Bad Neighbor

You can pick your neighborhood, but you can’t pick your neighbors. We’ve all heard horror stories of conflicts that have started small but gotten wildly out of hand. Conflicts are sure to happen, but here’s how to make sure it doesn’t become a horror story.

Step 1: Speak to them—take this step before actions can spiral in order to come to an early compromise.

Step 2: If that doesn’t work, have another conversation. But it’s also time to start documenting and researching. Write down what happened, the dates and what conversations and actions took place. Research the kind of conflict you’re having and whether or not you have any legal standing. Calling the cops should be a last resort or for truly dangerous conflicts, as it is likely to escalate the situation.

Step 3: Retaliation is common and has likely taken place, but remember, the goal should be to come to a mutual solution, even if it means you offer to pay to resolve the problem.

Step 4: Professional mediation is cheaper and less likely to cause greater conflict than going to court. Some states offer free mediation for these types of conflicts, but also your homeowner’s association can be a service.

Neighbor conflicts are common, but they don’t have to get out of hand. Follow these steps to stay in control of a difficult situation.


Photo by Cody Hughes @clhughes21

Renting or Selling

Maybe it was the second glass of wine, but when you had to listen Rob Schmobb talk about how he converted his former home into an income property, it seemed like a tempting idea. Forgo the hassle and risk of selling your current home, use it as an income property and move on while improving your finances. What’s the downside? Well, there’s six things to think about first.

  1. Do you want to be a landlord? Being a landlord is different than being a homeowner. The expectations of a renter are going to be place more demands on your time and finances.
  2. Research the rental market—estimate how much rent you could get with the help of a broker and if it would cover the mortgage, taxes, and expenses.
  3. Ask an accountant about tax implications.
  4. Do you need a property manager? If you are moving out of town, you need to hire someone to take care of the property and tenants.
  5. Crunch the numbers– estimate your rental profit and compare it with cash you would get for selling your home.
  6. Do you really want to be a landlord? It’s a thing.

Using your current home as a rental property can be quite successful and rewarding. Check the numbers and see if it’s a situation that can work for you.


Photo by Cody Hughes @clhughes21

Smart House

Have you ever sat on your couch on a quiet night, swirled your merlot, and looked at your house like, what a waste I can’t use this equity right now to pay off current unsecured debt in order to improve my long-term financial situation.


Well, think about it now. Your home is typically your biggest asset, and if you have equity you might be able to use it to pay off debt. They key to making this work is knowing three things.

  1. Decide how much you need.
  2. Confirm how much you currently owe.
  3. Figure out how your current interest rate compares to today’s interest rates.

There are two options for using home equity and your answers for the above questions decide which one will be a good fit.

When refinancing your mortgage, you take a loan of a specific sum out from the equity of your home. If interest is at least half a point higher than current rates, refinancing makes a lot of sense. Also, if interest rates are about the same it might not be worth it. Keep in mind, closing costs are about $3,000, so depending on how much you need to borrow the fee might eliminate this option.

A Home equity line of credit works like a credit card, drawing on your home equity as you pay it back. Home equity line of credits don’t have closing costs. But, the interest rate is adjustable and will probably trend upwards as interest rates have been rising.

Used smartly, your home can be a great tool in your long-term financial plan.


Photo by Cody Hughes @clhughes21

The Big Day

Out of all the big days, moving day is definitely one of the most exciting. It’s the end of a long journey, full of ups and downs and finally the house is yours.

You might think the key to a great moving day is having a great selection of donuts and hot coffee, but to truly have a smooth moving experience, do these few things before the big day.

  1. Change the locks before you pop the champagne, celebrate signing those closing papers by making your key the only one that works.
  2. If you plan on it, now is the time to install any home security and get a certificate of installation to send to homeowner insurance to get a discount on your policy.
  3. Schedule an appointment to get your internet, television, and phone set-up before moving day and you can collapse on the couch that night with no hassles.
  4. Hire a cleaning service or schedule a family cleaning day make sure you get inside the light fixtures, windows, closets and cupboards, basement, and attic.
  5. Get ductwork, heating, and cooling systems serviced.
  6. If you can, do any invasive home improvement projects such as replacing floors, ripping up carpets or painting.

Follow these steps and the night you move in you’ll be eating pizza out of a box, buried in your unorganized stuff, happily watching television and procrastinating on your phone with nothing to do but figure out where that other chair is going. Home sweet home.


Photo by Cody Hughes @clhughes21

Water, Water Everywhere

One minute your lawn is that deep lush green and the next minute it’s starting to look…parched. Reality check? You needed to water days before you notice. The signs of a drying lawn aren’t immediately obvious. When grass wilts, doesn’t spring back, and loses its green color (often turns purplish or grey), it’s time to water. When it’s brown, you’re going to need to pull off a resurrection. And before you drag out the sprinkler, double check to make sure there are no watering restrictions.

So, how much water does your lawn actually need? First, you need to pay attention to the type of grass you have. Kentucky bluegrass and fine fescues are drought tolerant. Bermuda grass typically does well in heat, but will go dormant in drought. Zoysia grass grows very deep roots and is hardy in drought and heat.

Another thing you need to take into consideration is the type of soil you have. Clay soil can hold large amounts of water and needs less watering overall. Sandy soil drains faster and needs more frequent watering.

Regardless of the grass type, daily watering is not recommended—think couple soaking thundershowers, not daily sprinkles. Allowing the lawn to dry out encourages a stronger root system.

Watering in reality can be a time consuming unless you have a (costly) automatic sprinkler system. If you have municipal water, factor $5-10 for every 1,000 square feet of yard. If you’re on well water, break up watering into blocks to ensure you don’t run your well dry or burn out your well pump.

Finally, to really dial in how much water your individual lawn needs, you can check the soil yourself. Cut a small section—if it’s dry to four inches or deeper, it’s time to water. After watering an area, cut another section and check again. Water until it’s wet four to six inches then move the sprinkler.

With a little attention, you can keep that lush green lawn.


Photo by Cody Hughes @clhughes21


There’s a major fire hazard you probably aren’t thinking about—and no it’s not the candle you forgot to blow out before you left for the grocery store. It’s your chimney. Each year, around 9,000 homes have fires that begin in the chimney.

If you don’t have a fireplace or wood stove, don’t think you are exempt. Furnaces also have chimneys that need regular checkups. Oil furnace can cause soot buildups and gas furnaces can create smoke and condensation. It’s important to seasonally keep up on small repairs and do a thorough cleaning when buying a new house.

If you’re unsure of where to start, it’s probably best to hire a chimney company. They will check the following things to ensure a working chimney:

  1. Ensure lining of the flue is in good shape. The major cause is creosote buildup inside the chimney itself. This is typically done with a remote camera. Simply looking up the chimney isn’t good enough to determine if there’s a problem.
  2. Check for cracks or loose bricks—cracks can let carbon monoxide leak into the house.
  3. For a furnace, check the return vent.
  4. Check for debris that may have accumulated where the furnace enters the chimney.