Best Hydroponic Grow Kits

Take home gardening into the 21st century with a hydroponic kit.

Take home gardening into the 21st century with a hydroponic kit. ( Pixabay/)

Frustrated by your home garden? Disappointed with only getting three good tomatoes? We know how you feel. Even if you don’t have space for an outdoor garden, you probably can carve out a spot on your counter for an indoor garden.

The 20 watt LED lights are designed for maximized photosynthesis.

The 20 watt LED lights are designed for maximized photosynthesis. (AeroGarden Black Harvest /)

Fragrant herb seeds – like tender Genovese basil, spicy Thai basil, fresh curly parsley, savory dill, woody thyme, and bright mint – are all included, so you can start growing with this kit as soon as you open your package. The control panel tells you just what to do and when to do it, in order to achieve excellent results every season. The included all-natural plant food is convenient and provides the plants with all the nutrients they need. You can grow up to six plants at a time with this AeroGarden kit.

Adjustable lighting gives the perfect amount and type of light for starter, juvenile, and adult plants.

Adjustable lighting gives the perfect amount and type of light for starter, juvenile, and adult plants. (Hydroponics Growing System/)

The fact that a whole plant starts from one little seed is pretty amazing. It’s one of nature’s wonders. With these hydroponic kits, you can nurture seven plants at a time. The red, white, and blue LED lights aren’t just attractive but provide the different spectrums you need for plants in their various phases. Not only can you adjust the lights but also their cycles and time, just like the professionals do. The water pumps for 30 minutes each hour, or if you want it to be silent, you can set it to sleep mode, where it will take a 12 hour break so you can, too.

The full spectrum lights and handy soil-free garden make it simple for you to have home-grown benefits all year round.

The full spectrum lights and handy soil-free garden make it simple for you to have home-grown benefits all year round. (Hydroponics System Indoor /)

With this unique method, you start the seeds in the center of the sponges. The water in this system pumps up to the top of the sponges so it gently nurtures your plants and makes a relaxing dripping sound. Share the gift of fresh veggies and herbs with your family with this hydroponic grow kit. The expandable light pole goes up to 12 inches tall for generously sized plants. We like the way this hydroponic garden makes it easy to change the water. Also, you don’t have to worry about an alarm buzzing in the middle of the night to alert you that it’s time for a water change – there are flashing lights instead. Much better, thank you.

The plant pots are made from biochar, which is made from green charcoal. It enriches the plant surroundings.

The plant pots are made from biochar, which is made from green charcoal. It enriches the plant surroundings. (Moistenland Hydroponics /)

When you grow plants in water, there’s no soil, no worries about heavy metals, pesticides, or anything else getting into your homegrown fruits, veggies, and herbs. With the Moistenland system, you can grow 12 plants, with two sets of six on each side, and you can even raise them under two different growth conditions. A nice feature is the varied 22 watts of LED light settings offering one mode for veggies, and another for flowers and fruits. You can set all the controls from one easy-to-operate panel.

Each pipe is a little over 4 feet long, and with all this space, you can even grow flowers in it, too.

Each pipe is a little over 4 feet long, and with all this space, you can even grow flowers in it, too. (VIVOSUN Hydroponic/)

Nurture up to 90 plants at once with this hydroponic growing system, and it’s so simple to set up and operate. Add a salad course to every meal no matter what the weather looks like outside. This kit has everything you require to have fresh, healthy food in spring, summer, winter, and fall. It’s got a powerful water pump and pump timer, planting basket, sponge, tweezers, and three instruction books. We like the square holes, instead of the round ones, as it seems to better support the plants for maximum growth.

Our Favorite Cat Nail Clippers

Keep those little "daggers" trimmed to save your arms and furniture from your cat.

Keep those little “daggers” trimmed to save your arms and furniture from your cat. (Pixabay/)

It’s universally acknowledged that trimming your cat’s nails can be a tricky business. Some pet owners are lucky – perhaps their cats stay active enough on hard surfaces or by scratching on trees outside to keep their nails down naturally. For most of us, that’s not the case. Indoor cats, older cats, and the inevitable lazy cats will all need their nails trimmed sooner or later.

The built-in nail file helps you finish the job right by buffing rough edges.

The built-in nail file helps you finish the job right by buffing rough edges. (gonicc Dog & Cat Pets Nail Clippers/)

The Gonicc clippers are strong, lightweight, and designed with your comfort in mind. They’re made of high-quality stainless steel blades to cut through even the toughest nails. No one wants accidental nicks or cuts on themselves or their kitties, so the non-slip ergonomic handle keeps your grip secure. The guard on the back is designed to prevent you from clipping more than necessary so you don’t go too far and catch those toenail veins. It has a safety lock to prevent children from using it.

The blades are made from 3.5mm thick stainless steel sharp blades to trim with just one cut, and they’ll stay sharp for years to come.

The blades are made from 3.5mm thick stainless steel sharp blades to trim with just one cut, and they’ll stay sharp for years to come. (BOSHEL Dog Nail Clippers and Trimmer/)

These BOSHEL clippers are powerful yet easy to use and are recommended by animal trainers, veterinarians, and professional groomers. The design is user-friendly to feel comfortable in your hand and prevent slipping. We appreciate the safety stop sensor that prevents over-cutting. If you have a houseful of pets, these can also be used on medium- to large-sized dogs.

These are available in two sizes, for small to medium pets, and a large version for pets over 60 pounds.

These are available in two sizes, for small to medium pets, and a large version for pets over 60 pounds. (Epica #1 Best Professional Pet Nail Clipper/)

You may be surprised how quick and easy this task becomes with the Epica Professional Pet Nail Clippers. The high-grade stainless steel blades are semi-circular so you can wrap around the nail, seeing exactly where you’re cutting. Then you simply complete the process by applying a little pressure with a gentle squeeze. The Epica clipper makes the experience less scary for your pet and less stressful for you. Its rubber-coated handle helps you grip the tool securely. When you’re through, you can lock the clippers for safety.

The stainless steel blades are strong and formed with a semi-circular blade to wrap safely around your kitty’s nail.

The stainless steel blades are strong and formed with a semi-circular blade to wrap safely around your kitty’s nail. (Pet Nail Clippers for Small Animals /)

These clippers are designed specifically for your cat or other small pet. The high-grade plastic handle is designed to feel comfortable even while you grip firmly. Extra sharp blades on these nail clippers get the job done the first time around since neither you nor your cat wants to prolong the occasion. It even includes a free e-book guide you can download to give you tips on how the professionals make this look so easy. Make the inevitable nail trimming sessions an efficient and hassle-free experience. This just might keep your feline from disappearing every time the clippers come out.

An ergonomic rubber-coated handle is designed to give you an easy grip on the tool.

An ergonomic rubber-coated handle is designed to give you an easy grip on the tool. (Dudi Dog Nail Clippers and Trimmer/)

The folks from Dudi know safety is a priority, and so is speed, in getting this job accomplished. The blades are made of stainless steel and are razor-sharp for a smooth cut. And the protective guard helps prevent the dreaded over-trimming mishap. Created by veterinarians with over 30 years experience, this tool is an excellent choice for keeping your cat’s nails trimmed and healthy. Includes a separate nail file designed specifically for pets. This trimmer also works universally – you can use it on small, medium, or large breeds.

Our Picks for Best Cordless Hedge Trimmers

Tame your hedges with the right cordless trimmer.

Tame your hedges with the right cordless trimmer. (Pixabay/)

Gas-powered hedge trimmers are both noisy and heavy and have to be kept fueled. The cords inherent with electric trimmers limit your range, can be clumsy to maneuver, and many a forlorn landscaper has rendered theirs non-functional after accidentally cutting the power cord. You know who you are. We’ve selected our favorite cordless hedge trimmers to keep your shrubs looking the best on the block.

The compact and lightweight design make it easy to handle, so you can keep working until the job gets done.

The compact and lightweight design make it easy to handle, so you can keep working until the job gets done. (DEWALT DCHT820B /)

The Dewalt line offers this 22-inch blade cordless hedge trimmer with a powerful, high-output motor. The laser-cut blades are hook-toothed to deliver clean, fast cuts, and have the ability to slice through up to 3/4″ thick branches. We especially like the friction clutch which engages to protect the transmission in case you hit an obstacle. It’s designed to be used in conjunction with a Dewalt max 20V battery.

The battery and charger are also compatible with other yard tools from the manufacturer.

The battery and charger are also compatible with other yard tools from the manufacturer. (BLACK+DECKER 20V MAX /)

The Black & Decker trimmer is equipped to take on the tough trimming jobs around the yard. It has a powerful 20V lithium-ion battery to do its work. There’s also a power command button you can push to provide a sudden extra boost of power when you’re in a jam. The 22-inch dual-action blade cuts through branches up to 3/4″ thick, but it can do this while producing less vibration when trimming than other similar products. This makes handling an easier and more convenient job for you. It includes a battery and charger which also works on all other Black & Decker 20V MAX tools.

The grab n’ go D-grip handle conveniently allows you to cut from any angle and reduces vibrations.

The grab n’ go D-grip handle conveniently allows you to cut from any angle and reduces vibrations. (WORX WG261 20v Power /)

The WORX trimmer packs a 20V punch. At only 5.5 pounds to carry, and with its ergonomically designed handle, you can go all day in the yard. No more excuses for the teens not to help with the yard work. While it’s lightweight and comfortable, this trimmer is still powerful with dual-action 22″ blades. With dual-action the blades cut once, then catch the branch again on the way back, making for a quicker, cleaner trim. Comes with a 20V battery and charger, which are compatible with all other WORX Power Share 20V and 40V tools.

The handle features a soft grip and a full-length trigger for added comfort. It can cut up to 6,000 square feet per charge.

The handle features a soft grip and a full-length trigger for added comfort. It can cut up to 6,000 square feet per charge. (BLACK+DECKER 40V MAX Cordless /)

This Black & Decker cordless trimmer delivers twice the power as comparable products with its 40V battery, without the hassle of a gas engine or cumbersome extension cords. The power drive transmission cuts up branches without stalling, and the longer – 24 inch – dual-action blades give you extra reach to get more work done faster.

The blades are simple to switch out and it requires no tools to do so.

The blades are simple to switch out and it requires no tools to do so. (WORKPRO 7.2V 2-in-1 Cordless Grass /)

This WORKPRO cordless trimmer is just the right size for the smaller garden areas or yards where traditional tools would be overkill. At just 1.04 pounds it is a cinch to handle, and the compact design makes it easy to store. It includes 2 blades, one for small hedges, and one to cut grass in small amounts or around tight areas that would be too difficult to maneuver a lawnmower. It has a double lock design for extra child safety and protection. The WORKPRO comes with an internal battery, and the charger is included.

Best Nail Trimmers for Dogs

Keep your pet's nails trim - it's better for the dog and your furniture.

Keep your pet’s nails trim – it’s better for the dog and your furniture. (Pixabay /)

It’s important to have your dog’s nails trimmed regularly, generally about every 3-4 weeks. You can take them to a professional groomer – some dogs love going, some dogs hate it – but a quicker and more affordable option is to do it at home. Particularly if your dog gets stressed at the prospect of going to the groomer, but also it’s far more economical in the long run. All you need is a little practice and the right tool. A nail trimmer designed for dogs is handy to keep near, and even if your dog does go on regular grooming appointments, this tool will help you quickly touch things up as needed between visits. Here are several trimmers that will keep your pet’s toenails in great condition.

Features a whisper-quiet motor that won’t startle or antagonize your pet.

Features a whisper-quiet motor that won’t startle or antagonize your pet. (Casfuy Dog Nail Grinder /)

A 2-speed electric nail trimmer that smooths down your pets’ nails without pain. Trim like the professionals with this helpful and efficient tool. Inside the electric nail trimmer is a diamond drum bit grinder that precisely and safely files down your dog’s nails to healthy levels. It features an adjustable low-high speed design that is capable of handling tough jobs. You can switch out the ports to accommodate small, medium, and large pets.

It has a soft grip handle, and the cordless design makes it convenient to use wherever you need to.

It has a soft grip handle, and the cordless design makes it convenient to use wherever you need to. (Dremel Paw /)

A nail grooming kit that comes with everything needed for novice or experienced pet groomers. Dremel’s nail trimming kit features a 45-degree paw guide, which offers the optimal trimming angle for getting the job done quickly and effectively. A nail guard attachment cap protects your pet and helps ensure you won’t make any mistakes. Choose from multiple grooming options thanks to this 9-piece array of accessories you can change out with the ease of a twist cap. Adjustable speeds let you customize to the needs of your dog, and the rechargeable 4-volt Lithium-ion battery means you won’t have to worry about running out of power in the middle of things.

The advanced diamond bit will accomplish the task no matter the thickness of your pet’s nails.

The advanced diamond bit will accomplish the task no matter the thickness of your pet’s nails. (Casifor Dog Nail Grinder /)

This trimmer from Casifor features step-less speed regulation that lets you customize the speed to match the strength of your dog’s nails. Casifor’s cordless dog nail trimmer comes with a powerful but quiet motor that won’t agitate your dog when it comes time for trims. The 10-hour battery means you don’t have to recharge very often, and you can easily connect it to a laptop or power bank with the included USB wire. Adjustable speed helps you find the right amount of pressure for precision and safety.

With the charging adapter, you can boost the battery with ease no matter where you are, as long as you have access to a power supply.

With the charging adapter, you can boost the battery with ease no matter where you are, as long as you have access to a power supply. (STOPWOOFER Dog Nail Grinder /)

This nail trimmer from Stopwoofer utilizes a powerful motor and diamond-edged stone combination that ensures your dog’s nails get the most precise cut. It comes with two interchangeable sleeves that can be swapped out to match your dog’s size. The quiet motor is desirable and appreciated, so your dog won’t be aggravated by any loud, scary noises. We like the elegant black look and the ergonomic design, so it won’t easily slip out of your hand if Fido wiggles.

Runs very quietly, so noise won’t give your furry friend added anxiety.

Runs very quietly, so noise won’t give your furry friend added anxiety. (oneisall Dog Nail Grinder /)

We appreciate how this handy nail trimmer from oneisall is lightweight and comfortable to handle with its ergonomic grip. If you’ve got several animals or you’re doing a lot of grooming, your hand and wrist will thank you. The motor still packs plenty of power, though, and comes with 2 rotation speeds to be effective whether it’s a light or more challenging job. It also has 3 different port options for differing nail sizes, since not all paws are the same. Oneisall recommends letting your dog sniff the tool before beginning and rewarding her after each nail cutting session. She might even start looking forward to trimming time – or at least the goodie at the end.

Best Pet Cameras for Keeping An Eye On Your Best Friend

How's your dog doing while you're away? Find out with a pet camera.

How’s your dog doing while you’re away? Find out with a pet camera. (Amazon/)

When you’re at work, school, or away on errands and have to leave your pets at home unattended, do you wish you had some way to keep an eye on them? Do you have an elderly or infirmed pet? Or perhaps one with extreme separation anxiety? Maybe you have pets that aren’t behaving well or getting along with each other. Here are our favorite pet cameras to find out about the secret life of dogs, or cats, or snakes, or whatever pets reside in your home.

The audio and barking sensor can detect when your dog starts making noise and will send you a push notification to alert you before the neighbors do.

The audio and barking sensor can detect when your dog starts making noise and will send you a push notification to alert you before the neighbors do. (Furbo Dog Camera /)

This pet camera from Furbo comes equipped with a 1080p full HD camera that even has night vision, so you can keep an eye on your pet 24/7. You’re going to love the goodie feature. You can fill this camera’s treat dispenser with your dog’s favorite goodies and use the mobile app to dispense treats remotely at your discretion. Yes, they have that. Setup is easier than you might think and consists of plugging the camera into a power outlet, downloading the app, and connecting it to your home Wi-Fi. What will they think of next?

A great training tool. Or you can use it to soothe a lonely pet with your voice. All this and installation takes less than one minute.

A great training tool. Or you can use it to soothe a lonely pet with your voice. All this and installation takes less than one minute. (Petcube /)

The Petcube camera comes with 1080HD video, 30-foot night vision, and a 110-degree wide-angle view, giving you broad coverage of your pet in his home environs. The built-in vet chat is a wonderful feature, especially if you have an ill or recuperating pet, or an elderly one. Maybe your dog just ate something he shouldn’t and you need to know what to do quickly. There’s a vet at the ready. Let your pet hear the reassuring sound of your voice, thanks to the two-way communication feature, which is also Alexa compatible. There’s something mischievous about the thought of catching your dog just before he does something naughty, and suddenly your voice comes across the airwaves to tell him no. Won’t he be surprised?

The cloud storage is capable of keeping 30 days of activity, or you can record it all to a microSD card.

The cloud storage is capable of keeping 30 days of activity, or you can record it all to a microSD card. (Dog Camera – 1080P /)

This pet camera is equipped with a smart AI human detection feature that can identify false-positive motion (such as rustling leaves or wind), but will trigger a recording when it detects humans in its scope. You can adjust the sensor to be more or less sensitive. The camera’s 1080p resolution and 100-degree viewing angle give you a great look at everything going on in your home. You could even use it to keep an eye on the baby when she’s home with a sitter. Keep all your video in cloud storage.

Sound detection sends alerts for unusual noises like breaking glass, a baby crying, or your dog barking.

Sound detection sends alerts for unusual noises like breaking glass, a baby crying, or your dog barking. (Victure 1080P/)

This pet camera’s smart motion doesn’t just detect, but also tracks, motion. It zeroes in on a moving target and sends you a notification via the app. The 1080p visuals feature 30 feet of night vision so you can surveil confidently night or day. Also has a built-in microphone and speaker so your pet or baby can hear your crystal-clear voice. You’ll never feel disconnected from your kids, or furry kids, with this feature-packed model.

With social media integration capability, instantly share pet photos or videos on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

With social media integration capability, instantly share pet photos or videos on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. (Smart Pet Camera /)

HONGSA’s pet camera boasts great features like 1080p HD video capability and infrared night vision. It also has built-in speakers with a 2-way microphone for instant communication. Talk to your pet sitter or housesitter instantly. Keep an eye on an elderly relative, or a child who stayed home from school feeling under the weather. A fun feature is the treat dispenser. Like the Furbo above, you can fill the attached dispenser with treats or even cat or dog food, and dispense it in real-time through the wireless app on your phone. Tell your dog he’s a good boy and hear him bark through the 2-way mic. You can record video or take photos and store them on a Micro SD card (not included).

Our Top Queen Bed Frame Choices

Give your bedroom some added splash with the right queen bed frame.

Give your bedroom some added splash with the right queen bed frame. (Unsplash/)

We spend nearly a third of our lives asleep. That’s a significant portion of our lifetime. And that’s precisely why all that time spent should be a comfortable and pleasant experience. When you’re ready to turn in after a long day, few things are better than sinking into a soothing environment. The ambiance of your sleeping area is an important part of winding down so you can achieve a sound and rejuvenating rest.

Underneath the frame, you’ll find plenty of clearance space, which is handy as valuable storage space for clothing bins, shoes, and more.

Underneath the frame, you’ll find plenty of clearance space, which is handy as valuable storage space for clothing bins, shoes, and more. (Zinus SmartBase /)

This bed frame from ZINUS is considered a “one-and-done” mattress solution. The sturdy steel base folds open easily and provides everything you need for a solid bed foundation, with no box springs. The frame is capable of supporting up to 1,500 pounds with ease, so unless you’re planning to put an entire family plus the kitchen sink in there, you’ll never have any concerns.

It’s designed to be completely quiet, meaning no squeaks when you climb in and out, or if you toss and turn.

It’s designed to be completely quiet, meaning no squeaks when you climb in and out, or if you toss and turn. (Mellow Naturalista /)

This lovely pine bed frame brings a clean contemporary look to any bedroom. The platform frame comes with a 3.5-inch unique wooden slat mattress foundation, so there’s no noisy box spring. The heavy-duty non-slip tape on the wooden slat keeps the mattress from sliding on its base. You can assemble this bed frame in minutes, and without needing to use any tools. We like how it’s easy and quick but looks like you went to a lot more trouble. The frame measures approximately 79.5 inches long, 59.5 inches wide, and 12 inches high.

Setup is so easy with its foldable mechanism. Just open it up and it’s ready to layer.

Setup is so easy with its foldable mechanism. Just open it up and it’s ready to layer. (Amazon Basics Foldable /)

Amazon Basics’ queen-size foldable bed frame measures approximately 80 inches long by 60 inches wide and 14 inches high. Because it weighs roughly 45 pounds, it’s not a burden to move it around when you need to. The sleek black frame is platform-style to quietly support your mattress. It can accommodate sleepers up to 250 pounds. There are 13 inches of storage space underneath the frame to stash away items or cover with a stylish bedskirt.

Weighing only 47.5 pounds, you can readily move this frame from room to room when it’s time to redecorate.

Weighing only 47.5 pounds, you can readily move this frame from room to room when it’s time to redecorate. (Zinus Joseph 10 inch metal platform bed /)

The wooden slat frame construction makes for a well-supported sleep experience. You’ll love this modular-looking platform frame that is decorative and functional all at once. It lends a contemporary feel to any bedroom and stands alone without needing a headboard or other accouterments. Its wooden slat design works well in preventing your mattress from slipping out of position or making creaky noises during the night. It measures 60 inches wide, 80 inches long, and 10 inches high, and it’s capable of supporting up to 500 pounds. The frame is suited to most memory foam, spring, or hybrid mattresses.

Works universally with latex, memory foam, and spring mattresses.

Works universally with latex, memory foam, and spring mattresses. (Zinus Dachelle Upholstered /)

Features a solid steel framework and woven fabric upholstery for an attractive look and durable design. If you love how a headboard looks but hate the hassle of attaching it to the bedframe, your troubles are over. The Zinus Dachelle model comes ready to go with an attached tufted headboard. The upholstered design in a neutral-toned fabric will look stylish with any choice of bedding and room décor. It is crafted with both wooden slats and a steel frame, so this bed is sturdy and we mean sturdy. Dense foam padding adds comfort to the frame that supports up to 500 pounds. The frame measures 80.5 inches long by 60 inches wide and 13.7 inches high, with a headboard that’s 43 inches high. This lovely one-piece upholstered headboard and frame offers a current look in a simple solution.

Best Grill Brushes to Clean Your BBQ

Barbecued chicken can leave quite a mess on your grill. Don't forget to use a grill brush after you're done cooking.

Barbecued chicken can leave quite a mess on your grill. Don’t forget to use a grill brush after you’re done cooking. (Pixabay /)

Let’s be honest: A good grill brush can be hard to find. For one thing, it doesn’t take long for many models to become as gunked up as what they were cleaning, requiring you to scrub and de-grease them before you can use them to clean your grill. For another, lesser-built models shed their bristles after sometimes only a few uses. We’ve assembled a few grill brushes that will handle the job and do it well.

Use the scraper to take off any heavy residue like flakes of meat, then dip the sponge in water and scrub the hot griddle with it.

Use the scraper to take off any heavy residue like flakes of meat, then dip the sponge in water and scrub the hot griddle with it. (Grill Rescue BBQ /)

There has been considerable concern about aging grill brushes leaving pieces on your cooking space. The Grill Rescue Brush seeks to address that concern with a synthetic, heat-resistant brush that uses water and the heat of your grill to clean without leaving anything behind. And instead of destroying your sponge or fingers trying to clean the wire brush that cleaned your grill, these brushes can simply be run through the dishwasher after their work is done.

Safe for all types of surfaces – porcelain, stainless steel, cast iron, and more.

Safe for all types of surfaces – porcelain, stainless steel, cast iron, and more. (Grill Brush and Scraper /)

With 6.7 inches of contact space, this stainless steel brush rips through the gunk on your grill with little effort, five times faster than other models according to the manufacturer. It’s easy to understand why. The 18-inch handle, a surface area with roughly three times more bristles than most grill scrubbers, offers an easy experience.

The long arm means it takes less effort to get the job done.

The long arm means it takes less effort to get the job done. (Alpha Grillers Grill Brush /)

We like the soft grip and the 3-roll design of this wire. It’s longer than most, so it spares your hands the heat, and its shape allows for a better reach to those far-away places on your grill. It’s tough and can take a lot of pressure, yet the quality of the brushes prevents scratching as it cleans. That quality, and the 18-inch arm, allow for vigorous cleaning efforts without damaging your grates, regardless of their makeup.

The stainless steel scraper won’t dull when tested against stubborn grit, and the bristles will remain on the brush regardless of how much vigor the user applies.

The stainless steel scraper won’t dull when tested against stubborn grit, and the bristles will remain on the brush regardless of how much vigor the user applies. (Cuisinart Grill Cleaning Brush /)

Built with the look of its polished metal collection, the Cuisinart brush offers consistency, durability, and dependability. The 16.5-inch-long brush allows deep reaches, and the handle, which is made from smooth stainless steel, is designed at an angle that facilitates cleaning. Because of its high-quality materials, cleaning is less cumbersome as well.

What we like is the idea of getting at the grit without leaving metal bits in the wake.

What we like is the idea of getting at the grit without leaving metal bits in the wake. (Char-Broil /)

There’s a lot to like about Char-Broil’s re-imagining of the grill brush, starting with their technologically advanced nylon brushes, which are five times thicker than usual grill brushes. Did we mention they were bright red? The red, says the manufacturer, is for high visibility. Meaning if any piece does come off, you’ll know where it is and know how to remove it. The nylon, too, is kinder on porcelain and chrome, scratching less. And the bristles are angled nicely to get between grates. The head is removable to clean and replace, and this scraper does its job.

Biden’s Neighborhood Revitalization Plan Looks to Detroit for Inspiration

Contractors worked to renovate a house in Detroit’s Rehabbed and Ready program earlier this month.

Sylvia Jarrus for The Wall Street Journal

The Biden administration is looking to a small housing program in Detroit as a possible solution to a big problem: Many crumbling homes in blighted neighborhoods remain vacant because the cost of renovations exceeds the potential selling price.

The program, Rehabbed and Ready, aims to help solve the problem by covering the gap, so renovations are feasible. Seeking to break the cycle of depressed property values and urban decay, the program has renovated about 90 homes since it began in 2015 with plans for 200 more.

Rehabbed and Ready is a rough model for a Biden administration proposal to renovate 500,000 dwellings in a decade by offering $20 billion in tax credits to developers. The plan, aimed at easing the nationwide shortage of affordable single-family homes, is part of President Biden’s broader $1.7 trillion infrastructure proposal.

“It’s a similar approach to a problem that is particularly acute in Detroit but you can actually see it in almost every geography,” said Julia Gordon, an advocate of the Biden plan who is president of the National Community Stabilization Trust, a nonprofit that focuses on neighborhood revitalization.

Much of the Biden administration’s agenda—from two years of tuition-free community college to subsidized day care—faces opposition from Republicans in Congress. But the tax-credit initiative has broad bipartisan support. It started as a stand-alone bill now backed by five Republicans and five Democrats in the Senate, and 11 Democratic and six Republican co-sponsors in the House.

Homes in Detroit to be rehabbed
Detroit’s Rehabbed and Ready program has renovated about 90 homes since it began in 2015, with plans for 200 more.

Sylvia Jarrus for The Wall Street Journal

The problem for many Republican supporters is that the measure has been folded into Mr. Biden’s infrastructure plan, which Republicans say is too broad and shouldn’t be financed with corporate tax increases, as the president proposes.

“I don’t like that it’s been thrown into something much bigger, much more invasive when it comes to taxpayers,” said Rep. Mike Kelly (R., Pa.), who backed the stand-alone version of the tax-credit bill.

“It’s not partisan at all,” said Sen. Ben Cardin (D., Md.), one of the bill’s main authors in the Senate. “It’s mainly for older communities, where you have housing that needs some help, to be attractive and safe and affordable.”

Rising housing prices nationwide are providing a boost to some stagnant neighborhoods in rust-belt cities that have suffered from a lack of investment. But in many areas, the low potential resale value remains a barrier to renovating homes.

“If you can’t sell the home at a price big enough to cover the cost of development, then you can’t develop it in the first place,” said Buzz Roberts, president of the National Association of Affordable Housing Lenders. “It’s a chicken-and-egg problem.”

Proponents say the home rehabilitation initiative would represent the only federal program on a national scale aimed specifically at boosting the supply of single-family homes. New-home construction hasn’t kept up with demand in recent years, as builders took years to recover from the financial crisis and faced shortages of land and skilled labor. Lumber costs have shot up, too.

Debra Tarver has lived in the Grandmont section of Detroit for 21 years and was happy to see the house next door under renovation. She said the home has been vacant for five or six years, and her husband, Oliver, kept the lawn trimmed so the property looked occupied and wouldn’t attract vandals.

Debra Tarver has lived in the Grandmont section of Detroit for 21 years and was happy to see the house next door under renovation through the city's Rehabbed and Ready program.
Debra Tarver has lived in the Grandmont section of Detroit for 21 years and was happy to see the house next door under renovation through the city’s Rehabbed and Ready program.

Sylvia Jarrus for The Wall Street Journal

“When the builders came, they couldn’t believe the grass was short,” she said.

The house is among those being renovated by Rehabbed and Ready. Run by the Detroit Land Bank Authority, a public repository of vacant properties, the program renovates and then sells blighted properties. The Rocket Community Fund, the philanthropic arm of Rocket Cos., covers costs of the program and any losses on sales of homes. Rocket is the parent of Rocket Mortgage, the largest U.S. mortgage lender.

Sales through the program chip away at blight while also helping stabilize the values for surrounding homes, said Laura Grannemann, vice president of the Rocket Community Fund. The sales of renovated homes help build comparable sale prices in the neighborhood, which in turn make additional private investment more economically viable.

Sarah Vollmers bought a home through Rehabbed and Ready in November 2019. She paid $95,000 for the three-bedroom house in Detroit’s Crary-St. Mary’s neighborhood, less than a 10-minute drive from the charter school where she teaches kindergarten.

“I wanted to live in the area where my kids live,” said Ms. Vollmers, 31 years old.

Rather than rely on philanthropic support, the White House plan would create a federal tax credit to cover the gap between construction costs and sales prices. Credits would be available to developers after they sell renovated or newly built homes in neighborhoods with high poverty rates, low median family incomes and low home values. Home sales prices would be limited to a maximum of four times the area’s median annual income, among other restrictions.

Brett Theodos, a senior fellow at the Urban Institute, said the proposal has potential to significantly reduce the country’s deficit of low- and moderately-priced homes. Data and analytics firm CoreLogic Inc. puts that deficit at about 1.1 million units.

“We don’t actually do much in this country to help people buy their first home,” Mr. Theodos said.

While some existing programs such as Community Development Block Grants help fund affordable homeownership, just $374 million, or 11%, of such grants were used for single-family rehabilitation in the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, according to the Department of Housing and Urban Development. That is much less than the $2 billion envisioned annually for a decade through the creation of the new tax-credit.

Another existing program, Low-Income Housing Tax Credits, provides incentives for the construction of affordable rental housing, not homeownership. A creation of the 1986 tax law during the Reagan administration, the $12 billion program helped finance about 132,000 units in 2019, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation.

Now, the fate of Mr. Biden’s home-rehabilitation initiative may depend on the president’s ability to strike a compromise with congressional Republicans on his infrastructure plan—or to pass it without Republican support through a budget process known as reconciliation. If all else fails, some supporters say they hope the bipartisan tax-credit idea can pass on its own.

The post Biden’s Neighborhood Revitalization Plan Looks to Detroit for Inspiration appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

Don’t Believe the Headlines: Most Pandemic Buyers Happy With Their New Homes

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The news seems to be filled these days with tearful tales of folks who bought homes for well over the asking price—some sight unseen—during the coronavirus pandemic. They lament that they bought these properties at the height of the real estate market, often spending more than they planned, and didn’t have the time to conduct more thorough inspections or determine whether the location was right for them.

Now a reality check: Most folks who closed on new properties aren’t suffering from buyer’s remorse, according to a recent Realtor.com® survey.  Not even close. Almost three-quarters of folks who bought homes in the time of COVID-19 are happy with their purchases, the findings showed. About 1,000 people who purchased homes within the past 12 months participated in the survey, which was conducted between March 26 and April 7.

In fact, about 71% of those surveyed say buying was a good decision, while 75% say their new home is a good fit for their families. In fact, many wish they had taken the plunge and moved sooner, before the number of homes for sale shriveled up just as waves of buyers flooded the market.

“Given the challenges of the year, it is surprising how many recent homeowners are happy with their purchase,” says Realtor.com Senior Economist George Ratiu. “We’ve had a very competitive housing market this year, characterized by very few homes for sale, steeply rising prices, and bidding wars. So it’s good to hear that the majority of buyers feel good about their decision to buy a home this year.”

The pandemic, coupled with record-low mortgage interest rates, lured more buyers to the market. Many were stuck inside obsessing about every flaw in their abodes or yearning for more space in a new place. Unfortunately at the same time, many sellers took their properties off the market because they were fearful of contracting the virus from buyers touring their homes.

This led to inventory drying up, homes selling in hours, in some cases, and a rash of bidding wars and offers over asking price. Yet despite the challenges, more than half of successful home buyers, 55%, found a property that gave them what they wanted to work or school from home.

About three-quarters of these homeowners had planned to buy before the pandemic. Just a quarter bought in response to COVID-19. And almost half, 48%, say they didn’t feel rushed or pressured into a sale.

Meanwhile, only 19% wish they had waited to buy and less than a third would have spent more time looking if they could do it all over again.

However, they may have overpaid, as median home list prices hit a record high of $375,000 nationally—not including offers over asking, which has become standard in many markets. Only 61% say they spent at or under their original budget, which means quite a few homeowners went over.

“For quite a few people, they really had to stretch their budgets,” says Ratiu. “For many recent homeowners, at the end of the month they may not have as much disposable income as they expected.”

The post Don’t Believe the Headlines: Most Pandemic Buyers Happy With Their New Homes appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

Our Favorite Wood Stains

Wood stains come in far more colors than brown. Be adventurous.

Wood stains come in far more colors than brown. Be adventurous. (Pixabay/)

There is nothing quite like the rich slub and texture of natural wood grains. The classic look of natural wood makes a piece of furniture stand out or elevates an entire set of cabinets. While wood grains are artistic and beautiful, they’re also fragile and easily damaged. Enter the work of wood stains.

Instead of covering your wood furnishings, fencing, or deck with ordinary paint, try staining it instead with one of these products to preserve its integrity as well as its natural aesthetic.

No primer is necessary, just apply and let it dry. It can be applied with a sprayer, roller, or brush, and requires no back brushing.

No primer is necessary, just apply and let it dry. It can be applied with a sprayer, roller, or brush, and requires no back brushing. (Ready Seal 515 /)

This stain and sealer provides the ultimate in convenience and beauty. It doesn’t leave runs, laps, or streaks, so you don’t have to be a professional to apply it. You’ll see the truest color in about 14 days. Works best when two coats are applied at least 45 minutes apart, and will fully dry in 48-72 hours. This easy application stain and sealer is available in a variety of shades.

The proprietary formula makes it easy to apply for a smooth and consistent finish, even on tricky vertical surfaces.

The proprietary formula makes it easy to apply for a smooth and consistent finish, even on tricky vertical surfaces. (Minwax 66010000 /)

Minwax Gel Stain is a smart buy for wood, plywood, and even for other surfaces such as fiberglass and metal. Minwax is specifically designed to give you full control over the staining process to achieve the stunning finish you desire. It comes in chestnut but is also available in a number of other choices to blend naturally into your space.

Advanced molecular bonding provides a beautiful finish to protect your wood from water, heat, and daily wear with just one application.

Advanced molecular bonding provides a beautiful finish to protect your wood from water, heat, and daily wear with just one application. (Rubio Monocoat /)

This is a hard wax oil wood protector engineered to be effective with one layer of coating. This is a nice feature because it saves on both product and labor. It’s made with linseed oil to achieve a natural finish. The stain is fast curing and is 80 percent achieved in just 2 days. This product doesn’t contain any solvents, and with 55 shades to offer, you’ll want to find more projects around the house and yard to stain.

It’s easy to use and available in 26 trending colors.

It’s easy to use and available in 26 trending colors. (Varathane 269400 /)

Perfect for smaller, interior projects, Varathane dries in just one hour. Your wood furniture, doors, trim, paneling, cabinets, and more, will stand out as the Varathane stain enriches and highlights the natural beauty of the wood grain. It’s made to penetrate deeply to seal wood pores while it stains. Use it to bring out the beauty of an old wardrobe or a great antique find.

It can also be effectively applied with just one coat, without raising the grain on the wood or leaving overlapping marks.

It can also be effectively applied with just one coat, without raising the grain on the wood or leaving overlapping marks. (SamaN TEW-212-12 /)

SamaN water-based stains are a great choice for all types of interior woodwork. The water-based formula is non-flammable and odorless and perfectly stabilized. While it’s available in a variety of colors, it’s similar to watercolor paints in that it can be blended with other colors to create an infinite variety of looks. Water-based stains maintain color quality longer and dry more quickly than their oil-based counterparts. The water-based stain is also considered more environmentally friendly and cleans easily with soap and water.