MONEY home improvement

This Simple Trick Makes Taking Out the Trash Easier

Taking out garbage

You may be tempted to send your trash can to the curb if it isn't functioning well. But now that new bins often run more than $100, first try this trick to improve your current can's performance.

If you haven’t shopped for a new trash bin recently, you may not know that they’ve apparently gone high-end, with prices running as high as $150. Yet sometimes removing a trash bag from even a fancy garbage can feels like a wrestling match. It seems like the bag is stuck in the can. Turns out it’s not that you overstuffed the bag, or loaded it with brick—it’s air pressure. When a filled trash bag is in the garbage can, the sides of the bag create air pressure within the can, making it difficult to remove the bag.

Fortunately, a simple solution exists. Watch this video to learn the trick. I’m sure there are many other ways you’d rather spend $100 that don’t involve your trash.



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Anne Reagan is the editor-in-chief of home website

MONEY home improvement

How $10,000 to $100,000 Transformed These Homes

These homeowners made every corner count with impressive top-to-bottom remodels. Here are the before-and-after photos, and the project's cost, favored by the editors' of This Old House magazine in their Search for America's Best Remodel Contest.

For the full gallery of all 20 homes, as well as additional photos of the projects shown here and more comments from the homeowners, click here for the original story at

MONEY buying a home

The Surprising Feature Millennials Insist on When Buying a Home

Century 21 CEO Richard Davidson explains what young, single home buyers value in a new house.

MONEY Ask the Expert

How To Stop Your Home Insurer From Cheating You

Robert A. Di Ieso, Jr.

Q: My friend had a tree fall on her house during a windstorm and told me she scored a huge insurance payout by using a public insurance adjuster. Would you explain how this works and if it’s worthwhile?

A: If you’ve ever made a home insurance claim, you’re already familiar with the standard operating procedure. The insurance company sends out an adjuster, who inspects the damage and comes up with the repair price that the company will pay to make things right. (You’ll first owe your deductible, of course.)

But that number isn’t written in stone. There’s often a negotiation over, say, whether the flooded air conditioning system gets repaired or replaced or the roof gets patched or completely redone. Also, the payout often grows as the work progresses and new costs are uncovered.

A “public” adjuster is a professional you can hire to help you through this process for a large (say, over $40,000) homeowner’s claim. “Maybe the insurance company wants to patch the spot where the vinyl siding got torn, but there’s no way to find an exact match for the siding, so you’d wind up with an obvious patch,” says David Barrack, of the National Association of Public Insurance Adjusters. “A public adjuster would push for complete siding replacement so the repair is invisible.” Similarly, public adjusters dig behind leaks, he says, for evidence of rot, soggy insulation and mold that some insurance company adjusters might not pursue when writing up a claim.

In short, a public adjuster seeks to maximize your claim.

But there’s a downside. Since the public adjuster is working for you, the cost is born by you—typically 10 percent of the claim total. Giving up $10,000 on a $100,000 claim takes a pretty big bite out of your project budget. So unless you simply don’t have the time—or you’re finding your insurer to be highly unreasonable about your claim—it’s usually a better financial move to handle the back-and-forth yourself. “You don’t need to know anything about home construction or materials pricing,” says Jeanne Salvatore, of the Insurance Information Institute. “Your contractor is an expert who’s already on site, working for you, and he certainly knows what needs to be done and how much it’s going to cost.”


Got a question for Josh? We’d love to hear it. Please send submissions to

MONEY home improvement

Transform Your Closet For as Little as $150

organized closet
Jules Frazier—Getty Images

There's a good chance your closet has plenty of space- for improvement. Fortunately, a revamp may not cost as much as you think.

Walk through a big box home store these days and you’ll probably feel a tinge of closet envy. Right next to the gorgeous kitchens and bathroom models today you’ll likely encounter display closets showcasing numerous arrays of shelves, drawers and rods, not to mention hangers, baskets, bins and other gizmos to keep shelves tidy and shoes organized. Every sweater and pair of pumps can be retrieved within seconds in these modern closets.

So what is your best option to bring your closet up to par? Should you buy the materials and create a more functional space yourself, or hire one of the many professionals now available to tackle the job for you?

Take a look at these complete closet projects to get inspiration as well a sense of costs. Then consider these factors.


Best for: If you have a level, a cordless drill, and a tape measure, most homeowners with basic skills can handle a small closet remodel project. Buying a pre-made DIY closet system, which can include rods, shelves and drawers, from a home retailer is the simplest option. You’d be surprised at how much more you can fit into a typical five by two feet space by simply, say, putting in dual rods and adding another shelf. Updating your closet doors with a fresh coat of paint or new doors can also be a fairly easy task.

Cost: Taking on the project yourself means you can escape paying labor costs, which can total as much as the parts. When estimating your DIY cost factor in all of the materials, furniture and customized items, as well as any tools or equipment, you may need to complete the work.

You’ll pay anywhere from $150 for a basic set-up including a rod and adjustable metal shelving to more than $1000 for a space with customized features, like vinyl-coated wire systems or wood veneers and painted finishes. Organizing kits including drawer cubbies and shoe dividers can be found for around $350 and higher. Want new bifold doors? Standard models cost anywhere from $45 to $300.

Hire a Pro

Best for: Let the professional closet remodelers handle your project if you aren’t sure whether, say, a walk-in or drop closet is best for the room, or you want to customize your storage space for your tie or shoe collection. A pro should also be brought in if you are looking at moving or adding walls or installing electrical systems. A contractor can address permits, lighting, and ventilation needs, a few things you may overlook when doing it yourself. For example, if your remodel involves altering your structure, or adding electrical or plumbing for a washer and dryer, you may need to obtain a permit before the work begins. A professional closet remodeler or contractor familiar with the permit process can handle it for you. The pro may also be able to suggest ways to make the most of the existing space without having to do major construction, thereby saving you time and money.

Bonus: the contractor or designer can work with you to set a schedule that adjusts around your personal life, and can complete the project in less time than if you attempt to squeeze in an hour here and there on nights and weekends.

Cost: Professional closet remodelers usually charge per project but some charge an hourly rate, typically between $50 and $150 an hour, depending on the job and the pro. You may find that some designers require a deposit, which is generally a percentage of the project.

The total tab for a larger space, such as a walk-in closet, can run between $1,200 to $3,000 or more for both materials and labor. This may not include any structural work such as moving walls, adding lighting or installing new doors. Ask several contractors for in-home estimates. And make a trip to Salvation Army or Goodwill- with anything you or your spouse hasn’t donned in the last year or two- before the overhaul begins. One thing all model closets seem to have in common is few items.


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Anne Reagan is the editor-in-chief of home improvement website






MONEY home improvement

Historic Homes For Sale For As Little As $1

These three houses, featured recently in This Old House magazine, can still be had for rock bottom prices, but plan to spend thousands to overhaul them. If no buyer saves the structures, they may face demolition or are at risk of deteriorating beyond repair.

For the full gallery of homes for sale, plus featured houses that have been saved by buyers and structures that were demolished, click here for the original post on


Student Debt Could Cost Housing Market $83B This Year

It might as well be a curse word for young adults. Student loans are now blamed for what would be a staggering, industry-shaking drop in home sales.

MONEY retirement planning

Why Housing Costs Are the Biggest Threat to Your Retirement

House on top of cash
Caroline Purser—Getty Images

We should be looking at smaller "starter" homes as our "stay put" homes.

If there is one thing we have been trained to fear about retirement, it’s crippling medical bills that threaten to force us out of our homes and decimate our nest eggs. But it turns out that we might be better off worrying about our future housing expenses, as these costs are the single largest category of spending in retirement.

Moreover, the costs of maintaining a home remain stubbornly high as we age, according to a new analysis by the Employee Benefit Research Institute. For those 75 and older, housing expenses accounted for a whopping 43% of spending, even as other expenditures (except for health care) dropped.

Time was that retirees were supposed pay down their mortgages or drastically downsize their homes before retirement. But that behavior has changed, perhaps as a result of the refinancing boom or the housing crash—or both. According to the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau, more people are carrying mortgage debt into their retirement years, up from 22% in 2001 to 30% in 2011.

Even as the rate of homeownership has remained stable, the median amount owed on mortgages for people aged 75 and older increased 82% during that same decade, from $43,000 to $79,000. Delinquency in paying mortgages and foreclosures also greatly increased for seniors from 2007 to 2011.

The lesson in all this is that while financing one’s home can be hugely beneficial, mortgages can grow into significant burdens when you’re living on a fixed income. The time to stretch yourself financially on a home is not when you’ve already left the workforce and have no way to make more money.

It’s not just larger mortgages that saddle retirees—it’s everything that comes with homeownership, including property taxes, homeowner’s insurance, home repairs, housecleaning, gardening and yard services. At the same time, transportation, entertainment and travel expenses all tend to decline as a natural course of retirement.

It seems that people have an easier time forgoing vacations and restaurant dining than they do square footage and lawns, which is understandable. The comforts of home can bring great stability during a time of transition. But as we struggle to figure out how much money we will need in retirement, we might need to consider how to defray the expense of these patterns.

For those in mid-career, now is the time to get control of our mortgage costs. As a recent study by Pew Charitable Trusts shows, Gen X has lower wealth than their parents did at their age, in large part because they hold nearly six times more debt, including student loans, unpaid medical bills and credit card balances. And that’s despite having generally higher family incomes than their parents did.

Given these headwinds, we may want to rethink the American way of constantly trading up to larger houses through our 40s and 50s. The more we grow accustomed to more luxurious living, the harder it will be to downsize when it makes sense. Perhaps instead of looking at smaller houses merely as “starter homes,” we should be looking at them as “stay put” homes instead.

Millennials face a different challenge. After taking longer to get started in their careers, they will end up buying houses later in life, which means they risk carrying significant mortgages into retirement. They would benefit from not biting off more than they can chew—putting more cash down than the minimum, not buying more house then they can really afford, and making sure to max out out their 401(k)s or IRAs. Home equity can be an excellent investment, but only if it enhances rather than jeopardizes financial security—now and in the future.

Konigsberg is the author of The Truth About Grief, a contributor to the anthology Money Changes Everything, and a director at Arden Asset Management. The views expressed are solely her own.

MONEY Ask the Expert

How Your (Nice) Neighbors Can Save You Money

Robert A. Di Ieso, Jr.

Q: Is it a good idea to go in with a few neighbors on some pricy, occasional-use outdoor equipment, like an extension ladder and snow blower. How do I handle access, maintenance, and other logistics?

A: This is a terrific money-saving idea that works best if your group consists of people who are close, in both senses of the word: Everyone should be nearby neighbors, to provide easy access to the tools, and everyone should be friends, so the arrangement can be a handshake deal where nobody is counting every nickel or worrying too much about who goes first on a snowy morning.

“Splitting the cost of the machine is also an opportunity to get higher grade equipment than you’d buy for yourself,” says Peter Orazem, professor of economics at Iowa State University, and co-owner of a commercial grade snow blower with two fellow professors and his eye doctor, who all live on the same block. He recommends setting up a few ground rules:

Decide where it’s going to live. Ideally, one group member has a garage with the space to park the machine—and a keypad everyone can use to open it and access the equipment anytime. That way there’s never an issue with figuring out who had it last, where they parked it, and whether they’re home to unlock their shed.

Plan for ongoing tasks. For a snowblower, chainsaw or any other gas-powered machine, avoid frustration by creating a plan to keep the gas can full and the machine tuned up. Orazem does both for his group, at his own expense, in consideration for hosting the machine in his own garage, a significant convenience for him. But you could also assign the responsibility to a different group member each year, and share the costs among the rest of the group (so the person doing the work pays nothing), or come up with any strategy that feels right for your group.

Don’t loan it beyond the group. Letting someone outside your original club borrow the group’s equipment is a recipe for seeing the machine damaged, misplaced, or lost, says Diane Dodge, of Berkeley, Calif., who shared a beater pickup truck with five friends until it blew a head gasket several years ago. “Stay within the confines of the original group—unless you all agree to allow in another member, perhaps to replace someone who moves away.”

Give members an out. What if someone moves away? For expensive items, Orazem suggests agreeing at the start on how a person who pulls out of the group will be reimbursed for his investment. For example, you might decide that the useful life of the $5,000 riding mower you’re sharing between five households is 10 years. If a member leaves four years after the purchase, he’d get a payout from the remaining four members of $600 (his initial $1,000 contribution, minus 40 percent); after seven years, he’d get $300. This cost could be born by the other members of the group, or they could invite a new member in for that amount- nice neighbors only, of course.


Got a question for Josh? We’d love to hear it. Please send submissions to

MONEY Millennials

10 Places Millennials Are Moving For Bigger Paychecks

With 5.1% unemployment and low-priced homes, New Orleans is a top town for millennials. John Coletti—Getty Images

Over the past five years, Gen Yers have decamped for some surprisingly pricey cities in search of a higher-paying job.

Millennials are on the hunt for high-paying jobs, and they’re moving to some unexpected places to find them, according to a new report out today.

Bruised by the rough post-recession job market, Gen-Yers are moving from lower-cost cities to places with a higher cost of living but more plentiful and lucrative jobs, a RealtyTrac analysis of Census data from 2007 through 2013 found.

“Millennials are attracted to markets with good job prospects and low unemployment, but that tend to have higher rental rates and high home-price appreciation,” says Daren Blomquist, vice president of RealtyTrac. “It’s a tradeoff.”

In the 10 U.S. counties with the biggest increase in millennials, the average unemployment rate is 5.2%, well below the national average of 6.1%. The average household income is $62,496, vs. $51,058 nationally. The median home price is $406,800 (nearly double the U.S. median of $222,900), while a three-bedroom apartment rents for $1,619 a month on average, just over the national average of $1,550.

Riding the robust job market in the D.C. area, two counties in Northern Virginia with unemployment rates below 3.7% top the list. But not all places that the 69-million-strong millennial generation are flocking to are expensive. New Orleans, where the median home price is $140,000, edged out San Francisco, where tech jobs may be plentiful but the median home price is nearly $1 million.

New Orleans, where the unemployment rate is 5.1%, is a transportation center with one of the busiest and largest ports in the world, as well as tons of jobs related to the local oil refineries. Denver, Nashville, and Portland, Ore., all top 10 areas, offer median home prices below $300,000 and a diversity of jobs in technology, health care, and education.

Perhaps the most surprising millennial magnet: Clarksville, Tenn, the fifth largest city in the state behind Nashville, Memphis, Knoxville, and Chattanooga. Forty five miles north of Nashville, it benefits from spillover from that city’s strong job market, but Clarksville also has its own industrial base, plus nearby Ft. Campbell and Austin Peay State University. The unemployment rate: 4.7%.

Here are RealtyTrac’s top 10 destinations for millennials on the move:

Rank County State Metro Area % Increase in Millennial Population, 2007-2013 Milennials % of Total Population, 2013 Median Home Price, April 2014 Average Monthly Apartment Rent (3 beds), 2014
1 Arlington County Va. Washington, DC 82% 39% $505,000 $1,996
2 Alexandria City Va. Washington, DC 81% 34% $465,000 $1,966
3 Orleans Parish La. New Orleans 71% 30% $140,000 $1,190
4 San Francisco County Calif. San Francisco 68% 32% $950,000 $2,657
5 Denver County Colo. Denver 57% 33% $270,000 $1,409
6 Montgomery County Tenn. Clarksville 46% 31% $128,000 $1,016
7 Hudson County N.J. New York 44% 31% $330,000 $1,643
8 New York County N.Y. New York 43% 32% $850,000 $1,852
9 Multnomah County Ore. Portland 41% 28% $270,000 $1,359
10 Davidson County Tenn. Nashville 37% 29% $160,000 $1,131

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