With Winter fast approaching, there are a few maintenance and safety tasks every homeowner should tackle:
- Protect wood floors and carpet: Place a floor mat and/or boot-scrapper just inside the main entries to keep water and mud from being tracked onto expensive and easily damaged floorings and rugs.
- Seal cold-air gaps: Air gaps around windows and doors make it harder, and more expensive, to keep your house warm.
- Clean the gutters: Now that the trees have lost most of their leaves, give the gutters a thorough cleaning before they heavy rains arrive.
- Check your detectors: During the winter months, there’s a sharp increase in carbon monoxide poisoning and home-heating fires. To protect your family, make sure your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are less than 10 years old and have fully charged batteries.
- Revisit your emergency supplies: According to FEMA, every home should have enough food, water and medicine on hand to last for two weeks in case of an earthquake, major storm or other natural disaster.
Another winter maintenance to consider is Holiday Lights Safety. Wrapping the house and yard with lights is a beautiful holiday tradition, but it needs to be done with care to ensure there are no accidents.
Here are five tips from professional lighting designers:
- Enlist a helper to hold light strings, steady ladders and more.
- To avoid shocks: don’t work when it’s raining; use a fiberglass ladder and wood poles; wear gloves and rubber-soled shoes.
- All lights should be plugged into a legitimate outdoor outlet with a built-in GFCI circuit breaker. A 15-amp circuit can handle a maximum of 1,800 total watts; a 20-amp circuit can handle 2,400 watts.
- There are special clips available for hanging lights on just about any surface, so avoid staples, nails and screws. for rough surfaces (like concrete and brick), try using hot glue.
- Put all the lights on timers to ensure they’re safely turned off at the end of each night.
Source: Windermere Real Estate November Home Update.
If you think it’s okay to let your roof languish, know this: Doing so could nullify your homeowners insurance coverage. If your roof is nearing or past its expiration date – or if you’ve notice leaks, water stains on the ceiling or other telltale signs of a possible leak – no is the time to take action.
Inspect it before winter
It never pays to wait and see if a worn roof still repels the rain. So make time in the fall, before winter kicks in, to ensure it’s fit for another winter. The safest way to assess its current condition is to use binoculars to look for curled shingles, cracks, loose or missing shingles, moss growth and other signs of damage. If you have access to the attic space, check the underside of the roof for water stains, especially around chimneys, vents and roof valleys. If you find signs of leaks or serious wear, ask for evaluations from a couple of reputable roofing companies – or an independent certified maintenance professional. I’m happy to provide a referral if you need it.
Determine the number of layers
If you currently have just one layer of asphalt shingles on your roof, and they need replacement, you may be able to simply add another layer. However, if there are already two layers, you must remove both before installing new. A roofing contractor can assess the situation and explain your options.
Stick with the style you have
Switching to a different roofing styles can be an expensive, involved process. Before considering such a radical change, take a look at the options available for the style of roofing you already have.
Higher quality is your best option
The most expensive aspect of a roofing project is the cost of labor. so it’s to your advantage to choose higher-quality, longer-lasting materials – which will allow you to rest easy knowing you won’t have to re-roof again for decades.
Keeping cool with better venting
When heat gets trapped in your attic during the summer months, it prevents the interior of your home from cooling down, even after the outside temperature has dropped. To keep that heat blanket from forming, consider installing more roof and attic venting – especially if you’re having a new roof installed.
New gutters are optional
If your gutters are damaged or of poor quality, it’s a good idea to replace them when the house is re-roofed, but it’s not necessary. Your gutter system is separate from the roofing system, and both can be repaired or replaced independently, by different companies.
Also not included…
Don’t expect roofers to make chimney repairs (that’s a job for a mason). The roofers also won’t paint the trim around your roofline, prune overhanging branches, or perform other maintenance chores around the upper areas of the house.
Alert the neighbors
Be proactive and tell the neighbors about your roofing plans. Depending on the space between homes and the access required, your roofing contractor may need to get their permission before setting ladders and other equipment on their property. Even if that’s not the case, your neighbors will no doubt appreciate the notice.
A final note for prospective sellers
If you’re thinking of selling your home anytime soon, you’ll want to be sure to tackle any necessary roof repairs before the inspection. For other pre-sale preparations tips, contact me.
*Source: Windermere Home Update September 2018
Fast Fixes That Sell Homes
If you’re planning to put your home up for sale this spring (one of the best times of the year), you probably already know that any deferred maintenance issues need to be addressed beforehand, clutter needs to be swept away, and the property needs to look its best inside and out. Here are nine industry secrets that will help you shape up your home faster than you ever thought possible:
Focus on the Entry – Your front door, and everything surrounding it, make a big first impression on potential buyers. Ideas for improvement include: repaint the steps and porch; buy a new door mat; update the address numbers; put out potted flowers; replace the mail box and/or porch light; or replace your whole front door with something more modern, attractive and/or secure.
Say Hello To The Sun – Buyer’s especially young buyers, want to see interior spaces filled with natural light. Trim any trees or shrubs that may be blocking windows. Wash the windows inside and out. Replace the window coverings, if necessary.
Consider A Hanging Fixture – Changing a plain, ceiling-mounted light fixture for a hanging model with character can transform a blah room in no time. Before making the switch, ensure that the ceiling wiring is designed to support the weight of a hanging fixture.
Remove Scuffs And Coffee Rings – The “magic cleaning sponges” that are made by several manufacturers let you wipe away stubborn marks from hard surfaces like countertops, floors, walls, grout, appliances and more, all without harsh chemicals. They are abrasive though, so avoid using them on fine furniture or surfaces where the lighting spotlights your scrub marks.
Install New Hardware – To update the look of built-in cabinets without repainting, install new hinges, handles and pulls.
Keep Insects At Bay – If ants and other insects typically get active around your home once the warm spring weather arrives, be proactive by hiring a professional pest control contractor now.
Restore Old Hardware – To remove layers of old paint from door hinges and other metal hardware, uninstall it, place it in a crock pot (one no longer used for food) with a teaspoon of dish soap, and set it on low heat overnight. The next morning, you’ll be able to easily scrape off all the old paint.
Swap Something Old For Something New – Installing a modern, digital thermostat is an easy way to give your old heating system a new-and-improved look. Swapping an old toilet seat for one that’s shiny and new can make the whole bathroom look better.
Learn Even More Industry Secrets – These are just a sampling of the ideas that can quickly make a home more desirable and sellable. Contact me, and I’ll be happy to share more.
Source: Windermere Real Estate Home Update
The (Not-SO) Secret Selling Advantage
There are lots of great reasons to entrust the sale of your home to a professional agent instead of trying to sell it yourself, but here’s one guaranteed to grab your attention: Two new batches of research prove that agent-sold homes sell for more money.
According to the most recent Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers by the National Association of REALTORS (NAR), the average sales price for homes sold by their owners is $185,000, while the average for a home sold by an agent is $245,000 – a difference of $60,000.
Meanwhile, a study performed by Collateral Analytics, featuring :the most accurate method ever used to control for property differences,” compares the two approaches on an apples-to-apples basis. It found that, when a homeowner and a real estate agent sell similar homes, the owner-seller, on average, nets nearly 6% less money than an agent.
To put that second study into perspective, you need to understand that most real estate professionals charge a commission of about 6%. That means many owner-sellers take on all the work, worry and risk of selling their own home, only to net the same amount they would if they had paid an agent to handle everything.
New Online Resources Not Helping
For years there has been rapid growth in the number of online services and resources for homeowners who want to sell their home without the help of a real estate agent. However, researchers studying the issue note that the success rate for owner-sellers has remained stagnant for decades. Meanwhile, the number of homes successfully purchased with the help of a traditional agent just keeps growing (increasing 20% since 2001, according to the latest NAR research).
Why are agents so much more effective? These are some of the keys:
Spot-on Pricing – no one is better equipped to determine the best price for your home than an agent. They have all the best information, resources and processes.
Widespread Exposure – the only way to get your home listed on the all-important multiple listing services (MLS) is through a licensed real estate agent. Plus, agents share their sales listings amongst each other through their own corporate and social networks.
Valuable Advice – your agent will be able to tell you what, if any, home improvements/repairs are necessary to ensure a quick sale, as well as whether staging could help attract a better class of buyer. They can also recommend reputable contractors to carry out those tasks.
Salesmanship – showings will be scheduled and managed by your agent. All you have to do is keep the property clean and tidy.
Negotiation – your agent will also help you review all the offers from interested buyers, prepare counter-offers, weed-out unsuitable offers and negotiate the best final terms.
Paperwork expertise – your agent will properly prepare, explain and manage all of the contract paperwork, addendums, property disclosures, and other documentation associated with the sale.
When to Make Contact
For the best results, I encourage home sellers to contact me at least 60 days before they want to sell. Even if you haven’t found a new home yet, or you aren’t positive you’re going to sell, it’s important to get the agent/client consultation process started early.
Source: Windermere Real Estate March Home Update.
BUYING YOUR FIRST HOME
According to Realtor.com, last year was officially “the most competitive, fastest-moving spring housing market in decades.”
It’s not clear yet if things will become even more heated this spring. But one thing is for sure: To be successful in a competitive real estate market, first-time buyers need to be flexible and have solid financials, an aggressive agent and a proven path.
With fewer homes available (especially affordable homes), and more well-qualified buyers hunting for homes, it’s tough for a first-timer – but not impossible. See my recommendations below.
Manage Your Emotions
After three or four weeks of searching for a home to buy, most first-time buyers come to understand what a “competitive real estate market” really is. And some become so frustrated with the situation that they give up too early.
Persistence is a very important part of the buying process. Be prepared for a long search. Don’t allow yourself to get too emotionally attached to any home until your offer is accepted. And let any lost deals quickly fade from your memory. Believe me, the right home for you is out there.
If you’ve already given up on your search for a home, allow me to suggest a new approach.
Be Realistic About Your Wish List
Many first-timers set out with an overly optimistic perception of the homes that will be available to them. It’s important to communicate your ideal neighborhood, architectural style and amenities, but consider the alternative neighborhoods your real estate agent suggests, and be willing to tour homes that aren’t a match with your list of wants.
Getting Pre-Approved Is Key
When it comes to determining how much home you can afford, online calculators are helpful. But for a far more accurate assessment of your buying power, I’ll refer you to a mortgage professional who specializes in first-time home loans. That person will educate you about the different types of loans, review your finances, then pre-qualify you for a maximum loan amount. In a hot housing market, it’s very important to get pre-approved because it makes you even more attractive to sellers when completing with other buyers for a home.
Know there is a difference between “pre-approved” vs. “pre-qualified”.
Pre-Qualification is an easy first step. You provide the mortgage professional with some key information about your finances, and they tell you what size loan you would most likely qualify for. However, it’s not a sure thing; it’s an estimate based on the information you supply.
Pre-Approval is a “conditioned commitment” based on an extensive analysis of your finances and credit history. Having this commitment shows sellers that you’re a serious shopper, and allows you to react quickly once you find a house you like. In a hot housing market, pre-approval is almost a necessity.
This is the time to start cutting your spending, because any money you manage to save between now and the day a seller accepts your offer can be applied in very important ways.
- A larger home-loan down payment
- A home inspection
- Homeowners Insurance
- Attorney’s fees, transfer fees and other closing costs
- Furnishings, repairs and/or home improvements
For more information about any of the above, as well as help getting started before the busy spring selling season, contact me as soon as possible.
Source: Windermere Real Estate Home Update.
2018 Design Trends
This issue of Home Update is all about trends. You may not have the biggest or the best house in the neighborhood, but if you put these design insights to good use you can be the proud owner of a super stylish abode. According to the interior design experts, the work they’re doing, and the industry shows they’re attending, minimalism will continue to be a strong trend in 2018, cosy comfort will be combined with cold technology, and vibrant colors will be splashed across the walls.
Interior designs that pare a room to only the most essential items will continue to be a leading style. The same is true for open layouts with few walls. But experts say the look is also becoming a bit more relaxed and less structured. In other words, it’s okay to flaunt a few more possessions these days, and even be a little careless in how they’re arranged.
Adding to the more relaxed minimalist look is a complementary trend to incorporate more coziness – especially around all those cold, metallic objects of technology (big screen TV’s, computers, surround-sound speakers and more). For example, consider using a freestanding room divider to create a cozy nook in one corner of the living room.
WOOD, CORK AND BRIGHT LIGHTS
Natural wood floors will also continue to be very popular, as will wood cabinets and trim. But wood ceilings, accent walls and furnishings are also becoming trendy – as is cork flooring. To keep all that wood and cork from making a space too dark, use it sparingly and make a plan for bright lighting, as well.
The color experts at the Pantone Color Institute say metallic colors have outgrown their role as accents and are now being painted on walls and incorporated into primary pieces of furniture. Another trend they’re highlighting for 2018: fewer pastels and more intense colors.
PLUS, YOUR PERSONAL TOUCH
If you’re a creative or crafty person, you’ll be glad to learn that personal statements are another growing trend. The idea is to make your home truly unique by incorporating homemade art (including framed paintings created by your children), mementos from your travels, collectables and other items that bring your personality to life. Frugality and originality are encouraged.
FEEL FREE TO MIX AND MATCH
If the above trends seems a bit random and at times conflicting, that’s by design: 2018 is expected to be a year of rapid transition and transformation, and designers feel our homes should reflect that mix of ideas and progress.
And finally, if you’re thinking this may be the year you make the move to a new home, I would be happy to share the trends reshaping our local real estate market, as well. All you have to do is ask.
Source: Windermere Real Estate Home Update January 2018.
Safely Storing Your Holiday Décor
In this issue of Home Update we will discuss holiday decorations and how they are some of the most difficult things to store. Fragile, easily damaged, oddly shaped and typically stored for most of their life, they pose a considerable challenge to even the best organizer. However, once you know the secrets for safely tucking these joyful items away, the frustration of packing and unpacking them will disappear, and you can be confident your home will looks its best when it comes to put them on display again.
The trick to keeping holiday lights from tangling is to wrap them around something . For shorter strings, try wrapping them around a clothes hanger, an empty shipping tube, even a flat piece of cardboard. Then secure the ends so things don’t come unwound. For longer strings and bigger bulbs, use one of the many extension cord holders available at hardware and home-improvement stores.
FRAGILE TREE ORNAMENTS
By far the best way to store your Christmas tree ornaments is in a large plastic storage bin with two or three layers of divided spaces. There are a variety of these “ornament storage bins” available at retail. Or, you can make your own: Fill the bottom of a storage bin with plastic drinking cups, place an ornament or two in each cup, lay a sheet of cardboard on top of that layer, and add a new layer of cups and ornaments.
Many of us display nativity scenes, chimes, candle holders and more on our mantles at the holidays. Some of these items are even heirlooms. To keep them safe throughout the rest of the year, fill a storage bin one-quarter full of foam packing pellets and gently lay your maple displays to bed there. Then fill the bin halfway full, and lay down another layer of these fragile decorations. Leave that layer exposed (and add no more foam pellets), and you’ll find it far easier later to unearth all the different pieces without making a mess.
Store your candles in the refrigerator and you’ll find they last longer, maintain their color and scent, and even burn more slowly. A good alternative to refrigeration is to wrap each candle in cellophane (not plastic wrap) and store them in a cool, dry place.
If your wreath is shipped to you, save the box as a storage container. Otherwise, a hat box can be used safely to hold and protect two, if not three, wreaths. Another option, place the wreath in a plastic bag to keep it from getting dusty, then hang it in the attic, the basement, or the back of a closet.
THE NEED FOR MORE STORAGE SPACE
Many homeowners say they don’t have enough room to store their holiday decorations and other belongings. If that’s true for you, let’s talk. Maybe it’s time to consider a bigger home.
Source: Windermere Real Estate Home Update.
Preparing for Holiday Visitors
Take time now to ensure your home is properly prepared for the onslaught of family and friends who may be visiting during the holiday season this year. The secret to being a memorable holiday host is having a house that’s not only welcoming, but also safe and well-maintained. Following are some suggestions for quick, pre-visit improvements.
LIGHT UP THE OUTDOORS
Installing exterior lighting can quickly transform your house from a dark object to an evening oasis. For dramatic effect, beam lights along the sides of your house. To bring your landscaping to life, mount upward-facing lights at the base of large trees and bushes. Beckon your guests (and make their final approach infinitely safer) by posting lights along walkways and stairs.
PRESSURE-WASH THE WALKWAYS AND DRIVEWAYS
Mossy steps and walkways are very slippery at this time of year. And the best way to remove these organic build-ups is with a powerful pressure washer.
BOLT THE BOOKSHELVES
Bookshelves more than five feet high can be accidentally pulled or pushed over by the well-meaning guests – with potentially serious results. Anchor them to the walls with brackets and bolts specially designed for the task.
GIVE YOUR TOILET(S) A TUNE-UP
To ensure your loo can accommodate the additional users…
- Use a small, handheld mirror to see if the all-important water holes on the underside of the toilet bowl rim are plugged with mineral deposits and grime. If so, use a length of wire clothes hanger to clear them.
- Treat your toilet with one of the products that dissolves built-up paper and organic waste in the pipes (a product called “Toilet Care Tune-up” is sold at hardware stores, Walmart, big box home-improvement stores, and more).
- Make sure it’s still securely bolted to the floor: Grab both sides of the bowl and try to rock it back and forth. If there’s any movement, tighten the floor bolts (but not so tight that you crack the fragile porcelain).
CLEARN THE ENTERTAINING AREAS
If guests have to maneuver around pet food bowls, recycling containers, potted plants, piles of reading materials and other obstructions, there’s a very good chance someone is going to trip or slip.
HAVE THE CHIMNEY INSPECTED
If there’s even a chance you’re going to have a real-wood fire, and you haven’t had your chimney inspected and cleaned in a couple of years, schedule an appointment with a chimney sweep now.
CHANGE THE FURNACE FILTER
To help those guests who may have allergies to dust, pollen and pet hair, change your furnace filter.
If your current home is no longer satisfying your needs, including holiday hosting duties, take some time this winter to seriously consider your real estate options. Spring is a great time to sell. And I would be happy to provide some initial information regarding pricing, market trends and the state of the mortgage industry.
Source: Windermere Real Estate Home Update.
Garage Door Maintenance
If just one part of your garage door fails, the consequences can be significant. If it won’t open all the way, your car could be stuck inside until a repair crew arrives. If it won’t close completely, everything stored in your garage – as well as your home – could be vulnerable to burglars. And should it override the built-in safety features, anyone standing in its way could be badly hurt. The key to avoiding problems with your garage door is regular maintenance. Once a year, take an hour to perform the following checks and services.
Warning: Garage doors are heavy and dangerous. Always unplug the opener before performing any garage door inspection or maintenance. And do not attempt any significant repairs on your own.
LOOK & LISTEN – Stand inside your garage and watch the garage door go up and down a few times. Listen for any grinding or scraping noises. Look to make sure the door operates smoothly and makes a tight seal with the ground.
CHECK THE “OBSTRUCTION SENSORS” & “AUTO-REVERSE” – To ensure no one gets trapped under a closing garage door, all automatic garage door openers manufactured after 1992 are equipped with “obstruction sensors” and an “automatic-reverse” feature. Make sure both are working correctly.
- Place a bucket directly under the open garage door, and push the “close” button. The obstruction sensor beam should recognize that an obstruction is present and not allow the door to close.
- Next, place an old chair under the open door (positioning the legs so they’re out of the way of the sensor beam). Then push the button to close the door. When the bottom of the door meets the chair, the door should immediately reverse and open again.
INSPECT THE ROLLERS & CLEAN THE TRACKS – The little wheels attached to the sides of the door should roll freely and not wobble. Spray them with silicone lubricant spray (not WD-40) occasionally to keep them well lubricated. The tracks that the rollers rest on should be clean and free of debris.
LUBRICATE THE SPRINGS & CHAIN/BOLT – Spread some white lithium grease on the chain or long metal bolt that connects the opener motor and the door (if it’s a rubber belt, do not lubricate it). Spray the springs mounted above the door with silicone lubricant.
REPLACE THE WEATHER STRIP – If it’s brittle or cracked, the thick rubber strip on the bottom of the garage door should be replace.
TASKS BEST LEFT TO THE PROS – The following maintenance and repair tasks are dangerous and require an experienced hand. In other words, they should always be handled by a professional garage door electrician.
- Professional inspection & adjustment (every 3-5 years)
- Replacement of worn or broken springs
- Replacement of worn or bent tracks
- Replacement of worn or broken rollers
- Repair of frayed cables
FINAL NOTE – Many homeowners (and most renters) don’t have enough storage space, which has led to a dramatic increase in off-site storage rentals. If it’s time you had more on-site space for cars or storage, allow me to show you some homes in your area that might be a better fit.
Source: Windermere Real Estate Home Update October 2017