Regardless of how clean your home looks, and how often you use the disinfectant wipe, those sneaky little germs still hide in your home. Of course, some surfaces always have germs simply because multiple people handle them throughout the day. These include faucets, outlets, and switch-plate covers, doorknobs and stair railings. You know to wipe these down, especially in cold and ‘flu’ season.

No matter how clean you are, though, some germs, fungi or bacteria hide in unsuspected places. A study by NSF International (an independent public health organization) points to dangerous Salmonella, Coliform, E. coli, and even human fecal matter on innocent-appearing surfaces in the average home. Other studies revealed Bacillus cereus, Staphylococcus, and even streptococcus hiding in plain sight. When you’re making up your housekeeping to-do list, consider giving these items special attention to root out the nasty bugs hiding in your house:

  • Toothbrushes and toothbrush holder: If your toothbrush holder sets on the bathroom counter, microscopic droplets can land on it after every toilet flush, depositing bacteria and yeast fungi. The NSF study also showed toothbrush holders harbor mold too.
  • Hand and bath towels: Surveys show most people do not change their hand or bath towels as often as they should. Testing reveals towels harbor E. coli after only two days.
  • Lavatory faucet handles: Just think about it, you use the restroom, then touch the fixture with your dirty hands. Even after you wash them, if you use your hands to turn off the faucet you just re-deposit the germs back onto your hands. Lever-style faucets allow you to turn them off with an elbow or arm, but for the best option, think about installing hands-free faucets.
  • Kitchen sink: One of the most essential surfaces in your home, the kitchen sink harbors both mold and bacteria. For best results, disinfect your sink and garbage disposal two to three times each week.
  • Dish sponges or rags: When you use a cloth or sponge, you might just be wiping more germs back onto the surface than you remove. Change dishcloths frequently and clean sponges in the dishwasher or microwave.
  • Countertops: (see above)
  • Cutting boards: Food particles remain on wood or bamboo cutting boards, and any boards that develop grooves. Always wash off cutting boards, and periodically clean them with disinfectant or a bleach solution.
  • Tea or coffee maker: Most avid coffee or tea-drinkers clean the carafe between brews, but germs can hide in and around the basket holding the grounds or drip/espresso mechanisms. If water sits in a reservoir, it can breed germs too. Periodically run a mild bleach solution (1 ounce of bleach to 1 gallon of water) through your brewing machines.
  • Pet bowls: No matter what myth you’ve heard about dogs’ mouths having fewer germs than humans, a pet’s dish can test positive for salmonella and E. coli even if you cleaned it in the dishwasher.

We live with germs all the time, but sometimes we don’t notice them or the odors they carry. If you’re preparing your home for sale, consider hiring a professional house cleaner to give your home the best showing.

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Buying a new home can be an exciting but anxiety-inducing experience. With so many things to consider, it can be difficult to keep track of the things that matter most to you.

This process is complicated further when you discover a second or third home that you like as much as the first and you’re trying to decide which one to make an offer on.

In today’s post, we’re going to talk about how you can effectively compare houses to ensure that you’re making the most sensible, long-term decision for you and your family.

It’s all about the spreadsheet

Today, our method isn’t going to rely on any fancy new apps or paid tools. Everything you need to accomplish your spreadsheet is a tool like Google Sheets (it’s like a free version of Excel) or a simple pencil and notebook.

The columns of your spreadsheet will be made up of the factors that will influence your decision. This will include the obvious details like the cost and square footage of the home, but also finer details like its proximity to key places in your life.

The rows of your spreadsheet will be the properties you’re comparing. Now, it may be tempting to start listing every house on your radar in the columns of your spreadsheet. However, I think it’s more time-effective to only include the homes that you’re likely to make an offer on. This means doing some hard thinking and having a conversation with your family about your realistic goals for buying a home.

What is most important to you in a home and neighborhood?

Let’s turn our attention back to the top row of your spreadsheet. We want to fill that section with around 10 factors that are most important to you in a home and the location the home will be in.

In this section, you can include the estimated cost of the home and the estimated monthly expenses for owning that home (utilities, taxes, etc.).

Here’s the secret weapon of our spreadsheet, however. Rather than listing the actual cost of the home in this row, we’re going to give it a rank of 1 to 5. A score of 1 means the house is a lot more expensive than you want. A score of 5 means the house is the ideal cost. A 3 would be somewhere in the middle.

We’re going to use this 1 to 5 ranking system for all other factors on our spreadsheet as well.

Next to these costs, you’ll want to add other important factors to your home buying decision. Does it have the number of rooms you’re looking for? If a backyard is important to you, does it provide for that need?

In terms of upgrades, how much work will you have to do on the home to make it something you’re satisfied with? For DIY-minded people with time to spare, home improvement might be a welcome concept. For others, it simply would take too much time to accomplish everything you want. So, when you fill out the “Upgrades” column of your spreadsheet, make sure you determine a system for ranking the homes that suits your needs.

House location shouldn’t be overlooked

It’s a sad truth, but in today’s busy world, the average homeowner spends most of their time away from home, whether they’re at work, commuting, or bring their kids to and from after school activities.

You’ll want at least one column on your spreadsheet to be devoted to location. When ranking the location of a home, consider things like commuting time, distance to schools, hospitals, parks, and grocery stores. All of these things will have a larger impact on your day-to-day life than small details of the house itself.

Ranking the homes

Now that you have the first row and column of your spreadsheet built, it’s time to fill in the details and tally up the totals. These numbers will help inform your decision as to which house is really right for you.

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