An evacuation plan is a necessity for every home, especially if you live in an area where fires, earthquakes, hurricanes, flooding, and other disasters are a possibility. Many homeowners create evacuation plans for their homes and practice them with their kids, but far fewer have considered one for their pets. Take these steps to add your pets to your evacuation plan.
Assign pet evacuation to an adult. Everyone should know how to act during an evacuation, and that includes assigning one parent or adult to the pets. This allows the other parent and the children to focus on their part of the evacuation plan, so there’s no confusion during a high-stress moment when time is of the essence.
Keep evacuation maps and pet carriers readily accessible. If you need to evacuate, you should know exactly where every important item is. If you pets require carriers, keep them in a place that you can access easily.
Practice your plan. Include your pets in your home evacuation drills. It’ll help you see how they will respond and make changes to your plan if necessary. Getting your dog out of a window may not be as simple as you think!
Be prepared in case you get separated from your pets. No matter how much you drill your evacuation plan, it’s possible that a dog or cat will run off while you’re focusing on keeping your family safe. A microchip or a GPS-compatible tag can help you find your pets once it’s safe to return to the area.
Your home is your castle. Sometimes, however, it can feel a little less regal than you’d like it to.
Outdated fixtures or not having enough space or light, among other things, can make a home feel tired and old. For about $100 or less, many features of a home can be improved to help add value to a home when selling it.
You won’t be able to expand the dining room on the cheap, but there are some simple improvements that can spruce up a house cheaply and quickly:
Start in the kitchen, which is one of the first areas home buyers look at. Replace the kitchen sink faucet, replace cabinet door handles or install a new sink if you can find a deal on one.
Bathroom fixtures such as towel racks and toilet paper holders can be easily replaced, and a new toilet seat is cheap.
Replace old lights with a ceiling fan/light combo, or install a nice chandelier in the dining room, for example. These can cost $300 or so, but if you only need to make one change, this is the one that can pay off.
Old homes often don’t have much closet space. Buy $100 worth of wire shelves and install them yourself and you’ve got a closet that at least makes the space look organized.
Check leaks and electrical
Hire a plumber or electrician for an hour to check your electrical services and plumbing. They can make sure everything is safe and working properly so that a potential buyer doesn’t find a leaking faucet or broken light switch or faulty outlet.
Buying new carpet can be expensive, but an area rug can be just enough to cover an area showing serious wear. Even if you can afford it, installing wall-to-wall carpeting before selling your house isn’t recommended by most real estate agents because the new owners may want to choose their own style.
You can get your carpet professionally cleaned for a few hundred dollars, or maybe less if you can find a coupon. If your carpet is in good shape, a professional cleaning may be all it needs to look in top shape.
Plant flowers, mow the lawn, pull weeds and sweep the walkway in front of your house. It will give viewers a strong first impression and can be done for much less than $100.
If all of that doesn’t work, bake cookies at home on the day of the home showing.
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Icons and superheroes go in and out of style, so decorating your kids’ rooms to reflect their current favorite may not be the best idea. Decorators suggest using timeless themes and practical ideas to make their spaces cheerful and organized:
- Start with color – Choose a favorite, preferably a soothing one, to help your child ease into sleep. Consider painting one wall in chalkboard paint, ready for years of artistic expression.
- Use cool family art – Choose a favorite family, vacation, or kid photo and blow it up to large standard frame size at an office supply store. Then cut it evenly into thirds or fourths vertically, frame each one, and hang them side by side as separate pieces separated by just an inch or two.
- Make it a gallery – String wire from one wall to another, just high enough for you to reach, to hold a changing display of your child’s drawings. Or frame the drawings in standard acrylic frames that can be changed as new masterpieces emerge.
- Try dresser magic – Perk up a drab white dresser inexpensively by tying a length of colorful ribbon into a bow around each of the knobs.
- Create a reading nook – Make it an inviting place for shared reading with a bookcase full of books, soft lighting, and seating comfy enough for cuddling.
- Add maxi–storage – A rack of colorful, stacked bins from the local home store is better than a toy box for storing trucks, games, building blocks, and other large toys.
- And mini-storage – A multi-pocketed shoe organizer hung from one wall is a great place to stash mini action figures, Hot Wheels cars, hair goodies, and other small treasures.
- Stock cubbies or a shelf with art supplies – Keep it full of construction paper, markers, poster board, and other supplies your kid may need for school projects.
- Create a play space – Kids love to play dress-up. Find an old trunk and fill it with vintage clothing and hats they can use to ‘put on a show.’
First impressions are lasting impressions when selling a home, and the first thing buyers see when they drive up is your driveway.
Driveways that are old, stained and cracked are not only unpleasant to look at, but they can have a negative impact on the sale of your home. Even if the rest of the home is beautiful, it can be hard to shake off the immediate negative impression of a driveway in disrepair.
Replacing a driveway can be costly, but many times a few repairs is all you need. If your driveway is showing any signs of damage, consult a home improvement retailer or driveway repair professional. There are varying methods for repairing concrete or blacktop driveways, and their costs are going to differ.
Cracks, for instance, are common, unsightly and stand out like a sore thumb. They can be caused by a variety of factors: tree roots, too much weight on a particular spot of the driveway, weather (from the intensity of the sun to the change of seasons), and damage from snow tires and shovels.
If your driveway has so many cracks that it resembles a road map, you may have to invest in a new driveway. If the cracks are minimal and can be repaired, it’s best to do so as quickly as possible so they don’t spread. A professional can be called upon to fix the cracks, or do-it-yourselfers may be able to use a driveway sealer (available at home improvement stores).
Potholes are another challenge you may come across. Such as on the road, potholes can develop on your driveway, particularly during the winter as a result of shoveling or plowing. Neglecting to fix a pothole can worsen the situation by causing damage to vehicles. Home improvement stores sell pothole replacement materials if hiring a professional isn’t in your budget.
Water in your driveway may not seem like a big deal, and it often isn’t. But a lot of water accumulating after rainfall can be a sign of a drainage problem, particularly if the water is gathering close to the house. This could point to a structural problem because the slope of the driveway leading away from the house isn’t steep enough. Contact a professional if this is happening as water can make its way into your home and cause damage. There’s no need to worry about smaller puddles if they are away from the house.
When it comes to stains, these are more cosmetic concerns but they can be a turnoff. The good news is they are relatively easy to clean. Even a household cleaner can take care of your smaller stains. For bigger stains, a degreaser will likely get the job done.
Odors are a huge turnoff for potential home buyers and can be difficult to remove. The truth is that most homes have some sort of smell to them. Most often, the people who live there don’t even notice.
This is especially true of pet odors. Owners become accustomed to their pet’s smell, such as from litter boxes for cats or from shedding. Visitors, however, are going to notice these odors, especially if the home is not properly cleaned.
Pet owners should use a carpet deodorizer when vacuuming—one that is designed to remove animal smells. Check your furniture for odors as well. If you smell your pet, wash the cushion covers or use a deodorizing product if they aren’t machine washable. If the pet smell is very prominent, consider having the carpets and furniture professionally cleaned. Cat owners should clean out the litter box daily and should wash it with water and liquid soap regularly.
Non-pet owners aren’t off the hook odor-wise. Many things can make a home smell, but there are four easy steps to take to cut down on strong odors.
- Think about what you cook. Even with an exhaust fan, things like fish and bacon can produce odors that linger. Baking cookies before showings or open houses is a classic trick to give a house a pleasant smell.
- Light a candle. Scented candles can add a pleasing smell to the home and set a relaxing mood. Pick candles with more neutral smells or think seasonal (pumpkin in the fall, pine during the holidays, etc.).
- Take out the trash. Empty all trash containers around the house before showings or open houses. Focus on the kitchen as it’s likely to contain food scraps. Also consider washing the trash container if you haven’t in a while. Empty trash baskets are more visually appealing anyway.
- Maintain a clean fridge. Cleaning a refrigerator is a must when selling a house. Empty it out regularly so that food odors don’t build up. Don’t forget to add a box of baking soda to absorb odors.
And if the weather permits, open up the windows. Even if it’s just for a short amount of time, it’s the simplest way to clear out odors!
Becoming a homeowner doesn’t equip you with the basics of household know-how, although time and experience will likely teach you how to tighten up a leaky faucet. But technicians say that up to 30 percent of their service calls require nothing more than the flip of a switch or the push of a button to ‘repair’ the stated problem.
To save you from such an embarrassing experience—not to mention the cost of a service call—Readers Digest offers tips to help every homeowner recognize and ‘fix’ common issues:
- The fridge is warm. Check to see that nobody messed with the temperature dial. Turn it up if need be, and be sure no food containers are blocking the fridge and freezer compartment vents, which supply the flow of cold air.
- The bathroom lights don’t work. Sometimes all the bathroom outlets or several exterior lights are powered through a single GFCI (the red button in the middle of some outlets located in one bathroom). If there’s an outage, push the reset button on the GFCI, and you could be back in business.
- A kitchen appliance won’t turn on. When a light goes out in one room or a switch doesn’t turn on the coffeepot, check the main electrical panel for a tripped circuit breaker. Look for a switch that’s not in line with the others. Flip it fully to the off position, and then back on.
- The toilet is running. The most common cause is a worn flapper that no longer seals properly. The flapper is easy to replace without calling a plumber. Your nearest home store can sell you the part and tell you what you need to know.
- The paint needs a touchup. Mimic the texture a paint roller leaves on the wall without calling the painter. Dip an old washcloth in the paint, dab it on the spot, and toss it away.
- The garage is stuffed. Before you call a carpenter to add more shelving, mount a section of wire shelving to the undersides of the beams to give you a row of neat storage nooks. Unlike solid shelving, wire lets you see what’s up there. Then pick up a pack of S-hooks at a home center, and turn a length of wire shelving into a rack for holding garden and/or cleaning gear.
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