How to Build a Garage Apartment

Garage Apartment

A garage doesn’t have to be used for cars or for storage. You can turn your garage into an apartment. Here’s how to turn your garage into an apartment.

  1. Get clearance

Before you begin any project, you have to make sure that the remodeling you’re doing is legal! Take a trip to your city hall (or wherever your local government resides) and make sure that your local government allows such building.

  1. Safety matters

Once you've cleared your project with the local government, you need to pass a building inspection to make sure that the area you are building on is safe to do so.

  1. Obtain a permit

To start building, you have to get a building permit. Although you will be working on your own house, you need to obtain a permit to use all the heavy equipment needed to complete the job.

  1. Create a floor plan

What will the space look like? Before meeting with a contractor, you want to determine how you want the layout of your garage apartment to look so they can tell you if the plan is doable. Figure out how many rooms you want, where you want the doors to go, and whether you want to create a one-floor or two-floor apartment. Part of your plan should include a framed wall that covers the existing garage door opening. The door should be fixed in a shut position and may need to be screwed in place.

  1. Utilities

For a garage apartment, you will most likely need four, if not more, electrical outlets and, if wanted, separate plumbing. Luckily, most garages already have this! Depending on your floor plan, you may just have to move around some outlets or add in plumbing. However, if you want to add a kitchenette, some major construction may be required.

  1. Prep the area

The garage will need to be completely cleaned before construction starts. If needed, install baseboards, which should be caulked to the floor and the wall with a high-grade paintable caulk.

  1. Paint

When starting a painting project, always start from the top down. Start out by painting the ceiling and then move to the walls. All painting should be done before starting to install any flooring.

  1. Flooring

Wall-to-wall carpeting is not well equipped for garage apartments because of the “leak” factor that they possess. Typically, they are floored with ceramic or vinyl tile. Before installing the flooring, clean the floor again. If there is any paint buildup from your painting, you may need to use a weak acid wash to clean off the baseboards.

  1. Lighting

In most cases, the ceiling in your garage will have an electrical receptacle. This will make it very easy to install any sort of lighting fixture.

How to Build Your Credit

Having a good credit score is essential for getting a good mortgage rate. Before purchasing a home, make sure you have started to build your credit and that it is in a good place. Here’s how to start building your credit to put you in an optimal position. 

How to start building credit 

At a minimum, you need to have at least one credit card open in your name. Then, you have to make a purchase using the card and make a payment. Once you’ve made your first payment, your creditor will submit that payment to one or more of the major credit bureaus. Typically, it will take between three to six months of activity before a credit score will be able to be calculated. 

However, you can’t stop there. Once you’ve established credit, you need to continue to build it. Credit history is based on performance. That means, the healthier your credit behavior is, the higher your credit score will be. 

What credit score do you need to get a mortgage

While building, your credit will most likely be in the 660s. This is considered to be a fair credit score, which may be enough for some lenders, but may not be enough for others. Most likely, a lender will want to see your credit score be somewhere from 700 and up. A good credit score will be any score from 700-759 and an excellent credit score will be any score 760 and higher. 

How to speed up the process

There a few ways to speed up the process of building your credit. 

  • Become an authorized user 

This means that you’re attached to another person’s credit card. This can be a parent, other relative, or friend who already has had an account and has a good credit history. You don’t need to use the account or have a card for the account. Once you’ve been added as an authorized user, there will be an immediate affect to your credit and may even be enough to generate a credit score if you don’t already have one.

  • Get a secured card 

If you’re having trouble qualifying for a traditional credit card, try applying for a secured card. A secured card is “secured” by a deposit that you set. This means that if you stop paying or default, the deposit that you set will be used to pay off the account. This lowers the risk for the lender. 

Getting Your Home Ready for Spring

10 Tips to Get Your Home Ready for Spring

With spring right around the corner, it’s time to get your house ready for the season change. Here are some things that will help you get your home ready for spring.

  1. Test smoke alarms

While this isn’t just a task for spring, it’s still important to remember to check and test your smoke alarms and CO detectors. If needed, change out the batteries. It’s quick and easy (and cheap) to do. If you don’t already have one, create a fire escape and safety plan for your family.

  1. Protect against allergens

Allergens come out in full force during the spring, so get a jump start in keeping them at bay. Declutter your home, check your pipes for leaks, and sweep up dust to keep mold, dust, and pollen away.

  1. Scrub walls, baseboards, and outlets

Winter damages your home, between the snow, rain, and melting salt. Now is the time to freshen up the walls, floors, and outlet covers to get your home shiny and clean for spring. Using a mild soap and water, scrub down the walls, baseboards, and outlet covers. Be sure that outlet covers are completely dry before replacing them.

  1. Clean faucets and showerheads

To clean faucets and showerheads, unscrew the faucet aerators, sink sprayers and showerheads. Then, let them soak in a mixture of equal parts vinegar and water solution. Let them soak for an hour before rinsing with hot water and replacing.

  1. Clean your grill

Chances are, your grill didn’t get too much use during the winter months. First things first, check the hose, specifically if you have a gas grill. Check that the hose from the propane to your burners and make sure it’s intact and clean. If there are any signs of tears, replace it! Then, use a wire brush and a damp cloth to clean off the grates. Afterward, pull out and dump the grease trap and clean it out. Finally, give it a bit of a test run before using it. Turn it on and let it burn for a few minutes. Make sure all burners are working and there are no leaks.

  1. Prep your garden

Once the snow is gone, it’s time to get your garden ready. Prune and trim any dead branches and overgrown shrubbery, obstructive plants, and weeds.

  1. Wash exterior windows

Take some Windex to your exterior windows to get them cleaned up for the spring season. If you have windows high up on your home, consider hiring a window-cleaning service to take care of the job!

  1. Repair walkways

Snow and ice can seriously damage your walkways, leading to cracks and loosened bricks and pavers. Patch any cracks you find and replace the bricks or pavers that have come loosened. If you find any stains on your walkways, rent a power washing to remove them.

  1. Clean up outdoor furniture

Your outdoor furniture has been sitting unused for a long time! Put on a fresh coat of paint and/or replace the cushions to make the furniture as good as new.

  1. Clean out gutters

If your home has trees around it, there’s a high chance that there are leaves or pine needles in your gutters. This can lead to issues with clogging when the spring rain comes, leading to the rainwater being blocked from flowing through your gutters. This clogging usually happens at the elbow of a drainage system, where the downspout connects to the gutter. But don’t worry! The elbow is easily removable. Just remove it, check and clean out the clog, and put it back.

What is the KonMari Method?

How to Organize like Marie Kondo

If you haven’t heard, there’s a new way to tidy up that’s sweeping the nation. The KonMari method, originated by Marie Kondo, is a minimalism-inspired approach to keeping a tidy home by tackling your stuff category-by-category rather than room-by-room. When following the KonMari method, there are a few basic rules for you to follow.

  1. Tidy all at once

When tidying up, we tend to go room-by-room, spanning over a long period of time. Instead, devote an entire day or weekend to tidying. Tidying only one room at a time over an extended period of time will lead to your home just getting messy again quickly.

  1. Know where you want to be

Create concrete goals instead of vague ones. Just telling yourself that you want to live in a clean home is not enough. Instead, visualize what your ideal lifestyle. (FINISH)

  1. Determine if the item “sparks joy”

Having products that you can’t stand only generates negative emotions. You don’t want to look around your house and see things that only bring negativity. While tidying, pick up each item, touch it, and ask yourself if it brings you joy. If not, set it aside to donate or get rid of. It is necessary with the KonMari method to feel each of these items and use your emotions to make the decision about whether you are going to keep the item or not.

  1. Tidy by category, not location

Not everyone keeps the same items in the same location. In fact, most people don’t! For example, you may store clothes in your closet, a dresser, and in bins under your bed. Instead of just cleaning out your closet and then moving on to other areas, take all (yes all!) of your clothing out and go through each piece to decide whether it brings joy and if you’ll still use it.

  1. Tidy in order

Marie Kondo has an ideal order in which you should tidy up. This order is:

  • Clothing
  • Books
  • Papers
  • Miscellaneous items
  • Sentimental items

This whole method is about discarding items that don’t add value to your life. The intention of the KonMari method is to end up with a clutter-free home that brings joy to your life.

How to: Organize Your Living Room

Quick Tips to Keep Your Living Room Organized

Your living room is often the first room that a guest will see and is often where guests will sit. However, as it’s often the place where most people are sitting, it’s not uncommon for it to get cluttered. Clear away the clutter with these helpful tips to keep your living room organized.

  1. Keep flat surfaces clear

Flat surfaces tend to accumulate a lot of stuff, from books, papers, magazines, and mail. To start the clean-up, move all papers into one bin, and then sort through it. What are you going to keep and what needs to be tossed? After you clean up, make a plan on where these items will go in the future so that you can avoid the mess building up again.

  1. Use baskets and furniture with hidden storage

Baskets and hidden storage furniture are great ways to organize your living room. They add to your living room décor and keep you organized at the same time! Furniture with hidden storage is a great way to keep things in your living room that would usually make the room look messy.

  1. Wrangle cords

Having several cords laying around can make your living room look messy, even when it’s clean. A cable caddy can stick onto a desk or behind a TV console. They have several spots for cables to clamp into, making the cords much more organized. You can also consider using a cable zipper, which will enclose all the cables into one tube.

  1. Small spaces and shelves

Do you have small spaces that you can’t figure out what to do with? Use the space and fill it with shelving! It makes good use of space that can’t be filled with furniture and gives you a perfect place to put random items.

  1. Nesting tables

Nesting tables work well for small spaces and work perfectly as end tables. Place the shorter table underneath the main table, then pull them out when needed.

  1. Use a wastebasket

If you notice that trash tends to accumulate in your living room, consider purchasing a wastebasket. Not many living rooms tend to have a trash can, as they’re not very attractive and can smell. However, to counteract this, consider purchasing a wastebasket that matches to décor of your living room and avoid throwing away food in the basket. If this can’t be avoided and you know you will be throwing food away in it, purchase a wastebasket with a lid and deodorizing trash bags.

Five Home Maintenance Tasks to do in January

January Home Maintenance

Every month brings new challenges you have to face in your home. Here are some things you should tackle in the month of January to keep your house in tip-top shape.

  1. Clean up the holidays

Unfortunately, January brings with it the end of the holiday season, which means it’s time to start cleaning up from the holiday season. First things first, it’s time to take down the lights. To make it less of a hassle to get them out next year, consider wrapping the lights around a hanger. This will keep them from getting tangled while sitting in a box waiting to be hung for next year. Take down the ornaments and bring the tree to the curb. You can also use the tree for composting if you have a compost pile in your yard. Take down and carefully put away any other holiday decorations you have set up in and around your home.

  1. Clean kitchen appliances

The month of December is heavily spent in the kitchen. After the family is gone and the large meals are done being cooked, it’s time to clean up the appliances. Clean stove tops and hood, making sure to get under the racks and the slats in the hood. Be sure to clean your oven as well. Your oven will most likely have a self-cleaning option, but it is very possible you’ll need to put in some elbow grease to clean it yourself. Don’t forget to also clean out your sink and garbage disposal.

  1. Declutter

What haven’t you used in the last year or what don’t you like anymore? Go through your closets, drawers, and if you’re feeling up to it, your basement and attic. If you haven’t used it or worn it in the past year, consider donating it or getting rid of it. If you’re up to it,  spend one day decluttering or you can spread it out room by room over a few days.

  1. Protect your pipes

In the winter, exposed pipes can very easily freeze. Frozen pipes can burst, leading to a flooded home. If you’ll be away from your home for a long period of time, wrap your pipes with heat tape that you can control with a thermostat. If you haven’t already, turn off water to outdoor spigots.

  1. Check your roof and gutters

Ice dams can cause a lot of damage to your roof and to your home. When ice gets in and around your eaves, damage can be done to your roof and can cause leaks. Ice dams occur when your attic is warmer than the outside air. When ice builds up, it prevents water from draining off your roof, causing icicles. This can also cause the water to back up underneath the shingles and leak into your attic. To prevent ice dams, add more insulation in the attic to keep warmer air downstairs and make sure your attic has proper ventilation. In addition, whenever there is a snowfall, be sure to use a roof rake to get as much snow off your roof as you can without getting onto your roof. Finally, make sure that your gutters and downspouts are clear, allowing for water to flow freely.

Last Minute Christmas Gifts

Four Last Minute Christmas Gifts

Christmas is rapidly approaching, which means it’s time to get all your gifts finalized. If you’re struggling to get ideas for those last people on your list, here are some things that can help you win the “best gift given” prize.

  1. An e-reader

An e-reader is a great gift for the casual or dedicated reader. Basic e-readers are typically monochrome and use an e-ink, which looks like paper to make it easier on your eyes while reading. In addition, these cheaper models tend not to be backlit, meaning that you will need a light to see the text. Other more expensive options have backlit screens, touchscreens, and the ability to browse the web, play music, and run apps. Some options include the Amazon Kindle, the Barnes & Noble Nook, and the Kobo.

  1. A spa kit

Get your creativity on by making an at-home spa kit. Grab some bath bombs, nice lotion, a candle, a face mask, and anything else that you think would make the person you’re gifting it to relax as much as possible. Maybe add in a nice blanket or robe for them to cuddle up with after their spa day.

  1. A streaming stick

Turn any tv into a smart tv with a streaming stick. The stick goes directly into your TV and grants you access to many different apps, including Netflix, Amazon Video, and YouTube. There are many different options that you can choose for a streaming stick but the most popular are the Amazon Prime Stick and the Roku.

  1. Subscription Box

You can get a subscription box for pretty much anything nowadays. From fandoms, to food and wine, to makeup, to lifestyle. Typically, these subscription style boxes can be bought for three, six, or twelve months but each type varies. Additionally, a subscription box is a great way to keep Christmas going, as the person will continue to get a box each month for as long as you pay for!



The Garden State Home Loans Team Tries Their Hand at Axe Throwing

On Wednesday, September 12th, the Garden State Home Loans staff took on Bury the Hatchet. Bury the Hatchet is a fun-filled group activity, that allows you to throw axes at a target! After the workday, the staff took off to Bury the Hatchet. After a safety talk and a few practice throws, we started our competition. Each person went head-to-head with another person on staff, throwing ten throws at the target for an attempt to get one, two, three, four, or six points. This gave us our base points to create a bracket to find out who would be the ultimate winner. Needless to say, we all had a great time.

If you are interested in taking on the axe throwing challenge, we highly recommend it. There are many locations all over the map! Look it up and see where the closest place to where you live is. Still aren’t convinced? Here are some great things to come out of axe throwing.

  1. Team building

Just like the Garden State Home Loans team, axe throwing is a great team building exercise. It’s a new challenge that can get everyone engaged. Not to mention the fun behind the group tournament to discover who the ultimate axe throwing champion in your office is.

  1. A fun workout

Not every bit of cardio needs to be in the gym. Each axe weighs about 3.5 pounds, so it’s a great way to get that heart rate pumping!

  1. Stress relief

What’s not relieving about throwing an axe at a target? Get out all that pent-up stress by aiming right for the bullseye!

  1. Do it for the ‘gram

If for nothing else, axe throwing makes for a great Instagram photo!



The team at Bury the Hatchet!


How to Clean Your Ceiling Fan

Cleaning Your Ceiling Fan

One thing that often gets forgotten about during the home cleaning process is the ceiling fan. Many people are too focused on collecting dust on the ground that they neglect to clean up the dust above their heads! Here are two easy ways to get your ceiling fan cleaned fast.

Using a Vacuum Cleaner

  1. See if your vacuum has a dusting or ceiling fan attachment

Many vacuums come with the attachment that is specifically for dusting. This gets placed over the vacuum’s hose and makes it easier to dust surfaces. If you don’t have one, you should consider getting one. A vacuum attachment typically costs around $10. The attachment you use should be wide and flat.

  1. Extend

Extend the vacuum handle so that it can reach the ceiling fan. If you have high ceilings (or you’re too short!) you may need to get a step stool or ladder to give you the elevation you need. Make sure you can reach the full length of the fan’s blade from where you are standing.

  1. Clean

Run the vacuum cleaner over the blades. The attachment will loosen the settled dust so the vacuum hose can suck it up. Go back over each blade after each swipe to make sure that you’ve picked up all the dust.

  1. Look for stray dust

Look around the surrounding area to see if any dust is on the floor or the furniture. If there is, the dust can be vacuumed up!

Cleaning by hand

  1. Use a cloth or a dusting glove

Dusting gloves slip onto your hand to let you wipe away dust. If you don’t have a dusting glove and don’t want to go out and purchase one, a cloth works just fine! If you’re using a cloth instead of a glove, dampen the cloth slightly before dusting. This will let the cloth hold more dust while cleaning.

  1. Get closer to the fan

Position yourself just under or slightly to the side of the fan. Cleaning your fan by hand makes it easier to stabilize the blades. When cleaning by hand, you will need to get up on a ladder or step stool to get closer to the fan. Be careful when using a ladder. You may want to have someone hold the ladder to prevent it from rocking.

  1. Dusting spray

Using a dusting spray, such as Pledge, will help get the best clean. However, some dusting sprays may contain wax, which isn’t good for certain surfaces. Look into what’s in your dusting spray and make sure that it reacts well with what material your fan is made of.

  1. Wipe clean

Spray the dusting spray and go over each fan blade with the cloth or dusting glove using straight strokes. If there is a lot of dust, you may need to go over the spot more than once.

Eight Uses for Aluminum Foil

Aluminum Foil Uses

Aluminum foil doesn’t just need to be regulated to wrapping leftovers. There are several other ways that aluminum foil can be used around the house. Here are a few examples.

  1. Sharpen dull scissors

Believe it or not, you can use aluminum foil to sharpen your scissors. Simply fold up a strip of aluminum foil several times until it’s a few layers thick. Then, cut through the layers a few times with the scissors to sharpen them.

  1. Keep clothes static-free

Don’t have dryer sheets? Use aluminum foil instead! Ball up the foil and throw it into the dryer with your clothes. It’ll keep your clothes from getting static-y!

  1. Iron your clothes faster

Place a sheet of aluminum foil on top of your ironing board, underneath the garment. The heat of the iron will be reflected from the foil, so it’s like ironing both sides of the garment at one time.

  1. Shine jewelry

Line a glass bowl with the foil, and fill the bowl with water and laundry detergent. This cleans your jewelry, such as rings and necklaces, and brings back their shine.

  1. Clean up pans and glassware

First things first, make sure your pan is not a non-stick pan. Using aluminum foil on a non-stick pan can scratch the finish of the pan. You can use a wad of aluminum foil to get off stuck on food off the pans or glassware simply by scrubbing at it.

  1. Protect from paint

If you don’t have painter’s tape on hand, try using aluminum foil. For fixtures such as doorknobs, drawer pulls, and other such fixtures, wrap them in aluminum foil to protect from paint getting on them.

  1. Soften brown sugar

Does a recipe call for brown sugar, but yours is hard as a rock? Aluminum foil can fix that! Wrap a bit of the sugar in a piece of aluminum foil and stick it in a 350-degree oven for five minutes.

  1. Keep your garden bug-free

Aluminum foil has a few benefits for your garden. Mixing in cut up strips of foil in with mulch can keep bugs away from your plants. In addition, the foil will also reflect light back to your plants, helping them to grow.