tool, clean the surfaces and sides. To spot clean any stains, use a pet stain and odor remover then sanitize with disinfectant spray.

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Showhouse Trends to Use in Your Home

White and Purple Flower Plant on Brown Wooden SurfaceThe designers of this year’s Southeastern Designer Showhouse and Gardens are big into wallpaper, pastels, and global design.

Flower Power

Floral print wallpaper has made its way back into our homes. Adding fresh flowers and Asian accents through vases or pictures, you can add a feminine touch to any room.

Glass Art

A big theme at the Southeastern Designer Showhouse and Gardens was translucent glass, commonly in pastel colors. The Seventies-meets-Art Deco vibe has played out with these light, airy details like the glass art: vases, cups, abstract art.

Over-Glamourized

Glass elements are also prevalent in the over-glamourized look since they add reflective properties and are easy to introduce into your home. You can add a mirror to the wall and glass accessories on a table or dresser will achieve the light, elegant effect.

You can even continue the glamour to achieve the Old Hollywood feel with palm-shaped dining table with glass top. Add a wallpaper with a shadow mural, along with more pastels to continue the mood throughout the entirety of the room.

Exotic

The cutting-edge trend for a blend of feminine, jewel-tone details and cheeky, exotic touches also made an appearance at the Southeastern Designer Showhouse and Gardens.  Adding animal prints and the jewel tones with larger, white pieces can really rev up the drama of the room.

Another example of heavy, dark pieces and bright whites and sands is adding interesting animal and insect decorative items with white furniture, flooring, and/or walls. It allows you to create a playful, global mix that’s currently defining modern design.

World Beat

Folk art-evocative vases, graphic shapes, and global details made the Southeastern Designer Showcase feel very of-the-moment. Pieces like vases with unique faces and modern, graphic tables and moody shades of black can give the room an on-trend, modern-meets-artisanal feel.

Functionality

In addition to being sleek and stylish, high end kitchen designs and butler pantries offer stunning, farmhouse feels yet ample space for behind-the-scenes prep to keep the kitchen mess and clutter-free.

Feeling Pretty

Currently, amethyst shades are all the rage. Combine them with natural elements like gold, coral, and rattan and the prettiness is balanced with a punch.

Warm Vibes

Artwork hung on thick brass chains and a mix of elegance and comfort with heavy curtains creates a warm, cozy feeling that you want in the bedroom.

For even more inspiration from the Southeastern Designer Showcase, check out the article from HGTV.com.

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Myths About Down Payments

Black Point-and-shot Camera Near Macbook ProWhile having your mortgage pre-approval is crucial to purchasing a home, your down payment is just as important and shows you mean business. When asking friends and family for advice, we often get myths about the down payment that could lead to a messy situation. Here are some of the most common myths debunked!

1. You need 20% down payment.

Having 20% of the price of the home for a down payment has been the standard for decades. In reality, the down payment amount will depend on the type of buyer you are.

  • FHA loan: 3.5% down payment
  • VA & USDA loan: can be as low as 0% down payment

You can put less than 20% down with conventional loans, but there’s a catch: you will be on your own for private mortgage insurance (PMI). This will be paid separately to the lender, not towards your mortgage, and its insurance to prove to the lender you won’t default on the loan.

2. Paying mortgage insurance is smarter than paying more for the down payment.

It might seem easier to spend more on PMI over time, but you should calculate it to see if it really will help you or be easier to make a larger down payment. If you pay less than 20%, you’re stuck with the PMI, but only if the principal balance is 78% or less than the original price.

An FHA loan will require mortgage insurance for the entirety of the loan, so you’ll have the extra monthly fee for as long as you live there or until you pay off the mortgage. It’s important to compare your options for the higher or lower down payment.

3. Cash is key.

In competitive markets, having cash could potentially decide whether or not you get the house you bid on. That’s only assuming the seller is in a rush to close. If you have a bigger offer and write a personal letter that resonates with the seller, you could have the advantage over the competition. The benefit of offering cash is that the close goes quicker, and that might not be the case with the seller.

4. Down payment assistance is easy.

Applying and getting approved for down payment help isn’t always easy. There is no national/state-run assistance program. They are mostly local. You also need to be under a certain income to qualify, or they will make exceptions like single parents.

5. You shouldn’t put more than 20% down.

If you have more saved, you should consider putting more money down. Consider this:

  • The higher the down payment, the more trustworthy you appear to the lender, which could lead to a lower interest rate for your mortgage.
  • The more you pay, the less you are borrowing.

In order to see a difference in the interest rate, you’ll need have at least an extra 5% for the down payment. The interest rate drops at 25%, and even more at 35%.

6. You can take out a loan for a down payment.

If the lender thinks the money you’re borrowing/receiving is a loan whether from a bank or relative/friend, then the repayment for that loan could factor into your mortgage amount and you would qualify for less. This also means you can’t have a family member take out a loan for your down payment for you, then pay them back.

There is nothing wrong with getting monetary help for your down payment, but it has to be a gift. To prove it’s a gift, you’ll need a letter from the gifters saying that they don’t plan on asking for money back. Don’t even think about lying on your mortgage application, because that qualifies as a felony charge.

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What Can Stall the Mortgage Closing Process?

Two Person Shaking Each Others HandsOnce an offer has been accepted by a seller, you need to go through the mortgage closing. As long as everything goes right, it will only take about 21-28 days or about a month on average. But, if even one problem arises, it can set the closing date back weeks – maybe even months! Here are some of the things that can stall the mortgage closing process:

1. Expensive purchases for the home

If you’re the buyer, you might want to hold off on making any big purchases for the new home (sofas, beds, dining sets, etc). The lender will pull your credit before the closing date and if you’ve made any big purchases on a credit card, it will show up and reflect as you taking on more debt. The lender may want to change their loan offer.

2. Death of original homeowner

The home might need to go through probate court to authenticate the former owner’s last will and testament if something happens to them. In some states, this could take months or even years!

3. HOA issues

If the former owner has outstanding fees or fines, it could cause issues with the closing. The best bet is to negotiate those costs with the seller and/or pay off the fees.

4. Verification issues

The borrower’s landlord, mortgage company, employer, or source of the down payment might drag on providing necessary verification.

5. Down payment issues

The lender may require the home buyer to put more money down in some instances, which can take some time if the buyer lacks the necessary funds.

6. Lender needs more information

For different circumstances, the lender may ask for additional information to be requested later in the process. If the lender loses documentation, they may also need to request it again from the buyer.

7. Schedule problems

For any party involved in the closing, they may not be able to meet on a previously agreed time.

8. Buyer delays

There are many buyer delays that could stall the closing: if they are self-employed, if they have multiple sources of income, if they are getting a down payment from an “unconventional” source or gift. These could require more documentation.

9. Flood insurance requirement

If living in a flood zone, the buyer might need to acquire flood insurance and complete the benchmark survey which could take up to 3 weeks to process. It then needs to be reviewed by the mortgage underwriter.

10. Appraisal disparities

Before the mortgage is approved, the bank must appraise the home and – if their appraisal is lower than asking price – they may require a negotiation.

11. Title issues

Any tax liens against the property will need to be resolved before the closing can happen.

12. Property damage

If there is damage to the property, the lender may require repairs to be finished prior to the closing.

13. Contract disagreements

Either party may not agree to the requests may in the contract, which means it will need to be changed and rewritten.

14. Foreclosure

If the house is in foreclosure, it could take up to 10 days to get the payoff information from the mortgage company including legal fees.

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Why Buyers Need Proof of Funds

Black Calculator Near Ballpoint Pen on White Printed PaperProof of funds is a document that proves a home buyer has enough liquid cash to purchase a home. Many – if not all – home sellers want to see a proof of funds, so they know the buyer is truly able to afford it. If you’re considering buying a house, find out who needs proof of funds, what counts, and how to get it.

Who needs proof of funds?

All buyers need proof of funds. Even if you are getting a mortgage to finance your home purchase, you’ll still need enough money for a down payment (about 20% of the house price) and closing cost (3-4% of the home price).

Lenders look at your finances to mathematically learn how much money you can truly afford with all your other obligations, but the sellers also want to see where you have the funds for closing.

Even if you are paying for the house in all cash, you still need to provide proof you have all that cash.

Proof of funds vs. pre-approval letter

The mortgage pre-approval letter is different than proof of funds. The pre-approval letter is from the lender to the buyer stating that they are committing to providing a home loan to the buyer.

Proof of funds is a separate document that shows you have funds for the closing and where those funds are located.

What counts as proof of funds?

A proof of funds can be from the institution where the money you plan on using for closing cost is located: bank, open credit line, money market. Mutual funds and stocks don’t count as proof of funds because they can fluctuate based on the market conditions. If you plan on using those funds to pay for closing cost, you should relocate them to and account that is proof sooner rather than later.

If you have funds coming from several different accounts, you should put them into one just for the sake of simplicity and it will make it easier on you.

In the end, sellers don’t care where the money is coming from, just that it actually exists somewhere.

How to get proof of funds

Getting the proof of funds is actually pretty easy. All you have to do is contact your bank or institution where your money is located and request it. It can take about 1 to 2 days to receive it, but plan on waiting a week as some banks can take longer. You can provide your proof of funds at the time you offer your bid, or 24-48 hours after the bid is accepted.

What to include

You can find a few template options at Realtor.com’s article that help your layout a proof of funds letter. Make sure your document includes the account holder’s name and balance, all on a bank letterhead signed by a bank official. Even a simple bank statement would suffice.

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