8 Tools Every New Homeowner Needs

The moment you buy your first home, it’s only a matter of time until something breaks and you have to fix it. Chances are, you used to call your landlord anytime something broke in the past, or maybe you have a handyman in the family that would help you.

But now you are on your own, and any repairs that need to be made suddenly need to be made by you. So, you’re going to want to head down to the local hardware store and pick up a few items to make sure you are always prepared. 

Here’s a quick list of 8 tools that you might not have had in your apartment but should definitely have when you move into your first home. 

A Toolbox

First thing’s first: you need a place to put all the tools you are about to buy. Sure, you can keep everything in some bag, but you’ll eventually lose so many tools, that buying a toolbox will be cheaper. 

Plus, many toolboxes make it easier to organize your stuff, which will cut down on the time you spend doing repairs. Some toolbox sets come with many of the items on this list already inside. However, you might not want to get one of these because it might have tools that you don’t use or there might not be room for other tools you use all the time. 

New square toolbox on wooden texture background. Top view

Screwdrivers

You’ll be screwed if you don’t have at least 2 kinds of screwdriver: a Phillips head and a slot head. Nearly every kind of screw will work with these two screwdrivers. 

While you might have had one of these before, you should get a set that has several different kinds of tips. If you get one that’s magnetic, it will also help you fish screws out of tight spaces. 

Set of heads for screwdriver (bits) Tools collection in orange plastic packaging isolated on white background.

A Power Drill

Every screw needs a hole, and that’s where drills come in handy. Plus, even if you have a screwdriver, it is pretty tough to get screws into your studs without a power drill. 

When buying a cordless power drill, make sure to get one that has a universal battery type. This way you can use the same battery for other power tools you end up buying in the future.

Close up of handyman holding a drill machine with a tool belt around the waist. Detail of artisan hand holding the electric drill with tools isolated over grey background. Closeup hand of bricklayer holding carpentry accessories.

An Adjustable Wrench

You’d be nuts not to get an adjustable wrench for your new house! Without one of these, there’s no way you could undo any nuts or bolts. 

You might also have to get more than one wrench or even a socket wrench set, depending on your needs. They are often necessary to work on different pipes around the house. 

Tools plumbing on floor and tors of a girl in blue overalls top view.

A Tape Measure

Once you have a tape measure, you’ll be surprised by how many things you want to measure. Having one will make it easy to find out how big the couch is before you decide to move it into the other room, or how tall your window is before you buy new curtains. 

Construction tape measure on a wooden floor.

Putty Knives

You probably didn’t need to have a putty knife in your apartment because you weren’t supposed to damage the drywall. Now that you have your own place, you want to make sure to plug up any unsightly holes that you are allowed to cause now. 

Putty knives can also be used to scrape dry glue or paint from surfaces like glass and ceramic. It is also best to buy two of them so you can use one to scrape any junk off the other. 

Kit of putty knives over wooden table

A Stud Finder

Now that you can make holes in your walls, you’re going to want to put them in the right place. You might not know this, but you can’t just nail a picture anywhere, especially if a heavy one. You’ll end up creating a big hole in your drywall and the picture will fall down. 

Your studs are there to support the stuff you want to hang on the wall, make sure you know where they are. Pro tip: studs are usually spaced 16 inches apart in most homes.

Photo of female hands holding using stud finder and pencil against interior home white wall

A Snake

You don’t want to have to call a plumber every time a drain gets clogged. You can easily unclog your tub, toilet, and sink with this simple tool. There are many kinds of drain snakes that you can buy, but most of them will pay for themselves after a single-use. 

Plumber unclogging a tub drain with an electric auger.

4 Pet-Friendly House Hunting Tips

All pet owners know that a pet isn’t just a fixture, they’re a part of the family. And just like any other member of the family, they require a lot of care. When we say ‘pets’ we’re not referring to goldfish, but dogs and cats. Like humans, in order to have a healthy existence, pets require attention and affection. The lengths pet owners often go to ensure their pets have everything they need and more is astounding, but oftentimes they neglect to account for them when house hunting.

When house hunting, especially in competitive markets, finding an ideal house can be very challenging. Finding a layout you like on a nice property in an ideal neighborhood that’s in a good school district, in addition to many other factors, is not easy. Buyers tend to pounce on the first opportunity they get, often neglecting the needs of their pets.

A pet-friendly environment is an essential aspect of a successful home purchase. The last thing you want is a stressed pet when acclimating to your new stomping ground. A home or neighborhood that is not conducive to your pet’s contentment will compromise your contentment.

1. Community Pet Standards

Not all communities are pet friendly, in fact, some even have by-laws regarding pets. Before purchasing a home, ensure that you meet all the criteria and aren’t stuck in a situation where you’re in a community that doesn’t allow pets or places a restriction on how many you can have. Certain communities also have breed restrictions on dogs that are perceived as more aggressive.

No dogs allowed sign with red letters on a white background smeared where graffiti has been removed and attached to a black metal fence in a park with orange games equipment in the background.

2. Backyard & Neighbourhood Parks

If you have medium to large breed dogs or outdoor cats, they’re going to need plenty of room to roam. It’s suggested that larger dogs be walked for 1 hour a day. Having a yard large enough for them to stretch out is a start, but proximity to parks is essential. Also, take a look at the type of park, some parks are more pet friendly than others with designated off-leash areas and other pet-friendly perks.

Pair of Jack Russell Terriers at evening spring park.

3. Flooring

The ideal flooring for your pets is resistant to scratching, allows your pet some traction, is comfortable, and easy to clean. Make sure the flooring on a prospective home is suitable or contemplate if you are willing to upgrade it. If upgrading, speak to a flooring expert about the best options to meet those criteria and from there it depends on what your preferred style is. Carpeting, for example, is great for comfort and traction but is difficult to clean and will get torn up. Hardwood is easy to clean, but your pet will be slipping all over the place and scratching up your floor.

Cute puppy sitting near wet spot

4. Stairs

Stairs can be a hazard to pets, a slip can result in a devastating injury to your fur baby. No matter what type of flooring you have, if your stairs aren’t carpeted, consider installing a stair runner so that your pet can get proper traction when ascending or descending the stairs. 

Stairs in a modern luxury apartment

How to Stop Wasting Energy on Stuff You Already Turned Off

Whether you want to save the environment, or you just want to save money on your electrical bill, you probably turn off certain appliances and electrical products before you leave for work or go to bed. But you might not actually be saving as much as you think. 

In fact, 10% of residential electricity in the US is used by various products that have been turned off, according to the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab (LBNL). Their study showed that certain electronics like your TV, microwave, and air conditioner don’t actually stop using energy when you turn them off. Instead, many products and appliances go into what is known as “standby mode,” which means they cannot be completely switched off unless they are unplugged. 

Here are the biggest “energy vampires” in your home, and how much energy they use when they are turned off, according to the LBNL’s research. 

Television

One reason your TV is always using a small amount of energy is to be able to receive a signal from a remote control. When a television with rear projection is turned on it uses around 186 Watts, but when it is off it uses an average of 7W to as much as 49W. 

Unplugged TV

That means a person who leaves their TV off (but plugged in) for 1 year, uses as much as 425kWh, which would have the same greenhouse gas emissions as driving a car for 735 miles, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Cable Box

If you’ve ever turned off your cable box before a long trip to save power, you might have been wasting your energy. The average set-top cable box uses around 18W when it’s off, while a cable box with DVR uses an average of 44W when it’s turned off. 

If you have more than one TV that uses DVR, you can save energy by requesting a multi-room box that allows you to use the same DVR throughout the house. 

Computer

Turning a computer off saves a lot of energy. When they are on, the average desktop computer consumes 74W, while turning it off only uses 3W. But if you don’t like to shut your computer down too often, putting it in sleep only uses 21W. 

Computer monitors can also use a lot of energy when they are on (65W for CRT, 28W for LCD), but their consumption also goes way down they are in sleep mode (12W for CRT, 1W LCD) and it’s near-zero when they are off. That means you can save a lot simply by setting your computer to go to sleep after being inactive for a certain length of time. 

Note: Sleep mode is not the same as a screensaver, which does not save any more energy than having the computer on. 

Photo of a Young Teen sleeping in front of a laptop computer on a bed.

Game Consoles

The average game console uses 27W when someone is playing a game, and 23W when it’s off but ready. That might be why a Carnegie Mellon University study found that approximately 1 % of US residential electricity consumption comes from game consoles. 

According to the study, the most energy-efficient game system at the time was the Nintendo Wii, but the reason for that was because: “they are used one-third as much as the other consoles and have very low power consumption in active mode.”

Find Your Biggest Energy Hogs

There are many other devices, appliances, and products that the average person has plugged in and forgot about. You can find out which devices are energy hogs when they’re turned off with an electricity usage monitor. All you have to do is plug the monitor into the wall and then plug your device into the monitor. It will tell you how much power is being used by the device when it’s on or off, and some of them even tell you how much it costs to keep the device plugged in. 

Measuring energy cost.

Solutions

One way you can make things easier is by plugging several energy vampires into a power strip, which will allow you to turn several products off at once. However, you have to remember to turn the power strip off every time. Plus, when you turn this power strip on, all the devices will enter standby mode. To make things as easy as possible, you can get a smart power strip that will cut the power to an outlet when the device goes into standby mode. 

3 Tips on How to Hunt Down Real Estate Bargains

For Millenials, Gen z-ers, and beyond, the prospect of purchasing their first property is far scarier and seemingly unattainable than in previous generations. In the past, real estate was still a major purchase, but a typical household in which the father had a full-time job and the mother stayed at home had sufficient income to buy a home and raise a family.

In today’s reality, even with a dual income, couples are scraping by if able to buy a home at all. As a result, many of today’s young families are relegated to renting or squeezing into a condominium. The prospect of finding a real estate deal within their budget isn’t seriously entertained.

Unlike other industries, most people think there’s no such thing as a serious deal in real estate. But for those with good credit and solid employment that are just shy of affording a home, there is still hope!

Be diligent, follow these tips and if you’re patient, you will be able to finally make your dreams of homeownership come true.

1. For Sale By Owner

When homes are for sale by owner, you can get really lucky and find a listing that’s below market value because the seller accounts for savings on agents fees. Additionally, they are generally much more willing to negotiate, enabling you to explore terms with them to meet your budget. The trick is finding these real estate listings. The best way to be the first one with your foot in the door is by going to the big real estate websites, like Trulia and Zillow, and setting alerts for whenever a ‘for sale by owner’ property comes on the market in a desirable area.

Modern Suburban Home for Sale Real Estate Sign in front of modern home.

2. Rehab Loan

A lot of young buyers could swing purchasing a home, but often what they can afford is undesirable. Understandably, they’d often prefer biding their time in a non-committal rental unit than buying an old run-down home they can’t afford to front the cash to renovate. Luckily there’s a type of loan you can apply for that allows you to incorporate renovation costs. This gives you the opportunity to hunt down great real estate bargains without having to worry about the quality of your home in the short term.

Material for repairs in an apartment is under construction, remodeling, rebuilding, and renovation. Making walls from gypsum plasterboard or drywall.

3. Foreclosures

Banks focus on money management, not property management. For this reason, in the unfortunate scenarios when peoples homes get foreclosed on, banks are willing to give significant discounts just to unload the property. However, with foreclosures, they’re a mixed bag, there are a lot of run-down properties with issues the previous owners probably couldn’t afford to fix. Work with an experienced agent and make sure you have a thorough inspection conducted so you know exactly where you stand. As mentioned in number 2, rehab loans are a great way to make a foreclosed property a viable option.

Leaning foreclosure sign in front of a modern single-family home on a cloudy cold day

How to Price Your Home to Sell

When a house has been sitting on the market for too long, the price begins to drop. Buyers will think there’s a reason that no one is buying it, and they won\’t add it to their list of houses they want to see. In fact, web traffic to a listing slows down by 65% after the first three days, according to a study from Redfin. 

That\’s why it’s so important to make a good first impression with your listing price. If a house is overpriced, buyers won’t give it a second thought. But you don’t want to set the price too low and lose money either. Here are a few tips to help you find the right price for your home. 

Don’t Drop The Price

A home that comes on the market at $249,000 looks a lot different than one that was on the market for $350,000 for a while before being reduced to $250,000. Buyers will question why the seller dropped the price so much. Were they trying to trick buyers into paying more than the property is really worth? Does the seller know what the actual price should be? Will the seller drop the price even lower if buyers wait? 

Lowering your price might attract some buyers, but not nearly as many as if you had just set that price, to begin with. In fact, houses that have price drops only get about half as many views online as new listings, according to Redfin.

“Even if it’s objectively a good home, if it’s been on the market for a while, many buyers will wonder if there’s something wrong with it. Once that stigma is there, it is going to be hard for a seller to get full asking price,” a Redfin agent said in the study. “If there’s already a price cut, savvy buyers start smelling blood in the water. It’s not a good situation for sellers to be in.”

Think of it this way: if you are willing to reduce the price after it’s been sitting on the market for a certain number of days, just make that reduced price the initial price. Buyers have a lot of tools available to them these days, and they can see when you are overinflating the price of a house. 

Start A Bidding War

On the other hand, if a home comes on the market at a low enough price, it can attract more buyers. Those buyers might grow attached to the property and start a bidding war. In the best-case scenario, buyers can actually increase the price of a home beyond what you ever thought you could get out of it. 

However, setting the price below what you are comfortable selling it at could come back to bite you if you end up losing money on the sale. So make sure you feel comfortable with the price you set. 

Leave Some Wiggle Room

Most buyers will want to negotiate the price even if they are already comfortable with where it is now. If you set the price $5,000 – $10,000 higher than you want to go, you can allow the buyer to “win one,” which goes a long way. 

Think of it this way: would you rather buy a house that was priced at $250,000 and you were able to haggle the price down to $240,000, or a house that was originally priced at $240,000? Even though both houses turned out to be the same price, most people would feel like they saved money by haggling, even if it’s only a small percentage of the final sale price. 

Price For Search Ranges

Many buyers shop for houses online or through apps that allow them to set a price range. So they won’t be able to see houses that are just out of their range, even if it’s only by one dollar. That’s why it’s important to set your price within common ranges. Most of the time these ranges are between big round numbers, like $100,000 – $200,000, or $250,000 – $299,999. You’ll only be shooting yourself in the foot by setting your price at $301,000 instead of $299,000. 

Setting your price below one of these big round numbers puts you in a buyer’s price range, plus it makes the price seem a lot lower than it actually is. There’s a reason songs on iTunes are only 99 cents, it’s easy to justify spending less than a dollar on a song (even if it’s only a penny less than a dollar). 

Talk To A Real Estate Agent

Happy financial advisor discussing with a couple their finances.

The best way to find the true market value of your house is by simply asking a real estate agent. They know the market conditions and how much buyers will be willing to spend on your house. Even if you’re not fully sure you want to sell yet, you can call up your local realtor and ask them how much your house would be worth if you did decide to put it on the market. You might be surprised how much they say your home is worth. 

How Much Homeowners Insurance Coverage Do You Need?

Imagine saving for a home downpayment for years, then working to pay off a mortgage, only to have the home burned down in a fire. How would you be able to get your life back to normal? 

The most common type of homeowners insurance (HO-3) protects you in case your home or belongings are damaged, stolen, or destroyed by fire, hurricane, hail, lightning, and all other disasters that are not specifically excluded in the policy.

Most mortgage companies require borrowers to have insurance coverage for the value of their house when they buy a home. While an insurer may recommend a coverage limit for your home, it is a good idea to familiarize yourself with what homeowner insurance covers, and how much coverage you should have. 

Dwelling Coverage

In the event that your home is totally destroyed by a fire, you want to make sure your dwelling coverage is enough to pay for all the costs associated with rebuilding your house from the ground up (this is not the same as the price that you paid for the property). 

To calculate how much it would take to rebuild your house, multiply the square footage of your home with the local construction costs. You can find this information on the websites of most construction companies or by asking your real estate agent. You would also have to include any attached structures, such as a deck, built-in appliances, like a water heater, and any improvements you make to the house, such as new floors or marble countertops. 

Keep in mind, the cost of rebuilding your home will be higher if you are rebuilding at a time when construction costs are high. If your whole neighborhood was hit by a massive fire, and all your neighbors are all rebuilding at the same time, it could drive construction costs up a lot. 

House burnt down interior.

Personal Property Coverage

Most homeowner insurance policies also cover personal belongings both inside and outside the home, such as furniture, computers, appliances, clothing, and other belongings that have been stolen or destroyed (except your car). You want enough personal property coverage to replace all of your belongings in case they are stolen or destroyed. 

Generally, insurance companies will set the default personal property coverage limit at 50-75% of your dwelling coverage, but the amount of coverage you need depends on how much stuff you have and how valuable it is. The best way to accurately assess the value of your property is to take a home inventory. There are many apps that allow you to take a detailed inventory of your things, along with notes about their value. Having a regularly-updated inventory will make it much easier when you submit a claim to the insurance company. 

TIP: It is easy to take an inventory of your things while you are packing them up before you move. 

Beautiful woman writing in a notebook while moving in a new home.

Liability Coverage 

Personal liability coverage will pay for any legal and medical bills that occur if someone gets hurt on your property. So if your dog bites the neighbor, your insurer will pay any of their medical expenses. Also, most insurance companies will pay your medical expenses if your neighbor’s dog bites you, so make sure to ask your insurer what they cover. 

While most insurance companies will provide a minimum of $100,000 worth of liability coverage, experts at the Insurance Information Institute recommends that homeowners purchase at least $300,00 – $500,000 worth of liability coverage. 

A male German shepherd bites a man by the hand.

Additional Living Expenses Coverage

If your house burns down, you are going to need a place to live while you are rebuilding it, that’s where additional living expense insurance (ALE) comes in.  ALE covers hotel bills, restaurant meals, and other living expenses you may incur while you are not able to move back into your house. 

Man pulling a suitcase and entering a hotel room.

Supplemental Insurance

A standard insurance policy will not pay for damages caused by a flood, earthquake, or routine wear and tear. In order to get coverage to protect against these and other damages, you may have to get supplemental insurance. 

If you are unsure of how much homeowners insurance to buy, talk with insurance companies, mortgage lenders, and real estate agents. They can help you get the proper coverage to protect you, your belongings, and your house from whatever life throws at you. 

4 Kid-Friendly House Hunting Tips

When house hunting, there are a lot of factors to consider: Are you close to work? Do you like the neighbourhood? Are our friends and family nearby? However, the most important factor is probably the reason you are moving in the first place, a growing family.

When it’s just you and your spouse, a two-bedroom apartment suffices. In fact, you can get away with having your first kid there, however, you quickly realize your spatial limitations when you discover how much baggage comes with baby, you’ll soon be scrambling for storage. Once they’re a little older or you’re planning another addition to the family, you’ll likely be looking to relocate somewhere larger, but are you factoring a kid-friendly environment when engaging in your house hunt?

Most of us only factor the extra space without considering other kid-friendly factors. Since you’re likely making this move to improve your growing family’s quality of life, go the full mile and ensure you incorporate as many kid-friendly features as possible.

1. Neighbourhood Demographics

When selecting a neighbourhood to target, we often take the demographics into account. When doing this, ensure the demographics are kid-friendly. If 90% of the neighbourhood is retirement age or childless, it will not be the best environment to raise your kids. It’s vital that your kids have plenty of other kids to connect with on the block so that they can be out socializing instead of hibernating with their smartphones or tablets.

Three pre-teen girls playing in street on scooters and bike.

2. Bedroom Placement

If your kids are very young, you’re likely going to want all the bedrooms to be close together and on the same floor. It just doesn’t seem right to be asleep upstairs while your nursery is isolated on the main floor forcing you to constantly go up and down the stairs to tend to your babies’ needs. 

On the flip side, if you have noisy teens, you may want the bedroom placement to be more spread out so they don’t disturb you when you’re trying to unwind.

House plan.

3. Unobstructed View of the Backyard

When you have kids you’re on supervision 24/7; whether you are literally at work or at home cleaning up after them and prepping them meals, you’re constantly working. Despite this reality, you still want your kids to be outdoors getting fresh air, not cooped up in the house, but it’s not always possible to take them out and maintain a good environment in the house. Ensuring you buy a house with an unobstructed view to the backyard (preferably from the kitchen), allows you to complete choirs while your children are playing in the backyard in full view.

Living room overlooking the garden with a small pool.

4. Amenities Within Walking Distance

Restaurants, cafes, and parks are desirable amenities to have in any situation but are especially valuable with kids. When they’re in the baby or toddler phase, packing and unpacking the car is a huge hassle, you want to be able to just walk out of the house with your stroller and access amenities. 

When they’re in the pre-teen to teen stage, you likewise want your kids to have access to amenities without them having to nag you for a ride all the time. It allows them to be more independent and you to maintain your sanity.

Family taking a walk down the street.

3 Tips on How to Transition From the City to the Suburbs

When you’re a kid and venturing out of your parent’s home for the first time, the city is generally regarded as the preferred area to live in. When you’re young, you want to be close to other young people and be where the action is. Cafes, bars, clubs, and the trendiest restaurants are all high on the priority list.

Eventually, if you haven’t already, you’ll find the person you envision settling down with and move in together. At this point, city life is still ideal. That is, of course, until marriage and children enter the picture.

Once you have your first child every city noise seems louder, choosing the car over walking in the crowded streets becomes the norm, and getting all the groceries and supplies you need turns into a huge hassle. This is the point where most city dwellers opt to transition to the suburbs where it’s quieter, there’s ample parking and you can get anything you need relatively easily.

If you’re in a scenario that compels you to make this transition, it’s more complicated than just picking out a spacious home in any suburb. Follow these tips to eliminate as much stress as possible during this difficult transition.

1. The Right School District

When surrendering to suburban living, you at least want to ensure you get the most out of it and that starts with sourcing the best school for your children. While this is a reasonable endeavor, it’s important to define “best.” People tend to go for the district that has the highest-ranking schools, but does that mean the school is right for your children? Whether you value big or small class sizes, specialized education, or other important factors, it’s important to research and tour prospective schools before deciding on a district that is right for your family.

A Mother taking her daughter to school, saying her goodbye for the day.

2. The Right Neighbourhood

People transitioning from the city to the suburbs often prioritize the house over the neighborhood. The suburbs are mistakenly viewed as all the same and after being constrained to a one-bedroom apartment or studio all that time in the city, it’s natural to want to stretch out and get comfortable in your ideal abode. 

The truth, however, is that suburban neighborhoods vary greatly in terms of their communities. Is it a religious community or secular? Is it dominated by young families or families on the brink of retirement? It’s important to vet each prospective neighborhood and ensure your comfortable with the demographics.

Round Rock, Texas, USA aerial drone view high above Suburb Neighborhood with Vast amount of Homes – Summertime in the best place to live in America.

3. Commute Time

One of the most frustrating things about moving to the suburbs is the likelihood of long commute times to work, often back to the city. The goal is to minimize the time as much as possible if you spend 2 hours a day commuting plus 8 to 9 hours at work, that leaves very little quality time, if any, to spend with your children (the primary reason for this sacrifice). When mapping out commute times, don’t be deceived by google maps and focus on distance alone. While some places maybe a little farther, there may be less traffic. You should test out various areas at rush hour and strongly consider your options when selecting a neighborhood.

Traffic is seen slowly moving on the Montrose Ave overpass at the 1-90 Kennedy Expressway and the I-94 Edens Split the day before Thanksgiving on November 22, 2017, in Chicago, Illinois

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. 

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.