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Friday Five // May 2, 2014

It's time once again for the Friday Five! This week, we've got five fun events for our readers to check out. Among this week's offerings are an arts festival, the celebration of a certain film franchise, and

The 32nd Annual North Charleston Arts Festival takes place at the North Charleston Performing Arts Center from May 2-10. The main event happens this weekend, May 3rd and 4th. Enjoy 40 performances on 4 themed stages, roving entertainers, food, and much more.

Craving some soul food? Check out the Post & Courier's gallery of the best soul food restaurants in Charleston.

Take the family out for a fun evening at Movies in Marion Square. This week's selection is everybody's current favorite: Frozen! Bring lawn chairs, blankets, and cash for food and drinks. The movie is free!

May the fourth be with you! On Saturday night, The Sparrow in Park Circle will host the 4th annual Star Wars Day Eve party. For a cover charge of $5, adults ages 21 and up can celebrate in style with live music from "nerdy '80s cover band" the Spazmatics, a costume contest, a photo booth, and exhibitions from local artists. The fun begins at 8pm.

Head down to Brittlebank Park on Saturday for the Charleston Dragon Boat Festival, which includes a fierce dragon boat race, a huge party, and celebration of cancer survivors, all benefitting the cancer survivor programs of Dragon Boat Charleston.

However you celebrate the weekend, make it a safe and happy one! 

 

18 Surprising Housekeeping Tips and Tricks

Cleaning can be such a drag. If you're anything like us, you're always looking for housekeeping shortcuts. Thanks to all the allergens in the air lately, spring cleaning has been on our minds, so we went searching for a list of the best, most surprising housekeeping tips out there. Take a look at our compilation below.

 -Deodorize garbage disposals with an orange peel. Just stick the orange  peel in and let the disposal do its thing!

 -To clean and deodorize a freezer, pour a little pure vanilla extract on a  cotton pad and wipe it down.

 -While we're on the subject, a great concoction for cleaning and  deodorizing the fridge is a solution of 50% vinegar and 50% water.

 -Need to vacuum small spaces like underneath the sofa or fridge? Stick an  empty paper towel tube on the end of your vacuum cleaner for a collapsible  extension.

 -Use a coffee filter to dust television and computer screens.

-Dab olive oil on a terrycloth towel to clean stainless steel appliances.

-To unclog a drain, use a mixture of 1/2 cup baking soda and 1/2 cup vinegar. Pour it down the drain, cover with a wet cloth, and wait five minutes. Then flush with steaming water.

-Grease spot on light-colored upholstery? Cover it with cornmeal and let sit 15-30 minutes. Vacuum to remove.

-Use a dryer sheet dampened with a few drops of water to clean soap scum from a shower door.

-In a sticky situation with labels that won't budge? Blast them with a hair dryer to melt the adhesive, and they'll come right off!

-A seam ripper is the perfect tool to untangle those pesky threads and strings from the roller on your vacuum cleaner.

-Use a walnut to fill shallow scratches on wood. Just rub it over the scratch, and voila!

-Could your dishwasher use a washing itself? Put some lemonade Kool-Aid (the only flavor that works for this) in the soap tray and run it through a cycle. Lemony fresh!

-To keep dust from flying everywhere when you clean ceiling fans, use a pillow case. Just fit the case over the blade and pull. The dust stays in the case instead of in your eye.

-If your coffee grinder needs a good cleaning, fill it with dried rice and mill it like you would with coffee beans. The rice cleans the residual grounds and oil. 

-Clean that coffee maker to match your newly gleaming grinder. Just run a mixture of water and vinegar through as though you were brewing coffee. It might be smelly, but it's worth it!

-Use an electric toothbrush to make scrubbing grout easier.

-Get rid of odors on your plastic or light wood cutting board by rubbing it with half a lemon.

We can't wait to try out our new slew of housekeeping tips! Do you have any other tried-and-true tricks that work for you? Let us know in the comments below!

Pros & Cons of Holding an Open House

Pros & Cons of Holding an Open House

Pros:

  • Semi-serious buyers may be more inclined to stop by an Open House because they won’t have the commitment of having to go through a realtor. New and/or tentative buyers may be less intimidated by attending Open Houses. They could like your house enough to become buyers.
  • Potential buyers don’t have to set up appointments, enabling them to drive around and pick and choose only the houses and neighborhoods they like in situ (that is, seen all together, in place).
  • In neighborhoods where HOAs (Homeowners Associations) forbid For Sale signs, an Open House may be the only way drive-by shoppers are even aware any homes are on the market in a neighborhood. 
  • In HOA neighborhoods, your neighbors will see your Open House signs and advise people they know of homes available, letting them help choose their new neighbors.
  • An Open House may indicate a level of buyer interest in your house by the number of people who traipse through.
  • An Open House may indicate the amount of buyers actively shopping for homes.
  • An Open House is pretty inexpensive for the Realtor: the cost of an ad they should have placed anyway, a plate of cookies, re-usable signs (we had to have HOA specific signs at $50 each) and maybe a protective rug by the front door. Even if they don’t get prospects for your house, they will potentially pick up new customers out of the foot traffic or they’ll spend the afternoon on their Blackberry or watching TV. This is why they’re willing to give up a Sunday afternoon.
  • You might actually sell your home through an Open House! My neighbor did this in a close-knit community and sold their home on the first day. Caveat: the market was way different then!

Cons:

  •  An Open House means opening your home to neighbors and strangers without conditions. This means nosy neighbors, potential buyers, curious cruisers, other realtors, thieves, bored people, etc.
  • Holding an Open House is a lot of work: the house must be absolutely clean, the yard, walkway, garage, garden, everything in tip top shape. Anything that doesn’t add to the appeal of your home should be donated, discarded, stored or temporarily lodged at a neighbor’s home.
  • Your things could be stolen! You need to take all the precautions normal of having your house available for potential buyers to walk through, and MORE. Depending how the afternoon goes, people may be walking unescorted through your home, or one person may distract you while the other walks through the home. Remove or lock up jewelry, personal papers, portable valuables, prescription medications, private stuff, etc. Some of it could be locked in your car or stored at a friend or relative’s home, or put in a safe deposit box.
  • People will invade your personal space. I’ve had them sit down on my couch, help themselves to books off the shelf and relax! Their kids have also written all over my chalkboard. (The kids didn’t bother me—strangers treating my den like a public library did!) If you have personal stuff, whether x-rated, medical or just private, lock it up! People WILL go through the closets, medicine cabinets and cupboards, even if they’re just sizing them up to determine if their stuff will fit.
  • You may experience damage to your home, although it’s likely to be limited to muddy footprints. Things could get knocked over or broken.
  • An Open House is an opportunity for someone to “case the joint” as they used to say. There may be a sign in sheet where the Realtor collects names, but is that worth anything? You really don’t know who could be walking through and why.
  • You, your family and pets have to leave for a whole afternoon. If you work at home, like me, that is annoying, especially when you have to put away all your paperwork and clear your desk!
  • It is likely to be a big waste of time and energy, especially in a down market where hardly anyone is house-shopping.

 

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How-To Tuesday: Make Your Home More Energy-Efficient

Do you dread receiving your utility bill in the mail each month? Are you constantly struggling with family members over practicing green habits? With summer and hot, humid weather fast approaching, now is a good time to check your home for energy wasters. Here's a checklist of things you can do to make your home more energy-efficient in the coming summer months.

Cool your home efficiently. This is the number one expense you will see in warmer months, and if your cooling system is not up to par, you'll definitely see an increase in your utility bill. According to the EPA, "20% of the air that moves through the duct system is lost due to leaks and poorly sealed connections. The result is higher utility bills and difficulty keeping the house comfy, no matter how the thermostat is set." To ensure that your cooling system is working efficiently and to keep from overworking it: 

  • Clean your filter regularly.
  • Schedule annual maintenance to make sure your system is clean and won't have to work overtime to cool your home.
  • Consider replacing old systems with new energy-efficient models labeled ENERGY STAR. 
  • Use fresh air flow whenever you can. Ceiling fans and window fans are a good choice, but be aware of pollen and humidity levels before you decide to use them.
  • Heat and cool only the portions of the home you use regularly by closing vents in seldom-used rooms.

Use natural lighting/daylighting.

Another way to keep energy usage down is to reduce the amount of lighting you use. Turn lights off during the day, open the blinds and windows, and use the natural light that streams in through windows and skylights. Bonus: Natural lighting also makes a home more inviting. Painting walls a lighter color will help with light reflection as opposed to darker colors, which absorb light.

Check your hot water system.

Hot water heating is one of the largest energy expenses in your home after heating and cooling. Have your hot water heater checked for efficiency. To reduce the amount of energy here, think about going with a tankless water heater, a heat pump, or solar energy.

Seal and insulate.

Make sure the shell of your home is free of hidden gaps and cracks, which force heating and air systems to work harder. Check out this DIY Guide to Sealing and Insulating from ENERGY STAR for tips and information.

Look for ENERGY STAR products.

The EPA recommends products from ENERGY STAR to help with energy efficiency in your home. Available products include lightbulbs, light fixtures, appliances, home electronics, office equipment, and water heaters.

Using these tips will not only give you a lower utility bill, but they will also reduce impact on the environment from energy use. What other tips do you have for an energy-efficient home?

 

 

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