Bug-Proof Your Home for Summer

As the days get warmer, bugs get more active. They want food, shelter and perhaps a place to settle down and start a family. And there’s nothing wrong with that – as long as that place isn’t your home. If you’re an Oklahoma homeowner, read on to learn how to make your home as repulsive as possible to these invertebrate critters.

Prevention before pesticides

Before you coat your home with aerosol, learn how to prevent pests from entering in the first place. The Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service recommends the following tips for bug-proofing your home:

  • Keep your home clean and tidy. Nothing says “home sweet home” to bugs quite like clutter – and that’s an amenity you don’t want to offer. Clear out garbage regularly. Avoid piling items in one spot. Keep closets, corners and other storage areas tidy.
  • Eliminate food sources. Vacuum carpets and floors regularly. Wipe down tables and counters. Clean away food crumbs, spillage and other sources of nutrition. Avoid letting food or drink sit out.
  • Clean up your lawn. Summer storms and weekly lawn mowing can leave organic clutter all over your yard. Sweep away leaves and branches and collect grass clippings to help keep bugs away.
  • Check your groceries for bugs. Bugs can hide in produce and even in dried food. Dispose of any infested items.

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What kinds of bugs should you look out for?

Often one species will attract others. For example, ants may attract house centipedes, and pillbugs will have spiders lining up for a meal. Other common Oklahoma bugs include moths, flies, mosquitoes, beetles and roaches. Many are attracted to moisture, others to light, all to food. In addition to the tips above, here are some bug-proofing tips from the Arizona Cooperative Extension:

  • Screen doors, windows and other openings. Mesh screening keeps out the majority of critters, barring tiny ones like aphids and leafhoppers.
  • Install brush or rubber seals under exterior doors. Foam weather stripping works for sliding glass doors. The seals should block light – and most bugs – from entering.
  • Fill cracks in the walls and foundation. Seal gaps with silicone or material that matches the foundation.
  • Maintain your plumbing. Leaky pipes and water damage can open up new paths for bugs to scurry in and raise the humidity in your home, inviting more pests.
  • Control moisture levels in your home. Turn on vent fans when cooking or showering. Keep your thermostat at a comfortable level, or set your dehumidifier to around 50% humidity.
  • Store your food in airtight containers. Bugs can detect a free meal from far away. Put leftovers and pet food in containers or resealable bags. Refrigerate or freeze food if necessary. Consider storing dried foods like cereal in glass containers.

Call in reinforcements

No, not the exterminator, but Mother Nature. Natural predators can go a long way in reducing the pest population around your home. Trees, shrubs and birdbaths attract bug-loving birds and bats. Plant flowers to attract helpful insects like flower flies and wasps. Wildflowers and other annuals are excellent choices – and they can add a splash of color to your yard.

For more bug-proofing tips, contact your local exterminator service. They’ll be able to help you deal with the bugs in your specific area (as Oklahomans know, even the bugs you see at the lake are different from the ones you find at home).

Financial independence: you don’t have to do it alone!

How the right loan program can help you achieve financial independence

moneyhouse (2)A brand-new home is one of the most exciting purchases you’ll ever make. Knowing that a space is truly yours is one of the most gratifying part of achieving financial independence – but you don’t go into buying your first home alone.

We’re not talking about your spouse or family. Nope, we’re talking about loans.

In preparation for celebrating Independence Day, we’ll show you how having a bit of help during the home buying process can make you more financially independent.

Aren’t loans inherently bad?

Many of us have been brought up to view loans and debt as things to avoid – but a manageable loan that you take on as a responsible adult can actually help you out in the long run.

You might think that you’re too stressed for cash to do anything but rent for now, but we like to put it this way: you’re always paying someone’s mortgage. You choose whether it’s your landlord’s or your own.

Bonus: regular, timely loan payments can boost your credit over time and build equity for your future.

ks95874Different types of loans available to homebuyers

Knowing what your options are is half the battle – and a little bit of information can save you a lot of money over time.

  • FHA (Federal Housing Administration) government loan – 3.5% down payment; the easiest loan for most buyers to get, as it’s not as credit-sensitive and allows for higher debt-to-income ratios. In addition there are HUD184 loans for Native Americans that have excellent advantages and many tribes have down payment assistance for their members. Bond money is also available for first time home buyers. So, there is the possibility of getting into an FHA loan without 3.5% down.
  • VA (Veterans Administration) government loan – No down payment required; active or retired military eligible as well as some reservists. Less than 10% of veterans have VA loans – mostly because they weren’t aware they were available.

  • Conventional non-government loan – at least 5% down payment; no monthly mortgage insurance with 20% down payment; more credit-sensitive

Every financial situation is different, but we generally recommend getting your credit score into a healthy range and then going forward with the best loan you can get. For the best results, we recommend consulting with one of our participating lenders so that you get all of your bases covered.

The more knowledge you have, the more independent you can become. Talk with one of our participating lenders or sign up for our upcoming free new home buyer seminar to learn more about how you can borrow strategically to achieve financial independence.

 

Eat In or Dine Al Fresco?

Ah, dining al fresco…

It can be a wonderful way to enjoy fine restaurant dining at sunset on a mild, temperate evening, or a way to entertain guests outdoors at your home in the summertime. The term “al fresco” is an Italian turn of phrase that Americans use to describe outdoor dining. But when is the right time for al fresco dining, and when should you keep your gathering indoors?

Weather patterns and climate

Your most pressing criteria, of course, will be the weather and season. If you are planning an event weeks or even months in advance and want to go al fresco, make sure you select a time of year that’s reliably conducive to outdoor events. If things are iffy, have a backup plan; you may decide to grill regardless, but be prepared to have everyone move inside at dinner time if the weather decides not to cooperate. Climates known for mosquitoes and other pests in summer may not be conducive to a pleasant outdoor dining experience.

Theme or event

Some party themes lend themselves to al fresco dining more readily than others. Dinner with friends you know very well out on your patio in the summertime can encourage a fun, festive atmosphere. Birthday parties, graduations, and especially events like the Fourth of July lend themselves to an outdoor setting. Anniversaries, Mother’s or Father’s Day celebrations and major holidays don’t necessarily lend themselves to at-home al fresco dining, but there can be exceptions: a Huffington Post article was full of inspiring ideas for al fresco Thanksgiving table settings. Christenings, baptisms and baby and wedding showers can go either way – it depends on the time of year, your climate, the weather that day, and your guest list.

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Your Guests

Will you be hosting a small, intimate dinner party, or a large gathering with guests of all ages? A graduation party with lots of people will have different needs than a dinner party with a few coworkers, and you should plan accordingly. Large gatherings lend themselves to an outdoor barbecue or picnic vibe, with plenty of space in the yard for children to play. If you’re having new friends over for the first time, an indoor setting can be less stressful due to fewer variables and considerations.

Keep in mind that some guests will not be fans of dining al fresco. There are lots more variables when dining outdoors –weather, wind speed, dirt and dust, insects, traffic, nosy neighbors – it all depends upon your location. If your yard has a beautiful garden area around the patio that will shelter your party from some of these elements, your outdoor party is more likely to be a crowd-pleaser.

1086149_85949499The Menu

Summertime is grilling season, and a grilled menu pairs perfectly with outdoor dining. From burgers to fish to kebabs, it somehow seems wrong to eat a grilled meal indoors. Warmer weather also lends itself to cooler picnic sides like chilled potato , pasta and fruit and veggie salads. Whether you grill or not, lighter fare and finger foods are generally great for al fresco dining. An outdoor wood-fired pizza oven party can be a hit. Heavier dinners with lots of sides and courses, on the other hand, are usually best served indoors. Outside cooking keeps you from having to heat up the kitchen.

It’s no surprise that many people love dining al fresco: when the conditions are just right, it can be a relaxing, pleasant and enjoyable experience. However, while you should plan for the best, it doesn’t hurt to have a “Plan B” in case the weather turns on you – whether it’s a tent, an awning or the means to take the party indoors to your entertaining-ready kitchen.

How to Choose the Right Homeowner’s Insurance Policy

It doesn’t matter if you have just purchased your first home or are nestling into your retirement home: there is something incredibly exciting about having a place to call your own.

The thrill of homeownership is memorable, and so is the responsibility of owning your personal piece of the American dream. One of those responsibilities is homeowner’s insurance.

The process of choosing a policy can be intimidating – but don’t think of it as shopping for insurance. Instead, think of it as shopping for peace of mind. Knowing that you are covered in the event that a storm blows through, fire breaks out, or neighbor falls on your driveway is enough to help you sleep peacefully at night. In order to direct your insurance policy search, it helps to know what to look for.

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  • Assess the value of your home. You don’t need to be looking at insurance unless you already know how much it would cost you to replace your home in the event it is destroyed.
  • One size does not fit all. You don’t need a policy that covers a trampoline in your backyard if you don’t own one. Shop for insurance that meets your specific needs.​
  • Consider an umbrella policy. Bankrate points out that liability insurance tops out at $300,000 on most homeowner’s policies. However, should someone be injured on your property or due to the actions of a family member, they are likely to sue for much more than that. Umbrella policies are a relatively inexpensive way to protect your assets.​​
  • Don’t forget to think about flood or earthquake insurance. If you happen to live in an area that is prone to either of these natural disasters, you will likely find that your policy does not cover them. However, there are independent carriers that offer both. You can also check out the flood insurance offered through the National Flood Insurance Program. In California, you can buy earthquake insurance through the California Earthquake Authority. Even if you live in an area not known for those particular disasters, check the price of the policies. Many people forget that three of the largest earthquakes to hit the lower 48 all occurred in Missouri, of all places, and that fault lines run throughout the US.
  • Look at more than price. Sure, price is an important factor, but as CNN Money reminds us, it is equally important to research an insurer’s financial stability. A policy is only as good as the company that backs it. ​Make sure your company is A rated.​
  • Check more than one company. If you have ever purchased an item in one store only to find it priced less expensively in another, you understand that there is no such thing as a “fixed” price on a particular product or service. Like everything else on the market, prices vary for same product – so check several companies and compare prices. ​​
  • Negotiate the price. It is easy to waste money by forgetting to ask for any discounts that are available. Having things like smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors, security systems or a new home, can lower your costs.​
  • Keep your policy updated. Choose one day each year to review your policy and to make sure it still includes everything you need.
  • Make sure your coverage is full replacement value. You don’t want the worn out value of your roof….you want enough money to replace it.

Finally, look for an agent you are comfortable with. Ask friends and family for their recommendations and schedule a meeting in order to learn how interested that agent seems in meeting your particular insurance needs.

Ways to make your kitchen more user-friendly

Most people have heard that the kitchen is the heart of the home.

For many of us, it is absolutely true. From meal preparation to homework, from crafting to entertaining, our kitchens are one of the most frequently used rooms in our home.

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With so many varied roles being played by this one room, it is important that your kitchen meet the individual needs of your family. This doesn’t have to mean an expensive remodeling project: with just a bit of ingenuity and creativity, you can have all the benefits of a customized kitchen without the inconvenience of sawdust and noise!

Kitchen (c)Space it out.

One of the most important considerations when organizing a kitchen is the allocation of space – what goes where. Keep in mind, prime real estate in any kitchen is the counter space and drawers. These areas are valuable based on the ease with which items can be accessed. Don’t clutter your counters with too many décor items so the surface space can be used for activities such as cooking or crafts.

Keep medications safely stowed.

For older homeowners, reaching up and bending down can be difficult or even painful, making it even more vital that things used regularly are located in prime real estate areas. This is often why seniors keep medication bottles on countertops. While this makes medication easy to reach and even serves as a reminder to take medication, it is also a potential hazard to pets and visiting grandchildren. According to the annual report of the American Association of Poison Control Centers’ National Poison Data System (NPDS): 29th annual report, among children under age 6, pharmaceuticals account for about 40% of all exposure reported to poison centers. One easy solution is to purchase a cabinet or drawer spice rack and store medications in that. Safety and easy access are the two goals for medicines.

DeerSpring_Model_05Get crafty.

For families with young children, the kitchen frequently doubles as a homework room or art center. Why not set aside a low cabinet that is difficult for you to reach, as a school supplies/craft cabinet for the kids? This way the kiddos can get their own supplies and even clean up after themselves. include few plastic bins and trays for storing craft and school items and that bottom cabinet is transformed into a kid friendly media space! Also try attaching a chalk board or slate board underneath the kitchen bar for little artists to create their special art projects on.

Prep for entertaining.

Last of all, consider your entertainment options if you hold frequent parties with everyone gathering in the kitchen. If there is an island in the kitchen, it can double as the serving table for hors d’oeuvres. Just place a tablecloth over the island to keep it pretty. As the food trays empty out, the hosts will be that closer for refilling. And, everyone can still hang out in the kitchen where there is easy access to drinks and the hostess doesn’t miss out on the fun!

Creative uses of space allow you to update the kitchen with minimal costs and have a more functional home. You don’t have to break the bank and remodel for the perfect kitchen upgrade!

Moving This Summer? Here’s How to Help Kids Feel at Home

Moving is an exciting change, and can be both stressful and exhilarating.

For children, moving is a huge deal – and can even be a scary thing. As an adult, you understand what to expect and feel and have a sense of control with a move – after all, you’re probably involved with planning the date the movers will come, deciding whether you should drive or fly to your new community, and determining where you will live once you are there. For children, moving can be a large number of unknowns all at once, and include some insecurity.

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Before the move: let children help, and give space to vent

In order to give children a better sense of what they are about to experience, psychologists recommend that you make them part of the process. Buy stickers or colorful markers and allow kids to circle important dates on a calendar, like the last day of school and the day the moving truck is scheduled to arrive. Like adults, a semblance of control can help a child feel calmer in regards to new situations – like an upcoming move.

It’s also important that kids be allowed to express whatever it is they are feeling, even if those feelings make Mom and Dad a bit uncomfortable. Venting emotions — both rational and irrational — is a great way to clear the air so that a child can begin to view the move in a different light. As your child expresses herself, simply allow her to say what needs to be said on her part. Don’t tell her how much better things are going to be or try to convince her otherwise every time she shares her feelings. There will be time for pointing out positive aspects of the move later on.

Allow your child to take photographs of the things she is leaving behind, like her best friend, school, favorite teacher, or special playground. Place those photos in a memory box or album so that she can look through them whenever she wants. Encouraging your child to take pictures is a way of validating her feelings.

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At the same time, begin to search online for pictures of your new city. Find out what the city is famous for and a little bit about its history. Encourage your child to choose a special place to visit after your arrival so that she will have something to look forward to.

Children Sitting In Doll's houseWhen you get there: let kids get familiar and involved

Take your child by places that you have seen online, show her the school she will be attending, the park you’ll be taking her to, and any area activities that might be fun for her. The point is to help your child imagine herself living in this place, even as she slowly releases the idea of living in her old community.

Let your child help pick out their new home and decorate their new room. Go by their new school and try to find them a friend to meet who will be in their class before school starts.

Most towns have parenting groups (some online) that provide a calendar of activities for families to enjoy. Park and Recreation departments and YMCAs frequently feature kid-friendly summer activities that will allow your child to spread her wings and make new friends before the school year begins.

Continuity is important. Even while you are busy unpacking boxes and planning for your life in the new community, stick to routines that were established in your old home. Making sure that your child eats meals at the same time and goes to bed when she’s used to can be a good way to help make the transition a little easier on everyone.

Click to learn how to help your child find that new “best friend” when you re-locate.

Neighborhood Etiquette for the 21st Century

No matter how palatial or pocket-sized your home may be, your neighbors play a large part in how much you enjoy the time in your home.

What good is a meditation room when the kid next door is practicing drums into the wee hours of the morning? How can you enjoy the privacy of your relaxing back yard if your inquiring neighbor is constantly peeking his head over your fence?

But having good neighbors has a lot to do with being a good neighbor. Here are some simple ways to keep everyone feeling neighborly.

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Say hello – but don’t impose.

You’re not fooling anybody by pretending to be on the phone every time you pass by Mrs. Talksalot’s driveway. Always say hello to your neighbors – but do so respectfully. Give a quick wave and maybe engage in a short conversation, but never impose yourself on someone else’s schedule. If you’re wanting to catch up, set a date to do so.

Say thank you – and return any favors.

Sometimes when you’re in a pinch, your neighbors are your go-to helpers. Remember to thank your helpful acquaintances – whether it’s with a short note or a few cookies – and always, always reciprocate when you’re able to do so.

Translation: if you borrow a cup of sugar, say thanks – and then be prepared to return the favor in the future.

Respect quiet hours – and 24/7 noise levels.

The number-one complaint homeowners (and renters – especially renters!) seem to make about their neighbors is unwanted noise. And rightly so: unwanted noise can interrupt sleep, cause unnecessary scares, and turn a residential street into a mob of torch-wielding villagers.

Some general rules for neighborly noise control:

  • If it’s between the hours of 9 pm and 9 am, resist the urge to start in on your hammer-heavy DIY project, finally mow the lawn, or practice your scales.
  • If you’re going to throw a party, let your neighbors know ahead of time. (No, you don’t have to invite them. But they’ll be more likely to continue being friendly if you do.) Let them know what time your festivities will come to a close – or at least move the party indoors and take it down a notch after 10 pm or so. Let them know if there will be extra cars in the street for a short time.

Keep things clean.

You might not be legally obligated to mow your grass until it’s up to your knees, and your dog may well have exclusive potty privileges in your jungle of a lawn. But like it or not, the state of your yard and home reflects on more than you and your family: it also reflects on your neighborhood as a whole. Keep your house and yard in good condition, and you won’t have to dread the day the homeowner’s association comes knocking at your door.

Avoid gossiping.

We love a good story as much as anyone else, but participating in neighborhood gossip – even passively – is a recipe for disaster. And remember that anyone who discloses information about someone else would probably do the same thing to you.

At the end of the day, being a good neighbor is a lot like being a decent human being – plus a little lawn maintenance.