Best Dog Crates

Let your dog relax in a comforting dog crate.

Let your dog relax in a comforting dog crate. (Unsplash/)

When left to their own devices, some dogs are experts at getting into trouble. They’ll counter surf or dig through trash and eat items that could make them ill. Some dogs, especially puppies, also like to chew on things, such as your shoes or – worse – electrical wires. Loose dogs can also ruin your floors by having accidents anywhere and everywhere. That’s why many dog trainers recommend crate training your dog. It’s not just to protect your homes from your dogs, but it’s also to protect your dogs from accidentally harming themselves.

This is a sturdy model that comes with a removable leak-proof bottom tray for easy cleaning.

This is a sturdy model that comes with a removable leak-proof bottom tray for easy cleaning. (MidWest/)

One reason why we love this crate? It comes in seven different sizes, so you should be able to find the perfect fit for your dog. The Midwest Homes crate also comes with a divider, which is essential if you’ll be welcoming a puppy into your home. Simply shorten the crate with the divider when your pup is small, then slowly slide it to accommodate your growing canine. The crate is also available with either a single or a double door. The crate boasts a number of well-thought-out features, including roller feet to protect your floors and rounded instead of sharp corners to prevent injuries. It is also easy to assemble (no tools are required) and can be set up in just seconds.

Choose between antique white, gray, espresso black and russet brown. It also has a tabletop that is removable for easy cleaning.

Choose between antique white, gray, espresso black and russet brown. It also has a tabletop that is removable for easy cleaning. (New Age Pet/)

One of the big complaints people have about dog crates is their size. In many homes, crates – especially those designed for larger breeds – can take up a lot of space. And let’s be honest, most crates don’t blend seamlessly in with a home’s decor. That’s why people have fallen in love with the handsome New Age Pet crate, which can double as a stylish end table. Even better, this elegant crate can be assembled easily without tools. This crate is made from ecoFlex, which is a proprietary blend of reclaimed wood and plastic, and its spindles are made from stainless steel tubing.

Comes with a divider, so you can make the interior as big or as small as you need for a growing pup.

Comes with a divider, so you can make the interior as big or as small as you need for a growing pup. (MidWest/)

Looking for a great starter kit that includes many of the items you’ll need to bring home for your first dog or puppy? This starter kit contains many of the things a new canine owner will need. The small dog breed kit, for example, includes a double-door iCrate, a dog bed, and two pet bowls that can attach to the crate. It even comes with a crate cover with Velcro closures for those times when your dog might prefer a more den-like environment. This crate is equipped with side-bolt door latches and comes with a durable leak-proof bottom pan that is easy to clean. Setup is quick and easy, and you won’t even need any tools.

This road-friendly model comes with a carrying bag and a fleece bed. Comes fully assembled and folds down with ease.

This road-friendly model comes with a carrying bag and a fleece bed. Comes fully assembled and folds down with ease. (EliteField/)

Is your canine always on the go? If so, the soft crate from EliteField will be perfect for your needs. This soft crate, which is available in five different sizes, is crafted from a sturdy and durable 600D fabric and hex mesh fabric and has a strong steel tube frame. It should be pointed out that this crate’s name is a bit misleading. Although it is called a three-door folding crate, it actually has four mesh doors (one on the top, two on the sides and one on the front of the unit). This crate also comes equipped with curtains for those times when your dog needs more privacy. When not in use, this unit folds down to just three inches in height for easy storage and transport.

Low thresholds and a large swing-open door allow for easy entry and exit from this model.

Low thresholds and a large swing-open door allow for easy entry and exit from this model. (New World/)

This crate from New World was designed with your canine’s safety in mind. It features two heavy-duty, slide-bolt latches to keep your pet securely in the crate and has rounded corners to minimize sharp edges. This crate’s durable wire construction ensures that your canine will have proper ventilation and will also be clearly visible. It’s available in five different sizes and with either a single or double door. Other notable features include a protective black E-coat finish and a durable bottom tray that is easy to remove and clean. Assembling this crate is simple and no tools are required. Dog owners with small living spaces will appreciate that this crate folds flat for easy storage and transportation.

Our Favorite Paint Sprayers

Home improvement projects are a breeze with a paint sprayer.

Home improvement projects are a breeze with a paint sprayer. (Paintsprayer/)

Do it yourself has never been more popular. People enjoy the cost savings of doing their own home project, as well as the satisfaction that comes with having accomplished it themselves. The next time you take on a large painting project, there’s no need to sift through a ton of paint sprayer options. We’ve done the work for you right here. Check out our top five favorites and why we like them the best.

When you’re finished, it connects to a simple garden hose for fast and easy cleaning.

When you’re finished, it connects to a simple garden hose for fast and easy cleaning. (Graco/)

Graco’s paint sprayer allows you to fully control the pressure so you can get just the right amount of paint with any project. The Graco Magnum has a special feature that automatically reverses the tip whenever it’s becoming clogged, so you don’t need to stop in the middle of your work. That’s a nice time saver when you’re up on that ladder. The stainless steel piston pump can spray unthinned paint at an extremely high pressure to produce those solid, smooth coats we like to see. This sprayer is built to handle big jobs and will get that exterior wall covered in a new coat of paint or a new accent color in no time. The extra storage space means you can store extra tips and power cord with ease.

Included with the sprayer are three brass tips that are each designed to handle a different type of paint: latex and chalk paint, primer, or stains and sealers.

Included with the sprayer are three brass tips that are each designed to handle a different type of paint: latex and chalk paint, primer, or stains and sealers. (HomeRight/)

HomeRight’s paint sprayer features an array of adjustable settings to handle small or large projects, so you can use it on a variety of jobs around the home or shop. We like how you can increase or decrease the flow rate of paint dispersal so you never use too much or too little paint, and how the air cap itself can be adjusted to spray round, vertical, or horizontal. You also get a useful cleaning brush that makes clean-up simple. With all its flexibility, you’ll find all sorts of repainting jobs to do with this versatile product.

We love the extra long 20-foot hose included, which makes it easier to reach all the places you need and cuts down on hand fatigue.

We love the extra long 20-foot hose included, which makes it easier to reach all the places you need and cuts down on hand fatigue. (Wagner/)

Wood is always in need of repainting. This paint sprayer has you covered. It utilizes high-volume, low-pressure technology to atomize materials and convert them to fine particles, allowing you to paint or stain most wooden surfaces like doors, decks, and furniture. The two-stage turbine is great for providing just the right amount of material disbursement, whether you’re using thin latex paints or thinner stains. The adjustable settings and air caps allow you to spray in round, vertical, or horizontal directions.

Revamp those garage sales finds and spiff them up for your home, or refurbish and resell them yourself.

Revamp those garage sales finds and spiff them up for your home, or refurbish and resell them yourself. (YATTICH/)

YATTICH’s paint sprayer offers all the different spray patterns you’ll need (vertical, circular, or horizontal). It comes with five different-sized nozzles, ranging from 1.2mm to 3mm in diameter, meaning it handles a variety of your more specialized needs, such as painting furniture, vehicles, doors, tables, and more. You can control the flow of paint output with the knob on the side of the sprayer, and a 6.6 foot power cord gives you just enough reach to maneuver around your object. You’ll find dozens of repainting projects to do with this sprayer in your toolbox.

We appreciate how you can add paint directly and quickly by popping off the container lid and removing the included container.

We appreciate how you can add paint directly and quickly by popping off the container lid and removing the included container. (TACKLIFE /)

Put away the rollers and use this high-powered paint sprayer gun that is 5 to 10 times faster than brushes. It can do outdoor jobs like touching up your garage door or repainting the fence. It also works great for indoor use when you need to do some painting on interior walls or cabinets. It handles all the different spray patterns and directions you would need, and you can take advantage of the 4 sizes of nozzles to customize it for various tasks, large or small. Clean-up is also easy, thanks to the detachable design.

Will the Housing Market Frenzy Die Down? That Depends on Sellers

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The coronavirus pandemic raised the temperature considerably on the nation’s housing market. The past year has been marked by soaring prices, logic-defying offers over asking price, and steep competition as sellers have been hesitant to put their homes up for sale.

But the heart-pumping, bank account–depleting housing market frenzy could die down—at least a little—in the coming months as more sellers list their properties and inventory slowly increases. About 10% of current homeowners plan to put their homes on the market this year—and more than half are more affordably priced, according to an exclusive survey conducted by realtor.com®. An additional 16% expect to list their properties within the next two to three years.

About 4,000 people were surveyed online, including 1,000 new homeowners and more than 650 potential sellers.

“There is a brighter light at the end of the tunnel for many weary buyers,” says Realtor.com Senior Economist George Ratiu.

“A large influx of homes for sale would be welcome news for housing, especially as shrinking affordability has placed a wedge between many young buyers and their desired neighborhoods,” he adds. “More new homes would mean less competition, which would translate into a slowdown in the steep price growth we’ve experienced.

Typically, only about 8% of homeowners put their homes up for sale a year. This is about a 25% anticipated increase, which translates into about 1.5 million more homes. The increase may be due to folks holding off on selling their homes during the worst of the coronavirus pandemic.

It still won’t be enough to fully relieve the current historic housing shortage—compounded by the fact that builders haven’t been able to put up enough homes to keep up with the increasing population, particularly millennials who are now in prime home-buying years. But it’s a start.

“In a market that right now only has close to half a million listings, a big boost in inventory can mean more choices for buyers and potentially a slowdown in price growth,” says Ratiu. He was quick to add that prices won’t drop, but the double-digit growth may taper off. “It’s signaling a return to normal for the economy and the housing market.”

Nationally, the median list price was $370,000 in March—up 16% annually, according to Realtor.com. As buyers duke it out, sale prices have gone much higher in many parts of the country. Historically low mortgage rates have helped to offset those high prices, as average rates fell to 2.97% for 30-year fixed-rate loans last week. But prices are still climbing much faster than incomes.

That’s why having more affordably priced homes hit the market is key. Roughly 58% of sellers who plan to list this year have homes valued below $350,000, according to the survey. This is expected to help first-time buyers get a toehold in the market.

About 63% of those who plan to sell this year have already listed their homes or plan to do so within six months. More than three-quarters have taken steps to begin the process, such as getting their homes into shape and reaching out to real estate professionals.

There would be even more homes coming online this year if sellers were confident they could find another home within their price range. In this turbocharged market, that can be difficult. Sellers are also worried about the economy and had concerns about showing their property during the pandemic, among other reasons.

“For many sellers, especially those who are looking to trade up, the shortage of homes has been just as challenging as for first-time buyers,” says Ratiu. “That’s a Catch-22 exacerbating the inventory situation, because the sellers don’t want to list and then not have a place to live after they sell their home.”

And that’s why even when these additional properties hit the market, they won’t be enough to end the housing shortage. Not yet, anyway.

“As we look to the year ahead, the demand wave will continue outpacing the supply inflow, even with more sellers coming to market,” says Ratiu. “We will not solve a decade’s worth of underbuilding and lack of listings in one year.”

The post Will the Housing Market Frenzy Die Down? That Depends on Sellers appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

Exclusive: Jason Oppenheim Opens Up About ‘Selling Sunset’ and What It’s Really Like Behind the Scenes

selling sunset

Netflix

If you’ve binge-watched the Netflix hit “Selling Sunset,” you’ve no doubt wondered: Is this sneak peek at Los Angeles’ cutthroat real estate scene for real?

For answers, we turned to Jason Oppenheim.

He, along with his identical twin brother, Brett, are the consummately cool forces behind the Oppenheim Group featured on “Selling Sunset,” which is reported to be the most viewed reality show on Netflix, ever. (Season 4 is set to premiere by the end of the year.)

Jason Oppenheim on set

Netflix

In each episode, multimillion-dollar real estate deals are made and lost in the hills of Hollywood, as their team of silver-tongued and sharply dressed agents go to remarkable lengths to make a sale, all while trying to juggle their glamorous personal lives on the side.

But nothing is ever as meets the heavily mascara’d eye, is it? In real life, there are all sorts of things you may not know about this successful real estate business and the many personalities on the show.

There’s also a lot you may not know about the Oppenheim brothers—who, as kids, were thrown out of several high schools and into a few jail cells, too.

“My brother and I were incorrigible kids,” Jason confessed in a recent TEDx Talk. “We lacked respect for authority, fought incessantly. … We were just frustrated, constantly getting into trouble at home, at school, with our teachers, and even the police.”

Despite the best efforts of their single mother and a correctional camp, reformation and redemption took many years. It wasn’t until their Vietnam vet dad took over, raising them with military precision, that the Oppenheim boys began to change.

After graduating high school, Jason and Brett spent three years working and studying in junior college, then got into Berkeley to finish their undergrad work. At last they began to hit their stride, both graduating at the top of their class and going on to law school, graduating with honors, and embarking on promising careers practicing law.

Yet disillusionment with the legal system and three years of international travel followed before Jason ended up in real estate. He recalls starting at the very bottom, taking eight months to sell his first property, and living in a one-bedroom apartment with a roommate, trading off months sleeping on the couch. But soon enough, the deals and money started rolling in, with Brett and others joining in on the fun.

Brett and Jason Oppenheim, of the Oppenheim Group and “Selling Sunset”

Netflix

Curious how Jason ended up where he is today as the real estate broker to L.A.’s rich and famous, we at Realtor.com recently had a chat with him. He opened up about “Selling Sunset” and much more that’ll make you see his show in a whole new light.

To many, having a reality show would be a dream come true. Is that how you feel about ‘Selling Sunset’?

Actually, no. My brother and I really didn’t want to do the show at first. While there were certainly some benefits from a good show, there was a lot of risk for us, so we erred on the side of caution and rejected several overtures from production companies and agents. Even when Adam DiVello—the creator of “The Hills”—called up, we still weren’t sold on the idea. But he convinced us to take a meeting at the office.

What finally changed your mind?

It was when we had the meeting with the team, and we all talked about it, and we got excited about it. It was a group decision. I saw what the show could do for members of the team that hadn’t reached their full potential yet, so I knew the show could be good for them.

It sounds like you’re really close to your real estate team.

There’s probably no cast on reality TV that’s closer off-camera than we are. I consider many of the people in this cast to truly be my best friends.

The Oppenheim team, in its famous office on Sunset Boulevard

Netflix

So many reality shows create drama by having cast members bicker with each other. Are you saying it’s not like that on ‘Selling Sunset’?

It is a very stressful process, shooting a show, but going through it with your friends really makes it more fun. I think there’s a lot of trust. It makes it easier to expose that kind of vulnerability and to delve into personal topics that you might not otherwise be comfortable doing.

It seems there are some misconceptions about the show. What would you say is the biggest?

I think maybe when people see someone like Christine [Quinn] or Davina [Potratz] on the show, they make incorrect assumptions about who they are as people. I think they’re  loving and caring and great agents.They’re dynamic and controversial on camera, but they’re very good people. But it’s very easy for people to just judge based on a few hours of television. It’s easy for people to be mean on social media, because they’re not doing it to [your] face. I wish people would humanize people who they associate with on social media, instead of just being such dicks.

Christine Quinn, Heather Rae Young, and Davina Potratz

Netflix

You’ve toured some really over-the-top houses on ‘Selling Sunset.’ What is the most extravagant thing you’ve seen in a home?

A house close to mine has a pretty impressive S&M room: A couple hundred square feet, padded in red leather, it’s everything that I would presume one would need. And it was a spec home! They designed it thinking that that was what some buyer would want. Unbelievable.

What are the best things you’ve seen in a home?

The things people build for themselves. They’re not limited by resale potential. French Montana‘s music studio, he did it for himself, so you’re talking about hundreds of thousands of dollars invested in amazing equipment. It’s beautiful.

What’s the weirdest thing that’s ever happened to you during a home showing?

I was showing a family a contemporary house in Hollywood Hills, and I opened up the closet door to show the walk-in closet, and two naked women ran out, across the hall into the bathroom, right in front of the family, right in front of the kids. I was mortified! The parents were super cool about it though, and de-escalated the situation by making a joke, and we just moved on.

Although you’re showing mansions to the elite on ‘Selling Sunset,’ what can everyday home buyers learn from the show?

That interacting with your agent is super important. It’s one of the most important financial relationships you have, because you’re dealing with one of your most valuable assets. It’s really important to pick the right real estate agent. They need to be smart enough to understand the market to keep you from making mistakes.

Do the kind of home buyers you work with often make mistakes?

It’s unbelievable how many mistakes wealthy people make. I think people assume that they know what they’re doing, but they don’t always. They may be good at whatever made them wealthy, but they’re not experts in real estate, although some think they are. I have seen some people where I think, “I can’t believe he paid that much for that house.” Then they end up selling it for much less. I’m honestly flabbergasted sometimes by the things that I see in the market.

Who are the nicest celebrities you’ve ever worked with?

I’ve really enjoyed working with Chloë [Grace] Moretz. I think she’s a thoughtful, intelligent woman. She’s got a really good head on her shoulders. I’ve also enjoyed working with Orlando Bloom for years. He’s very to the point, matter of fact about things. We’re very alike in a lot of ways. He’s a good businessman.

So what’s on the horizon for the Oppenheim Group and ‘Selling Sunset’?

We’re expanding and opening up a larger office in Newport Beach, and we’re in discussions with Netflix about another show involving that office. We’ve got 20 agents already, we have about 100 to 150 listings, and we haven’t even opened office doors yet.

So might that be convenient for Heather Rae Young, who’s engaged to Tarek El Moussa and based in that area?

There will definitely be some confluence between the two offices, and that will be appealing to Heather. Heather will be able to work out of both offices.

Heather Rae Young and Tarek El Moussa
Tarek El Moussa and Heather Rae Young

heatherraeyoung / Instagram

But might that set her up for some competition with El Moussa’s real estate sales interests?

No, they really work together. It seems like when I’m on the phone with Heather, almost every day, I’m usually speaking to the two of them. They really work as partners—they’re kind of a team.

Now that you’re currently in production on Season 4 of ‘Selling Sunset,’ might we see a bit of Tarek on the show?

That’s a distinct possibility.

Can you tell us anything more about what’s going to be happening on the show?

I know everyone says this, but I think Season 4 is going to be our best season ever. We had a long break between Season 3 and Season 4, and every season we get more and more relaxed in front of the camera. It’s going to be great.

The post Exclusive: Jason Oppenheim Opens Up About ‘Selling Sunset’ and What It’s Really Like Behind the Scenes appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

New Home Sales Surge Past Expectations as Builders Race To Meet Demand

WSJ_april23syndication

Getty Images

The numbers: New home sales occurred at a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of 1.021 million in March, the U.S. Census Bureau reported Thursday. It represented the fastest pace of new home sales since 2006.

Month-over-month, sales rose 20.7%, and compared with March 2020 sales had more than doubled. Additionally, the Census Bureau revised the sales figure for February up to a rate of 846,000, from the originally reported rate of 775,000.

The median forecast of economists polled by MarketWatch was 888,000.

What happened: Sales rates increased in every part of the country, except the West where they fell 30%. The largest sales gain occurred in the South, with a 40% jump.

Unlike the existing-home sales report, the new-home sales report from the Census Bureau captures sales when the contract is signed rather than when the sale is closed. As a result, March’s numbers likely were not influenced much by the poor weather in February. Parts of the South saw an extended, record cold snap that stalled much business activity throughout the region.

The number of new homes for sale at the end of March remained unchanged from the month prior, but was down 7% from a year ago. However, when the rate of sales is taken into account, the inventory in March only equated to a 3.6-month supply, down from a 4.4-month supply the month before.

The big picture: To borrow the famous line from “Field of Dreams,” if you build it, they will come. In today’s housing market, home builders continue to see elevated demand, in large part because buyers are very much struggling to find existing-homes to purchase.

Years of under-building has caught up with the U.S.

Years of under-building has caught up with the U.S. Now, the country has a serious shortage of homes—as many as 4 million, according to Freddie Mac—to meet the demand from buyers.

Millennials hit the point in life where buying a home becomes very attractive, and the pandemic has caused people to rethink their living situations. All of which is to say that demand in this market is organic, according to economists, and not fueled by risky lending practices.

Builders, for their part, are having enough trouble keeping up with demand in the marketplace already that they aren’t engaging in speculative construction. Of the new homes sold in March, only about a quarter of them had already been constructed—most were instead under construction or not yet started. A year ago, over 40% of the new homes sold were completed.

Still, there are some headwinds for the market. While mortgage rates have fallen in April thus far, if they begin to rise again in the future that could constrain buyers’ interest in pricier new homes. Plus, builders are struggling with shortages of supplies and appliances, driving up the cost to complete homes.

What they’re saying: “Supply is the biggest limiting factor in home sales. The is a 2.1 month’s supply of existing homes at the current sales rate, which is up from an all-time low of 1.9 months last December,” Chris Low, chief economist at FHN Financial, said in a research note ahead of the new-home sales report’s release.

“But the rise from the low is not because there are more homes for sale, it is because the sales pace slowed,” he added.

“While mortgage rates are a significant factor for home purchases, the biggest issue currently seems to be inventories, and it will continue to be a headwind in the near term,” Rubeela Farooqi, chief U.S. economist at High Frequency Economics, wrote in a research note.

Market reaction: The Dow Jones Industrial Average and S&P 500 index were both up slightly following the report’s release, while homebuilder stocks—including D.R. Horton, Lennar Corp. and PulteGroup—rose even higher in morning trading.

The post New Home Sales Surge Past Expectations as Builders Race To Meet Demand appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

Best Soap Bars for Women

You can smell the relaxing power of soap.

You can smell the relaxing power of soap. (Pixabay/)

Even if you love the bottles of liquid soap, don’t toss the bar out with the bathwater. Go ahead and hide a couple of aromatic bars in the back of the linen closet, and get a few for your home or office. They’re always good to have “on hand.” Also, did you know they can keep your drawers and doors from squeaking? Here are some of our favorite soap bars that we think make the cut.

Care and cleaning in one bar. We love that they are so gentle you can use them on your face every time you shower.

Care and cleaning in one bar. We love that they are so gentle you can use them on your face every time you shower. (Dove/)

The tagline for this soap is that it’s made from 1⁄4 moisturizing cream. But you can really feel the difference with how it glides on your skin. If you’ve got sensitive skin then you know how hard it is to find a soap that doesn’t make you itchy, dry, and uncomfortable. That’s why we love these Dove Sensitive Beauty Bars. With a set of 16 bars, you will have enough to share, but only if you want to. Skin doctors recommend these bars because of their mild cleansing agents, and they’re free from fragrances or harsh ingredients.

Contains oils to help your skin stay hydrated, which means soft, smooth, and healthy looking.

Contains oils to help your skin stay hydrated, which means soft, smooth, and healthy looking. (Tom’s of Maine/)

The organic botanicals, including lavender oil, hydrate skin in the shower or bath. When you lather with this, the gorgeous aroma wafts all over the house. We love that this all-natural soap is paraben free. Why? What are parabens anyhow? We don’t want to absorb them because they can act like hormones in your body. And nobody wants those extra preservatives on their skin, either. But everyone appreciates the anti-inflammatory, antioxidant-rich argan oil, and the shea which is a nut butter.

Features the scents of avocado grapefruit, coconut, eucalyptus mint, lavender, lemongrass, seaweed and sea salt.

Features the scents of avocado grapefruit, coconut, eucalyptus mint, lavender, lemongrass, seaweed and sea salt. (Crate 61/)

Not just women appreciate these luxurious, richly scented soaps. Men do, too, since the bars have deep aromas that are not fake, sweet, or overly-floral fragrances. These vegan soaps are made from plant oils and fats, not animal products, so you can feel good about using, sharing, and even giving, these specialty soaps. We love that we can pronounce all the ingredients – coconut, palm, olive, avocado, and essential oils. That’s it. Nothing fake, synthetic, or even hard to pronounce.

This product's name comes from ceramides, naturally-occurring oils that hold moisture in your skin and may have anti-aging properties.

This product’s name comes from ceramides, naturally-occurring oils that hold moisture in your skin and may have anti-aging properties. (CeraVe/)

Gentle enough for your face and strong enough for all the rest of you. This body bar is not only a moisturizing cream, it also contains no soap or fragrances. We love how the oils soften the skin. Even sensitive skin, oily and dry skin, and acne-prone skin. It’s so non-irritating that eczema sufferers should find this option appealing.

We love the unique combinations of essential oils and natural cleansing agents like clay, mud, coffee, salt, and charcoal.

We love the unique combinations of essential oils and natural cleansing agents like clay, mud, coffee, salt, and charcoal. (O Naturals/)

No matter what your skin needs, one of these six specialized skin bars will provide what you need. From little scrubbers to invigorating tea tree oil, they give you all kinds of ways to massage your skin. These soaps have great aromas, colors, traits, and even packaging. The ingredients are sourced from cruelty-free and sustainable sources. Triple-milled soaps are hard and last a long time, so you can enjoy these gift-quality soaps for months.

Best Dog Brushes

A good dog brush will cheer up your furry friend.

A good dog brush will cheer up your furry friend. (Unsplash/)

Do you hate finding little tumbleweeds of fur floating across your floors? Has your dog been looking a bit raggedy lately? Then, it may be time to invest in a new brush.

This durable tool can remove up to 95 percent of loose hair and tangles from your canine's coat.

This durable tool can remove up to 95 percent of loose hair and tangles from your canine’s coat. (Hertzko/)

If you’re tired of finding dog hair everywhere, you’ll appreciate this handy little tool. The Hertzko brush has been designed to gently remove dead and loose hairs from your pet’s coat. It can also remove burrs, seeds, and tangles. This tool has a four-inch-long stainless-steel blade, which can reach deep into your pooch’s coat. The Hertzko slicker brush works equally well on all types of coats — whether short, long, wiry, straight, or curly. It even works on double-coated canines. Hertzko also made sure that the tool would be comfortable for dog owners by equipping it with an ergonomically designed handle that fits comfortably in your hand.

Works on all types of dogs – even on breeds with double coats.

Works on all types of dogs – even on breeds with double coats. (Pet Neat/)

When your canine deserves a little one-on-one attention, why not spend it grooming them with the Pet Neat brush? Not only will your fur baby enjoy the gentle stroking sensation of this tool against their skin, you’ll also remove a lot of the dead and loose hair that would otherwise float around your home. The Pet Neat de-shedding brush has a 100mm stainless-steel blade that can reach those loose hairs lodged deep in your pup’s coat.

Its rounded end teeth won't scratch or damage your dog's sensitive skin.

Its rounded end teeth won’t scratch or damage your dog’s sensitive skin. (Maxpower/)

Do you have a dog with a double or thick coat? This brush from Maxpower Planet deserves a spot in your grooming toolbox. For starters, this brush has a dual-sided design. On one side, this tool has slightly sharpened blades that are effective for breaking apart and removing tangles, knots, and mats from your canine’s coat. Then when you’re done de-tangling, simply flip this brush over to use the 17-tooth de-shedding tool to lift out loose hairs from your dog’s coat. Both blades are made from rust-resistant stainless steel. The brush also has an anti-slip rubber handle that will help you keep a firm grip on this tool while you’re grooming your canine.

No more picking through sharp bristles with your fingers to get rid of your pet's hair.

No more picking through sharp bristles with your fingers to get rid of your pet’s hair. (Ruff ‘N Ruffus/)

This set will have your dog looking good from the top of his furry little head right down to his toenails. It includes a self-cleaning slicker brush that features a comfortable grip and anti-slip handle. The bristles on this brush are made with fine bent wire bristles, which are perfect for removing knots and loose hairs. One of the best features of this brush? It has a button that when pushed causes the bristles to retract and the hair to slide off. The second tool in this set is a pair of nail clippers. If you’re like some owners, you might be afraid to cut your own dog’s nails, but these clippers have a safety shield that will keep you from cutting your dog’s nail too close to the quick.

This handy little tool can be used on both cats and dogs, even rabbits and guinea pigs.

This handy little tool can be used on both cats and dogs, even rabbits and guinea pigs. (Glendan/)

This cool little tool can be used in one of two ways. The first way is, of course, as a brush. The Glendan brush’s fine curved stainless-steel pins can reach deep into your fur baby’s coat without scratching their skin. It can also be used as a shedding tool. Simply, turn the rotatable brush pins into an upside V shape, and the pins will remove any dead or loose hairs from your pet’s coat. The brush is also very effective at removing tangles, knots, and mats. Glendan also designed this brush with the operator in mind. It has a comfort-grip and anti-slip handle to lessen wrist and hand strain. This brush is available in either pink or blue and either in a small or a large size.

HGTV’s ‘Rock the Block’ Winner Is This Week’s Most Popular Home

most popular homes 4/23

realtor.com

This week’s most popular home on Realtor.com® was the winner of the “Rock the Block” renovation competition on HGTV. Fans of the popular show flocked to take a peek at the finished product and see exactly why the home strolled away with the Season 2 victory.

The winning design was the brainchild of Mika and Brian Kleinschmidt of HGTV’s “100 Day Dream Home,” who created its comfortable, elegant vibe of farmhouse-meets-coastal. The mini bowling alley in the basement was quite a draw, too.

Located in Dallas, GA, the home landed on the market for $635,000 in early March. A deal was struck quickly, and the HGTV-approved design is now pending sale.

Aside from the block-rocking home, you clicked on a variety of homes with celebrity connections. This week’s runner-up is the New York home of Howard Stern’s longtime limo driver and noted Stern show loudmouth, Ronnie “the Limo Driver” Mund.

At the more decorous end of the spectrum, a Pittsburgh home that once belonged to the beloved children’s TV pioneer Mr. Rogers was also popular, as was a North Carolina house where the actress who played “Aunt Bee” on the “Andy Griffith Show” spent the end of her life as a recluse.

For pure aesthetic delight, don’t miss the glass house in Maryland or the incredible craftsmanship on display at an Oregon estate.

These homes are all winners in their own way, so scroll on down for all of this week’s most popular properties.

10. 18 Plainview St, Rocksmart, GA

Price: $649,999
Why it’s here: Custom-built in 2018, this seven-bedroom home sits on 9.5 acres and is surrounded by gorgeous views.

According to the listing, the home’s interiors were built with an eye toward craftsmanship. Highlights of that craftsmanship include custom handrails, shiplap walls, and quartz countertops. The property also comes with a barn with power and water.

Rocksmart, GA
Rocksmart, GA

realtor.com

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9. 1910 Corbridge Ln, Monkton, MD

Price: $1,700,000
Why it’s here: Built in 1990 and freshly renovated throughout, this five-bedroom glass house is a beauty inside and out.

It sits on 4 landscaped acres, which provide a breathtaking, ever-changing backdrop from every vantage point within. The home is automated throughout, with Lutron shades, voice-controlled lights, locks, devices, and security. Outside, decks overlook the scenic views and Gunpowder River.

Monkton, MD
Monkton, MD

realtor.com

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8. 8300 Moss Ct, Granite Bay, CA

Price: $10,000,000
Why it’s here: After a few months on the market, this enormous, 15,400-square-foot castle in Northern California has been discounted by a whopping $18 million. When we first spotted it in January, the structure, known as Swan Lake Castle, was asking $28 million.

The home still isn’t finished, but is surrounded by 4.5 acres filled with three stocked, manmade lakes and rolling gardens.

Granite Bay, CA
Granite Bay, CA

realtor.com

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7. 2077 Brookwood Dr, Colorado Springs, CO

Price: $1
Why it’s here: This 1967-built ranch is headed to auction with an opening bid of a single buck.

But buyers should expect to shell out substantially more for the four-bedroom home with views of Pikes Peak. Sitting on more than a half-acre at the end of a quiet cul-de-sac, the home was custom-built and meticulously maintained by the same family over the past five decades. Conveniently located and filled with vintage touches, this time capsule is sure to attract a bidding war.

Colorado Springs, CO
Colorado Springs, CO

realtor.com

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6. 26480 S.W. Wilken Ln, West Linn, OR

Price: $5,750,000
Why it’s here: Just a quick 30-minute commute from downtown Portland, this nearly 69-acre country estate features a grand chateau painstakingly built with the finest of materials.

For example, you’ll find 300-year-old door handles, tiles from France, and kitchen doors from Morocco throughout the home. With the abundant acreage, there’s an opportunity to create a vineyard from scratch, with a chateau already in place.

West Linn, OR
West Linn, OR

realtor.com

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5. 5381 Northumberland St, Pittsburgh, PA

Price: $850,000
Why it’s here: Once the home of beloved children’s television star Fred Rogers, this five-bedroom home was built in 1921 in the city’s Squirrel Hill neighborhood.

Muted designs run throughout the home, which is described as well-lit, spacious, and open. The fenced backyard is a perfect outdoor space for years of wholesome family fun.

Pittsburgh, PA
Pittsburgh, PA

realtor.com

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4. 3259 Menoher Blvd, Johnstown, PA

Price: $225,000
Why it’s here: Known as the “Quaint House of Stone” and once featured in Better Homes and Gardens Magazine, this three-bedroom stone home was built in 1931.

The charming home features wood-beamed ceilings, a lovely wood-burning fireplace, and a partially finished basement. Outside, the 4.5-acre lot has a garden shed, workshop, and a yard with mature chestnut and walnut trees.

Johnstown, PA
Johnstown, PA

realtor.com

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3. 503 W. Elk St, Siler City, NC

Price: $425,000
Why it’s here: This airy and lovely home comes with a bit of Hollywood history. It’s the place where the actress Frances Bavier—who played Aunt Bee on the beloved “Andy Griffith Show”—lived out the last years of her life as a recluse prior to her death in 1989. Since her passing, the home has had a major glow-up.

Built in 1951, the five-bedroom home’s formal interiors include a wood-paneled library, 11-foot ceilings, and hardwood floors throughout.

Siler City, NC
Siler City, NC

realtor.com

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2. 6-9 150th Pl, Whitestone, NY

Price: $915,888
Why it’s here: This home in suburban Queens is being sold by Ronnie Mund., well-known to anyone who listens to the “”Howard Stern Show.” Mund’s personal life is often grist for the show, but his grouchy on-air persona doesn’t carry over to this modest home.

Nevertheless, “Stern Show” fans are intimately familiar with the hijinks that have taken place at this three-bedroom home, originally built in 1960. In addition to the Mund memories, the residence also has a fully finished basement, sunny backyard, and water views.

Whitestone, NY
Whitestone, NY

realtor.com

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1. 1585 Dabbs Bridge Rd., Dallas, GA

Price: $635,000
Why it’s here: It’s a winner, baby! This home captured the title on Season 2 of the popular HGTV show “Rock the Block,” and clicks followed closely behind.

The six-bedroom residence is awash in chic design details throughout. Highlights include a showstopper of a kitchen, with a huge pantry and tons of cabinets. For entertaining guests, there’s a two-lane bowling alley in the basement. When all was said and done after five episodes, this place really rocked the block!

Dallas, GA
Dallas, GA

realtor.com

The post HGTV’s ‘Rock the Block’ Winner Is This Week’s Most Popular Home appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

There Are Many Ways To Pay for a Home Remodel. Which Method Is Best?

wsj-april22syndicationhomeremodelpay

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That home-remodeling project may give you all the extra space you need. But how will you pay for it?

A survey conducted in February by San Diego-based LightStream, a national online consumer lender, found that 73% of high-income homeowners, defined as those with household incomes of more than $100,000, plan to use savings to pay for home-improvement projects, while 32% will use credit cards. The balance will secure a home-improvement loan. Many people tap more than one method to pay. But the best way to pay?

“If you have the cash, you should consider paying cash,” said Michael Silver, a certified financial planner in Boca Raton, Fla. “Although you can borrow money at very low interest rates, the amount you’re paying to a bank to borrow money is still greater than the bank is crediting you interest on your cash.”

Remember, however, that there is an opportunity cost to using savings to pay for home improvements. “If you can earn more than the interest you’d pay to borrow, then you should keep that money invested and finance the project,” Mr. Silver said.

Finance professionals recommend that homeowners avoid charging project costs on credit cards unless they plan to pay the bill in full when it arrives. Using a card to get airline miles or other awards is great, but credit cards carry high interest rates, so avoid carrying a balance.

Another option is an unsecured home-improvement loan, which doesn’t require using your home as collateral. LightStream offers loans from $5,000 to $100,000 at rates starting at 3.99%, with no fees. Similar personal loans are available from other companies, such as Marcus by Goldman Sachs.

“Unsecured lending is a really attractive option for consumers,” said Todd Nelson, senior vice president of strategic partnerships at LightStream. But it may not be an option for everyone—Mr. Nelson said his typical customer has a FICO score in the 700s.

Many homeowners are opting to use their homes as collateral to finance renovation projects, and that is even more tempting because of the recent surge in tappable home equity, the amount available to homeowners with mortgages to borrow against while still maintaining at least 20% equity in their homes. Mortgage-technology and data firm Black Knight Inc. recently reported that through the end of the fourth quarter of 2020, home prices grew at a 10.8% annual rate, causing tappable equity to hit $7.3 trillion, the largest amount ever recorded. That makes cash-out refinances—when the existing mortgage is paid off and replaced with a larger one, allowing the borrower to take out the difference in cash—and home equity lines of credit, credit lines secured by a mortgage, attractive options.

“If you have a lot of equity, the cheapest way to borrow money for a renovation is to do a cash-out refinancing,” said Melissa Cohn, executive mortgage banker at William Raveis Mortgage in New York City. Ms. Cohn said that banks will generally lend up to 75% of the value of a home. For homeowners with less than 25% equity, a Heloc may be the only option. Fees can range from $3,000 to $4,000, plus the cost of title, applicable taxes and recording fees, she said. She added that refinances can take more than two months to close, making them unsuitable for emergency repairs.

For homeowners who recently refinanced or who are happy with the current interest rate on their mortgage, a Heloc is a good solution. Ms. Cohn said they tend to have higher rates than refinances, based on a percentage above the prime rate, and that they can be obtained with no or very low fees. Like a refinance, Helocs require an appraisal. Rates vary and they fluctuate. Bank of America, for example, is currently offering an introductory rate of 2.49% for the first six months of the loan term, after which it reverts to the contracted rate pegged to a prime rate. The introductory offer is for new applications through July 31. It takes about 30 days from application to closing, according to a bank spokeswoman.

Here are a few things to consider if you’re planning a home-improvement project:

Determine time horizon: When deciding on the types of loans available for a home-improvement project, take into account how long you plan to remain in the home. If you’re looking for a short-term solution—the replacement of a roof before you list a home for sale, for example—and plan to pay the loan back quickly, a Heloc is a good option because of its flexibility. But interest rates fluctuate, so if you are looking for financing for a longer term, go for the refinance. “It’s more prudent to borrow at 3% and not have to worry about the rate adjusting,” Ms. Cohn said.

Hunt around: While Helocs offer advantages, the main one being no upfront fees, the number of lenders offering these loans has declined. Wells Fargo, for example, suspended the origination of new Helocs at the end of April 2020 and doesn’t currently offer this product. So refinancing may be your only option.

Consider alternatives: Ms. Cohn said that for major renovations, a construction loan might be a good solution. With this type of loan, a bank will lend up to 80% of the future value of your home, in other words, the value once work is completed, she said. Mr. Silver, the financial planner, said that many of his clients opt for investment credit lines, where they use their investments as collateral. “It’s very easy, very flexible, and the rates are based on the size of the account,” he said. “Almost every custodian holding your securities has some sort of option.” Current rates range from 1.36% to 3.75%, he said.

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The 10 Most Eco-Friendly Cities Where It’s Actually Easy Being Green

eco-friendly cities

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As we anticipate a return to normalcy after COVID-19, Earth Day is once again upon us—and with this day of worldwide celebration and hope comes a chance to see how eco-friendly our urban areas really are.

To help in this endeavor, LawnStarter has done a deep dive into the sustainability of 200 of our nation’s largest cities, examining 24 key variables, including the prevalence of zero-waste buildings, electric cars, farmers markets, and citywide laws designed to protect the environment.

So which city gets top props for going green? San Francisco, which has worked hard to preserve its surroundings through a range of policies from banning plastic bags to building bike paths to running its buses on biodiesel fuel. In fact, California in general is doing a good job saving the environment, having earned four of the top 10 spots.

Here’s a look at the most eco-friendly cities—and, in case you want to live there, the median home prices you can expect to pay based on Realtor.com data.

Most sustainable cities

  1. San Francisco, CA ($1.35M)
  2. Boston, MA ($799K)
  3. Sacramento, CA ($409K)
  4. Washington, DC ($599K)
  5. Baltimore, MD ($210K)
  6. Rochester, NY ($139.9K)
  7. San Diego, CA ($729K)
  8. Oakland, CA ($746.5K)
  9. Salt Lake City, UT ($449K)
  10. Seattle, WA ($739K)

Why big cities can still be green

While big cities often get a bad rap for belching up pollutants and doing a number on the environment, this study found that, by and large, they’re more eco-friendly than smaller urban areas.

“The most striking pattern we observed in our study is that larger cities tend to be greener than smaller cities,” says Patricia Davis, communications manager at LawnStarter. “For example, the most populated city in the country, New York, ranks at a respectable No. 14.”

One possible reason for this is that, aside from their extensive public transportation systems, “densely populated cities have to be really efficient to reduce their waste and carbon footprint,” says Davis. “It’s clear that keeping tightly packed cities clean can be a real challenge.”

Meanwhile, California has its own distinct reasons for taking extra good care of its environment. The state’s climate swings have had major ramifications for residents—think fires, drought, and sky-high electricity costs—making it more of a necessity to adopt green practices. However, other states in the U.S. can, and should, follow suit.

“It’s interesting to see several cities like Rochester, Baltimore, and Seattle ranking higher on the list than places in Florida, which have an abundance of sunshine and rain that could translate into huge energy savings if they choose to do so,” says Cara Ameer, a real estate agent in with Coldwell Banker in California and Florida.

In fact, cities in the Sunshine State hold five of the worst rankings on this list. Why? One simple reason pointed out by experts: Floridians love their cars.

“Transportation is the leading source of CO2 emissions, and Florida did away with vehicle inspections and emissions testing in 2000, which helps to explain the state’s higher carbon footprint,” says Davis.

One easy fix might be laws to promote more carpooling, and continuing the work-from-home trend, which tamps down on rush hour traffic.

Here’s a rundown of the least sustainable cities surveyed for this list.

Least sustainable cities

  1. Pasadena, TX
  2. Hialeah, FL
  3. Sunrise Manor, NV
  4. Metairie, LA
  5. Enterprise, NV
  6. Port St. Lucie, FL
  7. Cape Coral, FL
  8. Peoria, AZ
  9. Miramar, FL
  10. Pembroke Pines, FL

Are eco-friendly cities more expensive places to live?

While San Francisco may be a green dream in terms of sustainability, living here doesn’t come cheap, with median home prices hovering at a staggering $1.35 million. Which begs the question: Are green cities more expensive places to live?

Not necessarily.

“Just because a city ranks well on measures of sustainability doesn’t necessarily mean it’s expensive,” says Danielle Hale, chief economist at Realtor.com. “There certainly are some expensive markets on the list, such as San Francisco, Boston, and Washington, DC. But one-third of the other markets in the top 15 cities in this report are actually cheaper than the typical market, which means they have a lower median home price than the U.S. national median.”

Additionally, “some markets may not be cheap when compared to the typical U.S. home, but are a bit more affordable than surrounding areas,” Hale adds. “For example, home prices are lower in Sacramento and Oakland than San Francisco.”

So if you love sustainability but can’t stomach San Francisco’s prices, there’s still hope if you shop for homes farther afield.

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