App of the Month: Disaster Preparedness Made Easy with MyHome Scr.App.Book


screenshots of MyHome Scr.App.Book

MyHome Scr.App.Book is an app that aims to make home inventories a fast and simple process for homeowners.

By Patricia L. Garcia

No one likes to think of the unthinkable happening, but when disaster strikes, it’s important to be prepared. Losing one’s home to any kind of disaster is devastating enough without having to worry about replacing everything.

Our App of the Month makes disaster preparedness easy, so you can focus on other things, like safety. Created by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, MyHome Scr.App.Book is a simple way to create an inventory of your personal property before a disaster hits. Think of this as a handy way to prove to your insurance company that you owned an item.

To get started, first create a list of the rooms in your home. The app comes preloaded with rooms found in most homes, like kitchen, dining room, bedroom and family room. You can add those rooms that are not included or delete any that don’t apply.

From there, you can easily add items to your inventory and include photos taken with a smartphone or tablet. When you list an item, you are given the option to categorize the item, include a purchase date, serial number and the item’s brand to make it easy to refer to should you need to file an insurance claim.

Once you’ve gone through all of the rooms in your home, you can export a report to yourself via email. And, if you have any questions about how much homeowners’ insurance coverage you should have or the types of coverages typically available to homeowners, there’s a “Helpful Tips” link.

The free app is available on the Apple iTunes store and the Google Play Store.

Patricia L. Garcia is content manager for NewHomeSource, where you can search for and get information on new homes and new construction communities. You can find her on Google+.

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Easy Ways to Clean Your New Home Naturally

cleaning collage

Maintaining your new home means keeping it clean. By using natural cleaning products -- like lemon juice, baking soda, vinegar and salt -- you can eliminate the use of harsh cleaning chemicals.

By Patricia L. Garcia

Now that you’ve moved into your new home, you want to maintain it so that even a few years down the road, it will feel like you just moved in.

One way to that is to clean your home sans harsh chemicals. In honor of Earth Day (that’s April 22), we’d like to share easy ways to clean your home naturally — and the best part is you probably already have some of these ingredients around your home. Here are just a few ways to make use of The Big Four — baking soda, white vinegar, lemon juice and salt — plus one more, to clean your new home naturally:

Baking Soda

Baking soda has a variety of uses aside from baking, from deodorizing to fighting grease on dirty pots and pans. This handy cleaning ingredient is both natural and cost effective. For even greater cleaning power, add hot liquids to the mix. “When you add a little heat to baking soda, you activate its power,” says Leslie Reichert, a nationally recognized green homekeeping expert. “Its chemical properties make it great for lifting dirt off a surface, so all you need to do it wipe it away.”

You’re probably familiar with the notion of putting baking soda in the refrigerator to prevent smells and the same holds true for any area of the home. One well-known way to use baking soda is to fill a small dish with baking soda and place in rooms where bad odors can be found, err, smelled. You can also sprinkle baking soda onto carpets, sofas or pet beds to help freshen them up — let it stand for 15 minutes (longer for tough odors) and then vacuum. You can also mix baking soda with water to make a paste that can be used to clean grout, polish silverware or remove crayon stains from a wall.

White Vinegar

Vinegar is not only great for dyeing Easter eggs; it’s also a great household cleaner. “Vinegar is a natural acid,” says Reichert. “It works to remove dirt and stains.” Its acidic properties can be effective in killing many types of bacteria, mold and viruses.

White vinegar can also be used as a fabric softener (don’t worry, your clothes won’t smell like vinegar). Reichert suggests combining vinegar with baking soda to create a solution that will help remove buildup from surfaces. If you have a smelly garbage disposal, drop some vinegar into your drain to help deodorize it. To disinfect eating surfaces such as counters and tables, spritz some vinegar on those surfaces and wipe clean.

Lemon Juice

“Lemon juice is a bleach that you can use to remove stains on countertops, sinks and even laundry,” Reichert says. Pour some lemon juice in your laundry to brighten whites (but don’t use it on silks and delicate fabrics). Much as vinegar can be used to deodorize garbage disposals, so can lemons: drop half a lemon down the disposal and turn it on. You’ll get a delightful lemon scent in no time at all.

Reichert says you can use lemon juice to polish copper: place some lemon juice and table salt into a small container. Use a cloth to wipe a tarnished copper item with the solution — you’re copper item will look like new. You can also use the same solution to spruce up chrome faucets and fixtures.

For minor clogs, pour baking soda down the drain, then add some lemon juice. The foaming reaction should help clear the drain.


This flavorful substance is a natural scrub, making it a great choice for those cleaning moments when you need some scrubbing power. “You can use different salts for different dirt,” Reichert says. (She says her house has “big” dirt, so she uses a lot of sea salt.)

Salt is also a great absorber and can be used to remove buildup from a surface (just mix with water to form a paste). To help make cleanup easier, sprinkle regular table salt onto gunky pots and pans immediately after cooking. The salt with make it easier to clean it off. For cast iron pots and pans, simply heat some oil (not too hot!) and then add in a few teaspoons of course salt. The paste will clean the cookware; simply rinse with water and dry.

And for a mixture that’s hard to beat, combine salt with baking soda as natural toilet bowl cleaner.


It’s not quite as “green” as the other items on this list, but borax can help boost the power of the Big Four. “If you’re having trouble getting something clean with the other ingredients above, just add some borax,” Reichert says.

By adding just a tablespoon of borax to your laundry detergent, you could cut down on it by 50 percent, Reichert says. But, if you use it to clean eating or food prep surfaces, be sure to rinse them well.

As more people begin to look toward healthier ways of living that include more sustainable practices, a more natural lifestyle is moving higher on people’s lists. While this article (and the ideas) is in no way exhaustive, it does provide alternatives to many commercial cleaning products that you may be moving away from. By using natural cleaning products, you can maintain your new home healthfully and naturally.

Patricia L. Garcia is content manager for NewHomeSource, where you can search for and get information on new homes and new construction communities. You can find her on Google+.

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Keeping Pests Out of Your New Home

national pest management month

Mulch is great, except when it invites pests to your yard. April is National Pests Management Month, so here are tips to keeping your new home pest-free.

By Patricia L. Garcia

Moving into a newly built home means you can breathe easy knowing maintenance will be minimal. Regardless if your home is new or a resale, you must stay vigilant to ensure that pests are not welcome in your house.

Because spring has sprung — and so have baby pests everywhere — April is the ideal time to concentrate on keeping pests out of your new home. The Professional Pest Management Alliance, the consumer arm of the National Pest Management Association (NPMA), celebrates National Pest Management Month in April to remind homeowners to stay vigilant in their battle against bugs, rodents and other pests. “It’s a good time to focus that, because April is a peak month when you’ll start seeing more pests,” says Missy Henriksen, vice president of Public Affairs for the NPMA.

Because pests can cause damage to your new home and carry diseases, you should stay vigilant about keeping them at bay. When you move into a new home, you get a fresh start, so it’s important to properly maintain your home from the beginning. “Setting up good basic practices and making sure there are good sanitation practices from the moment you move in will go a long way in preventing pests,” Henriksen says. “You want to make sure you’re taking precautionary steps. You want to roll out the welcome mat to your family and friends, but not to pests.”

The Great Outdoors

When trying to prevent what’s outside from getting into your home, it’s important to first take a look outside: Is your yard flashing an invitation to pests that there’s food, water and shelter for them?

One place to start is your landscaping. Using mulch to help protect plants is a good system to use, but the right mulch is important. Some mulches can provide food and shelter for some pests, while others, such as mulches made from tea tree, will kill certain types of termites. Because mulch helps keep a moist environment for plants, you may want to use mulch sparingly if ticks are common in your area (the moisture attracts them). Speak with someone at your local nursery to determine which mulch works best for your area.

If you store firewood on your property, place it at least 18 feet from your home to help prevent rodents and termites from coming close.

Look Up

Once you’ve checked your landscaping, look to your roof. Regularly check under eaves for any bee, hornet or wasp nests. To help remove water sources, be sure to regularly clean out gutters and make sure that all of your home’s downspouts direct water away from your home and that water doesn’t pool up, Henriksen says.

Pest Buffet

If you have pets, be sure to store their food inside and that it is covered, since that could attract pests large and small, and change out the water in bird baths at least once a week. When determining where to store your trash, try to find a spot that’s as far away from your home as possible, Henriksen says. If you do have pests in your home or yard, contact a pest management professional who can help you take the right approach. If you take a DIY approach, be sure to follow the directions given.

Ensuring that your home is free of pests requires a common-sense approach. Developing a pest management plan from the beginning is good way to ensure that your new home and yard will be pest-free for many years to come.

Patricia L. Garcia is content manager for NewHomeSource, where you can search for and get information on new homes and new construction communities. You can find her on Google+.

Posted in Landscaping | Leave a comment

Is Townhome Living for You?


townhome living

The Residence Two Plan by Centex Homes showcases why townhome living may be just what you've been searching for in a new home.

By Patricia L. Garcia

The Home of the Week: Residence Two Plan by Centex Homes at The Parks at Laurel Oaks in Hillsboro, Ore.

The stats:

  • 3 bedrooms/2.5 baths
  • 2-car garage
  • 1,854 sq. ft.
  • 3-story home

So, you want a home of your own, but aren’t excited about maintaining a huge yard? Then townhome living may be just what you’re after. The Residence Two Plan by Centex Homes at The Parks at Laurel Oaks in Hillsboro, Ore., is a good example of how townhomes can provide spacious home plans, without yard maintenance.

The three-bedroom home includes two-and-a-half bathrooms in an efficient design. The first floor includes access to the two-bay garage and a flex space that can be used as a home office – ideal for those with a flexible work schedules or who work from home. On the second floor of the home, you’ll find the home’s great room, where an open floor plan includes the kitchen, breakfast nook and living room. Homeowners can access a second-floor patio deck from sliding doors off the dining area. And, the third floor is home to the owner’s suite, as well as the other two bedrooms, providing plenty of space and privacy.

The spacious layout is just the beginning for homeowners – a homeowners association maintains the home’s front yard, meaning minimal upkeep and lots of quality time to enjoy family and friends in your home.

What are the most appealing features of a townhome that you like most? Leave a comment telling us your must-have features in a townhome and why a townhome best suits your lifestyle.

To tour the rest of this home, visit

Patricia Garcia is content manager for NewHomeSource, where you can search for and get information on new homes and new construction communities. You can find her on Google+.

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The Top 50 Destination Cities in the United States

Houston destination city

For the fifth year in a row, Houston has been named the top destination city in the United States in U-Haul's Top 50 U.S. Destination Cities Report.

By Patricia L. Garcia

Americans are on the move — 35.9 million of them between 2012 and 2013, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

But, which were the 50 top destination cities in the United States that all of these folks are moving to? U-Haul has the answer. Combing through nationwide stats for 2013, the moving equipment and storage rental company recently released its 2013 Top 50 U.S. Destination Cities Report, based on more than 1.7 million one-way truck transactions occurring during a recent 12-month period.

Here’s why Americans flocked to the Top 10 destination cities:

1. Houston

As “The Big Bang Theory” star Jim Parsons mentions in a promo for his hometown, Houston is a museum hub (he says he saw more art in Houston than he ever did living in New York City), among other things. The cultural hotspot is the fourth-largest city in the country and is known for its energy, biomedical research, and aeronautical industries. This Texas city includes professional sports teams and plenty of upscale eateries.

2. Orlando

Orlando’s tourism is alive and strong — its many theme parks are the reason it’s known as the “Theme Park Capital of the World.” But there’s more to Orlando than mouse ears and roller coaster rides: an emerging tech industry makes it a great place for those looking for good jobs, while its many attractions make for good entertainment.

3. Las Vegas

Sin City is not all about excess. A low cost of living makes this casino-rich city attractive to out-of-towners. It’s got casinos and night clubs galore, but it also has world-class cuisine, a top-notch zoo for nature lovers and more golf courses than you can imagine. And with Zappos being headquartered here, the chances of Vegas being a tech hub (jobs!) have increased.

4. Chicago

The Windy City boasts entertainment — live music, Second City shows, museums and architecture, professional sports — as well as a lively economic culture. The international finance, commerce and transportation fields provide stable jobs for residents while its low cost of living make it affordable for transplants. The culturally diverse city also means lots of great food options.

5. San Antonio

The River Walk, theme parks and Mexican food (and the Alamo, remember the Alamo!) are enough to make anyone want to move to this historic city. The seventh largest in the country, San Antonio provides plenty of entertainment for families, young adults and older adults, alike. Historic missions, the first modern art museum in Texas and moderate weather are just a few reasons that Americans moved here. Other attractions include a the longest bar in the state, a delightful zoo, SeaWorld and Market Square, where you can delight in Mexican imports.

6. Austin, Texas

It’s said that 110 people move into the Live Music Capital of the World daily. Folks are flocking to this Central Texas city for its abundance of entertainment, its laid-back attitude and its plethora of jobs. The Texas capital is a mix of politicians, college students and young professionals (and hipsters) who appreciate the outdoors, a lively entertainment scene and paying zero dollars in state income taxes. A business-friendly atmosphere attracts many types of industries, especially the tech industry, making for a healthy economic situation. The Texas Capitol is quite the stunner, too, as is the barbecue.

7. Brooklyn, N.Y.

Have you heard? Brooklyn is the coolest borough of New York. Why? It’s close enough to Manhattan if you crave the theater, music and other attractions that The Big Apple has to offer, but still is far away enough to give folks the life that New York City just can’t offer: neighborhoods and parks with yards and views of the sky — not skyscrapers — a thriving nightlife and a hyper-local lifestyle. Here, hip young adults mingle with those who’ve been in the area for generations, businesspeople and college kids.

8. Philadelphia

The City of Brotherly Love is experiencing a cultural renaissance. While history shines in Philly, an emerging downtown arts scene and culinary scene (don’t think the cheesesteak will be abandoned, though!), coupled with affordable housing makes the area a destination for young adults and families. Residents enjoy the opportunity to live the urban lifestyle — downtown living, walkability and entertainment — at a fraction of what it costs in other cities.

9. Columbus, Ohio

Looking for some culture? The 15th largest city in the country has it in spades and the Wexler Center for the Arts is just the place to get your contemporary art fix. The business climate is friendly and the cost of living is affordable. Columbus is also a progressive city where biking is encouraged and being green is a normal part of life. And, for those who value a great discussion about, well, anything, you’ll likely find someone to converse with — The Intelligent Communities Forum named Columbus one of the seven most intelligent cities in the world.

10. Kansas City, Mo.

How cool is it that this city is, well, kind of like two cities? In case you were wondering, located on the Missouri-Kansas border, Kansas City, Mo., lies east of the Missouri River (Kansas City, Kansas, is west). Kansas City is known for its jazz and blues scene, barbecue and lively downtown. There you’ll find lots of fountains, museums and high-end shopping. Consider it an alternative to Brooklyn.

Below is the full list of destination cities. Do you live in one of these popular cities? Leave a comment on why you believe your city is great.

1. HOUSTON 26. PLANO, Texas
10. KANSAS CITY, Mo. 35. DENVER, Colo.
13. SACRAMENTO, Calif. 38. SAN JOSE, Calif.
16. TAMPA, Fla. 41. MIAMI, Fla.
20. TUCSON, Ariz. 45. KNOXVILLE, Tenn.
21. BRONX, N.Y. 46. MADISON, Wis
23. ST. LOUIS 48. RENO, Nev.
25. FORT WORTH, Texas 50. SPOKANE, Wash.


Patricia Garcia is content manager for NewHomeSource, where you can search for and get information on new homes and new construction communities. You can find her on Google+.

Posted in Buying a New Home, Opinion | Leave a comment

What’s Hot in Kitchens

Mick De Giulio showcase kitchen

Bosch, Ceasarstone and Thermador showcased their products and the latest kitchen trends at February's Kitchen and Bath Industry Show in this show kitchen designed by Mick De Giulio.

By Camilla McLaughlin

This year’s trend in kitchens is about making a personal statement while going for a timeless look. That was what could be found at the many displays at February’s Kitchen & Bath Industry Show (KBIS) in Las Vegas. The best place catch up on what’s hot in kitchens was in any one of the demonstration kitchens created, often by the biggest names in the industry, just for the show.

This was the first year that KBIS and the homebuilders combined their shows into a three-day extravaganza. Bosch, Ceasarstone and Thermador wanted to do something special by creating a single venue to showcase their products and the latest trends. Legendary kitchen designer Mick De Giulio was tabbed for the job. “I wanted to create a setting that felt friendly and residential — where practical relatable design concepts would be presented in an open and comfortable environment,” he explained. The space housed several different concept kitchens as well as a larger demonstration kitchen. A soft grey wood floor flowed throughout underscoring the prevalence of grey in color schemes today even in kitchens. Grey seemed to be everywhere on the show floor, often showing up as an undertone in other colors.

Still, white continues to be a top pick for cabinets. A De Giulio kitchen for Thermador, designed for a smaller kitchen footprint, included streamlined SieMatic cabinets in a rich white finish and a gorgeous Kallista hammered steel sink. The overall look was definitely transitional, which continues to be the preferred style for homeowners today, just edging out contemporary in an industry survey of designers.

Many of the kitchens showcased at KBIS were more transitional than contemporary, but there were plenty of sleek contemporary designs, often mixing wood with sleek glossy materials such as quartz that wrapped around islands and cabinets. Popular words include cherry, maple and alder. Walnut is expected to grow in popularity.  Contemporary is coming on strong as a preferred style — 62 percent of designer say it’s on the upswing.  Tuscan and Provincial looks were noticeably absent.

Eco-design and lifestyle expert Danny Seo designed two concept kitchens for Wilsonart, a manufacturer of laminate surfaces. For Millennials, laminate is a new material and one look at Seo’s kitchens makes it clear that this is a far cry from the laminate you might remember from your grandmother’s house.  In his Modern Luxe Kitchen, Seo married two stone-inspired laminates, Calacatta Marble and Soapstone, in a bold herringbone pattern to create a dramatic backspace that complemented a gold-toned vent hood.  A Maple laminate was a warm backdrop for rustic modern country kitchen, which also included textured barn woods on the cabinetry.

Seo’s designs also show the trend toward metallics and pops of almost jewel tones. Bronze and warmer metals are finding their way into contemporary interiors overall.  At the show, copper in sinks and cabinet hardware was very much in evidence.  “Copper, along with its chromatic cousins — brass, bronze and gold — brings a sense of warmth to the home. I love copper because it’s elemental,” says New York interior designer Eric Cohler.  Copper often combines a range of metal finishes, although most homeowners opt for a coordinated look for kitchen hardware. Cohler proposed a modified mixing of hardware “as long as you’re consistent — for instance, all the wall cupboards are fitted with brass, and all the base cabinets and drawers have copper hardware — this approach will work.”

Even neutral color schemes are likely to have an interesting pop, as did the Ultimate Kitchen conceived by Wendy Johnson, who designed the association’s “best kitchen” in 2013.  A green glass addition, by Think Glass, at the end of an island accommodated bar height seating. Lit from underneath with LEDs, it injected a dash of color and eclectic feeling to the kitchen.

Another dynamic kitchen was found in the New American Home, which featured two islands, another growing trend especially in high end homes. The second island visually divided the kitchen from the great room. Unusually wide, it also provided a great deal of space for dining, homework or almost any need a family might have.

For consumers, having what’s most popular now in their kitchens is not always a positive. Designers say the one feature homeowners want is customization. On the other hand, they also do not want to be “too trendy.” Brenda Bryan, executive director of the Research Institute for Cooking and Kitchen Intelligence (RICKI) explains, “Customers want something unique, that is personal to them, but they also worry about going too far.”

Camilla McLaughlin is a freelance writer who specializes in real estate, house and home and luxury homes. She is a regular contributor to NewHomeSource, where you can search for and get information on new homes and new construction communities.

Posted in Buying a New Home | 2 Comments

How to Live the Indoor-Outdoor Life with Brookfield Residential SoCal

Residence 3 Plan by Brookfield Residential SoCal

The Residence 3 Plan by Brookfield Residential SoCal brings the outdoors in with a bi-fold door in the dining room that leads to a patio. Palo Verde at The Foothills, Carlsbad, Calif.

By Patricia L. Garcia

The Home of the Week: Residence 3 Plan by Brookfield Residential SoCal at Palo Verde at The Foothills, Carlsbad, Calif.

The Stats:

  • 4 bedrooms/4.5 baths
  • 2-car garage
  • 3,416 sq. ft.
  • 2-story home

It’s warming up and what better way to enjoy your new home than by bringing the outdoors in? In the Residence 3 Plan by Brookfield Residential SoCal, doing that is a snap with an optional bi-fold door in the dining room. The door opens up onto an outdoor patio, expanding the home’s space. Vallery DeVilbiss, sales representative for the company’s Palo Verde division, says that while the bi-fold door is an option, many buyers choose this option because of the importance of outdoor living in California.

Other highlights of home include four-bedrooms and 4.5 baths, with a master bedroom that includes a separate shower and soaking tub as well as a separate vanity area with two sinks.

How important are outdoor spaces in your new home search? Leave a comment telling us what is your can’t-do-without outdoor feature and why. And, to tour the rest of this home, visit

Patricia Garcia is content manager for NewHomeSource, where you can search for and get information on new homes and new construction communities. You can find her on Google+.

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