Preparing for the School Year at Home

Image source: Shutterstock

 

For those whose children will be taking classes online or participating in remote learning this school year, keeping the following tips in mind will help create an at-home learning environment that prioritizes health and learning, while being able to adjust to this year’s unknowns.

A home cannot fully replace all that a formal school classroom has to offer. However, what it lacks in traditional classroom appeal it makes up for in comfort and familiarity. Prepping your home to take on this additional role will help set your child up for success during what will be a unique academic year for many.

 

Set the tone

One of the best ways to set your children up for success this school year is to get them excited. It is important to communicate that this school year, even with all its unknowns, is an exciting opportunity for new and creative ways to learn and grow. Helping your child understand the unique learning possibilities your home provides will get the school year off to an enthusiastic start.

 

Create a space 

Establishing a designated space for school at home is important for a child’s ability to focus and to associate a space with learning. How you create a classroom environment will depend on your home and your needs. If your child is most comfortable in their room, try incorporating their classroom setup there. Depending on your child’s age, it may help to have toys or familiar room objects nearby. However, if your child is distracted by their own room, it may be better to set up elsewhere to help them focus, such as a nook or office.

Allowing your child the freedom to make the space their own will help stimulate their imagination, which is vital to their learning and enjoyment of school.

Wherever the home classroom is, be sure that area has minimal distractions, maintains a strong internet connection, and is well-stocked with school supplies within reach at all times.

 

Back to school

To maintain a sense of normalcy, keep your family’s back-to-school traditions intact this year, such as picking out school supplies, back to school clothes shopping, and everyone’s favorite first day of school photo. These ceremonies of preparation for the school year will build excitement while bringing some familiarity to those final days of summer.

Establish a routine

Just as adults have discovered new routines to parallel the shift to remote work, children need a shift in their daily flow to mirror the change to remote learning. The rigor of their school schedule will determine how much flexibility you have in putting together a routine.

Stay active, incorporating movement breaks throughout the day to make up for the lack of physical activity. Plan out times away from their computer screens to differentiate between work and play time.  It’s recommended that children move at least 60 minutes a day, so prioritize exercise and movement, going outside when possible. This change of scenery is a helpful intermission for children. It gives their eyes a rest from their screens and returns them to their learning space feeling refreshed and revitalized.

 

Granted, your ability to facilitate your child/children’s preparedness and monitor their continued learning is based on various factors like your work schedule and what resources your school district is providing for at-home learning. No matter your household’s situation, taking these factors into consideration where possible will help set your student(s) up for success.


Posted on August 26, 2020 at 8:10 pm
Lynly Callaway | Posted in Living | Tagged , , , ,

How to Improve Your Curb Appeal

Image Source: Canva

When it comes time to sell your home, first impressions are crucial. Improving your curb appeal helps to make the most of a buyer’s first glance and sets the stage for their interest in purchasing your home. The following projects are simple and inexpensive ways to enhance both your home’s first impression and its value.

Landscaping

  • Lawn: A healthy, well-tended lawn goes a long way towards improving your curb appeal. Clean up all weeds, leaves and debris, and consistently water your lawn to give it that fresh green look. If you live in an arid climate, consider grass alternatives like artificial turf for the best lawn aesthetic.
  • Plant colorfully: Adding color variety to your front yard will grab buyers’ attention. Align smaller plants, like groundcover and flowers, neatly within your flower beds, aiming for symmetry when possible. Use larger plants and trees to frame in your entryway or walkup. If your front yard doesn’t have flower beds, try adding hanging planters or window boxes.
  • Lighting: Landscaping lighting boosts your curb appeal during nighttime, accentuates your shrubbery, and adds a welcoming touch for visitors as potential buyers, lighting the way to your door.

Image Source: Canva

Porch

Front porches set the stage for all your home has to offer. Improvements here will play a significant role in how comfortable potential buyers feel about the property and how inspired they are to explore the inside of the house.

  • Door: Your front door is an opportunity to make a tasteful statement. Look at bold color choices that are within or slightly stretch your home’s exterior color palette. Take time to prepare the surface for a fresh coat of paint to make the color pop as much as possible. Try stylish doorknob options that accentuate the aesthetic to give your door some added flair.
  • House numbers: New and stylish house numbers are an easy, eye-catching touch to the look of your porch. Look for styles that match with your exterior color palette and any exterior lighting fixtures.
  • Go for comfort: Incorporating classic front porch elements like a porch swing, sitting bench, and other outdoor furniture gives a welcoming aura to the front of your home and creates a sense of comfort for prospective buyers.
  • Shutters: Windows are the gateway to the inside of your home. Shutters of delicate fabric will bring elegance to your front porch, while wooden shutters deliver a solid, cozy vibe.

Other

These miscellaneous projects will add the finishing touches to your home’s curb appeal and get it in prime selling condition.

  • Quick maintenance: Small chores and minor fixes like cleaning gutters, repairing chipped paint, and cleaning windows are important for buyers with a detailed eye.
  • Staining: Instead of replacing fences or garage doors, look into applying a fresh stain. This brings a refreshed look and is much cheaper than a full renovation or replacement.
  • Power wash: Power washing your walkways and driveways makes a significant difference in curb appeal. If buying a power washer is outside your budget, explore rental options from the big-name hardware stores.

Posted on August 13, 2020 at 9:53 pm
Lynly Callaway | Posted in Living | Tagged , , , ,

6 HOME IMPROVEMENT PROJECTS TO TACKLE IF YOU’RE STUCK AT HOME PRACTICING SOCIAL DISTANCING

Spring has sprung in Seattle — and so has the coronavirus (the cause of the illness called COVID-19). If working from home and practicing social distancing has left you feeling stuck and uninspired, consider rolling up your sleeves and tackling a home improvement project or two.

From the simplest updates to sensational additions, these projects can keep you busy, enhance your curb appeal, and give you more ways to enjoy your home when warmer weather arrives.

1. Install a new mailbox

The simplest and easiest update of all, installing a new (or updating an old) mailbox can add a pop of personality and amp up your curb appeal, where first impressions really count!

Consider painting your mailbox a new color, planting flowers around the base, or installing a smart mailbox to protect your deliveries.

2. Update your address display

Another quick and easy project, updating your address can add flair to your front door. This article from realtor.com offers plenty of crafty and creative ways to display your house numbers.

If you have an HOA, it’s a good idea to check with them first to know what (if any) limitations you might have.

3. Add a new railing to your porch

If your front porch is looking a little ho-hum or drab, a new railing can make a world of difference. For a natural feel, consider a classic wood-tone railing for a natural feel, or add a pop of visual interest with a colored railing. If you’re looking for more, check out the Chippendale railing (it’s currently a hot trend on HGTV).

4. Stain your deck

if your deck is looking a little shabby, one easy improvement is to stain it—to either change the color or just accentuate the wood grain. Staining is also good for your deck, and many builders recommend staining or sealing once a year.

If you don’t yet have a deck, building one could be a great new project to tackle before summer arrives. Plus, according to Remodeling Magazine’s Cost vs. Value Report, a new wooden deck will net you a 69% return on investment when you decide to sell.

5. Build a fire pit

Backyard fire pits are perfect for adding a cozy ambiance to your yard, and are certain to be a highlight of a weekend gathering (especially when you bust out those marshmallows).

This guide from realtor.com is a great resource if you want to DIY your new fire pit.

6. Upgrade your garden

Now’s the time to start planning your planting! Consider skipping the typical tulips or daisies, and investigate other greenery. Adding edible plants is a smart way to save money and indulge in the farm-to-table dining trend. Or you can build a butterfly garden, which is good for the environment. (Plus, what’s more beautiful than seeing butterflies flit around your yard?)

This article was first published on realtor.com by Jillian Pretzel.


Posted on March 18, 2020 at 2:30 am
Lynly Callaway | Posted in Living | Tagged , , , , , ,

Refresh Your Bathroom into a Spa

Image Source: Canva

With some creative thinking and a few do-it-yourself projects, you too can transform an everyday bathroom into a spa-like experience:

High-end shower head

There are a plethora of shower head options available today that can make even a simple shower space feel like a luxuriating experience.

Heated towel rack

Once out of the tub/shower, heated towels help you comfortably maintain your body temperature while the pampering continues.

Dimmable lights

Adjust the bathroom lights to match your moods and activities: brighter for primping, and dimmed to create a calming effect.

Less clutter

Not everything that’s meant for the bathroom needs to be stored in the bathroom. Look for things that can be moved elsewhere to make the space feel a bit bigger and more organized.

Calming scents

Essential oils, luxury soaps, and scented candles are an easy way to create an aromatic atmosphere of luxuriousness.

 

SOURCE: Windermere


Posted on January 19, 2020 at 2:10 am
Lynly Callaway | Posted in Living | Tagged , , , , , ,

WASHINGTON RANKED BEST STATE OVERALL

Some states shine in health care. Some soar in education. Some excel in both – or in much more.

Considering numerous metrics and thousands of data points, a new study by the U.S. News and World Report ranks Washington state as number one in the nation.

Using 71 different metrics and thousands of data points, the magazine measured how well states are performing for their citizens. In addition to health care and education, the metrics take into account a state’s economy, its roads, bridges, internet and other infrastructure, its public safety, the fiscal stability of state government, and the opportunity it affords its residents.

Named the best state overall, Washington ranked fourth in health care and education, third in economy, second for infrastructure, 14th in natural environment, 15th for public safety, and 19th for opportunity. Our lowest ranking was 22nd for fiscal stability for our residents.

The data supporting these rankings were “drawn from extensive and reliable governmental and private sources,” along with a national survey of what matters most to citizens around the country, according to the magazine.

Health care and education were weighted most heavily.

The top 10 states following Washington were New Hampshire, Minnesota, Utah, Vermont, Maryland, Virginia, Massachusetts, Nebraska, and Colorado in that order.

View all of the results and full rankings for this year and previous years on U.S. News & World Report.

This was originally posted on U.S. News & World Report and on king5.com 


Posted on December 13, 2019 at 10:54 pm
Lynly Callaway | Posted in Living, Market News | Tagged , , , , , , ,

How to Cover Unexpected Costs with a Personal Loan

Owning a home comes with its rewards — it’s an investment, a cozy haven to kick-up your feet after a long day of work, and a welcoming place to bring family and friends together. Although all of this makes homeownership fulfilling, owning a home also opens the door for unexpected (but necessary) expenses.

If you’ve suddenly been hit with a home improvement project that’s pinching your budget, like a roofing issue or heater malfunction, a personal loan might be an option to help cover the cost.

What is a personal loan?

A personal loan is an installment loan that’s typically issued by a bank, credit union or online lender. According to the Federal Reserve, the average interest rate on a two-year personal loan is 10.22% but varies depending on your credit score and other criteria. Some lenders offer repayment terms anywhere from 12 months to five years.

A benefit of using a personal loan for emergency home improvement projects is that the approval process is generally quick so you can address urgent home repairs sooner. Some online lenders can run a credit check, approve your application and send funds your way with a couple of days. The approval process for banks and credit unions, on the other hand, can take anywhere from a couple of days to a couple of weeks, if the lender needs additional information.

How to find a personal loan

If you’ve decided that a personal loan makes sense to fund your next home project, make sure you’re aware of these next steps.

1. Assess your budget

The last thing you need is taking out a personal loan only to realize after the fact that you can’t afford to repay it. Calculate how much you realistically need for your home improvement project, giving yourself a reasonable buffer for unforeseen repair expenses (e.g. permit fees, price changes for a specific material, etc.)

Then, tally your monthly income and financial obligations to ensure you still have enough cash on hand to keep the lights on and make monthly installments toward your loan. Using a spreadsheet or budgeting app can help you track these numbers easily.

2. Know your credit score

Generally, you need a good credit score to get approved for a personal loan. Your credit score is one of the key factors that lenders use to determine whether your application is approved, and a higher credit score results in a lower interest rate offer.

Check your credit score with the three credit bureaus to ensure there isn’t an error or suspicious activity that might inadvertently lower your credit score. For a free credit report, go to AnnualCreditReport.com to see where your credit stands before moving forward in the process.

3. Compare rates and terms

When you’ve confirmed that you have a good credit score that can get you competitive interest rates, it’s tempting to accept a loan from the first lender that approves you. But like other major purchases, it’s important to shop around.

Compare interest rates, annual percentage rates (APR), and term durations available, and read the fine print for any conditions or fees that might offset any benefits.

To start, try reaching out to your existing financial institution first to see what they can offer; sometimes credit unions, in particular, offer rate incentives for loyal members. Also, consider using a personal loan aggregator website to compare offers from multiple online lenders at once (just do your due diligence to ensure the site is legitimate).

4. Submit an application

If you’re ready to submit an application, you can either complete a form online or apply in-person, depending on your lender. Although all lenders require different information to process a loan application, some common information to prepare ahead of time include:

  • Personal information
  • Income
  • Employment information
  • Reason for the loan
  • Amount you want to borrow

 

To minimize any delays on your end, it’s helpful to prepare copies of verification documents, such as a driver’s license, proof of address like a utility statement, information about your home and pay stubs. Your prospective lender will likely reach out to you if they need any other information to make a decision.

Although it’s always best to have emergency savings set aside for a sudden home improvement project, turning to a personal loan is a useful option when you’re pressed for funds and time. As urgent as your project might feel, however, always take the time to do your research to ensure you’re making the right move for your situation.


Posted on October 24, 2019 at 6:14 pm
Lynly Callaway | Posted in Living | Tagged , , , , , ,

Prepare Your Home for Winter

As the days shorten, you can mitigate many mid-winter headaches with some preemptive prep. Proper weatherizing can help protect your home from preventable damage, save money on energy costs, and, most importantly, keep you and your loved ones safe and warm throughout the winter season. Here is a useful checklist to manage your weatherization project. Setting aside some time on a couple of weekend days should be more than enough to knock this out:

 

Cracks & Leaks

Examine your entire house for any cracks and leaks, from your roof to your baseboards, to your basement and foundation. With unpredictable winter weather, these cracks and leaks are how the outside gets in, causing cold drafts and water damage.

Luckily, most cracks don’t require a professional to handle it. Depending on your house type and age, it’s likely you’ll be able to do it yourself with supplies from your local hardware store.

 

Windows & Doors:

Gaps and breaks in windows and doors is another way to let the winter in your home, and they can let heat escape, raising your heat bill throughout the season.

Make sure seals are tight and no leaks exist. If you have storm windows, make sure you put them on before the cold season begins. Additionally, add weather-strips and or a door sweep to prevent drafts and keep the heat in.

 

Rain Gutters: 

Clean your rain gutters of any debris. In colder climates, the buildup will cause gutters to freeze with ice, crack and then leak.

Once you have removed the residue from the drains, test them by running hose water to make sure cracks and leaks have not already formed. Even in warmer locales, the buildup can put undue stress on your roof and home.

 

Pipes: 

Protecting your pipes from freezing should be your number one priority this winter. A burst pipe can quickly become a disaster in any home.

Remember to turn off your exterior water source and take in your hose. Internally, wrapping your pipes is a recommended precaution to take.

 

Heating System:

Annual checks are vital in avoiding dangers such as house fires. Replace filters if you use a furnace and clear out any vents and ducts that carry heat through them. If you have baseboard heat, wipe them of dust and remove any debris that might catch fire.

 

Fireplace & Wood Burning Stoves:

Make sure to have chimneys and air vents cleaned early in the season if you are planning on warming your home with a wood-burning source. When your fireplace is not in use make sure to close the damper, some resources estimate an open damper can increase energy consumption by as much as 30%, increasing your bill about $200.

 

Outside: 

Bring your patio furniture inside or cover it for the winter. Don’t forget other, smaller items such as your tools, including the hose and planting pots. Clear out any piles around the side of your house, checking for cracks and holes in your home and foundation as you go so to avoid providing shelter for unwelcome guests over the cold season.

If your property has large trees check for loose branches and call someone to trim back any limbs that may fall in your yard, on your roof or even damage a window.

 

Emergency Kit: 

Lastly, make sure your emergency kit is up to date with provisions, batteries, fresh water, food for animals, entertainment for kids – especially if you live in an area prone to power outages.


Posted on October 10, 2019 at 2:29 am
Lynly Callaway | Posted in Living | Tagged , , , , , , ,

Benefits, Risks and Things to Consider Before You Add an Accessory Dwelling Unit to Your Home

Have you ever rented the unit in someone’s basement? Maybe your spouse’s mother moved into your “Mother-In-Law Unit” above your garage? Or have you ever travelled and stayed in a pool house for your stay? Commonly referred to as “Mother-In-Law” units, homeowners use these as a way to fill the space in their home and gain residual income, either from vacationers or long-term tenants.

The official terms for these units are Additional Dwelling Units (ADU) or Detached Additional Dwelling Units (DADU’s), and are defined as extra spaces in homes and on properties where someone can live completely independent of the main house.

These units can be almost anywhere on the property, but they are usually located in the basement, in the backyard, or above the garage. They have their own bathroom and kitchen facilities, and sometimes they share laundry with the main house.

Thinking of adding an accessory dwelling unit to your home? Here are some benefits and risks, as well as important aspects to consider before you build:

Benefits

Homeowners can maximize their investment by renting out the extra space to long-term tenants for short-term vacationers. These tenants can help pay off debt or create an extra stream of income to pay for other needs or wants.

Depending on several factors, including the size of the unit, the market in the area, and other factors, each homeowner should decide which option they are more comfortable with. These decisions should be made before they list the unit for rent to best market to the right audience.

 

Risks

An obvious risk is that when you open your space to a stranger, there’s a possibility that things might end poorly. Either the tenants could turn out to be untrustworthy, or unreliable, leading to a financial burden.

To minimize the risks, it’s a good idea to use an application process to check backgrounds and employment history as a tool to get to know the potential tenant. Make sure to adhere to the National Fair Housing Laws and your local regulations.

Things to Consider:

  • What are the shared spaces?
    • Would you be comfortable sharing those spaces, and potentially appliances, with a new person each weekend, or would you rather get to know the long-term tenant who would use those on a consistent basis?
    • Rooms like the kitchen can be great for those who want to get more interaction from their vacation renters. However, sharing one bathroom between the homeowners and the visitors can be uncomfortable and risky.
    • Would you be okay with a long-term renter using your laundry facilities? What kind of access would they need to the house in order to use those machines?
  • What is the size of the ADU/DADU?
    • Is it truly a space where someone could live, or would it be too tight to fit all the necessary appliances?
    • Does the unit adhere to your local housing codes as a livable space?
  • How close are the units and what noise level are you comfortable with?
    • As a long-term landlord, tenants have the right to quiet enjoyment without the landlord barging into their space or controlling their activities. If the unit is in the basement and the tenant has friends or family over, that noise could permeate into your unit in the late hours of the night. A way to prevent this is to be sure to layout quiet hours and expectations before they sign the lease or make an agreement so that you and the tenant are on the same page.
    • The same goes for the rules in the vacation rental listing. Managing expectations is the first way to create a relationship with the tenants, even those there for the weekend.
  • What improvements are required to make the unit livable?
    • Do you need to add a kitchen or a bathroom? What are the costs associated with those improvements and would the market-rate rental prices make up for those improvements? You might not get your money back within the year, but if you’re dedicated to making the space worth it to rent it out over the next few years, these improvements, and financial obligations are necessary.
    • If these initial investments aren’t viable for your situation, it might be a good idea to look at other options to earn rent from your home, including adding roommates with whom you’re willing to share all the common spaces.

 

Whatever you decide, it’s important to be familiar with the rental market and regulations in both your local region and your neighborhood.  If you have questions, let me know. I am happy to help!


Posted on September 26, 2019 at 3:24 am
Lynly Callaway | Posted in Living | Tagged , , , , , ,

Refresh Your Home With These Home Improvements

The craving to move happens to every homeowner as they start to feel bogged down, or like they need a restart. That sense of newness doesn’t have to be dramatic, however. The great part about having a home of your own is you can make improvements and give your home a chance to evolve over time. You just need to help your home live up to its potential!

These are seven of our favorite improvements to help you make the most of your home.

1. Find Your Home’s Purpose

Each home is as unique as its owners, so in order to fully utilize your home, consider how you view your home’s purpose. Some people like to entertain, others find it a calm space in the frenzy of daily life; some nurture their families and others nurture their creativity. Your home’s purpose can be any combination of these and more, but it helps to consider the function of your space in order to ultimately find its purpose. Knowing your home’s purpose will help guide you as you move room to room while you refresh the space.

2. Assemble a List

Create a list of haves/needs/wants. Answer questions like: what is it about the space that isn’t working; how could it work better to fulfill the purpose; where could I move some of my items to make them feel new again?

3. Make an “Inspiration Board”

An “inspiration board” is a great way to visualize your home’s decor. You can create a board online with a tool like Pinterest to organize ideas you love, you can also use the ‘Save’ feature on Instagram, or the old-fashioned way with a cork board and magazines. Doing this will allow you to see all the elements you like in one place so that you can then tie it all together into a room you love.

 

Photo Credit: @Krista4Coral on Instagram

4. Choose a New Palate

Renew the lighting and color by shaking up your color palate. It’s easy to fall into the white/beige standby to keep our rooms neutral, but sometimes a color that provides a contrast to your décor will make the room pop. Add a new color to the palate, refresh a wall with an accent color that you already feature in your decor, or overhaul your curtains and throws with a brand new hue.

5. Rearrange

Moving furniture around is another easy way to reinvent your space. Try placing your sofa on an angle to open up your entertaining room or move your lamps to improve lighting. You can also think about moving a piece of furniture into a room to give it new life, like using a unique dresser for a credenza or a chair as a side table.

 

Photo Credit: HouseBeautiful

 

6. Create a Collection

If you have items that you like to collect, think about how to transform that collection into something you can display. If you don’t already have a collection of loved objects think about what this collection would be for you. You can center a room design around your travel souvenirs, old camera collection, figurines, unique plates, or familial objects. Adding to this collection over time can be a great way to keep your spaces new while maintaining a personal feel to your decor.

7. Find Design Motivation

Home design evolves over time and can be sustained by finding items that inspire you. Read magazines and books that inspire your interests in architecture, design, art, etc. Or find stores and flea markets that sell pieces that influence your aesthetic. Another way to get in-tune and keep your aesthetic with you is to bring a camera with you when you’re doing your favorite activities and bring back memories or inspirations.

 

Important Note: Have fun with it! Homes and aesthetics evolve over time, add and subtract as you go, and don’t stress if the room doesn’t feel finished. You’ll get there eventually.


Posted on July 11, 2019 at 1:46 am
Lynly Callaway | Posted in Living | Tagged , , , , , ,

Beyond Alexa – Other Smart Appliances You Can Use In Your Home

The nation’s largest home-building company, Lennar, now integrates Amazon’s “Alexa” smart speaker system as a function in new homes they construct. In the United States alone there are reportedly at least 39 million privately owned smart speakers, and the growth seems likely to only continue. With an eye to the future, we decided to shine a light on a few other “smart” products that can help enhance your home.

Smart Doorbells

  • While the iconic heavy door-knocker of 19thcentury Victorian may hold its appeal, high-tech doorbells are an increasingly popular option.
  • The Amazon-owned Ring Doorbell is the pace-setter for this rapidly growing industry, allowing for remote monitoring of your home via video, two-way talking functionality, and WiFi-connectivity to allow homeowners to keep tabs on their property no matter how far they roam.
  • If you’d like to go elsewhere, the market is flush with alternate options. SkyBell’s ringer allows for free cloud storage of video, while the Zmodo Greet Smart model allows for easy installation using your previous doorbell’s hardware, and comes at a price over $100 under most of the notable options.

Smart Refrigerators

  • Much has been said of the lamentations regarding the loss in popularity of the family dinner around the table. If your family is drawn to their phones when it’s time to get meals going, a smart refrigerator may be the trick to centering things around the kitchen and dining room again.
  • The brands may be familiar but the appliances are all-new. GE, Kenmore, Samsung, and Whirlpool are just a few household names involved in the exciting world of smart appliances.
  • The options are wide-ranging in functionality – from Alexa-connected Kenmore smart fridges to Samsung’s full home command center, you can control temperatures in the fridge and in your home, play music and videos, and even pull up recipes on-screen to help your tech-savvy family follow along step-by-step.

Smart Energy Monitors

  • Most people like doing things that are energy-efficient, but when it’s financially challenging it’s tough to make that choice. The best products, then, are those that check both boxes.
  • Energy monitors like those from Sense, CURB, and Neurio offer the ability to connect into your appliances and circuit board, monitoring energy usage from your smartphone.
  • How often are you likely to check your appliances unless they suddenly break down? With these monitors, not only can you maintain appropriate energy usage, you can identify issues before they become disasters.

Posted on May 9, 2019 at 12:44 am
Lynly Callaway | Posted in Living | Tagged , , , , , , , , ,