kids jumping into pool header image

Pool Homes: What to know before you dive in

As the weather heats up, so does the housing market and there are plenty of reasons why summer is a great time to buy a home. With the long daylight hours and warm sunny weather, summer is a great time to move, landscape, and do all those projects new homeowners want to jump right into. Summer is also the ideal time to buy a pool home. It doesn’t take long before buyers are dreaming of cookouts on the patio and pool parties with friends and families. Before you get too far into the deep end, here are some things you need to know before buying a house with a pool.

Summer is the best time to buy a home with a pool

Buying a pool home in the summer is an obvious choice, after all, it’s hard to swim in frigid December temperatures, but this timing is ideal for another reason. If you choose to buy a pool that is winterized or shut down for the season, you have to trust the seller’s word as to whether or not it was working, but if you buy a home with a pool during the summer months, your inspector will be able to fully assess the condition of both the pool itself and the mechanics.

You may need a separate inspection

In regions where pools are very common, it’s possible the home inspector you choose will also be qualified to inspect a pool. If you live in a location where pools are not common, you’re probably going to want to have someone who specializes in pools to perform an inspection. Inspections are vital prior to purchasing a home as this allows you to negotiate with the seller for repairs or price reductions based on the findings.

Be aware of the possible issues

Pools typically come in one of three styles: concrete, fiberglass, and vinyl liner. There are pros and cons to each and you can check out this great article from River Pools and Spas for a full explanation.

In general, fiberglass pools are low maintenance and beautiful, but high cost initially and come in limited shapes. Vinyl liner pools are low cost initially and are very customizable, but they can be prone to damage and tend to need replacement every 5-9 years. Concrete pools are flexible in terms of design and can accommodate any size or feature request you would like, but also require more chemicals and maintenance to keep in good repair.

Owning a home with a pool can lead to you spend more time with family and friends or it can be a very expensive headache on your property. It’s important to consider how much you will use a pool and how much maintenance you’re willing to do to understand if owning a pool is worth the effort for you.

Do you have a pool? Wish you did or didn’t? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

female hands on laptop keys

Stock Up & Save on Your Home Goods

Just a head’s up! This post contains referral codes/links. All the services mentioned below are free to join and signing up via these links may result in an additional sign-up bonus for you. Use of the referral may also award the author of this blog for sharing this code. Author’s note: Thank you!

Whether you purchased a new home or decided to restyle your current home, there’s a deal to be had if you know where to look! Here are the best ways to save money on your home renovations and furnishings!

Rakuten (Formerly Ebates)

Available online and app store

Special Offer: Receive $10 reward from Rakuten when signing up by clicking here. See site for details.

Online and in-store shoppers alike can find great savings with Rakuten. Connect your card of choice, choose your retailers, and shop — while earning up to 10% cash back! Rakuten offers deals on everything you need for your dream home from places like Macy’s, Kohl’s, Pier 1 Imports, Best Buy, Ace Hardware, and Lowe’s. The deals don’t just apply to home goods, though! Rakuten can help you save on everything from travel to pet supplies to clothing and more!

Pro Tip: If you choose to sign up via the app, make sure to also visit the website to select stores for in-store credit. Visiting the website is the only way to do this and can increase the amount of cash you receive back. Also, for those who do a lot of online shopping, Rakuten offers a browser extension (also only available on the website) that can alert you whenever you’re visiting a qualifying merchant’s site and can provide discounts, free gift or free shipping offers!

Ibotta

Available online and app store

Special Offer: Use this referral link or code aaswtw to sign up today

Ibotta is a cashback service that helps you save money on the things you shop for every day. Ibotta saves you money on items at grocery and convenience stores, pharmacies, as well as helping you save on home goods and electronics from places like Target, Home Depot, Lowes, and many more. Simply shop as you normally would, use the app to select the retailers you have visited and the items you have purchased, take a picture of your receipt, and receive money back. You can maximize Ibotta by viewing the products and brands offered before you purchase  and shop the products that offer the best value. Sign up for Ibotta by clicking here.

Fetch Rewards

Available in app stores

Special Offer: Use Referral code XF6WC to receive an additional 2000 points with your first qualifying scan. See Fetch Rewards for details.

Fetch is a grocery-specific rewards program that helps to save you money on the groceries you buy normally. This app is one of the easiest to use as there is no need to select a retailer or search through products. Simply take a photo of your receipt and Fetch Rewards will scan your receipt to find your qualifying purchases and add credit to your account. Credit can then be redeemed for gift cards to a variety of retailers.

Receipt Hog

Available in app stores

Special Offers: None

Receipt Hog is one of the slower-earning cashback apps, but ease of use, and a fun little rewards game, make this one worth downloading. Simply scan your receipt and earn points. The amount/value of the points is low compared to other reward apps listed above, but Receipt Hog does offer a bonus game to earn extra credits when you upload a certain number of receipts. More information is visible via the app, but you can check out Receipt Hog online to find the app download link.

Whether you’re planning to stock the fridge and pantry or completely revamp your new home with electronics and decor, these are the best apps available to help you save money while you buy the things you need.

Know of any other great cashback apps or money saving tricks? Let us know in the comments below!

Little girl playing with a sprinkler

5 DIY Backyard Games For the Summer

Summertime is a time to kick back, relax, and enjoy life. And where is the best place to do that? The backyard of course! This summer, take your kids to a waterpark, a carnival, or a beach without ever having to leave the lawn! Here are 5 fun ways to spend your summer in the backyard.

  1. Play a Game of Kubb

Little girls hand about to pick up a wooden baton

If you want to know how to play Kubb–also known as Viking Chess–imagine a lawn game that’s a combination of Horseshoes and Bowling. The objective is to knock over 5 wooden blocks with wooden batons, before your opponent does. You can play one-on-one, or on a team. Although, speaking from personal experience, playing on a team is much more fun!

If you want to learn more about how to play Kubb, and how to create your own game, check out HerToolBelt.

  1. Set up a Trampoline

Little girl bouncing on a trampoline

Having a trampoline is every kid’s dream. I remember when I was younger, we didn’t have a trampoline but we’d jump–no pun intended–at the chance to use one whenever we could. There’s just something so cool about the feeling of bouncing high in the air, doing flips and tricks that you’d never be able to achieve on the ground.

Learn how to construct your own trampoline Here. 

  1. Turn the Garden Hose into a Sprinkler

Little boy jumping in a sprinkler

I remember when I was younger, mom or dad setting up the sprinkler in the yard was the official start of summer. As a kid, there’s nothing better than running across the yard and leaping through the water fountains in the air. Who needs a pool when you can have an entire waterpark!

There are plenty of different ways to create a sprinkler for the kids. To learn about some of them, visit: ComeTogetherKids.com

  1. Create a Game of Lawn Twister

Cans of red, green, and blue spray paint

Twister is a game that everyone has played at some point in their life. Whether it be at a slumber party or at a sleepover, we’ve all had the experience of trying to twist all around while making sure we’re still in the game. This summer, make your Twister experience even more far-out by spray-painting your own mat in the backyard! It’s super fun to make, even the kids will want to get in on it! And best of all, its temporary. You don’t have to worry about ruining the lawn because the paint washes right off with water.

To find out how to create an outdoor Twister board, visit SheKnows.com

  1. Construct an Outdoor Firepit

Logs burning in a fire

Is there anything better than sitting around a campfire with your friends and family, roasting hotdogs and marshmallows, and enjoying a beautiful summer night? The answer is no, no there is not. This summer, you can have a campfire right in your own backyard!

The easiest way to build a fire pit is to find a spot in your yard to place it–probably somewhere there’s a lot of empty space. You can figure out how wide you want it to be, and dig a hole about a foot deep. Then, all you have to do is place bricks or larger rocks around the whole, and Voila! You have your very own firepit!

For further instructions on how to create an outdoor firepit, check out Zillow.com

save money wallet

Save Money When Buying Your Home

Finding a good deal in real estate can feel a lot like trying to find a needle in a haystack, especially in places where it has been a sellers market for years. There’s a lot of conventional wisdom on how to get the best price when buying your next home, but for many people, especially first time buyers, this advice can ring hollow. Sure, you’ll get a better mortgage rate if you have a credit score in the 800s and can whip out a 60% down payment, but really, who can do that? Yes, you’ll get a lower purchase price on a fixer upper home, but what about all the money you’ll have to spend in repairs and renovations?

Here are some practical tips to save you money on your next home purchase.

Look Outside the MLS

Whether or not you’re working with an agent (and you should be!) it’s a good idea to keep an eye out for “For Sale by Owner” properties. These properties are often priced lower than those represented by a real estate agent and because they tend to not have as much exposure, you may be able to score a deal before the competition steps in.

Another good place to look, especially if you’re willing to put in some work or do your diligent homework, is to check your county website for real estate sales. Depending where you live, these may be called Sheriff Sales, Trustee Sales, or Federal Sales, but typically these are properties that have been repossessed by the county government and are brought up for live auction. There is a LOT of homework involved for potential buyers (as well as a good amount of risk), but these can be a way to score an incredible deal on a great property.

Shop Around for the Best Rate

Mortgage rates are largely influenced by your credit score and history, but every lender is different when it comes to the rate they offer you. There are also a variety of different loan programs that can offer special incentives or rates based on military involvement, first time buyer status, or the location of the property. It is a good idea to talk to a couple of lenders before signing with anyone.

Cashifyd

Technology is a beautiful thing. Whether it’s the ability to instantly order anything from a pizza or a ride to the airport to the ability to stay in touch with friends and family over distance and time, there really is no time like the present. With all this innovation comes new tools and ideas and ways of doing things. One of the newest innovations in the real estate industry is Cashifyd. Cashifyd is a program that turns the traditional real estate process, which involves complex commission and referral structures, on its head. Cashifyd allows buyers like you to refer themselves to an agent and receive cash back at closing. The best part? As long as the agent you’re working with is using the Cashifyd process, nearly any home will qualify!

Negotiate Everything

In real estate, everything is negotiable. Want the sellers to repair something before they leave? Put it in the contract. Want to arrange closing dates so that you can seamlessly transition from your current home to your new one? Put it in the contract. Want the sellers dog? Put it in the contract! (Side note: Kidding! Please don’t do that. That’s just cruel.) The point is, nearly everything can be negotiated in real estate. While sales price is typically hashed out first, you can also score some savings by coming to an agreement on things like repairs, who covers inspection costs, or even having seller assistance with closing costs.

 

Have you ever scored a great real estate deal? Let us know your tips in the comments!

 

perfect day hurricane free aruba

Hurricane Free Tropical Paradise

When envisioning life on an idyllic island paradise, you’re probably dreaming of soft sand, clear water, and hot and sunny days. And for the most part, you’d be spot on. While the locals will tell you that the monotonously perfect weather in paradise will grow old to you, that’s only part of the story.
 
For those who move, even part time, to these tropical dream locations are often caught off guard by hurricane season. According to the Hurricane Research Division of the Atlantic Oceanic & Meteorological Laboratory, there are three major hurricane strikes to the U.S. every five years and 88% of major hurricanes have hit either Florida or Texas, so U.S. residents aren’t unaware of the ferocity of these storms, but the severity in the Caribbean is on a different scale.
 
Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to avoid these storms altogether? Get to enjoy the sun and the sand, but never worry about the next “big one” coming in? It turns out, you can have your paradise and keep it too with these tropical paradises that lay outside the hurricane belt.
 
**Note: These are the islands that are generally considered safe from hurricanes and many haven’t been hit for decades or even centuries, but the weather is an unpredictable force and there’s never a 100% guarantee that these islands won’t be affected in the future.
 

aruba-clear-beach

Aruba
This small Dutch island nation set just nine miles off the northwestern coast of Venezuela is home to blond sand beaches and soft tradewinds making it the postcard perfect island location. With an area of about 69 square miles and a population just over 100,000 this nation is comparable in size to the Midwestern mini-metro area of Eau Claire, Wisconsin, but packs a diverse punch. Aruba is home to 90+ nationalities and ethnic groups whose native traditions and cultures are celebrated on the island. Looking for a more active experience? Aruba is the shipwreck diving capital of the world and boasts the most sunny days of any island in the Caribean.
 
curacao beach

Curaçao
After seeing Aruba on a hurricane-free list, it should follow that Curaçao is next. Located approximately 50 miles east of Aruba, Curaçao covers an area about the size of Honolulu, Hawaii’s metro area, but has about one-sixth of the population. Visitors to Curaçao are delighted by the traditional Dutch architecture, the Old Town of Willemstad is a UNESCO World Heritage site, as well as the incredible natural features like world-renowned SCUBA sites and other points of attraction like the floating market in the Punda district, museums, and more.
 
bonaire sea view

Bonaire
No discussion of the ABC islands would be complete without Bonaire. The westernmost island in the group, Bonaire lays approximately 100 miles east of Aruba and 30 miles east of Curaçao. This island nation has a population just under 20,000 and is well known for eco-tourism. Bonaire is home to many lizards, donkeys, and bird who call the immense Washington Slagbaai National park home. Those interested watersports often find Bonaire the perfect place for divers and
snorkelers because of the massive coral reef, designated a national park, located just off the island’s shoreline. Arguably the best part about Bonaire? The island is home to the Pekelmeer Flamingo Sanctuary, one of only four places in the world where flamingos breed.
 
tobago aerial view

Trinidad and Tobago
Located about 10 miles off the northeastern coast of Venezuela, Trinidad and Tobago is a twin-island nation known for beautiful beaches, rowdy Carnival celebrations, and incredible weather. The nation has seen more hurricane activity than others in the region, due to its location between the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean, but is still generally considered safe and mostly hurricane free. Whether you’re looking to kick back to the sounds of a traditional steel drum band or are looking to paddle amongst the twinkling particles of a bioluminescent beach, Trinidad and Tobago have something for everyone.
 
panama island paradise

Bocas del Toro, Panama
This island chain off the Caribbean coast of Panama has never experienced a hurricane. The crystal clear waters, including the popular Starfish Beach and excellent surfing conditions, make this a popular spot for adventure-seekers. Nine islands make up the chain meaning you can choose from a variety of accommodations ranging from luxury resorts to off-the-grid lodges and there’s no shortage of incredible beachfront views.
 
Still worried about a hurricane derailing your Caribbean good time? It’s worth keeping in mind that hurricanes are more likely to hit Miami than anywhere in the Caribbean. To keep your plans even more secure, plan your visit outside the traditional hurricane season (May to December), choosing one of the locations above, and purchasing the proper insurance can put you at ease.