5 Plants That Naturally Repel Mosquitoes

Many homeowners want to enjoy their outdoor living space but don’t want to get eaten by mosquitoes while doing so. Bug repellents and bug zappers are effective but don’t keep those nasty bugs away from your outdoor living area. Check out these plants that naturally repel mosquitoes and other annoying bugs that keep you from using your outdoor space more often:

1. Lavender

This beautiful purple colored plant is a natural mosquito repellent with a wonderful fragrance. Lavender is a great addition to an outdoor space as it adds color as well as keeps bugs at bay. Its unique scent will keep insects and rabbits away and is very hardy. Lavender tends to spread out and can get quite large so make sure that you have enough space when planting this beauty. Lavender does well in warmer climates but can withstand a wide variety of environments as well.

2. Citronella Grass

This plant is a no brainer when it comes to its ability to keep mosquitoes at bay. Citronella is a commonly used ingredient in many natural mosquito repellents and this grass does well in doing just that. The lemon scent of Citronella Grass is incredibly good at repelling bugs and does well in planters. Place a few pots around an outdoor living space for ultimate protection against biting insects.

3. Catnip

As a variation of the mint family, catnip is very good at deterring insects. It is low maintenance and does well in planters as it has a tendency to creep into other areas of the garden. A recent study showed that catnip was actually much more effective than DEET and the natural repelling aspects are impressive. If you do decide to choose this mosquito repelling plant have a plan of action for neighborhood cats who may be attracted to your outdoor space as well!

4. Marigolds

This annual flower produces a scent that repels mosquitoes as well as other bugs such as whiteflies, aphids, and hornworms. Marigolds are an easy addition to an outdoor space as they do well in pots that can be spread out around a patio area or even placed directly on your outdoor table. They do well in borders or edging as well and should grow well all summer long.

5. Rosemary

As an easy to grow herb, Rosemary extracts a woody scented oil that repels both moths and mosquitoes. It does well in containers but can also thrive along borders or in garden beds as well. Rosemary has the ability to grow quite large so regular trimming is recommended. It does best in dry and arid environments but can withstand colder areas when placed in pots. Enjoy the mosquito repelling qualities of this plant as well as snip off a few sprigs to use in summer cooking.

Take charge of your outdoor space and plant different varieties that will repel pesky mosquitoes the natural way. Choose a few favorites and see which plant does best in your outdoor space. Consider placing them close to the outdoor seating area for greatest impact on keeping the biting insects away from your outdoor space this summer.

How to Make Your Home Smell Great Before an Open House

Smell is one of our most important senses. Psychologically speaking, it’s the sense that is most closely linked with memory, meaning that good smells can evoke happy memories and experiences while bad smells can do just the opposite. Smell is also highly emotive; different fragrances can convey a vast array of emotions and feelings. So, it’s no surprise that smell can come into play when you’re trying to sell your home.

There’s a reason why real estate agents always think about the best scent for home staging before a showing. A house that smells like freshly baked cookies can evoke a warm and homey feeling while a refreshing and clean smelling house can evoke feelings of potential and new opportunities.

The question is what scent sells a house and what can you do to ensure that you create a wonderful smelling home for potential buyers?

Use Baking Soda
First and foremost, you want to get rid of any current smells in your home. Baking soda, when spread on your carpets and soda, can help remove tough smells and leave you with a neutral pallet. All you have to do is let the baking soda sit for 10-15 minutes before vacuuming it up. It even works great in trashcans, sinks, toilets, and more.

Take Advantage of Your Stove
The best way to make your house smell good is to use your stove. All you need is a pot of boiling water, and then you can make your own essential oils for selling your house with the right spices.

During the winter, we recommend using spicy and warm flavors such as cinnamon and/or cloves, which evoke a sense of the holidays. During the spring and summer, you can use lemon or orange rind for a fresh citrus scent instead. Don’t be afraid to experiment, but make sure you try out each scent before your open house.

Add Plants
Not only do plants add life to a home, but the right plants can also release wonderful fragrances that are highly compelling. When it comes to plants, the best scent for home staging includes some type of flowers such as roses, eucalyptus, rosemary, or lavender. The key is to choose plants that have a universally appealing smell and to make sure they’re always well groomed and lively.

Diffuse Essential Oils
If you don’t want to use your stove to make your own essential oils for selling your house, you can diffuse bottled essential oils instead. All you need to do is purchase an affordable diffuser, add a few drops of essential oil, and run it for a few hours before your open house. Just make sure you use the right oils.

Avoid using strong scents that can have a polarizing effect such as patchouli, sandalwood, or ylang-ylang. Instead, go with relaxing and simple scents such as lavender, grapefruit, rose, or bergamot. These smells evoke the atmosphere of a luxury spa.

Give your prospective buyers extra incentive to purchase your house by making it smell like a home they can see themselves in. Your goal is to make every guest feel like they belong. Just be sure you use scents that evoke only the best memories and feelings. It can be the added factor you need to make the sell. For more tips on selling your home, contact a real estate agent in your area.

3 Simple DIY Projects to Tackle this Summer

Summer is here and it’s the perfect time to enjoy the great outdoors, even if just in your own backyard.

Does your yard or patio need a little sprucing up? Perhaps you’re dreaming of hosting a summer party but your outdoor space isn’t quite guest-ready. Don’t worry, we’ve got some simple and affordable DIY projects that might help you inject a little curb appeal and make your home the place to be this summer.

Freshen Things Up with a Coat of Paint
Knoxville is a great place to live because of each distinct season, but those seasons can also wreak havoc on outdoor furniture. One of our favorite DIY projects to freshen up patio furniture involves simple spray paint.

You will want to thoroughly clean your furniture first to remove any dust or debris. If older layers of paint are chipping off, a wire brush might come in handy to smooth the surfaces. Anytime you are removing old layers of paint, take precaution by wearing a dust mask (available at your local hardware store).

This is one of those DIY projects that allows you to get really creative and let your style shine through. There are so many shades and textures of spray paint to select from, with options for painting nearly every type of surface.

Bright cheerful colors are sure to pop on your summer patio while peaceful neutrals and trendy metallics can create a more lush, sophisticated result.

Create a Multi-Purpose Container Herb Garden
Another great way to add some life to your backyard or patio space is by planting a container herb garden. Not only are they fairly easy to create, but container herb gardens are also one of those DIY projects that serve many purposes.

First, fresh herbs add lots of flavor to your cooking, which will come in handy as you plan a menu for your next summer party.

Next, you can choose colorful containers or pots that complement your patio style for lots of visual impact.

Finally, certain herbs are known to repel insects, including those pesky mosquitoes that love to crash outdoor gatherings. Basil, lavender, and mint are three great multipurpose herbs to grow.

Assemble a Portable Summer Party Kit
One great way to make sure you are ready for every possible impromptu summer gathering is by assembling a summer party kit.

Your DIY party kit might include things like disposable plates, cups, and napkins as well as fun decorative items such as a piñata or strings of colorful lights. You could also include sunscreen or battery-powered, handheld misting fans for your guests. And don’t forget skewers for roasting hot dogs or marshmallows for s’mores.

An old wooden crate or a plastic bin makes a great container for your party kit. This is one of those DIY projects that requires a little work on the front end but makes things much easier later on. Having all your essential party supplies gathered together will make organizing your next outdoor summer party easier and less stressful.

These are just a few simple DIY projects you might want to tackle this summer around your home in Knoxville. Get your outdoor space or patio ready and your next impromptu party will sure to be memorable for your guests!

What Is the Difference Between a Realtor and a Real Estate Agent?

Are you working with a Realtor or a real estate agent? Often, people use the words interchangeably to refer to any individual who handles real estate transactions, but that’s not correct.

A real estate professional can be classified as a real estate agent, realtor, and/or broker.  The difference between these titles are the levels of education, experience, and affiliation. So, who are these individuals and what do they offer? Are all real estate agents realtors or is there more required to be one or the other? We’ve got the inside scoop.

Real Estate Agent
A real estate agent is a person who is licensed to represent buyers and sellers in a real estate transaction. The steps to becoming licensed vary by state but typically include a minimum number of instructional hours and the passing of a real estate licensing exam. Additionally, many real estate agents have also passed a state background check and have business insurance.

Agents are the most common real estate professionals that you’ll run across. All real estate brokers and realtors are real estate agents, but not all real estate agents are brokers or realtors.

Real Estate Broker
The differences between a real estate agent and broker have to do with education. A real estate broker has pursued a higher level of licensing after working in the industry for a set amount of time. In addition, to become a broker you should be verified by a principal broker and pass a broker exam specific to your state.

In the end, the most telling differences between a real estate agent and broker are their level of experience. A broker has at least worked in the industry buying and selling homes for a few years.

Realtor
The final title is that of a realtor. A real estate agent and a real estate broker can both be realtors. The key to being a realtor vs. a real estate agent is belonging to the National Association of Realtors (NAR). Only members of this association can be identified as a realtor.

What makes a realtor unique? members of the NAR have all taken a pledge to follow a set of ethics and guidelines that ensure their integrity. These codes of ethics carry weight for a realtor in their day-to-day business practices and cover a wide range of pledges:

  1. Shall put the interests of buyers and sellers ahead of their own.
  2. Shall cooperate with other brokers and agents if it’s in the best interest of the client.
  3. Shall refuse fees from more than one party without consent.
  4. Shall not discriminate in any fashion.
  5. Shall always present the truth in advertising.

All in all, the REALTOR® Code of Ethics offers a very specific outline for how an agent or broker should think, act, and perform their duties. This is not to say that the main broker and realtor difference is the type of individual—an ethical or non-ethical person. A broker can follow these same ethics guidelines without being a member of the National Association of Realtors. However, being a member of the NAR does offer a course of action if you have a complaint; you can contact your local board of realtors.

Choosing Your Real Estate Professional
So, how do you choose the right real estate professional for you? The right individual will be different for every transaction, homebuyer, and seller. You need to decide if having a few extra years of experience and education or adherence to a specific code of ethics makes you feel more comfortable hiring one person over another.

No matter whom you decide, we recommend carefully vetting all your candidates and reviewing their qualifications before making your choice. A realtor isn’t necessarily better than a broker, and an agent isn’t necessarily less experienced than a broker. It all depends on their qualifications. Vet wisely.

Modest Home Updates to “Wow” Buyers & Boost Value

When selling a home in today’s market, it’s important to consider all the options to help make it stand out and appear move-in ready to selective buyers. Which improvements require the least time, effort and expense but will significantly boost your home’s perceived value? To help prioritize, we put together the following list of modest staging solutions/upgrades that will get your property noticed and cost less than the first price reduction that buyers would expect for dated kitchens and baths.

Dining room staged by PJ & Company Staging and Interior Decorating

Freshen Walls With Neutral Color
Our go-to instant fix to brighten and hide dated and damaged walls is neutral paint. It's amazing to see how a dark red or purple room can be completely transformed with a coat of soft "greige" (a combination of taupe and grey) paint that increases the perceived size of the space, doesn't distract from the room's features and acts as the perfect backdrop to a modern furnishings and a décor.

Kitchen staged by PJ & Company Staging and Interior Decorating

Re-paint Kitchen and Bath Cabinets

To instantly boost a tired kitchen or bath without a costly investment, start by repainting dated and dark cabinets and vanities with bright white paint. Complete the look by pairing with modern hardware – handles, drawer pulls or knobs for added style.  


Bathroom staged by PJ & Company Staging and Interior Decorating

Replace Kitchen & Bath Lighting and Countertops

Lighting is an important design element that can affect the mood of a room more than any other accessory. Adding updated lighting in modern designs and on-trend mixed finishes such as brushed nickel, chrome or soft gold tones will add warmth and sophisticated style. It can also be used to draw attention to certain features in the room such as beautiful new marble or quartz countertop (as shown in photo above), appliances or high ceilings. 

Highlight Key Features

For large windows with attractive molding, remove heavier window treatments or simply frame with floor to ceiling neutral drapes. Remove worn carpeting and expose and polish hardwood flooring. Re-stain stairway steps and railings by painting risers or updated spindles. Enhance a beautiful stone fireplace with molding, mantle or screen.


Living room staged by PJ & Company Staging and Interior Decorating

Finishing Touches

Once you’ve invested in cosmetic fixes, be sure to remove dated furniture and accents and replace with more modern style that complement the room (as pictured in living room above). Minimal wall art, vignettes and throw pillows with subtle pops of color and pattern will add depth and warmth so that buyers can emotionally connect and envision living in the home. 

Exterior & Curb Appeal

It’s just as important to update the outside of your home to welcome buyers inside. Remodeling magazine’s “Cost vs. Value” report continues to list replacing entry and garage doors, siding and windows as upgrades that provide the greatest return on investment. However, sprucing up the landscaping, making necessary basic repairs, a fresh coat of paint for the front door and some seasonal potted flowers will go a long way to make a great first impression.

For more examples of interior decorating and home staging, visit www.pjstagingdecorating.com. 

How to Personalize Your Outdoor Space

As the temperatures rise and the days get longer, it’s time to create an outdoor space that’s a welcoming extension of your home. The inside of your home is a reflection of your style, and your outdoor space should be no different. Struggling with how to bring your design taste outdoors in a way that’s unique to you? With a few special touches, you can transform any patio, deck or outdoor room into a personal oasis that reflects your special sense of style

 

Choose Furniture Based on Size and Lifestyle

To get started, consider the size and function of your space to select the right furniture. Whether you have a huge backyard complete with a large patio for alfresco dining or a small balcony in a city apartment, make your outdoor space completely your own by focusing on how you can enjoy it most within the space limitations. For example, your balcony space may not support a dining area, but it might comfortably fit two lounge chairs and a bistro table, perfect for outdoor dining.

If you’re looking to create a cozy, personal getaway to curl up with a book, choose a few chairs, a side table and a chaise lounge. If you love to host outdoor parties during the spring and summer months, consider adding a full outdoor dining set, multiple lounge chairs and even an outdoor bar cart. If you want a place for a large family to gather under the stars, choose a sectional. Everyone’s outdoor style is different, so think about how you envision using the space. Start with what you need, and know that you can always add pieces as your needs change.

 

Select Accents that Speak to Your Decorating Style

Once you’ve chosen outdoor furniture and decided how you’ll use your space, you get to have some fun decorating! This is where you can truly let your personality come through and give your outdoor space the fun touches that will make it shine. Here are the elements to consider:

Colors. Start by choosing your favorite color scheme. If you like bright colors, go for a bold combination of yellows, blues or reds. Navy is a great option for a poolside retreat. For a contemporary look, blues, whites and greys all blend well. Love a minimalist style? You can’t go wrong with classic black and white.

Textures. With your color palette in mind, search for outdoor rugs and textiles that create a cohesive look. Then, add finishing touches such as copper lanterns, twinkling string lights, stylish planters or metal wall art. Whatever you choose, make sure it’s something you really love and that feels personal.

Add One-of-a-Kind Elements. Of course, no space is complete without a few special touches. You probably don’t want to subject family photos or treasured souvenirs to the elements, but you can still personalize your outdoor space with decor pieces that hold special meaning. Choose touches like a hand-painted birdhouse or homemade musical wind chime. If you have a green thumb, plant your favorite flowers in planters for a sweet reminder every time you see them. However you choose to decorate, you’ll know yours is a one-of-a-kind outdoor space.

All the Ways Your Front Entrance Can Sell Your Home

All the Ways Your Front Entrance Can Sell Your Home

If only selling your home was as simple as snapping your fingers. We’d love that, and we’re sure you would too.
Unfortunately, reality is rarely that kind. Instead, there are a thousand little details that go into selling your home from hiring a real estate agent to home staging and curb appeal enhancements. It’s every piece together that brings in the buyer.

But if you’ve focused mostly on finding the right realtor and too little on curb appeal, you could be putting yourself at a disadvantage. Never underestimate the power of a great first impression, which starts with the outside of your home.

Staging a House to Sell
When getting your home ready to sell, the first area you want to focus on is the exterior. This is what a buyer will see first before they ever step a foot inside, so it needs to look polished and attractive. The question then is, “What should I concentrate my budget and time on?”

1. Create a Gorgeous Front Entrance
Homeowners who update their entry door can recoup a significant amount of the cost of installation. In particular, you should consider installing a steel entry door.

In addition, you want to clean your entire entrance. Remove any clutter around your entrance including furniture, pots, and entry mats and thoroughly clean everything, making sure to repaint or touch up as needed. You’ll also want to polish any metal knobs or fixtures. A great entrance can ensure that every other part of your home is more inviting as well.

2. Repaint the Exterior
Repainting the outside of your home is a big job, but it’s worth the results. A new coat of paint can seriously improve your home’s curb appeal. Just make sure you do your research before you choose your exterior house colors. Not only do you want to choose colors that appeal to you, but colors that fit your neighborhood.

We recommend choosing bright and welcoming colors for your home, especially when it comes to your front door. A bright red or blue door really pops. As for the overall color, we recommend choosing a light gray/blue color. A great color can help you sell your home faster and for more money.

3. Update Your Landscaping
Poor landscaping can distract from an otherwise beautiful house that has exceptional home staging. That’s because no matter how great your furniture and walls look inside, if they can’t get past the lack of imagination and poor curb appeal outside, it won’t matter.

Make sure your shrubs are trimmed and not blocking windows and opportunities for natural light. Add color with freshly potted flowers and plants. Manicure your lawn and ensure there are no weed gardens and all mulch is in place.

A stunning landscape can make a buyer automatically assume and be ready for an equally stunning house.

4. Ditch the Clutter
When prepping the interior of your home, you don’t leave junk everywhere. The same should be said for the outside. Streamline your exterior by removing evidence of a busy family life such as garden tools, bikes, toys, and trash cans. You’ll also want to remove any extraneous furniture. Keep everything parsed down to the minimum.

5. Make it Livable
Finally, you’ll want to make a great outdoor living space, if you can. Outdoor rooms are attractive to potential homebuyers. Consider adding a seating area to your deck or creating a barbeque area with a fire pit. A few small items can expand your home’s living space outside, adding to its attraction for buyers.

The reality is that buyers have very little imagination. If your home looks too much like you, then they won’t be able to see themselves in your home. The goal is to make your home a blank slate that they can see fitting into seamlessly.

By focusing on improving your curb appeal, you focus on making a great first impression that will last throughout the buying process. After all, getting buyers in the door is the hardest step. Once they’re inside, your real estate agent and you can take care of the rest.

How to Sell a House That Still Has a Mortgage Left on It

How to Sell a House That Still Has a Mortgage Left on It

Most people won’t live in the same home for 30 years, the typical life of a mortgage loan. So, when it comes time to sell, many homeowners still have mortgage debt to deal with. Is this a problem? What happens to your mortgage when you sell your home?

Once you sign your name on a mortgage loan, you are responsible for the money—no one else. This means that you must pay it back, which you can do with the money you gain from selling your home.

The truth of the matter is that selling a house with a mortgage is a common occurrence.  Consult with your mortgage lender and your real estate agent to find out how you can sell a home with a mortgage. Here are a few tips that they might share with you.

Check Your Mortgage

The first step to selling a house with a mortgage is to contact your mortgage lender and ask about your current mortgage. You want to know:

  • Your current mortgage payoff amount
  • Your due-on-sale clauses

Your mortgage payoff amount is the exact amount of money, including accrued interest that you owe to the bank. This amount is typically good for 10-30 days and represents the outstanding loan balance that you must pay. The last thing you want to do is default on your mortgage.

The due-on-sale clauses reveal the exact rules of how to sell a house you still owe money on. It covers such information as when the paid-in-full loan is due and what the process is, including any fees. The clauses won’t tell you who you can or can’t sell your home to, but they may need some additional information about the buyer’s mortgage lender. Be sure to ask any questions you might have about these clauses, so you have a full understanding before you take the plunge and start your sale.

Selling Your Home

Once you know the ins and outs of your loan terms, it’s time to get to selling a house with a mortgage, which can get slightly complicated. First, you’ll want to work with a title company.

If your current lender doesn’t set you up with a title company, you can hire an agent on your own. This agent will be responsible for ensuring that there are no issues with your property’s title, and act as the intermediary throughout the entire purchase and sale process.

Here’s what happens to your mortgage when you sell your home and use a title company:

  • The title agent holds the money from the new buyer during the sale
  • After you sign all the documents at the closing table, the title agent uses the sale money to pay your current mortgage holder
  • Once the amount has been paid, the title transfers to the buyer and you, as the seller, are given the leftover money (minus various fees)

If the sale covers the full cost of the current loan, it’s a fairly smooth process. However, if you owe more than your home is actually worth—negative equity—there could be some trouble. In that case, you’ll have to work out a deal with your lender for a reduced payoff amount, or you may need to refinance and stay in your home for longer than you planned.

In the end, selling a home with a mortgage shouldn’t be a problem. The most important thing is to know your options, so that you can make the right decisions.

For help throughout the entire selling process, visit www.coldwellbanker.com and find a real estate agent near you.

How to Choose the Right Pet Door for Your Home

Installing a pet door in your home can remove a little hassle from your daily life by allowing your pet to come and go freely. So how do you choose the right pet door for your home? Here are a few steps that will guide you through the process:

Step 1: Decide on a Budget
Like any other purchase, there are going to be varying costs associated with a pet door. Are you going to hire a pro or install the door yourself? If you’re handy around the house, you can probably handle cutting the opening in a door. It’s always a good idea to call a pro to handle in-wall installations — even if you have the experience. Accidentally cutting wires, pipes or important structural features can severely damage your home.

Keep in mind that pet doors are going to range in price from as low as $30 for the traditional flap and smaller plastic door models, to upwards of $600 for larger doors and electronic/magnetic models.

Step 2: Choose a Location
Many homeowners install their pet doors on a patio or mudroom door. There are also in-wall pet doors that are perfect for homeowners with unusual door locations.

Step 3: Pick a Type of Door
Pet doors range from traditional flaps to magnetic or electronic doors. Here’s a brief rundown of your options:

  • Flaps: There are no frills with this option. The flap is made of screen mesh and does not close tightly against the door or side of your home. Your pet uses the door by simply walking through it.
  • Plastic Doors: These models work like a flap, pushing open from either side as your pet comes and goes. The major difference with this model is the rigid design and the ability to lock these in place overnight to prevent other critters from coming in.
  • Magnetic/Electronic Doors: This option requires an electronic dog collar in order to work. As your dog approaches, the door will unlock or even open automatically.

These are the best models when it comes to convenience and safety.

Step 4: Measure Your Pet
To find the right door size, measure your dog’s width around the chest and its height from the top of the shoulders to the bottom of the chest or belly. With this figure in mind, add one to two inches to each measurement to find the proper door size. Keep in mind that the size of door you purchase can have an impact on its placement. If you have a large dog, there may not be a pet door big enough for certain types of storm doors or single-door patio doors.

Step 5: Don’t Just Focus on Your Pet
There are additional pitfalls that come from the convenience of installing a pet door in your home. Dog doors make it difficult to control the movement of your dog, which is a bad thing if your pet is sick or dirty. Additionally, a dog door could give unwanted animals access to your home. Larger dog doors can also cause problems for your home’s energy efficiency.