November 27, 2020

Clean Smarter: Follow the 5-Minute Rule . . . another tip from

Another household tip from

Another household tip from



Despite the economic recession, owners of second homes and vacation homes are getting strong returns by renting out their properties according to a report by HomeAway, an online vacation marketplace.  Nearly two-thirds of second-homeowners (63%) are able to cover at least half of their mortgage by renting out the home to travelers and 38% generate enough rental income to cover 75-100% of the property’s mortgage.  Vacation rental bookings are about the same or higher than last summer, averaging 20 weeks per year, the report finds. 


COLOR CORRECT . . . “Painting weather” is just around the corner!

The look of your home’s exterior can make a strong first impression, enhance curb appeal and help boost resale value, but choosing the right color can be tricky. The paint experts at Sherwin-Williams offer several helpful hints for selecting the best color for your home’s exterior.

First, examine homes in different neighborhoods to get an idea of how residents apply color to their own homes. Note the most appealing color schemes in the area and consider adapting them to your home. Choose a scheme that blends well with homes in your current neighborhood or subtly stands out.

Landscaping elements, such as flower gardens, flowering shrubs and trees that change color, can affect your color choice. For example, heavily wooded lots will make colors appear darker due to the shade, and the foliage tends to camouflage the home.

Elements of your home, such as roofing shingles, brick or stone accents, often have varying shades and hues that can serve as the foundation of your paint color choices. For example, a charcoal gray shingle could have flecks of gray-blue or gray-green that you can incorporate into the color scheme.

Be sure to examine color samples outdoors at various angles and at different times of the day. Consider buying small quantities of paint in desired colors and paint a section of the house where the body, trim and accent colors can be seen together.

Pay attention to the direction and intensity of the sun. Intense sunlight can wash out colors. While brighter colors may be suitable in Sunbelt cities, lighter, neutral tones often work better in other locales. Tinted and mid-tone neutrals are popular because they play off landscaping and other building materials.

White or light colors make a large home on a small lot appear even larger, while dark colors tend to make the same home look smaller but more substantial. Remember, light colors advance in space while dark colors recede. So if a home is located far from the curb, painting it a light color will make it look more prominent.

Easy Fixes for 4 Household Problems

Problems like squeaky stairs and oil stains on the garage floor are common household troubles and they’re relatively easy for a do-it-yourselfer to fix.

Lynda Lyday—carpenter, professional contractor, and a featured expert on the DIY cable network—provides dozens of simple fixes for common household problems in The Homeowner’s Manual (Que Publishing, 2006).

 While it’s always best to bring in an expert to correct big problems, Lyday provides these tips for capable home owners who want to try their own hand at a solution.

PROBLEM: Oil Stains on Garage Floor
Lyday’s solution: “You can remove most of a stubborn stain with a bit of elbow grease and scrubbing. First, remove the surface oil by sprinkling some cat litter on it to soak it up. Then clear away the cat litter and focus on the stain.

Make a paste of hot water and dry dish or laundry detergent. Use a stiff bristle scrub brush to scrub the area with the paste. Hose the area and let it dry. Another method is to use a product such as Spray ’n Wash on the stain for 10 minutes, along with a dry detergent.

Your last option is to spray on some oven cleaner. Use this sparingly, wash it down thoroughly, and keep children and pets away from it.”

PROBLEM: Leaky Faucets
Lyday’s solution: “Most faucet leaks can easily be fixed with a rubber washer, an O-ring, or seals—depending on what type of faucet it is. By fixing the problem yourself, you can save a good bit of money since plumbers can be expensive and will charge you a standard fee even if it takes only 10 minutes to fix the problem.”

PROBLEM: Nail Pops
Lyday’s solution: “Nail pops are a problem across the country. The term comes from the nails that hold the drywall to the studs actually popping out through the face of the drywall. This is from either a house settling or the wood studs drying out over time, squeezing the nail out of the wood and pushing it through the drywall.

The fix for this isn’t terribly hard, but it’s tedious because there are up to 32 nails in a 4-foot by 8-foot sheet of drywall. My suggestion is to pound the nail through the drywall to the stud. Then, just above it, place a drywall screw to hold the drywall to the stud, and finish it off with a few coats of spackle or joint compound. Finally, seal and paint it.

Most home-improvement stores also sell nail pop kits that can make this job easier.”

PROBLEM: Squeaky Stairs
Lyday’s solution: “The most common problems that occur in a staircase are the treads (horizontal surface of the steps) coming loose, which causes squeaking. Also common are the spindles or balusters coming loose. If you can get underneath the staircase, fixing the treads is easy.

You will need to attach an L bracket from the underside of the tread to the stringer (the long piece of wood that connects the treads and runs diagonally up the wall). If you can’t get underneath the staircase, you’ll have to make the repair from above.

Squeaky stair kits are available that allow you to make this fix even through carpet. Otherwise, you can secure the tread to the stringer with a trim screw.”

MY MONTH IN FRANKFURT – Consider renting a home?

Prepare yourself!  The real estate market for rentals is reminiscent decades gone by in our area:  there is no central listing service.  You will hire/pay for an agent to go office to office to find potential rental properties.

Now that you have your agent, you learn that rentals are what we call apartments/part of a much larger building.  In addition, you will need to supply your own kitchen and light fixtures.  Most spaces for rent have no appliances, cabinets or counter tops in the vacant ‘kitchen’ space.  When you vacate the space, you take your kitchen with you.  In addition, each tenant supplies . . . and removes . . . the light fixtures from the unit. 

Now that you have your space, kitchen hardware and light fixtures it time to learn how the clothes dryer differs from those in the US.  After you dry your load of laundry, you will need to pull the +/- two quart container from the base of the dryer.  Once removed, the full container needs to have the water therein dumped.  MY QUESTION:  How much extra does it cost me to ‘dry’ all of that water out of my Seattle laundry?

I am going to do you a favor and not fully describe the toilets that are designed for an ‘incomplete flush’ and therefore each has a wall-mounted toilet brush for cleaning.


Should you keep your adjustable-rate mortgage or refinance?  Generally, stay with the ARM if you plan to move before it adjusts or can handle a modest increase in payments.  Refinance to a fixed rate loan if you expect to stay for at least three years or if you owe more on your home than it is worth in today’s market AND you qualify for government assistance.  To see if you qualify for the government’s Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP), go to and click on “Refinancing”.


Are you aware of the current tax breaks for which you may qualify?  There are special 2009 benefits for energy saving home improvements (windows, heat and cooling source and appliances) . . . first-time home Buyers and move-up home Buyers . . . plug-in electric drive conversion kits . . . new vehicle sales tax.


The $8,000 first time home buyer tax credit has been extended.  Not only was the first time home buyer tax credit extended, a NEW $6,500 tax credit for existing homeowners who have lived in their homes for at least five of the last eight years was added to the legislation.   

The move-up market has been stalled and even though the first time home buyer market was helped along with the initial tax credit it was not enough to move the “middle” market.  This “middle” market desperately needed this new jump start. 

These tax credits will be available through June 30, 2010; however, Buyers who qualify for either of these credits MUST enter a binding contract before April 30, 2010.   The bill also increases the income cap to $125,000 for a single person and $250,000 for a couple.  And the credit is available for all homes purchased for $800,000 or less.


Take your garage-door opener with you whenever you leave your car outside your home.  Thieves look for openers clipped to visors in unlocked cars and use them to open garages – gaining access to homes.  If you have lost the remote control opener, reset the code to disable it (follow the instructions that come with your opener to reset the code).  Consider replacing the standard–size remote with an easy-to-carry keychain version – available for $30 to $40 at home centers or wherever you bought your garage-door opener.