Can’t wait until Halloween?

Here are some ways you can celebrate right now.

“It’s almost Halloween, mom!” my almost-seven-year-old just told me, again, for the tenth time or so today. She cannot wait for our favorite holiday, and can you blame her? Not only is it the most fun of the year—it’s also one of the earliest promoted holidays. Right now, every store has Halloween displays going up a month early; even the Halloween Spirit stores are starting to open up where we live. We bought our daughter a light-up ink pen at one two weeks ago!

Of course, she was terrified of the inside of the building itself, which was no surprise. I was too scared of anything beyond spiders when I was her age as well—though now all I wanted to do was walk around the whole store and try out every display. (What the heck is with all the zombie babies this year, by the way? Does anybody get that?)

You don’t have to wait until Halloween to start having fun, though! Here are some fun things you can do right now.

  • Scare the kids on the school bus! A homeschooling family I know has one little girl going to school, so they all decided to do Halloween this week and scare the kids on the bus when they dropped her off. The other six children dressed up and came outside in all of their garb. I am still giggling over the thought.
  • Practice with your makeup and costumes. Maybe you don’t have a place to wear them just yet—of course, who said you couldn’t wear them to the supermarket?—but you need to get your look down before October, right? That’s a perfect excuse to start dressing up now.
  • Decorate your house little by little. I can’t stand having things decorated way too early for a whole month, but I like a peek here and there. So we’ve put up a creepy door knocker this week, and last week it was a plastic human hand hanging from the trunk of our car.
  • Start doing household decorating, like a pumpkin tablecloth or washcloths. This will give you a bit of that Halloween spirit without overwhelming you right away.
  • Have a Halloween movie marathon in which you watch your favorites, from Gremlins to The Nightmare Before Christmas. My daughter’s pushing for Coraline, but I still don’t feel like she’s old enough yet. Jack and Sally I’ll still let her watch, of course; it’s one of her favorites.

Getting rid of summer spiders

Aside from the heat, these creatures are the bane of my existence.

I love the garden spiders that get rid of pests, but when your home is prone to brown recluses—as most homes in my area are, especially when they’re as old and in need of repair as mine—you know how it feels to want to get rid of spiders ASAP. I’ve been killing them daily and it’s time to do something. It seems that we push off our spider care every year until we absolutely have to do it, but here’s what we do to minimize the poisonous pests.

Glue Traps. These are the best devices you’ve got against spiders aside from any professional service’s grade spider powder. We like the Terro brand because it’s cheap and effective. We put them everywhere and anywhere that’s dark—beneath furniture, in our closets, behind the toilet and towel rack in the bathroom, etc. You have to be careful with this strategy if you have pets or young children, though; last year one of our cats got caught in two glue traps in one day! You also want to make sure the traps are meant for spiders, as they may not work if intended for other pests.

Be sure to change them every three months—for us, that’s once in May, once in August—and you can usually flip them over if they fill up. If they’re full, you’ll have to switch them too. Isn’t it fun to check them? Yeah, I’m not serious; that’s my husband’s job.

Spider Spray. The thing is, most spider sprays do not effect brown recluses. We do, however, try to use a spray at least once a season and it has seemed to help. This year we are trying Hot Shot spider killer, which I’ve read some good reviews on. That said, I’ve also seen some bad reviews, so I’m hoping for the best.

Pest Control Service. We stopped using our pest control service over a year ago because they were unprofessional, never came when they said they would (they were always either an hour early or an hour late, after I moved every plan or meeting for them), they left messes in my house, and were generally more unhelpful than they were supposed to be. In the end, they weren’t even getting rid of bugs—but for years they did help with the spider problem. If you have bad spiders, I would recommend them; they do have powders they can put down for you. Just don’t let them make a mess of the powders all over your carpet…

Sealants. Sealing up cracks throughout your home is always good to do, for both energy conservation as well as pest control. In an old house like mine with a crumbling foundation, it’s really hard to do—but a good trick to do is to light a stick of incense and see which way it blows. That will help you find drafty spots and cracks to fill in your home.


Home Inspections for New Construction

When you buy a house, one of the first things that any realtor worth their salt will tell you is that you need to get a home inspection. And, that’s a good idea. Inspectors are generally licensed by the state to assess what is wrong about a home. They can tell you the life left in a shingle roof, if the windows leak, if the electrical wiring is up to code and whether or not the water flow is sufficient. All good things to know before you invest hundreds of thousands of dollars into buying a home.

With new construction, most people skip this $300 step and their realtors don’t really say much. Why? It’s a small investment for such a big purchase and, if you claim you need the money for the down payment or closing costs, then you are cutting things too close as it is. Here are a few stories as to why you should get an inspection with a new construction home.

1.   My friend, Amy, bought a newly built house in Florida where, during the first hurricane of the season, the rain sprayed right into her house – THROUGH the walls. It turns out that the siding guy was rushing along the framing guy and there was no plywood or sheathing of any kind outside her dining room. Nice.

2.   A subdivision down the street from mine, that shall remain nameless, found out a few months after the builder left that all the wood used was infested with termites. Gross! Now, the problem is that no one can sell to save their life.

3.   In areas with basements, radon exists. It really doesn’t matter to the radon if your house is brand spanking new or 30 years old. 

A home inspection would have solved these problems in advance and would have avoided a lot of headaches.


11 Fun Reasons to Buy New

Buying a house is always fun. Buying a new construction house is the most fun EVER. Don’t believe me? Check out this reasoning…

1.    You get to wander through model homes and picture yourself really living in them.

2.    You get to analyze blueprints to see which floorplan works best for your needs.

3.    Hello, color. OK. The builder usually gives you a boring off-white paint, but think of it as a blank canvas for your design creativity.

4.    For the rest of your life, you get to say, “When we built our house ….” Say it. Right now. Out loud. It sounds sweet, doesn’t it.

5.    You can make your snotty friends jealous. Oh, I am so sorry that I cannot attend your fill-in-the-blank. I need to go over some changes in the blueprints with my builder. We’re building a house, you know.

6.    You can tweak everything to be perfect for you and only you.

7.    You can walk around barefoot, knowing that no one else’s gross barefeet have been in your carpet.

8.    You can request wood floors in all the rooms. Every. Last. One.

9.    You have an really good excuse to buy closet organizers.

10. You get to pick out a vacant lot. It’s fun to squint your eyes and try to imagine your house in this abstract space of mud and trees.

11.  You get to visit every weekend and see the changes that the crew made during the week. In fact, once you move in, you just may miss this activity. 

4 Unexpected Move-in Costs For Your New Home

When you move into a new home that you’ve built, you know you need money for the closing costs and down payments. You’ve probably already set up things with your insurance guy. You may have even had to pay for a few extras like the kitchen cabinet upgrade or the granite counters yourself, out-of-pocket. There are a few things that you didn’t count on, though.

1.    New appliances. Maybe you are new home buyers and don’t have appliances. Maybe you want a pretty new front load washer in candy apple red for your new laundry room. Whatever the case, appliances can be expensive.

2.    Window Coverings. Listen, up guys. I am not talking about those frilly curtains that you have been avoiding. I am talking about basic privacy. Plan on at least $50-100 a window, unless you want to tack up some sheets.

3.    A Front Yard. This one depends on where you live, but more than likely the builder will not include front landscaping unless you negotiated well in the beginning. A bare necessity package from a local landscaper is a couple thousand.

4.    Light Fixtures. Sure, that brass and glass monstrosity, I mean chandelier, above your dining table is included in the sale price, but you may be surprised to realize that your house has few others. In fact, many builders do not include overhead lights in the bedrooms. You can add the electrical fitting in the ceiling for lights during the construction process, but you will need to buy and install the actual fixtures once you move in. Another added, unexpected expense.

Blue Painter’s Tape And Your Final Walk-Thru

You want me to stick what … where? Yes. In this amazing age of technology, cell phones can take pictures and videos. Computers are portable and fit in the palm of just two hands. Images on a piece of paper can be sent electronically via facsimile anywhere in the world within seconds. Yet, we still use the simple blue painter’s tape for final walk-thrus on new construction houses. It may be very low tech, but it works. Why change it?

So, what are you looking for. Well, more than likely, your builder will have a checklist that he or she wants to go over with you. That’s a great starting point. Be sure to take your relator with you, however. They are not excited about your new home in the same sense that you are. They do not have butterflies in their stomachs, like you do. In fact, this is where a realtor earns their commission in a new home sale. Let them be your eyes and ears. Let them see every little flaw that you don’t notice in your excitement.

Stop by a hardware super store and buy a roll of the infamous blue painter’s tape. You know the stuff, it’s blue and painter’s use it to tape of the edges when painting around windows and doors. Yea, that stuff.

So, every time you see a chip, dent, hole, scrap, missing piece, rip, tear or inferior anything, rip off a piece of tape. Stick it on the spot and write it down on your list. Dent in wall near front door. Chip in tile in master bath floor. Uneven paint coat in 2nd guest bedroom. Builders and their sub-contractors can easily see the tape and know what to fix. Simple. Low tech, but it works.

Considerations when Buying a New Home

When you are buying a new home, there are a lot of different things to consider.  When you are building, you get to make decisions on absolutely everything, but even if it is in the stages of being built, you can still give your input and get some of the features you want.   A lot of this will depend of course on what stage it is in though.

But if you are purchasing a home that is already built, but has not been lived in yet, you do have some leverage in your negotiations.  This is especially true if the house has been on the market for a while and it is not moving, just like a home that has already been lived in before.  But with a new build, you may be able to get them to change some of the features that you may not like such as the colour of the walls or the type of flooring in a room.

It is also still a good idea to get a house inspection even though the house is new.  It will give you an idea of how good the construction is and if there are any issues that may have been overlooked during construction.  All you need to do is watch home improvement shows to know that just because a home is new does not mean that there are not some problems with it.  It is also a good idea to find out what type of warranties the home may have and what these will cover.

Deciding to Buy New Construction

When you are house hunting, there are so many options out there for you to consider.  Do you want to buy or rent?  Do you want a home where you share walls with others or do you want something that is free standing?  Do you want certain features in your home or are you not picky as to what you want?  Of course, then there are considerations such as square footage, the amount of bedrooms and a variety of other things. 

Chances are, no matter where you live, there is likely new construction that is going on that you can get into.  The best thing about new construction is that you are able to pick what you do and do not want in regards to appliances, features and colors.  But one of the downsides is that depending on what stage construction is in, you may have to wait a while before you are able to get into your home.  And if you are not a person who likes making decisions, you may find that you have to make a lot more decisions that you want to from paint colors, style of carpet or even the handles on the cupboards.

Another thing to consider though before deciding that new construction is the way for you to go is the cost.  If you figure out the cost per square, you may find that even though a new house seems more expensive, an existing home plus renovations to make it ideal will actually cost more than the new one.

All Those Extras | How to Decide Which Are Right For You

When building a new home, you are presented with a long list of options, add-ons and extras. How do you know which ones you must have, which ones you need and which ones just won’t work? Here’s a few tips:

1.   Work with a Buyer’s Agent. They can get you a great deal on a new construction house, too. They also know what options will help you sell faster down the road. Ask.

2.   Ask the salesperson in the model which features everyone is talking about or selecting for themselves. Sometimes that gives you a hint as to what you will need to choose. If you are the only house in the subdivision that picked the tri-level floorplan, you might have a tough time selling later.

3.   Ask about builder’s specials. Pretend you are at a garage sale and channel your inner shameless negotiator. If I sign up to buy house xyz today, will you throw in the upgraded heat and air conditioning package? Be sure to request something good. You never know, in this economy, it’ll probably work.

4.   You can add a deck or patio later. You can’t add more square footage, an extra bath or an oversize garage. Good to know.

5.   After you exhausted all of the above tips, write a list of all the extras you’d like and add it up. Whittle and negotiate with your spouse until you come to a number slightly above your budget. Take this finalized list to the builder’s representative and play dumb. Tell them you can’t negotiate another item off your list, but are at an impasse. Ask if they would reduce the price of the options to your magic budget number. It’ll work.


The Lighting Revolution | Just Say No


Light fixtures in new homes. *shudder*

They are just awful. Why builders or their design team insist on purchasing these glass and brass monstrosities from the 1980’s is beyond me. I mean, they are equally ugly and ubiquitous. Can’t they see that? I am on a personal mission to make as many people see the light (pun intended) as I can. Sure, you may not get a Chihuly, but you can live a little.

There is no reason why your lighting has to be so cookie cutter, so boring in your new home. I have seen homes, by the same builder in the 100k range as well as the 850k range that BOTH had the exact same chandeliers over the dining tables. Disgusting!

Stand up for yourself. Tell your builder that you do not want their light fixtures. Ask for a lighting credit. It probably won’t be much as they must get some HUGE discount to offer the same hideous lights everywhere. Then, inquire if you can provide your own. Some builders will let you, if you guarantee that they be on site the day that the electrician is scheduled to be there. Builders do not like unnecessary delays to their schedule. You can also try to get a business card or phone number from the electrician that has been sub-contracted to work on your home and offer to pay them to install your fixtures on the weekend.  

Light fixtures are the jewelry of a home. Wearing the same strand of plain beads, day after day, expresses little to no personality, style or personal flair. You wouldn’t be caught dead in the same dress as everyone else at the office, so why would you want the same exact chandelier as everyone in your neighborhood?