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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

Buying a House? Here’s Some Advice You’ll Hear—and Should Totally Ignore

Buying a house? Then you’ll no doubt hear tons of advice from people who’ve been through the home-buying process before and want to pass their sage wisdom onto you. Problem is, sometimes the advice that “everybody knows” is right isn’t.

Fact is, housing markets change over time—and the rules vary widely based on where you’re looking to live, along with lots of other specifics. Just so you can keep your eye peeled for the home-buying advice you might hear that could lead you astray, here are common tips to take with a grain of salt.

‘You can save money by buying a fixer-upper’

Sure, shows such as “Fixer Upper” make it look easy, but rest assured, purchasing a run-down home and turning it into something special “is not for the faint of heart,” says Dan Bawden, former Remodelers Chairman of the National Association of Home Builders.

“If you have no knowledge of renovation, it’s a lot riskier,” Bawden says. Unless you’re an experienced remodeler, he suggests getting an inspection with estimates from a remodeling contractor before you buy.

Even if you have the ability (and time) to do the fixing up necessary, or have found a reliable contractor who can do the work while staying within your budget, you have to factor in the time you’ll be paying the mortgage and bills without being able to live in the home. Six months of paying rent on top of your house payment can quickly eat into what you saved on your “great deal.”

Bottom line: For the inexperienced, the line between fixer-upper and money pit is perilously thin. Make sure the stress of a remodel is worth the savings.

‘Foreclosures and short sales are bargains, too’

Short sales and foreclosures are often not the deals they appear to be, especially for inexperienced buyers.

“In this market, even banks want to get top dollar for their properties,” says Melisa Aponte, a real estate agent with the Keyes Group in Miami. “People can overpay for a property and still have to go through all the hassle of doing the work on it.” This is especially true for people using FHA loans, which have strict requirements about the condition of the homes they are used to purchase.

It’s difficult for novices to know what they’re actually buying, explains Dillar Schwartz, a real estate agent in Austin, TX. “The price tag may be fair, but the damages are often severe and the room for negotiation is limited.”

With foreclosures sold at auction, you’re buying the property as is: You can’t even go inside before purchase. Is that really a risk you’re willing to take, however great the price is?

‘Always buy the worst house on the best block’

On the face of it, this seems like good advice: Pick the ugly ducking in your area, and the higher value of surrounding homes will elevate its value, which means your home’s price has nowhere to go but up! And that’ll be great when you’re ready to sell.

Still, though, what if you don’t want to live in the “worst house”?

While it’s important to think about resale value, most buyers aren’t real estate investors; they’re people buying a home they’re going to live in. Even on the best block in the world, a home that’s too small for your family or that has other deal-breaker qualities is not going to be a good fit.

It’s better to find the right house in a less expensive neighborhood. After all, in a few years, your neighborhood can change, trees will grow, your neighbors’ landscaping could improve, but your house isn’t going to sprout another two bedrooms.

‘You need a neighborhood expert’

Of course you want an agent who knows the area, but do you really need a neighborhood expert? What on Earth does that even mean?

“I think it’s kind of a fake term,” says Schwartz. “Most cities aren’t as divided as you think.” In fact, working with a neighborhood expert can hurt your search if your agent doesn’t suggest properties in more than one small area.

Even if you think you know for sure where you want to buy, “there may be other opportunities out there that are a better fit, and for a better price,” says Schwartz.

She suggests looking at how many clients an agent has worked with overall as a measure of expertise, not just how many homes the agent has found in a certain neighborhood.

“Beware of reading too much into a designation,” she warns.

‘Cost per square foot gives you an apples-to-apples comparison’

Sure, looking at the price per square foot can help you compare properties of different sizes, and is often used as a benchmark for prices in a neighborhood. But that metric can be misleading.

“Price per square foot isn’t always the best data to make an investment decision off of,” says Schwartz.

That’s because there are many very important factors that don’t show up in that number. For example, you’re looking only at interior space. For real apples-to-apples comparisons, you need to consider the yard, garage, unfinished basement, and anything else that doesn’t qualify for the “official” square footage. It also doesn’t take into consideration the number of bathrooms and bedrooms (only the size), or the condition of the home. Price per square foot is just part of the story.

The most important thing to remember when you’re buying a home is that nothing is universal. Advice that makes sense in one market could be absurd in another—which is all the more reason to work with a real estate agent you trust and feel comfortable asking questions. Here’s more on how to find the right real estate agent in your area.

 

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Source: https://www.realtor.com/advice/buy/buying-a-house-advice-to-ignore/

April 16, 2018   No Comments

Mortgage Interest Rates Have Begun to Level Off

Mortgage Interest Rates Have Begun to Level Off

Whether you are a buyer searching for your first home, or a homeowner looking to move up to your next home, you should pay attention to where mortgage interest rates are heading.

Over the course of 2018, according to Freddie Mac’s Primary Mortgage Market Survey, rates have increased from 3.95% in the first week of January to 4.40% in the first week of April.

At first glance, the difference between these numbers in such a short amount of time could be concerning, but if we look at the graph below, we’ll see that rates have already started to level off and return to the mark set in February.

Mortgage Interest Rates Have Begun to Level Off | Keeping Current Matters

This is great news for anyone looking to buy a home this spring! The spring is always one of the busiest seasons for home buying, and with rates increasing even more, buyers have come off the fence to lock in great rates! This is still great advice as the experts believe that rates will continue to rise throughout the year.

Every month, Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae, the Mortgage Bankers Association and the National Association of Realtors release their projections for where they believe mortgage rates will be in the coming months. If we take the average of what each of the four organizations is predicting for the second quarter, rates are expected to rise to about 4.48% by June.

That average climbs to 4.73% by the end of this year.

So, what does this mean?

Waiting until the end of the year to buy, with rates still projected to increase, will end up costing you more money on your monthly mortgage payment. For every $250,000 you need to borrow to purchase your dream home, you will spend $49.21 more per month, $590.52 per year, and over $17,700 by the end of your 30-year mortgage.

And that’s just the impact of your interest rate going up!

Bottom Line

If you are ready and willing to purchase a home, find out if you’re able to by sitting with a local real estate professional who can evaluate your needs and help you with next steps!

Written By The KCM Crew

Source: https://www.keepingcurrentmatters.com/2018/04/11/mortgage-interest-rates-have-begun-to-level-off/

 

April 16, 2018   No Comments

One-Story vs. Two-Story Home: Which Is Better?

One-story versus two-story home: Which is better? When house hunting, this question is worth considering—and the answer isn’t as simple as you might think. The number of floors in a home affects not just the way it looks, but also how easy it is to navigate and maintain, how much you’ll pay for heating and cooling, and much more.

Just so you know what you’re in for based on the number of stories you buy (or build), consider this list of the pros and cons of one-story versus two-story homes.

One-story homes: Pros and cons

Whether you have your eye on a ranch house or bungalow, living life on one floor has plenty of positives. Here are some of the advantages:

  • Maintenance is a piece of (one-layer) cake. One-story homes are easier to maintain because everythings on the same level, points out Nathan Garrett, owner of Garretts Realty in Louisville, KY. On a daily basis, that means no schlepping a vacuum cleaner or loads of laundry up two flights of stairs. From an exterior point of view, everything from power-washing to window washing to painting stays easy and on the groundno scaffolding necessary.
  • Single-story homes are simpler to design. Thinking about building your dream house? One-story homes are simplest to design and thus less expensive to design, explains Rachel Preston Prinz, founding director of Archinia and Architecture for EveryBody in Santa Fe, NM. Theyre also easier than two-story houses to structurally engineer and can be built with prefab components, if that’s your jam.
  • They’re safer to navigate. Have toddlers or an elderly parent living with you who might not be able to safely handle stairs? A one-story home means fewer risks of falls and accidents. It also means that once you get old, you can safely age in place.
  • They’re easier to evacuate. In case of a fire, you’ll be able to open any ground-floor window and crawl out to safety. (Just don’t plant rose bushes directly under your planned escape routes.) Live in an earthquake zone? One-story (wood-framed) houses are the safest structures to be in during a quake.

Now for the potential drawbacks of single-story homes:

  • Building and adding on can be costly. If you’re building a home from the ground up, a larger footprint requires more land, says Prinz. A one-story house also requires more materials such as for the foundation, roofing, and windows. And since plumbing and HVAC runs will need to be longer, thus requiring more power, you’ll need bigger, pricier systems.
  • There’s less privacy. Not everybody likes the letter carrier passing right by their bedroom window to drop off packages. While it’s true that not every single-story house means you’re all that exposed, second stories tend to be more secluded.

Two-story homes: Pros and cons

Whether you fancy a Cape Codsaltbox, or romantic Victorian, there’s a sense of elegance that’s inherent in multistory houses. Can you imagine the White House as one story? Certainly not Buckingham Palace. Aesthetics aside, here are the other perks you get with a two-level house.

  • Extra privacy: A second floor makes for an easier separation of public and private spaces, points out Prinz. If youve ever had guests over and sent your kids upstairs to watch a movieor your in-laws are crashing in the guest room downstairs and you need to get away in your master suitewell, you know what we mean.
  • Lower risk of burglary: You have a significantly lower risk of a break-in if you accidentally leave a window open on the second floor [rather than one on the first], says Shayan Jalali, a sales associate for Keller Williams in Boston. A thief is unlikely to shimmy up your drain pipe just to check out your goods, and far less likely to shimmy down it with your flat-screen TV.
  • More design options: In two-story homes, its fun to play with the massing and scale of spaces, says Prinz, much more so than with just one level.
  • Potential views: If you live in a picturesque area, this advantage speaks for itself. Who doesn’t love a good balcony or second-floor porch?

That said, two-story homes aren’t perfect. Here are the downsides.

  • Greater risk of accidents: Lets talk about those stairs for a moment. They present a potential danger for young children and can be cumbersome for anyone with mobility issues, says Jalali. Youll need to deploy baby-proof gates or figure out a way to make your staircase accessible to any loved ones whose movement is limited. That isnt cheap. Most stairs are difficult to adapt for disabilities, says Prinz. Making a second floor accessible can cost upward of $20,000 for a lift.
  • Costlier heating and cooling: Heat rises; cold air drops. As a result, your upstairs will run hot, your downstairs cold, and you’ll have to adjust your heating and AC accordingly. In fact, some experts say that a two-story home may have double the heating and cooling costs of a single-story home of the same square footage.
  • Potential for higher noise level: If not designed well, a multilevel home can have you covering your ears. If your bedroom opens directly onto a great room balcony or the floor isnt properly designed for acoustics, youll hear people walking and talking above you, cautions Prinz.

Source: https://www.realtor.com/advice/buy/one-story-vs-two-story-home-which-is-better/

April 10, 2018   No Comments

Financial Don’ts When Getting Ready To Buy A Home

If you’re in the process of buying a home, you’ve probably already met with a lender who advised you on what to do and what not to do during the escrow process. But if you’re just getting ready to buy or plan on doing so in the near future, following a few financial tips can mean the difference between qualifying…and not, and also getting a decent rate. These are a few universal “don’ts” that will help you stay on track, even before you get a lender involved.

Don’t take out more credit

If you’re thinking you’re going to buy a house in a matter of a few months, forget that new laptop on the Best Buy card, forget that new car, and forget that Old Navy card. Sure, it’s only a $30 pair of pants. But, taking out more credit can harm your debt-to-income ratios, which can make you look like a credit risk. And that’s not worth it, no matter how cute the pants are.

Don’t pay off all your current credit cards

Your lender will tell you specifically what you should pay down and what you should leave alone, but banks tend to like responsible credit management. In some cases, that may mean carrying a small balance on one or more cards.

Don’t charge up all your cards to the limit

“Responsible credit management” does not mean running every available card up to the limit and/or only making minimum monthly payments. Banks will not look kindly on this when you go to get approved for a loan.

Be careful with old debts

You may think that in order to qualify for a mortgage or get the best possible rate you have to pull your credit and go back through every single entry to identify and take care of anything negative. You’re right about the first part. Pulling your credit so you know what you’re working with is critical, and financial experts recommend doing it annually, regardless of what you’re planning (or not planning) to buy. But be careful with old debts. It doesn’t hurt to ask a lender what should and should not be taken care of. But, in general, you’ll want to:

Pay in full instead of making settlement arrangements – It’s not uncommon for debt collection companies to send out settlement offers that allow you to settle debts for less than the total amount. While this can sound tempting, it likely won’t yield the results you’re looking for. Yes, it’ll stop the harassing phone calls and persistent letters. But if your goal is to get the debt to disappear from your credit report, you’ll be disappointed.


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“When you settle your debt, the activity usually shows up on your credit report as ‘debt settled’ or ‘partial payment’ or ‘paid in settlement.’ You can talk to the settlement company about the specific language they use, but the bottom line is: this is a red flag on your report,” said clearpoint. “FICO doesn’t reveal how much your score will drop, exactly, and your report doesn’t indicate how much of the original debt was forgiven; it simply shows you settled. Either way, it still points to the fact that you may be a credit risk.”

Stick to newer debts – Older debts that are getting close to falling off your report should be the last thing you pay. “You also want to consider the statute of limitations on your debt,” they said. “Most past debts remain on your credit report for seven years, so if you’re close to the time frame when the debt falls off, settling it may not make much of a difference. There’s an ethical argument to be made here, but practically, you might just be settling a debt that was about to disappear anyway.”

Be careful with debt consolidation

If you have a lot of outstanding debt, are in over your head with credit cards and store cards, and can only manage the minimum monthly payment on all your existing loans, you’re likely going to have a hard time qualifying for a mortgage. You may be tempted to lump your debt together into one payment through a credit consolidation company, but beware the consequences. There may be startup fees, interest rates on the consolidation loan could skyrocket after an initial teaser rate expires, and, in some cases, an improvement in credit is years away.

Don’t get lax with your payments

Your lender will reinforce this, but it bears repeating that even after you’ve been prequalified, you need to keep your payments current on your car, your Visa, etc. Your lender will do a recheck before closing just to make sure nothing has changed in your credit report, and if you have new issues, it could impact your loan.

Don’t move money around

“We know a story of one homebuyer who almost lost his home because he had stated on his application that the down payment was coming from a mutual fund account. Then, two days before closing, he decided to sell a baseball card collection instead,” said HSH.com. “The loan had to be underwritten all over, his ownership of the collection, its value and its sale had to be verified, the closing was delayed and the fees increased.”

Don’t change jobs before you buy your home

This is a big no-no don’t if you’re in the process of buying a home or are about to. Among all the other financial information your lender will be collecting in consideration of your loan, they will also be asking about your employment history. You’re obviously less likely to be approved if you’re unemployed (unless you’re independently wealthy, and, in that case, Congratulations!). A recent job change may also be problematic if the bank is feeling jumpy about your job security

Written by Jaymi Naciri

Source: https://realtytimes.com/consumeradvice/mortgageadvice/item/1005579-20170928-financial-donts-when-getting-ready-to-buy-a-home?rtmpage=null

April 9, 2018   No Comments

Home Improvement Projects That Aren’t Worth DIYing

Generally, DIY can save homeowners money. For example, HomeAdvisor reports that a homeowner who chooses to install their own linoleum flooring may save as much as $5,000 compared to a homeowner who hires a contractor. However, some projects are simply too complex, involve too much risk and require too much specialty knowledge for homeowners to DIY.

Damage from Smoke or Fire

Smoke and fire can do terrible damage to a home. Smoke damage can affect everything from clothing to upholstery, carpet and the very walls of the home.

While homeowners can use specialty cleaning products to remove soot, and can replace drywall relatively inexpensively, odor removal requires specialty tools that can be expensive to purchase and difficult to rent. Thermal fogging and ozone treatment are two of the most common methods that professionals use to remove the smell from a home.

A typical homeowner will pay between $3,000 and $22,000 for smoke damage restoration, yet performing the DIY project may be even more expensive. If the homeowner’s efforts fail, hiring a contractor afterword to finish the job could make the effort more expensive than if the homeowner had hired the contractor in the beginning.

Damage from Wind

Wind can damage everything from the home’s siding to roof. Repair work can be extensive, and many DIYers take much longer than contractors to make repairs. During that time, the home is vulnerable to damage from rain and the other elements. Homeowners who try to repair their own roof or siding may save on labor but could cause other costly problems while fixing one problem at a time.

The advantage of hiring a contractor for this work is that the contractor has all the tools on hand to fix the job and will likely have a crew of people as well. Whereas a damaged roof and siding can be repaired in a weekend by a contractor, a homeowner could take many days or weeks.

Wind damage can cost between $2,000 and $10,000 to repair via a contractor. Homeowners hoping to save money can do some of the work on their own. For example, the homeowner can cut fallen tree branches to a more manageable size, then may haul them away to save on clean up costs from the contractor.

Earthquake Retrofitting

This type of project requires a lot of specialty knowledge about a variety of systems in the home. Retrofitting takes place in the basement or crawlspace and up into the exterior walls. Earthquake retrofitting is done by bracing the walls and by anchoring the home to the mud sill or bolting the foundation, whichever is appropriate.

The cost to earthquake retrofit a home is approximately $4,000. However, if the efforts fail, the home could be seriously damaged or completely destroyed. Foundation repair after an earthquake can cost as much as $25,000, while the replacement of the entire home is far more costly. The best way to ensure that the home will survive a major earthquake if one happens is to hire a contractor.

Mold Damage

Mold is a serious problem that often occurs after a flood. Water damage after a flood can cost between $1,000 and $4,000 to repair, with mold remediation being a large part of that. Angie’s List reports that mold remediation can cost between $2,700 and $3,300. Mold remediation costs over $500 should be handled by a licensed contractor because mold remediation can be invasive and could potentially do damage to the home.

Mold remediation involves an assessment of the home, contamination control, source removal and moisture control. This multi-faceted project must be comprehensive, or mold will return.

Homeowners who aren’t sure about a DIY project can contact their contractor for more information. Speaking to a contractor can help the homeowner get a sense of how much a project will cost and whether it can be completed as a DIY.

Written by Monica Thomas

Source: https://realtytimes.com/consumeradvice/homeownersadvice/item/1016430-20180406-home-improvement-projects-that-are-not-worth-diying?rtmpage=

April 6, 2018   No Comments