Virginia Real Estate Blog

Top Fireplace Questions

Ready for the snap, crackle and pop of a roaring fire? Fireplaces are one of the most sought-after home features, but using one can be intimidating, and you’ve probably got questions. Here’s a quick guide to get you and your fire started this fall.

How do I use a wood-burning fireplace?

1. Get your chimney inspected

Safety is your first priority! Have your fireplace and chimney inspected by a licensed professional. This is something you should do every year, before the first fire of the season.

2. Prepare the fireplace

Clean out any old ashes with a broom (make sure they’re cool, of course). Check that the damper is open and working properly.

3. Gather and prep your wood

Use seasoned hardwood that has been split and dried for at least six months — preferably for a year. Seasoned hardwood logs should be dark and cracked at the ends, and they should make a hollow sound when knocked together. To construct a long-lasting fire, place a rolled-up ball of newspaper or fire started beneath the grates. Then lay pieces of narrow, finely split wood in a crisscross pattern on the grates, called kindling. Finish the stack by securely resting one to three dry logs over the kindling.

4. Prime the flue

This step heats the cold air inside the flue so you don’t get a backup of smoke. Before you light the fire, light a tightly rolled-up sheet of newspaper, and hold it toward the open damper. Keep it there for a minute or two until you see the smoke going up the chimney.

5. Light it up!

Now you’re ready to light your fire and enjoy. If the fire starts to go out, gently fan the flames with folded newspaper or use a poker to get the air flowing again. Add logs to the fire with tongs to provide more fuel. When the fire has gone out for the night, close the metal or glass doors before you go to bed.

Are fireplaces efficient?

It depends....

Get Your Home Ready For Guests This Holiday Season

Hosting a holiday gathering can be a lot of fun, but perhaps a bit intimidating, too. You want your house to look its best, but now isn’t the time to undertake any major updates.

Chances are, you’re busy enough get ready for the event. So, focus on just the areas of your house where your guests will spend time.

Whether you’re a first-time party host with a few jitters or an old pro looking for some new ideas, these tips will help you ensure that your home is ready for any gathering.

Light the way

The sun sets early this time of year, so it’s important to make sure the entrance to your home is clean and well-lit.

If you have a large front yard, focus on the entryway and the path leading up to it. Install porch lights or replace the bulbs if needed. Cut back any shrubbery that is obstructing the walkway.

On the day of your party, open the blinds on the front windows so your guests can see into your warm, festive-looking home as they approach. It’s a great way to create a sense of welcoming anticipation.

Pro tip: The easiest way to create instant lighting for walkways and paths is with the solar lights that you just stick into the ground. The sun does the rest of the work!

Take care of the bottom line

Our mothers used to say this, and it’s true: If your floors are spotless, they make your whole house look cleaner.

Even if you’re unable to do an in-depth house cleaning before your gathering, make sure your floors have been cleaned before that first guest steps over the threshold.

Pro tip: If you have carpeting, clean the carpets a minimum of three days ahead of your affair so they have time to dry fully.

Brighten up your bathroom

If you’re bothered by grimy-looking grout in your bathroom, try this...

Protecting Your House After Snow

Who doesn’t love a snow day? Cuddling on the couch with a mug of hot cocoa while watching holiday movies can make anyone not want to venture out into the cold. Next time you find yourself in this spot, it will be a good idea to head out for half an hour to protect your home, especially if you want to sell in the future. Once your driveways and sidewalks are shoveled, check out these tips on protecting your home that you may not have considered.

Clear Your Vents: Make sure your furnace vents are clear of snow. Carbon monoxide could build up if your furnace vent is blocked.  A blocked vent may also cause a hot water heater to quit functioning. Use a broom to remove any snow.

Uncover Fire Hydrants: If you live near a fire hydrant, you should take a few minutes to dig it out if you notice it is covered - this can help a firefighter if there is an emergency!

Unblock Ice Dams: Be sure to check your gutters for ice dams. When ice dams are present and water backs up, it slows the water melting off the roof behind it and that water then seeps under the shingles and into the house.

Sweep Off Hot Tubs: Always broom off your hot tub if you happen to own one. The weight of heavy snow can cause the cover to buckle in the middle.

Shovel Decks:  If there is more than half a foot of snow, you may want to consider clearing it from your deck. Using plastic shovels can help prevent unwanted scratching on your deck material. Avoid using ice melter or salt as it could damage wood decks.

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3 Ideas for Turning Your Home Into a Winter Haven

What better time to turn your home into a warm and welcoming den than during the chilly winter months? With just a little investment and some ingenuity, you can bring a distinctive winter-friendly look into your home. Here are three concepts to inspire you and some tips to get you started.

Look 1: The British study

The vibe: This look is a perfect fit for a snowy winter day. Filled with shelves of leather-bound tomes, tufted chesterfield sofas and focused lighting from brass sconces, the study is the perfect spot to curl up with a favorite novel, enjoy a cup of tea or nap away the afternoon.

Get the look

Built-in bookcases can get expensive, but two or three flat-pack units arranged tightly in a row can nearly fill a wall without breaking the budget. Fill the shelves with as many books as you can find — the fuller the better. Check out garage sales, thrift shops, and library clearance sales for additional hardback books if you’re short.

While you may not have a tufted leather sofa on hand, any love seat positioned in front of the bookcases will look dramatic. Instead of square throw pillows, try round bolsters in the corners for a more formal style. A vintage-style rug is perfect underneath.

For the coziest of lighting in the evenings, add sconces to your bookcases. Inexpensive clip-on downlights work perfectly in a pinch. Floor reading lamps placed behind the sofa are another great option to pull this room together. 

Look 2: The Scandinavian chalet

The vibe: Crisp white paint, whitewashed wood, and neutral furnishings make even the gloomiest of days feel bright.

This aesthetic is definitely modern, yet it’s touched with woodsy rusticity and directly connected to nature. Winter-friendly accessories bring in a bit more comfort and prevent the space from feeling cold.

Get the look

Compatible with the popular all-white...

Dream Home Checklist

Pre-approved? Know what you can afford? That means it is time to start house hunting! The hunt for your dream home can stall quickly if you aren’t sure what your “dream” looks like.

It’s easy to talk in generalities about wanting a “big” house or an “older” home, but in order to have a more specific real estate search, you must think specifically about the features you want or need. Will your “big” house be 2,400 square feet or 5,000? When you say “older” home, do you mean one built pre-1950, or pre-2000?

Before continuing on the search, sit down and make a list of your needs and wants — and yes, those are two different things. Think about the things that are needed (amount of bedrooms, yard space, garage, etc.) and the rest of the things that would be nice, but you probably could live without it (pool, etc.)

It is important to note that your lists will most likely change as you learn more about your housing options. Location, such as proximity to the beach, may start as a priority, but once you see the size of ocean-front homes in your price range, the drive to the beach may be more reasonable. Unless you have an unlimited or extremely flexible budget, there will probably need to be compromises along the way.

Below are tips and questions to help you figure out what you do and don’t like about your current home, so that you can find more comfort and pleasure in your dream home. Take the time to rank specific home features in lists such as “Must Have,” “Like to Have,” and “Don’t Care.”

Know your finances

Having your finances in order before house-hunting can make all the difference in a competitive market. Determining your budget and how much financial wiggle room you have can help clarify your must-haves.Ask yourself: 

  • Are you pre-approved for a mortgage?...

10 New Real Estate Trends

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Current trends in real estate include a mix of positive and negative developments. The market has been heavily affected by the Covid-19 pandemic that has created a new housing environment which is expected to alter the way we approach real estate for the next few years, and maybe beyond.

Here are the 10 key emerging real estate trends:

1. Increased Homeownership – Homeownership rates have increased in 2020 and are expected to rise by 5% by the end of 2021.

2. Lower Interest Rates – Lower consumer spending during stay-at-home orders have resulted in lower interest rates, helping affordability ratios.

3. Steep Increase in Housing Prices – Real estate has entered a seller’s market that may increase inventory, slowing the pace.

4. Millennial Home Buying Strong – Millennials comprise 38% of the home buyers and seek mid-to-upper-middle class homes.

5. Affordable Homes Popular – 87% of the homes purchased were resale as millennials opted for homes needing TLC and updating over turnkey properties.

6. Shift to Second-Tier Cities – Real estate investors and buyers moved out of high-cost markets to second-tier cities and suburbs.

7. Technology Impact – Real estate professionals are using online home selling platforms, apps, social media, and smart home technology to enhance effectiveness.

8. Mortgage Interest Rates Expected to Settle – As the economy continues to grow, experts expect interest rates to rise and then settle.

9. More Demand for Luxury Homes – In the 3rd quarter of 2020, high-end home sales increased 60.7% year-over-year and this trend is expected to continue as more buyers prioritize an at-home lifestyle.

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Special Benefits of the VA Loan

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Our military veterans have given so much to this country. To make it easier for these special families to qualify for and purchase a home, Veteran Affairs has a unique loan offer reserved only for retired and active military.

The VA loan offers mortgage options unavailable to the general public.

• No Down Payment – While zero down loans disappeared in the real estate bubble of the last decade, VA loans allow our military to buy a house without the stress of trying to save the down payment.

• Easier to Qualify – Most loans require a credit score of 650 or higher. Qualifying for a VA loan only requires a FICO score of 620.

• No PMI – PMI (private mortgage insurance) is required for any loan where the loan-to-value falls below 80%.

• Limits on Fees – VA borrowers are protected by strict limits to fees and closing costs. Lenders financing a VA loan cannot charge more than 1% for loan costs whereas typical financing can run as high as 2.4–3%.

• Appraisal Assistance – At times homebuyers run into problems when the appraisal does come back high enough to purchase the home at the agreed-upon price. When this happens, the VA can help by diligently reviewing the report and comparable properties and then asking the lender to adjust the appraisal if it determines that the value is not accurate.

The VA loan is a special loan program offered only to our active and retired military. These families have sacrificed so much for their country, the VA loan might be the only way these families can buy a home of their own.

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5 Tips to Create a Home Bar

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So many businesses have been affected by the events of 2020, causing permanent and temporary closures of many of our favorite spots—including the corner bar. The local watering hole has always been a great place to meet friends, watch sports, and unwind after work. Many homeowners have used this time at home to work on home improvement projects. Why not consider adding or improving a home bar to the list? Making simple changes can have a large impact.

1. Moody Paint – Carve out an unused nook and paint it a dark, masculine color. Think of the old speakeasy with dark wood and soft lighting.

2. Sophisticated Seating – If your space allows, create a lounge-style atmosphere with barstools or a bistro set. A black or wood finish will emphasize the feel of a bar.

3. Stock Up – The key to a great bar is having the right tools and ingredients. Retailers offer a variety of styles for such items as shakers, muddlers, corkscrews, among others. Don’t forget the alcohol and mixers.

4. Open Up – Open glass shelving will showcase your style. Save money by displaying the liquor bottles themselves instead of decanters.

5. Make It Mobile – If you don’t have extra space for your bar, there are a multitude of bar carts to not only suit your style but allow you to go where the party is.

If you’ve exhausted your weekend honey-do list, consider spending a little time to create a home bar. With a little thought and attention, you can entertain in style, even if you’re alone.

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Fall and Holiday Décor Listing Tips

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If you have your home on the market, it’s natural to want to create the perfect environment for potential homebuyers. This includes not only professional staging services but also time-honored tips like freshly baked treats and seasonal décor. As we transition from summer to the holiday season, however, it’s interesting to note that fall decorating is the least appreciated by home visitors.

The cinnamon scents and pumpkin-everything that greets the senses in stores and coffee shops can be overwhelming in a home environment. You may enjoy a nice cookie-dough candle, but many people don’t agree. A tasteful, welcoming fall wreath on the front door is fine, but in general, fall is a time best ignored by home sellers.

The holiday season can bring family challenges as well. When your house is on the market, this is not the time to continue the tradition of the neighborhood Haunted House with cobwebs hanging from every gutter. Far better to place a strategic jack-o-lantern or tasteful pumpkin pile. Talk about these kinds of changes in advance with younger children who may not understand the need to keep the house fully accessible and de-personalized.

Having your home listed for sale is a special time and requires some sacrifice. The holiday season can bring more emotional challenges as well. A sense of nostalgia is only accentuated by the lack of family traditional décor. Consider carefully what to include and exclude. Scale back the unnecessary decorating extras and concentrate on the special few items. In this way, you can still celebrate your family traditions while appealing to homebuyers looking for their own place to call home.

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Home Improvements During Labor Shortage

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Tight labor markets are affecting industries across the country. Skilled and unskilled jobs remain unfilled as employers struggle to find prospective employees. For anyone ready to hire a contractor or handyman to perform home improvement projects, this shortage is causing frustration. As more people embrace the “staycation” and seek ways to upgrade their homes, many are finding few tradesmen to even come to provide estimates, much less schedule the work. If you are trying to find good people to help with home improvement projects, there are still a few ways to achieve your goals. Here are a few tips to help you find a professional to help with your project.

• Social Media – One great way to find reputable laborers is to ask for help from local social media groups. Apps like Facebook and Next Door have local groups where you can ask for help. Make sure to mention where you got the referral; the tradesmen will want to live up to the referral and are more likely to provide good, timely service.

• Big Box Stores – Home improvement stores like Lowes and Home Depot offer a wide variety of in-home services. They also have referral services for projects outside their scope and these contractors keep the stores happy by providing good service to homeowners.

• Online Service – There are sites like Angie’s List and Home Advisor where professionals pay for leads. Because they have paid for the contact, they tend to be more likely to follow through on the project.

The labor shortage is affecting all aspects of life right now. If you have a home improvement or upgrade project, there is no reason to put off the work. Try these tips for finding qualified and vetted help.

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Brightening Your Space This Winter

Lightening up your space isn’t just for visual appeal. As winter continues, that means that the days will continue to be shorter. Brightening your space will help maximize the light you get every day, no matter how much daylight you have. Having a bright space not only looks better, but it can help you feel better too. Here are some ways to brighten your space.

Paint it!

You don’t need white walls to have a bright space. If you pick paint colors that are saturated but still light, your walls will still reflect light. Consider using a bright, soft sage  or similar colors that can bring new life and extra light to your space. 

Use Mirrors

If you have a room that gets natural light but just not enough, add mirrors! Strategically placing mirrors to reflect natural light will make that room come alive.

Keep Contrast

Don’t just paint every wall white. If every surface in your kitchen is white, it will get a little dull - and hard to maintain. Add a colorful backsplash or update your kitchen accessories to complement your white cabinets or walls.

Update Window Treatments

Your curtains may be stopping that natural light from entering your home. Consider replacing your window treatments with something sheer or semi-sheer, that will still provide privacy while allowing light in.

Replace Doors

If you house isn’t full of windows and you aren’t ready to install new windows in your home, consider a door replacement....

5 Must-Have Tech Items for Your Kitchen

Technology advances are constantly happening all around us and it can be hard to keep up. While you may be eyeing that new iPhone set to release, keep in mind that there is plenty of tech out there that can help make your day-to-day life so much easier. When it comes to kitchen tech, it seems like something new is being announced everywhere you turn. Here are some great new tech items that can make life in the kitchen just a little bit easier.

The Range Thermometer

Always checking temperatures when trying to make a big meal can become overwhelming. Avoid the headache and pick up a Range Thermometer. You can insert the thermometer portion into the deepest part of whatever you’re cooking, and from an app, you can set up an alert for whenever your meal reaches that temperature. Remove the guessing and find comfort in being able to leave the oven and actually enjoy the time while you have guests in the house.

Smarter Kettle

Are you an avid tea drinker? If you feel like you’re wasting time waiting for your water to boil, the Smarter Kettle would be a great addition to your kitchen. With wi-fi capabilities, you can pick a temperature and turn your kettle on right from your phone, so you’ve got boiling water for tea whenever you need it!

Quirky Egg Minder

If eggs are a big part of your daily meals, this may be a great tool for you. This egg minder sends you notifications when you need to buy eggs, and it has LED lights to alert you when your eggs are going bag.

Taylor Digital Measuring Cup

Is baking one of your favorite activities? If so, precision is probably a big deal to you. This measuring cup will weigh your items while also indicating the volume and it can convert from ounces to grams for you!

DaysAgo...

Back-to-School Home Organization Tips

After a few months of having your kids at home throughout the day, sometimes organization and order go out the window. On top of the other stresses that come with a new school year, a messy house adds just another kink in the transition from summer break to school time. Instead of trying to manage the chaos while school shopping and preparing for the new year, tackle these home organization steps now so that you can stress a little less when you drop them off on their first day back!


1. Clean out the fridge, clear it off, and restock!

Get your fridge ready for the new year. Instead of scrambling that first week back, clear out any expired foods now and get lunch supplies. Clear off all of the summer projects and invitations for events that have passed, and put any helpful information for the school year up on the fridge.

2. Inventory the kids’ closets.

Back-to-school shopping is often the best part of the process for your children. But before you head out, take an inventory of what they already have. Get rid of anything that doesn’t fit and see what they may need instead of guessing while you are out shopping. Once you’ve made room for new items, organize what is left so adding new clothes and finding that first day outfit will be a breeze.

3. Create your own mission control center.

Take advantage of that wall you’ve been struggling to decorate and create a mission control center for your family. Add a calendar, a folder for each child, notepads, writing tools, and anything else that will help keep your entire family on the same page.

4. Work on making a menu.

Even when lunches are handled, dinners can be overwhelming during the school year. Between sports, activities, and everything in between, sometimes making...

Why Credit Checks During Closing Are Important

You've found your dream home. After months of searching, you're finally closing on the house that you've wanted for so long. The last thing you want to do is take any action that would interfere with the closing of your home. Since the start of your home search, your agent has probably told you time and time again not to do anything that would impact your credit score, like opening a new line of credit or making a large purchase. While this makes sense during the approval process, you may wonder why it is key to keep your credit in check until after closing. Here is an explanation of the 2 credit checks performed during the home-buying process and why it is important to maintain your credit from start to finish.

Pre-Approval Credit Check

To get a loan to purchase a home, you'll go through a pre-qualification process. You'll let your potential lender know a variety of financial information, from your credit score and employment to your marital status, as well as any number of factors that can impact your qualification. With this self-reported information, you can then be pre-approved. After that, lenders will verify the information you've provided and this is when they will pull your credit history. It is important that what you've reported matches the credit information pulled by the lender - which is why you shouldn't miss any payments or open new cards during this time. Lenders offer approval based on a risk assessment, and you do not want...

Long Distance House Hunting

Regular house-hunting isn't always easy, but adding distance into the mix can present challenges you don't have when looking a few neighborhoods over for a new home. While it may not be a walk in the park to buy a home from far away, it is possible. If you find a great agent and follow these steps, you can take away some of the stress that comes with moving long-distance.

1. Start Your Research

Knowing what is in your neighborhood is something we tend to take for granted. You know where the best sushi place is and exactly what grocery store is closest to your home for those last minute runs. When moving to a new neighborhood, especially in a new state, it is key to decide what is important to you when it comes to proximity. Does your new house need to be near a park for your kids? Do you need to be 5 minutes from the closest Starbucks? You'll also want to look into crime rates and school ratings if you have children. Researching your potential neighborhoods will help you feel better about choosing a new home that may be far away.

2. Use Technology To Your Advantage

Google Maps may not be constantly updated, but checking out an aerial view can give you an idea of what your neighborhood looks like if you don't have the opportunity to travel right away. Getting the lay of the land is just another way to feel comfortable about your new neighborhood.

3. Have a Travel Budget

Even...

Repairs to Make Before Selling Your Home

So you’re ready to put your home on the market and to you, everything looks great. Unfortunately, much of the wear and tear on your home becomes unnoticeable when it is something you see everyday. While you may not think about the one light switch that doesn’t work or the chipping paint in the guest bedroom, now is the time to take a step back and look at your home with fresh eyes. When you decide to sell your home, the first thing you should do is make any repairs you can to save yourself money in the long run. Here are a few repairs to cross off so you can get the best deal for your home!

1. Paint Your Walls

Re-painting the rooms that need a fresh face is the cheapest way to update the appearance of your home. Consider using light, neutral colors to appeal to a broader group of buyers. If the room is too dark or has chipped or dirty paint, make it look brand new with a coat of paint. 

2. Make Minor Kitchen Repairs

Even if your kitchen isn’t large and spacious, a full renovation might not make sense financially. If your agent doesn’t advise you towards a renovation, consider making minor repairs instead. Paint what needs painted and install new fixtures where necessary. If your appliances aren’t operating properly or are in awful shape, you will need to replace them.

3. Update Your Bathroom

The first priority is making sure your bathroom looks clean....

Spring Lawn Recovery

Winter is now just a memory, but the damage done to your lawn isn’t. If you’re in an area where temperatures drop severely and winter storms are constant, your lawn has probably suffered. Now that spring is in full swing and summer will be here before we know it, it is time to give your lawn a little TLC. Here are the steps to turn your lawn from an eyesore into a sight to see!

1. RAKE

Rake to remove any dead grass or other winter debris. Make sure you invest in a durable rake to easily remove larger pieces like sticks and matted leaves.  Raking will expose any patches that need attention and helps to begin preparing the soil for any reseeding that may need done. 

2. AERIFY
A core aerator uses metal tines to pull out small soil plugs, promoting more soil drainage. This will help to increase the movement of water and allow for oxygen and nutrients to enter the ground easier. If your lawn sees a great deal of traffic or it spent the winter packed with snow, this is especially important to help alleviate soil compaction and promote new growth. If you don’t have an aerating tool, you could purchase a handheld tool for small yards or rent an aerating machine for large lawns. 

3. SEED

Once you’ve seen what areas of your lawn need a little extra love, you’re ready to reseed. Take advantage of the spring weather, especially if you are in an area with frequent rain, and reseed during the warm and rainy season.

4. WATER

The goal is to keep your soil damp while waiting for those reseeded areas to grow. While reseeding during rainy seasons can be beneficial, be sure not to reseed before a major storm so that all of your hard work isn’t washed away.

5. MOW

Make sure your lawn...

Add a Spring Touch to Your Home

Even if the weather isn’t cooperating quite yet - spring is on the way! Cheering up your home with some spring decor is the perfect way to prepare for warmer days and more sunshine. Here are some options to prepare your home for the next season!


ADD AN HERB GARDEN

While they may not last outdoors with the sporadic weather of spring, bringing potted herbs into your home and letting them soak up sunlight in a kitchen window is the perfect way to add life to your home and have access to fresh herbs while you’re cooking. 

THINK SPRING 

If you are all about DIY-ing, creating simple decorations can add a pop of seasonal color to your home. Take that pair of rain boots you don’t wear anymore and turn them into planters - add bright floral arrangements and use your new decor item as an inviting piece by your front door.

POPS OF COLOR

Neutral and sleek is all the rage right now, but adding a pop of color in your normal decor can add a cheerful touch to your home. Swap out your kitchen napkins or tablecloth with something a little bit more colorful, like soft blues or pinks. Small changes can do enough to make your home feel different without being overwhelming.

FLORALS ARE ALWAYS THE ANSWER

Whether or not you already include florals in your home decor, take the time to swap out or add something new that feels like spring. While fresh flowers are a great choice, consider picking up some faux florals for the majority of your decor and saving the fresh flowers for a centerpiece. Don’t be afraid to add pops of color, specifically yellows and pinks, to create a focal point for the room. 

TOUCH UP TIME

Is there a room in your home that is just feeling drab? Maybe it is dark and uninviting,...

Eliminate Pet Odors In Your Home

Eliminating bad odors from your home is incredibly important, you want to make sure you've removed them before putting it on the market. Often times, the first thing buyers notice upon entering your home, is how it smells. If there is an odd odor, it will instantly put them off. No matter how beautifully staged and presented it is, strong odors or stale air can make your home unappealing to prospective buyers. Opening windows and exhaust fans will only go so far in removing foul odors, but won't generally eliminate it completely. To ensure you don't lose potential buyers, follow these odor eliminating tips to ensure your home smells and feels fresh and new.

Don’t Use Artificial Freshening Sprays

Don't make the mistake of spraying artificial room freshener sprays in hopes that it will remove the bad odor. Deodorizers will quickly fade, and only mask the smell, sometimes in an overwhelming way. If a buyer walks into your home, your air freshener can cause a reaction, like a runny nose or a headache, and will make them suspicious of an underlying foul odor. Instead of trying to mask it, locate the actual source of the bad odor and get rid of it.

Best Pet Carpet Cleaners for Accidents

We all love our furry friends, but unfortunately, they can get your home pretty smelly. Whether the smell is on the carpet, furniture, or even on the walls - it's essential to have it removed. Most odors stem from accidents....