Your Fall Home Maintenance Checklist: 7 Tasks to Tackle Before Temperatures Dip

Once autumn’s chill is in the air, we don’t think twice about swapping our tank tops for sweaters and stocking our pantry with pumpkin-spice everything. So why wouldn’t we prepare our houses for the chill, too?

Yes, that first freeze can often take us by surprise, leading to major headaches and thousands of dollars in repairs. So before you start stuffing your bookshelves with decorative gourds and planning the best Thanksgiving dinner your in-laws will ever eat, take a swing through these simple fall maintenance tasks. We promise a little prep work now will help keep your home running smoothly all season long.

1. Prep your pipes

The term “winterization” is a bit of a misnomer: Yes, you’re prepping your home for winter, but the hard work needs to happen in autumn. And that’s especially true when it comes to your pipes.

DIY: “Shut off all faucets and valves, and drain any outdoor piping, like sprinkler systems, before the temperature drops,” says Jane Li, a senior project manager at Mercury Insurance. To be extra careful, Li recommends putting away any outdoor hoses and wrapping socks around outdoor faucets.

Call in the pros: If your winterization efforts uncover a leaky pipe, hire a plumber to fix the mess before the temperature drops. On average, a plumber will cost $300, but a broken pipe could run you upward of $5,000, depending on how much water damage there is. In other words, consider this money well spent.

2. Keep out the critters

Just as you’ll spend more time indoors when the weather cools, rodents and pests will seek out a warm place, too—like your home.

“Mice especially are flexible little creatures and can get through holes that aren’t much bigger than a dime,” says Karen Thompson, an editor at InsectCop.net, which researches and evaluates pest-control products and methods.

DIY: Take a tour of your property, seeking out any cracks that might let a critter sneak inside. Seal any openings with spray foam or steel wool.

“As a bonus, doing this will let you not only avoid rodents, but also ants and fleas,” Thompson says.

Call in the pros: If there’s evidence these pesky little guys have already infiltrated your space, consider bringing in a pro. An exterminator will charge between $90 and $250 for an initial consultation, and costs will scale from there depending on what you need.

3. ‘FALL’-proof your space

Whether you’re getting up there in years or frequently hosting elderly parents, use the fall season to prevent, um, falls.

“Falls make up almost one-third of all nonfatal injuries in America, and a little prevention can go a long way toward keeping you safe,” says Jason Biddle, who runs The Helping Home, a resource for aging in place.

DIY: Use the “FALL” mnemonic to make sure your place is slip-proof:

  • Floors: Scan your floors for fall risks. Look for clutter, slippery stairs, and loose rugs. Add sticky padding to prevent slips.
  • Activities: What does your daily routine look like? You might need grab bars in the shower, or a second handrail by the stairs.
  • Lighting: Is your home bright enough to see any potential hazards? “A well-lit home can help [you] avoid tripping on dining table legs, floor planters, and out-of-sight power cords,” Biddle says.
  • Leaving: Examine your porch and outdoor paths. Are there any broken steps or overgrown shrubs that might trip you up when leaving your home?

Call in the pros: Your home might require a major aging-in-place adjustment, like installing a lift or wheelchair ramp. Costs for a motorized stairway lift start at $3,000, and a wheelchair ramp could run $1,500.

4. Remove or cover your air conditioner

Unless you live in the desert or the deep South, you probably don’t run your air conditioner during autumn. But you might be letting your system waste away if you leave it sitting out in the elements all fall and winter long, which can damage the fan and coils.

DIY: “Window units should be removed, covered, and placed in an area like the garage for safekeeping until they’re needed again,” says Richard Ciresi, who runs Aire Serv in Louisville, KY. Outdoor AC units should be properly covered.

Call in the pros: If you’ve noticed your HVAC system running sluggishly all summer, now’s a great time for an inspection, which will probably cost a little more than $300.

5. Check the fireplace

Your wood-burning fireplace has been sitting dormant for months now. Make sure it’s good to go before you light it up

DIY: Before getting your fireplace inspected, make sure you’re not putting any living things in danger.

“Check the top of the chimney for areas where birds may have nested,” Ciresi says. But check local laws first: It might be illegal to relocate active nests. Once the birds have moved on, however, you can break up the nest freely. (Just be sure to wear gloves.)

Call in the pros: Most chimney sweeps can help break up a nest, too. Besides, you’ll be needing their help for another fall must-do: sweeping the chimney. A professional inspection and sweep will cost between $100 and $250.

6. Prep your firewood pile

Nasty pests like carpenter ants or termites love hiding out in your firewood. Don’t let them hitch a ride inside.

DIY: If you’re building a firewood pile this autumn, make sure to keep those logs at least 20 feet from your home.

“This ensures that even if the wood has pests, they are less likely to transfer from the wood to your home,” Thompson says. Firewood should also be elevated during storage, which makes it even more difficult for bugs to sneak inside the wood.

Call in the pros: If you spot termites in your firewood pile, call in the pros before hauling a single log inside. Treating a local infestation might set you back $150.

7. Switch your ceiling fans

Your ceiling fans are designed to cool you off during the summer—but they also serve a need during the chilly seasons.

DIY: “Many people don’t realize the difference made with the simple reversal of your ceiling fans,” Ciresi says. “Hot air always rises, and ceiling fans are uniquely designed to direct airflow exactly where you need it most.”

Every ceiling fan has a switch hidden on its base. When the mercury level drops, flip that switch so the fan is moving clockwise.

“This updraft allows hot air to get pushed down into your rooms,” Ciresi says. “This is especially useful in rooms with very high ceilings.”

Call in the pros: Pay attention to your home’s temperature on chilly days. Are you still cold? Consider an energy audit, which will cost about $400—but may help you save tremendously on your energy bills over the next few years.

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Source: https://www.realtor.com/advice/home-improvement/fall-home-maintenance-checklist-2018/

 

September 21, 2018   No Comments

How to Make Your Garage a Storage Powerhouse

Garages often turn into repositories for everything from sports equipment to holiday decorations. But with planning you can turn your garage into a harmonious space with room to actually — wait for it — park the car.

Project length: From consultation to installation, this kind of project could take three to five weeks, Scott says.

Permit: “Unless we are doing something structural or adding electricity, no permit is generally needed,” says Scott.

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Source: https://www.houzz.com/ideabooks/21310417/list/how-to-make-your-garage-a-storage-powerhouse

August 6, 2018   No Comments

Rising Interest Rates Have Not Dampened Demand

Rising Interest Rates Have Not Dampened Demand

Since the beginning of the year, mortgage interest rates have risen over a half of a percentage point (from 3.95% to 4.52%), according to Freddie Mac. Even a small rise in interest rates can greatly impact a buyer’s monthly mortgage payment.

First American recently released the results of their quarterly Real Estate Sentiment Index (RESI), in which they surveyed title and real estate agents across the country about the impact of rising rates on first-time homebuyers.

Real estate professionals around the country have not noticed a slowdown in demand for housing among young buyers; nearly 93% of all first-time homebuyers last quarter were between the ages of 21-35, with the largest share of buyers (51%) coming from those ages 26-30.

First American’s Chief Economist Mark Fleming had this to say,

“On a national level, mortgage rates would need to hit 5.6%, 1 percentage point above the current rate, before first-time homebuyers withdraw from the market.”

So, what is slowing down sales?

According to the last Existing Home Sales Report from the National Association of Realtors, sales are now down 3.0% year-over-year and have fallen for the last three months. If rising interest rates aren’t to blame, then what is?

Fleming addressed the cause, saying that:

“The housing market is facing its greatest supply shortage in 60 years of record keeping, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City. The ongoing housing supply shortage will make it difficult for first-time buyers to find a home to buy, even when they are financially ready.”

Bottom Line

First-time homebuyers know the importance of owning their own homes and a spike in interest rates is not going to keep them from buying this year! Their biggest challenge is finding a home to buy!

Written By: KCM Crew

Source: https://www.keepingcurrentmatters.com/2018/07/11/rising-interest-rates-have-not-dampened-demand/

July 13, 2018   No Comments

5 Smart Strategies to Pull Off a Fast-Paced Military Move

If you’re a service member, you know that when things happen in the military, they happen fast. And that’s especially true for prospective buyers during a Permanent Change of Station, or PCS—when you’ll suddenly be buying a house and making a hurried move to a community you know little or nothing about.

Without the luxury of time to stroll through open houses and compare neighborhoods, you might feel uncertain whether you’re making the right decisions.

Don’t worry! There are a few things you can do to help yourself nail this fast-paced move—with no regrets.

1. Find an agent who’s experienced with military moves

Although any real estate agent can help you with a military move and Veterans Affairs loan, it can help to work with someone who knows the process inside and out.

A real estate agent who specializes in working with military buyers understands every step of your home-buying journey—from checking that a home has the VA-designated Minimum Property Requirements to making sure closing is a breeze.

To find the right agent for you, start by checking for specialized certifications such as Military Relocation Professional® or Military Residential Specialist. You can also ask another veteran for a referral, or get help from Veterans United Realty to find a pro.

And remember: Nothing is as important as asking potential agents how they’ve handled military purchases in the past—and how they’d handle yours.

2. Have your paperwork in order

As soon as you get your PCS orders, make sure to get a mortgage pre-approval in hand.

This crucial document gives you a clear picture of your buying power so you don’t fall in love with a place you can’t afford. Plus, a pre-approval can give you a leg up, proving to the seller that you’re both willing and able to purchase the home, says Realtor® Bobby Middleton with Texas Premier Realty in San Antonio.

But even if you’ve been pre-approved, don’t assume you’re good to go, Middleton cautions.

“Pre-approval doesn’t mean that your lender won’t check your credit again,” he says, warning would-be buyers not to open a new credit card to buy appliances, or to ignore a credit card payment in the chaos of moving. Middleton’s seen a number of cases where an approved loan went south at closing when a buyer’s credit was checked again.

You’ll also want to get your Power of Attorney finalized, in case you aren’t able to be present for key events, like closing. Talk with your lender about the type of power of attorney you might need.

3. Make good use of technology

Once you’ve nailed down your budget, it’s time to start searching for homes. This is where things can get tricky—but they don’t have to be.

Use an online home search to narrow down the homes that check all your boxes and your budget. Then ask your VA-savvy agent to check out the properties—and take you along for the visit. Thanks to the magic of video-chatting apps (like Skype and FaceTime), being out of market doesn’t mean you have to purchase a house “sight unseen” anymore.

“My client might say, ‘Show me what the pantry looks like or how big the kitchen really is,’” Middleton says. “We go through the house with such a fine-toothed comb that they feel like they are there; it can be almost as good as an in-person view if you take adequate time.”

Even if you’re able to swing a visit, an early video tour will help you rank properties so you can spend extra time in the houses you like and not waste time on the nonstarters.

In addition to the house tour, try using Google Earth, recommends Twila Lukavich, a Realtor® with ProSmart Realty in Peoria, AZ.

“This tool truly gives you a real-time, bird’s-eye view of the street and the neighbors’ homes that surround the house that interests you,” Lukavich says.

4. Do some homework

Sure, driving the streets and talking to neighbors are an important part of house hunting. But doing some research might give you a better picture of key details—and make you feel like you’re almost there.

Your first stop should be the city’s chamber of commerce website, Lukavich says.

“The majority of them will have a section with information on the area that will help you get a feel for the community—from what sorts of shops and services are available to what local events they host,” she says.

And make sure you do your homework on the community’s crime stats, sex offender registries, and any other details that might be of concern; because of the Fair Housing Act, your agent actually isn’t allowed to answer these kinds of questions.

Don’t overlook the local schools—even if you don’t have kids now, the reputation of the school district has direct bearing on your future resale value. Check out GreatSchools for information on everything from test scores to school diversity and experience level of the teachers, Middleton suggests.

Finally, if the home is in an HOA community or a master-planned community, look for a Facebook or Nextdoor community page.

“There is no better insight to a community than a localized social media page,” Lukavich says.

5. Factor in time to sell your current home

Make sure you’re not so laser-focused on buying that you forget about offloading your current home.

“While selling a home is no easy task for anyone, it can be even harder when you add the stress of being active-duty and ordered to relocate to a new area within a very short timeline,” Lukavich points out.

If you’re not in a seller’s market, you might have to make a few concessions to move your home fast: Price your home to sell. Be willing to negotiate. And spend a bit of money to stage it and make it look irresistible (this is especially important if you’ve already moved and your home is vacant). You can even try writing a personal letter to potential buyers explaining the reasons you bought the home, including the amazing neighborhood, schools, and any other amenities that stand out to you.

Finally, put your house on the market as soon as you learn you may receive PCS orders to a different area, Lukavich suggests.

“You can note in the listing that the sale is contingent upon the sellers receiving the actual PCS orders,” she says.

 

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Source: https://www.realtor.com/advice/buy/home-buying-military-move-tips/

 

May 21, 2018   No Comments

Summer Savers: 9 Things You Can Do Now To Protect Your Home Before The Heat Hits

Summer Savers: 9 Things You Can Do Now To Protect Your Home Before The Heat Hits mdsprinklers.com

Things are heating up and school is winding down. That mean’s summer is right around the corner. But it’s not all flip-flops and sunglasses and smiles. Summer is also hot and sweaty and often expensive when you’re trying not to be hot and sweaty, or you just want your home to run more efficiently. There are things you can do and changes you can make now to save money this summer.

Have your sprinkler system and outdoor faucets looked at

You could have sprinkler heads that are malfunctioning or not working at all, which could harm your grass and cost you money to replace it. Leaky outdoor faucets could also be costing you in increased water bills.

Do a leak check inside

Cold air escaping and hot air intruding – it’s the reality of many a home, and not only can it make you feel uncomfortable, it can make your air conditioner work overtime. “For a thorough and accurate measurement of air leakage in your home, hire a qualified technician to conduct an energy audit, particularly a blower door test,” said the U.S. Department of Energy. “A blower door test, which depressurizes a home, can reveal the location of many leaks.”

Do an appliance check

Have a mixer, blender, and knife sharpener plugged in on your kitchen countertop? How often do you really use any of these items? The more you unplug, the less energy you use.

Have your A/C unit checked and serviced

Not only do you not want your air conditioning to conk out in mid-summer when it’s blasting hot outside, but you also want to make sure you catch little issues before they become giant, expensive ones – and before you’re A/C guy books up. “There are two main reasons to schedule annual air conditioner maintenance with your local HVAC contractor: saving money and saving money (no that isn’t a typo),” said HomeAdvisor. “For starters, you greatly increase the chances that your A/C technician will catch small problems before they become big ones by schedules regular check-ups. Repairing a small refrigerant leak shouldn’t cost much more than the service call. Buying a new compressor when low refrigerant levels burn your current one out, however, can cost a thousand dollars or more. The other way an annual check-up saves you money is by ensuring that your A/C unit is working at optimal efficiency. When your A/C is running well it uses less energy to cool your house, and lower energy use means bigger savings for you on your monthly utility bills.”

Remember to change your filters regularly, too. According to Energy.gov, “The most important maintenance task that will ensure the efficiency of your air conditioner is to routinely replace or clean its filters. Replacing a dirty, clogged filter with a clean one can lower your air conditioner’s energy consumption by 5% to 15%.”

Use the toaster instead of the oven

The heat from the oven can raise the temp in your home, causing your air conditioner to turn on. Using smaller appliances – your slow cooker is another idea – can help keep the temperature lower. Even better, use your outdoor grill, instead!

Cover up

Windows that are exposed to afternoon sun can heat up the house quickly, undermining your A/C and making everyone in the house uncomfortable.

“Air conditioning is blissful during the summer, but running it nonstop during a heat wave will have you cursing when you get your utility bill,” said Consumer Reports. “Fortunately, clever use of blinds, curtains, and other window treatments can help keep your house cool and your bills in check. The Department of Energy says that smart management of window coverings can reduce heat gain by up to 77 percent.”

Cover up inside and out for the best protection. “Studies show that medium-colored draperies with white plastic backings can reduce heat gain by 33 percent, according to the DOE. Because of the horizontal slats, it’s difficult to control heat loss through interior window blinds, although they do offer some flexibility. Unlike shades, you can adjust the slats to control light and ventilation. When completely closed, highly reflective blinds can reduce heat gain by around 45 percent, says the DOE. They can also be adjusted to block and reflect direct sunlight onto a light-colored ceiling, which diffuses the light without much heat or glare.”

Outside, consider solar screens, or awnings. “Window awnings can reduce solar heat gain by up to 65 percent on south-facing windows and 77 percent on west-facing windows, according to the DOE.”

Turn up the temperature

That goes against the whole “keeping the house cool” thing, right? But, if you can stand it, a few ticks up on the thermostat can lower your costs. “According to Energy Star, almost half the energy used in your home goes toward heating and cooling. Even making small adjustments, such as turning up your air conditioning by only one degree, can make a huge difference,” said Huffington Post. “For each degree you reduce your air conditioning, it’s estimated you’ll save 3 percent on your utility bills. You can also save money by using a programmable thermostat. When used correctly, a programmable thermostat saves the average family $180 per year.”

Get a learning thermostat

Unlike old-school thermostats that you can program for different times and days, products like Nest actually learn from you, and your house, which can then save you money. “Why should you have to figure out your thermostat? The Nest Thermostat learns from you,” said Nest. “Just turn it up and down for the first few days. The Nest Thermostat will get to know the temperatures you like and when you like them. Then it programs itself and creates a schedule for you. The Nest Thermostat even learns from your home and figures out how it heats or cools, because no two homes are exactly the same.”

Add insulation

The upfront expense will will pay dividends later when your energy bills go down. “Adding insulation to prevent leaky ducts, walls, windows, and doors can improve your home’s energy draw by 20 to 30 percent,” said Real Simple.

Written By Jaimi Naciri

Source: https://realtytimes.com/consumeradvice/homeownersadvice/item/1017243-20180514-summer-savers-9-things-you-can-do-now-to-protect-your-home-before-the-heat-hits?rtmpage=

May 16, 2018   No Comments