Being Eco-Friendly Is The New You

Our Responsibility and Our Duty

eco friendlyWe, the progenies of the 21-century have quite literally taken the environment that we all live in for granted. There is absolutely no sort of realization or guilt to say the least regarding our respective responsibilities to ensure that we safeguard our environment, the ecology that we live in, and the surroundings that are so vulnerable to the hazards created by humankind. It is mine and it is your duty to wake up, to Mother Earth’s unbearable plight and respond as a sensible citizen to its needs.

Here are a few methods that can go a long way for you to contribute efficiently to the cause. [Read more...]

Plan to Stay in an Energy Efficient Home

Being Aware

eco homeQuestion: Every time you look around what upsets you the most when it comes to the environment? Make a list. What’s on your list? The hazy sky, smoggy air, mounting population and hardly surviving trees. But, do you really keep a watch to the extent to which your house is energy efficient and environmentally friendly?

Well, the response may differ from person to person. Countries like Australia measure the energy efficiency of residential buildings based on a “start-rating scheme” on a scale of 1 to 10 stars, where 10 indicates the extremely energy resourceful resident. The higher the score, the greater the requirements of materials such as lagging and glazing are. In addition well-organized window frames are required so that heating and cooling energy demand can be controlled. [Read more...]

Home Improvement: Build Your Comfort Zone

Your home is your sanctuary and a true expression of who you are. This is the place where you go to every evening and somehow it doesn’t seem satisfactorily right. If each day you walk from a place that appears like it does not belong to you, then you urgently need a home improvement. Up to now, I think all your mind is on how you are going to make payments for home improvement. Stop restricting your plans of modeling your home in thought stages, but let them see the light of the day. Home improvement loans will give you a reason to smile, when it comes to building a home you desire.

Home improvement is mostly triggered by the vision to have a comfortable home, but can be a problem in situations of financial tightness. These are the circumstances where loans for home improvement play great roles. Home improvement loans are readily available for new conservatory, double grazing, heating systems, rewiring, new kitchen, plumbing or just having best kids scooter and weight benches.

Home improvement costs are paid generally through credits such as store cards, credit cards or by savings. Credit cards mean that there is no borrowing. It is ideal in many ways as there are no repayments to be made later. However, credit cards can also be an expensive option when borrowing extends to the credit limits. Store card interest rates are as high as 30%.Generally in all circumstances; personal loans for home improvement are conveniently cheaper and are a more disciplined option.

Your plans for home improvement can be funded by an unsecured loan, a secured loan, remortgaging or by just taking a further advance on your mortgage. Secured home improvement loans attracts a lower interest rate of 7% while the unsecured loan attracts an interest of 10-14%.you can borrow from $ 7000 to $ 100,000 for home improvement with a repayment period of 5 to 25 years, depending on your available income, the loan amount and your property equity.

Besides home improvement giving you the much needed changes at home, it also increases your home’s equity. Over the past decade, there has been a rise in home improvement loan applications. This is always the answer if the property cannot be sold. Home improvement is also suitable if your plan is to raise a large amount of money. However, not all home improvement will increase the value of your home resale.

When it comes to home improvement, it is always recommended to stick to plans that will give you maximum returns on your investments. It is also important not to be over enthusiastic with home improvement as it might lead to you failing. It is normally a problem to recover an investment if your home is more valuable than those in your neighborhood. Whimsical tastes should be kept to respite as there might not be many home buyers ready for them.

Home improvement improves the quality of our life. It also includes any kind of meliorations that you can just think of. Your home improvement project can include top notch improvements, like purchasing the best weight bench for your home gym, or simple improvement, like installing a rack for your best kids scooter. It is your home, and you most definitely have a right to improve it as you wish.

Easy & Inexpensive Home Improvement: A Flooring Options Guide

If you want to engage in an inexpensive flooring project, don’t forget that most home improvement tasks can be made easy to accomplish. The total cost for remodeling your home does not have to be troublesome. Sure, purchasing materials and new equipment and rearranging things around for a better version of your place may require money. Normally, you’d be worried about how much investment you’re going to make but if you are willing to explore the different flooring options along with cheap and practical flooring tips, then you won’t have to anymore.

Different Flooring Options: Which Is the Cheapest?

  • Bamboo
    Pros:
    - Classy
    - Durable
    - Environmentally friendly
    - Sustainable
    - Versatile
    Cost level:
    - Normal
    Perfect for:
    - Patios
  • Carpet
    Pros:
    - Available in many designs
    - Common
    - Smooth
    Cost level:
    - Expensive
    Perfect for:
    - Bedroom
    - Living room
  • Ceramic
    Pros:
    - Available in many designs
    - Glossy
    - Versatile
    - Waterproof
    Cost Level:
    - Expensive
    Perfect for:
    - Kitchen
    - Showers
  • Cork
    Pros:
    - Absorbent
    - Available in many designs
    - Versatile
    Cost level:
    - Cheap (The cheapest)
    Perfect for:
    - Kitchen
  • Hardwood
    Pros:
    - Available in many designs
    - Classy
    - Common
    - Durable
    Cost level:
    - Normal
    Perfect for:
    - Kitchen
  • Laminate
    Pros:
    - Burn-resistant
    - Can withstand high traffic
    - Durable
    - Less chipping
    Cost level:
    - Cheap
    Perfect for:
    - Living room
    - Kitchen
  • Linoleum
    Pros:
    - Available in many designs
    - Easy-to-install
    - Environmentally friendly
    - Versatile
    Cost level:
    - Cheap
    Perfect for:
    - Bathroom
    - Kitchen
  • Marble
    Pros:
    - Classy
    - Clean
    Cost level:
    - Expensive
    Perfect for:
    - Living room
  • Rubber
    Pros:
    - Available in many designs
    - Easy-to-maintain
    - Versatile
    Cost level:
    - Cheap
    Perfect for:
    - Bedroom
    - Children’s playroom
  • Vinyl
    Pros:
    - Available in many designs
    - Easy-to-install
    - Versatile
    Cost level:
    - Cheap
    Perfect for:
    - Bathroom
    - Kitchen

3 Cheap & Practical Flooring
Tips

  1. Apply extra coating for stains. Especially on the flooring in the bathroom, kitchen, and living room, these untidy spots can be difficult to keep away. Some may not even be visible. Regardless of how often you have these particular areas in your home cleaned, they may accumulate and eventually destroy your structure.
  2. Because crooked flooring can be a costly problem, make sure surfaces are leveled before beginning the installation. To compensate for cracks and voids, try using rubber underlayment, sand, or a wooden subfloor.
  3. Install the flooring appropriately for enhanced durability. To keep you from having to replace it more often than necessary, lay it down perpendicular to how the foundation has been constructed.

For an easy and inexpensive home improvement project regarding your flooring, be ready to consider the different options you have. Additionally, take note of the many practical and cheap flooring ideas. With all these, you won’t necessarily have to spend a fortune or even request for an extra set of hands. As long as you won’t hold back in unleashing the determined and creative side in you, you’re likely to give yourself a pat on the back for a job well done.

The Neighbor is a Thief and I Can Prove It

This past summer, I remodeled my back deck. The deck was originally built with treated lumber and after many seasons of stain and sealer, it was finally time to replace. Many of the boards were warping and cracking. So, I enlisted the help of my brother John who used to work in construction full time before he started working at Lowes. John has a lot of cool tools he kept when he stopped working construction. So, I got his help to figure out what I needed for the project, we had all the construction material delivered, and we got started tearing the old deck down. I took a week off to knock it out and I was determined to get it done.

On day one, I started with a reciprocating saw and a crow bar cutting and prying the old deck into pieces to haul away. I also used a couple hammers. I got about half the deck torn down on the first day and I was whipped. I was so tired by the end of the first day, I left all the tools where I last used them, went inside, took a shower, and went to bed.

The next day, I woke up well rested but with sore muscles. After a cup of coffee, I went out to survey the previous day’s progress. I was impressed with the amount of progress I made. Ready to keep charging ahead, I looked for the reciprocating saw and it was nowhere to be found. I KNOW I left it out there. Was it stolen? Who would take tools out of my back yard? I called John to see if maybe he needed it and had come by earlier that morning to pick it up. “No”, he said. “Sounds like you got jacked! I’ve got another one you can use. Go by my house and pick it up.” So, before I got my day started, I had to drive to Johns to get another saw. And, I felt like I had to replace the last one.

On my way to pick up the second saw, I called my insurance agent Ron to see if I was covered for the theft of the saw. He said I was but I had to file a police report. Then, he suggested I buy a trail camera and set it up to watch over my deck project in case the culprit came back. Ron said most thieves will come back and steal again if you don’t do anything to prevent it. I hadn’t considered using a trail camera that way before – I had heard of them but I didn’t own one. I thought they were just for hunting. I guess this was hunting sort of – hunting a thief.

I didn’t really know much about the cameras so I did what I always do, went online and read some trail camera reviews. There are so many different options available, I didn’t really know what to choose. I thought I needed something that would take good night photos because the thief was coming through at night.

After my research, I went to the local Bass Bro Shop and picked up a trail camera to monitor my yard. I went with a Moultrie 990i No Glow – I didn’t want the thief to see the camera and steal that too!

When I got home, I worked on my deck as usual and around lunch time, I casually hid the camera behind some debris from the deck tear-out. I walked around the site working and a while later checked the camera to see how it was working. I only had to make a slight adjustment in where it was aimed and the trap was set.

At the end of the day, whipped again, I left the bait I mean tools where I last used them. But, this time, I had the trail camera watching over the site. I finished the deck tear-out on day two by the way. I still had piles of debris around that I needed to clean up the next day but I was ready to start constructing the new deck.

The next day, I was excited to go out and check the area to see if the bait was gone. Guess what? It was! The thief had the guts to come back for another shopping trip. I grabbed the camera, which they didn’t see fortunately and raced inside to check the pictures. You probably know by the title of this article who the culprit was. Eric, my neighbor – caught red handed! I never did like that guy. Turns out he had a problem stealing stuff. I called the cops over to file the report and give them the evidence – they said “Yea, this isn’t the first time we’ve caught him stealing stuff.”

How to improve your home on a budget

Sometimes you can get stuck in a rut. You need to improve your house here and there, in order to sell it at its maximum value potential, but you also need to save money for investing in your next property. Here are some top tips on how to improve your home on a budget:

1. Do your research
Have a look at which improvements on your home would benefit the value of the property. Sometimes things that may seem important to the value of the property are not. Every penny spent will be well worth it this way.

2. Extensions
An extension on your house in any way (with permission, obviously) is going to add value to your property; whether it is a loft extension adding more bedrooms, or extending the kitchen and dining area. Again, shop around for this and do thorough research into the company that will be doing the work.

3. Kitchen update
The kitchen, as they say is the heart of the home, so make sure it looks that way! A new kitchen could add a whopping 10% onto the value of your property and is arguably the first thing a potential buyer will look at when they come for a viewing. Choose a kitchen the matches the style of the home. If you can’t afford a whole new kitchen then just revamp the one that you have with new worktops and cupboards, or add a couple of high quality appliances, it’s something worth mentioning to potential buyers.

4. Fit an En Suite
Adding in a small en suite bathroom improves your properties value by around 5%. It is important not to sacrifice a good bedroom for this though!

5. Bathroom decor
If you can’t afford to get yourself a whole new bathroom then look at improving the one that you have already got. Simple touches like a new toilet seat and new grout in the tiles will make the room look a whole lot more attractive.

6. Don’t forget the exterior
Believe it or not, improving the outside of your home could add a massive 15% to its value! Having a shabby front garden and paintwork that is peeling away is no good, does the guttering need repairing? Or does the gate need painting? All of these things are pretty simple to do yourself, without having to hire someone in to do them.

7. Colour schemes
You may love your black walls and gold door handle bedroom theme but sometimes you need to look at the bigger picture and think about what you think that other people would like. Adding a lick of paint here and there to make the room look a little more accessible to all is something that is well worth doing. Paint isn’t expensive and is fairly easy to do yourself.

8. Wallpaper
Don’t assume that you need to wallpaper an entire room for it to look good. Adding wallpaper just to one wall in a room can look great, and won’t cost an arm and a leg.

9. Get creative
Use a stencil or other useful decorating tools to create some wall art. Go on You Tube and look up how to create your own furniture. You will save money this way yet your rooms will look unique and classy!

10. Ask for help
Don’t be afraid to ask for help, whether it is financial or just a helping hand with the DIY. Those who are struggling with debt may need to sell their home, or release some equity. It is worth speaking to a debt solution company such as Churchwood Finance , who may be able to help with a debt management solution to suit you.

Home Improvements to Avoid if you Want to add Value to Your Home

Property prices have taken a beating over the last few years and are only just beginning to get back to their pre-crash levels. Even during this period it was still possible to add value to your home by carrying out home improvement projects, however there are certain improvements that you may want to avoid even if you think they will add value to your property.

Don’t Over-Spend on Electrical/Plumbing

Keeping your electrical wiring and plumbing up to date, working correctly and above all, safe is obviously very important, however if you think that spending extra here on luxury fixtures and fittings is going to improve or maintain your initial investment you’re wrong. If your home is not high specification to begin with then over-spending on these areas will not add value to your property further down the line.
Prospective buyers will not see the benefit of an oversized hot water tank or an extractor fan that is more powerful than required. They will expect these things to be appropriate for the size of the property and won’t expect to pay extra.

Landscaping, More is not Always Better

A well landscaped garden is good for the overall appearance of the property but make sure not to go overboard as this can even put off some buyers if they see an overly elaborate garden as something that will cost time and money to keep maintained. This is something that will not apply to people who have no intention of selling their home, you can create your dream garden, but if you have plans to move at some point then keep the garden in line with the overall specification of the home, well maintained and nothing too extravagant.

Swimming Pools

This is a tricky one, and will in most cases depend on the size of the house, yard, climate and the other homes in the neighbourhood. So for example if your property is too small to fit a pool in the yard without it taking up most of the space then a pool is not a good idea if you are looking to add value to your home, an above ground pool would be better.
Climate is more of an obvious condition for getting a pool, if you live somewhere that is not warm enough in the summer to swim outside then it will rarely get used. The other factor to consider is the other homes in the neighbourhood.

If your home is small and none of the other homes nearby have pools then people looking to purchase a house in the neighbourhood would likely not be looking for a house with a pool, so in many cases it may put them off for several reasons. A pool can cost quite a lot to maintain, with pool pumps, heaters etc. to run and from a safety perspective, especially for a family with young children many parents will see the pool as a safety hazard.

The UK pensions re-shuffle

As a regular blogger, I find it interesting to spend a fair bit of time working my way round the internet to see what’s happening in other countries when it comes to the finance, home improvement and construction sectors. It was during one of my online journeys the other day that I stumbled across what is going on right now in the United Kingdom in terms of their pension reforms.

Although the UK is on the other side of the world, we tend to think of ourselves as being culturally linked and similar in so many ways. It’s because of this that I found myself quite surprised to find out that there are major changes under way in the retirement system in the UK that seem to be causing a quiet uproar (if that’s not a contradiction in terms). Basically, over the next couple of years, every employer is going to have to enroll every one of their qualifying employees into a retirement scheme. Pensions Automatic Enrolment as it’s called is an attempt by the UK government to plug the gap that currently exists between the ageing population and the dire lack of funding that has been made to make employees’ retirement a financially secure one.

So what I hear you cry! Australia woke up and smelt this particular superannuation reforms coffee way back in 1992 when the law changed and required employees and employers alike to contribute to retirement schemes. Encouragingly, it’s predicted that this action will lead to employers putting 12% of every paycheck into retirement funding in Australia by 2020 as well as about 20% of the population adding their own voluntary contributions to those payments using salary sacrifice. This retirement funding snowball started in Australia over 20 years ago and today the UK seems to be in complete denial about the need for this change right now in 2014.

In the UK, very large companies have already gone through the process of setting up qualifying pension schemes as well as assessing and enrolling their workers, but the new legislation is just about to roll out to SMEs. The message that’s coming out is that, generally speaking, these SMEs are burying their heads in the sand about the work and planning that’s ahead. Advisors are busy educating SMEs so they begin to understand the challenge that’s ahead of them, but there’s significant evidence that everyone seems to be leaving it to the last minute.

Even though these companies have been given the date that they’ll need to ‘go live’ with this new legislation, the vast majority appear to have done nothing about it yet. There’s even evidence that the pensions providers won’t have enough capacity to deal with demand. To us, this seems really surprising because all of this is pretty much second nature to us now. But let’s just say it’ll be interesting to watch it all unravel. What’s more, all of those people who moan about the Australian system might do well to take a look at what’s going on in the UK…you never know, it might just make you feel a tiny bit lucky!

Apple’s Finances Reflect ‘Most Valuable Brand’ Award

It goes without saying that Apple, who are one of the icons of technology and developers of great devices such as the iPhone and the iPad, are among the most popular companies in the world. Indeed in many places Apple are more associated with fashion than anything else and they have recently been named as the world’s most valuable brand.

Apple is continually providing solutions to everyday problems with their range of tech devices. Even with the rise of Apple iPhone jailbreaking and unlocking the company from California is still at the forefront of the market as they have been throughout the last decade.

Many analysts (and I know some of them) predicted that jailbreaking and services that offer to jailbreak iOS 7.1 in particular would damage the company’s global brand. If a hacker can create an exploit for the source code can make a device like the Apple iPhone better then surely this doesn’t reflect well on the company? This hasn’t been the case and Apple has continued to defy jailbreakers and hackers and their iPhone range of devices have defined the smartphone market for some years now.

There have been rumors in recent weeks in regards to the Apple share price. The price dropped in January and some saw this as proof that they were lagging behind the likes of Google, Microsoft and even Samsung. Again there was no truth in this and after some announcements for upcoming releases in the iPhone, Apple TV and iPad range the share price has rebounded and Apple are as healthy as ever.

Recently they have been named as the most valuable brand in the world and they will look to consolidate this with a new iPhone in 2014 and there are a lot of reasons as to why Apple won’t be left behind in the market anytime soon.

Hackers and jailbreakers might exploit the iPhone device however as a default smartphone there is little to rival its innovation. For sure Microsoft, Samsung and Google have their own devices however for brand identity nothing can rival the iPhone at the minute. This isn’t just a recent phenomenon and Apple has had this ever since the first generation iPhone was released.

Financially the company is in great shape too as demonstrated in their share price that I spoke of above but this has also came from a fresh injection of shares. Earlier in the year this financial optimism was in doubt and there was no guarantee that Apple would continue to be at the top of the market but they have proved everyone wrong.

Apple have a lot of new devices planned and with a new iPhone, new share money and now being proclaimed the most valuable brand in the world they are certainly cementing their place in the smartphone market. Microsoft, Google and Samsung can all compete (as can the jailbreakers by hacking and unlocking the iPhone) but Apple look set to remain the most recognizable brand on the planet in addition to one of the most financially sound.

For the company the future is looking very bright indeed.

The Most Desirable Home Upgrades of 2014

If you own investment properties you’re going to want to add some of these items to your houses. Most of us tend to invest in middle-class to lower-upper class homes if we intend to hold them as rental units. Renters now expect certain items that would have been big upgrades a decade ago. Some of the most desirable home upgrades are granite countertops and stainless steel appliances. You just about can’t watch a home improvement TV show without hearing those words come out of the buyer’s mouth. And while these are important upgrades to have in your rental homes there are quite a few other items that play a more “behind the scenes” role that renters are coming to expect nowadays.

Water softeners are a huge benefit in many areas. If your properties are in an area where there is hard water issues having a water softener will certainly set you apart from other landlords. The benefit of having a water softener installed in your property is not just a benefit to the renter. By installing a water softening unit you will benefit from fewer plumbing related issues caused by the buildup of calcium and magnesium deposits. And your renters will benefit from cleaner clothing and dishware as well as fewer issues with dry, itchy skin and dry hair. Check out this website for more information on water softeners and water conditioners, including reviews on all the top sellers.

Another desirable upgrade is a tankless water heater. These units are installed either as a whole-house unit where your conventional tank water heater would go or as point-of-use units installed directly next to the area that you need unlimited hot water such as a shower or sink. The benefit for you as a property owner is that tankless water heaters last up to double that of a conventional tank heater. They also have fewer problems associated with accumulating sediment and mineral deposits since they do not have a storage tank that holds water continuously. The benefit for your renter is that they will have an unlimited hot water supply. This is particularly nice if you are renting to large families that might have several children trying to get ready for school at the same time. Here is a great site that has reviews of all the best rated tankless units.

Finally, if you’re properties are located in areas that frequently get storm damage a storm shelter built into the home’s garage will be a huge benefit to renters. Having the peace of mind that an in-house storm shelter will provide will make your properties rise to the top in the current rental market. Storm shelters are probably the most expensive of the upgrades that we have discussed in this article yet for many renters they will be most impressed by this feature. Storm shelters built in existing garages have the benefit to the renter of being extremely easy to access in the event of dangerous weather. For the property owner a shelter does not have the same immediate benefits that the tankless water heater or water softener will have however when you decide to sell your property a storm shelter will be an advantage over other properties that do not have one, particularly if your property is located in an area that receives frequent tornadoes or high wind damage.

As an investment property owner you should always be thinking about what will make your renters lives easier and what will make your property easier to rent and easier to sell when you are ready to cash in your investment . By focusing on these top upgrades you will be sure to have a property that is extremely desirable.

Financial Tactics for Travelers (To Save Money of Course)

travelerIf you’ve been following my blog long you know finance is a big interest of mine (having experience in the industry and all) so it won’t be a surprise that today’s post is about a finance topic. It’ll be pretty tactical rather than high-level so it should be useful to a lot of people -depending on your lifestyle of course.

What I want to cover today are some tactics for managing your money and finances while traveling. I feel like I’ve acquired a few really good tips that will be helpful to some folks. Let’s get started!

Number One: Everybody needs access to cash when traveling but if you are like me you’ve probably always looked a little suspiciously on money exchange counters you see at airports and train stations. It is probably just an irrational prejudice but personally I would rather know the outcome of an exchange before I get involved at all and since I’m something of an introvert I would rather work with a machine than a person when exchanging one currency for another.

This makes withdrawing money from an ATM while traveling the most attractive option. The thing about that is that usually you will be charged some pretty steep ATM fees when using your ATM card out of network or out of your home country. So say you want to travel to France and you’ll need Euros for local transactions. If you go to withdraw 200 Euros you’ll also get hit with maybe 5 EUR in fees on the transaction.

If you are in the United States (as many readers are) one way I’ve seen to get around this is to open a checking account that refunds ATM fees. It sounds pretty amazing but it actually works exactly as described. Having one of these checking accounts from CharlesSchwab allows you to withdraw cash in the local currency of the country you are in. When making the withdrawal you accept the fees and then CharlesSchwab refunds the fees to your account every month.

When you look at your account you’ll see your ATM withdrawal translated into your home currency. The currency exchange happens automatically and you know you aren’t getting ripped off and there’s no need to deal with a person at an exchange desk. You’ll even earn a little interest on the account which helps offset inflation a little bit. Not as much as owning something like dividend-earning stocks, gold, silver or collectible paper currency but a small offset none the less.

Number Two: My second big recommendation is to get and use a credit card for your travels that does not charge foreign transaction fees. I like to pick a card that also earns valuable points or loyalty miles for an airline program but that’s up to you.

Many times even if you can use your particular credit card in a foreign country you’ll get charged foreign transactions fees in the range of 2-3%. There really is no point in paying these fees when you can get a excellent credit card that won’t incur them. There really isn’t much more to say about this except to perhaps give you a list of top cards that don’t charge foreign transaction fees.

Using these tips will go a long way to saving you a bunch of money if you travel a lot. Using the points you acquire on your no-fee credit card are another way to save major money on airline tickets and hotels but that is really a post for another time. Besides there are folks who can cover that in better detail than I can. Just do a little Google searching and you’ll find them.

Build Your Own Outdoor Fire-pit

Having an outdoor fire-pit is so popular right now. These days home-owners are going mega -retro and producing their heat from stone-walled fire-pits built into the ground. And, who can blame them? What better way to relax after a hard day at work than putting your feet up on the stone ledge of your outdoor fire-pit with a nice cool drink in hand.

So if you want to relax in style, take a few days at the weekend to make your own ring of fire. While stylish fire-pit designs can consist of features like built in seating and gas lines, the simpler ones that burn charcoal or wood can still add style and sophistication to your back yard. Building an outdoor fire-pit for your back yard is not hard at all; does not call for any special tools, and is reasonably inexpensive (about $ 500-600).

Remember before you build a fire-pit you must first check the building codes in your town to get the proper specs and regulations. Some communities do not allow open fires of any kind. Select an area that has no hanging tree branches, plants or any other flammable materials and that is away from your house. Also be careful when digging holes because you do not want to hit any utility lines.

Building the Outdoor Fire-Pit

1.Choose a spot that will give you room to walk around the fire-pit, away from fences. You must consider the way that the wind blows in your back yard. You do not want any flying embers blowing into your house. Also decide on how many people will be sitting round the fire-pit, a 4-foot buffer minimum is a suitable choice.

2.Cut a bit of cord the same width as the radius of your fire-pit (you need to decide how wide you want your pit to be). Now, tie one end of the cord to a stake in the center of the fire-pit site, and tie the other end to an upside-down canister of marking paint. Make a circle with the paint to ascertain the boundary of the pit.

3. Now dig a round hole, 12-inches deep and 4-feet in breadth. Remember, I am only using a 4-foot breadth as an example your pit can be any reasonable size.

4. Employing cement bricks, build a 12-inch high wall around the hole you just dug. You need to leave a 2 inch cap between the bricks for the circulation of air.

5. Put down some quick setting concrete and cover the bottom of the fir-pit, making a small “dip” in the center where you can put kindling.

6. Once the concrete is dry you can start to build the fire. Put some paper in the middle of the pit and then make a tepee from kindling over the newspaper. Now, light the newspaper, and you are ready to go. As soon as the kindling starts to strongly burn start putting larger pieces of wood around the shelf in a tepee shape.
When not in use cover your outdoor fire-pit with water proof material.

If building an outdoor fire-pit seems like too much work, you can always buy a fire-pit kit, or a ready-made outdoor fire-pit. Good Luck!

Home Improvement Tips to Increase the Net Worth of Your Home

select color swatch to paint wallI’m in the business of lending money to people who want to buy a home. Paradoxically, the more money my business gives/lends, the more money it makes. This is due to the interest we make off the lent money. In the interest of my business making more money, and given my interest in home improvement, I’d like to tell you how to increase the net worth of your home, so that the people who buy your home need a bigger mortgage :) I’m gearing this post to those of you out there thinking about selling your home. I’d like to give you a few tips that could increase the sale price of your home by up to $10k while only investing a couple hours and a couple hundred dollars.

In short, the way to improve your home’s worth for minimal cost is to buy a power washer for $200 to $300 and use it to increase the curb appeal of your home. Below are 3 examples of how to do this:

1) Pressure Clean Outdoor Ground Surfaces

The first tip is to pressure wash your driveway, front porch and back deck. Basically, all the outdoor ground surfaces that are concrete, cement or wood. With the right size power cleaner you can do your driveway in 1 hour, your front porch in half an hour and your back deck in 1-2 hours. That’s around 3 hours work to make your driveway, front porch and back deck look brand new. You won’t be able to lie and say they are brand new, but you can ask $10k more for your house and the prospective buyers will believe it is worth it.

If you read this article at the MSN real estate site you’ll see that there number 4 best way to improve your home’s value is to increase its curb appeal. Undoubtedly, the best way to do that is to make the driveway look new, the front porch look new etc.

2) Pressure Wash House Exterior, Fence, Roof and Gutters

Depending on what your house exterior is – wood, stucco or other – you can either paint it or clean it. Painting your house will be very labor intensive and may cost a few thousand dollars and a good 40 man hours of work. The other route to go is to clean the exterior of your house – giving it a fresh look. Pressure cleaning with the correct nozzle will make cleaning the outside of your home painless. All you have to do is point and spray. The nozzle will spread the pressure out and speed up the job while using minimal water.

Also think about doing your fences and roof to further increase the curb appeal.

3) Power Clean Garage and Basement

Garages and basements tend to get neglected and become breeding grounds for cob webs. If you have a good drainage system in your basement think about power cleaning the walls and floor to get all the dust and grime off with ease. You’d be surprised how deep water gets into the cement and how clean it makes it look. Just take a look at these 8 photos of a few before and after pics of a house that is being prepped for sale. How much better does it look? I think it wouldn’t be hard to ask $10k more for the clean house. What do you think?

Why Every Gun Owner Needs a Gun Safe in Their Home

Lately, it seems like each week we hear about gun violence involving kids. Whether it’s some crazy psycho teenager thinking he will get respect by taking a gun to school or a small child finding their dad’s handgun in a nightstand. As many of you know, I consider myself a responsible gun owner and believe other responsible adults should be able to own guns. Guns do not harm people; irresponsible people with guns harm people.

So much of the violence we hear about on tv can be avoided by simply having firearms in a home locked away in a gun safe. If I know one of my clients is a gun enthusiast, I will always ask them if they have a gun safe and where they plan on putting it in their new home. Surprisingly, many do not with the usual reason being that they are too expensive and they don’t have the money for it. It’s sad when they are here purchasing a $400k home and can’t spend the few hundred on a good quality safe. A couple years ago, I purchased a SentrySafe for under $800 and I truly believe it’s the best gun safe for your money. While I currently don’t have kids living at home, I don’t want to take any chances in case of wanted or unwanted visitors.

Thievery

When I mention unwanted visitors, I’m referring to thieves. Gun collections aren’t cheap and they will be one of the first things an intruder will look for after breaking into your house. While many safes will not stop a determined thief with a lot of time on his hands from getting your valuables, they are a great deterrent and most bad guys won’t even bother trying. Those who think that the worst thing that could happen if their guns are stolen is that they’ll be out a few hundred dollars have something else to think about. Did you know that if your gun is stolen and then used in a crime, it can be traced back to you? I don’t know about anybody else but I wouldn’t want my name associated with a crime in any way. In many countries, you could be held liable if your firearms get stolen.

Don’t let this happen to you

I was once talking to this DIYer who recently purchased a home from me. He was in the middle of redoing his kitchen cabinets and I could hear a compressor humming in the background. He was explaining how he had a small gun collection and since he didn’t have any children, he just hid them under the bed. While him and his wife were out of town one weekend, thieves broke in and took his pistols, laptop, and old air compressor. While he easily replaced his home use air compressor as well as his laptop, the pistols were handed down to him by his father and would have been pretty much impossible to replace. It was a valuable lesson learned and could have been easily avoided.

So, whether or not you think you may need it, a decent gun safe is what I consider to be a mandatory purchase for any gun owner. You simply shouldn’t take the chance on a tragic accident occurring or you getting robbed. It’s not necessary to spend $2k on a 600 pound safe when even a $500 model would offer you a hundred times the protection of no gun safe at all.

How to Turn Your Home Green

Recycling HouseRecently, my wife and I have been looking into making our home more green mostly through saving energy. Now in 2013 and as we’re heading into 2014, there are more ad more energy conserving tricks available to homeowners. To help us out, I reached out to Ken Dart who is a real estate developer and currently working on his biggest project in the Cayman Islands. I was extremely happy to get a response back from someone who is a huge force and authority in the real estate industry. On his most recent project in the Cayman Islands, he is implementing energy saving and green technologies into the project from the get go which will make it one of the greenest developments to date.

I asked Ken what and where are the biggest energy savers for residential homes are ad what’s the best way to take advantage of them. This post is literally gold with excellent tips from one of the masters in green real estate development. I’m going to leave a few of the tips here that I’m going to bemusing in my own home that are easy enough for everyone to do.

The first tip is to switch out all the light bulbs i the house with energy saving light bulbs. In the past, these energy saving lightbulbs gave off an ugly bright white light that many people felt unattractive to. Now, however, light bulb manufactures are able to produce these energy saving light bulbs that give off the warm, glowing light that is very familiar to traditional lightbulbs. This allows homeowners to save energy while also retaining the warm and cozy feel to their homes. This is the first thing that I’m going to be implementing in my home.

The next step is to make sure that all electronics are not plugged in while in use. For instance, many people leave things plugged in that they hardly every use. For example, this can be lights, a TV, or a boom box in a spare bedroom that’s plugged in, but not in use. You would think that because they are not on, they are not using energy, the reality is they are sucking a little bit of energy out. This energy is called vampire electricity, which adds up over time. It’s best to just unplug things when not in use.

The last tip from Ken is to invest in solar panels. After you have made the above tips, which are the most significant and easy energy saving tips, you are now ready to get solar panels. Solar panels have significantly come down in price throughout the last decade making it easier for homeowners to get them installed in their home. Many people wait to get them installed, because they know it will be cheaper in a few years; however, Ken says to forget that. Purchase solar panels now, reap the benefits, and then upgrade your panels in 10 years after they paid for themselves. This ensures that your saving energy from day one.

These are some great energy saving tips from Ken. Do you have anything to add?

The Outlook for Mortgages in 2014

People are always eagerly keeping an eye on the mortgage market to see what the year ahead holds for them. A new product or a drop in interest rates can save them thousands over the course of a year on their mortgage payments.

This is even more important in the midst of a recession.

This year is no different, but for the first time in a long time it’s actually looking like good news on the horizon .

2014 seems like it will bring steady mortgage growth, which will mean more mortgages available to people this year than there has been previously.

This is likely to spur activity and should encourage more people to buy and sell their homes this year.

Act Fast

Although the figures so far for the year ahead seem to inspire confidence I also would not like to wait around just in case the situation takes another turn for the worse, and if previous years are anything to go by this is entirely possible.

If you are considering moving, and you have found somewhere you like and you have been conditionally approved for a mortgage, then it’s worth considering to use the sell house fast guide to sell, rather than through estate agents.

This will help you get a much faster sale and will put you in a better position. It will also help get you the most money in the fastest time.

If you use this method then you will be able to strike while the iron is hot, and if the economy does take another turn for the worse you have secured your mortgage and you will have absolutely nothing to worry about.

Buying a Property

Be aware that when you are thinking of buying a property at the time when the vast number of people will be trying to act fast as well, it is best not to beat about the bush. If you see a place you like, don’t waste too much time thinking about it, go straight in with an offer that you are willing to pay.

If nothing else this will at least start the negotiations, and will hopefully secure you a chance at buying the property.

Please also try not to make the same mistake that so many people make — never spend all your money on the property as you always have legal fees to pay on top of that, the property cannot and will not be yours until these are paid.

Sometimes if you talk to your mortgage broker they may be able to work with you by paying the fees for you if you pay back more to your mortgage.

Take Advantage

I know I keep saying it but this is really the best mortgage growth we have had in years, so don’t waste time thinking about it or fearing it, get on the property ladder.

Even If you are first time buyer and have not been able to get a mortgage for the past 2 or 3 years this is the time for you to get back on the horse and try again.

If you are someone who can afford to buy but are renting because you don’t want the commitment you are losing a fortune, and at the end of it the property will never be yours, get yourself somewhere you can call your own.

Go for it and good luck