7 Ways To Save On Winterizing Your Home

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A tried-and-true tip to staying warm on a budget? Localize your heat source, and build your daily habits around the fire or an electric heater.

Still recovering from the sticker shock you got from your last heating bill? These simple tricks can help lower your costs and keep you warm this winter.

When the temperature dips below freezing, cranking up the thermostat — and leaving it there — is an easy fix to fight off the cold. But it’s an expensive one, as you’ll realize once you receive your first heating bill for that home for sale in Denver, CO, you bought in the spring.

So, short of shivering all winter, what’s a home dweller to do? Learn how to winterize a house with these tips, which can save you money — without sacrificing warmth.

Invest in a programmable thermostat

Doing so allows you to keep your house warm while you’re home (in the morning when you’re getting ready, at night when you come home from work) without having the heat run all day. “They cost under 100 bucks and they’ll last forever,” says Mitchell Ingerman, president of Aurora Energy Advisors, an energy consulting firm in New York.

Buy one that has at least four settings (so that you can set it for different times on weekdays and weekends) and set the heat to increase about a half-hour before you’ll be home. Tip: Fight the urge to turn the heat way down when you’re out. “Expecting the heat to go from 60 to 70 degrees in a half-hour isn’t efficient either,” says Ingerman.

Deal with drafty windows and doors

It’s easy and inexpensive to seal entry points, and you’ll save heat — and money — from being thrown out the window. Ingerman suggests purchasing a weatherstripping kit or caulking the frame around doors and windows. If you already have weatherstripping but it’s worn or old, replace it. Bonus: Making your home more energy-efficient can boost your home’s value too.

Localize your heat source

If you spend most of your evening in one room (e.g., watching TV in the den), consider buying an electric heater, says Ingerman. You’ll be able to keep the thermostat low, and the room you’re in will stay toasty. Just be sure to turn off the heater before going to bed.

Don’t fall for companies that claim they can lower your utility bills

You probably get fliers in the mail from third-party energy suppliers that guarantee savings on your electric bill. “Energy prices fluctuate, so these companies will wait until it’s at a high point to contact you and offer to lock you in at a lower rate,” says Ingerman. “You may save a few dollars for the first few months. But after that, the price will go down and you’ll be locked into a higher rate.”

Use reusable furnace filters

Instead of replacing your filter every few months (or not at all because you don’t want to spend the money), buy a permanent filter that can be hosed off when it’s clogged. They’re more expensive upfront, but you’ll save money after a year or so of not buying disposable filters month after month.

Buy a chimney balloon

Even if the flue is closed, hot air can still escape from your chimney. An inflatable chimney balloon will stop this from happening. Bonus: It’ll automatically deflate if you forget to remove it before lighting a fire.

Let the sun shine

Into your house, that is. Keep your curtains open during the day and allow the sun to help warm your rooms, which will keep your furnace from running constantly. Subsequently, close your curtains at night to keep out drafts — and nosy neighbors.

Source: Trulia.com

Tackle These Projects Now For Curb Appeal Through Winter

Take these steps to ensure your house's curb appeal lasts through the winter months.
Take these steps to ensure your house’s curb appeal lasts through the winter months.

Baby, it’s (going to be) cold outside, but that doesn’t mean your house can’t be warm and inviting.

With winter approaching, long days of sunshine, colorful fall foliage, and green lawns are coming to an end. So too are the hours spent outside, raking up leaves and washing your windows. But don’t fully retreat into your humble abode to hibernate quite yet — especially if your home is on the market.

There are projects you can start now, when it’s just starting to get cooler outside, to ensure your home will look gorgeous, warm, and inviting throughout the upcoming winter months — whether you have a home for sale in Burlington, VT, or Seattle.

Plant flowers that bloom in the winter

Fall is the time to plant early-blooming bulbs such as crocuses, which will flower in late winter, even if they’re covered in snow. Other bulb flowers such as daffodils and tulips are hardy enough to survive cold winter temperatures below ground and bloom beautifully in early spring/late winter. Perennials, shrubs, and trees also do well with a fall planting.

According to the National Association of Landscape Professionals (NALP), the warm fall soil is great for root development, and plants have several months to establish themselves before the stress of the summer heat. Get your early planting done and enjoy a little taste of spring curb appeal while you’re still cuddled up in your flannel pajamas and slippers.

Install landscape lighting

Lighting is often overlooked but can make such a huge difference when strategically placed and tinted correctly. Consider sticking a few vintage lanterns along your driveway, or installing a soft-hued light bulb in your porch light. You could also light up your walking path with solar lights and finish off the look with some statuary or tree up-lighting.

Pro tip: Less is usually more for path lighting; too many lights, and you may create a runway effect.

Lawn and garden maintenance

Now is the time to make sure you’re helping your lawn make it through the winter, so your grass and other plants survive the harsh weather. NALP recommends applying 2 to 3 inches of mulch to protect plant roots from extreme temperatures.

The mulch barrier will also preserve moisture if your region doesn’t receive enough winter precipitation. Bonus: A thick layer of woodsy mulch lends a nice aesthetic touch to an otherwise barren landscape.

There’s not much you can do about brown, unsightly-looking grass during the winter months. But you can rake and remove the leaves that build up from falling foliage and winter storms. The raking work will pay off big time in the spring for lawn health and also keep it looking its best this season and into spring. A tidy lawn is the key for curb appeal in the long winter months.

Small upgrades and holiday decor

Alone, a new mailbox, doorknob, or set of address numbers on your house can seem inconsequential. But when replaced together as a set, these little details can make all the difference in the world — particularly from a distance. Now is the time to make a weekend project out of replacing all the small stuff for a big aesthetic reward.

From lights and greenery to candles in the windows, you can really get creative for the holidays with embellishments that won’t die off when the snow starts. There’s no need to get all Clark Griswold with the front yard, but tasteful, minimalist decor can really beautify your home.

There’s plenty to be done this fall to enhance your curb appeal through the winter months. Work to extend the interior’s cozy, well-kept feeling to the exterior of your home. Not only will you save yourself some maintenance in the spring, but also your home will shine all winter long.

Source: Trulia.com

Back to School: 8 Home Remodeling Lessons That Increase Value

8 Remodeling Lessons That Increase Home Values

Study up on these 8 tips to help your home remodeling project go smoothly and boost your bottom line.

You bought the home; now you’ve got to fix it up. You know what you like, but do you know what remodeling projects will pay off with enjoyment now and with a higher listing price when it’s time to sell?

“Many homeowners overimprove or improve the wrong parts of their home in anticipation of listing,” says Keith Thompson, a real estate broker with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Carolinas Realty in Charlotte, NC. “It’s important to consult with a real estate broker to determine which improvements will add value and lead to a quicker sale.”

(See lesson #1.) We’ve created a CliffsNotes version of the top home remodeling lessons so you can skip class and still score an A+ in home improvement.

Lesson #1: Consult a real estate agent

Even if it’s been years since you worked with the agent who helped you buy your home, you can always go back for advice — especially on home remodeling projects. “They’ll be able to tell you which ones you’ll have a return on and which ones you won’t,” says Thompson.

“For instance, in the Charlotte market, an in-ground pool adds zero value to a home,” he says. “It won’t hurt your sale, but I always let my clients know if they put in a pool, it will be for their enjoyment and consider the expense as such. It’s like going on a vacation: You don’t get a financial return there.”

Lesson #2: Do your homework

Do some home schooling! Study up to find out about the best home remodeling projects and materials for your home. Use the information you learn, in addition to the help of a trusted broker, to decide which remodeling projects will add enjoyment — and value — to your home.

Lesson #3: Hire a recommended general contractor

If you’re trusting someone to tear down walls, install electrical work, or pull out plumbing in your home, you’d better be sure you’ve hired someone who is not only trustworthy but also reliable.

“To increase the perceived value of any property, craftsmanship is important, so surround yourself with professionals,” advises Justin Udy, a real estate agent with Century 21 Everest Realty Group in Midvale, UT. “Get multiple bids and hire the person that seems to be the best for the job and most realistic, not the most expensive. I found the cheapest bid never does the best work and the most expensive just costs more. Remember, good work is not cheap and cheap work is not good. Just find someone good, professional, and competent.”

Keith Thompson adds: “Get references from clients that have had work done recently, and even ask if you can see some of the work firsthand.”

Lesson #4: Consult an interior designer

These days, most home improvement or home furnishings stores have in-house designers at the ready for customers. Pottery Barn and West Elm, just to name a few, both offer free at-home design consultations with their design associates.

“Oftentimes, they can help you gauge whether or not a smaller home remodeling project [such as wallpapering or painting] is worth the investment, as well as how to incorporate the design into the home,” explains Ronnie Tal, a licensed real estate salesperson at New York City–based real estate brokerage firm Charles Rutenberg.

Bonus: In most cases, these services are free.

Lesson #5: Get it in writing

Sad but true: A handshake does not seal a deal. “Get everything in writing,” says Thompson. “Make sure a clear process is outlined before signing on the dotted line, and that there is a process for resolving disputes or questions over the work being done. [Some issues] are inevitable on a medium- to large-sized project, so you’ll want to know how to work through those bumps in the road to end up happy with the work that was done.”

Lesson #6: Expect the unexpected

And be prepared with a contingency fund waiting in the wings. With many remodeling projects, hidden costs pop up throughout the process. “There are always issues that weren’t anticipated,” says Udy. To combat those extra snags, “take your total budget cost and add 10% for a contingency fund. The older the home, the larger the contingency fund should be.”

Lesson #7: Ditch the traditional

“Buyers these days want more of a contemporary look,” explains Tal. “The most important rooms are the kitchen and bathrooms, so choose more contemporary light fixtures, stainless steel appliances, and sleek cabinetry.”

To that same end, opt for a neutral color palette, adds Tal, such as gray and off-white, which work well with almost any style but still feel clean and modern.

Lesson #8: Follow the rules

“Nothing is worse than having your project shut down because you lacked the proper permits or paperwork,” says Udy. While it’s mainly on the shoulders of the general contractor to secure the proper permits (see Lesson #3), make sure you ask the contractor, architect, or designer what permits are required for this project and how they plan to get them.

“It costs you valuable time and money if you don’t have them,” adds Udy. “Avoid the fines and call your city planning office early to find out what is required and necessary to make your renovation successful.”

Source: Trulia.com

7 Tips for Staging Your Home

Make your home warm and inviting to boost your home’s value and speed up the sale process.

Image: Welcome Home® Home Staging
Image: Welcome Home® Home Staging

The first step to getting buyers to make an offer on your home is to impress them with its appearance so they begin to envision themselves living there. Here are seven tips for making your home look bigger, brighter, and more desirable.

1.  Start with a Clean Slate

Before you can worry about where to place furniture and which wall hanging should go where, each room in your home must be spotless. Do a thorough cleaning right down to the nitpicky details like wiping down light switch covers. Deep clean and deodorize carpets and window coverings.

2.  Stow Away Your Clutter

It’s harder for buyers to picture themselves in your home when they’re looking at your family photos, collectibles, and knickknacks. Pack up all your personal decorations. However, don’t make spaces like mantles and coffee and end tables barren. Leave three items of varying heights on each surface, suggests Barb Schwarz of Staged Homes in Concord, Pa. For example, place a lamp, a small plant, and a book on an end table.

3.  Scale Back on Your Furniture

When a room is packed with furniture, it looks smaller, which will make buyers think your home is less valuable than it is. Make sure buyers appreciate the size of each room by removing one or two pieces of furniture. If you have an eat-in dining area, using a small table and chair set makes the area seem bigger.

4.  Rethink Your Furniture Placement

Highlight the flow of your rooms by arranging the furniture to guide buyers from one room to another. In each room, create a focal point on the farthest wall from the doorway and arrange the other pieces of furniture in a triangle around the focal point, advises Schwarz. In the bedroom, the bed should be the focal point. In the living room, it may be the fireplace, and your couch and sofa can form the triangle in front of it.

5.  Add Color to Brighten Your Rooms

Brush on a fresh coat of warm, neutral-color paint in each room. Ask your real estate agent for help choosing the right shade. Then accessorize. Adding a vibrant afghan, throw, or accent pillows for the couch will jazz up a muted living room, as will a healthy plant or a bright vase on your mantle. High-wattage bulbs in your light fixtures will also brighten up rooms and basements.

6.  Set the Scene

Lay logs in the fireplace, and set your dining room table with dishes and a centerpiece of fresh fruit or flowers. Create other vignettes throughout the home — such as a chess game in progress — to help buyers envision living there. Replace heavy curtains with sheer ones that let in more light.

Make your bathrooms feel luxurious by adding a new shower curtain, towels, and fancy guest soaps (after you put all your personal toiletry items are out of sight). Judiciously add subtle potpourri, scented candles, or boil water with a bit of vanilla mixed in. If you have pets, clean bedding frequently and spray an odor remover before each showing.

7.  Make the Entrance Grand

Mow your lawn and trim your hedges, and turn on the sprinklers for 30 minutes before showings to make your lawn sparkle. If flowers or plants don’t surround your home’s entrance, add a pot of bright flowers. Top it all off by buying a new doormat and adding a seasonal wreath to your front door.

Source: HouseLogic.com

Boost Curb Appeal in a Day

Boost Curb AppealSometimes when planning to sell a house, in the name of renovating interior living spaces, updating bathrooms, replacing appliances and adding decorative touches throughout the bedrooms, homeowners leave outdoor curb appeal as a last priority. While of course the inside of a home is important, sellers make a big mistake when they neglect the exterior. Why is a home’s exterior so important? Consider this: Curb appeal is often a potential buyer’s first impression of a home, the very thing that helps him/her decide whether or not to come inside. Whether they’re shopping online or by cruising through neighborhoods, the outside of your property is the first thing they’ll notice. If you’re selling your home or about to, how can you quickly and effectively tackle the outdoor appeal? Here are some key tips for boosting the curb appeal in a way that means quick turnaround and increased home value:

  1. Start with the Front Door. Believe it or not, your home’s front door can be one of its most important assets. A new steel entry door consistently ranks as one of the most rewarding cost-versus-value projects in home repairs, yielding an increase in home value that’s greater than the costs to install one. Likewise, to make the door especially captivating, consider painting it a bold, pleasing color that will grab attention and add charm. When buyers see a new door that looks attractive, they see another asset that makes your home the one to buy.
  2. Make Any Necessary Repairs. Is the driveway cracked or the front doorbell busted? Now is the time to call a repair company or get out your own toolbox to make repairs. Buyers want turnkey, move-in-properties, and that means they want properties with repairs already done. Do the work now to get your home in ship-shape condition.
  3. Keep Up with Landscaping. From mowing the lawn to pulling weeds, make sure you’re keeping up with your outdoor landscaping so that your home looks presentable and well cared for at all times. Overgrown bushes and dying plants are a surefire signal to potential buyers that you’re not caring for your home and leaving more maintenance for them to handle.
  4. Add Lighting. While most buyers will come visit your home during the daytime, it’s not at all unusual for the most interested ones to also drive by at night to see what nighttime curb appeal is like. Landscape lighting can make all the difference in terms of how a home looks, so make an investment in attractive lighting options that illuminate and add interest to your property. “Solar landscaping lights are a great addition to any yard because they don’t require complicated and expensive wiring,” says Bob Vila. “Remember, though, you get what you pay for—cheap lights won’t last as long and simply won’t look as good.”
  5. Touch Up Paint. A fresh coat of paint is just as powerful outside as it is inside, so to update your home’s look, repaint the exterior or at least touch up problem areas. Another idea is to paint the trim a new color that creates either a nice complement or contrast to your home’s overall look.
  6. Make Over the Mailbox. You might not think a mailbox matters much, but it’s yet another one of those little details that can add up together to make a strong impression on a buyer. “When choosing a hanging drop box, pick a box that mirrors your home’s trimmings,” says Better Homes & Gardens. “Dress up mailboxes for curb appeal by painting the wooden post to match the house’s exterior color, or by surrounding it by a beautiful flowering garden.”
  7. Add Outdoor Furniture. From rocking chairs on the front porch to an outdoor patio set on the back deck, outdoor furniture creates outdoor living spaces that expand your home’s appeal. Look for attractive, durable pieces that will endure weather damage and look good for years to come — whether or not you include these pieces with the home sale, setting them up is a great way to stage your home for greater resale value.

The bottom line when it comes to curb appeal is that a little investment today can add up to big rewards tomorrow. Take the time to update, clean, repair and add value to your property’s exterior now and you will make it more attractive to buyers, not to mention more beautiful to come home to. Use the tips above to get started now.

Source: Blog.RISMedia.com

Selling Your Home? Price It Right From the Start!

Selling Your Home? Price It Right From the Start!

In today’s market, where demand is outpacing supply in many regions of the country, pricing a house is one of the biggest challenges real estate professionals face. Sellers often want to price their home higher than recommended, and many agents go along with the idea to keep their clients happy. However, the best agents realize that telling the homeowner the truth is more important than getting the seller to like them.

There is no “later.”

Sellers sometimes think, “If the home doesn’t sell for this price, I can always lower it later.” However, research proves that homes that experience a listing price reduction sit on the market longer, ultimately selling for less than similar homes.

John Knight, recipient of the University Distinguished Faculty Award from the Eberhardt School of Business at the University of the Pacific, actually did research on the cost (in both time and money) to a seller who priced high at the beginning and then lowered the their price. In his article, Listing Price, Time on Market and Ultimate Selling Price published in Real Estate Economics revealed:

“Homes that underwent a price revision sold for less, and the greater the revision, the lower the selling price. Also, the longer the home remains on the market, the lower its ultimate selling price.”

Additionally, the “I’ll lower the price later” approach can paint a negative image in buyers’ minds. Each time a price reduction occurs, buyers can naturally think, “Something must be wrong with that house.” Then when a buyer does make an offer, they low-ball the price because they see the seller as “highly motivated.” Pricing it right from the start eliminates these challenges.

Don’t build “negotiation room” into the price.

Many sellers say that they want to price their home high in order to have “negotiation room.” But, what this actually does is lower the number of potential buyers that see the house. And we know that limiting demand like this will negatively impact the sales price of the house.

Not sure about this? Think of it this way: when a buyer is looking for a home online (as they are doing more and more often), they put in their desired price range. If your seller is looking to sell their house for $400,000, but lists it at $425,000 to build in “negotiation room,” any potential buyers that search in the $350k-$400k range won’t even know your listing is available, let alone come see it!

One great way to see this is with the chart below. The higher you price your home over its market value, the less potential buyers will actually see your home when searching.

Price & Visibility | Keeping Current Matters

A better strategy would be to price it properly from the beginning and bring in multiple offers. This forces these buyers to compete against each other for the “right” to purchase your house.

Look at it this way: if you only receive one offer, you are set up in an adversarial position against the prospective buyer. If, however, you have multiple offers, you have two or more buyers fighting to please you. Which will result in a better selling situation?

The Price is Right

Great pricing comes down to truly understanding the real estate dynamics in your neighborhood. Look for an agent that will take the time to simply and effectively explain what is happening in the housing market and how it applies to your home.

You need an agent that will tell you what you need to know rather than what you want to hear. This will put you in the best possible position.

Source: KeepingCurrentMatters.com

5 Spring Home Maintenance Projects

Source: Trulia.com

With winter behind us, it’s time to freshen up for the warmer weather ahead.

Summer is the hottest season for real estate so if you’re thinking of listing soon, spring is your last opportunity to make those home improvements.
Summer is the hottest season for real estate so if you’re thinking of listing soon, spring is your last opportunity to make those home improvements.

Depending on where you live, you might be convinced that Mother Nature is playing a cruel joke. But regardless of your address, spring is officially here which means it’s time to spruce up the old house.

According to Trulia, summer is the hottest season for real estate so if you’re thinking of listing soon, spring is your last opportunity to make those home improvements. If you missed out on winter home repairs, here are a few home maintenance items to tackle as spring puts the spring back in your step.

Check those gutters

The weight of snow, falling branches, and cold temperatures can wreak havoc with your home’s gutters. Grab a ladder (and a buddy) and give your gutters the once-over. Check for blockages caused by debris and leaves, make sure seams are firmly held together, and clear the drainage ways as you prep for spring rains.

Clear that chimney

Do you have a home with a chimney? If you live in the Midwest, it’s highly likely you do.

While the singing chimney sweep from Mary Poppins might not fit the bill, every home needs a professional this time of year. Make an appointment for an inspection — they’ll check the mortar, flue, and ensure it’s in good repair before the spring rains.

Inspect outside water connections

Sometimes our garden hose don’t make it inside during the winter. Now is a good time to check your hoses for rips, tears, and breaks, as well as check the spigots coming out of the house for any cold-related damage.

Remember: thawing still-frozen pipes is a delicate process and to avoid damage, pipes are best thawed slowly. This is one case where slow and steady wins the race (and saves your wallet).

Tune-up your cooling system

Before the heat of late spring and summer set in, have an HVAC professional inspect both your central and window air conditioning units. While you’re waiting for them to arrive, go ahead and replace your air filters for good measure.

Review your roof

The most expensive (and most unwelcomed) repairs are from the damage we can’t see — inspecting your roof each spring is a must. Houselogic has an extensive checklist for seasonal roof inspections, designed to keep you ahead of costly repairs and keep small problems from becoming big ones.

The roof over your head has been good to you. Why not be good to it in return by giving it a little post-winter TLC?