A treasured keepsake and a real estate agent’s #GoodToAsk question help a young mother and her daughter start over together in a new home.
With spring almost here, it’s time to get outside (inside too!) and make sure every corner of your home is in tip-top shape. Here’s a checklist of tasks to tackle in the coming days and weeks.
Inside the House:
• Check the basement for water damage: Water can seep in through foundation cracks and other exterior crevices. Check the basement for a musty smell, water stains, and damp surfaces. If you find signs of water damage, walk around your house and check for cracks and crevices in the foundation.
• Inspect and repair sump pump: Test your sump pump and clean out any debris. If your pump runs on electricity, it’s smart to have a backup, battery-powered system for it. In the event of a power outage, you don’t want your sump pit to overflow.
• Clean air-conditioner and HVAC filters: In-wall air conditioners are pretty straightforward: Pull the filter out of the unit and spray it down. For HVAC systems, turn off the system; then locate the service panel to find the filter. If it’s reusable, rinse it, dry it and put it back. If not, replace it.
• Clean dryer vent and exhaust ducts: Unplug the clothes dryer, disconnect the hose from the vent in the back of the dryer, and clean out lint from both the hose and the vent using your vacuum cleaner’s crevice tool.
Outside the House:
• Check for signs of termites and other pests: Get outside and check for telltale signs of termites, which can cause serious damage to your home’s infrastructure. If you see insect wings, mud tubes or damage to wood on or around your home, contact a termite professional for an evaluation.
• Inspect and repair siding and peeling paint: Take a walk around the house to assess the entire exterior. Fix or replace damaged siding (or call in a pro to handle it). Strip peeling paint and replace it with a new coat.
• Clean gutters and downspouts: Time to get up on a sturdy ladder and clean the gutter system that runs along the perimeter of your roof. Gutters are there to catch water runoff from the roof, but they also catch leaves and other debris that lead to clogs. Also, make sure downspouts are positioned correctly, to direct water away from your house. They should point about six feet away from the side of the house.
• Locate and fix roof damage: While you’re up near the roof, check for loose or buckling shingles and replace them. If you’re uncomfortable, hire an expert to climb up to get a better look.
• Fix cracked pavement: Winter’s elements can wreak havoc on concrete. Head to your local home improvement center to buy a concrete repair system.
• Check for window damage and replace caulking: Check windows from the outside to determine whether there’s any damage to the caulking, which seals out water, air and other elements. If any of it is loose or peeling, remove it and replenish with fresh caulk.
• Repair and seal the deck: Assess the damage your wooden deck has sustained throughout the winter (snow, ice, rain, cold temperatures). Locate and repair loose nails and screws, loose boards and wobbly stairs and railings. Hose down the deck, let it dry and then protect with a stain or sealer.
Article courtesy of ApartmentTherapy.com
Spending a weekend or two on maintenance can prevent expensive home repairs and alert you to developing problems before they become serious. Here are a few tips to help you prepare for the winter season.
It’s imperative that your gutters are ready for the heavy workout they’ll receive from winter rains. Most homeowners in the Northwest will need to clean their gutters several times during the fall, because the leaves won’t be finished coming down until the first big winter rain or snowstorm.
Have your furnace checked and tuned up.
Schedule a fall appointment promptly to get your furnace ready for winter (it’s a good idea to have a biannual HVAC service contract so that fall and spring tune-ups are automatic). Find out what items are on your HVAC professional’s fall checklist and ask questions about any maintenance. The service should include checking fuel connections, burner combustion, and the heat exchanger.
Check your furnace filters monthly and change them whenever they’re dirty. Inspect and vacuum out the floor grates and return duct regularly, especially if you have children or pets.
Combat moss on the roof.
Fall is the time to apply moss-killing granules or liquid solution to your rooftop. Be sure to buy the granules that are made especially for roofs, not those for lawns. Lawn granules contain iron, which will rust on your roof and make a mess. For even distribution, apply roof granules in a bead along each side of the roof ridge rather than sprinkling them all over; the first big rain wets the granules and spreads the moss-killing agent uniformly over the roof.
Check weatherstripping and caulk on doors and windows.
Walk around outside and examine the areas where window, door, and corner trim meets the siding; caulk any gaps. Open doors and check the condition of the weatherstripping. If the doors are drafty or the old weatherstripping foam is crumbling, remove it and apply new weatherstripping.
Disconnect hoses and winterize your lawn irrigation system.
These steps are important anywhere you experience freezing temperatures—keeping water from freezing in pipes prevents potentially expensive repairs.
If you have a lawn irrigation system, make sure all the water has drained from the system before the first freeze. Depending on the type of system you’ve installed, this may require the assistance of a professional. A pro charges $50 to $150 to winterize an irrigation system.
Visit your crawl space in January.
This is where moisture and drainage problems can cause the most damage. Because the summer is often so dry in the Northwest, standing water typically doesn’t show up in a crawl space until January or so, when the soil has been fully re-saturated. If you have standing water, try to pinpoint whether it’s coming from pipes inside the house or from water flowing in through cracks in the foundation.
Contact with trees is bad for roofs and siding; friction and trapped moisture shorten the lifespan of building materials. All major pruning should be done in winter, when trees are dormant.
Article courtesy of houselogic.com
Two Months Before
• Sort & purge: Go through every room of your house and decide what you’d like to keep and what you can get rid of. Think about whether any items will require special packing or extra insurance coverage.
• Research: Start investigating moving companies. Don’t rely on a quote over the phone; request an on-site estimate. Get an estimate in writing from each company, and make sure it has a USDOT (U.S. Department of Transportation) number on it if you are moving to a different state.
• Organize school records: Go to your children’s school and arrange for their records to be transferred to their new school district.
Six Weeks Before
• Order supplies: Order boxes and other supplies such as tape, bubble wrap, and black markers. Don’t forget to order specialty containers, such as dish barrels or wardrobe boxes.
• Take measurements: Check room dimensions at your new home, if possible, and make sure larger pieces of furniture will fit through the door.
One Month Before
• Choose your mover: Select a company and get written confirmation of your moving date, costs, and other details.
• Begin packing: Start packing the things that you use most infrequently. Note items of special value that might require additional insurance from your moving company, such as a computer. Clearly label and number each box with its contents and the room it’s destined for.
• Do a change of address: Go to your post office and fill out a change-of-address form, or do it online at usps.gov. Notify important parties. In case there are stragglers, it’s wise to ask a close neighbor to look out for mail after you’ve moved.
• Alert the following of your move: Banks, brokerage firms, your employer’s human resources department, magazines and newspapers you subscribe to, credit card, insurance, and utility companies.
• Forward medical records: Arrange for medical records to be sent to any new health-care providers.
Two Weeks Before
• Contact the moving company: Reconfirm arrangements.
One Week Before
• Pack your suitcases: Aim to finish your general packing a few days before your moving date. Then pack suitcases for everyone in the family with enough clothes for a few days.
A Few Days Before
• Defrost the freezer: If your refrigerator is moving with you, make sure to empty, clean, and defrost it at least 24 hours before moving day.
• Verify: Make sure the moving truck that shows up is from the company you hired: The USDOT number painted on its side should match the number on the estimate you were given. Before the movers leave, sign the bill of lading/inventory list and keep a copy.
Article courtesy of realsimple.com
The approaching rainy season doesn’t have to mean diverting buyers’ attention solely to indoor features. Highlight the vibrant greenery of the Pacific Northwest to showcase your yard’s Winter usability.
Landscape features to consider
Covered patio. To create an entertainment area that’s protected from the rain, add a patio cover to your deck. Awnings may also work, but they are more likely to be damaged in storms. Once you have a covered area, add a patio heater to draw even more guests outdoors.
Rain gardens. Adding a rain garden to your property will attract wintertime wildlife to your garden, providing you with an opportunity to see beauty even in the darkest, coldest time of the year. Furthermore, rain gardens are an environmentally conscious way to handle the heavy winter rainfall endemic to the Pacific Northwest.
Selecting plants that shine in the rain
Oregon and Washington gardeners can create a beautiful wintertime landscape by selecting plants that will attract the eye even on cloudy days.
Here are a few suggestions:
Astilbes. These are perennial shrubs that produce feather-like flowers in the summer. As fall and winter come on, these flowers dry into intricate stalks, which add vertical interest to any winter landscape. Astilbes flourish in the clay soils that are common in the Portland area. Furthermore, they love waterlogged soil, so they thrive alongside ponds or rain gardens.
Ferns. Ferns often stay green all winter long in the Pacific Northwest. For instance, sword ferns’ arching fronds can provide a beautiful green feast for the eyes throughout the coldest months. Licorice fern is another cheerful choice for winter landscape design, as they break their dormancy in the early winter, sprouting out fresh new growth just after the New Year. Planting a few ferns along your front walk will draw visitors to your door.
Ornamental grasses. Ornamental grasses are like the exclamation points of the winter garden—their fuzzy seed heads bob and sway in winter storms. Grasses add texture and height to an otherwise bland design.
Bamboo. Bamboo is actually a grass that loses its leaves in the spring. In other words, bamboo will bring lush greenery to your garden throughout the winter. However, landscape designer service experts recommend planting bamboo cautiously, as this is one plant that can spread very quickly. If you want to plant traditional bamboo canes directly into the earth, you’ll need to install three-foot-deep barriers to prevent underground roots called rhizomes from spreading. (This is not true for clumping bamboo species, which are less aggressive.) Alternatively, you can plant bamboo in containers. This is a great approach to adding privacy to your winter landscape—designer ceramic pots with good drainage can be massed to create a “wall” of bamboo.
Don’t let buyers track in the mud
Finally, outline high-traffic zones where you (and potential buyers) are likely to tromp. Place pavers or stones in these areas so as to reduce the amount of mud that’s tracked into your home.
If you’re just beginning to invest in real estate, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the fundamentals before getting your advanced degree. Here are 5 basic tips to get started investing in real estate.
1) Location matters
You may want to invest in the worst house on the best street because it gives you an opportunity to build equity. Invest some money to fix it up and sell it to someone else who wants a ready-to-move-in house in a fabulous location.
2) Wholesale properties
Avoid paying “full price” for properties. Instead, look for so-called wholesale properties that are offered at a steep discount. Sure, they’ll probably need some work. Run the numbers and see if the investment in rehab is worth the ultimate selling price.
You can easily invest $20,000 in a property and add twice that much to the selling price.
3) Tax Benefits
Uncle Sam offers significant tax benefits to real estate investors, including the depreciation write-off. When you buy an investment property that includes a building, you get to write off the depreciation of that building as a tax deduction.
Keep in mind that the IRS views your real estate investment efforts as a business so you also get to claim the “necessary and ordinary“ deductions that business owners take, including mortgage interest, insurance, and maintenance expenses. Remember to consult your tax advisor about specifics.
4) Check your credit score
Banks aren’t going to loan money to you for a property that’s not your primary residence as readily as they’ll loan it to you for your own home. That’s why your credit has to be spectacular. If you have problems on your credit report that are mistakes, get those resolved as quickly as possible.
5) The 1% rule
The 1% rule simply states that an income property must produce 1% of the price you pay for it every month. For example, if you’re looking at buying a property for $150,000, the monthly rental income should be 150,000 x 1% = $1,500.
Article courtesy of HuffingtonPost.com
Failing to Showcase your Home
When you are selling your house, you have to look at it objectively from the viewpoint of the house hunter. Make minor enhancements to the house, perhaps hiring a professional stager to arrange your furniture. Staging is about decorating your house for the buyers’ taste, not yours. Home staging is designed to increase the potential selling price and reduce the amount of time the house stays on the market.
Setting a High Listing Price
To price your home, your agent will suggest a figure that is comparable to what the homes in your neighborhood have sold for, unless you have upgraded features. It’s always better to price a home this way rather than start too high and have to reduce. Once you reduce, people may think something is wrong with the home.
Doing Major Renovations Before Selling
Minor upgrades usually have a higher return on your money than tackling major renovations before placing a home on the market. The main reason? Huge construction projects always cost more than you think and take longer than expected.
Not Hiring an Agent
There’s a lot more to selling a house than just putting a sign on the front lawn. If you don’t have an agent, you will miss out on somebody negotiating on your behalf. It is really important to have someone on your side who understands all the complexities, paperwork, and legalities.
Buying What You Want–Not What You Need
Look at the space you already live in. It will help you realize what you have been missing and what you need in your next home. Make a list and ask your agent to start shopping based on those needs.
Overlooking Hidden Costs
Buying a home is not just about the money you spend up front. Find out what the property taxes are, what your water and other utilities might cost, possible HOA fees, insurance, and if you need to factor in furnishings or renovation costs.
Buying a Home Without an Inspection
A professional home inspection can reveal many things about a property that are not visible to the naked eye. Be sure to hire someone who comes with a good referral, who’s been in the business a while and knows what to look for. Once you find an inspector, make sure they compile a written report, complete with photos. Photographs are important because there are areas a home inspector will look at that you might not see.
Skipping the Loan Pre-Approval Process
When you are pre-approved, the bank is saying, “we will give you a mortgage of up to this amount, so now all you have to do is find your home.” Some sellers only allow real estate agents to show their house if someone has a pre-approved letter. That indicates that the shopper really is serious about buying a home.
Article courtesy of HGTV.com
Staged homes spend 78% less time on the market. Attract the most buyers in the least time with these 7 summer outdoor staging tips:
Prep the Deck
Visually increase your square footage by emphasizing outdoor living space. Whether your home features a deck, patio, porch or other outdoor living area, take time to power wash the surface to remove any debris. If your outdoor furniture is lacking, consider purchasing a fresh set, complete with all-weather cushions and pillows in vibrant colors.
Mow the Lawn
Whether you hire a professional landscaper or DIY, trim the lawn and any hedges—the latter can be a trip hazard if left untouched.
Roll out the Welcome
It’s no secret—curb appeal matters to buyers, but too often, minor details are overlooked when setting the stage out front. To roll out the welcome for buyers, replace your worn welcome mat with a summery alternative, and install large house numbers in a prominent location that can be viewed from the street.
Wash the Windows
Cleaning windows inside and out can be taxing, but it makes a noticeable difference. For the exterior sides of the windows, scrub off any accumulated film from tree pollen and polish until glistening. Buyers will be pleased to see not only a sparkling home outside, but a light-filled interior as well.
Clean the Pool
Pools can be a make-or-break feature for buyers, so play it up as best you can. After having the pool cleaned by a professional, take care to skim the surface for any debris that accumulates between buyer visits. Be sure the pool cover, mechanized or otherwise, is free of damage and the filtering system is in working order.
Make sure the outdoor spaces around your home, including the front entrance, deck, patio, and walkways, are appropriately lit. Spotlight your best features and make sure to check the porch light. Updated light fixtures are not only aesthetically pleasing, but are an added safety feature to the home.
Showcase a Spot of Color
In lieu of a costly exterior paint job, choose specific areas outside to add pops of color. Window boxes bursting with blooms are often well-received by buyers, as well as container plantings. If the exterior could use refreshing, consider repainting the front door before recruiting a professional to do the entire home.
Article courtesy of RealEstateBook.com
Look for Red Flags
Before signing on the dotted line, hire a home inspector to give the place a thorough evaluation. An inspection may cost $200-$300, but it is well worth the price if the inspector uncovers a major structural issue or another pricey problem. Tip: If the problem sounds like a money pit, it probably is.
Spy on the Neighbors
Scope out the neighborhood before starting any work. You don’t need to upgrade far beyond neighborhood standards. For example, if most homes have window air units, or none at all, you won’t recoup the cost of central air conditioning. Conversely, if granite countertops are a staple, you’ll lose money on your investment by installing laminate. Tip: Attend a few real estate open houses in the area to examine the homes’ interiors.
Remodel the Most Important Rooms
Kitchen and bathroom remodels are still high on the must have list, because they’re the rooms buyers look at first and use the most. What upgrades you make and how much you spend will depend on the market and your budget, but make it your mission to create bright, clean, family-friendly rooms.
Upgrade the Underbelly
The heating and air conditioning unit, water heater, wiring and plumbing should all be in good condition. If they aren’t, hire a licensed electrician to do the work, since if improperly done, it can lead to a fire and/or legal hassles.
Paint + Flooring = Dramatic Value
Real estate experts always advise giving walls and trim a fresh coat of paint, but don’t forget what’s underfoot. Old hardwood flooring hidden under outdated carpet and laminate is usually worth refinishing.
It’s the Little Things
Don’t underestimate the effect of inexpensive cosmetic improvements like new doorknobs, switch plates, toilet seats, ceiling fans, faucets and cabinet pulls.
Add Curb Appeal
Keep a clean, mowed front yard, a colorful planter and a welcome mat. If the home’s landscaping is overgrown and neglected, trim out the excess or plant a few inexpensive foundation bushes near the front. Tip: Mulch flowerbeds with a dark-colored mulch to add instant charm.
A good rule of thumb to keep in mind, is to invest in improvements that will add at least twice their cost to the home’s value.
Article courtesy of hgtv.com
With spring fever comes a desire for a change in décor. Check out our top 7 quick, easy, and dollar-conscious ways to freshen up your living space before the flowers start to bud.
Rotate your Artwork
Are your walls cluttered with stagnant artwork? If so, it’s time for a change. Some people hang everything they own on every wall. Look at it all the time, and you start taking it for granted. Try this: Separate art into summer and winter piles. Hang the lighter, pastel colors for spring and summer, and put the darker oil paintings in storage. Every six months, rotate your pieces. This way, you enjoy your art with a new vigor, and it’s something you can do in minutes.
Spring is not only a colorful season, but a fragrant one, so bring the aroma indoors. Scents have a profound effect on mood. Infuse aromas into your décor with essential oils, natural candles, fresh cut flowers, or incense to change the overall feeling of a space. A quick, floral tip: Purchase an inexpensive bouquet of flowers, split them up by color, and place the bunches in small vases around your home.
Buy New Bulbs
You’re thinking flower bulbs, right? Not a bad idea, but we’re talking about light bulbs. Many of us aren’t using our lights properly—in the winter you need more light, but in the spring you can get away with less. Swap your 60-watt bulb with a 3-way bulb to allow you to soften a room’s light.
Let the Sunshine In
In the winter, dirty windows can go unnoticed. On the first day of spring, take advantage of the sunny season by giving the windows a wash. You can have a gorgeous room, but if the windows are dirty, it won’t look as beautiful or as bright. As an added tip, pull back dark window treatments and add a shade or valance for a touch of color. Or, you can also replace window treatments with ecru or white sheers for an elegant look.
Just as you’d add a scarf or necklace to enhance an outfit, do the same with your home—dress your home like you would yourself. Look for great accent pillows in bright colors. Put away the winter throws and drape light, bright throws on your sofa. Pick out spring-hued vases or candles to boost a cocktail or dining room table.
Beautify your Boudoir
Bright, new bedding can do wonders for your personal space. Tuck away the heavy, winter flannel comforter and pull out crisp linens with coverlets for color. Bring in the spring with floral-designed spreads or colorful solids. Don’t forget accent pillows for added style and comfort.
Lose the Magnets
In just minutes, you can tidy up a kitchen by getting rid of the scraps of paper, business cards and take-out menus stuck to the fridge. If you have odds and ends everywhere, it looks messy. If you clear it, your kitchen looks and feels organized.
Article courtesy of HGTV.com