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5 Things I Wish I’d Known Before I Bought a House

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Looking to buy a house? Here’s a stat that could give even the most determined shopper cold feet: 80 percent of homebuyers have at least one major regret about their purchase, according to a survey by mortgage hub HSH.com. And a survey by real estate site Redfin found that one in four homeowners wish they’d never bought their home at all.

So what can you do to avoid buyer’s remorse—or getting so overwhelmed by the process you stick to rentals 'til retirement? Here, homeowners share five woulda-shoulda-coulda insights. They might not guarantee happy home hunting, but they’re a good place to start.

1. YOU DON'T HAVE TO GO IT ALONE.  

“Buying a house can be overwhelming, but it’s totally worth it! Spend the time to find a good mortgage lender, because that person will help work the system to benefit you and your family. We’re on purchase number three now, and our new lender was amazing—knowing our upper limits and the best way to get us into the house we wanted and can afford.” Haiyen Chin Sawyers, Los Angeles, California

2. THE PAPERWORK IS LIKE WHOA.  

“We just bought our first home, and I wish we’d known how much time and effort it would take to deal with all of the paperwork and running around to get random pieces of information for our loan. It’s so time consuming. If you can, start gathering your big financial documents early, like tax info for past years, bank statements, rental history, and leases and payment info. My husband’s a chef in a seasonal town, so luckily we did this during a slower part of the year for him. But if we’d been crazy busy, it would have been super hard to deal with all of the unexpected paperwork.” Alexa Doebler, Holland, Michigan

3. YOU MIGHT NOT BE ABLE TO AFFORD WHAT THE BANK SAYS YOU CAN AFFORD.

“We were approved for so much more than we could realistically swing. We ended up buying for about $60,000 less than what we were approved for, thinking we were being smart and safe. But after we put in the offer, we ran the numbers to double check and discovered we would barely make it. We were in full panic mode, and ended up renting out the in-law apartment in our basement for three years because we could barely make our mortgage.” Diane Worobec-Serratos, Chicago, Illinois

4. MAINTENANCE WILL ALWAYS COST MORE THAN YOU THINK.

“Many first-time homeowners overlook things that are taken care of when you rent. Evaluate the yard and how you want to spend your weekends: Do you like spending time cutting grass and pulling weeds? If not, can you afford a lawn service? When it comes to repair, plan for maintenance funds—then double it, depending on the age and condition of the home. And expect that some costs, like property taxes, will go up forever.” Jenna Swiecki, San Diego, California

5. GETTING SETTLED ISN'T A SPRINT. 

“The best piece of advice I got when moving from a small city apartment to a five-bedroom home: Don’t furnish it all at once. I’m so glad I listened and resisted the urge to buy stuff quickly. What I liked when we first moved has already changed, and taking our time has allowed us to be more mindful about what we buy for each room. If I’d furnished and decorated our home in a rush, I’d probably want to do a full home makeover already.” Amanda Lynn, Omaha, Nebraska

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Don't Pour Alcohol on Your Bed Bugs—Try These Tips Instead
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Getting bed bugs is a nightmare experience, one that’s sure to cost you oodles of time, money, and emotional distress. The bugs are painfully hard to purge from your household, and it’s getting even harder as they become more resistant to common insecticides. Unfortunately, home remedies are often no match for these parasitic insects. Dousing them with rubbing alcohol (a tip you'll often hear) won’t kill them; in fact, it might just burn your house down, as a woman trying to rid her Cincinnati apartment of bed bugs found out recently. As The Washington Post reported, the alcohol in that case was too close to the flame of a candle or some type of incense, and ignited. It wasn't an isolated incident.

In the last 10 years or so, people trying to kill bed bugs with alcohol have started several house fires across the U.S., including a different incident in Cincinnati just two weeks ago. So short of burning down your entire house and starting over, how do you get rid of them?

The short answer is: Give up on the idea of saving money and call an exterminator. According to 2014 research, plenty of DIY bed bug-killing remedies are woefully ineffective. Rubbing alcohol, in fact, only killed half of the insects sprayed by the Rutgers University researchers in that study. Researchers have found that other recommended home remedies, like moth balls, foggers, or ultrasonic bug repellers, are even less effective. And don’t even think about using “natural” type products that use essential oils as the main ingredient. They might smell nice, but they won’t help your bug problem.

But before you call in the big guns, there are a few effective, concrete steps you can take to reduce your infestation. As Rutgers bedbug specialists Changlu Wang and Richard Cooper wrote in their bed bug fact sheet, putting your belongings in plastic storage bins or garbage bags is a good place to start. Since the bugs don’t like to climb on smooth plastic, this can help contain the infestation. Just make sure to treat whatever you’re putting inside the bags or bins first by putting them through the hot laundry, steaming, heating, or freezing them.

You’ll need a mattress encasement, too. This will keep the bugs that have already infested your mattress from escaping, meaning they won’t be able to feast on you anymore and will die of starvation. Nor will any new bugs be able to get inside to nest. You’ll want to make sure it’s a scientifically tested brand, though, since not all mattress encasements are bite-proof or escape-proof for bed bugs. (Most experts recommend the Protect-a-Bed BugLock encasement, which costs about $81 for the queen-sized version.)

Next, pick up some bed bug traps. Set them up under the legs of your furniture and around the perimeter of rooms to help detect new infestations and reduce existing ones. According to Wang and Cooper, a one-bedroom apartment might need eight to 12 of these traps, while bigger apartments will require more.

You’ll want to expose all your belongings to extreme temperatures before you even think about touching them again. Putting them through the washer/dryer on its hottest setting will do the trick to kill both bugs and their eggs, but if you need to eradicate bugs lurking in items you can’t wash, you can freeze them in plastic bags (as long as your freezer gets down to 0°F). You can also kill them with a steam cleaner, especially if you need to purge them from your couch or other upholstered furniture.

If you’ve still got a large number of bugs lurking in your house, you can tackle them with a vacuum cleaner, sucking them out of seams, zippers, trim, and other furniture crevices. But you’ll want to use a stocking or some other method of protecting your vacuum from being infested itself. (See Figure 6 here.)

Some research has also found that desiccant dusts that dehydrate bugs to death, like diatomaceous earth and silica gel, can be effective at controlling bed bug infestations (silica gel in particular) when spread around the perimeters of rooms, on bed frames and couches, and on furniture legs.

As we mentioned before, you’ll probably want to consult a professional even if you do all of the above, because if you miss even one bug or egg, you'll be back to where you started. The cost of an exterminator pales in comparison to the cost of throwing out everything you own, moving homes, and then realizing you’ve brought the bed bugs with you anyway.

The bad news for anyone who’s already infested is that prevention really is key when it comes to bed bugs. So brush up on what the pests look like, make sure to check your hotel room for them when you travel, and if you spot them in your apartment, make sure to warn your neighbors.

[h/t The Washington Post]

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Want Priority Boarding On Your Alaska Airlines Flight This Holiday Season? Wear an Ugly Christmas Sweater
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Between steep fares and crowded terminals, flying during the holidays isn’t fun. But on Friday, December 15, a special Alaska Airlines promotion will ease boarding stress and transform packed planes into mile-high ugly sweater parties, in honor of National Ugly Christmas Sweater Day. As the Los Angeles Times reports, the airline will offer free early boarding to travelers willing to don their holiday worst at the airport.

The promotion is good for all Alaska Airlines flights in the airline’s 115-city network, and for flights offered by Virgin America and Horizon Air (both of which are operated by Alaska Airlines). In addition to escaping the waiting crowds, passengers who share the most festive knitted looks will be featured on Alaska Air's social media pages if they tag their photos and videos using the hashtags #UglySweaterDay and #MostWestCoast. And since no plane aisle-turned-catwalk is complete without a soundtrack, “festive holiday-themed boarding music will play all month long to help get guests into the holiday spirit,” according to a press release.

Worried you’ll be the only person on the plane wearing a sequined Rudolph cardigan? Even if other passengers don’t get the memo, airline crew will also be wearing ugly sweaters—so feel free to unleash your inner Chevy Chase from National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation.

[h/t Los Angeles Times]

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