Home Hack

Let’s PAWS for PETS!

The best part of being “home” is spending time with our beloved pets! That’s why we’re sharing all of our favorite pet finds in this month’s Home Hack. We found most of our favorite items were available on Amazon, so we will share those pics with their stars rating below.

For the Dogs:

If you have big dogs like us, you know it’s hard finding toys that stand up to their level of play. These are our hearty favorites, and they’re bacon scented!

These balls are great for medium sized dogs, and the ball launcher has a variety of ball sizes available for a variety of dog sizes.

For dogs with storm sensitivities or other anxieties (like fireworks), these chews have been a miracle!

An honorable mention for calming vests. Ideal for the less anxious, but occasionally nervous dogs.

This shampoo by Jax-N-Daisy (jaxndaisy.com) keeps our pups fresh and itch-free.

Memory foam beds for dogs support their spine and joints just like it does for people. Don’t they look comfy?!

Speaking of support, we’ve used this joint supplement for years.

For the Cats:

This litter is hands down, the BEST litter we have ever used. Low dust and no smell, you can’t ask for more!

A Litter Genie is a MUST for cat owners. It might not seem worth it, but it makes clean up and disposal so easy. You’ll thank us later!

This little toy is so simple it looks like nothing, but cats absolutely love them!

For Pets of All Kinds:

Celebrate your pet and decorate your home at the same time with a pet portrait! We found several affordable shops online that make paintings and decor with a simple photo of your pet. For example, “MonicaACreates” is a shop we found on Etsy through a quick search, who is right here in Central Florida. What a great gift idea too!

Or get a minimalist locket, from “BijounBoutique” (also on Etsy) that holds a photo of your pet inside a little gem! You can look in, use your phone camera, or phone flashlight to reveal the image. Comes in necklaces and keychains. Also makes a great gift!

 

Do you have any favorite pet products? We want to hear about them! Please share your finds with us by commenting them on any of our pet posts this month on Instagram or Facebook.

(Also found on Amazon)

… and be sure to tell your dog we said “hi!”

Home Hack

Chalk Paint for Fresh FARMHOUSE Style

Chalk paint is great for upcycling a piece of furniture that’s dated or doesn’t match your new style, but functions so well you’d hate to toss it. It’s even better for flea market finds that have all the functionality you need, but looks a little rough.

What type of furniture works?

The easiest pieces to use chalk paint on is furniture made with real wood. But there are several brands of paint that will work on glass, metal, wood, ceramic, canvas, etc. So you can have fun making matching accent items to coordinate with your refreshed furniture.

What style is chalk paint?

The results with this paint are going to be shabby chic, think farmhouse vibes, coastal, beachy, lived in. Expect to see paint strokes, it’s all part of the appeal and look for this painting style.

Okay! Let’s Paint!

Start by removing drawer pulls and/or taping off hardware and areas you don’t want painted. Spray painting the old hardware can be a great way to update without investing in new pulls. However, new pulls can help to modernize or theme (Example: Going for a coastal look? Try nautical pulls!) your freshly painted creation. We found these options on Amazon:

Once the hardware is removed, you’ll want to lightly sand* the surface so that the paint has something to grab on to.

PRO TIP: * Furniture prep and painting is best to do in a well-ventilated area. We prefer outdoors in the shade. Use a mask and protective eye wear to protect against saw dust particles and fumes.

The paint: Now choose a paint/color! When in doubt choose a neutral color, or a color that matches your walls. This Rustoleum “Chalked” brand chalk paint has never let us down. It’s available at home improvement stores, but we got ours on Amazon. The matte finish is perfect for a true chalk paint look.

You may also want to invest in a brush specifically made for chalk paint. These round brushes just work better with this paint process. Additionally, art brushes are great for the small areas.

Chalk painting is a process, so expect to spend some time. Concentrate on painting your piece in layers, rather than rushing to cover everything in one coat. Make choices on where you want to see the paint strokes (fewer layers) vs where you want the paint to be soild (more layers). Use a light hand and long brush movements (follow the grain) and let the layers dry for several minutes between coats so that you get the maximum adhesion.

Wax: After your piece has dried. Lot’s of people wax (with a chalk-paint-specific wax) their pieces to protect the finish. This slightly darkens the color, but protects the paint. Lightly brush the chalk paint wax on and wipe it off with a lint free cloth scrap after to keep the matte look.

PRO TIP: “Annie Sloan” is a great resource for searching how-to chalk paint videos on YouTube. She also has an entire line of chalk paint in super fun colors!

WE WANT TO SEE YOUR CHALK PAINTED MASTERPIECES! Share your before and after chalk paint projects with us so we can brag about your skills on our social media!

Home Hack

Are you STORM READY?

Florida is prime storm territory and being prepared can make all the difference. Here are some ideas to help you with your hurricane preparedness.

When hurricane season begins (even though there may be no named storms) part of “being prepared” means creating an emergency supply inventory. There are lots of items you can gather or purchase before there is a threat. Think about the things that are not easy to find when there IS an actual storm approaching. Items include things like canned and packaged non perishable foods, batteries, flashlights, and any other high demand items that are snapped up as soon as the spaghetti models start showing up on the news. Start early and you’ll have no problem creating your emergency inventory.

Found on Amazon

Food: Canned and packaged non-perishable food items should make up the bulk of your emergency food supply. The best part is, if canned goods are not your thing in everyday life, you can donate the goods after hurricane season when many organizations do food drives. We found these “emergency food supply kits” on Amazon, and have seen versions available at stores like Walmart too.

Pro Tip: Paper plates, napkins, cups, and cutlery are also a great thing to have in your emergency supply for easy clean up during a long power outage.

Water: In general, if you drink soda, have soda. If you drink tea, make tea. But you will still want to have some plain drinking water on hand for your emergency supply. If there is a water pressure loss or boil advisory during a power outage, you’ll need safe water for making food, brushing teeth, drinking, pets, etc. We read it’s recommended to have one gallon of water per person for every day, and most places recommend at least a 3-day supply.

PRO TIP: 5 gallon water bottles make it easier to store a water supply for family-sized needs.

When it comes to non-perishable and storm-friendly foods, there’s a lot more than Spam to choose from these days. But yeah, there’s still Spam. If you have a grill, camping recipes are a great source for better-than-beans-in-a-can hurricane cuisine.

STORM-READY:

Print out important contacts – Your phones may not work in the storm. Your phones may get damaged or you may lose power and have no way to charge them. Print or write out any contact information for family, friends, doctors, veterinarians, banks, etc. or other information you may need a hard copy of.

Refill prescriptions – Storm damage can effect supply times. If a storm is approaching, get any low/necessary prescriptions filled.

Fill the tank – Fill the car, but please NEVER fill any unapproved gas containers.

Charge the phones… and the laptops, the tablets, the headphones, the power cells, etc.

Games and activities – Waiting out the storm and being without power can be long and boring. Board games, cards, puzzles, and crafts are ways to pass the time with no electricity required.

Don’t forget the pets – Food, water, meds, snacks, and know where your nearest pet-friendly emergency shelter is.

Freeze some water – Freezing a few gallon bags of water can help keep the fridge cool or be used in a cooler should you lose power.

When gathering supplies take what you need, but remember there are others in need too.

Wishing you an uneventful, safe, and Storm Ready hurricane season!

Home Hack

Cutting the Cable Cord

Thinking about getting rid of cable tv?

Switching from traditional cable tv to streaming television did take a small amount of time to adjust to. Here’s what to expect.

PROS TO STREAMING:

  • There’s always something “on,” because you are choosing what to stream at any moment.
  • There were a lot more on-demand options with streaming than we ever experienced with cable.
  • Ability to build your own programming content through a variety of subscriptions.

CONS TO STREAMING:

  • DVR options with streaming live tv aren’t as robust.
  • You also can’t skip or fast forward through a lot of commercials unless you’re on “ad free” subscription plans, which cost more.
  • If you watch a lot of tv you may need to subscribe to a few services to feel satisfied with the amount of content you can stream at any moment. So far, we have not found a one-stop sort of app that gives us everything we want, so we have a few.

Remember, getting rid of cable television doesn’t mean you won’t have a cable bill.

You still need an internet connection in order to stream tv, which means a cable company to provide the internet.

Streaming takes data, so be sure to watch closely over the first month to see how much data you are using and if you need to adjust your internet plan. Some cable providers allow you to adjust your data plan at any time BEFORE you go over your data threshold for the month.

Will I save tons of money?

That depends on how much content (streaming subscriptions) you want. If you have one basic streaming subscription, you will likely be saving some money. However, most people get several subscriptions as a way to build their own programming – so that something is always “on” vs. flipping through cable channels hoping for something good to watch. In our experience, having 3-4 basic streaming subscriptions and internet was about 10% to 15% less than our traditional cable tv and internet bundle.

What are the most notable “adjustments” to expect between traditional cable and streaming?

What I missed most at first was the plug-and-play of leaving cable tv on a channel in the background as I go about my day. I even missed commercials, if you can believe that. A Sling TV blue subscription remedied this with live tv streaming from the handful of cable channels we missed. (More details on streaming subscriptions later in this article.)

Every streaming service or device has their own way of doing things.

Whether it’s the type of device you are using to stream (a Smart TV, Roku, Amazon Fire TV Stick, etc.*) or the apps you are using on that device (Hulu, Netflix, Disney+, HBO Max, etc.**) – they all have their own apps that navigate in their own way. With cable, it’s one guide and one hub where you look for something to watch – but streaming will be one main hub (*your streaming device) with various guides from as many apps (**your subscription services) as you want to use.

HOW DOES IT WORK?

What do I need to stream tv and movies?

You’ll need a streaming enabled device. If you have a “Smart TV,” you’re all set. If your tv is not a smart tv, there are streaming devices that you plug into the tv to enable it to stream: Fire TV Stick by Amazon, Roku, and the original Apple TV device to name a few. We have tried all of the above and prefer the Fire Stick by Amazon. It’s easy to navigate, had less bugs, great definition, and a nice intuitive interface. The other devices performed fine too, but the Fire TV felt more user friendly. Once you have a streaming device attached to your tv, you download apps (some of which require subscriptions) to it to watch tv and movies.

Can I have cable tv AND streaming?

Absolutely!

What subscription apps are the best?

For movies and series: You can’t beat Netflix. It’s like having your own Blockbuster Video store on your tv.

Disney+ is also great for movies and original series.

For the feeling of cable television, with live TV: We enjoy Sling TV for accessing cable channels live like Bravo, cable news channels, Comedy Central, TBS, etc. Sling TV was a reasonable price, and their lowest plan “blue” gave us the ability to have all the channels we enjoyed from cable. The subscription also includes a simple DVR type feature to record shows. Hulu and YouTube TV also have live tv subscriptions at higher price points than their basic subscriptions.

Are there free things to watch?

YES!

Amazon Prime has a lot of shows and movies for free with your Prime subscription. If you have a Fire TV Stick (made by Amazon) or their app, you can access them all very easily.

IMDB has a free app with a lot of free movies and shows on it.

The original YouTube app is also free, it’s the same YouTube where everyone looks up tutorials or reviews, just on your tv screen instead of your computer or phone. Many popular talk shows have their own channels and upload episodes to YouTube the day after they air on live tv. It’s also a great place to find music videos, or ambiance music to play in the background.

Pluto TV gives the feeling of cable tv with a guide and “live” channels. It’s free, so there will be a lot of shows you may have never heard of before – but we did find ones to enjoy and explore. Navigation is made easy with their selection of themed channels. Think: Comedy, Romance, Holiday, Reality, etc.

CHECK WITH YOUR CELL PHONE PROVIDER: There are several carriers offering yearly freebie subscriptions (Apple TV+, Hulu, Netflix, Disney+) with certain cell phone plans, for new customers, or when buying new phones, etc. Be sure to check with your cell provider for any promotions you might not know you have access to.

How can I get local channels?

You can get local channels with a modern over-the-air digital antenna. Antennas now days are not like the bunny ears or roof-mounted ones of yore, but thin plastic rectangles you secure in a window to pick up over-the-air programming. It’s probably best to first research online if you live in an area that has decent over-the-air broadcasting coverage.

In a nutshell, life without cable tv is different – but with all the content available for streaming these days, it’s not necessarily a sacrifice.

Home Hack

Central Florida Springs

Sometimes the best way to appreciate your home, is to get out for a day. Today we’re sharing our experiences with several springs within driving distance of Central Florida. They’re the perfect location for a day trip with family and/or friends. Let’s go!

Rock Springs (Bar and Grill)
4939 Rock Springs Rd. – Apopka, Florida
Rock Springs is a unique experience because it’s the only one where you rent big inner tubes and float down a creek. You’ll see people floating with coolers and their snacks for the day, but there’s also a little bar/restaurant along the way “Rock Springs Bar and Grill,” that is known for the most delicious hamburgers, and they rent the tubes too. Stop in to rent your tube and get a burger!

Wekiva Island
1014 Miami Springs Dr. – Longwood, Florida
This is a really fun place to visit, but it is VERY popular and can reach capacity early in the day (which means you get turned away at the gate). They have an open lagoon area for day swimming, cabana rentals, a beautiful large open bar, corn hole, food trucks, canoe rentals… it’s the whole package for a day of fun at the springs whether you’re swimming or not. The bar and food trucks are open late if you just want to skip swimming and hang out for the late afternoon/evening.

Blue Spring
2100 W French Ave. – Orange City, Florida (on the St. John’s River)
We rented a boat to visit Blue Spring. This spring is often crowded from all of the boat traffic on the St. John’s River. If you plan to boat, be patient for “parking” and expect a watery trek through trees to get to the walkway that will lead you to the springs. Straight off the boat, the water was a little higher than ankle deep, about 30 feet from the shore to the walkway. It was about a 1/2 mile walk on the path to the spring.

Alexander Springs – Ocala National Forest
This is a very relaxing spring experience. The blue color of the water is beautiful. There is a grass area and several shelter spaces for picnics, and a couple of benches where you can set up a spot right on the water’s edge. We especially enjoy visiting the little general store for snacks, as it was like stepping back in time. Mainly because they have real Slush Puppies and a variety of familiar frozen treats you could buy at an ice cream truck back in the day.

Silver Glen Springs
Ocala National Forest Salt Springs, Florida
This was an interesting springs experience, because we did not expect to see all the boaters parked right at the far edge of the spring. If you have a small boat or pontoon it might be a fun experience from the boat side too, but expect a crowd – it looked like a boat parking lot out there.

Ponce De Leon Springs, Specifically: The Old Spanish Sugar Mill
601 Ponce Deleon Blvd. – Ponce De Leon Springs, Florida
Okay, so we have never had an experience swimming in these springs because we were too busy making our own pancakes in the old sugar mill! The Old Spanish Sugar Mill is just that, an old sugar mill complete with water wheel, where guests sit at informal tables with built-in griddles where you can cook your own pancakes and eggs! You can order a number of different pancake mix-ins and toppings and it’s a fun experience for the whole family. If you’re not in the cooking mood, you can also order various items like sandwiches, salads, and burgers from the kitchen.
Pro Tip: Get there early or expect a wait, especially on the weekends. Tables fill up fast!

Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park
4150 S Suncoast Blvd – Homosassa, Florida

This was a fun experience for visiting springs in a non-swimmer way. They have a wildlife sanctuary that you get to via ferry from the Visitor Center. The wildlife sanctuary has walking paths that lead you to manatee, wolves, bears, and a lovely garden type area, all in an open natural park setting. The springs also have a large number of wild manatee that settle here when the weather is cooler (winter/spring). We did see boaters in part of the spring, but did not see or experience any open areas for walk up swimming.

PACK A DAY BAG:
If you’re going to have a day of fun and swimming, better be prepared!

SPRINGS VISIT CHECK LIST:
sunblock/sun glasses/sun hat
towels
drinks
snacks
waterproof case
snorkel
floats

Here are some items we found on Amazon that made our springs trips more enjoyable.

Floats! We definitely recommend bringing a small float. Something simple, like a pool noodle so you can float and maneuver with ease. We especially liked using simple submerged chair type floats (shown below). We found large novelty floats and traditional floats too cumbersome in this setting. Mainly because they were a pain to maneuver, especially if there are a lot of swimmers around.

Sun Protection! Don’t let the 72 degree cool spring water fool you, you’ll get burned out there in a snap! Make sure you protect yourself from the sun’s harmful rays.

Waterproof! Waterproof phone cases will help you get those Insta-worthy pics without accidentally dropping your phone into the spring. Make sure you read the reviews and find a good one that won’t leak. Waterproof cases are also great for keeping important things like IDs and cash on you – and they come in really handy at traditional water parks too!

Snorkel! To truly experience the crystal clear waters of the springs, you might want a mask that allows you to see more. We love our panoramic mask (style pictured on the middle and left masks), because you can see more, and the breathing tube is attached to the top so you just breathe normally. The mask feels a little more comfortable too.

Where are you going to staycation this summer? Share your Central Florida day fun finds and tips with us on Facebook or Instagram!

Home Hack

HOW TO BE A MORE COMPETITIVE BUYER IN TODAY’S HOT REAL ESTATE MARKET!

Today’s Real Estate market is more competitive than ever before. Sellers are looking for the most qualified offers and buyers. BE PREPARED!

Being “pre-qualified” may not be enough. Loan approvals are often verified by the Sellers’ representatives and a fully documented loan approval may make all the difference in your offer being ACCEPTED!

D&CO. aims to make the loan process as pleasant and efficient for our customers as possible. The more prepared you are at the start, the smoother and more efficient your experience should be.

Loan application information required when you apply for a mortgage loan:

  • Full name, date of birth, social security number
  • Phone number and email address
  • Marital status, number of children and ages
  • Residence history for at least years
  • Employment history for at least 2 years, including addresses, phone numbers and position
  • Asset account balances including checking, savings, investment and retirement accounts

Documentation that will be required to support your loan application:

  • Government issued, unexpired photo ID
  • If you’ve had a bankruptcy in the past seven years, your bankruptcy papers, including all schedules and discharge will be required
  • If you rent, your rent payment and landlord information is required. If you own, all mortgage statements, proof of taxes and insurance are required for ALL properties owned
  • Pay stubs covering the most recent 30-day period
  • 2 years W2 forms
  • If you receive commissions, bonuses, or are self-employed, you must provide 2 years of Federal income tax returns will be required
  • Social security, pension and disability income will require form SSA-1099, award letter and bank statements confirming deposits
  • If you are divorced and receive or pay alimony or child support, a divorce decree will be required
  • Most recent 2 months statements for all bank accounts – you MUST include all pages even if a page says “intentionally left blank” or you think there is no relevant information on that page **all large deposits or transfers will need to be documented
  • If you are receiving gift funds, a gift letter will be required with signatures from all donors and recipients verifying the gift isn’t a loan – the donor’s accounts for verification may be required

Please note: the items listed here are a general guide. Circumstances are different for every individual, so your particular documentation requirements may vary. Your loan officer will guide you through the process to gather all of the items specific to your application.

D&CO. loves guiding customers through the loan process.

Questions? D&CO. is here to help! Contact DeAnna or Kaylie today, to experience why they’re everyone’s favorite mortgage advisors!

Home Hack

Declutter Those Closets – The Practically Painless Way!

This spring cleaning season, make the closet less of a chore with this month’s Home Hack. Use the method below to do a lot of the sorting work for you while you live your normal day-to-day.

Reverse Hanger Trick

Face hanger hook openings toward you…

You simply take all of your clothes that are currently on hangers, and reverse them from their normal way of hanging. To explain, turn the hangers backwards so that the hanger hook opening faces outwards, towards you. (If you already hang your clothes this way, you’ll just make it the opposite.) When you use an item, place it back on the rack with the hanger hook opening facing the wall, away from you. Then as you go through the next month you’ll see what clothes you actually use, and the ones you never touch. The hanger hook openings still facing out are all your potential donations, yard sale, or give-away/hand-me-down items.

You can use this method for shoes as well. Place all of the shoes on the floor, and as you use a pair place them on a shoe rack or in another part of your room. The ones you never touch are the potential donations, yard sale, or hand-me-down items.

Donations

There are some common misconceptions about clothing donations. Here are a few simple rules to help the donation facility of your choosing while you clean your closet at the same time.

  • Only donate clean clothing. Many people assume their donations are cleaned at the donation facility before they sell them. This is false. Most donation places do not have the budget or capacity to clean donated items. Only donate CLEAN clothing and goods.
  • If it’s broken or torn, toss it – don’t donate it. They don’t mend clothing or repair things either.
  • Try to Recycle. Have items you just don’t want to give away? There are shops that actually buy lightly used clothes, shoes, jewelry, accessories, and even interesting books for “upcycling.” Check with local consignment shops and vintage stores for selling and upcycling opportunities.

Storage Solutions

Once you’ve sorted through your clothes, it’s SO much easier (and kinda fun?) to organize it. There are a lot of cost-effective closet storage solutions out there these days. Ikea has several full closet systems and storage options that are meant to accommodate any size home. We also found some great organizational solutions on Amazon (pictured below).

Easy View Shoe Storage

Simple Dresser Solutions
Simple, and even the stackable utility drawers work great for things like socks, light clothing, and undergarments.

Drawer Organization
Organizers are great for all the things that tend to get jumbled in drawers.


Compact Hangers and Dust Cover Storage
These options aim to take the bulk out of your closet, which should make finding and retrieving clothes so much easier – and make closets feel more spacious too.


Folding the Clothes
If you’d like to have your folded clothes as neat as a store display, folding boards are the trick!

HAPPY SPRING CLEANING!

Home Hack

3 Easy Ways to WOW Home Buyers!

If you are selling your home, there are three easy things you can do to WOW your potential buyers:

Remove Personalization, Declutter, and Clean

There is a difference between decluttering and cleaning, we’ll explain that below – but let’s start with removing personalization.

1. Remove Personalization. This is an easy one. Start the packing process immediately with items that are personal to you. Meaning, if it’s something that is “so you,” pack it up. This means pictures of you, your friends, your family, your feelings, your favorites… pack it all up. Packing things now that you don’t need everyday will not only help you in the long run, but also help your home to look its best for buyers at the same time. You want to do everything you can to allow a buyer to picture themselves living there. Transforming your home into a more generic space allows the majority of buyers to see the potential your home offers, and allows them to imagine how they will decorate and customize it. If you’re having trouble with this step, just imagine the things you would remove or store to make your home a vacation rental. Here’s a general checklist of personal things to pack up and/or securely store:

  • Photos and Art: Anything depicting friends, family, pets, degrees, favorite sports teams, political themes, religious themes, awards, names, initials, etc.
  • Signs and Banners
  • Collections and Knick Knacks
  • Hobbies and Supplies

D&CO. TIP: If you are having in-person showings and open houses, strangers will be in your home. Don’t forget to securely store personal items like medication, mail, personal papers, jewelry, and other valuables. 

2. Declutter. Clutter is something we all become immune to over time. Piles of mail or magazines, everyday conveniences like snacks or water bottles on kitchen counters – it may be everyday living to you, but all of these items are clutter in the buyer’s eye. Clutter makes it harder for buyers to imagine themselves living in the space. It literally “clutters” their view. Pack it up, neatly store it, or toss it. Here are some clutter culprits:

  • Piles of mail or magazines
  • Stacked items on counters; snacks, bottles, dishes, spices, books, mail, newspapers, etc.
  • Shopping Bags
  • Mail Packages
  • SHOES and Clothes
  • Collectibles
  • Office and Craft Supplies

3. CLEAN. We’re talking deep clean. Windows make a big impact. Sparkling windows make for great looking photos and beautiful views of the vistas for those in-person showings. Here are other overlooked items to consider for deep cleaning – they all make a big impact to the feel of your home:

  • Windows
  • Floor Boards
  • Doors and Cabinets
  • Back Splashes and Appliances – look for splashes and hand prints
  • Door Knobs and Hardware – look for the hand prints
  • Tile Grout Lines
  • Mirrors, Toilets, Showers
  • Corners – along wall edges, where the carpet/floor meets the wall is a dust magnet!
  • High Traffic Floors, Doors, and Walls – paint touch ups and cleaning where needed

Removing personalization, decluttering, and deep cleaning can instantly improve your home’s image – all it takes is some time and elbow grease.