Make your spring/summer garage sale the talk of the neighborhood

It’s a mystery how they figured this out, but did you know that Americans hold 6.5 million to 9 million garage sales each year? According to, the practice dates back to at least the 1950s.

If you’re considering removing unused household items, the garage sale is the ideal way to do it, provided you take the time to plan and prepare.

A good garage sale starts with a good plan

The first step in the planning process is to choose a date for the sale. Sounds easy, right?

You may be sorry if you just pull a date out of a hat. Instead, consider that there may be competition for your event. Check to ensure no significant sporting events are happening, live or televised.

Also, check to ensure there won’t be any popular local events, such as fairs, festivals, etc. Although there are a lot of die-hard garage sale fans, even they will skip a sale if there’s something else competing for their attention.

Another way to ensure your sale is a success is to plan it for when it’s more likely your customers will have money to spend.

The Yard Sale Queen offers a brilliant suggestion: find out when employees of some of the larger businesses in your area get paid and hold your sale the weekend after payday.

Typically, folks get paid on the first and 15th of each month.

Consider the following as well:

  • Make a sketch of the garage or yard, noting where the tables and racks will be located. Ensure there is room to walk between these items and that you can see all items from wherever you plan to be stationed.
  • This one is tedious, but you’ll be so glad you took the time to do it. Create a list of everything that will be up for sale and how much you want.
  • As something sells, cross it off the list and note how much you received for it.
  • Price items clearly.
  • Enlist help from family and friends.
  • Round up an extension cord so that folks can test out electronics and small appliances.
  • Save all of your grocery bags, Amazon boxes, and packing material. They will come in handy for fragile items.
  • Selling clothing? The Yard Sale Queen suggests that you go through all the pants pockets, and compartments in purses, and fan out books to ensure no money or other valuables are hidden within.

The Day before the Sale

Now you must let everyone know about your super-fantastic garage or yard sale. Advertise it on Facebook, NextDoor, and other social media platforms you use frequently.

  • Create signs that can direct customers to the home. Start placing them on the busy streets first.
  • Get some change and small bills from the bank to make the change.
  • Determine how you will hold the cash during the sale. A cashbox isn’t a good idea as it’s too easy for someone to walk away with it. A “fanny sack” that you wear around your waist or a wallet in your pocket is a much safer way to hold your cash.

Additional considerations for a winning yard sale

If you live in a gated community, getting people into the sale is more challenging. Contact your homeowners association (HOA) first to determine what rules they have about yard sales and if there are any restrictions.

Check local regulations to ensure your street signs aren’t violating any city or municipal codes.

Be aware of some of the more common scams:

  • When making change, don’t immediately pocket the bill the customer gives you. Hold it in your hand or place it under a paperweight while you make change. This way, the customer can’t claim to have given you a larger bill.
  • Large groups of customers arriving at once or rowdy children can be distracting. Have someone help you monitor folks when they may be deliberately trying to distract you.
  • The Yard Sale Queen suggests that you always look inside any large items you sell before allowing the customer to leave to ensure something else isn’t hidden within.


What’s happening there between the curb and your home’s front door?

What happens — or doesn’t — in that area is known in real estate circles as “curb appeal,” and it makes or breaks your home’s first impression.

The focal point of this area is the entryway to the home – the front door and surrounding area. This is where your guests’ eyes will settle as they approach your home.

If you are one of those brave souls who got past the unattractiveness of a home’s exterior and decided to purchase anyway, or if you’re planning on selling your home, let’s figure out how to make your front door entrance warm and inviting.


When planning the landscaping for your front entry, there are three primary considerations, according to Environmental Landscape Associates, a Pennsylvania design firm:

  • Principles
  • Program
  • Elements

Important principles include ensuring that the design is in synch with and complements the architectural style of your home. In other words, don’t go for a cottage garden entryway on a house with modern architecture.

Especially if you plan on putting the home on the market, curb appeal is far more critical than your personal taste in landscaping.

The second consideration, the program, is part of the process wherein you’ll need to determine how to utilize the space. Is the entryway merely for front-door access, or will there be entertainment elements also?

Large porches can accommodate seating and dining areas that become part of the home’s curb appeal. Don’t forget any privacy concerns. If you need to screen the front windows from neighbors or passing traffic, the barrier must coordinate with the other elements.

The design elements include everything you’ll need to create it, such as hardscape elements (bricks, pavers, etc.) and plants – both in the ground and in containers.

When deciding which plants to purchase, refer back to the principles and the program to ensure everything flows and is tied together at the end of the project.

Formal Entry Ideas

Formal entryways should exude symmetry. Think “organized.” Both sides of the entryway should mirror one another. This balanced approach lends a formal feel to the area.

Use patterned hardscapes, formal, shaped hedges, and elegant groundcovers. Hedging to consider includes:

  • Juniper
  • Rosemary
  • Boxwood
  • Holly

Frame the front door by planting – either in the ground or in attractive containers – identical plants on either side.

Informal Entry Ideas

You can get a lot more creative when creating informally landscaped entryways. Use natural stones on the walkway and, set them in irregular patterns, mix and match shrubs and perennial flowering plants. Line the walkway with interesting edging materials, such as a small white picket fence or colorful flowers.

If you aim for a relaxed feel, such as with a cottage entryway, use fragrant flowering plants such as roses, lilies, lavender, and thyme.

Soften a concrete or rigid walkway surface by lining it with soft-colored plants, such as dusty millers, combined with any red- or pink-foliage landscape plants, such as begonias or multi-colored coleus.

Year-Round Appeal

Whether your landscaping at the front door entrance is formal or casual, ensure it remains interesting all year. Combine deciduous and evergreen trees and shrubs so the entry isn’t completely bare when the leaves fall.

The experts with the University of Missouri Extension suggest choosing deciduous trees that bear flowers in the spring and summer, have good foliage color in the fall, and have an exciting branch structure.

Consider a mixture of the following plants:

  • Ornamental grass
  • Woody ornamentals, such as abelia and Japanese bayberry
  • Perennials, such as sedum

Put it all together

When the aim is to focus on the entryway, the most common arrangement of plants is to place large plants at both ends of the house and progressively smaller plants as you move toward the door.

The University above of Missouri Extension agents also suggests using odd numbers of plants in groupings – such as three or five – when designing an informal entryway. Your goal is formal, with symmetry and order, and use even number groupings.

The path to your front door, whether it heads straight to it or meanders a bit, requires landscaping to fit the home’s architecture and to provide year-round interest.

After all, this area is your home’s welcoming “handshake,” according to the editors of Sunset Magazine. Avoid giving your visitor the limp fish while you don’t want to offer a bone-crusher.


House or Condo: How to decide

Apples and oranges — that’s what condos and houses are. Sure, they both provide a roof over your head, and they’re both financial investments, but that’s where the similarities end.

Just as when we compare apples and oranges, houses and condos differ by price, taste, and by how they will be used.

The most significant difference between owning a condo and owning a house

Precisely what do you own when you buy them?

When you buy a house, you also typically own the land on which it sits and everything else permanently attached to the land. On the other hand, when you purchase a condo, you own only what lies between the walls of your unit.

The rest of the complex, the “common areas,” are owned in common by all the unit owners. You have the right to use the common areas but not alter them in any way. Some items considered common areas include:

  • Fitness center
  • Lobby
  • Pool
  • Mailroom
  • Tennis courts
  • Elevators
  • Landscaping

The Advantages of Purchasing a Condo

The price is the most obvious advantage of buying a condo rather than a house. Although luxury condominiums can be pricey, condos are far less expensive than houses.

For instance, the average price of a single-family home nationwide is $250,000, while the average price of a condo is $149,900.

Other advantages include:

  • Less maintenance — The Homeowner’s Association (HOA) is usually responsible for maintenance decisions, and all the owners share the cost of common area upkeep. This includes big-ticket items such as air-conditioning units, the roof, and fencing.
  • On-site amenities — While pools and fitness centers are common, the sky is the limit regarding condo amenities. Some complexes offer dog parks, clubhouses, a concierge, or rooftop gardens. Many high-end condo communities offer luxuries you may be unable to afford in the single-family home market.
  • Lower cost of living — While you will most likely pay a maintenance fee each month, it typically includes water, trash, and sewer costs. Sometimes utilities are included in the fee. The HOA pays for the insurance on the entire complex, so you may need only to cover what is inside your unit.

The Disadvantages of Buying a Condo

Judging by the sheer number of Americans that choose to purchase and live in condos, the disadvantages of condo living aren’t insurmountable. Here are a few disadvantages to weigh against the advantages:

  • HOA — Some homeowner’s associations can be quite intrusive, with restrictions that may border the ridiculous. Some raise the maintenance fees annually while ignoring maintenance needs.
  • Space and privacy — most condo complexes have a decided lack of both.
  • Tenant neighbors — HOAs find it challenging to enforce the complex’s rules on tenants and typically go after the absentee owner. Some owners are diligent about disciplining their tenants, others – not so much.

If you’re leaning toward purchasing a condo instead of a house, be sure that you read every word on every page of the HOA documents that will be supplied to you.

Pay close attention to the Covenants, Conditions & Restrictions (CC&Rs). You must follow these rules when you purchase a condo in a complex. It’s dry stuff but contains all the information you need to determine if this is the right condo for you.

If you have any questions about anything written in those documents, we urge you to take the paperwork to your attorney for a translation.

3 tips to keep your dog safe this Independence Day

“More pets get lost on July 4th than any other day of the year,” according to the experts at HomeAgain, a lost pet recovery service.

Dog owners know well that the pooch can be in the furthest reaches of the home but will come running if you grab a crinkly package of chips from the pantry.

That’s how keen their sense of hearing is. “In fact, they are capable of hearing sounds four times further away than the human ear can discern … They have 15 different muscles that move their ears in all directions,” claim the experts at

Imagine then what the booming, blasting, popping sounds of the typical July 4th celebration does to a dog’s ears. Since it’s something most dogs don’t hear frequently, it causes great fear and anxiety.

The dog experts at Purina say that it’s not only the sound of fireworks but their unpredictability of them that causes the dog to perceive them as a threat.

“This triggers their fight-or-flight response,” they say online at “Your dog may bark at the noises or try to run away and hide. They may also show other signs of anxiety, like restlessness, panting, pacing, or whining.”

Many dogs get the fight or flight response and choose the latter, attempting to escape the perceived threat. This leads us to the first tip to keep your dog safe on Independence Day.

1. Ensure that your dog’s microchip is up-to-date and that he or she wears a collar with an ID tag attached.

Your dog is microchipped, right? According to a study published by the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association and highlighted by Ohio State University’s website, animal “… shelter officials housing lost pets that had been implanted with a microchip were able to find the owners in almost three out of four cases.”

It’s not enough, however, to have your dog microchipped as a puppy and then forget about it. If you move, the chip should be updated to contain your current contact information.

Don’t let your pet be among those that never see their owners again because they aren’t chipped or the chip contains old information.

2. Thinking of taking the pooch with you to the festivities? Think again.

Not only will there be the frightening and unpredictable fireworks at celebrations, but also the crowds of people, the kids running around, and being in an unfamiliar place. Your dog may just decide to make a run for it.

Experts with the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) recommend leaving the dog at home “… in a safe, escape-proof room or crate.”

3. It’s not over until after the cleanup

The aftermath of any self-respecting Independence Day celebration can be dangerous for our pets. The wind could blow in debris from the neighbors’ yards even if you didn’t host the celebration.

It’s a good idea to clear the debris before allowing your dog to play in the yard. Pick up spent fireworks, food scraps (especially bones), barbecue skewers, and paper debris.

We hope you, and your pets, have a safe and happy Independence Day!




What to do if your mortgage application is denied

One in 16. That’s the mortgage application denial rate here in the U.S., according to Consumer Reports’ Lisa L. Gill, citing Urban Institute’s data.

“And a too-low credit score is among the top reasons folks can’t get a mortgage, according to,” Gill says. Other common reasons for denial include a too-high debt-to-income ratio and spotty or fluctuating income.

You’ll learn the reason from the lender (you must request it, however), but that doesn’t make anyone feel better. Thankfully, there are ways to fix the situation.

Let’s take a deeper dive into the most common reasons for rejection

You’ve no doubt heard about those two ratios that lenders use to determine if you can make a mortgage payment every month: the debt-to-income ratio and the loan-to-value ratio.

These two calculations will play a big part in whether you are accepted or denied for a loan.

  • The debt-to-income ratio, or DTI for short, is obtained by dividing your gross monthly income by the total amount of your monthly debt payments.

The higher this ratio is, the more likely you are to default, according to lenders. Do the calculations on yours. If it is higher than 40%, this could be the reason you were denied a mortgage.

  • The loan-to-value ratio, or LTV, is just what it sounds like: the appraised value of the property compared to the amount of money you’re asking to borrow. Again, the lower the ratio, the better.
  • Troublesome credit score. The main thing the lender wants to determine is the risk it will be taking by lending you money. A low credit score, showing failure to pay bills on time, default on other loans and other factors will make the lender less confident in lending to you.

These are just the most common reasons a mortgage may be denied and there are others.

What you should do if your mortgage application is denied

While it may seem as if your dreams are dashed when your mortgage is denied, there is still hope. Take the following steps:

  • Don’t wait for the denial letter because by then it’s too late to attempt to overturn it. Call your mortgage broker or officer to determine why it was denied.
  • While you’re on the phone with the lender, ask for copies of all of the application’s accompanying paperwork.
  • Use this paperwork to shop among additional lenders, especially those who offer manual underwriting. This option gives the lender the opportunity to “… approve loans other lenders can’t. Provide all of your paperwork and be honest with the lender about the reason for your denial, if you disagree with it,” suggests Denny Ceizyk ENNY at
  • Ceizyk goes on to say that sometimes a loan will be denied because the underwriter has insufficient information to approve it. “A well-written letter of explanation may clarify gaps in employment, explain a debt that’s paid by someone else or help the underwriter understand a large cash deposit in your account. Provide as much detail as possible to prove you have the ability to repay your loan,” he concludes.
  • If all else fails, consider pursuing a different loan product. Depending on the reason for denial, you may want to consider a FHA-backed loan that offers mortgages to those with less-than stellar credit histories and low-down payments.

While mortgage denial doesn’t mean it’s the end of the road when it comes to buying a home, fixing what needs to be fixed and getting preapproved quickly will enable you to jump into the market at just the right time.

What is PMI (or MIP) and how do I get rid of it?

PMI (short for ‘private mortgage insurance’) is one of those things in life that is both a curse and a blessing. If you put down less than 20 percent of the loan amount when you take out a conventional loan, you will be required to pay a monthly mortgage insurance premium (typically tacked on to your mortgage payment) to cover the lender in the event you mess up and default on the loan.

Without it, cash-poor homebuyers can’t get a mortgage.

With it, your house payments are higher, it takes a long time to get rid of (with some loans it never goes away) and it only protects the lender.

If you have an FHA-backed loan it’s called MIP for mortgage insurance premium. “MIP is required on all FHA loans, regardless of the size of your down payment,” according to Molly Grace at

“FHA loans require both an upfront mortgage insurance premium (UFMIP) as well as an annual premium payment, or annual MIP,” she concludes. 

Mortgage Insurance and the FHA-Backed Loan

Borrowers who were granted an FHA-backed loan prior to June 3, 2013 can get rid of this monthly headache when the loan reaches a 78 percent loan-to-value (LTV) ratio for a 15-year loan.

If you have a 30-year loan you’ll need to wait until your LTV reaches 78 percent AND you’ve been paying the premium for a minimum of 60 months, which is government-speak for five years.

Calculate your LTV by dividing your current loan balance by the current appraised value of the home. Here’s an example of how this works from the experts at

“You currently have a loan balance of $140,000 … Your home currently appraises for $200,000. So, your loan-to-value equation would look like this:

$140,000 ÷ $200,000 = .70

Convert .70 to a percentage and that gives you a loan-to-value ratio of 70%.”

FHA borrowers who put down 10 percent on a home after June 3, 2013 must wait 11 years to have the MIP requirement terminated. If you pay less than 10 percent down – which is the beauty of the FHA loan, after all – you must continue to pay MIP for the life of the loan.

Conventional Loans and PMI

The Homeowner’s Protection Act of 1998 states that homeowners who have a conventional loan on their primary residence, purchased after July 29, 1999 can request a cancellation of PMI once they have 20 percent equity in the home.

The same law says that the lender must automatically terminate PMI on the date that the loan is scheduled to reach a 78 percent loan-to-value ratio – not based on payments made – but according to the date the loan should reach this milestone, as listed on the initial amortization schedule.

The law gives borrowers another way to realize relief from PMI by stating that the lender has to release you from the requirement when you are at the midpoint of your loan’s amortization schedule, regardless of your LTV.

3 Real estate deal killers and how to avoid them

Want to hear something a bit surprising that you won’t hear from the media?

Last year, the folks at Cinch Home Services, a home warranty company, surveyed 1,000 real estate consumers and just a smidge more than half of the homebuyers claimed “… they had a home purchase contract fall through in that time period.” (

We can chalk most of that up to rising interest rates and their attendant problems.

In “normal” real estate markets, however, the majority of real estate transactions go through without a problem.

Be that as it may, in any market, those transactions that hit a snag run the danger of falling apart.

Thankfully, most of the problems, if handled by professionals, won’t kill the deal. So, let’s learn some strategies to keep the deal alive through three challenging real-world scenarios.

1. The Homeowners Association

If the home you’re buying is in a managed community, you’ll be dealing a bit with the Homeowners Association during the purchase. You will receive a somewhat large amount of paperwork that you’ll need to peruse, often sign and, most likely want to run some of it by your attorney.

These documents contain some very important information and insights about what it’s like to live in the community. Some that you’ll want to pay close attention to include:

  • HOA meeting minutes
  • The budget
  • The CC&Rs (covenants, conditions and restrictions)
  • Evidence of liens and judgments against the HOA.
  • Current litigation against the association.

Don’t put off reading the documents or passing them by your attorney. The sooner you can confront problems, the less of a chance there will be for a deal killer to rear its ugly head.

2. Don’t mess up your mortgage approval

It’s a mystery to us why lenders don’t warn their clients that a loan approval isn’t permanent. There are ways to sabotage it and buyers should be forewarned about them.

Here’s a scenario: Marvin is approved for a mortgage and the transaction is sailing along toward closing. One day, he sees an ad for an appliance package with reasonable monthly payments.

The home he is buying lacks appliances, so this deal was too irresistible to pass by.

He has no idea that a “soft pull” is a standard procedure toward the end of the transaction. A soft pull is one last credit check, to ensure that the buyer’s financial position is the same as when he or she was approved for the mortgage.

By the way, it’s called a soft pull because it doesn’t impact the buyer’s credit.

Marvin’s appliance purchases, on credit, changes his debt-to-income ratio enough that he no longer qualifies for the loan. Unfortunately, fixing this problem will take time and money.

Mary committed another common mortgage error – she changed jobs. As in Marvin’s case, this changed her financial position and the loan didn’t close.

The moral of these stories is to keep all finances exactly as they were when you were approved for the loan.

3. Don’t be an unreasonable seller

It’s a very rare home that doesn’t have problems, which is why we recommend a home inspection, even with new home purchases.

As a seller, you should expect that there will be issues revealed by the home inspection. You should also be ready to address a request from the buyers to fix certain issues or pay to have them fixed.

Far too often we see home sellers who refuse to budge and adopt a take-it-or-leave-it attitude. The problem with this is that most buyers will hire a home inspector and he or she will reveal those very same problems.

Like the guy in the movie Groundhog Day, you’ll relive the scenario over and over as your home sits on the market and languishes.

One of the worst things that can happen is a failure to disclose problems that you know about. In fact, in extreme cases, sellers have gone to prison for failure to disclose a problem that caused severe bodily harm and even death.

Not only must you disclose major problems with the home, but “… any potential problem and material defect that could easily affect the value of the property being transacted,” according to the pros at Attorneys Real Estate Group in California.

Both parties in a real estate deal fear its possible delay or cancellation. The biggest reasons a deal falls apart, however, can be avoided by slowing down, thinking clearly, and having realistic expectations. Heed the advice of your real estate agent or attorney, and all should go smoothly.

Mortgage loans for medical professionals

There has been a lot of debate of late over student loan forgiveness. When it comes to these loans, it’s hard to imagine what the debt wracked up by each of 28,337 students who graduated from medical school.

Let’s face it, when it comes to student loans, these former students have a lot of debt and not a lot of provable earnings. Despite this, many want to finally settle down and purchase a home.

And, their newbie-ness in the medical field, a blank credit history or heavy student loan debt won’t stop them from getting a mortgage. Why?

Because of their potential earnings – that’s what lenders care about when it comes to new physicians, dentists, and veterinarians. They know that only 1 percent of physicians default on their mortgage – substantially fewer than the general public, at 10%, according to Ryan Inman at

Lenders want this business – badly – so they created the doctor loan, also known as the physician loan.

Here are a few of the offerings, which vary by the way, by lender:

  • Typically there is no or a low-down payment requirement.
  • Private mortgage insurance (PMI) is waived, even if you put down less than 20 percent of the purchase price.
  • Debt-to-income ratio restrictions are more relaxed than they are with conventional mortgages.
  • Lending limits up to $2 million.
  • Low credit score requirements.
  • All physician loan programs are available to those with a D.O. degree. “Some lenders also offer loan programs for medical professionals such as dentists, orthodontists and veterinarians with the following degrees: D.S., M.D., P.M.,V.M.,” according to Sidney Richardson at

Are there drawbacks to these mortgages? Yes. They are commonly not fixed-rate mortgages, but carry adjustable rates (ARM). “With an ARM, you typically pay a lower, fixed interest rate for the first few years of the loan,” explains Richardson.

“After that initial period, however, your interest rate will fluctuate and often increase,” she concludes.

Then, interest rates may be higher for this loan product than the current average mortgage rate.

If you’ve dreamt of purchasing a home and didn’t think you could at this point in your career, we urge you to speak with a lender about physician loans.

5 things to look for when buying a new built-in dishwasher

Dishwashers. We never really understand what a time- and effort-saving device it is until it goes on the blink.

And if yours has, you no doubt understand how much they’ve gone up in price over the past few years. Although you can purchase a basic model for less than $400, the models with the useful bells and whistles can cost up to a few thousand dollars.

“On average, a new dishwasher costs about $970,” suggests Paige Bennett at

Whether you’re looking for a no-frills dishwasher or a top-of-the-line brand, knowing exactly which features you need and will use and the right time to shop for it is the key to saving money.

So, what is the right time of year to shop for a dishwasher?

“Model year clearance time” is a phrase we often hear in commercials and see in print ads. That time is the month of May. This is because manufacturers put out their new models in June, so sales are abundant to get the old stock moved out.

“Federal holidays [New Year’s Day, Memorial Day, Labor Day, etc.) are also a great time to find huge savings on dishwashers,” claims Debbie Wolfe and Lexie Pelchen at

Don’t forget Black Friday. You may find some real bargains on offer.

Finally, if you don’t mind a slightly marred appliance, you can check out the “scratch and dent” inventories at appliance stores and big box retailers any time of the year.

How to start your dishwasher shopping journey

The first step toward buying a dishwasher that meets your needs is much like the first step toward buying a home. Figure out what you need when it comes to features.

“Wi-Fi capability, touch screen controls and programmable wash cycles are nice, but they come at premium prices. Decide if you really need all the bells and whistles and if the extra cost is worth it to you,” warns Wolfe and Pelchen.

Take some time to get to know the various features that manufacturers are offering. Items such as stainless-steel tubs are quite popular with consumers, replacing the old interior surface that is easily stained. Other popular features, according to the folks at, include:

  • ENERGY STAR® Certification to help save money.
  • A dishwasher that boasts a quieter cycle.
  • Water softener if you live in an area with hard water that causes spotting on your dishes.
  • Hard food disposal

Which brands do consumers like the best?

“KitchenAid … ranks highest in customer satisfaction among dishwashers. Samsung … ranks second, while Bosch … and LG … rank third in a tie,” according to research by JD Powers and Associates.

Which finish is best for you?

Many shoppers choose to match the finish of their other appliances when shopping for a new dishwasher. Other than that, there are a few things to consider when choosing a finish.

If you despise fingerprints on your appliance, choose a brushed stainless steel finish. Black and traditional stainless-steel finishes attract dust, grime and fingerprints.

Tub material

We mentioned earlier the popularity of the stainless-steel tub. Your other choice is plastic. As the dishwasher ages, plastic tubs tend to become stained and may hold odors.

Not so with a stainless-steel tub. It dries quicker and is tougher. Yes, dishwashers with stainless-steel tubs are more expensive.

Does the noise bug you?

If it has been some time since you’ve shopped for a dishwasher you will notice that the noise level, listed by decibel level, is now typically a standard part of the in-store description.

“A rating of 45 decibels or lower is a virtually silent dishwasher. Decibel levels between 45 and 50 have the equivalent sound level to steady rainfall. A 50 or higher decibel level is equivalent to the level of a normal conversation.,” according to Wolfe and Pelchen.

They go on to warn readers that “The lower the decibel rating, the more expensive the dishwasher will be.”

Have you heard about the filters?

Have you ever wondered what keeps the food debris on your plates from floating around while the dishes wash and possibly ends up back on the clean dishes?

It’s the filter that stops that mess and you’ll need to choose from a manual and a self-cleaning filter. The latter “… filters feature a grinder that pulverizes the debris and flushes it down the drain. Manual filters need to be removed and cleaned often to keep them free of debris,” suggests Debbie Wolfe and Samantha Allen at

Some additional features you might want to shop for

Wolfe and Allen suggest looking at these additional dishwasher features:

  • Soil sensors.
  • Adjustable racks.
  • A third rack.
  • “Smart home technology and Wi-Fi connectivity …” so you can program the machine to start washing even if you aren’t around via your desktop, laptop or smartphone.

Who knew there was so much to learn about something we use every day? Hopefully, these tips will help you make a choice from the many dishwasher models available on the market.

Things to consider when you want to buy a house with a pool

Some homebuyers wouldn’t think of buying a home that didn’t offer a swimming pool. You’ll typically find these folks in the warmer parts of the country. Then, there are those who didn’t have a pool on their wish list but fell in love with a home that offers one.

Whichever group you belong to, there are a few things to consider about swimming pools and the homes that wrap around them.


Get as much information on the pool as possible

Boat owners are familiar with the old saying that “A boat is a hole in the water you throw money into.”

The same can be said about a pool, which is a hole in the ground you throw money into.

Naturally, you’ll want to have the pool inspected and find out:

  • How old it is as well as the age of the equipment
  • The size
  • How often it’s used
  • The history of any maintenance and/or repair issues
  • Does the pool meet local and state safety requirements?

The answers to most of these questions may help you figure out how much it will cost to maintain the pool.

Maintenance of a pool isn’t quick or cheap

The goal of pool maintenance isn’t just to make it Instagram-ready. You’ll need to keep it sanitized, free of algae, and pH balanced.

If you think you’d like to save money by doing it yourself, you may, but don’t forget the time you’ll spend on the job.

Stacey Freed at crunched some numbers and found that if you DIY  your pool’s maintenance, plan on spending “… about five to 10 hours of your spare time,” each week on it.

Nicole Shein at lists the bare minimum when it comes to pool maintenance tasks:

  • Cleaning out debris, such as hair, garden litter, bugs, etc. This is known as “skimming” the pool.
  • Clean out the pool’s strainer basket. This task helps “… protect the pump from any damaging materials settling in the pool and its plumbing,” claim the experts at Evoqua Water Technologies.
  • Scrub down the pool’s floor and walls to help prevent algae buildup.
  • Vacuum the pool. The pool filter doesn’t catch everything, unfortunately.
  • Refill the pool if needed.
  • Test the water to determine if it needs additional chemicals.

“It’s a good idea to skim, check the baskets, and make sure the filter is functioning as it should on a daily basis,” Shein suggests.

“Vacuuming and tending to the pool water’s chemical makeup is usually a weekly chore,” she concludes.

Then, there is the cost of the equipment and the chemicals you’ll need to purchase to do it yourself.

You can always hire a professional to maintain the pool. The average monthly cost, nationwide, for this service ranges “… between $110 and $351 per year, with an average cost of $229.” (

Take all of this into account when considering a home with a pool.

Maintenance isn’t the only way a pool grabs your cash

Before you sign on the dotted line, contact your homeowner’s insurance agent (you’ve chosen one, right?).

You’ll want to get this insurance nailed down so there are no financial surprises when it comes time to close escrow. But you’ll also want to know how much coverage for the pool will run you.

“… homeowners insurance with a pool is generally priced a bit higher than the typical cost of home insurance,” suggests Christy Bieber, insurance expert for

Shein suggests that some insurers consider an in-ground pool as part of the home, or, it could be classified as an “other structure.”

“Liability” is the name of the insurance game when it comes to swimming pools. Perform your due diligence by having your real estate agent obtain the answers to the questions we suggested above, in the third paragraph.

The most important of these questions is the one about meeting safety requirements. These might include a fence around the pool with a secured gate and/or an alarm.


Does a pool add value to the home?

Good for you to consider a home’s future value before buying it.

When determining whether or not a pool adds value to a home, consider the climate in the region. For Minneapolis or Fargo residents, for instance, a pool isn’t as high on the list of wanted amenities as it is for a buyer in Las Vegas or Phoenix, where it’s likely the pool will get used year-round.

“But if you live in a typical community where some houses have pools but most do not, having a pool built will probably not have any impact on the value of your home,” Robert Taylor, a real estate investor in Sacramento, California, tells

If you have additional questions, please let us know. Advice is always free and helping you find the right house for you and your budget is always our goal.