Pets have accidents: Here’s how to clean them from carpet

Statistics; you gotta love them.

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, 38.4% of American households are home to a dog, while 25.4% have cats.

That’s a grand total of more than 48 million dogs and nearly 32 million cats.

Imagine the amount bodily fluids that ends up on carpets nationwide. It’s inescapable, really. Even the most well-trained pet can have an accident indoors.

Let’s take a look at some of the more common messes our pets leave behind and how to clean them from carpet.

Pet vomit

Cats vomit more often than dogs. It’s true. Some cats vomit more often than other cats. If you live with a serial vomiter, don’t despair. Whether it’s a cat or a dog who leaves behind vomit, we have a tip to remove it, and the stain, from the carpet.

  • Lay a paper towel over the mess and gently blot the liquid from it. Don’t press to hard while blotting to avoid pushing the vomit further into the carpet.
  • Use another paper towel to gently lift the vomit pile from the carpet.
  • Clean the resulting stain a.s.a.p. with a paste composed of two parts of baking soda in one part hydrogen peroxide. Stir well and use the spoon to spread the paste over the spot until it’s covered entirely. Avoid pressing the mixture into the carpet.
  • Allow the paste to remain on the stained area of the carpet until it is dry. This may take anywhere from a few hours to overnight.
  • Use the vacuum to suck up the dried paste.

You may need to reapply a fresh layer of the paste for stubborn stains. Repeat the procedure, allowing the paste to dry completely, before using the vacuum to suck it up.

Pet urine

Owners of geriatric dogs, more than other pet owners, deal with a lot of pet accidents. As our pets age, especially dogs, they often lose bladder function and become incontinent.

Many owners deal with this by diapering their dogs or crating them at night when they can’t help the dog outside to relieve itself.

Accidents still happen, though, and although urine is a tough substance to remove from carpet, it is possible.

A new urine stains is far easier to deal with than one that is set-in. In fact, when we discover pee long after the fact, we hire a specialist to help. After all, it probably soaked into the pad beneath the carpet as well.

Here’s what you’ll need to clean a new urine stain:

  • Rags or paper towels
  • ½ cup water
  • ½ cup distilled white vinegar
  • ¼ cup baking soda
  • ¼ cup 3% hydrogen peroxide
  • Spray bottle
  • Scrub brush

After mixing the solution, check to ensure it is safe for your type of carpet. Try it on a small section of the carpet that is seldom seen. For instance, under the sofa or behind the drapes.

Use the rags or paper towels to blot out as much of the liquid as possible. When you think you’ve gotten all of it, put a clean rag over the spot and stand on it for a few seconds. You’d be surprised how much urine is left in the carpet.

Combine the water, vinegar, baking soda and peroxide in the spray bottle. Spritz the urine-stained area until it is wet.

Use the brush to lightly work the solution into the stained area, then allow the solution to sit for about 5 to 10 minutes.

Work the solution into the carpet with a brush or by rubbing it in with your fingers while wearing a rubber glove. Allow the solution to remain on the area for about 10 minutes.

Use a clean rag or bunch of paper towels to blot up the solution.

Sprinkle a bit of baking soda (enough to cover the area with urine), allow it to dry completely and then vacuum up the residue.

How to save money when you buy a home

If you’re considering buying a home, statistics say that one of the first things you’ll do is surf the Internet. From looking at homes for sale to learning about the process and choosing a real estate agent, you’ll find lots of information.

Be forewarned, however, that not everything you read is factual. For instance, some real estate agents, especially, recommend that your first step to homeownership is to hire a real estate agent.

While it’s important that you go into the current market alongside an expert, the first and most important step doesn’t include hiring that expert.

All homebuyers who will not be paying cash for a home should see a lender before hiring an agent and WAY before looking at homes for sale, either online or in person. But even that isn’t the first step.

So, what is the first step?

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed with the homebuying process when all you really want to do is skip over the boring steps to get to the fun stuff: looking at homes.

Especially considering that the beginning of the homebuying process has to do with finances.

If your dream is to buy a decent home, in a decent area, with a comfortable mortgage payment, step one must come first: raise your credit score.

Raising your score even a smidge can make a huge difference

The Fair Isaac Corporation, commonly known as FICO, is an analytics company that takes all of your credit information and scores from the credit reporting agencies and calculates a FICO® scores

These scores can range from 300 to 850, and a “good” credit score is considered to be between 670 and 739.

Yes, many borrowers obtain an FHA-backed mortgage with lower scores and a lower down payment, but they pay more for the home in the end.

Plus, what many first-time homebuyers may not realize is that the loan that the FHA guarantees comes from a lender who will charge big-time interest rates because of a low FICO score.

Those rates result in a higher monthly home payment ― which will already be elevated because of the tiny down payment and FHA’s mandatory mortgage insurance premium that accompanies it.

Boosting your score, on the other hand, can mean big savings on your monthly mortgage payment.

Here’s a scenario, using a base rate we determined randomly (current rates are far lower). A borrower with a credit score of 700 to 759 might be offered a rate of 3.73 percent on a 30-year fixed rate loan. The borrower with a 620 to 639 score, on the other hand, would be offered a rate of 5.09 percent.

If you’re the low scorer in the above scenario you’ll pay $187 more a month on your mortgage payment than the high scorer. You will also pay $67,181 more in interest over the life of the loan.

If you were to raise your score to 640 you would end up saving more than $238,700. Raise it even higher, to 660, and you’ll save $42,000. Finally, if you can get that score up to 700 you will save more than $58,000.

As you can see, patience and a bit of hard work before you purchase a home definitely pays off.

How to boost that score quickly

At the very least, pay down bills, don’t apply for new credit and pay bills on time.

In fact, the folks at FICO specifically caution borrowers to cease the use of their credit cards completely and pay down what is owed on them.

Start paying off other debt that appears on your credit reports one-by-one; hack away at them and before you know it, those balances will be gone and your credit score will reflect the new, more financially responsible you.

Now you’re ready for step 2 of the home buying process – so strut into that lender’s office and confidently ask the representative to pull your credit score.

Now is the ideal time to aerate your lawn

Just when you thought time spent working on your landscape was coming to an end as we approach the cooler season, along come the experts.

The period from late summer and early fall, they claim, is the best time of year to do one last lawn-care maintenance task: aeration.

Now, there are caveats, of course, and not all lawn-care specialists agree on when to aerate a lawn.

If your lawn is composed of cool-season grass, now is the ideal time to aerate. If, on the other hand, you grow warm-season grass, they claim, is best aerated in late spring.

What is aeration?

Many homeowners don’t understand that there is a difference between dethatching a lawn and aerating it.

While both are critical to the health of the turf, they are two different processes, requiring different tools.

“… aeration results in the breakdown of compacted soil whereas dethatching removes layers of thatch, or dead grass and other debris, from the top of the soil,” according to the pros at sodsolutions.com.

In a nutshell, aeration involves punching holes in the turf to allow air, nutrients and water to penetrate the soil.

What happens if you don’t aerate your lawn?

Think back to any spring and summer rains you experienced. Was the lawn covered in puddles of rainwater?

That’s because the soil under the grass is compacted and the water has nowhere to go.

Sure, you can leave the standing water; it will drain eventually, right?

In the meantime, however, it may provide a breeding spot for mosquitos. Standing water also prevents grass from growing “… properly, … leaving the area vulnerable to moss growth,” according to landscaping expert David Beaulieu, at thespruce.com.

“Excess water can even lead to problems with your home’s foundation,” he concludes.

The benefits of lawn aeration

We lightly touched on a few of the benefits of lawn aeration, but here’s the “official” list from the experts at trugreen.com:

  • Aeration lets the soil “breathe.”
  • Aeration encourages “… thatch-decomposing microorganisms …” to move from the soil to the top layer.
  • The process allows more air, nutrients and moisture into the soil, providing the lawn with greater access to these important elements.
  • Aeration helps develop new, healthy roots after a tough, hot summer, making it “…ready for a green spring.”

How to Aerate Your Lawn

While many homeowners hire a landscaping company to aerate the lawn, it is an easy DIY project.

You’ll need a aerator, of course, and they’re available to rent at big home improvement stores such as Lowe’s and Home Depot. Ensure that you understand exactly how to use the tool and all the safety information the store can supply.

  • Check to ensure that sprinkler heads or other lines won’t be run over or otherwise damaged during the process. Mark areas of concern so that you can keep away from them while aerating.
  • Mow the lawn and apply an inch of water the day before you’ll be aerating.
  • Go over the lawn again, removing any debris, such as twigs and large leaves.
  • One pass is all you’ll need if the soil is lightly compacted. Heavily compacted soil may need an additional pass.
  • Allow the soil plugs to remain on the lawn (they’ll add nutrients to the lawn as they decompose).
  • Water the lawn again when you’ve finished aerating it and then water again every three days for two weeks.

How to compete against cash homebuyers and win

Got cash?

If not, and you’re in the market to buy a home, you are at a distinct disadvantage.

The volume of cash buyers in the market has increased significantly over the past year. In Florida, for instance, the number of homebuyers who paid cash for a home increased 150%, according to Bernadette Berdychowski at the Tampa Bay Times.

Alicia Adamczyk at cnbc.com tells the story of a young Virginia family, first-time homebuyers, who kept losing out on homes for sale to other buyers who “… would offer $20,000 or $30,000 more than the listing price, in cash.”

It sounds a bit trite, but it’s nonetheless true, especially in the housing market: Cash is king.

In fact, “… all-cash offers increase homebuyers’ chances of getting a home up to 290 percent,” said Johnny Hannah at utahbusiness.com, citing recent research.

Those are some crazy odds and equally stiff competition to face in the search for a new home. Let’s dive into some tips that we offer our clients that help give them a leg up.

Money talks and cash screams

When a homeowner is confronted with multiple offers, the first thing he or she will look at is the amount of money each buyer is offering. Naturally, the lowest offers get little consideration, regardless of how we urge them to seek out the terms the buyer is offering.

Often, terms trump price

The seller will then take the highest offers and look for the most favorable terms. These start with the loan contingency.

An offer with no loan contingency, because the buyer is paying cash, will naturally catch the seller’s eye. With no lender involved, there will be no mandated appraisal, no lender-demanded repairs and a smoother road to closing. It’s almost a slam-dunk.

That’s tough to compete against for the mortgage-bound homebuyer, especially those with FHA or VA loans. This doesn’t mean you can’t compete. You just need to pull out the big guns.

Sure, a cash offer screams. But, if you are in a position to provide the buyer assurances about your financial position, you can scream just as loud.

Don’t stop at obtaining a loan pre-approval letter; give the lender permission to share your salary, your bank balances and even your credit report.

“Overload the seller to show them [sic] that you’re as solid as the cash buyer,” suggests Brendon Desimone at Zillow Porchlight.

Show the seller you’re as nimble as the cash guys and gals

Not all lenders will conduct an appraisal before the offer is accepted, but many will. Ask your lender if you can order a pre-appraisal.

This way, you can submit an offer on which the appraisal has already been ordered and scheduled (hopefully within 24 to 48 hours of acceptance), negating one of the positives of the cash offer.

Desimone suggests that you also work with a lender who will give you “a head start on the mortgage.” Then, get your agent in the loop to ensure that the seller understands that your mortgage is on steroids – which includes hyper-accelerating the lender’s receipt of the preliminary title report, HOA documents and others.

Do everything you can on your end, such as ensuring your paperwork has been submitted well in advance and quickly responding to communications from the lender.

Take advantage of the cash buyer’s biggest weakness

Cash buyers are an arrogant lot. No, we’re not dissing them, but just pointing out to you that they understand the power and leverage they possess that mortgage-bound buyers don’t.

So, they typically come in with a lower price, knowing that cash screams and overwhelms most sellers’ better judgment.

If you can afford to over-bid, we suggest that you do. Not a lot, but enough to overcome the cash advantage, which may be “a little more than you think the home is worth,” according to Desimone.

First, the higher bid will catch the seller’s attention and put you in contention. Then, if you’ve guessed correctly, and your bid price is higher than the cash buyer’s, it may just win you the home.

“If you plan to live in the house for many years and it’s the home of your dreams, paying a little more to get the deal might only translate into $20 per month over the course of a long-term mortgage,” claims Desimone, and we agree.

The aforementioned strategies are ideal for the financially-fit, serious homebuyer. They involve doing some initial legwork on getting your finances in order, strategically choosing a lender and home inspector and ensuring you have a nimble and resourceful real estate team backing you up.

The latter, by the way, is most important. After all your hard work, it’s only natural that you’ll want to ensure that your agent can structure the offer that will win you the home.

Feel free to reach out to us if you need additional advice.

Low income? Yes, you can buy a home

Despite what many first-time mortgage shoppers imagine, Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae aren’t members of the cast of “The Beverly Hillbillies.”

They are both what are known in the economic world as Government Sponsored Enterprises, or GSE for short, and since they have some pretty impressive loan products out right now you should get to know them.

Today, we introduce you to a Freddie Mac program that we’re particularly fond of.

First, some history

Freddie Mac stands for Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation. Both it and Fannie Mae were created by Congress, Fannie in 1938 and Freddie in 1970.

What they do, in a nutshell, is buy mortgages from lenders and either hang on to them or bundle them into what are known as “mortgage-backed securities” which are then sold to investors.

Their most important function, at least for consumers, is that the money they spend buying these mortgages is then used by the lender to make more loans. In essence, they help ensure that there is always a continuous supply of mortgage money.

A home is possible, even with a low income

The Freddie Mac Home Possible® mortgage helps “…very low to low-income borrowers attain the dream of owning a home,” according to the GSE’s website.

Our favorite feature of the product is the down payment—as little as 3%. But there is more:

  • The down payment funds can come from a variety of sources, including gifts, a second mortgage and grants.
  • Co-borrowers who do not live in the home can be included (on the purchase of a one-unit residence).
  • Yes, you can have another financed property and still qualify.

You will be required to purchase private mortgage insurance (PMI) unless you put 20 percent of the loan amount down.

Unlike the FHA-backed loan where the mortgage insurance remains in place for the life of the loan, once your Home Possible loan balance falls lower than 80% of the home’s appraised value and “… cancellation criteria is met,” you can cancel the PMI.

How to Qualify

You’ll need to meet the lender’s credit score requirements (typically 680, although you may qualify with a lower score), your earnings must not exceed 2021 area median income (AMI) limits and you’ll need proof of funds for the down payment and closing costs.

You can find your area’s 2021 AMI at fanniemae.com.

If this will be your first home, you’ll also need to attend a homebuyer education course.

To apply, contact a mortgage lender and let him or her know you’re interested in the Home Possible mortgage.

While we aren’t mortgage professionals, we are happy to refer you to someone we know and trust. Give us a call!

Appraiser coming? How to make a brilliant first impression

The home inspection and the home appraisal are undoubtedly the two most nerve-wracking events of the home sale. Either of them can completely derail a deal.

Unless, of course, you prepare for them. Many home sellers obtain a pre-sale home inspection to get an idea of what they may be on the hook for as far as repairs are concerned.

Although the appraiser isn’t concerned with cosmetic issues, the perception of a well-maintained home can lead to a higher appraisal.

That ball is completely in your court. So, let’s take a look at some tips to ensure that the first impression of your home is amazing. It all starts with what the appraiser sees from the curb.

Get your landscaping spiffed up

Our favorite landscaper gave us a tip for this blog post: start at the top of your landscape and work your way down. With that as a guide, start your curb appeal project with tree trimming.

Dying, broken and bare branches need to come off (unless the tree is dormant, of course).

Next, move on to the gutters and windows. Yes, we get that window cleaning isn’t ‘landscaping,’ but in keeping with the advice we mentioned earlier, if you don’t take care of these items now, you’ll take a chance of smashing bedding plants and scattering mulch if you put it off for later.

Get rid of the debris in the gutters, such as leaves and twigs. Run some water through them while you’re at it.

Next, give the outside of the windows a good cleaning, wipe cobwebs from the front porch, clean the porch light cover and the doormat.

Next, assess the rest of your front yard. Get rid of and replace any plants that didn’t make it through the heat of summer. Trim shrubs and hedges and rake garden beds.

Finally, add a fresh layer of mulch to the beds.

Work on the little things

While few people consciously notice the little things you do, they give an overall perception of a well-maintained home. Consider the following for the exterior of your home:

Pressure wash your driveway

This is an easy DIY project but there are professionals you can hire to do it for you.

Since the process involves the use of chemicals, the latter may be preferable to some. Prefer to DIY the project? Watch this youtube.com video for tips.

Add pops of color to the walkway and the front porch

Flowers and plants with colorful foliage are ideal for the walkway while potted plants and flowers can get the job done on the front porch.

You’ll find tons of inspiration online, at pinterest.com and bhg.com.

Go shopping. Here is your list:

If you prefer to DIY your doormat, check out the tutorials at simplyss.com, diybeautify.com and these on youtube.com.

  • Front door light fixture – It’s doubtful that the appraiser will be at your home in the evening, but if your front porch light fixture is shabby in the daylight, he or she will have a negative perception before even stepping inside.

Learn how to choose the right front porch light fixture for your home at build.com. Then, go shopping!

Mailbox – If yours is free-standing, curbside, and has seen better days, buy a new one. Or, clean and paint the one you have.

Sure, it sounds like a lot of work, but if you prepared the home for potential buyers, getting it ready for the appraiser should just be a matter of cleaning up what nature has brought in and purchasing (or DIYing) a few items.

Here’s to a sky-high appraisal!

Hey condo owner: Do you know what your HOA is up to?

One of the most frustrating aspects of being a real estate agent in the current market is trying to find homes for our first-time homebuyers. Often, they’re snatched up or in multiple offer situations immediately after being listed.

The condo market is just as popular with these homebuyers, by the way. In fact, I’m working with a lovely couple right now who need a very low-priced condo for sale.

Searches of the MLS don’t yield much but this morning I did find several. I looked first at how long they’ve been on the market and all of them have been sitting longer than normal for this fiery sellers’ market.

In fact, the lowest priced condo has been on the market for almost a year. Now why, I thought to myself, is that?

I sleuthed

So, I then looked at the photos to see if there was anything there that might explain why an inexpensive condo isn’t flying off the market. Aside from a very dated kitchen with a missing refrigerator I didn’t see any obvious flaws.

Then, it grabbed me – $270 a month HOA fees. Now, that may not seem like a lot to some, but for someone who needs a starter home and an $80,000 price tag fits the budget, it could be a deal breaker.

FHA certification is important

But there’s another reason it may not be selling. The majority of first-time homebuyers use loans backed by FHA and it has stringent qualifications when it comes to condos. Most significantly for the homebuyer, the condo community, not just the unit, must be FHA-approved to get FHA’s backing for a loan and many across the country aren’t.

It just so happens that this particular community is not FHA approved so between the high monthly HOA fees and the fact that it’s not approved for an FHA loan, the poor homeowner is having a rough time selling.

Pay attention to your HOA

If you own a condo, it’s important to be active in your Homeowners Association. Even if all you do is attend the meetings, it pays to know what is going on.

For instance, if the ratio of rentals to owner-occupied units happens to increase to more than half of all units, your community will lose its FHA approval. Even with some conventional loans there’s a cap on rentals (30 percent with Fannie and Freddie).

If 15 percent or more of the community’s homeowners are behind in their association dues, if someone decides to sue the association and it enters litigation or if the association’s cash reserves fall below one year’s worth of the fees collected, the community may lose FHA certification.

The biggest problem is the first one I mentioned – too many tenants. The wise buyer will refuse to buy a condo where the HOA doesn’t impose a cap on rentals. Then, he or she will be vigilant in monitoring the enforcement of that cap.

Hey, it’s important to pay attention to the future resale value of your property and the longer a home remains on the market the less you’ll make on it. If you can’t sell it at all, it’s worthless, right?

If you want to check if a particular condo community is FHA certified, check HUD’s website.

Going FSBO? Don’t make these mistakes!

If you think this is going to be yet another blog post from a real estate agent telling you how dim-witted you are for trying to sell your home by yourself, think again.

There are some common mistakes that most FSBOs make and some assumptions that they shouldn’t. Both will cost them money in the end.

If you work with an agent will you sell your home for more? Maybe not, according to a Stanford University Economics Department study. Yet a National Association of REALTORS study says otherwise.

Will it sell faster? Yes, studies show that one of the benefits of using an agent is that homes sell demonstrably faster than when you don’t work with an agent.

So, there are huge benefits to listing your home with a real estate agent. But I get that most FSBO sellers are trying to save money and who am I to poo-poo that idea?

So, if you insist on going it alone, at least be aware of some of the mistakes commonly made by homeowners in your position.

Incorrect Pricing

Incorrect pricing is the number one problem I see among FSBO sellers. I have seen some crazy prices out there and can’t help but wonder where the homeowners came up with them.

Market value is determined by what willing buyers will pay for a home during any particular time period. The only way to know what they’re willing to pay is to look at what other buyers have, indeed paid, and that means looking at the sales prices of homes in your area.

It’s not just the prices, however. You’ll need to be brutally honest with yourself when comparing your home to those that have sold.

Is yours smaller, older, in worse condition or in a less desirable area? If so, it’s worth less than the homes you’re using as comps. The opposite is true as well. If your home is in better condition, is newer, larger or offers amenities the others lack, it’s worth more.

How much more? I wish I could tell you. Pricing homes takes much research and there’s no set dollar amount for any of the criteria when comparing homes.

Incorrect pricing is the most expensive mistake a FSBO can make. Unfortunately, we see it often.

Lack of Curb Appeal

If you’ve watched any of the DIY TV shows about curb appeal you may be under the misconception that you’ll need a team of landscapers, landscape architects and truckloads of landscaping plants to give your house an appealing aspect from the curb.

Nothing could be further from the truth. While you’ll need to do some spiffing up, depending on the condition of the house and landscaping, there’s no need to do a complete makeover.

Understand that while we’ve been told not to judge a book by its cover since we were knee-high, we still do. Houses are no different.

Real estate agents across the country can attest to driving up to a home with a prospective buyer in the car and then immediately driving away. The buyer simply refused to get out of the car, based solely on what the house looked like from the curb.

Since you can’t sell your house unless buyers look at it, you can imagine the importance of curb appeal.

Painting the exterior of the house is probably one of the best ways to increase its curb appeal and sellers typically see a hefty return on the investment when they sell the house. At the very least, clean out the planting beds, spread fresh mulch around and green up the lawn.

Lack of Interior Appeal

Studies show that homebuyers want a home that appears move-in ready. If the interior of the house is dirty, it’s not move-in ready. Not only that, a dirty house makes buyers wonder what other maintenance you’ve let slide and offers to purchase will be low.

Clean the house until it sparkles, get rid of offensive odors and let in all the natural light you can.

Pay special attention to kitchens and bathrooms while cleaning. Leave the counters bare of any item that isn’t decorative in nature and ensure that the rooms are impeccably clean.

Marketing

Where will you market your home? While newspapers are still accepting real estate classified ads, homebuyers typically don’t read them. It’s all about the Internet these days, and finding the best places to market your home is critical.

Even more important than where you market the home is how. Buyers want to see photos, and lots of them.

Photos should be clear and show your home in the best possible light. Include as many photos as possible and don’t forget to include photos of the kitchen, bathrooms, backyard and front of the home.

While selling the home on your own isn’t rocket science, it’s not something you do every day, so arm yourself with as much knowledge as possible. We’re happy to offer advice.

Use your senses to detect problems with your home’s pipes

Some of the problems in homes that can cause the most damage may be challenging to detect. Your pipes, for instance, are hidden behind walls. When they spring a leak, you may not know about it until mold forms, you notice water damage or your water bill skyrockets.

By then, the damage will be pricey to remedy.

Thankfully, some of the most common pipe problems give clues; you just need to know what to smell, look or listen for.

Use your sense of taste

If your water tastes odd or stinks, don’t drink it.

“Foul-smelling or bad-tasting water are signs of impurities,” according to the experts at the Water Quality Association (WQA).

If the water tastes salty, there may be hydrogen sulfide in the pipes. Caused by bacteria, you’ll need to find the source and eliminate it. Your plumber can help you here.

Does the water taste metallic? “It may be a sign of mercury, lead, copper, arsenic, or iron in the water,” cautions the folks at WQA. It may be originating from the pipes themselves.

What’s that smell?

One of the more common odors when there’s a problem with pipes is that of a rotten egg, which the WQA says is also indicative of hydrogen sulfide in the water.

Catch a whiff of turpentine? There are a number of reasons for this, none of them pleasant, so call your plumber for an inspection and drink bottled water in the meantime.

Listen

If you hear banging when you turn on the water in the home, it may be a sign of a major problem, according to the experts at American Home Shield (AHS).

There is actually a name for that sound, “water hammer,” and it can damage connections and joints in the pipe. The folks at AHS tips to help you solve the problem:

  • Start by turning off the water at the main supply (this is usually located at the street).
  • Open all the faucets in the home and allow them to drain completely before closing.
  • Turn the water main back on and open the faucets again.

“The incoming water will flush the air out of the pipes but not out of the vertical air chamber, where the air supply has been restored.”

Finally, if you notice rust, stains or flaking on any visible pipes, they may be corroding and, if not replaced, will most likely spring a leak.

A good plumber will use your observations when making a diagnosis. Ensure you check references and that the plumber is licensed and insured.

Outdoor entertaining? Get rid of mosquitos naturally

There are two things that qualify to be the bane of summer: flies and mosquitos. Entertaining outdoors seems to triple the pests and their ability to irritate and annoy guests.

Luckily, we found some simple tricks to keep mosquitos at a distance while you enjoy friends and family in your outdoor living space.

Use a fan

Fortunate is the homeowner who has an overhead fan on the patio. “The breeze outdoor fans provide makes it more difficult for these annoying critters [mosquitos and flies] to fly, so they tend to stay away from wherever the fan air flows,” according to the pros at lasco.com.

An oscillating fan or two is the ideal solution because they spread the breeze out more than a stationary fan.

The folks at Lasco also recommend that you consider a fan with a misting apparatus “… for an extra cooling effect.”

If you’ll be buying a floor fan for your next get-together, keep these tips in mind:

  • Look for one with remote control.
  • Large controls that make it easier to see in low-light conditions come in handy in the evening.
  • Ask to plug in and operate the model you’re interested in to make sure it’s quiet enough at high speed to hold a conversation.
  • Ensure that the fan is intended for outdoor use, with grounded plugs and cords and moisture-proof casings.

Get rid of sources of standing water

One of the most common sources of mosquitos is anything that collects rain or irrigation water. This includes:

  • Kiddie Pools (keep the water fresh)
  • Planting pots and saucers
  • Watering Cans
  • Buckets
  • Open trash cans
  • Puddles in your lawn
  • Rain Barrels
  • Tarps
  • Kid’s Toys
  • Birdbaths (keep the water fresh)
  • Wheelbarrows

Seek out even the smallest sources of standing water. All it takes is 1/4 inch of water for a mosquito to “… lay hundreds of eggs at a time—so even very small sources can become a big problem,” according to the experts at the Vector Control Program of San Diego.

Get more tips on how to deal with standing water in your backyard by visiting the U.S. Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC) website.

Set up a defensive perimeter

The folks at the Today Show suggest that you surround the backyard with “… tiki torches with citronella or other insect repellent oil to combat insects.”

In reality, there are no studies that prove citronella’s effectiveness against mosquitos. The CDC, however, suggests that oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE) is a good alternative.

NOTE: The Mississippi Department of Health says that “Oil of lemon eucalyptus and lemon eucalyptus oil are not the same product.”

Cover your food and drinks

Backyard barbecues are a beacon for lots of flying insects, such as flies and wasps. Cover all food dishes and drinks to keep them at a distance.

Martha Stewart offers up a tip for covering drinks:

  • Use a hole punch to punch a hole in the bottom of paper cupcake holders.
  • Turn the cupcake holders upside down and place them over the drinks, sticking straws through the punched hole.

Avoid mosquito myths

You’ll find plenty of mosquito repellent myths online. Avoid the bad and misleading information by typing “site:.edu” or “site:.gov” (without the quotation marks) after your search term. For instance:

“How to deter mosquitos site:.edu”

Here are a two of the most popular myths you’ll find online:

  • Mosquitos dislike geraniums or essential oils derived from geraniums (National Institutes of Health). Geraniums and pelargoniums have no effect on mosquitos.
  • Citronella candles and other products deter mosquitos. The truth is “Oil of citronella products … have little effectiveness against mosquitoes.” (Mississippi State Department of Health)

Most of the plant-based repellents suggested for mosquito control are not the plants themselves, but the distilled essences.

For more information on finding the right mosquito repellents, consult the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s database.