Getting Ready for Spring

Winter seems endless, but spring is only a couple of weeks away and it won’t be long before you’re back in your garden.  Spring is the time for cleaning up and planting seeds, but if you want your garden to look beautiful come mid-summer then you need to prepare now.  Here are some spring cleanup tips that need to be done before you plant.  Getting ready for spring is your first chance to get your hands in the dirt and start making your garden beautiful again.

Cleaning Up the Garden

First things first, you need to clean out the garden.  If you have debris left in there from the winter it is time to clean it up and throw it out.  Don’t forget that it isn’t just your garden but your lawn too.  If you have leaves and twigs then you can use it for compost.  You can dig into the soil in the flower beds to make sure it doesn’t get hard.  If you aren’t able to do that yourself you might want to bring in a landscape company to do it for you.

Clean Out the Greenhouse

If you are fortunate enough to have a greenhouse that will also need to be cleaned up too.  Clean out the containers of plant matter and get them ready to be used again.  The floors will need to be swept out, this helps to make sure you don’t have any unwanted pests taking up residence.  You want your greenhouse to be perfect when the time comes to plant.

Start Shopping for Seeds and Bulbs

If wait until the last minute to head to the local garden center to grab your seeds and bulbs you may find them all gone, so start early.  You could end up missing out on all the beautiful colors in your garden come summer.  Double check the bulbs to make sure that they are in good condition so that when you plant they will take.  Don’t wait too long or you could end up missing your opportunity.

Fix Your Gates and Fences

If you like the plants in your garden divided up then you need to make sure that your fencing is in good condition.  You should do it for aesthetic reasons as well.  If the fencing is made of wood make sure that it has been treated and it is not being eaten by termites.  For the main fence around your yard make sure all the latches are working and repaint where you need it.

Check Your Tools

If your gardening tools sat outside or in the shed all winter it is time to get them out and make sure they are ready to be uses.  Clean and sharpen where it is needed and replace those that need replacing.  Have all the right tools before you start planting.

Get the Compost Ready

Compost and manure are essential to every beautiful garden and you’re going to need lots of it.  If you can avoid using chemical fertilizers or pesticides that can do harm to your plants or your family.

Source: ~ By: Rodney ~ Image:

Report: Homeowners 8% Richer Over the Past Year

Home equity continued to increase in the fourth quarter of 2018, with more homeowners profiting over rising home prices. U.S. homeowners with a mortgage saw their equity rise by 8.1 percent year over year in the fourth quarter of 2018, according to CoreLogic’s Home Equity Report, released Thursday.

The average homeowner has gained $9,700 in home equity between the fourth quarter of 2017 and the fourth quarter of 2018, the report showed. Western states saw some of the most significant annual gains. Nevada homeowners, for example, saw an increase of $29,400 in home equity over the past year, and Hawaii homeowners saw gains of about $26,900.

“As home prices rise, significantly more people are choosing to remodel, repair or upgrade their existing homes,” said Frank Martell, president and CEO of CoreLogic. “The increase in home equity over the past several years provides homeowners with the means to finance home remodels and repairs. With rates still ultra-low by historical standards, home-equity loans provide a low-cost method to finance home-improvement spending. These expenditures are expected to rise 5 percent in 2019.”

The number of homes with a mortgage in negative equity—where the homeowner’s loan balance is higher than the home’s current worth—was at 2.2 million, or 4.2 percent of all mortgaged properties in the fourth quarter.

However, with predictions of a 4.5 percent increase in home prices over the next year, about 350,000 homeowners could be lifted from being underwater and restored to positive equity, says Frank Nothaft, CoreLogic’s chief economist.

Source: ~ Image: CoreLogic

How much do solar panels save in 2019?

Variance in energy usage and energy cost around our great country, and even from home to home, mean that:

  • statistics on how much solar energy will save the average house are almost meaningless to a homeowner (although for those looking for solar savings stats see table below); and
  • calculating how much solar panels will save for your home requires knowledge of your power usage, your local electricity rates, local solar production and any federal, state and local solar incentives (such as the 30% federal solar tax credit) that affects the upfront cost of a solar system where you live.
Below we have included a link to a solar savings calculator that calculates how many solar panels you need to power your house, how much they will cost, your solar payback period and both monthly and lifetime solar savings. It was originally developed with funding from the Department of Energy.
We have included it below because it is the only available online solar savings calculator that uses the specific electric rates of your utility to properly calculate savings. Most others just assume a national electricity cost and so produce very inaccurate results.

How much do solar panels save the average home?

However, for folks that like statistics:

The average annual electricity consumption for a U.S. residential utility customer is 10,766 kilowatt hours (kWh) per annum, an average of 897 kWh per month. Multiply that by the national average electricity rate as of November 2017 ($0.1301 per kWh) and you’ll find that the typical American family is spending over $1,401 a year on electricity. This means that if each home was to install enough solar panels to cover their electricity bill then on average the savings from installing a residential solar system in America in 2018 would run to $1,401 per year.

However what we all really want to know is how much are the solar savings per month after the solar repayments, and how much do these savings add up to over 25 years. The solar savings for a typical home in each state are listed in the table below.

Are solar power savings real and what is avoided cost?

When we talk solar savings we are talking avoided cost. That is, the amount you would have spent on utility electricity had you not installed a solar power system on your home to provide the same power. And yes….these savings are very real. In fact, the extremely high likelihood that you will continue to need to consume electricity at your house means that solar savings are considered a very bankable investment return.

However, the first step to working out solar savings is to first understand how much electricity you use now, how much that costs you and how much electricity you are likely to use in the future.

Here is a list of the average saving that are likely to be achieved by an average US homeowner in each of the top 50 solar cities in America if they installed a 6kW solar power system on their home (a typical size of residential solar energy system in 2018.

Average monthly and lifetime solar savings by state and city in 2018

City State Average cost of Utility power $/kWh Annual Production of a 6 kW system Savings Month 1 25 year profit (savings less cost) Top rated solar companies in your city
New York New York 0.13 6882 $73.41 $23,670.01 View companies
Los Angeles California 0.17 9066 $128.44 $41,413.16 View companies
Chicago Illinois 0.12 6474 $64.74 $20,875.06 View companies
Houston Texas 0.10 7770 $64.75 $20,878.28 View companies
Phoenix Arizona 0.13 9366 $101.47 $32,716.83 View companies
Philadelphia Pennsylvania 0.13 7140 $77.35 $24,941.08 View companies
San Antonio Texas 0.10 8094 $67.45 $21,748.88 View companies
San Diego California 0.17 9024 $127.84 $41,221.30 View companies
Dallas Texas 0.10 8220 $68.50 $22,087.45 View companies
San Jose California 0.17 8694 $123.17 $39,713.88 View companies
Austin Texas 0.10 8154 $67.95 $21,910.10 View companies
Jacksonville Florida 0.11 7416 $67.98 $21,919.78 View companies
San Francisco California 0.17 8922 $126.40 $40,755.37 View companies
Columbus Ohio 0.11 6750 $61.88 $19,951.25 View companies
Indianapolis Indiana 0.12 7068 $70.68 $22,790.38 View companies
Fort Worth Texas 0.10 8544 $71.20 $22,958.05 View companies
Charlotte North Carolina 0.11 7962 $72.99 $23,533.61 View companies
Seattle Washington 0.10 5664 $47.20 $15,219.38 View companies
Denver Colorado 0.10 8682 $74.30 $23,958.74 View companies
El Paso Texas 0.10 9660 $80.50 $25,956.78 View companies
Washington District of Columbia 0.12 7620 $76.20 $24,570.27 View companies
Boston Massachusetts 0.17 6768 $95.88 $30,915.98 View companies
Detroit Michigan 0.15 7020 $87.75 $28,294.50 View companies
Nashville Tennessee 0.11 7686 $70.46 $22,717.83 View companies
Memphis Tennessee 0.11 7716 $70.73 $22,806.50 View companies
Portland Oregon 0.11 6078 $55.72 $17,964.99 View companies
Oklahoma City Oklahoma 0.10 8430 $70.25 $22,651.73 View companies
Las Vegas Nevada 0.13 9672 $104.78 $33,785.73 View companies
Louisville Kentucky 0.09 7386 $55.40 $17,861.81 View companies
Baltimore Maryland 0.14 7632 $89.04 $28,710.46 View companies
Milwaukee Wisconsin 0.15 6576 $82.20 $26,504.94 View companies
Albuquerque New Mexico 0.13 9528 $103.22 $33,282.72 View companies
Tucson Arizona 0.13 9498 $102.90 $33,177.93 View companies
Fresno California 0.17 8694 $123.17 $39,713.88 View companies
Sacramento California 0.17 8538 $120.96 $39,001.27 View companies
Mesa Arizona 0.13 9540 $103.35 $33,324.64 View companies
Kansas City Missouri 0.08 8004 $53.36 $17,205.64 View companies
Atlanta Georgia 0.12 7770 $77.70 $25,053.94 View companies
Long Beach California 0.17 9012 $127.67 $41,166.49 View companies
Colorado Springs Colorado 0.10 9270 $79.34 $25,581.38 View companies
Raleigh North Carolina 0.11 8130 $74.53 $24,030.18 View companies
Miami Florida 0.11 8040 $73.70 $23,764.16 View companies
Virginia Beach Virginia 0.10 8052 $67.10 $21,636.03 View companies
Omaha Nebraska 0.11 8172 $74.91 $24,154.32 View companies
Oakland California 0.17 8646 $122.49 $39,494.61 View companies
Minneapolis Minnesota 0.13 7788 $84.37 $27,204.64 View companies
Tulsa Oklahoma 0.10 8172 $68.10 $21,958.47 View companies
Arlington Texas 0.10 8136 $67.80 $21,861.74 View companies
New Orleans Louisiana 0.09 7278 $54.59 $17,600.63 View companies
Wichita Kansas 0.12 8388 $83.88 $27,046.64 View companies


  • Cost of utility power is an average of existing rate plans taken from the most commonly chosen utility provider in that state.
  • Forecast solar production of a 6kWp system assumes installation at an optimal tilt and azimuth, with typical insolation conditions based on the TMY2 data set and no external shading.
  • 25-year savings forecast includes an expected inflation in cost of utility power of 3% per annum.
  • The solar system is purchased for cash and owned, so the full value of avoided utility payments is held by the homeowner.

How reliable are solar savings estimates?

Solar is a long term investment and so calculating the long-term savings that you can expect from installing solar panels for your home is crucial when determining whether or not to go solar.

Forecasting residential solar savings can be more difficult that it first appears and forecasts are inherently uncertain. We here at SolarReviews are passionate about solar and renewable energies and hope that you all decide to make the investment for your home and for our planet.

However, we are also committed to consumer education and giving people valid information on which to make choices. We believe it is important that you are aware of the limitations of estimates of future solar savings when deciding to purchase solar.

What makes forecasting solar savings more difficult than other estimates?

Solar is a very long lasting product with minimum system life of at least 25 years. It is difficult to predict anything with certainty going out 25 years.

What makes this more difficult is that when calculating dollar savings we need to be accurate both as to the solar production in kilowatt hours (kwh) and also what the economic value of that production will be going out 10, 20 and 25 years (at least).

The solar energy production side of solar savings forecasts are relatively predictable and solar panels production in each climatic area is relatively well known and understood. A lot of great work has been done by the National Renewable Energy Laboratories and their PVWatts solar production calculator is considered highly accurate.

What is more difficult is forecasting the economic value of solar out as far as 25 years. The need to get this figure right to provide potential consumers with accurate figures about their savings, investment return and payback period for solar is paramount as slight variances in this inflation rate have large effects on these numbers. The assumed rate of utility inflation is a crucial ingredient in generating accurate solar savings forecasts.

What is a reasonable assumption for utility electricity price escalation and its effect on solar profitability over the next 25 years?


The average price of residential electricity in America


Image source: Institute For Energy Research

The Institute of Energy Research published research showing that the average price of residential electricity in America from 2005 until 2015 actually rose by 34%. So in annualized terms, this equates to a simple rise of 3.4% per year or a compound rise of 2.7% per year.

But is this a realistic assumption we can use to justify the assertion that utility prices will continue to rise at these rates. I think it is.. and here is why. During the same period as covered by the image above the Institute of Energy Research also reported that gas prices, the fuel used to create a lot of our electricity, actually fell 60%. If gas prices had stayed flat over this period then utility power price inflation would have run at more like 5%. For this reason, I am quite comfortable about solar companies using an assumed electricity price inflation rate of 3.5 % for the coming 25 years, although I acknowledge it is an educated guess at best.

There is certainly also a case to be made for the proposition that utility rate inflation may actually be higher than this as governments increasingly become aware of the urgency of tackling climate change and put in place more and more policies to subsidize renewable energy. The latest climate reporting from the four most respected meteorological agencies in the world, including NASA and the Japanese Environment Ministry show that the globe has already warmed by around 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit since 1980, or about .7%. It is thought a global warming of 4% will lead to an extinction of human life on earth. There seems to be a bit of a media disinterest in climate change at the moment but the urgency of the issue will come back more and more into the public consciousness as we start to see more and more physical manifestations of climate change.

Source: ~ By: Andrew Sendy ~ Image:

6 home renovations that return the most at resale

Whether you plan to stay in your house a long time or just a few years, it’s smart to know which home renovations add the most value to your place.

“Remodeling,” a magazine for the construction industry, in its 2018 Cost vs. Value report, compares the average cost of 21 remodeling projects in 149 markets with the value those projects retain at resale in 100 U.S. markets.

Here are the six interior remodeling projects that deliver the highest return.

1. Garage door replacement

  • Average cost: $3,470
  • Average resale value: $3,411
  • Cost recouped: 98.3%

A good-looking garage door tops the list when it comes to returning cash to your pocket, the Cost vs. Value report shows. This project involves removing an existing 16-by-7-foot garage door and replacing it with a new four-section garage door with heavy-duty galvanized steel tracks. This curb-appeal enhancer will get you back almost every dollar you spent on it when you sell your house.

2. Manufactured stone veneer

  • Average cost: $8,221
  • Average resale value: $7,986
  • Cost recouped: 97.1%

Replacing vinyl siding on your house for stone veneer is a big aesthetic improvement. The vinyl siding is replaced with adhered manufactured stone veneer. This is another major curb-enhancing upgrade that will get you back over 97 percent of your costs.

3. Entry door replacement (steel)

  • Average cost: $1,471
  • Average resale value: $1,344
  • Cost recouped: 91.3%

You will recoup over 91 percent of your cost by replacing your 36-by-80-inch entry door with a 20-gauge steel door, complete with clear dual-pane half-glass panel, jambs and an aluminum threshold with composite stop. These doors come factory-finished with the same color on the front and back sides.

4. Deck addition (wood)

  • Average cost: $10,950
  • Average resale value: $9,065
  • Cost recouped: 82.8%

One advantage of owning a house is having yard space. Nothing enhances a yard like a wood deck. This project involves adding a 16-by-20-foot deck, including a railing system with pressure-treated wood posts, railings and balusters. This feature will hold more than 82 percent of its value come resell time.

5. Minor kitchen remodel

  • Average cost: $21,198
  • Average resale value: $17,193
  • Cost recouped: 81.1%

Before you embark on a major kitchen overhaul, consider a minor one, which will recoup about 81 percent of its cost. This upgrade is based on a 200-square-foot kitchen with 30 linear feet of cabinetry. Cabinet boxes are left in place but updated with modernized Shaker-style wood panels and drawer fronts. Replace laminate countertops with new laminate. Next, swap out older appliances with energy-efficient models. Update with a mid-priced sink and faucet; repaint the trim; add wall covering; and replace vinyl flooring with new vinyl.

6. Siding replacement

  • Average cost: $15,072
  • Average resale value: $11,554
  • Cost recouped: 76.7%

If you need a good reason to update old siding, consider that replacing 1,250 square feet of it will cost you about $15,072 and you’ll get back $11,554 upon resale. This upgrade includes the factory trim at the openings and corners.

Source: ~ By: Natalie Campisi ~ Image:

5 Tasks Every Homeowner Should Do in January

Whew. The holidays are done. The new year has rung in.

That’s when smart homeowners know it’s time to do these five things that’ll save time, money, and hassles all year long:

#1 Organize Your Seasonal Storage SpaceImage: Frank Farm /

Packing away holiday decor presents a big opportunity. It’s the best time to sort, declutter, and reorganize that space where you store your seasonal stuff.

So before simply stuffing your holiday things back in there somewhere, take inventory, then sort, filter, donate, trash, and re-home as many of your things as possible.

It’ll help keep you more organized all year long, and make it easier to find all your holiday stuff next year.

A gas stovetop with food crumbs, green teapotImage: Jamie Bonilla

Purge your pantry and frisk your fridge, passing what you can on to local food banks. Scrub the walls and kick-boards, and even pull those appliances right out from the walls for a thorough vacuuming to prevent gunk (and stinks!) from accumulating.

#3 Plan Summertime Projects Now (Especially if You Need a Pro)An outdoor space with patio furniture and a dogImage: Photo by ADZA

1. If you’re DIYing, you’ll be ready to roll at the first hint of nice weather.

2. If you’re hiring a contractor or other professional, getting your bids and contracts in place now will save you from competing with the spring rush (wait too long, and you may not be able to book anyone!)

#4 Create a Schedule to Clean ALL Your Home’s FiltersTwo home air filtersImage: Michael Sheehan (“HighTechDad”)

Check manufacturer instructions for all the filters in your home, and create a master schedule, then add them to your calendar app to remind you.

#5 Save Some Green at White SalesA bed with white sheets and a white bedspread by windowImage: @hawkes_landing

Linens and towels go on sale in January. It’s a long-standing retail tradition that started back when linens only came in white (hence the name), and still has a solid rep as a money-saver — only in more colors today.

Cut your threadbare bath towels into rags and restock your supply, plus fill in any gaps in your bed linens you may have noticed if you had a house full of holiday guests.

Source: ~ By: GABRIELA BARKHO ~ Image: Frank Farm /

How to Inventory Your Home for an Insurance Adjuster

Q. Do I need to inventory every item I own in the event of a house fire?

A. The more detail about your belongings that you can relay to an insurance adjuster in your home inventory, the more you stand to recover from your insurance claim, says Tobie Stanger, a CR senior money editor. At the start of your home inventory, focus first on the big and valuable: major appliances, jewelry, furniture, rugs, electronics, and art or collectibles.

Using your smartphone’s video feature, sweep the camera around a room, narrating the description of items you’re filming and—if you remember—what you paid. (Photograph receipts if you have them.) Capture serial numbers and brand names when possible so that the insurer can replace what you had with exact or similar items.

Once you’ve cataloged the pricier items for your home inventory, then open cabinets, drawers, closets, and boxes and do the same. “But don’t sweat the small stuff too much. An insurance adjuster is likely to create a ‘bulk estimate’ of those things—for example, $200 for everything in your utility closet,” Stanger says.

Store the images and video for your home inventory on a cloud service, such as iCloud or OneDrive, or put it on a thumb drive and stash it in a safe deposit box or fireproof safe. Several insurers even offer free web-based home inventory storage tools and apps. American Family Insurance’s DreamVault, for instance, lets anyone create a digital home inventory; it’s available online and as an Android and iOS app.

Source: consumerreports ~ By:  Consumer Reports ~ Image:

Holiday Travel Tips for Homeowners

The holidays are quickly approaching, and for many of us that means traveling to visit our friends and family members that we haven’t seen in a while. Before you let the excitement and anticipation take hold, you should turn your thoughts to preparing your home for your absence.

There are a number of ways to make sure your home is safe and secure while you’re gone, each one with its own pros and cons. Think carefully before deciding which will work best for you, as not enough thought prior to your vacation can lead to a disaster upon your return.

In this post we’ll not only cover some of the most popular options, we’ll give you a pre-travel checklist for your home to help you to keep it safe and well during your adventures.


Housesitting is when someone you know, preferably a friend or family member, stays in your house while you’re away.

This is a great option for people who have someone they know close by, and who doesn’t mind leaving their own home for a short time. If they live in an apartment or other small residence, chances are they’ll enjoy the luxury of a larger home all to themselves.

Even if the individual can’t spend the nights at your home for whatever reason, having them check up on the house once a day will lift a big weight off of your shoulders.

Just make sure to leave them a list of things that need to be done and who to contact in case of an emergency.

House Swaps

If you’re traveling for the holidays, but don’t have a place to stay, a house swap may be the answer for you. If you can find another individual or family who is looking to travel to your hometown or city, you may be able to arrange to “swap” houses for the duration of the vacation.

This way, you don’t end up having to pay for accommodations or worry about booking a hotel. Just make sure that you have a clear contract with the other party so that you both understand the terms. Try to find someone through friends or family members before looking online. It’s best if you know the other person, even if it’s just through someone else.

Be careful about who you choose and ask someone you know that lives in the area to check out the house before you sign anything. Have them meet the people who you want to swap with to make sure that you aren’t about to get into a sticky situation.

Temporary Rentals

Another alternative to leaving your home vacant is to consider renting out your home on a short-term basis. In this type of agreement, you can create a lease, which can protect you from many different issues. You may even be able to find a short-term tenant through your realtor or through an old property manager or landlord.

Again, finding someone that you know (or that you know by association) is a far better option than renting to a stranger. Having your home occupied is a better option than leaving it empty, especially if you’ll be away for more than a week.

Pre-Travel Checklist

Tell Your Neighbors

The first thing that you should do when leaving your home either attended or unattended is to tell your neighbors that you will be gone. Let them know when you’re leaving, and when you plan to return.

Ask them to keep an eye on your property to make sure that no one is entering without permission, and leave them a key in case they need to check the heat or plumbing. If you get mail delivered to your home, ask them to pick it up for you so that it isn’t left unopened on your front step.

Turn the Heat Down

Keep your heat turned up enough to prevent any seasonal freezing, but low enough that you won’t be wasting power on an empty house.

If you have someone checking in on the property while you are away, ask them to turn on the faucets every couple of days to make sure that water is going through your plumbing. This helps to keep pipes from freezing, and it keeps the pea traps from drying out and causing unpleasant odors.

Leave a Timed Light On

If possible, leave an outdoor light on with a timer. Having a light on for your whole absence may show that you are actually away, while having one on a timer can indicate that someone is home. If you do have someone checking in on the house, ask them to make sure that they turn off any lights and lock any doors before leaving.

Plan for an Emergency

Traveling in the winter, either by plane or by car, is always a risky business. With inclement weather and unexpected storms, you never know whether or not you can trust your return date. Keep in close contact with whoever is taking care of your home to ensure that they are up-to-date on your plans.


If you have pets and will be leaving them at home, be sure to arrange for their care. Even if you only have a small pet like a fish or a gerbil, have someone check in to make sure that they have fresh water and food. If your trip is delayed, it won’t matter that you left them plenty of food and water before you left, they might be out by the time you get back.

Seasonal Care

If you have someone close by who you can ask, have them shovel and salt the walks while you are gone. It wouldn’t be much fun to come home to a pile of snow and a driveway that you can’t park in. If they’re able, ask if they can check on the house in the event of a power outage as well, to make sure that the heat kicks back on properly and that your appliances (such as your fridge) are back to working order.

Source: ~ By:  Brittany Foster ~ Image:

Top 4 Reasons Why Guys Need a Man Cave

There are several good reasons why guys really do need this man cave and why it can make them better husbands and fathers.

There are lots of terms for it out there: Manland. Mantuary. Man Space.  But whatever you call your man cave — that garage, spare bedroom, shed, workspace or other area that is exclusively yours and that you can go to in order to just be yourself — is actually more important than you or your partner might realize.   


Many men have high-stress jobs and can spend long hours at work to earn money and help support their wives and children.  Work- and life-related stress can build up and if there is no healthy outlet for it — such as a man cave to escape to for a while to unwind — then the stress can build up and lead to physical problems like high blood pressure or tension headaches.

It can also lead to emotional problems like irritability, a short temper or even chronic anger, which can put a real strain on the marriage.

If a man has a place he can go to in order to process these emotions away from others, it can help with the emotional health of family life.  The man cave provides a place to temporarily get away from life’s pressures and to decompress so that there is emotional energy left over for family life.

Regulating Emotions

Many men are not aware of this on a conscious level, but there is a relationship between one’s feelings and one’s environment — and in many households, women tend to have more of say in how this environment looks than do their husbands or partners. This is why, notes home design journalist Mitchell Parker, in his Houzz blog, it is so important for men to have a space that have decorated and laid out for themselves in a way that expresses their own individual tastes and personalities. Having this kind of environment to escape to helps them to regulate their emotions and to explore and interpret who they are in privacy and without the rules that being around others naturally brings.

Don’t like ads? Become a supporter and enjoy The Good Men Project ad free

Getting “Me” Time

Obviously, both men and women need some “me” time, even in a strong and healthy marriage. This can be a sticking point with women, however, who can sometimes feel offended if their husbands need space or time to themselves without them

But for men, it can be even more important. John Gray, author of the famous Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus series, notes that, “There is a part of the brain that helps us to interpret time and space. That part of the brain is much larger in men than it is in women. This means that men have a much bigger awareness of the need for space and time to themselves, “me” time.  Also, it is worth noting that “me” time can be quite different for men and women: for women, this can often include talking or texting other women, whereas for men, the desire for actual solitude seems more paramount.  When this need is fulfilled, it is easier for men to emerge from the cave and be ready and able take up the responsibilities of being husbands, fathers and breadwinners.

Getting Physical

Most of the reasons for man caves mentioned above are emotional or psychological ones.  But there is a physical aspect to this as well: man caves can also be a great place for men to be able to work out and be active, whether it’s a session on your treadmill to the tune of your favorite CD or a weight-lifting sessions to build up those pecs. 

Why is this is important? Because according to the National Institute of Health (NIH), 3 out of 4 men are overweight or obese — and this is a major risk factor for heart disease, which remains the number one killer of American men.  So, if used properly, a man cave can not only help fulfil a man’s emotional needs but his physical health.

So while the man cave can be the subject of much joking and jesting in family life, there is a more serious side to its presence — and when men and women take this side into account, it is more likely that both will make it more of a priority.

Source: ~ By: Dr. Bryan W. Wu ~ Image:

4 Things First-time Homebuyers Should Know About Credit Scores and Mortgage Payments

With the housing market improving, you might be tempted to finally start looking for a place to call home. Before you begin your home search and choose a real estate agent to work with, you should consider looking at your own situation and determine whether you are financially ready to apply for a mortgage and pay for a property.

Here are four things every first-time homebuyer should consider before buying a house:

1. Have a Good Credit Score
The first step you should take before looking for a home is to request your credit report from one of the three main credit reporting bureaus. You will then get a better idea of your financial standing as a potential homebuyer in the eyes of potential lenders. Lending standards have tightened since the housing market collapse and lenders will be evaluating applications for mortgages more carefully. As part of this process, lenders will look at your credit score to ensure you are able to handle a long-term obligation like mortgage payments, which not only includes the loan payments themselves, but also property taxes, insurance and private mortgage insurance if applicable. The minimum credit score lenders will consider is 620 and ideally, lenders will want to see a credit score that is in the mid-700s or above.

2. Hard Inquires Could Lower Your Score
When a lender has to pull your credit report, this event will be marked as a hard inquiry on your credit history. Similar to when banks will check your credit before deciding to approve you for a credit card, mortgage lenders will examine your history to determine whether your score is up to par after you apply for pre-approval for a home loan. Having a hard inquiry will potentially drop your credit score and when you are shopping around for the right lender or interest rate, the number of hard inquiries on your report could accumulate fast. Although hard inquires could decrease your credit score, there is good news as credit score provider FICO will consider all hard inquiries as one inquiry if they are made within a 45-day period. As long as you are able to get pre-approved for a loan within this time span, you can limit the hit hard inquiries will have on your score during your home search.

3. Higher Credit Score Means Lower Interest
Although you might be approved for a home loan, the interest associated with your loan may vary depending on your credit score. The lower the credit score, the more you are likely to spend on interest per month. Lenders tend to see consumers with higher credit scores as less of a risk. According to FICO, a score between 760 to 850 could result in the lowest interest rate. The chart provided by FICO shows an interest rate of 3.866 percent for consumers with this score. In contrast, if you have a score ranging between 620 and 639 – hovering just above the minimum score needed for approval – your interest rate could be 5.455 percent, which is more than 1.5 percent higher. Although an interest rate that is 1.5 percent more might not seem like a big difference, these payments add up significantly, especially with interest on a 30-year mortgage.

4. Be Prepared to Juggle Mortgage Payments with Other Bills
First-time homebuyers should plan out their house hunting budgets with their mortgages in mind. Mortgage payments can represent a huge chunk in their monthly spending and first-time homebuyers need to determine whether they can comfortably handle their mortgage payments in addition to their other bills. If buyers cannot juggle their mortgage payments with other credit obligations, they should seriously reconsider whether a home in a higher price range is right for them.

With these tips in mind, first-time homebuyers are more prepared to apply and be approved for a home of their dreams.

Source: ~ Image: 21Online Asset Library

The Ultimate Summer Home Maintenance Checklist

Everything you need to do to keep your home and yard in tip-top shape this summer.

With the change of each season comes a new set of maintenance tasks for your home. Now that summer’s here, you’ll want to prepare your home and yard for the onslaught of summer heat. From air-conditioner upkeep to hanging a clothesline, these simple chores will help keep your home happy and healthy.

Check detectors. Check your home’s smoke and carbon monoxide detectors to make sure they’re working properly.

Inspect air-conditioners. If you haven’t already, prep air conditioners and fans for their busiest season:

  • With the help of your spouse, install window air-conditioning units. Remove and clean the filters before firing up the AC. If you have central air-conditioning, consider a professional servicing.
  • Clean all ceiling fans and other fans with a damp rag. If you have high ceilings, a ceiling-fan duster can help you de-grime hard-to-reach blades.

Enjoy a dry spell. Install an outdoor clothesline to dry your laundry in the summer sun; you’ll save money and energy by skipping the dryer. Plus, who doesn’t love the smell of air-dried sheets?

Clean your outdoor cooker. Give your grill a deep cleaning with these simple steps:

  • For gas grills, turn the heat up to high and let the grill cook with the lid closed for about half an hour. Allow the grill to cool and then brush it off with a grill brush. Wipe down the exterior with a damp sponge and a gentle cleanser. Clean the grill’s drip pans.
  • For charcoal grills, completely empty the grill and wipe out any ashy residue. Then clean it inside and out with hot water, a scrubby sponge and some liquid dishwashing soap. Let the grill dry completely before using it again.

Polish your porch. Thoroughly sweep painted porch floors; then mop them with an all-purpose cleaner. If there’s a lot of built-up dirt on the floorboards, you may need to scrub them with a brush.

Analyze your deck. Look over your deck for signs of rotting and hammer in any nails that are poking up. Then, determine if your deck needs sealing. Sprinkle water on the deck’s boards. If the water beads up, you’re in good shape; but if it soaks right in, it’s time to reseal that sucker.

Wash your windows. If you didn’t tackle exterior window washing in the spring, now’s the time to get your glass clean.

Make much ado about mulch. Add a layer of mulch to keep weeds down and help the ground retain its moisture in the heat. It’ll give your plants a chance to grow.

Be a leak detective. Check your hoses and exterior faucets for leaks — even a tiny drip can add up to a big waste of water. Pinhole leaks in hoses can be covered up by winding regular electrical tape around the (dry) hose in overlapping layers.

Primp your plants. Deadhead both perennials and annuals to keep them productive. If you have visible dead foliage from spring bulbs, pull it out to maintain a tidy look, but if the daffodil or tulip leaves are still green, leave them alone; they’re busy nourishing the bulb to bloom again next year.

Plan your watering schedule. Train your garden to endure dry days by watering deeply a couple times a week, instead of watering lightly daily. This style of watering will promote the growth of deep, strong roots.

Stop dirt at the door. Keep summer’s mud and muck outside with not one, but two doormats at your main entry door. Place a coarse mat at the exterior and a softer, cloth one on the interior to catch the most dirt. Better still, instruct family members to remove their shoes upon entering. If you live near a beach, a tub of water for sandy feet placed by the door works wonders for keeping sand outside where it belongs.

Source: ~ By Laura Fenton ~ Image: Pixabay