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Jan. 10, 2018

Seasonal Home Maintenance Checklist

Your home is an investment that requires ongoing maintenance to stay in tiptop shape. If you neglect annual and quarterly tasks, however, you risk overlooking potential issues that could lead to expensive repairs down the road. Stay on top of preventive maintenance tasks with a seasonal checklist and the reminders below.

Winter -- To prevent pipes from bursting, drain and insulate exposed outdoor pipes and leave the water dripping inside on cold nights. Also check your boiler's water level every now and again to make sure it doesn't get too low.

Spring -- Winter can leave a layer of grit on your home's exterior. Get it ready for spring by cleaning windows, doors and siding with a garden hose or power washer. And while the weather is mild, have your HVAC systems serviced by a professional to keep them running at optimal efficiency.

Summer -- Inspect your sprinkler system for clogs or malfunctioning heads. Keep an eye out for damaged pipes or pooling water to avoid a larger issue. Review or establish your family emergency plan and restock your disaster supply kit if necessary.

Fall -- Get ahead of winter by having your chimney professionally inspected and cleaned. Make sure your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are functioning properly and have fresh batteries. And keep your gutters clear of leaves and debris to protect your roof and foundation.

These are just a few maintenance items to stay on top of around the house. Keep up with all of your annual, monthly and seasonal to-do's to preserve the value of your home and avoid potential headaches down the line. You'll be glad you did!

 

Posted in Home Tips
Dec. 27, 2017

3 Methods to Organize Your Home and Life

3 Home Organization Philosophies

We all have some level of attachment to our things. However, many of us feel as though we're drowning in stuff. Fortunately, there's been a growing movement toward minimalism, and there are numerous methods that can help. Below are three decluttering philosophies to help you clear out and clean up your home and life.

 Feng Shui -- The driving principle behind this Eastern philosophy is to create harmony and balance between an individual and his or her environment. Good feng shui invites prosperity and brings an overall sense of well-being into your space. From the front door to the bathroom, small changes to color, decor and furniture arrangement are believed to promote health, wealth, happiness and good energy.

 The KonMari Method -- Famed Japanese organizer Marie Kondo promises that you can drastically improve your life by tidying up. In her book, "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing," she explains a two-step approach. First, you take all of your possessions and lay them out categorically (clothes first and sentimental pieces last). Then, you hold each item in your hand and decide whether or not it brings you joy. If it doesn't, you let it go.

 The 90/90 Rule (Minimalism) -- This home organization concept also relies on a two-part process. When implementing the 90/90 rule, assess each belonging based on two simple questions: Have I used it within the last 90 days, and will I use it in the next 90 days? If not, it's time to say goodbye.

Ultimately, there's no shortage of ways to declutter and simplify your life. The important thing is to be willing to let go of the items that no longer serve you and make way for new experiences.

 

Posted in Home Tips
Dec. 14, 2017

Frequently Asked Mortgage Questions

 

Does the term "amortization" leave you perplexed? Are you unsure how preapproval differs from prequalification? If so, you're not alone. Here are some mortgage basics to help you become more familiar with the process.

What's the difference between prequalification and preapproval?
Getting prequalified is often the first step when searching for a home. You supply basic financial information, such as your income, assets and debts, and the lender then provides a preliminary estimate of the amount for which you may qualify.

Preapproval involves an in-depth look at your finances and usually requires an application fee, but this process brings you closer to determining your potential interest rate and monthly payment. Being preapproved also puts you in a better position in a competitive market because it shows you have your finances in order.

What is amortization?
Amortization is the process of paying off a home loan's principal and interest over time within a consistent, planned repayment schedule. In the beginning, a large portion of each payment goes toward interest, but as the loan matures, larger amounts go toward paying down the principal.

What types of loans are there?
Fixed and adjustable rate mortgagesoperate as their respective names imply. The former has a rate that stays the same for the life of the loan. The latter's rate may start low, but it can increase after a predetermined period or depending on market conditions.

Government-guaranteed mortgages include FHA and VA loans. These are usually easier to qualify for and typically require lower down payments than other types of loans.

 

 

Posted in Home Buying
Nov. 20, 2017

Safety Basics for the Home

 

Emergency Preparedness Essentials

 

 

Emergency situations such as fire, extreme weather and power outages can happen without warning. By taking the time to prepare for a possible disaster now, you and your family will be equipped to handle a crisis if one ever occurs.

 

Fire Escape Route and Meeting Spot
It can take a mere five minutes for a fire to engulf your entire home. This is one reason having an escape plan is so important. Include at least two exit routes in your plan in case one is blocked, and designate a safe location for everyone in your household to meet. Identifying a secondary location outside your neighborhood is good to have in the event it's not safe to return or you're asked to evacuate.

 

List of Emergency Contacts
Make laminated cards with a list of important phone numbers for each family member. This might include contact information for the local authorities and emergency services as well as your nearest relatives.

 

Home Safety Items
Be prepared in case an emergency does occur by having these home safety items:

 

  • Fire Extinguisher -- Keep one on each floor, and check them annually to make sure they're functioning properly.

 

  • First-Aid Kit -- Store it in a central location, such as the kitchen, and make sure everyone knows where it is.

 

  • Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors -- Install detectors in each room and test them once a month. Use long-life lithium batteries to cut back on replacements.

 

  • Food and Water -- Put together a three-day supply of nonperishable foods and at least three gallons of water for each member of your household.

 

There's often very little time to react in a crisis. But with a little planning and prep work, you can be well-equipped and ready to respond accordingly.

 

Posted in Home Tips
Oct. 26, 2017

Welcome to America's Boomtowns

Cities all over the United States are experiencing unprecedented population swells. Fueled by a general migration to urban areas, these boomtowns are supported by steady job growth and thriving home markets. Here are four standouts whose numbers are on the rise.

 

Seattle-Tacoma

A healthy tech industry seems to be tempering the rain in the Pacific Northwest. The promise of employment in the Seattle-Tacoma area is strong and home price growth is even more robust, and together they help make this soggy city one of America's fastest-growing regions.

 

Cape Coral-Fort Myers

Occupying the peak spot in Forbes' 2017 list of America's fastest-growing regions is Cape Coral-Fort Myers, Florida. This area is especially popular among retirees. With the near year-round sunshine, exceedingly low tax rates and virtually nonexistent crime, it's not hard to see why.

 

Dallas-Fort Worth

In terms of projected job growth, the DFW area is proving everything is bigger in Texas. The housing market is also solid, which may explain why four out of five of the fastest-growing southern cities are in the Lone Star State. Perhaps not surprisingly, two of them are Dallas-Fort Worth suburbs.

 

Denver

Farther west, Denver takes the prize for highest home price growth. The strong economy and seasonal amenities make this Colorado capital a go-to for savvy real estate investors.

 

 

Of course, thanks to a tech economy that's growing at breakneck speeds, these four cities aren't the only ones undergoing serious expansion. As tech industries continue to advance, expect to see more parts of the country experience new growth and development.

Posted in Home Buying
Oct. 17, 2017

7 Ways to Save Energy

 

October isn't just about pumpkin spice lattes and Halloween celebrations; it's also Energy Awareness Month. Find out how you can reduce your household's energy consumption this fall while preparing for the seasons ahead.

Reducing Home Energy Use
The average U.S. household consumes tens of thousands of kilowatt hours of electricity each year, and much of it is completely unnecessary. Making changes as simple as adding a few energy-efficient appliances and turning off gadgets when you're not using them can save you a significant amount of money while also reducing your carbon footprint.

Don't fret if new Energy Star-labeled appliances aren't in the budget. Instead, try working in a few small changes from this Home Energy Checklist to help you save throughout the year. Here are a few more ideas:

  • Unplug electronics, gaming consoles and chargers when not in use.
  • Insulate your water heater with a blanket and turn the temperature down to at least 120 degrees.
  • Replace bulbs with LED or CFL bulbs and turn them off anytime you leave a room.
  • Schedule an energy audit and replace your thermostat with a programmable unit.

 

Prepping Your Home for the Cold
During cooler months you can save additional money and energy with simple, inexpensive fixes like:

  • Using insulating drapes to help diffuse winter chill. Just make sure to open any south-facing drapes to take advantage of the sun's natural heating capabilities.
  • Finding and sealing air leaks. Check your windows, doors and pipes, and use weatherstripping or caulk to stop cool air from seeping in.
  • Closing fireplace dampers when not in use. You can also have the entire flume completely sealed off if you use your home's heating system exclusively.

 

Reducing your energy consumption not only makes a positive contribution to our planet, it also leaves money on the table for fun fall pastimes. With just a few of these small changes, you can get more from your energy budget.

Posted in Home Tips
Sept. 29, 2017

5 First-Time Building Mistakes to Avoid

 

Designing your own home can be exciting, but it's a lot more work than buying an existing house. With so many moving pieces involved, knowing what works and what doesn't is key. Protect your home's long-term value by sidestepping these five avoidable pitfalls of building a new home.

 

1. Forgetting About Storage Space

From seasonal items to extra bedding, everything requires a temporary home when not in use. For that, you'll need plenty of storage space. Some simple solutions might include a few extra closets, a sizeable garage space or built-in cabinets and shelving.

 

2. Skimping on Materials

Anything worth doing is worth doing right, and new home construction is no exception. Even if you're watching your pennies, try not to scrimp on quality, especially when it comes to important things like flooring. The materials you choose can have a huge impact on your home's overall value.

 

3. Overlooking Energy Efficiency

For an energy-efficient home design, make sure to use earth- and wallet-friendly features like well-sealed windows and green materials during the build. These are your strongest assets in keeping heating and cooling costs down long-term.

 

4. Losing Sight of Current and Future Needs

Design for your current needs, but keep the future in mind, too. For instance, do you plan to have children? Are you going to pursue a specific hobby, such as woodworking, when you retire? Whatever the future holds, work with your builder to create a dream home that will support your evolving needs.

 

5. Letting Someone Else Decide

You don't need to keep up with the Joneses to have an ideal space. Only you and your family know what you need most in a new home, so choose and upgrade according to your preferences alone.

 

 

In the end, building your ideal home is about identifying both what you want and what you don't want. Choose wisely so your new abode will be comfortable, efficient and attractive to future buyers.

Posted in Home Design
Sept. 18, 2017

4 Projects Pros Should Do

When You Just Shouldn't Do It Yourself

 

A do-it-yourself project can be an empowering way to save money, provided you know what you're doing. But making even one simple mistake could put a strain on your back or your bank account. Often, it's best to put safety first and call a professional. Here are four types of home improvement projects that are best left to the experts.

 

1. Plumbing or electrical projects -- There's a reason these are skilled trades. Both systems are complex, no matter how straightforward a repair may initially appear. Even small leaks can cause serious water damage, and faulty electrical wiring can lead to a house fire. Don't risk flooding or electric shock. Call a plumber or hire an electrician to make sure these jobs are done right the first time.

 

2. Renovations with possible code violations -- Structural changes require a licensed contractor. Not only can shoddy craftsmanship severely affect your home's value, but it can also put your family in danger. Accidentally removing a load-bearing wall, for example, could cause an entire room to collapse. Why take the risk?

 

3. Repairs involving heights -- More than 130,000 ladder-related injuries are treated in emergency rooms each year. Whether you're looking at a roof repair or trimming a tree, consider calling a professional before attempting to complete the job yourself.

 

 

4. Time-sensitive projects -- Weigh your work and family commitments before embarking on a home improvement project. Even if you're confident in your abilities, the added pressure of a tight deadline can lead to unnecessary and often dangerous mistakes.

 

 

Remember, just because a DIY project looks simple doesn't necessarily mean it's safe. When in doubt, err on the side of caution and call a professional.

Aug. 30, 2017

Home Changes That Affect Insurance

 

Homes often grow and change alongside the people living in them. If you've added expensive furnishings or made substantial upgrades, it's important to re-evaluate your homeowners insurance and make sure your policy reflects those changes. Here are four instances when it may be beneficial to review and adjust your coverage.

 

Remodeling or Renovation Work

Home improvement projects typically increase the value of your home, which usually calls for more coverage. But that doesn't necessarily mean your insurance rates will automatically increase. In fact, some projects, like adding a new roof, may help you save on your monthly home insurance premiums. Just be sure to notify your provider before any work begins.

 

Adding a Pool or an Outdoor Trampoline

Because these fun home features come with increased risk of injury, they're labeled an attractive nuisance. Upping your liability insurance can help keep you protected if there's ever an accident on your property and a subsequent lawsuit.

 

Acquiring New Valuables

Whether you inherit them or purchase them, expensive goods such as jewelry, art, rugs and antiques should be added to your policy. Increasing your coverage is the only way to safeguard them in the event of damage or theft.

 

Starting a Home Business

Many home-based business owners don't realize they have little, if any, coverage from a homeowners or renters insurance policy. Since a new home business likely means purchasing new technology and expensive equipment, you may need to get additional protection.

 

You worked hard for your home. Secure your belongings by updating your coverage to match your circumstances.

Posted in Home Selling
Aug. 25, 2017

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