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Category: Around The House

To Have or Not To Have a House Cleaner, Is It Really Question?


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By: Tim Riley

Pose this question to many house wives and house dads across the U.S., and I think you will have an overwhelming response of, “Hell no. It’s not a question. I will take one yesterday!” Having personally had a house cleaner there are perks on top of perks about having someone come clean your house. Sadly, there are two concerns which hold people back from having a person clean your house, trust and finances.

Opening your doors to a family, friends, or possibly a stranger is hard to do. The reason why you are thinking about hiring a cleaner is because you are professional working 40 +hours a week plus you have family to spend time with. You simply don’t have the time to clean like your house needs. Ultimately, you will need to trust someone inside your home while no one else is home. You are giving handing over the keys to your front door! Sounds nuts, and is nuts, if you just let anyone clean your home. You HAVE to trust your house cleaner, so do your own background checking, this includes cleaning services, AND family/friends. A non-trusting relationship will inevitably ruin your house cleaning experience.

On to the second and probably most relevant concern for most people having a house cleaner, cost. Tell your friends you have a house cleaner and they will start busting your chops of living with the rich and famous. It doesn’t take a business mogul, professional athlete, or Hollywood Star to hire a house cleaner. Many blue collar people have a house cleaner; they have been smart with their money and have a solid budget. If you make a plan for what you are going to spend each month you will see if a house cleaner is in the budget or not. You may have a house cleaner come once a week or more commonly visit once every other week. I found a good website about hiring and keeping a house cleaner-check out and see if a house cleaner is right for you. 

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5 Simple Ways to Improve Your Quad Cities Home Curb Appeal


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By: Tim Riley

Curb Appeal, that simple phrase which can make or break any home selling deal. The allure of curb appeal has people investing more money and time into their yards, namely the front yard. The outside of your home is a reflection of the home owners themselves and what the house will probably look like on the inside. Not everyone is a DIY master or has a green thumb, so I have created a list of 5 simple ways to improve the curb appeal of your middle class mansion.

1. Pressure Wash: Perhaps the easiest improvement on the list. Do not reach for the garden hose and expect to get the same results as a pressure washer. It’s like comparing a squirt gun to a fire hose. A pressure washer gives you the water pressure you need to wash away years of dirt and mildew that has been neglected for years or even decades. Many pressure washers also have the option to use chemicals for cleaning and mildew prevention. I have never used any of the soaps or mildew preventers on my house, patio, driveway, or retaining wall, but have been entertaining the idea over the last year. I have power washed all of these critical areas, and it will take years off of your property.  It gives the property that clean zest appeal buyers are looking for.

2. Fertilize, Water, and Mow: To me, one of the biggest curb appeal impressions comes from the front lawn. When people drive up to the home you are selling they want to see a lush, full, and well groomed front yard, not some janky yard that has been used for boarding dogs. To obtain this desired look you will need to take the time every year to spread fertilizer and weed control during spring. If needed over-seed your lawn as well. The time it takes to do this is literally less than an hour for homes sitting on a half-acre or less. If going through a dry spell in your area square feet, that’s a lot. Finally, remember to mow your lawn as needed. Depending on the amount of rain you receive, or how often you water your lawn, this could be once every 4 days or once every two weeks. I prefer a longer cut because it allows for stronger root growth and healthier grass.

3. Mulching and Flower Beds: Many people mulch around trees, flower beds around the house, and around walkways. If you do use mulch, have your 3”-4” base of mulch and every year after add an additional 1”-2”s of mulch for that fresh vibrant look. For flower beds, make sure the boarders are clearly defined with bricks, stones, vinyl, or any other type of small barrier. These clean edges are a small detail that will really make your curb appeal pop. Replant you annuals in mid to late spring to allow the flowers to bloom and show their colors. I like to wait and address pruning trees and hedges once they are green, so I can shape the plants better as I make my cuts.

4. Outdoor Lighting: Many people forget what their house looks like at night or feel like it is not important. Well, it is important, and outdoor lighting can really take you to the upper epsilon of curb appeal. There are some really simple ways to improve outdoor lighting, for example using solar walkway markers for your sidewalk. A slightly more involved outdoor lighting is using low voltage lighting. This is a more professional look and will ultimately yield better results. More can be seen about outdoor lighting here.

5. Paint Doors, Shutters For Windows: Finally, we have every homes flippers dream product, paint. Why do house flippers like paint so much? Because it is an inexpensive way to give a house a new look or make any feature stand out. A well designed and inviting entryway could mean thousands in your pocket. Fresh paint or stain on an entry door will revitalize your home. With the addition of updated light fixtures and couple unique potted plants can give the front of your home the focal point it has been missing.  Another good way to use some paint is on shutters, if you have them. Updating the trim colors of your home leaves one less task for a potential buyer to address when they move in. Freshly painted shutters and trim will give your home a new look and can bring back potential buyers if they already passed on your house once.

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Beautify Your QCA Home's Lawn


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By: Tim Riley

Winter is fighting tooth and nail to let go, but spring is upon us, and now is the time to start addressing your home's lawn. I have been looking at Bettendorf and Moline homes for sale. What catches my eye first? The lawn. Many of the photos were taken with snow on the ground or grass that is still dormant. Then, I came across a Davenport home for sale that has outdoor pictures which show off their lush, green lawn and bloomed flowers. Getting your lawn to look fuller and thicker is not hard at all. You will need grass seed, Scott’s 4-step lawn care plan, spreader, and water.

Before beginning, take the time to measure out your lawn to figure out what the square footage is, (length x width = area). Having this number will guide you in how much material you will need to treat your yard. Next, visit your local, gardening, hardware, or even department store. If you are unsure what grass seed to buy, I suggest a sun & shade mix. This mixture is good for a novice gardener. For fertilizer, pick up Scott’s 4-step plan for seeding. This is very important you get the plan for seeding as the original 4 step plan will not allow your seed to grow because of the crab grass blocker. I have asked friends, professionals, and scoured the Internet, and this is the best choice for a full season’s treatment.

I began the 4-step plan last weekend, and the whole process took me less an hour to treat over 3,000 sq. feet. It took me a little longer to treat the yard since there were some pretty bad bare spots I had to cultivate first using the garden weasel for a better chance of seed germination.

First, make sure your lawn is mostly debris free. If you did not rake you leaves last fall, then you will need to do this step first. Second, you will over seed your lawn to increase the thickness. On the back of the grass seed package, you will find where to set your spreader for proper seeding, and how much seed you will need to pour into the spreader. If using Scott’s Sun & Shade, you will need to set your batch spreader to 8.5. The spreader will cover a 4-8 foot diameter. Do a small test run in the middle of your yard to see how far the seeds will fly. Once the diameter is covered make passes across your yard moving along the longest path possible and overlapping seeds six to eight inches until you have covered your entire lawn.

The next step is fertilizing. This is very similar to seeding. Read the package for quantities needed and spreader settings. Begin covering your yard making passes using the longest direction of your yard.  Be sure your freshly seeded & fertilized lawn gets water within a day or two to prevent burning. Water, as needed, for the remainder of the season.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Living Mortgage Free


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By: Tim Riley

Have you ever dreamed of what it would be like if you never had a monthly rent payment, or even better no mortgage? This idea may seem so farfetched that it has never crossed your mind. I remember the first house I bought, the day I became a broke man. It was a proud moment in the life and times of Tim Riley. I was just a young guy just starting his career, and owned a new car.  It is a fact the number one purchase of all college graduates is a vehicle. I had great friends, and now I owned my own home. Sayonara landlords and rent payments, I had officially joined the ranks of a lifetime of debt… I actually broke the news of homeownership to my friends by saying, "I joined the club of forever in debt.”  

I was a blind idiot to accept the fact of being in debt my whole life. A young and irresponsible twenty something kid who didn't have a clue about finances. The reality of it is, you do not have to live a life of debt just because you buy a house. I did not realize this until I read Dave Ramsey’s, “Total Money Makeover.”  His lessons are old school and simple to explain but harder to follow because you need to change your behaviors.

I could step on my soap box a praise Dave for an amazing program and how it is the best thing since balloon mortgages, insert sarcasm here. Reality is, I do not follow Dave’s baby steps to a "T." He did give me an avenue to travel down, and more importantly gave me hope to one day keep the money I make, or spend it as I see fit. Imagine having an extra $500 to $2,000 every month! It would be like winning the lotto every month.

There are different methods to paying your house off early, ALL of which require you to pay extra towards your principal amount. Be sure to specify this with each payment otherwise the lender may apply the extra cash to principal and interest, which will not help you out much.  Ask your lender for a Amortization Schedule to become familiar with your mortage situation. All the mortage plans I have read aim to attack this schedule by throwing extra cash at it. The easiest way to pay your loan off early is by making at least one extra monthly payment every year. This could knock 4-6 years of your loan alone. Another popular route people take is refinancing their home from a 30 year loan to a 15 year loan. You will pay your house off in half the time and pay a fraction in interest. The downside is you will payout more money each month, but you will also receive a lower interest rate. There are many methods to choose from to help pay your house off early, so find what works for you, and remember someday you will live mortgage free.

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Taking a Real Estate Sunday Stroll


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By: Tim Riley

Most of my blogs circle around selling your home FSBO (For Sale by Owner) style in the QC and QCA, however with spring finally arriving, I find myself looking at houses to buy. The problem is, I am by no means in the need of a house. I simply enjoy looking at houses for sale and seeing what they have to offer for décor, style, size, and of course price.I’m not sure why I have such an interest in the housing market.

I suspect it goes back to my childhood when my dad would take me out to homes being built in our area. This might be frowned upon in today’s society where thieves and vandals break into houses to throw a party or steal the copper, but back in “the good ol’days” nobody thought twice about this, or maybe they did... Anyways, he would study how each carpenter was constructing their middle class mansion. He was always looking for ideas and critiquing their work, building his knowledge of home construction. It soon would pay off for him as he built most of our house on his own.  Being just a little tike, I followed in my dad’s footsteps soaking up the unique fabrication of each home.

I still love to see how each home takes on the personality of the builder, yet lends itself to be customized and updated to each new owner. This is why I love my job and love studying real-estate. I am guilty of taking a Sunday stroll in Bettendorf, Davenport, Buffalo, or Parkview to see what Quad Cities’ homes are for sale and take a glimpse of what the inside looks like on a flyer. Have you ever found yourself driving by a house and notice a For Sale sign stuck in the front yard, and say, “Wow, I wonder what the inside looks like?” This is quickly followed up with, “I wonder how much it is?”  Of course, this ends as if you are on Price’s Right’s final showdown trying to guess the asking price.

As you take your Sunday stroll this spring I hope you find yourself discovering the house of your dreams, or maybe grab a flyer for a friend or family member looking for their dream home.

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QC Backyard Landscaping


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By: Tim Riley

This week I am starting my backyard make over, which appears to be a full summer project. When we first bought the house, which by chance happened to be FSBO, one of the features we loved the most was the backyard. It added space, trees, and privacy, something hard to find in the urban Quad Cities. Trust me we scoured the MLS using Ruhl Homes and Mel Foster for months. Anyways the house was what we were looking for, but it needed some TLC, inside and out.

Our backyard offers close to a dozen trees and includes a wildlife habitat. I refer to this area as the “dead space”. The dead space is heavily shaded by trees, three of which are pine trees that leave a heavy mess. The previous owner must have started a “save a hosta foundation” and declared the corner a free dumping area for mulch. This space is overgrown and unusable.

We have decided to invest in a professional arborist to kick off our backyard make over. For what they can do matched with professionalism and speed it is money well spent. Plus a professional arborist should be bonded and insured for any accidents. After the tree trimming is done we still need to figure out what to do with the dead space in our yard. Living in the QCA we have cold winters and hot summers and we would like to make this space useable throughout most of the year. I personally would like to make it a home selling point when we do decide to sell. There is the option of just cleaning it out and keeping the hostas and mulch, but that’s a little bland for us. A small garden would be great but feel like there is not enough sunshine to support a good Iowa crop. So we are going to make it into a family space and build a playhouse. Not much can grow there so the structure will add aesthetic beauty while providing hours of family fun. We can keep a number of the hostas already planted along with the mulch.

When planning your back yard makeover take the time to gather multiple ideas, get some feedback, and have some fun with it. If you enjoy what you are doing then it will make the backyard work that much more enjoyable.

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Honey Do Spring Cleaning List


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By: Tim Riley

Spring has arrived, technically, and those “honey do” lists are soon to appear on the fridge. Before the list is filled by your significant other, add a couple items you want to accomplish this spring. Thanks to another poor performance from Poxatuny Phil, Quad City home owners will be able to procrastinate their outdoor spring chores at least one more week. That being said, be prepared to complete these 5 tasks over the next 4-6 weeks.

1. Car – Your vehicle takes a beating over the winter months, even more so if you live in a Midwest city like Davenport, Bettendorf, Rock Island, or Moline. If the weather is warm enough, pull out the garden hose and soap to wash all the road salt off your car. If applicable, take your grocery getter or speedster to a car wash. For $8 you can power wash your own car and put a nice glow back in your ride. Don’t forget to wash the bottom off really well, too. This is where most of the rust will occur.  A good waxing is also a great idea to protect the paint on your car.

2. Garage – Many holiday items get, more or less, thrown onto a work bench or on the ground because we don’t want to deal with packing away these items during the cold months. Clean up any lose trash, sweep the floor, and reorganize all the tools you had to bust out to fix your leaky toilets, faucets, furniture, and anything else gets may have broken.

3. Gutters – Will chore ever go away? Only if you cut down every single tree within a twenty foot radius of your house. Admit it, you procrastinated on cleaning your gutters last fall and now you have to clean them. This will always be one of those home ownership chores which will not go away.

 

4. Closets – Spring will still offer some chilly days, so your top 5 cleaning list needs to include some indoor chores. You have been hitting the gym every day since New Year’s and you lost that tire around your waist. Get rid of the clothes are not going to wear anymore and get some new threads, you deserve it. Take the time to touch up paint, hardware, doors, and organizer shelves while in your closet. I remember looking at a QC home for sale several years back, and all I remember about that house is a dingy bedroom closet.

5. Grill & Smoker- If you’re like me, then you have an eternal fire to grill most nights of the week. Remove the cover, clean out the sticks and leaves, and start breaking your grill or smoker down.  Clean the grates, drip pan, burners, and even the belly of the grill. Look for any wear and tear which might require repair, such as a bad burner.

 

Some may not look forward to spring chores, but cabin fever has possessed my body…and I need an outdoor exorcism. If you’re like me, then you can’t wait to get out there and mark some chores off your list.

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Why You Need to Start Smoking


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By: Tim Riley

How many times in your life has someone told you, “Hey, you need to start smoking," probably not often, if at all. I am not referring to the plant which made Virginia and the 13 colonies so successful. What I am talking about is smoking meats. Smoking has been around since "prehistory" to preserve meats and more recently used to give a rich authentic taste to BBQ.

Smoking meat is more than just a 2-15 supper prep, there is a lot of planning, preparation, comradery, and beer drinking involved. It can take years of practice to perfect but just days of cooking to get a good tasting product.

Smoking meats is perfect for outdoor temperatures between 50° and 90°. Family members can’t wait to get a taste of chicken, pork, beef, or vegetables. That’s why smoking is perfect for birthdays, holidays, reunions, and other family events. If looking to gain a relationship with your neighbors, nothing draws their interest more than a succulent smell of hickory.

Smoking meats is not just about cooking a meal, it’s about the effort, story, and experience. If you are looking to expand your Quad City hobbies around the house, and want to spend more time engaging your friends, family, and neighbors then smoking meat is for you.

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Why You Should DIY


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By: Tim Riley

DIY – Do It Yourself, three little words can save you so much money. Some people are all over DIY projects like white on rice, while others avoid these projects like the plague. Whatever your opinion is, I encourage you to attempt some DIY projects.

How familiar you are with hand tools, power tools, electrical circuits, plumbing, and carpentry skills will dictate where you start your home improvements. I purchased my first home for $59,000. A deep cleaning was needed along with updates throughout the house, inside & out. I saw my first home as an investment property, and it would prove profitable.  

One of the easiest DIY projects is demolition. Generally, nothing more than a crowbar, hammer, and a destructive attitude is needed. Be cautious of all electricity and plumbing. This includes fixtures inside and outside of the floors, ceilings, and walls. You will come across some “unique” artifacts such as antiques, collectibles, photos, and in my case a crack pipe, yes a crack pipe. I bought a rental property in a neighborhood that was transitioning back into a safe. family-oriented neighborhood.

Once you have completed demolition the amount of DIY projects for your house varies from putting in tile floors to new ceiling fans or adding a deck to installing kitchen cabinets. Odds are, you are not a master carpenter so become familiar with home improvement websites such as; Hometime, DIY Network, and Youtube.

I would also suggest you buy a DIY book lik,e “Home Improvement 1-2-3." My biggest help came from family and friends. You will buy a lot of pizza and beer and not always get a lot done in a day, but you will enjoy the time spent on your home and learn how to become a DIY expert yourself. I paid cash for all the materials, food, and beer. Thanks to my family and friends, I was able to sell my home for a $24,500 profit. Not too shabby for a six year investment.

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5 Ways to Spruce up Your Home This Winter


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By: Tim Riley

Do you find yourself looking around your home this winter wanting to find ways to spruce it up and personalize it? As I had these ideas come, to me I posted them on Twitter and Facebook. It would be nice to be in the situation where I could just call up anyone of my self-employed construction buddies and have them add a bathroom to my basement, but the Dave Ramsey budget does not allow that. So keep in mind I am looking for low cost but high upgrade,s which will help any Quad City home for sale. Here is a short list of those ideas:

1. Update cabinet hardware – This is a very simple upgrade anyone can make with a screwdriver. Most handles and knobs in the kitchen and bathrooms are old and dated. Head to your closest hardware store for dozens if not hundreds of options. Keep in mind hardware can range from $0.69 – per unit upwards towards $50 and higher per unit.

2. Shampoo carpets – Choose carpet areas that are not located in high traffic areas, especially exterior doors. Yes, this may fall under the category of “cleaning” but a freshly shampooed carpet brings out that new home smell. For as little as $25 a night, plus cleaner, you can shampoo bedrooms and the basement. You also get a head start on your spring cleaning. If it’s too cold to open the windows, box fans work great to dry the carpet.

3. Change light bulbs – Walk around your house and see if all your bulbs have the same color, otherwise known as color temperature. My parent’s house has a bright white, soft white, and a yellow hue collectively in one ceiling fan fixture.  Make sure you color temperatures are organized by room. You will also save on your utility bill, which takes a beating during harsh winters.

4. Outlets, switches, and covers – I am going to start this off by saying, IF YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND ELECTRICAL CIRCUTS, HIGHER A PROFESSIONAL. Believe it or not, outlets and light switches all have a life expectancy and will fail to work properly after heavy use, not to mention looking old and dilapidated. If your outlets show these signs it is time to change them. How do you know if your outlets are worn out? If the vacuum does not stay firmly plugged in. They also sell child proof outlets. These outlets have the safety plastic built into the plug-in and they work great! Most new homes require you to install this new build of outlets .

5. Ceiling fans and globes – Light fixtures have a globe surrounding the bulbs. These are usually very easy to change and bring a much needed fresh look to every room. Most globes screw in or may require a nut to be taken off, that’s it. If you're wanting to change one or two ceiling fans see #4 above, and if you do decide change the unit yourself make sure the breaker is flipped OFF before beginning work. I would suggest changing these during the day for obvious reasons.

Good luck sprucing up your home this winter, and if you have any other tips please share them!

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