Wendy Butler | ERA Key Realty



 Photo by Sonja_paetow via Pixabay

Home feeling a little dull? You can clean and liven things up in a single day, and make your home into a welcoming, comfortable oasis. Whether you are coping with outdated decor, too much clutter or just need to liven things up, this list can help you pull things together quickly. You'll be guest ready in no time, and able to fully enjoy your home when you take the time to refresh things occasionally. 

Start with a quick cleanup: You don't need to clean everything, but removing items from counters, corralling clutter and vacuuming can go a long way towards making the space look fresh and clean. Give yourself and your helpers an hour to throw away trash, outdated items and to put things away and you'll have a great base to work from. 

Check the season: If you are still rocking 4th of July decor in November, your home will look a little dated. Remove items that are not in season and replace with ones that are -- if possible, decorate for the holiday or season that is on the way and you'll get the most impact from your time. 

Add flowers: Pick up a live plant or fresh flowers to display to instantly brighten and freshen up a room. 

Add scent: Your space impacts all of your senses, and if your home is feeling a little flat or musty, it could be because it has been closed up for too long. Open windows for an instant breeze of fresh air and refresh the indoor air quality. Consider adding scent with a candle, wax melts or diffuser to add more interest and make your space more inviting. 

Replace bulbs and filters: You may not reailze it, but even a single blown bulb makes your home look darker and uncared for. Track down any missing bulbs and replace them for maximum impact. If needed, choose a higher wattage bulb to brighten things up even more. This is also an ideal time to change your air filters -- your home will smell better and you'll have better air quality and heater performance, too. 

You can have a significant impact on the look and feel of your home in just a few hours -- and enjoy the results of your hard work for weeks to come. Set aside some time each season or before each holiday to refresh and restore your home; you'll love living in an attractive and comfortable space year round. 


The rent vs buy dilemma is something that Americans have been facing for decades. Both options have their benefits, and it’s really a matter of timing and preferences when it comes to choosing which is best for you.

However, there are a lot of things to consider before making this decision. So, in today’s post we’re going to break down some of the benefits of renting an apartment and of buying a home. That way you can make your decision with a clearer picture of what each situation looks like.

One thing to note first, however, is that it isn’t always as simple as buy vs rent. Some living situations draw on the pros of each type of living. For example, living in a condo might be a good option for people who want the privacy and independence of owning their own home, but who also don’t have the time or desire to keep up with maintenance.

So, as we compare buying and renting, keep in mind that the features of each are not mutually exclusive.

Renting an apartment

Most people who are living on their own for the first time start off renting. For younger people just out of school, renting offers the first taste of independence without the prerequisites of homeownership.

When you rent your first apartment, you’ll learn the skills associated with budgeting for your monthly expenses, making your rent payments on time, and will start learning some of the skills that it takes to run a household.

In terms of monthly costs, apartments can vary greatly. Depending on where you live (and how luxurious the apartment is) you could end up having rent and utility payments that are much lower or much higher than mortgage payments for a house.

However, apartment leases often come with the benefit of utilities, trash removal, and other expenses built in. They also typically require the landlord to maintain the apartment and the land it sits on.

Live in the northern part of the country and hate shoveling snow? Make sure your lease specifies that your landlord will provide snow removal.

One technique that many renters take is to find an apartment that is small and affordable while they save up for a home. In this case, it’s worth living with fewer amenities if your end goal is saving for a down payment.

But, what if you want to own a home someday but haven’t quite decided where you want to settle down? Maybe your work keeps you moving from place to place or you’ve always wanted to move away to somewhere new.

Renting is typically a better option for those who aren’t quite sure what their plans are for the next coming years. They can have a stable place to live while they figure things out and plan their next move.

Buying a home

Once you’ve rented a home for a while, you might become increasingly aware that you want more space and more control over your home.

You’re also likely noticing how much money you spend on rent each month that is essentially a net loss.

When you buy a home, your mortgage payments might be going to the bank, but someday the money you’ve paid toward that home will be yours in the form of equity. You can then use this as a down payment for another home.

This financial benefit cannot be understated. Since house values dependably increase over time, owning a home is a great investment toward your future.

So, those are the main pros and cons of renting vs buying a home. Think about your circumstances and determine which one makes the most sense for you right now. Then, start planning for the future.


Image by ivabalk from Pixabay

With just minutes of prep and a little more than an hour of cooking time, you can make a great twice baked sweet potato dish ready to serve for your household. Here's a closer look at why it makes for such a healthy meal and what you'll need to pull it off:

Why It's A Great Dish

Sweet potatoes are highly nutritious, and a great source of fiber, vitamins and minerals. They help with digestive health, and studies suggest they can also help boost the entire immune system. Sweet potatoes also:

  • Include cancer-fighting nutrients
  • Support healthy vision
  • Enhance brain function
  • Assist with weight loss efforts
  • Just 200 grams of baked sweet potato (including skin) offers up to 769 percent of the daily value of Vitamin A, 65 percent of the daily value of Vitamin C, half the daily value of Manganese and 29 percent of the daily value of Vitamin B6. The recipe shared here contains 257 calories per serving and 14 grams of fat. 

    Twice Baked Sweet Potato: What You'll Need

    Here are the ingredients you'll need to make six servings:

  • 6 sweet potatoes
  • 4 tbsp of brown sugar
  • 4 tbsp of butter
  • 4 oz of cream cheese
  • 1/2 tsp of ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp of ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp of ground ginger
  • How To Prepare It

  • Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Place the six sweet potatoes on a tray and bake until they are soft, approximately 1 hour.
  • Remove potatoes from the tray and allow the potatoes to cool.
  • Cut the potatoes in half then scoop the insides into a bowl. Keep the skins. 
  • In a separate bowl, mix together brown sugar, butter, cream cheese and spices.
  • Add the potato to the brown sugar mixture and mix thoroughly.
  • Use the combined mixture to fill the potato skins from Step 2. 
  • Place the filled potatoes onto the baking sheet and back into the oven for about 15 minutes.
  • Remove from the oven and serve. The finished potatoes should be golden brown in color. 
  • This twice-baked sweet potato recipe is an ideal part of a balanced, healthy meal. It's also an ideal dish for vegetarians or those trying to introduce meatless meals. 


    Image by Pexels from Pixabay

    Some of the best real estate investments are raw land purchases. The idea is to buy raw land in an up-and-coming neighborhood, sit on it, and then sell it to a developer who will do anything to get their hands on it. But while this sounds great, there are a few caveats that are specific to raw land you should know.

    You May Need to Wait 

    There are plenty of ways to make serious money off of raw land, but you may need to wait a bit before the right offer comes along. You need to look at who's moving into the neighborhood, who's moving out and why the land is priced the way it is. This can give you a better indication of when you'll be able to sell it for the price you want. Some people can't afford to have their assets tied up for too long in raw land, but those who are patient can typically see a significant return on their investment. 

    Check the Topography 

    From soil erosion to sinkholes, it's not always obvious what makes land good to build on. Overenthusiastic tree roots can easily interfere with a foundation, so much so developers may avoid the project altogether. If the land is surrounded by hills, builders may hesitate to build because the structure will get too much shade. 

    Zoning Laws Matter 

    Buyers are highly encouraged to research the current zoning laws that will affect their land. Doing so will give you a sense of how difficult it is to build and why. It should also give you an indication of what's to come down the line. For example, if your land is located in an area that environmental groups want to protect, the zoning laws may change between when you purchase the land and when you sell. 

    Property Taxes 

    Even if you're not doing anything with the land, you'll still need to factor in the property taxes. Again, if you're waiting for a while to sell, this can eat into profits fairly quickly. Many landowners can sell quickly at a healthy turnaround, but it's important to plan ahead if it takes more time than you imagined. 

    Watching the Land 

    Unless you're hiring security guards to watch your land, it can quickly become a dumping ground. A certified inspector can give you more information as to the state of the land, so you know of any contamination long before you sell. 

    There are so many ways to make money off of raw land, but it helps to understand more about how certain factors can interfere with your sale price. As long as you're planning ahead, you shouldn't have any surprises. 


    The weeks and days leading up to a home closing can be stressful, particularly for a homebuyer who is already trying to do everything possible to secure his or her dream residence. Fortunately, we're here to help you simplify the process of getting to your closing date.

    Now, let's take a look at three tips to ensure you can enjoy a fast, easy home closing.

    1. Get Your Paperwork Ready

    It often helps to get all of your homebuying paperwork ready before you pursue a residence. That way, you can minimize the last-minute stress associated with searching far and wide for pay stubs, tax returns and other documents that you'll ultimately need to get financing for a residence.

    Furthermore, you should meet with local banks and credit unions as soon as you can. If you can get approved for a mortgage prior to starting a home search, you may be able to speed up the process of acquiring your ideal residence.

    2. Be Prepared to Cover Your Closing Costs

    Although you might have financing to cover your monthly mortgage payments, it is important to remember that you may need to pay closing costs to finalize your home purchase. As such, if you begin saving for your closing costs today, you can guarantee that you'll have the necessary funds available to purchase your dream residence on your scheduled closing date.

    Also, you should be prepared to present a cashier's check or wire funds when you close on a house. If you plan ahead, you should have no paying off your closing costs when your complete your home purchase.

    3. Schedule Your Final Walk-Through Before Your Closing Date

    When it comes to a final walk-through on your dream house, why should you leave anything to chance? Instead, set up the final walk-through at least a few days before you're scheduled to close on a house.

    If you find problems with a house during a final walk-through, you'll want to give the seller plenty of time to address these issues. Thus, if you schedule a final walk-through several days before your closing date, you can ensure that any home problems can be corrected without putting your closing date in danger.

    For homebuyers who are worried about a home closing, there is no need to stress. In fact, if you work with an expert real estate agent, you can receive plenty of support throughout the homebuying journey.

    Typically, a real estate agent can explain what you should expect in the time leading up to your closing date. If you have any concerns or questions before a home closing, a real estate agent is happy to address them. Plus, when your closing date arrives, a real estate agent will help you remain calm, cool and collected as you purchase a home.

    Ready to streamline the process of closing on a house? Use the aforementioned tips, and you can reap the benefits of a quick, seamless home closing.




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