Our Favorite Chalk Paints

Looking for a different look for your walls or furniture? Try chalk paint.

Looking for a different look for your walls or furniture? Try chalk paint. (Chalk/)

Maybe it’s time to see what all the fuss about chalk paint is about and repaint that old bureau or revitalize that tired-looking outdoor furniture. You just might discover a new hobby or an inner Monet you never knew. Here are our favorite chalk paints for all your projects.

You can also layer these paints, so you can paint a base coat and later sand certain areas to reveal the undercoat color.

You can also layer these paints, so you can paint a base coat and later sand certain areas to reveal the undercoat color. (Rust-Oleum/)

One coat and you’re done. Remember we’re not going for perfection, we want a worn and vintage look. We love that this chalk paint covers metal, glass, and wood for all your projects. This perfect shade, Serenity Blue, is a latex paint so you can use soap and water at clean-up. The soft ultra-matte paint is also easy to distress. If you want a custom look, let the paint completely dry, then use some sandpaper on the raised places to make it look “naturally” worn. Give it a try and have some fun adding a new twist to your old furnishings.

It’s self-leveling so you are guaranteed even coverage. No need to be an expert for a superior result.

It’s self-leveling so you are guaranteed even coverage. No need to be an expert for a superior result. (Retique/)

Cabinets and wooden furnishings don’t need sanding or priming before chalk painting. Just make sure the surfaces are clean for a nice smooth finish. We like the convenience of being able to use this paint indoors. It’s 100 percent acrylic with no VOCs – volatile organic compounds – and hardly any odor. It’s also hypo-allergenic so everyone can help with the painting projects. The dark denim Black Indigo tone looks great on larger furnishings like buffets, dining tables, and entertainment hutches.

It’s quick: All 55 colors of this matte finish chalk paint dry in just 30 minutes.

It’s quick: All 55 colors of this matte finish chalk paint dry in just 30 minutes. (Chalk Style Paint/)

We love that this eco-friendly chalk paint doesn’t have any harsh chemicals. It’s safe for kids’ furnishings and their toys, and certified by European Toy Safety Standards. This durable paint is made with chalk, clay, and minerals. The sturdy chalk paint is suitable for furniture and crafts both indoor and outdoor. The natural materials help the paint glide on and stick well so you get high-quality results.

The jar is designed so you can simply attach your spray gun and start your restoration project.

The jar is designed so you can simply attach your spray gun and start your restoration project. (Chalky Chicks /)

We like how this paint sticks to everything. Finished and raw woods, metals, glass, bricks, and even cement. Just mix it with water if you want to use it as a fabric stain. All you need is a clean surface and this paint will do the rest. It’s easy to get a silky texture because this paint isn’t lumpy but serves up a smooth finish. This feature makes it especially easy when using the paint on fabric or soft furnishings. Of course, you can also use a brush, or get one of the specially designed Chalky Chicks natural bristle brushes, for the serious artist.

The color adds warmth to your bedroom, mudroom, or entryway and works well for distressing to create a vintage look.

The color adds warmth to your bedroom, mudroom, or entryway and works well for distressing to create a vintage look. (FolkArt Home Decor/)

We love the quality of this acrylic chalk paint from the Plaid company. It adheres to lots of surfaces, including wood and metal, plaster, canvas, and terracotta. Don’t worry about stripping and priming your furniture before using this chalk paint. Non-toxic and safe, just apply it to a clean surface. Also great for combining chalk-painted plaster and terracotta pots in your patio or outdoor living area.

Chill Out with these Great Ice Buckets

Don't whine about cooling down the wine. Just get an ice bucket.

Don’t whine about cooling down the wine. Just get an ice bucket. (Pixabay/)

From holding the rocks to holding the bubbly, your bar isn’t fully equipped without a quality ice bucket. Whether you’re chilling sparkling water or just chilling with friends, make sure you’re ready for your next bash with one of our favorite ice buckets.

We love how the included tongs can hang on the side, and the lid can hang on the other.

We love how the included tongs can hang on the side, and the lid can hang on the other. (Double-Wall Stainless Steel /)

Two layers of solid stainless steel construction on this product provide extra icy insulation. The strainer at the bottom of this bucket drains melted water away so you can reach solid ice cubes every time. The brushed stainless steel design is smudge-proof, so it always looks nice in your bar or serving area. Ice stays cold with the airtight lid. The handle is actually designed to be used as you carry chilled beverages to your guests.

It has a drip-proof holder so you don't have to worry about condensation on your furnishings.

It has a drip-proof holder so you don’t have to worry about condensation on your furnishings. (Oggi Double-Wall Stainless Steel/)

Large enough for a party yet perfect for everyday use, this 4-quart ice bucket looks handsome in steel and black. This is a chic way to chill your champagne. We love the see-through acrylic lid that simply folds open on the side. You’ll feel like a professional using the included ice scoop that conveniently stores on the side. The double-wall construction keeps your ice cooler longer, and who doesn’t want that?

We love that these tubs hold lots of bottles, so you can set up beverage stations wherever you desire.

We love that these tubs hold lots of bottles, so you can set up beverage stations wherever you desire. (Tablecraft/)

You know you want one. You remember seeing those galvanized containers at that wedding and you made a mental note. This 5.5 gallon tub is a must for the next backyard barbeque get together. Crafted with galvanized steel – that means there’s a protective layer of zinc over the steel – this oval beverage tub is almost two feet wide and over a foot deep. The side handles make it easy to carry so you can easily serve your guests their drinks of choice. A great way to add some rustic charm to your next get-together.

Crafted from two layers of stainless steel, it keeps ice cool for up to 6 hours.

Crafted from two layers of stainless steel, it keeps ice cool for up to 6 hours. (Jozo Ice Bucket/)

We love this ice bucket simply because it keeps ice icier longer. Take it easy on yourself with this insulated ice bucket, and let the ice do the job. No need to go back into the house, simply use the stainless steel tongs and craft a mocktail or cocktail, or serve chilled beverages straight from the ice bucket. It’s also dishwasher safe, which we all appreciate. Especially when the party’s over.

The reservoir at the bottom keeps the ice fresh and the melted water away, but it also looks great.

The reservoir at the bottom keeps the ice fresh and the melted water away, but it also looks great. (OXO Good /)

This three-piece ice bucket set is great for entertaining. We love the little garnish tray feature. The tray sits either outside the ice bucket or stays cool resting inside, so all your little extras stay fresh or can be attractively displayed to offer visual appeal. Double-walled design makes for long-lasting ice. The nylon tongs make it easy to grab ice cubes, and they store conveniently on the ice bucket’s side when not in use.

‘How Can We Catch Up?’ Mortgage Denials Stack the Deck Against Black and Hispanic Buyers

Couple looks at their financial statements

iStock

The American dream of homeownership is not an equal opportunity ambition.

Black and Hispanic home buyers are more frequently denied mortgages than white buyers—even when their financial pictures are similar, according to a realtor.com® analysis of 2019 mortgage data. When they are able to secure mortgages, Black and Hispanic borrowers are more likely to pay higher fees and interest rates on their loans than white and Asian borrowers.

“What we call it in my community is the ‘Black tax,’” says Donnell Williams. He is president of the National Association of Real Estate Brokers, an organization for Black real estate professionals, and a broker with Destiny Realty in Morristown, NJ.

“Even if we have a college degree, we’re still getting the same treatment as a white high-school dropout,” he says.

Black buyers were twice as likely to be refused mortgages than whites, according to the realtor.com analysis of 7.2 million loan applications in 2019. Only about 5.5% of whites had their loan applications rejected, compared with 6.8% of Asians, 9.3% of Hispanics, 11.7% of Blacks, and 10.8% of multi-minority race individuals hoping to be approved. These denials were only for applicants where all the data was available for fully completed applications that weren’t withdrawn.

Decades of discrimination against people of color have resulted in lower homeownership rates among minorities than among whites in America. And that has a deep, long-term impact on wide swaths of America, since homeownership is traditionally how generations have catapulted themselves into the middle class, as their properties appreciate in value over time.

Nearly three-quarters of whites, 74.5%, owned their homes in the last quarter of 2020, according to a quarterly report from the U.S. Census Bureau. However, just 44.1% of Blacks, 49.1% of Hispanics, and 59.5% of Asians were homeowners in the last three months of the year.

“There are a lot of obstacles that are working against buyers of color,” says Brett Theodos, a senior fellow at Urban Institute, a nonpartisan research group based in Washington, DC.

On top of racial discrimination, “they’re less likely to get help with the down payment from the bank of Mom and Dad,” says Theodos. “They’ve also [often] entered adulthood with higher student loan debt, less inheritance, and are on average in professions that earn lower wages.”

Many of these problems took root generations ago. Whites who served in World War II were offered low-cost mortgages for single-family homes in newly built suburbs when they returned. Blacks and other minorities were often denied access to these loans. In many cases, Blacks, in particular, were explicitly barred from living in white communities through a toxic combination of racial covenants written in deeds and government-supported redlining.

Black Americans, like these Tuskegee Airmen, served their country in World War II but returned home to face discrimination.
Black Americans, like these Tuskegee Airmen, served their country in World War II but returned home to face discrimination.

Bettmann/Getty Images

So Blacks who wanted to become homeowners often had to buy homes at inflated prices in less desirable areas. If they were able to get mortgages at all, they typically paid more for them. And homes in these areas haven’t appreciated nearly as much as homes in white areas, except in the places that have seen significant gentrification. As homeownership is used to catapult folks into the middle class and build wealth, that’s left many minorities with less money to pass down to future generations in the form of college tuition assistance or a down payment.

“How can we catch up? How can we be on par? We didn’t have that head start of generational wealth,” laments the National Association of Real Estate Brokers’ Williams. “You want a piece of the American dream, and it’s hard. You feel like your efforts are in vain.”

Realtor.com took a hard look at which races are most likely to be denied mortgages and the reasons provided for those rejections as well as who is paying the most for those loans. To do so, we analyzed 2019 mortgage application data available through the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act. The act, passed in 1975, requires most larger lenders to collect mortgage data and make it public. We looked at only first-lien mortgages on purchases of one- to four-family homes built on site, so manufactured homes wouldn’t be included.

When possible, we compared borrowers with similar financial profiles to see who was getting loans—and who wasn’t. However, our analysis doesn’t take into account certain discrepancies like credit scores.

Blacks most likely to be denied mortgages—even with good-sized down payments

According to our analysis, even aspiring home buyers of color with sizable down payments are more likely to be denied mortgages.

Black borrowers with 10% to 20% to put down were more than twice as likely to be denied than whites offering the same down payments. Lenders rejected 6% of whites and 9% of Asians—compared with 11% of Hispanics and multi-minority race borrowers and 13% of Blacks.

These higher denial rates may be due to minority borrowers having lower credit scores, more debt, or some other financial black mark. But lending experts believe that racial discrimination also plays a part.

For example, a loan officer might tell white borrowers to improve their credit before submitting an application, be more understanding of alternative forms of income, such as a family member contributing or a side gig, or wait until mortgage rates fall a little so their monthly payment is lower. The latter would increase such borrowers’ shot at getting a loan. But a loan officer may not do the same for customers of color.

“Some of it is decisions being made by the lending officers,” says sociology professor Lincoln Quillian of Northwestern University in Evanston, IL. “They have powerful stereotypes of who is likely to repay loans.”

Black and Hispanic borrowers often pay more for their mortgages

Black and Hispanic borrowers were more likely to receive higher mortgage interest rates on their loans—which can add up to big money over time.

About 59% of white borrowers and 52% of Asian borrowers received rates within 1 percentage point of the best (i.e., lowest) possible rate. However, only 51% of multi-minority race borrowers, 47% of Hispanics, and 44% of Blacks fared as well. (It’s unknown whether some of these borrowers pre-paid or bought down their interest rates during the closing process.)

Even the smallest differences in rates can really add up. A single percentage point difference can lead to a larger monthly mortgage payment and tens of thousands of dollars more paid out over the life of a 30-year fixed-rate loan. (The exact difference depends on the purchase price of the home, the exact mortgage rates, and the size of the down payment.)

A recent study found that wealthier Blacks were given higher mortgage rates than low-income whites.

Black households making between $75,000 and $100,000 a year were saddled with a median 4.215% mortgage interest rate in 2019, according to a report from the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University. However white households earning $30,000 or less had a lower median mortgage rate of 4.16%. The study looked at 2019 U.S. Census Bureau data.

Even Black households raking in $100,000 a year or more paid slightly higher interest rates, 4.169%, than low-income whites. Whites with six-figure incomes had median 3.946% rates—about 22 basis points less than Blacks who were also earning $100,000 or more.

“We have some deep problems in the mortgage market,” Raheem Hanifa, a research analyst at the center who wrote the study.

“Some of the differences in mortgage [costs] is due to differences in who the lenders are. There’s evidence that Black and Hispanic buyers are more likely to be marketed to by lenders who are higher-cost,” says sociology professor Quillian. “White and Asian borrowers are more likely to go to traditional banks.”

Predatory lending and the proliferation of subprime mortgages doled out to communities of color led to the last housing crash, and plunged the world into a financial crisis more than a decade ago. But at least some of today’s pricier lenders may simply be smaller operations that need to charge more since they’re not dealing with the economies of scale of the bigger banks.

People of color more likely to be denied loans due to debt

Minorities are more likely to be denied mortgages due to their debt. Before deciding whether to grant loans, lenders look closely at potential borrowers’ debt loads. Their goal is to make sure borrowers can afford to pay back their credit card, student loan, car, and other payments—on top of a mortgage.

Only 1.6% of potential whites borrowers had their applications rejected because of their debt loads—compared with 2.5% of Asians, 3.1% of Hispanics, and 3.8% of Blacks. About 3.7% of multi-minority race applicants were also rejected.

While that does not sound like that much of a difference, it means that 1 in 64 white applicants is denied versus 1 in 26 Blacks.

Some minority borrowers may simply carry more debt than white borrowers. Many face discrimination in the workplace that can manifest in lower salaries and fewer promotions. Also, they may not receive the same level of financial help from their families when they get into a tough financial spot.

Black households were more than twice as likely to have student loan debt than white households, according to a recent report from the National Association of Realtors®. About 43% of Black households had student debt, at a median $40,000, compared with 21% of whites, at a median $30,000 in student debt. (The report was based on a survey of more than 8,200 home buyers who purchased a primary home from July 2019 to June 2020.)

Employment and credit histories also led to higher mortgage denial rates for minorities

Blacks and Hispanics were also more likely to be denied a loan due to their employment history. One in 568 white applicants was rejected due to their work history, compared with 1 in 282 Blacks.

“People of color, notably Native Americans, Blacks, and Hispanics, face higher rates of discrimination in hiring,” says the Urban Institute’s Theodos. “It can be more difficult to be promoted or advanced.”

That plays a big part in how much they’re earning. In 2019, Asian households had the highest median incomes of $98,174, followed by non-Hispanic white households at $76,057, according to U.S. Census Bureau data. Hispanic households had a median income of $56,113, while Black households brought in the least, at $45,438.

Blacks and Hispanics are also more likely to lose out on a loan due to their credit scores. About 0.6% of Asians and 1% of whites were denied due to their credit histories compared with 1.6% of Hispanics, 2.9% of Blacks, and 2.4% of multi-minority races.

Typically, people build good credit by paying off their student loans, car loans, and credit card bills on time each month. However, many lower-income Americans are less likely to have graduated from college or have credit cards. And what folks do pay every month—their rent, utility, and cellphone payments—often aren’t counted toward credit profiles.

“It’s not just discrimination today that is why we see denials at higher rates for Blacks and Hispanics. It’s the byproduct of generations of systemic racism,” says Theodos. “We have a long way to go in overcoming the deep, historical divide of opportunity for people of color in this country.”

The post ‘How Can We Catch Up?’ Mortgage Denials Stack the Deck Against Black and Hispanic Buyers appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

Roll with these Toilet Paper Picks

Ever wondered what the difference is between major toilet paper brands? We're here to help.

Ever wondered what the difference is between major toilet paper brands? We’re here to help. (Pixabay/)

While the earliest ancestor of this product is believed to date back to 6th century China, toilet paper as we know it wasn’t widely used until the early 1900s when the indoor commode gained popularity. Before that, well-to-do people often used products like hemp, lace, or wool (itchy!). Thankfully we have better options within reach today.

If you’re still searching for that perfect brand, or if you think the quality of your brand has diminished or its price has been unduly hiked, read on. We’ve reviewed a few brands below that will jumpstart your quest for the perfect roll.

Soft and strong and made from controlled sources. There’s a lot to like here.

Soft and strong and made from controlled sources. There’s a lot to like here. (Presto/)

Amazon put a lot of thought into its entry into this crowded field, and the result is a nice blend of soft texture and surprising strength. Made with pulp sourced from sustainably managed forests and controlled sources, Amazon’s Presto! brand touts lab tests in which it left behind less lint than leading ultra-premium soft brands. The roll of 308 sheets is four times the size of a typical 77-sheet roll, but Amazon also offers one half that size for those bathrooms with smaller roll holders. One bonus option: You can reorder conveniently through its Alexa device.

It degrades in water quickly, making it safe for septic tanks and easily flushed in the sewer.

It degrades in water quickly, making it safe for septic tanks and easily flushed in the sewer. (Cottonelle/)

Cottonelle’s thickest, softest toilet paper, Ultra ComfortCare is packaged as 24 rolls of 325 sheets each. This bath tissue features a ripple design that provides more absorption and therefore less waste, extending the life of the Mega Roll even further. Like several of the brands listed in our review, it is sourced from responsibly managed forests and is hypoallergenic.

Still reigns as the most cushiony soft, with a pledge to renew.

Still reigns as the most cushiony soft, with a pledge to renew. (Charmin/)

Charmin brand featuring its biodegradable Family Mega Rolls continues in its well-known tradition of softness. They’ve improved upon its absorbency as well, providing for a more economical usage. Each package contains 24 rolls of 338 two-ply sheets that the long-standing company touts as both clog-free and septic-safe. Charmin boasts its brand is used by more residential plumbers than any other brand. Another nice touch: For every tree used to make its products, Charmin pledges at least one will be planted in its place.

Plenty of sheets means less time spent switching out new rolls.

Plenty of sheets means less time spent switching out new rolls. (Quilted Northern/)

For those who believe there is no such thing as too soft when it comes to toilet paper, Quilted Northern Ultra Plush answers the call. Three layers of soft tissue provide both comfort and absorbency, and like its competitors here, its Supreme Rolls contain 319 sheets each (about four times the size of a regular roll), so you won’t have to change them out as frequently. The brand proclaims that it is biodegradable and safe for use in standard sewer and septic systems. But if you have a temperamental system, consider being judicious in your use. Because this is, as its name implies, a plush paper.

Trees can take 30 years to replace; bamboo grows back in three to four months.

Trees can take 30 years to replace; bamboo grows back in three to four months. (Caboo/)

As its name implies, Caboo’s bamboo-based toilet paper derives from fast-growing bamboo and sugarcane, sparing trees and avoiding deforestation. This is the product for those who take concerns for carbon footprint very seriously. It is hypoallergenic, lint free, BPA free, fragrance free, paraben free, free of elemental chlorine, and non-GMO project verified. Its two-ply sheets come 300 sheets per roll and it is 100 percent biodegradable and septic safe for all disposal systems. Perfect for RVs, boats, camping, travel, backpacking, and more.

Catch Better Zzzz’s with these Great Air Mattresses

A quality air mattress inflates quick, giving great support to surprise visitors and household guests.

A quality air mattress inflates quick, giving great support to surprise visitors and household guests. (Pexels/)

Think about how you feel when you wake up from a good night’s sleep. Refreshed. Energized. No aches or pains. A clear, focused mind. Good attitude. Compare that to how you feel after a night of interrupted, uncomfortable sleep. Lethargic. Grumpy. Sluggish. Stiff and sore. Mad at the world.

The mattress you choose can make all the difference. These days, air mattresses can be as comfortable as sleeping in a regular bed. You don’t have to suffer through with thin, leaky, unstable plastic cushions just barely keeping you off the hard floor. Whether you’re going camping, just moved into your first apartment without furniture, or need an extra bed for guests – these self-inflating air mattresses will provide maximum comfort all night long.

The built-in pump makes 20 percent less noise than other brands.

The built-in pump makes 20 percent less noise than other brands. (SoundAsleep/)

All right, it’s not actually silent, but the built-in pump in this air mattress is quiet enough to not disturb anyone else’s sleep if you need a quick adjustment in the middle of the night. The SureGrip bottom will keep the mattress from sliding on slick floors, while the 40 internal air coils give great stability and support all night long. The queen size mattress stands 19 inches tall, and is rated for up to 500 pounds. Fully inflates in less than four minutes.

Get 8 solid hours of sleep without a sore back.

Get 8 solid hours of sleep without a sore back. (EnerPlex/)

This sturdy model boasts 20 percent thicker PVC and welded seams to prevent leaks. The tufted mattress surface provides extra spinal support with interior coil beams, so you’ll wake up feeling as comfortable as if you’d slept on a traditional spring mattress. The twin size mattress stands 16 inches tall, and is rated for up to 300 pounds. Fully inflates in less than two minutes so you can get to those sweet dreams a lot sooner.

Velvety soft material insulates the exterior and adds a touch of luxury to the tufted surface.

Velvety soft material insulates the exterior and adds a touch of luxury to the tufted surface. (King Koil Queen/)

This might be the coziest air mattress out there. Every detail is designed for comfort. A built-in raised pillow supports your head while internal air coil beams give firm support to your entire body. The queen size mattress stands 20 inches tall, and is rated for up to 600 pounds. Fully inflates in just two minutes.

The queen size mattress stands 22 inches tall, and is rated for up to 600 pounds.

The queen size mattress stands 22 inches tall, and is rated for up to 600 pounds. (Intex Dura-Beam/)

An intricate webbing of high-strength fibers in this product creates a supportive, firm air mattress that won’t dip. Horizontal internal air-filled beams and a double-layer pillow-top surface provide a comfortable cushion to keep your spine straight while sleeping – an important practice to avoiding morning stiffness. Fully inflates in just under five minutes.

If it’s a race to see who finishes first, this mattress wins.

If it’s a race to see who finishes first, this mattress wins. (EZ INFLATE/)

Like the other premium air mattresses in this list, the EZ INFLATE brand offers comfort and stability with air coil beams. But what sets it apart is how fast it inflates. If getting to sleep 30 seconds faster matters to you, and sometimes it really does, this is the one you want. The queen size mattress stands 16 inches tall, and is rated for up to 600 pounds. Best of all, it fully inflates in just 90 seconds. We have a winner.

Best Cuban Coffee K-Cups

Ready for a serious pick-me-up?

Ready for a serious pick-me-up? (Pixabay/)

Truth be told, it took me decades longer than most to become a coffee drinker. In college, I preferred an ice cold tumbler of Jolt Cola to traditional caffeine sources. It was only after a trip to South Florida introduced me to the unique delight of Cafe Cubano that I came around to my senses. Today, I yearn for each morning to begin with some toasted Cuban bread with guava jelly and a tiny cup of this brewed delight. Thanks to Keurig brewers, the taste of the coffee is now available in convenient single service sizes. Here are my favorite Cuban coffee K cups.

Hints of cocoa, vanilla, caramel and chicory will have you hooked.

Hints of cocoa, vanilla, caramel and chicory will have you hooked. (Oriente Cuban/)

I’m a big fan of Maud’s coffee brands – the maker of this Oriente blend occupies no less than six different varieties of joe waiting for me each morning on top of my fridge – but this flavor is my day-starter. I usually follow it up a few hours later with their half-caff brand to even out the energy level. For warmer mornings or afternoons, I recommend brewing up a Cuban K-cup, adding it to a tumbler of ice and finishing it off with some skim milk. Thank me later.

The creamy texture associated with this style of coffee is impressive in this option.

The creamy texture associated with this style of coffee is impressive in this option. (Café Bustelo/)

The milk is already in this K cup from Cafe Bustelo, so no need for a dairy run if you’re out of your preferred mixer. For the perfect serving, set your brewing machine to the 8-ounce setting.

This brew comes from a dark roast ground Arabica coffee that has the approval of the Rainforest Alliance.

This brew comes from a dark roast ground Arabica coffee that has the approval of the Rainforest Alliance. (Hurricane/)

In Florida, hurricanes are no joke – but tropical storms are part of life here. Hurricane Coffee has several Florida-friendly flavors, headlined by their Cuba blend. Others include Butter Toffee Tsunami, Cape Verde Decaf, Category 5, Coconut Fudge Typhoon, Colombia El Nino and Noreaster.

Chocolate, sugar and milk combine with the coffee for an indulgent finish.

Chocolate, sugar and milk combine with the coffee for an indulgent finish. (Café Bustelo/)

This brew is a new-comer to my coffee K-cup collection. At first sip, I thought it had more of a “hot chocolate” taste, but as I finished my first cup, I became addicted to the alluring decadence of the drink. Try it over ice for a different take on a classic combination.

Our Picks for Best Rice Cookers

Need help cooking rice perfectly? We're here to help.

Need help cooking rice perfectly? We’re here to help. (Unsplash/)

Don’t put more work into meals than required. Today’s modern rice cookers are a great solution. No muss, no fuss, and you come out with perfect rice – or other grains – every time. From a simple and straightforward model, to a rice cooker that uses advanced mathematical algorithms, these are some of our favorite rice cookers.

The non-stick pot won’t chip or crack with heavy use, unlike traditional and ceramic pots.

The non-stick pot won’t chip or crack with heavy use, unlike traditional and ceramic pots. (Aroma Housewares/)

Rice, soups, stews, and chili can all cook double-time with Aroma Housewares multi-function rice and grain cooker. When you use the steam function, you can steam veggies, fish, and even desserts over the cooking rice. We like the improved inner pot. It’s made with 8x bonded granite which is ultra-durable. It’s also dishwasher safe. Set the timer for up to 15 hours ahead and have your meal ready when you are, yielding up to 8 cups of cooked grains or rice. You can even set it to keep the rice warm until service.

It uses sensors to maintain the perfect temperature and cooking times for all your white, sweet, brown, and wild rices.

It uses sensors to maintain the perfect temperature and cooking times for all your white, sweet, brown, and wild rices. (Zojirushi/)

Unlike any other rice maker, the Neuro Fuzzy cooker uses fuzzy logic to take the risk out of your rice. What is fuzzy logic? It is math using values between zero and one to describe things, instead of Boolean where the values are zero or one. Clear as mud? Never mind, because this thinking rice cooker has it figured out for you. You can prepare 10 cups of cooked rice, porridge, or other grains in this wall-mountable rice cooker, warmer, and reheater. We like the high-contrast guidelines in the dark nonstick inner cook pan, as it makes it easy to measure accurately. And, if you don’t want to hear a beep when the cooking cycle has ended, there’s a programmable melody you can use instead. Smart and musical.

The large size makes one-pot meals easy to make and easy to clean.

The large size makes one-pot meals easy to make and easy to clean. (Aroma Housewares/)

With a large-capacity nonstick pot that can hold up to a hefty 20 cups of cooked rice, and 15 different cooking control settings, you can master even massive meals. We love the unique options on this rice cooker including sautéing and slow-cook features. The scratch-resistant inner pot can hold risottos, soups, stews, and even desserts for the whole family. The included steam tray makes it easy to add vegetables, too. This rice cooker really is an everything cooker.

We liked the enclosed recipe book and online recipe database.

We liked the enclosed recipe book and online recipe database. (Dash DRCM200BK/)

Small but mighty, this Dash mini rice cooker is great for everything from oatmeal to pasta. Perfect for small spaces or finite power supplies, this little number only pulls 200 watts. Just add your grain and water and in 20 minutes your meal is ready to enjoy. Or set it to keep your dinner warm until you’re ready. And it comes in other fun colors to brighten your cooking area, like aqua, red, and pink.

Clean-up is a snap with the dishwasher-safe nonstick rice pot and the tempered glass lid.

Clean-up is a snap with the dishwasher-safe nonstick rice pot and the tempered glass lid. (BLACK+DECKER/)

Dinner or breakfast will always be ready soon with this Black+Decker rice cooker, because the food steaming basket (included) lets you add a layer of cooking. Who wants to cook a meal and have it get cold because you forgot to push a button? That’s why we love the automatic Keep Warm feature. The six-cup capacity is great for meals of any size. Plus you can use this rice cooker to prepare one-pot meals like soups, stews, and chilis. It really doesn’t get any easier than this.

‘Worst House on the Street’ in Florida Is the Week’s Most Popular Home

most popular homes 2/19

realtor.com

A brutal—and hilarious—listing description catapulted a decrepit Florida home to the top spot on this week’s most popular homes on realtor.com®.

We’ve read through a bajillion listing descriptions over the years. They’re almost always reserved for a cheery assessment of the delightful features a home has to offer.

However, an agent in Florida decided to zig while everyone else was zagging, and this $69,000 home is described as “literally the worst house on the street.” The details get worse from there.

The agent’s brutal honesty resonated with folks on Twitter, and the home racked up hundreds of thousands of page views.

We suggest you check this place out before it’s razed. Its humorous description paid off as a marketing strategy—there’s already an offer for the forlorn property.

Beyond the dump in Florida, you also clicked on a few fancier dwellings. The most expensive listing in the states of Virginia and Louisiana garnered plenty of attention.

The Jersey Shore mansion of actor Joe Pesci popped in popularity, although it’s been on the market for a while.

Scroll on down for a full look at this week’s most popular properties for sale.

10. 7979 E. Boulevard Dr, Alexandria, VA

Price: $60,000,000
Why it’s here: Feast your eyes on Virginia’s most expensive home. River View is a 16.5-acre waterfront estate that was once part of George Washington‘s Mount Vernon.

It’s a magnificent seven-bedroom, 16,000-square-foot mansion, plus a three-bedroom guesthouse, a carriage house with studio apartment, a dock, and gorgeous gardens.

Alexandria, VA
Alexandria, VA

realtor.com

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9. 91 Pershing Blvd, Lavallette, NJ

Price: $6,500,000
Why it’s here: Although it’s been on the market for a couple of years, the waterfront mansion that Joe Pesci owns peaked again in popularity this week.

The 1990s-era Jersey Shore home has eight bedrooms, a bar filled with movie memorabilia, a pool, dock, and plenty of room for entertaining guests. There’s even a special barber’s chair for an owner who needs to be camera-ready.

Lavalette, NJ
Lavallette, NJ

realtor.com

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8. 372 Forest Dr, Belle Vernon, PA

Price: $260,000
Why it’s here: Charming Alpine vibes in Pennsylvania! Custom-built in 1992, this A-frame stone and log home has two bedrooms and a loft.

Both the kitchen and bathrooms have recently been updated. There’s also a pavilion with electrical for entertaining and a shed for storage.

Belle Vernon, PA
Belle Vernon, PA

realtor.com

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7. 101 Redwood Dr, Lafayette, LA

Price: $325,000
Why it’s here: Built in 1961, this time capsule ranch is filled with funky decor. Highlights include a bar decked out with vintage light fixtures and wild wallpaper broken up by the occasional mirrored wall accent.

The three-bedroom home is a one-of-a-kind treasure, tailor-made for a buyer looking for a blast from the past.

Lafayette, LA
Lafayette, LA

realtor.com

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6. 405 W. High St, Dowagiac, MI

Price: $799,900
Why it’s here: The historic Lee mansion was built in 1898 for the president of the local Round Oak Stove company. Since then, the grand mansion has been turned into multiple units. For a buyer in search of rental income, this looks like a prime opportunity.

The 14-bedroom, 9,939-square-foot mansion is currently divided into six apartment units, and the carriage house offers an additional five. The home was built from oak and mahogany, and has inlaid hardwood floors as well as eight fireplaces.

Dowagiac, MI
Dowagiac, MI

realtor.com

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5. 227 Elm St, Glenwood, AR

Price: $434,500
Why it’s here: Built in 1914 and known locally as the Burke house, this four-bedroom property has been fully restored. Now a modern farmhouse, it has retained its charming historic touches. The home is on more than an acre near the Caddo River and features 12-foot ceilings, a designer kitchen, energy-efficient upgrades, and original clawfoot bath-tubs.

Glenwood, AR
Glenwood, AR

realtor.com

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4. 1622 Sunnybrook Ln, Clearwater, FL

Price: $1,100,000
Why it’s here: It was built in 1961, and the design of this five-bedroom home was inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright.

The home has several terraces, two fireplaces, a built-in office, and art studio. It has recently been outfitted with solar panels, an electric-vehicle charging station, and major system upgrades.

Other highlights include a formal koi pond, safe room, and handball court.

Clearwater, FL
Clearwater, FL

realtor.com

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3. 201 Northline St, Metairie, LA

Price: $16,895,000
Why it’s here: This French Provincial–style mansion is the most expensive home in Louisiana.

Built in 2014, the 15,230-square-foot home is filled with custom millwork and cabinetry, a chef’s kitchen, a heated floor in the master suite, a 15-seat home theater, and a full spa with massage room, hair and nail stations, and saunas.

Metairie, LA
Metairie, LA

realtor.com

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2. 17329 Hidden Valley Dr, Wildwood, MO

Price: $599,000
Why it’s here: The rapper Nelly is trying to unload his six-bedroom mansion for nearly $2 million less than what he paid for the 12-acre property in 2002.

Built in 1998, the Tuscan-style home has views, a grand entry, basketball court, large yard, and private balconies. It also appears to feature many half-completed renovation projects that a buyer will need to tackle.

Wildwood, MO
Wildwood, MO

realtor.com

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1. 37913 Avoca Ave, Zephyrhills, FL

Price: $69,000
Why it’s here: The listing description isn’t trying to sugarcoat the condition of this decrepit heap, which was built in 1954. In fact, it’s practically daring you to buy the place.

After detailing the many structural and aesthetic problems plaguing the property, it states, “And if you’re not interested in crying yourself to sleep every night while you rehab this home, might we suggest tearing it down and building a brand-new one in its place? The neighbors would likely thank you.”

Zephyrhills, FL
Zephyrhills, FL

realtor.com

The post ‘Worst House on the Street’ in Florida Is the Week’s Most Popular Home appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

Best Home Listing Description Ever? Brutal Honesty Pays Off in Florida

Florida

Philippa Main

A listing for a lemon of a house has turned into sweet, sweet lemonade.

The description of a decrepit home on Avoca Avenue in Zephyrhills, FL, that was listed for $69,000 mixes scathing accuracy and a serious sense of humor.

The tongue-in-cheek presentation has paid off in a big way. The listing of the woebegone home has racked up hundreds of thousands of page views, and what’s more, an offer is now in place.

“I find it so funny, because my husband always told me that I don’t tell good jokes, and I tell him I’m like the funniest person I know. This has just been the greatest vindication. Everybody keeps calling and texting and emailing saying that they thought it was hilarious,” says Philippa Main, the listing agent responsible for the property description that people can’t stop sharing.

We spoke with Main about her savvy marketing skills, and have highlighted a few of our favorite passages of her lively prose.

Exterior of home in Zephyrhills, FL

Philippa Main

Exterior

Philippa Main

Exterior

Philippa Main

Lot

Philippa Main

Lot

Philippa Main

‘Here it is, literally the worst house on the street!

‘The seller has done the hard work of cleaning up the almost half-acre property (it only took 7 dumpsters!), so now is your chance to take it from here.’

The idea for a listing description that faced the home’s ugliness head-on came to Main after seeing the property for the first time and discussing the reality of the situation with her client.

Both of them had hoped that the home would be in a sellable state after the tenants moved out and the lot was cleaned up. The reality was far different.

So Main, who majored in public relations in college, approached her client and suggested a way to get some eyes on the listing.

She knows that listing details sometimes stretch the truth, and she also knows all about the frustration generated by unmet expectations—for home shoppers and agents alike.

“The funniest and the most annoying part of being a real estate agent: If we see in a listing they’re describing this ‘great natural light’ or this ‘open-concept floor plan’ or ‘tons of storage,’” Main says. “We get there, and it’s, like, a single, creepy lightbulb you would see in one of those interrogation movies. And that’s it.”

She decided to embrace the dark side of this Sunshine State calamity.

“I just wanted to make sure that I got ahead of all of the questions about the condition, and just kind of put it all out there for everybody,” she notes.

Exterior

Philippa Main

Missing windows

Philippa Main

Interior

Philippa Main

Interior

Philippa Main

‘The roof leaks, the floor creaks, and there’s a terrible draft, but this 3 bed, 1.5 bath home is very open concept. And by that we mean the inside is open to the outside, because several of the windows are broken.’

The “open-concept” crack is something Main doesn’t take all the credit for. Her inspiration came from an unlikely source, “SpongeBob SquarePants.”

“There’s an episode where SpongeBob and Squidward do Opposite Day, and so SpongeBob’s version of selling the home is pointing out all of the worst things about it,” she says. “As soon as I walked into this property, I heard it in my head, and I was, like, ‘Oh, here we go!’ I sat down and kind of approached the listing with that kind of sense of humor, and the absurdity of the whole situation.”

Kitchen

Philippa Main

Kitchen

Philippa Main

Kitchen

Philippa Main

‘There is a large, sunny window in the kitchen … and absolutely nothing else—a wonderful feature for someone interested in a bright reading space (and ordering takeout for every meal).’

The kitchen description came to her after the overzealous junk haulers took a bit too much off the property, which once housed old mattresses, old TVs, hundreds of tires, and much more. They were told to take everything away.

“When I walked into the home, I didn’t realize that, for some reason, the junk guys had taken things very literally,” Main says.

“They took out all the kitchen cabinets. I’ve seen kitchens missing a lot of things, but this kitchen has one positive element that I can highlight, and that is it.”

Exterior

Philippa Main

‘Now I know you’ve heard of a detached garage, but have you ever heard of a detached foundation?! Because that’s what you’ll find here in the large bonus room. And if you’re looking for a house that screams, “I’ve got bizarre and ominous energy!” then, honey, stop the car, because you’ve found it right here, conveniently located off of US-301.’

The major foundation problems and the location near a major highway were two pieces of information Main says that she really needed to convey to potential buyers.

“I feel like this has gone viral and a lot of people are laughing at just kind of the surface level,” she says. “But I actually did try to include important details for those who are truly interested.”

Bathroom

Philippa Main

Bathroom

Philippa Main

Bathroom

Philippa Main

Interior

Philippa Main

Interior

Philippa Main

‘And whether you like to turn up the heat or keep it cool, it won’t matter here, because there is no HVAC system.’

Main says the lack of a heating and cooling system is crucial information for any potential investor to know, since it is a must-have in Florida and constitutes a huge expense.

Exterior

Philippa Main

‘Oh, and don’t forget about the brick chimney that perfectly epitomizes how we all feel after 2020—about to collapse and going nowhere (literally, there is no fireplace inside the house).’

A chimney without a fireplace?

“I looked and I couldn’t find inside where there was a fireplace,” Main says, adding that it’s difficult to ignore the crumbling chimney when walking around the property.

“When you actually go in the home, you realize: ‘What is even the point of this chimney?’” she says. “I just feel like it adds to the whole ominous energy. Like, ‘Why is it here?’ And you’ve got to throw a reference to 2020 in there, because why the heck not?”

Interior

Philippa Main

Exterior

Philippa Main

Interior

Philippa Main

Interior

Philippa Main

‘What else can be said about this one-of-a-kind opportunity? It’s not in a flood zone and will be conveyed with clear title! But we don’t have a survey and the Seller has never seen the property, so buyers are strongly encouraged to do their own due diligence.’

Main says her client signed off on the listing, and she made sure it was compliant with the requirements of all local and national organizations.

My clients “are so laid-back. They’re such fun guys. They were basically, like, ‘This is so funny, this is great! We’re happy that it’s getting the attention.’ But at the end of the day, their whole thing was they knew I would get it sold, one way or another,” she says.

‘And if you’re not interested in crying yourself to sleep every night while you rehab this home, might we suggest tearing it down and building a brand-new one in its place? The neighbors would likely thank you.’

Evidently, the publicity worked. After fewer than 10 days on the market, there’s a pending offer. Main was not at liberty to disclose whether the buyers do plan to cry themselves to sleep every night with a rehab or please the neighbors with a teardown.

Main is taking in stride her newfound fame as the author of what some are calling the best listing description. Her sense of humor hasn’t taken a dent.

“My phone started ringing off the hook,” she says, “and I was just, like, ‘What is happening?’ I will tell you this: I would never want to be a famous person, because this is a lot of work.”

Interior

Philippa Main

Lot

Philippa Main

Interior

Philippa Main

Exterior

Philippa Main

Lot

Philippa Main

The post Best Home Listing Description Ever? Brutal Honesty Pays Off in Florida appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

GOAT Shirts to Locker Room Gear: Our Favorite Bucs Super Bowl Merch

All hail the world champions and Tom Brady (aka "the GOAT").

All hail the world champions and Tom Brady (aka “the GOAT”). (Official Goat Gear/)

Bucs fans recognize one universal truth: You don’t truly begin celebrating a world title until you get some official championship swag. Tampa Bay’s unlikely 31-9 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LIV will be remembered for many reasons, among them:

  • The first time an NFL team played in a Super Bowl hosted in their home stadium.
  • The team’s turnaround in fortunes in one year after the arrival of quarterback Tom Brady.
  • The decisive nature of the win – unforeseen in a game where the Buccaneers were 3-point underdogs.

Now that the game – and crazy boat parade – are over, it’s time to peruse what fan gear is out there to mark the occasion. Here are six of our favorite items we found on Amazon. It’s a great day in Tampa Bay!

It's 100 percent polyester and 100 percent awe-inspiring.

It’s 100 percent polyester and 100 percent awe-inspiring. (New Era/)

Let’s face it: 2020 was a weird year … but strange enough for it to end with a Super Bowl run by the Bucs? Put a cap on it all by buying – yes, a cap! It’s the same model worn by the players in the locker room.

Simple, majestic and made of 100 percent combed ringspun cotton.

Simple, majestic and made of 100 percent combed ringspun cotton. (Official Goat Gear/)

If you have to explain this shirt to anyone, they’re obviously not football fans. At age 43 and in just his first season as Bucs QB, Tom Brady easily overshadowed his younger rival Patrick Mahomes and cemented his legacy as the Greatest of All Time.

This durable license plate frame fits most vehicles.

This durable license plate frame fits most vehicles. (Rico Industries/)

It feels great to drive down the streets of Florida – anywhere from Pensacola to Key West – knowing that a team from our state won the Super Bowl. This frame is decorated with the Bucs logo, championship graphics and includes pre-drilled holes for pain-free mounting.

The poster is 11 by 17 inches and includes a holographic sticker of authenticity.

The poster is 11 by 17 inches and includes a holographic sticker of authenticity. (Gore Store/)

The way Tom Brady is glaring at us from this poster, it’s like he’s saying: “Next year, you better be on the bandwagon from the start!” Yes, sir! You keep throwing touchdowns, and we’ll serve you up another batch of margaritas at the victory parade in 2022.

This 100 percent cotton shirt is preshrunk so feel free to dose yourself in victory beverages after rewatching the big win over the Chiefs.

This 100 percent cotton shirt is preshrunk so feel free to dose yourself in victory beverages after rewatching the big win over the Chiefs. (Smack Apparel/)

We appreciate that this shirt is available up to sizes 5X. We’ll buy one that size to turn into a nightgown for all those chilly Florida nights between now and the next Super Bowl win. (Bonus points for showing Tyreek Hill taking a knee on the design. In all fairness, Hill had a pretty good game that night.)

This exclusive Wilson football features the 31-9 final score of Super Bowl LIV.

This exclusive Wilson football features the 31-9 final score of Super Bowl LIV. (NFL Balls/)

If you run into Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski or any of the other Super Bowl champs while roaming Florida, it’d be nice to have something for them to sign. Ta-dah! How about this football with the game’s final score?