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June
27

7 Steps for Organizing Your Pantry

pantry tips

People often say that the kitchen is the heart of the home. But the pantry is a close contender! As the place where you store your snacks and cooking ingredients, your pantry deserves to be an organized, efficient space. You'll love being able to open the door and find what you need in an instant without having to search multiple shelves. So, how do you go about organizing a pantry? Our real estate agents have broken this task down into seven steps, which are presented below.

  1. Sort Through Everything
    Before you start putting items into place, pull everything out of your pantry. Sort through your items, throwing away products that have expired. If there are foods you know that you'll never use, donate them or give them to friends.

    With the extras gone, make a list of the products that remain. If there are items you use regularly but don't have on hand right now, make a trip to the store to purchase them. Then, add them to your list.

  2. Categorize Your Items
    Look down your list, and start dividing your items into categories. Good categories to include are spices and seasonings, pasta and dried goods, canned goods, baking ingredients, and sauces. Once you've categorized your list, move your actual items into piles based on how you categorized them on paper.

  3. Transfer Open Items Into Clear Containers
    It's hard to maintain an organized pantry with a bunch of half-empty bags and boxes. Plus, opened boxes attract pests. So, invest in some clear containers and empty those boxes and bags into them.

    There are lots of good brands that make clear, plastic, and glass pantry containers. Pick containers that are stackable and easy for you to open.

  4. Label Your Containers
    Even if you can see into the clear containers, labels make things more clear. You'll also have an easier time figuring out what you need to buy to fill empty containers. If you have a label maker or can borrow one from a friend, that's awesome. Otherwise, you can make your own labels by writing, with markers, on white stickers.

  5. Line Your Shelves
    Before you put your containers back into the pantry, use a stick-on shelf liner to line your shelves. Our agents have seen this in some Bradenton homes for sale and Sarasota homes for sale, and it really does make pantries easy to clean. Choose a cute pattern or a solid color that matches your pantry walls. The shelf liner should come with application instructions on the package.

  6. Organize Your Shelves
    Decide on a shelf for each category of items. You'll want to put items you use more often on shelves close to eye level. Those that you use less often can go further down where you have to bend to reach them. For example, if you only bake a few times a year, your baking items can likely go on the bottom shelf.

  7. Add a Few Extras
    Once all your food is back in the pantry, it is time to add a few extras to help keep the space more organized. Consider mounting a marker board on the pantry door. You can use this to keep track of your shopping list. Find a bag holder to mount to the pantry door, too. This will give you somewhere convenient to stick plastic bags when you get home. Add any other extras you think may come in handy, too.

If you spend the weekend organizing your pantry, you'll save so much time when you cook and snack later on. Contact us if you're still looking for the perfect home — and pantry — to call your own.

April
18

Why You Should Steam Clean Before a Showing

Steam Cleaning

First impressions are everything. This is as true in the world of real estate as in any other. When a potential buyer first walks into a home, the first things they see (and smell) play a huge role in determining their interest. If your home makes a great first impression, you'll have an easier time making a sale — and you'll probably get higher offers, too. After years of experience, our real estate agents know this to be true!

One of the ways you can improve your home's first impression is by steam cleaning the carpets prior to your first showing or open house. Why is steam cleaning so important? Take a look.

  • Steam Cleaning Removes Trapped Odors
    Your home doesn't smell, right? We'll let you in on a little secret: you wouldn't necessarily know if it did. Homeowners become nose-blind to odors over time, but newcomers definitely notice those smells. When buyers look at Sarasota homes for sale, they want them to smell nice.

    Carpets have a bad habit of holding onto smells, and simple vacuuming doesn't do much to remove them. Steam cleaning, on the other hand, will remove trapped odors, including any you've become nose-blind to. Potential buyers will then be greeted by a fresh scent.

  • Steam Cleaning Removes Evidence of Pets
    Even if potential buyers own pets themselves, they don't want to see evidence of pets in a home they're thinking of buying. Buyers looking at Bradenton homes for sale want those spaces to look fresh and new. Even a little pet hair or one tiny stain can turn a buyer off. Steam cleaning removes evidence of pets from your carpet, reassuring buyers that your place is clean and well cared for.

  • Steam Cleaning is More Affordable Than Replacing the Carpet
    If your carpet looks a little discolored and dull, you may be thinking of replacing it before you sell. Sometimes, this might be a good idea. However, since carpet replacement can be costly, it's often wise to try steam cleaning first. 

    Steam cleaning costs a small fraction of what you'd pay to replace the existing carpet. In many cases, it will make your carpet look as good as new.

  • Steam Cleaning Ensures a Good-Looking Backdrop
    When you're preparing to sell your home, you can cover up minor faults like a divot in the wall or some scratches on the baseboard. But the carpet is a big element. It serves as the backdrop of your room, in a way. If the carpet does not look clean, that's something that buyers will notice.

    Steam cleaning ensures this major element of your decor looks its best. When the carpet is clean, buyers generally assume the rest of the home is clean, too.

  • Steam Cleaning Removes Allergens
    The last thing you'd want is for a buyer to walk into your home and start sneezing. While vacuuming does pick up some allergens, it also tends to disperse those allergens into the air. Steam cleaning does a more thorough job of removing pollen, pet dander, dust mites, and other allergens from the carpet. A home with carpets that have recently been steam cleaned is less likely to cause symptoms for allergy sufferers.

Preparing your home for a showing can go a long way toward helping you find the perfect buyer. If you're thinking about selling and are looking for an agent to represent you, feel free to contact us. Our experienced real estate agents can guide you through both the buying and the selling processes and ensure everything goes smoothly.

March
28

5 Things That Are Easy To Forget During a Move

Moving Tips

Moving can be chaotic, as you are trying to get your entire life packed up, relocated, and unpacked again in a new place with minimal disruption. You may feel like you're on top of everything, but have you checked these five frequently forgotten things? It's easy to get so lost in the details of the move that you forget these basics. Take the advice of our real estate agents and make sure your plans don't overlook these items.

  1. Toilet Paper
    You may think you have everything ready for your first night at the new house, but do you have toilet paper? It's not something you usually have to pack in your overnight bags, so often, it gets overlooked. Unfortunately, many sellers don't think about leaving any behind when they're leaving their Bradenton homes for sale, so you may move in only to find that you don't have any. Putting a few rolls in your overnight bag will ensure you won't find yourself without.

  2. Meal Plans
    Your first night in a new house and possibly a new town might make it harder than usual to get dinner on the table... assuming the table has arrived yet! Have a plan in place for meals and other necessities (such as coffee) the first few days after your move, when you're still unpacking and settling in. This might mean having the basics packed in a box for the kitchen that says "open me first," such as ramen and pots to make it in, or creating a list of nearby pizza delivery places and takeout restaurants.

  3. Overnight Bags for Everyone
    There's a lot that can go wrong in a move, so it's important that everyone has a box or an overnight bag full of essentials that you keep with you, enough to get you through at least a couple of days if needed. This includes changes of clothes, pajamas, important medications, toiletries, and something to do, such as a book or games for the kids. If you're moving long-distance, this is especially important, as the truck could get delayed, and you may spend a few days "roughing it" in your new home.

  4. Your Mail
    Mail is frequently forgotten and left behind when people leave Sarasota homes for sale. Remembering your mail means not only checking the mailbox one last time but also setting up mail forwarding through the post office in advance to make sure you don't have to worry about your mail going to your old address after you've left it. As soon as you can, start calling or checking in with your accounts online so you can change the address there yourself, as it'll eliminate any delay in your mail getting to you as it goes through the mail-forwarding system.

  5. Background Items
    In any house, there are a number of background items that tend to blend into your surroundings or feel like they're a part of the house even though they aren't. This might include shelves, or mirrors mounted on the backs of the doors. These items are yours and should go with you when you leave the house. The same goes for outdoor items, such as planters and even patio furniture, which can be overlooked in a move. Window treatments usually stay with the house unless you negotiated different terms in your contract.

When it comes time to move, ensuring you have capable help from experienced professionals will ensure everything goes smoothly. For support throughout the selling or buying process, contact us today, and we'll help you get your search started.

March
14

DIY Projects for New Homeowners

DIY Projects

When you're first settling into a new place, you may not want a lot of projects on your plate, but a few carefully chosen DIY projects can help your new house feel like home. Here are a few quick and relatively easy projects our real estate agents recommend for helping you feel at home.

  • Paint the front door.
    Especially if your new home hasn't seen a coat of paint in some time, painting the front door can make a huge impact on how it looks and make it feel a little more like yours, even if you don't have the time, money, or bandwidth to paint the whole home just yet. Consider painting it a fun new color, such as red, green, or blue, as it will liven up the look of your house. Remember, Bradenton homes for sale and Sarasota homes for sale are often painted in neutral color schemes so as not to turn off potential buyers, so repainting that door can add a little of your personality to your new home.

  • Update your house number.
    While you're painting that front door, consider updating your house number as well. It's not unusual for homes to have small, outdated house numbers that are hard to see, so make sure whatever you choose is well lit and large enough to be easily seen from the street. Choosing more modern-looking numbers and changing how they're mounted will also give your home a more updated look, even if that (and painting the front door) is all you do.

  • Hang string lights.
    Want to make your outdoor living spaces in your new home both cozy and cool? Hang string lights from your patio or porch roof, or use them to brighten a gazebo or pergola. Even if you don't have a roof or fence to hang them from, you can make your own planter posts for hanging lights using wooden barrel planters.

  • Modernize your popcorn ceiling.
    Nothing dates a house faster than a popcorn ceiling. They're not only unsightly, but they're also a magnet for cobwebs and dust. Fortunately, they're easily removed with a drywall knife, a shop vac, and a fresh coat of paint afterward. Remember that some popcorn ceilings could contain lead or asbestos, though, and have your ceiling tested before tackling it as a DIY-er, especially if your home was built before 1979.

  • Replace kitchen hardware.
    An easy way to make your kitchen feel more like home is to update the kitchen hardware to something more in line with your tastes. Swapping out cabinet hardware is fairly easy and can be done in an hour or two unless you choose to repaint the cabinets while the hardware is off. The hardware store offers a variety of options, so there's sure to be something that suits your tastes, whether they are traditional or modern, classic or funky.

  • Paint the kitchen cabinets.
    While you have that cabinet hardware off, think about whether you'd like a whole new look in your kitchen. Painting the cabinets is usually a fairly fast job compared to repainting the rest of the house and uses considerably less paint. That being said, it's also a project that yields big results for its relatively small investment, as changing the color of your cabinets can make your kitchen look like an entirely different room.

Little DIY projects like these are a fun way to help you settle in and improve your new home, but it's important to find the right house to start with. Contact us today and let us help you find your dream home.

February
21

Spring Cleaning: Don't Forget Your Windows

Spring Cleaning Wagner

Living in Southwest Florida means warm sunshine, cool evening breezes, and lots of fresh air. If you're looking for Sarasota homes for sale or Bradenton homes for sale, you hope to find a home with large windows, sliding glass doors, and great outdoor features so you can enjoy everything a Florida lifestyle has to offer.

When warm sunshine starts filtering through your windows, it's time to shake off the winter dust and tackle some deep cleaning chores in your home, including all those dirty windows that you've ignored during the winter. Before spring arrives, our real estate agents recommend some deep cleaning tips for your windows, so you can open them up, let in the breeze, and enjoy the view.

Take a Look at Your Windows

Before you begin, walk around your home and assess your cleaning tasks. You may have hard-to-reach windows that require a ladder or special equipment to get onto the roof. Don't attempt to clean windows, doors, or skylights that may result in a dangerous fall. For hard-to-reach windows, it's best to call a professional window washer who has the right equipment for the job.

If your home has a second story or multiple levels, start cleaning on the highest level and work your way down. This way, you can make sure that all windows get cleaned in an organized manner, and you won't have to backtrack to check for windows you missed.

Gather Your Cleaning Supplies

Whether you have stationary windows or windows that open, you'll need some basic cleaning supplies and a container to carry them around. Look for a plastic tote or sturdy basket with handles that can hold your essential supplies:

  • A spray glass cleaner, a mixture of mild soapy water, and a mixture of water and white vinegar

  • A squeegee

  • A duster and a hand-held vacuum

  • A synthetic brush or broom

  • Microfiber or lint-free soft cloths

  • Paper towels

Stationary Windows

For stationary windows, start by wiping loose dirt from the glass with a soft, dry cloth or duster. Next, use your synthetic brush or hand-held vacuum to remove dirt and debris from the window frame, sills, and tracks. Apply your cleaning solution to the glass, then remove the solution with a squeegee or clean, lint-free cloth. If you use a squeegee, make sure to wipe the squeegee clean with a cloth or paper towel after each swipe on the glass.

Single or Double Hung Windows

Many replacement windows available in today's market come with a convenient tilt-wash or tilt-sash feature that allows you to easily clean the inside and the outside of the window from inside your home. You don't need to go outside and climb a ladder to clean exterior glass. If your single-hung or double-hung windows have a tilt-sash feature, simply unlock the window, release the tilt-sash mechanisms on the top of the window frame, and tilt your window towards you to clean the glass.

Sliding Glass Doors

If you have interior or exterior doors with window panes or sliding glass doors, you can clean the glass with non-abrasive glass cleaners or mild soapy water. You can use a soft cloth on the interior glass, but it's best to clean the exterior glass with paper towels. Exterior glass can get extremely dirty since it's exposed to the elements. You don't want to ruin your cleaning clothes or transfer bacteria from your exterior glass to other indoor surfaces.

If you're thinking about buying a home in Southwest Florida, contact us to view available properties in desired areas that match your lifestyle and financial needs.

October
4

Home Improvement: How to Prioritize All Your Projects

Home Improvement

Do you feel overwhelmed at the idea of tackling home improvement projects? If you're like most homeowners, you can just walk through your home and see so many tasks awaiting your elbow grease. If you're thinking of listing your home among Sarasota homes for sale, you may want to get a handle on prioritizing projects.

One of the first steps is to decide how you want to categorize your repairs and renovations. You might jot down categories such as these, and then under each one, list projects that fall under that heading:

  • Safety
  • Damage prevention
  • Cosmetic
  • Updating to increase home value

Here are some additional tips for organizing your thoughts and knowing which projects to tackle first.

  1. List Projects that Affect the Safety of the Home
    Safety should always come first. Maybe there are electrical problems that threaten the safety of the home's occupants. Do you need to install security lighting and cameras outside the home and replace failing door hardware and locks? Is the HVAC on its last leg, and does it need replacement, or will some repairs get it into good working order? In most of these cases, you will likely need to call an expert, so plan your budget accordingly. 

  2. List Projects that Prevent Damage to the Home
    After you worked on projects causing an immediate safety hazard, look for ones that prevent potential damage. Do rain gutters need repair to save the roofline? Are there severe drafts in winter because of structural problems or because the windows need weatherstripping and caulking? Is the plumbing or roof leaking? Do trees need to be cut back, so they don't damage the roof? Once again, some projects you can likely tackle while others will need an expert. 

  3. Consider Cosmetic Changes
    Once you prioritize the must-dos for safety's sake, assess the cosmetic changes you think you'll need to sell your home, or if you're not going anywhere, to make you feel better. Cracks in the wall? Do the bathrooms need new tile? Could some of the rooms use a new coat of paint? Tackle one room at a time. You'll feel encouraged to move to the next project once you complete the first one on your list. If you're able to do it yourself on some of these, so much the better. 

  4. Consider Projects that Increase Value
    Exercise caution when it comes to initiating renovations to increase home value. Some will do just that, and some won't. Some projects that will add value: bathroom remodels; kitchen renovations; replacing old appliances with matching, energy-efficient models; remodeled attic or basement; adding a deck; boosting curb appeal by cleaning, trimming, and planting some color in the front yard; and increasing energy efficiency by air sealing your home, adding insulation, and installing efficient windows. Projects that won't increase value include luxury upgrades, garage conversions, and swimming pools. Before starting one of these projects, consider whether you plan on being in your current home for a long time. 

Do you need advice on prioritizing your home improvement projects before listing your home among the Bradenton homes for sale? Our real estate agents can help. Contact us today.

June
21

Summer Lawn Care: How to Install a Sprinkler System

Summer Lawn Care

Your dream house has a beautiful yard with grass, trees, shrubs, even a flower garden. There are plenty of Sarasota homes for sale that fit the bill. Our real estate agents can help you find the one that meets your needs. Caring for your new lawn, though, is up to you.

One of the most important aspects of lawn care is water - giving the area just enough water, just often enough, without doing it too much or too frequently. To do that, you'll need a sprinkler system that's designed just for your lawn's needs. You can have it professionally installed, but as long as you're reasonably handy, you might prefer to go the DIY route instead and install it yourself. Here are some tips for installing your sprinkler system.

What You'll Need

Before you begin the installation, you need to make sure you have all your tools and materials ready. Here's a list of what you'll need:

  • PVC Pipes and Fittings. PVC pipe is sturdy and durable but easier to work with than metal, so you can cut it down to lengths of whatever size you need. The fittings let you put the pipe segments together in different formations, as needed: elbow fittings, for joining two lengths together around a curve, and T-fittings, for joining three.
  • Sprinkler Heads. The most important part of your sprinkler system. You can choose the direction of the spray, as well as how much and in what pattern. You'll also need risers to connect the heads to the PVC pipe.
  • Timer. Allows you to set when and how often your lawn gets watered. A smart timer can automatically adjust to weather conditions so it doesn't go off when it's raining.
  • Valves. The valves allow you to control how much water flows through your sprinklers. They're accessed through a valve box and connected to the system with wiring.
  • Drains. These remove the excess water from the pipes when the sprinklers aren't on. It can be done either manually or automatically.
  • Backflow Prevention. Sometimes, water from the soil can flow back into your water supply, contaminating it with dirt and bacteria. A backflow prevention valve keeps this from happening.

What to Do

The first step is to find the pipe that you'll be using as the water source for your sprinkler system. Water will flow from that pipe through all of your PVC pipes and be distributed to your lawn. Check the pressure of that pipe to make sure it's up to the job.

Next, dig trenches around your yard in the pattern in which you want to place your sprinklers. Also, dig one from the water main to where you want to place your valve box, and dig a hole for the valve box. Dig the trenches between four and twelve inches deep. You'll want to rent a trenching machine to help you get them the right width and depth. Then, lay the PVC pipes in the trenches.

This is just the basics. There's a lot more to know about sprinkler installation. Don't attempt to install your own sprinklers unless you know what you're doing or have an expert on hand to help you. If you're unsure, call a professional.

If you're looking for Bradenton homes for sale with great lawns that are perfect for DIY gardening projects like this, contact us! We'll help you find the home of your dreams!

May
17

How to Pick the Perfect Houseplants

Houseplant Tips

One of the best parts of buying a new house is giving it those personal touches that help turn it into a home. Our estate agents can help you find Bradenton homes for sale, but only you can make that home your own. One simple and rewarding touch you can add to any home is houseplants. What kind should you have, though? Here are a few things to consider when selecting houseplants.

  1. Benefits
    Think about what benefits you want. For instance, if you want to reduce stress, go with a lavender plant. Its scent has a calming effect and can improve sleep. Maybe you're looking to make your air more breathable. In that case, peace lilies and English ivy absorb toxins to improve indoor air quality. Or you might want to add a splash of color to your decor. If so, coleus comes in various bright shades, including purple, orange, and red. Gardon croton has leaves of red, yellow, green, and copper. And bromeliads bloom in red, orange, yellow, and pink. There are many other houseplants with myriad other benefits. Do some research and find out which ones best suit your needs.

  2. Environment
    Consider where your houseplants will be kept and what their needs are. How much sunlight does it need? What temperature range does it thrive in? Does it need a dry environment or a humid one? If you're looking for a plant for your bathroom, for instance, you should try the humidity-loving monstera plant. If you have a room without windows, try a snake plant. If you've got a big window with lots of sunlight, consider a jade plant or a lemon tree.

  3. Care
    Perhaps the most important consideration is how much care your plant will need and how much care you'll be able to give it. How often does the plant need to be watered? Does it need any other care, such as pruning? If you travel a lot, then look for a plant that doesn't require as much care - or be prepared to get a plant-sitter. Air plants, for instance, don't even need soil. Keep them in indirect sunlight and water them every two weeks, and they'll thrive. What if you're afraid you'll forget to water your plant on a regular schedule? Or that you'll accidentally overcompensate, watering it too often? Set a reminder on your phone to alert you when your plant needs water or other care. It can be set to go off automatically once a week, every two weeks, or however, often your plant needs attention.

  4. Containers
    Once you've chosen your houseplant, it needs to go in the right container. Porous clay pots are good for your plants and the environment. They retain moisture while letting soil toxins escape. You might also consider a glass terrarium designed to keep in moisture and heat. Whatever container you use, make sure it's got holes on the bottom for water drainage. If you're buying a baby plant, know how much it will grow over time, and get a container that will accommodate it - or be prepared to transplant it later. A larger pot can also allow you to put multiple plants in the same space. 

If you've got houseplants inside, you're likely going to want a few outdoors as well. Fortunately, there are plenty of Sarasota homes for sale with big front and backyards, perfect for gardening. Contact us to help you find the space that's right for you!

March
9

Plant a Flower Day: What to Plant in Sarasota and Manatee Counties

Planting om Bradenton

If you're new to Florida, you might be surprised to learn that yes, we do get the occasional frost here in Sarasota and Manatee Counties in the late winter and early spring. This is just one of the things you need to know as you embark on gardening in your new home, acquired either from Bradenton homes for sale or Sarasota homes for sale. Fortunately, frost is rare and not much of an impediment to producing fabulous flowers, fruits, and vegetables in Florida.

While we suggest Floridians start planting long before National Plant a Flower Day, which is March 12, this national celebration, which promotes looking forward to spring by encouraging flower planting, is a great reason to jump right in.

And the good news is, after mid-February, the chances of a frost damaging seedlings or other plants are very low. So feel free to head to your local garden center and acquire some fabulous flowers to celebrate March 12 with a burst of color in your yard.

But before you start, a little planning is in order. What can you plant in our region of Florida? So many things, from tropicals to perennials, lush annuals, flowering shrubs, and glorious flowering trees. The key is making sure whatever you choose can tolerate our heat and humidity. 

What to Plant

The flowering plant palette for Florida is extensive. Among the most common flowering plants, you'll note are these.

  • Pentas. Also known as Egyptian Star Cluster, Pentas are evergreen perennials and come in pink, magenta, lilac, and white. They prefer full sun and are seasonal bloomers. An added bonus is they attract butterflies.
  • Coreopsis. You can't not plant Florida's state flower, the Coreopsis. It's a member of the aster family and has bright golden disk and ray flowers. It's a brilliant addition to any garden. 
  • Blue Salvia. Although native to the Southwest, Salvia farinacea does well in South Florida and can flourish in a hot, dry location. Low-maintenance Blue Salvia (also known as Mealycup sage) is an annual further north but blooms like a perennial in our climate. Pollinators love it.
  • Mexican Heather. A low-growing ground cover, Mexican Heather or Cuphea loves full sun, although partial will do. Plant it in a well-drained location. It produces lavender-pink to white flowers almost all year long.
  • Bougainvillea. One of our most spectacular bloomers, Bougainvillea's showy display isn't actually flowers at all, but rather colorful leaf bracts. It needs six hours of sun a day, and for that, you get an explosion of color most of the year.
  • Lantana. Another pollinator attractor (including hummingbirds), Lantana is available in pink and yellow or bright orange and yellow, and more. Deadhead flowers to keep the plant producing most of the year. Be sure to water Lantana when the weather is dry; mulch and fertilizer help promote abundant flowering.
  • Periwinkles. Also known as Creeping Vinca, Periwinkle is a creeping vine with pretty blue flowers, often used as a ground cover, and which can choke out weeds. Best blooming will occur if it's planted in partial shade.
  • Plumbago. This sprawling shrub is grown for its clusters of blue, phlox-like flowers. Plant Plumbago over a stone or wood retaining wall for a beautiful effect. It prefers full sun but will tolerate some shade.

Our real estate agents have more tips for how you can improve your property, indoors and out. Contact us today.

October
5

National Fire Prevention Week: Tips for Home Fire Prevention

Home Fire Prevention

If you're currently a homeowner or are planning to purchase one of these Bradenton homes for sale, familiarizing yourself with basic fire prevention tips is one of the most important things you can do to protect your assets. While no one wants to think about losing their home to a fire, knowledge is power when it comes to preventing a disaster. With National Fire Prevention Week starting Sunday, October 4th, it's a great time to review some common fire prevention strategies. Our real estate agents pulled together a quick list of tips to review:

  1. Test Your Smoke Alarms Regularly
    Ensuring your smoke alarms are in working order is arguably the most important fire safety tip. Functioning smoke alarms can alert you and your family to potential danger before it's too late. Testing your smoke alarms is easy -- simply press and hold the button until you hear a loud sound. If you don't hear a sound, or if the sound is weak, replace your batteries right away. Make sure to test each of your home's smoke alarms every month.
  2. Keep Your Dryer Clean
    The most common cause of a dryer fire is a failure to clean it. Dryer lint is extremely combustible, so you must remember to clean it every time you put in a new load of laundry. Otherwise, it could continue to build-up until it reaches the heating element.
  3. Keep Cords in Working Condition
    Frayed or chewed cords can be a fire hazard, so be sure to check the cords of all appliances before plugging them in. Never plug an appliance into an extension cord and avoid running any cords under carpet or rugs, as this could cause them to overheat.
  4. Don't Forget About Candles
    Candles are one of the leading causes of house fires year after year. Never leave a room or fall asleep with a candle burning unattended. Also, be sure not to place them on uneven surfaces and keep them far away from flammable materials such as clothing or blankets.
  5. Invest in a Fire Extinguisher
    If a fire does occur, a fire extinguisher is your best bet at putting it out. It's usually a good idea to keep a fire extinguisher in every room with a significant fire risk. If you're considering one of these Sarasota homes for sale, make sure to purchase an adequate number of fire extinguishers before moving in. Also, make sure everyone in the house knows the proper way to handle and use a fire extinguisher.
  6. Cook With Caution
    If you're cooking, always remain in the kitchen while the oven, stove, fryer, or grill are on. If you have to leave, be sure to turn your cooking unit off, or at least reduce the heat. After you're done cooking, make sure to remove any leftover food particles from the oven or stove, as they could potentially catch fire the next time you cook.
  7. Grill Safely
    Everyone loves to grill, but grills can create a fire risk. Always place your grill well away from your home, be sure you keep the grill clean, and never leave your grill unattended. Have baking soda on hand to control a grease fire and a fire extinguisher nearby for other fires. If you don't have a fire extinguisher, keep a bucket of sand next to the grill. Never use water to put out a grease fire.

By taking the necessary precautions and educating yourself on fire safety, you can minimize risk and prevent loss from fire. For more tips on fire prevention, visit www.firepreventionweek.org.

September
18

Buying Your First Home? Why Now is the Perfect Time!

Buying Your First Home

Ready to buy your first home? 2020 has been a year unlike any other, and there are unique opportunities available to anyone who is dreaming of becoming a homeowner for the first time. Interest rates are lower than ever, sellers are very motivated to find qualified buyers, and you can take detailed tours of available homes without leaving your current residence. Our real estate agents have all the details on why this is the perfect time to shop for your first home, and how you can prepare for this opportunity.

  • A Unique Opportunity with Historically Low-Interest Rates
    As of July 2020, interest rates for a 30-year fixed mortgage fell to an all-time low of less than 2.98 percent, the first time ever that rates have dipped below three percent. Lower interest rates make it easier to get "more home" for your money and help keep your mortgage payments lower over time. These record-low rates won't last forever, which makes this a unique opportunity to purchase your first home.
  • Tour Homes Online or In Person
    Shopping for Bradenton homes for sale, but not able to tour homes in person right away? 2020 has seen a major surge in the use of virtual tours and virtual open houses, which allow you to tour homes from the comfort of your computer or mobile device. No matter where you currently live, you can now shop from a distance in your target neighborhoods.

Tips to Help Land Your Perfect First Home in This Unique Market

  • Review Your Credit Report and Boost Your Score
    Putting together a competitive offer for Sarasota homes for sale is much easier when you have strong credit. Request your annual free credit report from the three major bureaus at www.annualcreditreport.com, and ask your REALTOR® about opportunities to improve your score. Once your credit is looking strong, avoid opening new lines of credit or making large purchases until after you have purchased your home.
  • Start Saving for Your Down Payment
    Making a larger down payment has two key advantages because it helps keep your mortgage payments down while also increasing the appeal of your offer to sellers. Saving as much as possible in advance will improve your purchasing power.
  • Research Loan Options and Get Pre-Approved
    If you want sellers to seriously consider your offer, then getting pre-approved for a mortgage is a must. There are many different types of loans available, so it's wise to research what various lenders have to offer before making your choice.
  • Find A Qualified Real Estate Agent
    Especially in this highly competitive "seller's market" if you want to land the perfect home, you need the right real estate agent. A good agent is especially important when shopping for your first home because they can walk you through all of the details of the purchasing process. Your agent can help you analyze the market, identify properties that fit your ideal specs, negotiate the best possible deal when you find a home, and act as a trusted advocate during every step of the process.

Ready to purchase your first home, but still searching for the real estate agent who will help you cross the finish line? Contact us to buy and sell homes in the Manatee and Sarasota, FL area.

July
24

6 Natural Remedies for Eliminating Summer Bugs

Summer Pest Removal

While the warm summer weather is perfect for tasty cookouts and swimming, it also brings a variety of pests who want to make your house their new home. Don't let summer bugs distract you from your summer fun.

The good news is you don't need harsh chemicals to get rid of these unwanted pests! Instead, check out these natural remedies for eliminating summer bugs. All of these remedies below are kid and pet-friendly, and they won't cover your home in chemicals. 

  1. Use Dish Soap Where Bugs Have Been Spotted
    Dish soap is a cheap, quick way to eliminate pests from your home. Plus, you likely already have dish soap in your home. Grab a spray bottle and fill it 3/4 full with water. Then, add 10-20 drops of your favorite dish soap. Spray the solution in bug-prone areas. This option is especially effective at killing ants.
  1. Break into Your Spice Collection
    Spices aren't just for cooking; they can also help you deter bugs from entering your home. The smell from your spices acts as an insect deterrent. Bay leaves are one strong-smelling alternative. Sprinkle the bay leaves in your cabinets and pantry to ward off Indian meal moths and other hungry pests. 
  1. Trap Flying Pests with Apple Cider Vinegar
    Apple cider vinegar is an economical way to fight back against flying pests such as houseflies and fruit flys. You can use the fact that these flies are often attracted to apple cider vinegar to your advantage. Pour a little bit of apple cider vinegar in an old bowl or cup. Cover it with plastic and poke a few small holes so that the flies can get in. Once they're in, the flies won't be able to get back out. Some people also like to add a few drops of dish soap to the trap so that the flies drown quicker. These jar traps will work rapidly to get rid of flying pests. 
  1. Slice Up an Onion
    Want a natural way to deter spiders? Slice up an onion and put the slices in a bowl of water. Put the bowl wherever you've noticed spiders entering your home. The smell from the onion will deter the spiders and encourage them to stay outside.
  1. Raid Your Cat's Supply of Catnip
    Catnip isn't just a cat-friendly herb; it's also a pest repellent. The pungent smell discourages icky pests like cockroaches from living in your home. You can sprinkle catnip directly in areas where you've spotted cockroaches, or you can soak cotton balls with catnip oil and put them in pest-prone areas. An advantage of this option is that it's easy to clean up the catnip when our real estate agents notify you that a potential buyer wants to see your home. Just sweep up the catnip or cotton balls, and your home is as good as new. 
  1. Pick Up a Bag of Cedar Shavings
    You can buy a bag of cedar shavings for under $10; this is the bedding commonly used in small animal cages. Grab a handful of cedar and sprinkle it in your bug-prone areas. Silverfish and spiders are just a couple of the pests who dislike the smell of cedar. 

Ready to sell your home? Contact us today to have our team help list your home among the many wonderful Sarasota and Bradenton homes for sale

June
12

How to Create Your Own Florida Vegetable Garden

Vegetable Garden

Gardening is one of the most enjoyable, family-fun activities we can think of, and you can even include a science lesson as a bonus! If you're looking at Bradenton homes for sale or Sarasota homes for sale, we can help you find a property that offers possibilities for creating your own vegetable garden. After all, it doesn't take that much land to produce a significant amount of food! 

  1. Choose Your Site
    Choose a level site that gets plenty of sunshine. Make sure you have access to water, be it an irrigation system, a soaker hose, or a garden hose. If you live in a community with homeowner's association, be sure to check to be sure that you're following any rules related to gardening on your property.
  2. Create Raised Beds
    Depending on your yard, you might be better off utilizing a raised bed. For this type of garden, you'll need a flat, 4x8-foot area. Double dig the soil, removing rocks and roots. Acquire a frame for your plot from the home and garden store. Build up your soil (layer newspaper or plastic weed barrier, topped with 2-3 inches of garden soil and compost) inside the frame, and you're ready to plant. Raised beds make it easier to keep pests out, prevent soil compaction, and to provide adequate draining. 
  3. Choose Your Plants and Plant Them
    You can plant just about anything in Florida. The key is knowing when is the best time to plant. Whether you grow your plants from seed or transplant young plants from the garden center, choose carefully. Note the plant's needs; for instance, tomatoes need full sun, so don't put them in a shady location. You can't do better than to consult the Old Farmers' Almanac website, adapted for modern gardeners to target specific areas such as Bradenton, with dates for seed starting indoors and outdoors, and for planting. Be mindful of planting dates: with increasingly hot summers, vegetable crops can be damaged by extreme heat, so plant heat-sensitive vegetables early enough so they can set fruit before the hottest months arrive. Some plants may require shade cloth during exceptionally hot times. Follow directions on seed packets or seedling trays for planting. Add mulch around seedlings to keep moisture levels even and to cool the ground. 
  4. Keep an Eye on Your Crops
    Don't just plant your plants and leave them on their own. Check their moisture levels, watering as needed, especially during very hot periods. Fertilize with organic fertilizers such as fish emulsion, bone meal, or seaweed. Spray as a foliar application or pour on roots. Also, check for insect and plant pests, treating with organic applications if possible. 
  5. Enjoy Your Harvest
    Nothing beats fresh from the garden produce! Take this time to note your favorites and consider what you'll grow next year. 

Find just the right Bradenton or Sarasota home to grow your garden. Our real estate agents can help. Contact us today.

May
29

Now is the Time to Prepare for Hurricane Season

Hurricane Prep

The 2020 hurricane system is off to an early start thanks to the appearance of a tropical disturbance in mid-May. There is no time like the present to start preparing your family and your home for hurricane season. Check out these must-do tasks to add to your hurricane prep list.

  1. Gather Your Hurricane Emergency Kit
    Hurricane preparedness requires some shopping to create your emergency kit. Find retailers who are selling the items you need, or you may order them online if the brick and mortar stores are a little bare. Here's what a basic hurricane emergency kit should have:
    • A gallon of water per person per day for three days (if your family has four people, this would equal 12 gallons)
    • A three day supply of non-perishable food
    • A manual can opener
    • Batteries for your flashlights and radio
    • Flashlights
    • A hand-crank radio
    • Food and water for your pets
    • Leashes or crates to transport your pets
    • Prescription or over-the-counter medication
    • Dust masks
    • Plastic bags
    • Plastic ties
    • Wet wipes
    • An emergency whistle
    • A small tool kit

    Consider stowing your emergency kit in plastic tubs. These tubs are easy to transport, and they'll prevent your essentials from getting wet. 
  1. Check Your Insurance Coverage
    Insurance is essential to ensure you're protected against hurricane-related damage. Otherwise, financial complications can prevent you from adding your home to the inventory of Bradenton and Sarasota homes for sale. See that your policy levels are high enough to replace your belongings and rebuild your home. Since the cost to rebuild or repair a property fluctuates, it's important to take these changes into account when reviewing your policy limits. Take a few moments to photograph your possessions (especially items of significant value). Store these pictures on a cloud-storage website. If flood damage from a hurricane is a potential risk, you'll need to purchase a separate flood insurance policy. 
  1. Complete Any Overdue Home Maintenance or Repairs
    A properly maintained property is more likely to withstand hurricane-force winds and rain than one that's been neglected. Our real estate agents also find that maintained properties usually generate more buyer interest when they're on the market. Does your roof have a few loose shingles? Have these shingles replaced so that rain doesn't cause moisture damage? Caulk, seal or repair any cracks or holes in your home to keep moisture out and to prevent animals searching for a dry space from entering your home. Want to bolster your home against wind damage? See if storm windows are right for your home. Storm windows are additional windows that you add to the exterior of your home for additional protection.
  1. Research When a Hurricane is Coming
    When a hurricane is officially on the way, you need to know what additional things you should do. Make sure that your cars are filled with gasoline, as gas stations may have low supplies and high demand due to the impending storm. Secure any loose items on your deck or patio that can turn into projectiles. This includes things like deck furniture, fire pits, outdoor toys, and planters. Make sure that you have a little cash-on-hand. If the power is out, retailers won't be able to process credit or debit cards. 

Our team hopes these tips help your family prepare for this year's hurricane season. Have more questions about life in Southwest Florida and real estate opportunities? Contact us today!

April
24

Simple Tricks for Rearranging Your Furniture

Rearranging Furniture

If your living space is starting to feel a little stale, there are a few things you can do about it. 

Our real estate agents know what it takes to successfully stage Bradenton and Sarasota homes for sale, and we can assure you that arranging the furniture appropriately can change the entire look and feel of a room. Here are a few simple furniture changes that you can make to improve your space. 

  1. Find the Balance
    Interior decorating focuses on striking the right balance. Never is this more important than when it comes to arranging furniture. To avoid rooms feeling lopsided or unsettled, consider both the size and placement of each piece so that you don't end up with all the large or small pieces of furniture bunched together. 

  2. Don't Push Furniture Against the Walls
    Though it might sound counterintuitive, leaving a few spare inches between your furniture and the wall behind can actually make the room feel bigger. Determining how much space to leave should be dictated by the size of the space, but even in smaller rooms, it's best not to have furniture pushed right up against the walls. 

  3. Choose a Focal Point
    Some rooms have a natural focal point, like a fireplace or a prominent set of windows. If that's the case, you can arrange the furniture around that point. If not, you can create your own focal point, such as a large coffee table or an entertainment center, and use it as the central focus of the room. Furniture doesn't have to be directly pointed at the focal point, but it should be arranged so that the eye is drawn toward that focal point. 

  4. Use the Right Size Area Rugs
    Area rugs should generally cover most of the floor, leaving just a bit of extra around the walls. An exception to the rule is if you have hardwood floors you want to show off, but still want a few smaller area rugs to add a splash of color or tie the space together. 

  5. Mix Colors and Textures
    A lot of your furniture and decor can be arranged by color, but don't forget about texture as well. If you're arranging throw pillows on a sofa, for example, mixing up colors and contrasting textures helps keep the eye interested. You don't want colors to clash with each other, but they shouldn't all be too similar. 

  6. Go With the Flow
    One of the most important considerations, when you arrange furniture, is the natural flow of traffic through the room. The last thing you want is to have people tripping over furniture. Make sure each piece of furniture has enough space to walk by it if needed, especially between the coffee table and any couches or chairs that may be nearby. 

  7. Let There Be Light
    Lighting is one of the best tools you have to tie a room together. Use light to your advantage by incorporating a variety of sources, including floor and table lamps as well as ceiling and wall-mounted fixtures. Use natural light as much as possible, with curtains or shades that allow you to control the lighting in each room.

Contact us today to learn more about transforming your living space. We've helped countless families find their dream homes in Florida, and we can't wait to help you find yours!

March
27

7 Ways to Spruce Up Your Home Office

Home Office Tips

Having a home office is becoming a sought-after feature for many home buyers. Whether you're an at-home worker or someone who just needs an occasional space to work on taxes and bills, you can enhance your experience by sprucing up your office space.

Our REALTORS® can help you with advice about what kind of office space might work in your home. In the meantime, here are some clever ways to improve your home office.

  1. Let the light in.
    No matter the type of work you do or the business you're in, light can help you see better, think better and energize you. Considering painting your office walls off white or bright white. Light paint will make the space look much larger.
     
    Lighting things up can also include locating your office space in front of or beside a window to take advantage of natural light. If natural light isn't an option, adding an attractive light fixture can creating an inviting work space as well.
  2. Think vertically.
    You can turn a small space into a larger space by making use of available walls. Add a wall-mounted desk to save floor space, then mount modular shelves so that they "climb" the walls. These bins become the perfect storage space for office supplies. Alternate bins with books, prints, statuary and plants (succulents, slow growers, are a good choice) to create visual interest.
  3. Go a little crazy with furnishings. 
    Nothing says "office" like a steel gray desk and a filing cabinet, but why be boring? There's no rule against eye-catching office decor. These days, you can find office-appropriate chairs in green velvet or a pretty in pink Ikea molded model. Introduce splashes of color into your office environment to create a space that you enjoy working in. 
  4. Don't forget the flooring. 
    Why settle for worn, dingy, or dark old carpet when there are so many great choices in flooring! Faux wood vinyl flooring can completely change the vibe -- just one large piece will do. Other trending flooring choices include responsibly sourced wood floors with non-toxic finishes, and engineered wood with a plywood core, an economic and sustainable choice. 
  5. Create a gallery on the wall.
    Don't need that backsplash above your desk for shelving? Create a gallery with artfully cropped prints, family pictures, your own doodles, found objects and work from your favorite artisans. You'll enjoy endless pleasure arranging your choices, and then gazing at your creation.
  6. Add a feeling of spaciousness with a mirror.
    A mirror can make your office space seem larger than it is. Go for an antique or contemporary standing floor mirror.
  7. Go green.
    Bring in the oxygen and help filter out airborne pollutants with a ficus, or similar low light-loving plant in a container. If you don't trust your green thumb, consider botanical prints, and use green accents. Green is a soothing color that helps people feel centered.

Our real estate agents are ready to help you realize the potential of your home office space. Contact us today. 

December
31

5 New Year's Resolutions for Your Bradenton Home in 2019

Home Resolutions - Wagner Realty

With 2019 just around the corner, it's time to start looking at resolutions for the new year.  While many of us like to put our New Year's focus on our health, wellness, and families – all important things – many homeowners neglect the fact that the New Year is the perfect time to make some New Year's resolutions for your home.  

Below, our real estate agents outlined five easy New Year's resolutions for your Bradenton home:

  1. Do a Deep Clean
    Probably the last thing you're thinking about after a late night on New Year's Eve is deep cleaning your home, but it should be something on your docket for the first few days of the New Year. 

    Over the course of the annum, our homes get dirty – downright filthy, really – no matter how much attention you give to housekeeping throughout the year. Deep clean your kitchen, bathrooms, and laundry areas as a start. These places see the most use, most abuse, and most accumulation of grime.

  2. Seal The Gaps
    Worn weather stripping, windows that don't close all the way, and gaps in exterior walls, thresholds, and doorways can cause some major efficiency issues as well as plenty of other problems with pests, moisture, and draftiness. 

    As we approach the coldest winter months and cold winds bear down on our homes, we tend to notice an unsealed home far more than we would in the warmer summer months, so take the time now to prevent a drafty house in increase your homes heating and cooling efficiency

  3. Replace Filters
    Speaking of heating and cooling efficiency, you're not doing yourself any favors by letting a dirty air filter clog up your HVAC system. Replace or clean your air filter as part of your home resolutions. 

    A clean air filter means more airflow across your furnace's heat exchanger and evaporator coil, less stress on your blower motor and air conditioner, and less likelihood of breakdowns down the road. Use a quality, pleated air filter and replace monthly no matter what the manufacturer's packaging says.

  4. Touch Up Paint
    While seemingly insignificant, touching up paint can give your home a whole new glow for 2019. Over the year, we knick and knack, slam and scuff, and generally make a mess of our walls, doorways, and trim no matter how careful we are.  

    With that said, take some time to touch up those scuffs, fill any old picture holes with caulk, and make those touch-ups. For most homeowners, this is a simple task that shouldn't require much time or covering up – a perfect New Year's task.

  5. Make Remodel Plans
    One thing that we all fail to think about until it actually happens is remodeling. If 2019 is the year you choose to make some changes to your home, then take some time between your other tasks to map out exactly how you're going to go about doing so.

    Budgeting is crucial, so sit down with your family and discuss ways you can put away money for needed changes, sell some old clothes or possessions, and generally make a battle plan for your goals for the year.

Buy a Home in Bradenton

Maybe you're still looking for a home and have put your New Year's focus on purchasing Bradenton homes for sale. You've come to the right place! We have a full inventory of homes and can help you find the right one. Make a new home part of your New Year's resolution and contact Wagner Realty today to find the perfect home for you and your family.

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