How To Remove Stains From Granite Countertops

Nothing makes a kitchen look as sleek as sparkling granite countertops, but it only takes a single stain to ruin that look. If you want to get rid of that stain, don’t reach for those harsh chemical cleaners under the sink; they might actually do more harm than good. It is especially important to stay away from cleaners that eat at the stone, like vinegar or anything made with lemon. 

Here are a few ways to remove any stain from your granite countertops:

Materials

  1. A non-abrasive cloth or pad that won’t scratch the granite countertop (microfiber cloths work great). 
  2. A pH-neutral soap (these soaps are usually labeled ‘mild,’ ‘gentle,’ or ‘great for hands’) or a granite cleaner. 
  3. Plastic wrap
  4. Mixing bowl
  5. Masking tape
  6. Plastic putty knife (optional)
  7. A poultice (See below: different ingredients based on the kind of stain)

Poultice

For each kind of stain, there is a different poultice (a fancy word for a wet mixture). Each of these poultices is made of a solvent (a chemical to remove the stain) and an absorbent material (such as a paper towel, talcum powder, diatomaceous earth, or even flour). 

If you know what caused the stain, it will make things easier to clean up. If you don’t know what caused the stain, try the first poultice on this list before moving on to anything harsher. 

  1. For minor stains, use a mixture of baking soda and water. This will work on many kinds of stains without causing too much damage. You can also try a mixture of flour and soapy water. (Make sure to use a pH-neutral soap!)
  2. For organic stains (caused by coffee, soda, wine, fruit, etc.), soak paper towels in 12% hydrogen peroxide (don’t buy this from a drug store, get it from a beauty supply store). Be careful: hydrogen peroxide can cause dark areas to become lighter, so if you have dark marble, do not let the poultice sit for too long. 
  3. For oil stains (caused by cooking oil, butter, etc.) mix one part water, flour, and pure acetone (make sure to purchase this through a beauty supply shop, do not use nail polish remover, as these can contain other ingredients). 
  4. For inorganic stains (caused by ink, dyes, etc.) use hydrogen peroxide for light-colored stone or acetone for dark-colored stone. 
  5. For metal stains (caused by rust, copper, etc.), use a mixture of diatomaceous earth and a commercially available rust remover. However, be warned that rust stains are very hard to remove, and you may need to call a professional to have these stains removed. 

Removing The Stain

  1. Clean the area thoroughly with warm water and a pH-neutral cleaner.
  2. Let the area dry.
  3. Mix poultice ingredients in a bowl to form a thick paste (the consistency of peanut butter) and use it to cover the stained area with a thin layer. When using a liquid poultice, you can also just soak the liquid in paper towels. 
  4. Cover the entire stain with the poultice.
  5. Place plastic wrap over the poultice and secure the edges of the plastic wrap to the counter with masking tape to ensure it stays put.
  6. Poke holes in the plastic wrap with a pin to allow it to slowly dry. 
  7. Let the poultice sit for at least an hour. (For tougher stains, let the poultice sit overnight and up to 24 hours.)
  8. Remove the plastic and use a plastic putty knife or scraper to remove the poultice completely.
  9. If the stain is still visible after a few days, repeat the process. 
  10. When you are done, make sure to re-seal the area that was cleaned to ensure that the area is protected from future stains. 

Make sure to test this solution on a small, inconspicuous area of the countertop to ensure that there are no adverse effects. Some poultices do cause minor discoloration that goes away after a few days, so make sure to give it time to heal before freaking out. However, if the stain persists, you can always try a professionally-made poultice or call a professional granite cleaner.

Take Better Listing Photos With These 7 Tips

The first time a buyer sees a house is usually in the listing photos. Good listing photos will stick in a buyer’s mind, increasing the chance they will want to see the real thing. It takes a lot to convince a buyer to take time out of their schedule to see a place based on a bad listing photo. Plus, a bad photo can make the realtor look less competent, depending on how bad they are. 

Here are 6 ways to improve your listing photos:

  1. Buy A Quality Camera

Your phone camera does not compare to a real camera. If you want quality pictures, you’re going to have to use a quality camera. Simply put, the sensor in your phone, which captures light, is not as big as the one in a real camera. So, no matter how many megapixels it has, it won’t capture as much. 

Digital single-lens reflex camera.

2. Add More Light

The whole point of a listing photo is to give buyers a chance to see what the property looks like, so you want to capture as much light as you can. As a rule, natural light always looks better in a picture than artificial light, so make sure to open the windows.

You can also capture some good outdoor pictures during what is known as the “magic hour” or “golden hour.” This is the first or last hour of sunlight when the light is softer and redder. Filmmakers often shoot during this time to get more romantic or emotionally heightened shots. Turn on all the lights in the house to make these pictures pop!

Home captured in the late evening.

3. Use A Tripod

One way to make a photo brighter is by reducing blur. When you are taking a picture by hand, any slight shake will cause a blur, which will make the image look dull and dark. A tripod can also help you make a dark room look brighter by allowing you to take a clear picture with lower shutter speed. 

4. Use Shutter Speed

You can make a room look much brighter by lowering the shutter speed on your camera, which increases the amount of time that light hits the sensor. However, be aware that any camera movements or movements in front of the camera will be amplified during this time (that’s why you need a tripod).

It is usually better to lower the shutter speed than to increase the ISO, which will add noise, or decrease the aperture, which will affect the depth of field. 

Blurred texture.

5. Keep It Horizontal 

The human eye is accustomed to horizontal (landscape) photos more than vertical (portrait) ones. Unless there is no other way to capture an image, you should always remember to keep the camera with the widest side parallel to the floor. 

6. Use a Wide-Angle Lens

A wide-angle lens will capture more of a room in one shot than a normal lens. A lens wider than 50-35mm (the smaller the number, the wider the lens) will also keep the whole room in focus. 

However, the wider you go, the more distorted the image will be. A really wide-angle lens, known as a fisheye lens, does not help a small space look bigger. In fact, a fisheye lens can make a room look so distorted that it becomes hard to judge the size of anything.

Fisheye effect.

7. Hire a Professional 

If you are having too much trouble getting the shot just right, hire a professional to come by. Then, follow them around as they take pictures and see if you can learn something about the way they shoot. 

The only way you’re going to get the best listing photos is by understanding how the camera sees a space. You will probably have to play with it for a while until you start learning, but if you put in the effort, your pictures could end up being worth more than a thousand words. 

3 Home Improvements That Aren’t Worth It For Sellers

Houses are a big-ticket item when selling them most improvements will yield big returns. Proper staging is one of the first things your agent will tell you to get sorted out before officially putting your home on the market. That starts with clearing your house of personal items, out of place furniture, clutter and giving it a deep clean. After that, touch-ups and minor repairs need to be tended to, ensuring the home is pristine. Sellers who are really looking to maximize their profits often include major home improvements.

The logic is major home improvements, while expensive, will yield far larger returns. When it comes to touching up a scuffed up wall, it’s a no-brainer, but once you start investing significant capital, the proposition becomes riskier and can end up coming back to bite you.

Generally, improvements to kitchens and bathrooms are high impact and while you still need to be frugal when executing them, they are generally less risky. If you’re looking at other types of improvements, it’s important to always consult an experienced real estate agent first. Here’s an example of presale home improvements that are not only a waste of time, but they could also easily end up costing you more than you stand to gain.

1. Trendy Design & Decor

It’s always a nice touch to keep up with the latest design trends, it takes any house to the next level. And while it may pique the interest of buyers with sophisticated taste, you’re ignoring the typical buyer which represents a far larger segment of prospects. The key when showing a home is appealing to the widest range of buyers possible, that means nothing flashy. With paint, stick to whites and grey’s, traditional hardwoods and conservative, yet tasteful finishes in the kitchen and bathrooms.

Colorful living room with armchair and coffee table.

2. DIY Projects Better Left To The Pros

When executing home improvements to stage a home, DIY projects are great because you save on the most expensive part of a renovation; labor. There are limitless little improvements you can do to spruce up the place and impress prospective buyers. It’s important, however, not to bite off more than you can chew. If you take on a project that’s better left to the pros, you can end up causing a mess and have to pay someone more to clean it up than you would have had you hired a pro in the first place. Only take on projects you can handle or risk wasting time and money.

Frustrated Woman With Self Assembly Furniture In Kitchen

3. Smart Home Upgrade

Every home these days has aspects that are smart, but are all smart homes? To be considered a smart home, it has to be fully automated, including security, lights, curtains, thermostats, appliances, and on and on. No doubt fully automated smart homes are desirable to almost any buyer, but is it worth upgrading your home to this status before selling? Fully automating your house is expensive and while prospective buyers may think it looks cool, it won’t factor into their offer. Gadgets aren’t as important to buyers as layouts, finishes, and location. Don’t waste your time and money on this home improvement.

Smart house concept. Communication network of residence. Energy management system. IoT. AI.

Home Inspection Mistakes to Avoid

Before buying a house, make sure to hire a professional inspector to come to look at the property. Otherwise, you might not know if there are any major problems with the house, which could cause major headaches down the road. It has almost become standard practice for a buyer to have an inspection, but even if you plan on having an inspection, there are some common mistakes you should avoid. 

Not Picking The Right Inspector

An inspection is only as good as the inspector, so don’t just go with the cheapest one. Besides, the cheapest inspector could be inexperienced or they could have trouble finding clients for other reasons. 

You don’t have to hire the most expensive inspector either. They may be charging too much for a job that could be done for less. The bottom line is: make sure you do your research. Even if your realtor suggests an inspector, it can’t hurt to go online and check them out. 

Visit their website, check out reviews and testimonials, and make sure to ask them for a sample inspection report. You want them to include lots of pictures and details that explain the home’s strengths and weaknesses in their report. Then compare their sample inspection report with other sample reports to see how thorough they are. You want as much information as possible so you can get accurate estimates on how much different repairs will cost.

Not Personally Attending The Inspection 

It is important to meet the inspector and shake their hand. Knowing the inspector on a personal basis could come in handy down the line when you have a question about the inspection report. If you know the inspector, you can call them up and ask them about something.

Also, you want to know that your inspection is being done properly, but if you don’t stick around for the inspection, it is pretty hard to tell if they are rushing through the job. 

Skipping the inspection also means you probably won’t get another opportunity to see certain parts of the house until you own it. You might not have seen the attic crawl space or inside the electric box during the open house, and the home inspection is a perfect time to tell if there are any problems with those sorts of areas before it’s too late.

Lastly, you want to be there during the inspection to talk to the inspector about certain problems. It’s one thing to see the inspector’s notes in the report, but those can often be too technical for the average home buyer. If you are at the inspection, there’s a good chance that the inspector will talk you through any problems they find. 

Home Inspection.

Not Letting The Inspector Do Their Job

While it is important to be at the inspection, you should be aware that the inspector is focused on looking for flaws in a house they’ve never been to before. You want to ask them questions, but it’s best to wait until they are done with one area before you start talking their ear off. 

The worst thing you can do during an inspection is hover over the inspector and distract them so much that they end up missing some major problems. An inspector should be there for about 2-4 hours, depending on the size of the house and the problems they find. So, there is plenty of time to talk to them about what they find at some point during the inspection. 

Many times, the inspector will initiate the conversation. Inspectors are not always the most chatty people, but when they find a problem they will usually call you over and explain things to you. It might be difficult to comprehend what they are talking about if they are explaining technical issues, but if you’re not present, it will be much harder to understand an issue while you are reading their report. 

Not Taking Lots Of Pictures

Inspectors will often ask you to take pictures while they are explaining a problematic area to you. These pictures could come in handy when you are trying to get proper estimates down the line. You should take as many pictures as you can, especially when it comes to anything that the inspector told you might need attention. You want to get close-ups from multiple angles and capture all the serial numbers and stickers on anything you can. 

You should even take pictures of things that might not seem important at the moment. You might not need these for getting estimates, but there might come a time when you wish you had them. The inspector will also be taking pictures during their inspection, which will be included in the report, but they are often smaller and might be hard to see. 

Not Reading The Inspection Report

Even if you followed the inspector around and asked all the right questions, you should still read the inspection report. There might be problems that the inspector didn’t talk to you about because they don’t need immediate attention, but you still want to know that information. You may be able to include minor issues in your request for repairs, which could help bring the sale price down. 

The inspection report will also be a good reference when you want to make repairs or have any problems down the line. If you asked questions during the inspection, you will be more detailed when talking to contractors or technicians later. For all intents and purposes, an inspection report should almost be considered to be the user’s manual for your new house, and the people that read the user’s manual usually doesn’t have as many problems as those who skip it.

Home Staging 101: How to Sell Your Home Fast

If you’re planning to sell your house, you’ve probably heard of the term home staging by now. The goal of home staging is to make your house more attractive in order to appeal to a larger number of buyers. Since everything is a numbers game, the more interested buyers, the quicker and higher your home sells for. Sounds simple, right? The concept is, but results can vary based on how well your home is staged.

Some sellers spend a couple thousand for home staging professionals to come in and redecorate the place. If you can afford to do this, by all means, go for it. If that’s not in your budget, there are still basic principles you can follow to help your house sell faster and for more.

Follow these five steps to get your home ready to sell:

1) Declutter and Organize

Declutter household items.

This is a seemingly simple task, but daunting nonetheless due to the amount of clutter we tend to accumulate over time. However, this is probably the most important thing you can do before you sell. It’s also a great way to make some extra cash (sell what you don’t want or donate the rest) and as a bonus, you’ll get to move into a new place with a clean slate, only bringing the items you actually value.

To get started, take it one room at a time. If you hop from room to room, it can become overwhelming. After you declutter, be sure to designate where the unwanted items will go, either donate, recycle (if possible) or sell them. Next, you’ll want to reorganize your remaining items so that everything has a place. Finally, do a deep clean. If cleaning isn’t your strong suit, you may want to consider bringing in professional help.

2) Rearrange Furniture

Newly arranged furniture in the living room of a luxury home.

Unless you run an interior design blog, chances are your furniture is arranged in a comfortable + practical way, as it should be. However, now is the time to style it up for looks — not comfort. This means removing outdated pieces and adding in new, modern furniture. If you simply can’t afford to spend anything, still move around what you have — sometimes that’s all it takes for a fresh look. If you’re not sure how to start arranging the furniture, browse the website or Instagram of modern retailers such as Crate & Barrel or West Elm for inspiration.

3) Paint Works Wonders

Wall paint contrast.

An easy and inexpensive way to update your home is with a fresh coat of paint. The safe bet is to go with light colors, such as white, light grey or blue. These are neutral colors that appeal to most people (remember that’s the goal here) and can help brighten + enlarge the look of a room. Most people are pleasantly surprised by how new paint can transform their space.

4) Accessorize Your Space

Rear kitchen bench styled with cut flowers and colorful saucepans.

You don’t have to go all out here, but adding a decorative plant, candle or even stack of books can warm up the space and add a cozy feel. This doesn’t mean fill every inch of empty space, you just decluttered for a reason. Instead, select maybe three decorative items per room, less if it’s a small space. Also, make sure the items are relevant to the space. For example, you might add a throw blanket in the bedroom or a bowl of fruit on the kitchen counter. The goal is to keep it simple and attractive.  

5) Mow the Lawn

Mulching garden beds with pine bark pieces

It’s easy to get hung up on the interior details, but you can’t neglect the outside either. Keep in mind, your home’s exterior is the first thing buyers see, and if they don’t like it, chances are they won’t make it inside. It doesn’t have to look professionally landscaped, but some general maintenance goes a long way.

That being said, keep the lawn mowed, edges trimmed, and weeds pulled. Give your front door a fresh coat of paint and add a new welcome mat or planter on the front stoop. Clean the windows, gutters, and remove any debris from the yard. If you have plant beds, be sure to clean those up as well and maybe spring for new mulch or flowers. It sounds like a lot of work (and it is), but the reward will be worth it.

Four Ways to Increase Your Curb Appeal

How would you rate your home’s curb appeal? If you’re trying to sell, let’s hope its good!

Curb appeal is crucial to helping your home sell fast and for more. When prepping a home to sell, people often focus on the inside — painting, refinishing floors and staging. This is all 100% necessary, but you can’t neglect the outside either, because first impressions can make or break you.

That being said, you don’t have to hire a professional landscaper to get your home noticed. Most of the work can be done yourself, without breaking the bank.

DIY – painting door.

Here are four ways to make your home’s exterior stand out:

1) Paint the Front Door

If your front door has cracked or peeling paint, it’s time for a fresh coat. Also, color trends often change, if your door hasn’t been painted in a long time, you may want to consider an updated color such as navy blue or maroon. While you’re at it, go ahead and spruce up the entire front stoop. Consider adding a new welcome mat or potted plant to go with your freshly painted door.

2) Yard Maintenance

Everyone’s least favorite chore, but probably the most important thing you can do when selling. Basic tasks like mowing the lawn, trimming edges and pulling weeds can make all the difference. Make sure to remove any debris such as leaves or fallen branches from your yard. Maybe even spring for some new mulch or flowers to add a finishing touch!

3) Light it Up

Proper lighting not only allows potential buyers to see your place at night, but it also adds a level of security. Start off by updating what you have– switch out old lights for new bulbs that are energy-efficient and offer better lighting. If you don’t have much lighting, to begin with, consider pathway lights (bonus points if they’re solar-powered) that will illuminate your walkway at night.

4) Gutters, Cracks and More

This is probably the most labor-intensive category, but necessary nonetheless. As houses age, cracks develop, fences get worn, gutters are over-do for cleaning. Now is your chance to update anything that has developed as an eyesore. Think of it this way, instead of adding new things to your exterior, consider updating what you already have — that’s all you typically need to improve your home’s curb appeal.

6 Ways to Make a House Feel Bigger

Are you trying to sell a house that can only be described as “cozy?” Maybe it’s bigger than you think.

With these cheap and easy tips, you can make your little house feel a whole lot bigger, which should make your sale price a little bigger as well.

Add More Light

Natural light is the easiest and best way to make a room feel light and airy. Opening a window essentially brings the outside world in, which, unless your windows face a brick wall, can make a room seem much larger.  

If you don’t have enough natural light, add some lamps to brighten up any dark corners. Your eyes will be drawn to the corners of a room if they are well lit.

bedroom lighting

Use Pale Paint

There’s a reason almost every wall in every house you’ve ever seen has been the same color. White walls reflect light, which makes them seem like they are farther away than they actually are.

But if white is too bland for you, there are a myriad of other pale colors and shades that you can use. In fact, painting a whole room the same shade of white can make it feel flat, which will make it feel small. Try painting the ceiling a lighter shade than the walls to give the room a sense of depth.

Add Some Mirrors

Mirrors can make things appear larger than they are, which is why designers often use them in small rooms. Not only do mirrors reflect light and color, they also add depth to a room. Placing a mirror opposite a window is a good way to increase the amount of light in a room.

Add Some Stripes

Adding stripes can elongate aspects of a room if they are aligned properly. For instance: adding curtains with vertical stripes can make a room seem taller, and adding a rug with stripes that go the length of the room will make it look longer.

Or, if you want to make a bigger fashion statement, you can paint stripes on the walls, ceilings, and even floors. However, you can achieve a similar effect simply by aligning your floorboards or tiles parallel to the longest wall in a room.

White and grey flat interior with striped carpet, corner couch and green plants

Arrange The Furniture

Nothing makes a room feel more cluttered than badly-arranged furniture. It is important to think about what pieces a room actually needs. Figure out where the largest pieces of furniture fit best and then add smaller pieces around them.

Think about where the traffic will flow in a room. Make sure furniture is not blocking any entryways, and allow a lot of room for footpaths through rooms. As a general rule: the more floor you can see, the better.

To directly contradict the last point, pulling the couch away from the wall and adding a narrow gap of 2-4 inches will actually make a room feel larger. Having a space behind the couch creates a shadow that will add depth and make it feel further away from the wall than it actually is.

Use See-Through Furniture

A coffee table normally takes up a lot of real estate in the living room, but it doesn’t have to feel that way. Using see-through furniture pieces, such as an acrylic coffee table, a glass desk, or a mesh office chair, gives you all the functionality without feeling like they take up as much space.

Lounge area in luxury apartment show home showing interior design decor furnishing with sea view

You can also trade in your big, bulky leather chairs and couches for ones that have raised legs. The space underneath them will simultaneously create shadows that add depth, and allow more light to bounce around the room.

Also, consider trading your old shower curtain in for a clear one. You’ll probably have to clean your shower more often, but it could easily make your bathroom feel more spacious.


Paint with These Colors and Sell Your House for More

Buyers have a hard time imagining what a house would look like in a different color. So, you’re not doing yourself any favors by painting your living room neon pink (or neon anything for that matter). You might like the color of your house, but it could be scaring potential buyers away.

According to a recent paint color analysis by Zillow, you could increase the sale price of your home for the cost of a can of paint. The online real estate database analyzed more than 135,000 photos from listings across the country that sold since 2010 to find out how homes with certain colors compared to similar homes that were painted white.

Front Door

Painting your front door a charcoal color, specifically a smoky black to a rich jet black, can boost the sale price of a home by 2.9 percent. That means the average house with a black door sold for a staggering $6,271 more than expected.

“For a seller, painting a front door is one of the least expensive home prep projects, but also one that can have a powerful impact on a home’s sale price,” Kerrie Kelly, Zillow home design expert, said.

Grey house exterior with black door and stone wall.

Living Room

Home buyers want their new living room to have a warm, comfortable feeling. That’s why painting your living room a light taupe, specifically a warm tan with pink or peach undertones, could increase the sale price by up to 1.3 percent. On average, light taupe living rooms netted $2,793 more than homes with white or other color walls.

Modern interior of living room with gray sofa, lamp,shelf,coffee table

Bathroom

Homeowners who used neutral colors in the bathroom, like a light blue, specifically a periwinkle blue, increased the sale price of their home by 1.3 percent, which comes out to $2,786 on average. That’s a lot more than the cost of a can of paint!

Light blue velux bathroom with window. View of white antique freestanding bath tub, washbasin stand and toilet

On the other hand, a study conducted by Zillow last year found that homes with bathrooms that were totally painted white sold for $4,035 less than expected.

Kitchen

According to the research, homebuyers are willing to spend more for homes that had a tuxedo kitchen, a style that has light-colored upper cabinets and walls with dark-colored lower cabinets and islands, sold for $1,547 more than expected.

Modern kitchen with white brick tiles and wooden ceiling

“Contrasting colors, especially in kitchens and home exteriors add interest and dimension to a room that plays very well in listing photos and videos,” Kerrie Kelly said.

However, when buyers saw red in the kitchen, they paid $2,310 less than expected. This includes everything from brick red to a lighter shade of raspberry red.

Front view of modern kitchen interior in red color theme.

Exterior

They used to say “If you want to sell her, paint her yellow,” but they would be wrong today. In fact, Zillow’s study showed that all kinds of yellow, from a creamy bright yellow to a warm yellow with brown undertones, can drop the price of the average US home by $3,408. Now that’s an expensive paint job!

Windows of wooden yellow house, decorated with fresh flowers.

Dining Room

It seems like the average buyer doesn’t find brown to be an appetizing color. Homes with brown dining rooms sold for an average of $1,684 less. Buyers didn’t want to eat in dining rooms that were an oat brown or a medium sandy brown or a brown with yellowish undertones.

But homebuyers in Tampa, Florida, were willing to spend an extra 11.8 percent for a dining room that was painted “greige,” or a mix of gray and blue.

“Greige is a non-offensive color, a very natural look, and that’s a key word today,” Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute, told the Los Angeles Times.


Interior design trends change every year, so don’t expect these colors to remain in fashion. However, year after year, homes that are painted in neutral colors tend to command higher prices. So, when in doubt, pick a boring color.

In the end, you want buyers to focus on the space, not the color. If they don’t like it, they can paint it whatever color they want – after they buy it.