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What Do I Need to Know About Mold?

There are few things that homeowners dread more than mold in the house. You’ve likely heard horror stories about people living with mold infestations that made them seriously ill. Is this just hype, or is there a real danger to having mold in your home? More importantly, what can you do if you find mold growing somewhere in the house? What Is Mold? Mold is a broad group of fungi, with thousands of species and subspecies around the world that typically prefer dark and damp habitats. Often fuzzy in appearance (though occasionally slimy or cottony), molds spread across materials and break them down to get the nutrients the mold needs to survive and thrive. Instead of seeds, molds release single-celled spores that in many cases are too small to see with the naked eye; these spores float through the air to land on a variety of surfaces, beginning growth once they find themselves in a suitable habitat. Though molds are made up of a number of individual stalks fibers, a connected clump of mold is considered to be a single living entity. Types of Mold There are several common types of mold that you might see around the house. While some of these may not be inherently dangerous, any mold can trigger reactions in anyone with an allergy or sensitivity. The five most common of these molds are: Aspergillus: One of the most common indoor molds, it often appears green, blue-green or gray but can also appear white or even yellow. Cladosporium: A black or green mold that has an appearance like ground pepper, it commonly grows on smooth surfaces like toilets and painted walls but can also grow in fabrics and rugs. Ulocladium: A black mold that grows in wet areas, especially in cracks and corners; it is most common in homes with water damage and active leaks. Aureobasidium: Varying in color from pink to brown or black, this mold most commonly grows behind wallpaper, on painted surfaces and on wood. Stachybortrys: The infamous “black mold”, it features a slimy dark green or black color and thrives in areas that are damp and maintain high humidity for weeks. Is Mold Actually Dangerous? While many molds are allergens, most will not cause severe reactions unless you have a mold sensitivity or have other health problems that make you more prone to infection. However, some molds (such as black mold) actually are toxic and can make you very sick if you’re around them for too long. Symptoms of a mold allergy or toxic mold exposure can include a chronic cough, skin rashes, fatigue, difficulty focusing and even pain or infection in your sinuses, eyes and ears. Mold Testing and Removal If you suspect that you have mold problems, there are home tests available to help you identify the type of mold in your home. These should only be a first step, however, as they often aren’t enough to definitively show you the scope of your mold problem. Call in an expert to confirm the results of your test or take a scraping of the mold and have it analyzed. Be sure to wear a dust mask or other breathing protection if you aren’t sure what type of mold you’re dealing with until the problem is taken care of. For many mold infestations, getting rid of leaks or other sources of humidity is a great way to slow or even stop mold growth. Mold can cause serious damage over time, however, so you may need professional mold removal and repair services if you can’t get the problem under control early. Is your home in need of some serious mold removal? HomeKeepr can help you find a mold remediator to get the mold out quickly and at a price you can afford. Because we utilize references instead of reviews, you’ll be able to rest assured that the expert you choose can really get the job done.
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Invest in Your Renters by Screening Them Well: Top Questions to Ask

If you own a rental property, you know how important it is to have the right tenant. Good renters will take care of the property as though it were their own, leaving it as close to how they moved in as possible. Bad renters, on the other hand, make it obvious that they don’t care, since it’s not actually their house; it can take a significant amount of time and money to get your property back to rentable condition after they move out. Wouldn’t it be great if you could only rent to the first group and avoid the second group entirely? While you may still occasionally get a bad tenant, with a bit of smart screening you can greatly increase your chances of finding good renters every time. This goes beyond the standard screening techniques like a credit check; it’s all about the questions you ask before making your decision. Here are a few of the best questions to ask potential renters to see if they’re the ones you really want to rent to. Why Are You Moving? This is a great question to start with because it gives you an idea of what motivates potential renters. Ideally, you’ll find someone who’s moving for a reason such as work relocation, trying to find a bigger house for their family or trying to find a better neighborhood or school system for their children. Watch out for people who complain about their current landlord or who seem to be trying to escape a negative situation. Would Your Current Landlord Provide a Reference? Talking to a current landlord gives you two important pieces of information: It lets you find out what sort of a tenant the potential renter is, and also tells you that they have been upfront with their landlord about the fact that they’re moving. Someone who wants to keep you from talking to their landlord may have something to hide. Have You Ever Broken a Lease? There are legitimate reasons to break a lease. Reasons such as work relocation and having to move because of unexpected family circumstances shouldn’t weigh against a potential tenant, and asking this up front gives them a chance to open up about any broken leases in their past. If they try to cover it up or cite reasons such as landlord conflicts or problems paying rent, though, then this could be a big red flag. How Long Have You Been with Your Employer? How About the One Before That? This is perhaps even more important than how long they’ve lived in their current home. A long period of employment shows job stability and being a new hire after working for a long period can show ambition and a desire to get ahead. On the flip side, people who have trouble maintaining a job for longer periods could have trouble paying the rent. Who Will Live on the Property? Will There Be Any Pets? When asking these questions, be sure not to lead the answer by saying things like “This property is intended for two people” beforehand. Give potential tenants a chance to answer to help ensure that they do so honestly. If the answer violates a no-pets policy or sounds excessive for the property, you can reveal this afterward to let them know that they’re not right for your property. Will There Be Any Smokers on the Property? An increasing number of rental units are going no smoking, in part because of the difficulty associated with getting smoke stains and smells out of curtains and carpet. While it’s up to you to decide on your smoking policy, if you don’t want smoking in the house then make sure that potential renters know that up front. Will You Consent to a Background Check/Credit Check? Not all landlords use credit and background checks, but it’s always a good idea to ask if potential renters will consent to one. If they have credit history issues or legal problems in their past, it gives them a chance to be upfront about it and provide you with the information you need to make a decision. If they don’t justify why they don’t want the info checked, it may also hint at problems they’re trying to hide. Do You Have Any Questions for Me? Giving potential renters a chance to ask you questions helps you make sure that they know everything they want to know about your property and your policies. If they don’t ask questions, consider how attentive they were during previous questions when you make your decision. If they were just trying to get through the interview process without paying attention, they may not be the renter for you. Get Rental Screening Guidance from a Pro If you’re still worried about who you might rent to, consult with one of the professional property managers on HomeKeepr. Our referral system can help you find a trustworthy property manager, vouched for by people you know. They can help you find the right tenant and bring their years of experience to your property as well.
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Smarter Climate For Every Room In The House

Home automation is increasingly common these days as the number of consumer-focused smart devices continues to increase. Though automation covers everything from light controls and security systems to water leak monitors and door locks, one of the most common automation devices is the smart thermostat. These thermostats offer improved climate control and energy savings through programmable adjustments for a range of different scenarios. There is one issue with the early smart thermostats that were introduced, however: most of them only offered a single point of climate control, not taking into account several common heating and cooling scenarios that require a bit more nuanced control. Fortunately, there are other thermostat systems now available that provide smarter climate control options. Why a Multi-Room Approach is Important There are a number of reasons why having a single point of temperature control isn’t always ideal. In some cases, rooms that are farther away from your unit may not get the same degree of air flow,
especially in older systems; if everything is controlled by a single thermostat located near the air intake then the rooms with lower air flow won’t get the air that they need to keep pace with the rest of the house. Similar problems can occur if you have a split system or zoned heating and cooling. It may be a cool 68 in your living room, but rooms that are served by other system components could be staying in the 70s or higher. You Need a Multi-Room Thermostat Regardless of the reason, if your thermostat isn’t able to consistently heat or cool your entire home then it’s not going to be nearly as efficient as you’d like. That’s where a multi-room thermostat system comes in handy. These thermostats have additional sensors that you can mount in other rooms around the house. These sensors take additional temperature readings and broadcast the data back to the thermostat. The thermostat takes this additional data and adjusts the way it heats and cools your home with a focus on maintaining the entire home’s temperature instead of just the room where the thermostat’s located. Because the thermostat has information from all over your house, the amount of warm or cool air
circulated into each room is adjusted based on the home’s actual needs. This gives a greater amount of control over the internal temperature of the house, preventing warm and cool spots. It also ensures that adjustments made when you’re not in certain rooms or when you leave the house are optimized to save you the most money on your heating and cooling costs. Taking Control of your Home Climate There are a number of models of multi-room thermostats that you can choose from. The initial
installation shouldn’t be any more complicated than any other thermostat replacement, as the majority of multi-room units use wireless technology to communicate with the central thermostat. Since you don’t have to directly wire the satellite sensors you have a lot of freedom in where you place them without having to drill holes and run wires through your walls. Once the thermostat is installed and all the sensors are in place, all that’s left is to sync the sensors with the central thermostat. How you do this may differ depending on the make and model of thermostat you choose, but each model should have detailed instructions on how to connect the units together. Once everything’s connected, all that’s left is to sit back and enjoy the controlled climate. Need Another Opinion? While most smart thermostats are designed to be a DIY installation, setting up a multi-room thermostat unit isn’t always easy. Whether it’s a result of confusing installation instructions or you simply don’t have the time to spare, you might find yourself wanting to call in a home automation professional to get the job done. That’s where you’re in luck: HomeKeepr’s recommendations are based on genuine referrals instead of inaccurate reviews, so you can trust that the pro you choose will be the best one for the job. Check it out now and get your new thermostat up and running in no time.
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Organic Materials

The search for natural, organic and sustainable materials has its strong effect upon the manufacture of materials, textures, and colors that contemporary designers use to compose our homes.  This trend has its impact on all aspects of life. It allows traditions and unique techniques to be preserved and brings unique beauty into any decor composition. Image credit: https://www.novamobili.it/ The demise of digitally printed fabrics in favor of real embroidery, thick wool bouclés, linens, and all other nature and craft inspired elements introduce into the modern decor arrangements is something to rejoice at. The unexpected and creative details like embossed wall coverings or the natural feel of cork and bamboo wall paneling and papers. They give the surfaces  a beautiful tactile sensation to modern ambiances. Image credit: FILD  
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Home, office, and gym design

Image credit: Naturehumaine A great project composed by wooden volumes which offer multi functional and hybrid distribution of living space, which includes a home,  office,  and gym all in one.  The  main focus of creating a shared living space in which all utilitarian functions are shared but still allows each person to have privacy.  The designer from nature humane created three pockets of double height space. An office and dining area occupy the tall spaces while the center is used for exercise. The central wooden block gives different services; including stairways, a shower room and part of the kitchen. Dynamic and pure home composition with unusual angles and natural materials palette. This tiny 16 sqm. Parisian apartment is turned into a highly effective and stylish home-work-studio for two Italian architects – Enrico Bona and Elisa Nobile.
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interior design by simple materials

This beautiful design project by i29 interior architects is based  on using simple materials by selecting  materials such as fresh oak wood, white plastered walls, dark blue and black furniture pieces, and light gray floors. It creates a clean, linear and cohesive environment in which modern lifestyle activities can unfold with ease. Because of modern lifestyle requirements, architects and designers are challenged with more complex spatial distribution, aiming to reflect the client’s demands. The traditional separation of common areas, rooms, kitchens, and bathrooms no longer works for modern homes. The designers are presented with an interesting challenge to combine work with pleasure and relaxation and to merge the private life of the home’s inhabitants with more public and open programs, generating exciting mixed-use spaces. Hybrid homes is now considered the new normal.
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Living area integrated into living space- Interior design trend 2020/2021

Image credit: Milieu Property Another long lasting trend in modern home design is the integrated living space: kitchen and sitting area- which will allow people to prepare food while socializing.  An open floor plan of kitchen, dining and living zones has always been a "must"  when Socializing while cooking.  Having an open display of the kitchen and living area also may be helpful for young  families that need to watch out for their kids while preparing food. The new search for healthier and more dynamic lifestyle form healthy food consummation to mobility during office hours, that is another significant trend of the feature, it also makes the employers and office designers to integrate fitness items into the traditional work environment. Bedrooms are a perfect space to add some luxury and decadent glamour -velvet, sparkling metal details, marble and other luxurious materials are very popular in the bedrooms design. If you like the oblong shapes, bright colors and disco sparkle of the 70’s and 80’s don't hesitate to introduce them into the living rooms design. The heavy textile, draperies, velvet textures and canopy beds have their Renaissance in the bedrooms’ settings of the future.
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Living Kitchen Interior Design Trends 2020

Check out this living kitchen design trend for 2020/2021. Image credit to Truly Truly  The project by Studio Truly Truly is composed by open hub-like construction of “living kitchen” designated by bright yellow, metro tiles surfaces and columns, surrounding the stainless-steel volumes. This stylish home hart is arranged in the middle of a practical sequence of living premises: comfy sitting zone, cheerful dining area and modern-minimalism for working office space. Trendy design furniture elements compose the fittings in the working zone by Grohe, the freestanding kitchen by Alpes Inox and the agile transforming kitchen table that also becomes counter or a bench according to the need of the inhabitants. Hide it if you can. In this exhibition project for Living Kitchen we can observe two important tendencies of modern home design: first – most definitely the kitchen becomes the center of the home; situated midst open social areas – because modern people like to combine the preparation and consumption of food with social and family-time activities. And second: the agile, movable and tidy furniture elements become essential for kitchen areas. If you can use sliding doors, hidden movable constructs to achieve a tidy and clear-lined kitchen design, why not? Here we have one magnificent example of the second trend – functional, linear storage construct that provides many uses, including general storage, a TV cabinet, and a custom-designed kitchen all of which can be concealed behind two sliding panels.
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Test Drive Your Commute with the New Realtor.com Commute Time Filter

Commuting — one simple word that elicits images of mornings and evenings spent in bumper-to-bumper traffic and feelings of frustration. What if you could reduce some of that unnecessary stress and have more time for what’s really important in life? Our new Commute Time Filter is designed to allow you to make a more informed decision about where to live by giving you a holistic view of your drive time. What makes the realtor.com Commute Time Filter unique is how you can toggle between rush hour and off-peak commute times. And just as you can adjust the number of bedrooms and bathrooms in your search, you can also experiment with commute times by selecting anywhere from 10 to 60 minutes or more. The new filter was created in response to feedback from our users who told us that they would prioritize living closer to work to save their sanity. In fact, 85 percent of the more than 600 people who responded to our survey indicated that they would compromise various home features, including lot size, square footage, and style of the home to reduce their commute time. Moreover, 40 percent of the respondents are looking to reduce their commute time by up to 45 minutes. Suppose you are looking for a two-bedroom, two-bathroom home in Austin, Texas’ Montopolis neighborhood, and you would strongly prefer to have a drive time less than 20 minutes — with traffic. With the Commute Time Filter, you can input those preferences and all of the available listings that match your criteria will populate.  Our goal at realtor.com is to make home buying easier and more rewarding. The Commute Time Filter helps to answer the question, “Just how long will I be sitting in traffic?” It offers one more tool to simplify your decision-making process and find a home tailored to your unique needs.    The realtor.com Commute Time Filter is available on iOS and will soon be expanding to our Android app, as well as Web and Mobile Web.
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This is New Warriors Ground

Over the last three years, realtor.com has been a proud sponsor of the Golden State Warriors. Alongside nearly 20,000 fans at Oracle Arena, we’ve created incredible memories: cheering on the team as they’ve won NBA championships, surprising fans with upgraded “prime real estate” seats and other giveaways, and partnering with players to share what home court means to them in a digital series called My Home Court, among other highlights. And while the NBA postseason may be over, the Warriors have much to celebrate as they close a 47-season history at Oracle Arena and prepare for their new home, Chase Center, in San Francisco’s Mission Bay. What began as a project with 12 cranes in January 2017, Chase Center is nearing completion as the new home court for the Dub Nation. Vice President of Construction and Development, Peter Bryan, recently gave us an exclusive look at the latest construction updates. The 11-acre sports and entertainment center was designed with fans at the heart, featuring elements such as interactive installations, best-in-class technology and WiFi (because being able to share your courtside Instagram Story or Facebook Live is important!), a wide range of dining options both inside and outside of the arena showcasing the Bay Area food scene, and much more to be unveiled at its grand opening.  One design feature that is already a key identifying factor of Chase Center is what the Warriors refer to as the Gatehouse. Sitting on the fourth side of Chase Center’s main plaza, it’s an architectural element to enclose the plaza and create an intimate environment for guests. It includes two retail units and stadium seating for 250 guests to enjoy various activities like movie nights or ice skating during the holiday season, all inside the plaza. At realtor.com, we know moving into a new home is an exciting time and many of the Warriors players have shared in that excitement. During a press conference discussing Chase Center, Warriors superstar Forward Draymond Green said, “It’s the start of some great things.” And while touring the facilities on a site visit, reflected on the journey the team has been on awaiting the completion of the project. Admitting that it gave him the chills, Green shared, “To walk through it and see some of the things they’re doing is spectacular and I’m looking forward to playing here.” With less than 100 days to go until Chase Center’s completion, final touches are being executed. On Sept. 6, 2019, the arena will have its grand opening hosting a concert for Metallica and the San Francisco Symphony. And what the Dub Nation will surely be most excited about is the Warriors first preseason game on Oct. 5, 2019 at Chase Center. At realtor.com, home is everything. We’ll be ready and waiting. Go Dubs!
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Drywall Anchors: Secrets Revealed!

Whether you’re hanging a picture or mounting a television, anything that goes on your wall needs something to anchor it in place. If there’s a stud in the wall that you can attach it to then you’re fine; you’ve got well-supported wood to drive a screw into which will hold whatever you’re mounting in place. If you can’t find a stud where you need one, though, you could have a problem. That’s where drywall anchors come in. What Is a Drywall Anchor? Drywall anchors are small pieces that are slightly larger than the screws you’re using on a project. Depending on the type of anchor you’re using it might be made of plastic or metal, with small fins sticking out from the outside of the anchor body and a hole in the middle that runs the length of the anchor. The anchors go into the wall, then your screw goes into the hole. As you screw it in, the screw digs into the anchor body in much the same way it would with wood to ensure that the screw won’t slip out. Anchors are designed to provide a tight fit for your screws. As the screw goes in, the anchor is forced to spread out and open up a bit. This pushes the body of the anchor against the sides of the hole you put it in, causing those little fins to dig into the surrounding drywall. The fins are positioned to go in easy but resist coming out, giving you a solid mounting even though there isn’t any wood or other solid material for your screws to secure to. Plastic Anchors There are multiple types of drywall anchors. Choosing the right one for the job you’re working on helps to reduce unnecessary damage to your drywall and ensures that the mounting is strong enough for the load it needs to bear. To ensure that you have the right drywall anchor for what you need to support, try to get an estimate of the weight of the load and check the packaging of different drywall anchors to find an anchor that can hold that much weight. If you have a relatively light load, you’ll probably need a plastic anchor. The most common of these are known as expansion anchors and are essentially plastic sleeves that you hammer into a drilled hole and that simply spread out as you insert a screw. There are also threaded plastic anchors that look like oversized screws; they work similarly, except you screw them into place instead of hammering them. Regardless of the type of plastic anchor you use, the purpose is still to dig into the drywall and hold a screw in place. Metal Anchors For heavier loads you’ll likely wind up with a metal anchor. Though you may see some threaded metal anchors, the most common metal anchors are known as molly bolts and feature a metal sleeve with a screw already inserted into them. You hammer these into place as you would with an expansion anchor, then remove the screw. Once you’re ready to mount you place the screw back into the anchor and start tightening; this causes a portion of the metal sleeve to pull toward the screw, expanding metal arms on the other side of the drywall to create a much more secure fitting. If you have an even heavier load, you’ll need to use a toggle bolt instead. These anchors consist of a metal bolt with foldable metal wings that the bolt screws into. You have to fold the wings so that they lie over the bolt, then insert them into a hole large enough that they can fit through to the other side. Once on the other side the wings will expand, preventing the bolt from coming back out. Make sure that there is a washer or something else that’s large enough to cover the hole, though, or the bolt head could slip through the hole and you’ll lose your toggle bolt into the wall. When Drywall Anchors Fail In most cases, if a drywall anchor fails then it simply wasn’t the right type of anchor for the job. Trying to use smaller or weaker anchors for heavier loads will often result in failure because they simply don’t achieve enough grip on the surrounding material to hold the load. In some cases, though, the drywall itself may be too weak or the anchor you use may have been intended for a different material. Be sure to match the anchor to the weight and the material to minimize your chances of anchor failure. Are you still having problems finding the right drywall anchors to meet your needs? Don’t risk your photos or collectables… the HomeKeepr community is here to help with any issues you might have. Find the answers you need or locate a pro who can get everything secured safely in record time. Best of all, they all come recommended by other members of the community so you won’t have to worry about hard-to-trust reviews again!
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The Top-10 Secrets Every First-time Home Buyer Should Know

Buying a home can be complicated and overwhelming, especially when you are a first-time homebuyer. To help you navigate the home-buying process, we relied on our new book, “The Essential First-Time Home Buyer’s Book”, to compile the 10 must-know, simple secrets that will help you get started and make the process easier along the way: 1. Create a needs versus wants list: Identifying what features are absolutely necessary and those that are nice to have will enable laser focus as you begin your home search. Write down the non-negotiable features your new home needs — the more specific, the better. If a home doesn’t have everything on the list, skip seeing it to avoid compromising. For any listing that does have all your must-haves, keep a record of it. During the open house, take notes and photos of the property so you can review them later when making a decision on which house has what you need and ultimately, is right for you. 2. Determine your buying power: Understanding how much house you can afford can give you a leg up when it comes to buying a new home. Using the realtor.com® Home Affordability Calculator, you can estimate approximately how much of a monthly mortgage payment you can afford. Next up, fine tune your needs list along with your price range with Price Perfect and you’ll have a good sense of the kind of home that is feasible. 3. Optimize expenses and save more: Saving cash for a down payment takes time. A good way to get started is to trim unnecessary spending. Find simple ways to save extra cash like skipping the extra coffee and saving that money in a dedicated account so you can watch your progress. If you struggle to save, automating the process can help. You can have your employer deposit some of your paycheck into a savings account or have your bank automatically deposit money into your savings account. 4. Interview several real estate agents: It’s wise to connect with several agents before deciding who you’ll work with on your home-buying journey. Find out how long the agent has worked in real estate in the area. Ask if the agent works alone or with a team, and what their schedule is like over the coming months as you potentially work together. 5. Work with a local agent: Leverage a local real estate agent who has the experience, negotiating chops, a large network, and local knowledge to help get you through the process to close on the right home for you. 6. Maintain your negotiating position: Remember that what you say in ear-shot of the seller or listing agent can have a significant impact on how they receive your offer. While the home search can be a very long process, keeping your composure is imperative as an over-enthusiastic potential buyer can wind up overpaying. On the flip side, harsh criticism of the home can come across offensively. Avoid statements such as: “This is my dream house!” “That couch is hideous!” “I can afford to spend this much.” “I can’t wait to get rid of that.” “Why are you selling?” “You’ll never get that price.” 7. Make an informed offer: Negotiating can be tricky. Discuss the following aspects of your offer with your agent so that you have a complete understanding of the financial implications before you sign a contract: Market price: Your agent can help you determine an offer price based on your budget, market dynamics, and comparable homes in the area. Earnest money deposit: Placing a portion of the purchase price in an escrow account can demonstrate to the seller that you are serious. Just make sure to discuss the scenarios that could cause you to lose this deposit. Contingencies: These are provisions that can allow you to get out of your contract without losing your deposit under certain circumstances, such as passing a home inspection or appraisal, or securing a loan. With your agent, review how these provisions can protect a buyer’s interests and what impact they can have on a sale. 8. Asses the home with an appraisal: If you’ve applied for a mortgage, your home-to-be still has to undergo a home appraisal. An appraiser will estimate the home’s value based on home condition, location, square footage, and renovations. If the appraisal comes in lower than what you have offered, you have options. Some of these may include: Appealing the appraisal: Keep in mind that an appeal can extend the process by a few weeks. Get a second appraisal: This is an added cost and can also extend the process. Negotiate with the seller: Sometimes a seller will lower the price or help in other ways. Walk away: You’ll likely lose the money already paid for inspections and/or appraisals, and your earnest money deposit may be at risk if you don’t have an appraisal or a financing contingency in your contract. 9. Follow your home inspector’s checklist: Your inspector should be trained to check your soon-to-be home for any issues. Join your inspector during the inspection to ask questions and find out any hidden details of the home. If any issues arise, the inspector can recommend necessary steps to fix them. The home inspection should vet several features and infrastructural components such as: Roofing and structural problems Mechanical and electrical troubles Plumbing concerns Overall home condition, functionality (i.e. windows, doors, vents, lights, fans), and safety (i.e. mold, hazards, faulty smoke detectors) 10. Wait until the sale is final: Don’t break the deal! The sale is not final until you sign all of the paperwork and get the keys. Anything you do before closing has the potential to impact the sale. Most states do not have in-person closing meetings anymore, however, if you do wind up in an in-person closing meeting, it’s advantageous to avoid voicing these possible deal-breakers: “I can’t wait to get all the new furniture we bought.” “I can’t wait to gut the house.” “Could you remove that swing set from the backyard?” Buying a home for the first time is a long, yet rewarding process. Preparing for that journey is one that not only requires a financial commitment, but also time invested in identifying what kind of home could be the best fit for you and selecting the right real estate professional to guide you along the way. With these tips in mind, you’ll be better prepared for what to expect. In addition to the “The Essential First-Time Home Buyer’s Book,” realtor.com offers a number of resources for first-time home-buyers in our resource center.
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Crack or Canyon? When is it Time for Driveway Repair?

Sometimes it’s easy to make a mountain out of a molehill. Other times, like when your driveway is starting to show some wear, you might instead try to make a crack out of a canyon. It’s not that you don’t want to make a driveway repair, but often it’s hard to know when the time is just right. So, how can a homeowner know for sure? Wear and Tear on a Driveway is Normal It’s not unusual to see a few small cracks or pits in the surface of your driveway as it ages. Asphalt, especially, pits, cracks, heaves, alligators and buckles. Cement, on the other hand, mostly just cracks. Other types, like specialty driveways made from bricks or pavers are best to always be assessed by a professional, so it might not be a bad idea to have one out yearly. For the rest, you can probably tell when it’s getting close to time to dress the drive up again. But it’s not just a cosmetic improvement, repairing your driveway stabilizes the pavement or slab itself in many cases. Asphalt is much more plastic than cement, so unless the cracks are small in your cement drive, expect a big job. Asphalt can often be restored from a sad shape, so long as most of the surface is intact and it’s not badly buckled. When to Patch and Repair Asphalt Driveways Choose a warm day when it’s going to be dry for a bit. Also, make sure you can move your vehicle elsewhere, either to the street or to a neighbor’s driveway for the next two days so the new sealant can dry. You should evaluate it yearly, but anticipate only really needing repairs every three to five if you’re dedicated to preventing water damage to the surface with proper use of gutters and other precipitation diverters. Between resealing, patches and repairs, scrub the surface regularly with mild dish soap and warm water to help keep your driveway at its best. It should look slick and black and maybe even a little bit shiny. When it starts to look more dried out, keep an eye out for other changes or plan to reseal it in the very near future. A nice black driveway always looks its best, anyway. Repairing and Patching Cement Driveways Cement driveways are a bit of a different story. Some cracks can be sealed by a homeowner with simple tools, others cannot. It’s not always clear how extensive the damage is when you’re experiencing extensive cracking or have areas that are no longer flush with the rest of the surface, so this is definitely a job for an experienced handyman or driveway expert. There are several interesting new technologies that are being used to lift cement pads back into place with materials like polyurethane foam. It’s really something to see! Although not available everywhere, the technology can salvage some driveways that would otherwise have to be busted out, hauled off and repoured, a process that can be a real headache. You can clean your cement driveway with a power washer if you know how to use one very delicately so that you don’t remove the thin surface coat. Otherwise a driveway brush, mild detergent and a hose will do the trick for regular cleanings. When in Doubt, Call a Pro There are a lot of parts of your property that leave lots of room for error. Your driveway isn’t one of them. If you have any doubts about your ability to evaluate, repair, replace or even handle the materials required to do so, call in a pro. But where do you find one? Just check your HomeKeepr community! Your Realtor already knows the best companies in town for your driveway type and can recommend them to you with a click of a button. Your HomeKeepr community always has your back, often from your back pocket! Confidence and security come from inexpensive driveway inspections, and HomeKeeper is the best place in town to find the team for the job.
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Garbage Disposal Care – Tips and Tricks

The modern world has so much to offer, from microwaves that can talk to your favorite smart home assistant to refrigerators that can remind you you’re out of milk. It’s amazing that something as innocuous as the garbage disposal remains relatively unchanged since its inception. Time marches ever on, leaving the garbage disposal essentially untouched and easily ignored. This is why it’s so important to take proper care of the indispensable kitchen appliance that spends most of its time being wholly overlooked. Garbage Disposals: Safety First Before you begin to do anything with your garbage disposal, it’s important to understand how much potential for disaster it represents. You can grind bone, ice and other hard objects with this appliance, don’t think for a second that it will somehow spare your fingers and hands should you stick them inside. Instead of risking digits, always use tongs or other long grabbing tools to retrieve things that have fallen inside. It doesn’t matter if it’s your wedding band or your keys, your garbage disposal can become a very seriously dangerous machine if you just go poking around in there. Caring for Your Garbage Disposal After that cautionary section, you may be wondering if your garbage disposal deserves to be maintained, especially if it’s just going to turn on you. Garbage disposal accidents are generally the result of a lack of care and improper use. So, go on, check out these tips for keeping it in prime shape: A clean disposal is a happy disposal. When you’ve run your disposal, put a little dish soap inside and run the cold water. This will help keep smells down and also flush out any remaining food particles. Dropping citrus peels inside and grinding can also improve the situation. Only put food in it. Only biodegradable items should go inside the disposal. Really, only food and not even every type of food. Lots of fats, for example, will clog the disposal faster than anything. Pasta, rice and other expanding foods can also be a problem for your disposal and plumbing. Grind some hard things to keep the blade sharp. Bones and ice are hard enough to sharpen the blades, so don’t forget to toss a few in from time to time. Do not feed your disposal fibrous foods like celery, even though they are sometimes thought of as hard food items. The fibers can tangle around the moving parts and interfere with function. Always use cold water. Flushing with hot water will melt fats inside, making it hard for your disposal to do much with them. Instead, always use cold water, which will cause those fats to solidify, so they can be broken up and flushed away. A little fat in the disposal is ok, don’t pour lots of fat into the plumbing, though, unless you want to call a plumber. Avoid harsh chemicals. Although a degreaser can help your disposal stay clean and live longer, other harsh chemicals should be avoided. Drain cleaners in particular are very hard on disposals, They can and will damage your disposal. Best to use a plunger or hand crank the disposal to break up jams. If that won’t do it, call in a pro. Need More Garbage Disposal Help? Whether you need a new garbage disposal because your old one has given up the ghost or you just need help with a unit that won’t do its job quite right, the home pros in the HomeKeepr community have your back. Just login and ask your real estate agent to recommend a plumber who can help you get your disposal game back on track.
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Raising the Roof: Can You Lay New Shingles Over Old?

Pros and Cons of Re-roofing Your Home First, a few terms to clarify any confusion. “Re-roofing” is a term that specifically applies to homes that have one or more layers of existing shingles and then have another one added to the pile. A roofing job that starts by removing all the old shingles is a “tear off.” Homes are re-roofed every single day. There are plenty out there with several layers of shingles and the roof still functions more or less just fine. The houses underneath aren’t buckling, so it’s all good, right? Depends on the situation. This is a short list of pros and cons for choosing a re-roofing job: Pro: Easier than a tear off. Re-roofing literally consists of climbing on the roof and putting new shingles on top of whatever is there. Instead of the ripping, tearing and banging lasting days, a re-roof is done in a fraction of the time because it’s so much less complicated. Con: Re-roofing can cover up major roofing defects. Tear offs are more involved, it’s true, but by removing all the old shingles, your roofer can more easily locate defects and replace decking that’s been water damaged. This is also a good time to correct problems like incorrectly installed drip edge and to flash chimneys, exhaust vents and other vulnerable areas. Pro: You can save a lot of money. Less labor generally means less cost, and it certainly applies to a re-roofing job. You won’t need to pay for removal and disposal of your old shingles because they’re not going anywhere and the lower number of man hours keeps cost way down. Con: Your new shingles will likely not last as long as promised. Although some people claim that your roof will be just fine with an extra layer, the truth is that the only time that really applies is when the shingles below are perfectly flat, and even then they will likely have a shorter lifespan than shingles that are part of a tear off job. The extra layers of asphalt (that stuff they fill potholes with is also what the majority of shingles are made of) cause the roof to get hotter than it would with just one layer, breaking down both old and new shingles faster. Some roofers assert that layered shingles have life spans shortened by as much as 40 percent. Subtle Issues to Complicate Things When you need shingles for your roof, it’s best to get several quotes from different roofers. They’re going to give you the best idea about what is possible with the budget that you have. Because you can often lay other roof types over an intact asphalt shingle layer (for example, a metal roof over an asphalt one) without issue, it could be cheaper to go that route and avoid a tear-off entirely. But, this is only something your expert can tell you for sure. Other things to consider when pondering the re-roofing issue include: Resale potential. A house that has a lumpy roof is going to catch a lot of attention, even if that lumpy roof is brand new. It’s also going to show up on the inspection report, causing jittery buyers to run the other way. You might then be forced to settle for less for your home to simply be able to move on. Local building codes. Many municipalities have building and fire codes that address shingles and the layers allowed. Generally two are permitted before a tear off is required. This isn’t because your local government is evil, it’s a safety issue for you and your home. Houses aren’t really built to support thousands upon thousands of pounds of shingles. Oh, and extra shingle layers can pose a serious hazard should a fire break out. Glossing over serious damage. Re-roofing can sometimes turn into a bandage on an infected wound. There’s damage under the surface, but you can’t tell from all indicators. Even when roofers walk the roof looking for soft spots, they’re not stepping on each square inch, nor are they going to be able to tell that an area that still has some amount of integrity is badly damaged and will rot through in the near future. What you end up doing is covering up decking that could be bad or tar paper that’s shot (it helps protect your roof decking from water). So Where Do You Find a Roofer? If you’re looking for the best roofers in your area, there’s no better stop than HomeKeepr. The community will happily recommend their favorite roofers, now you can be confident in their work, too. At HomeKeepr, recommendations mean a lot more than reviews. Come check out all it has to offer for free!
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Smart Windows Are Here: What You Need to Know

Everything’s getting smarter these days. Everything. Not only are smart appliances, smart outlets, smart light bulbs and smart TVs gaining traction, smart windows are all the rage among the techy types. They can also be a really useful part of your home automation setup. They’re not for everybody and there are differences in what various types can do, though, so pay attention and research the windows of your dreams well before you choose one for your home. How Do You Make a Window Smart? There are actually several different types of windows currently using the moniker “smart.” Some, like those produced by Marvin, are simply regular windows fitted with smart locks at the factory. There’s little else that they do than a traditional window doesn’t besides let you know that you left the kitchen window unlocked. If this is a concern because you have a child that might climb out a window or a teenager known to slip out of the house that way, this might be a solution for you, but it’s hardly touching what other smart windows can do. Some of them can generate their own electricity. Who’s smart now? Smart Homes Made Smarter With Smarter Windows? There are many of the mindset that we’ve all gone a little wild with the “smart” stuff in our homes. Who really needs a smart toaster? Or a microwave that you can turn on with Alexa? What’s the point of smart switches when you have a smart light bulb? There are so many questions. But the truth is that smart windows can have a big impact on your living space and your happiness. The smart windows with lock sensors can make it easier to sleep at night, which is always great, but other smart windows can literally change the feel of the room, no matter what time of day. Before you run out to buy yourself some fancy smart windows, keep these items in mind: Energy efficiency is a big part of many designs. Lots of smart windows are designed to help you get the most out of your utility dollars. Many can change color based on different environmental factors, like bright sunlight or especially dark days. This way, your home stays reasonably easy to heat and cool and you can have lots of big windows without lots of big curtains. Smart Windows can do lots of different things. The fact that a smart window can simply be a window with a smart lock or a window that changes tint to help keep your utility bills low is only the beginning. Smart windows can also double as solar panels. It’s true! They’re not cheap, but that’s not the point. The smartest of the smart windows may come in at around $1,000, making a whole home window refit unbelievably expensive, but that’s not really the point at this time. Right now, the “cool” factor and their ability to save energy are really what buyers are getting out of these advanced windows with their connected features. Early adopters make it possible for these kinds of technologies to fall in price over time, opening up the market even wider. For homeowners interested in smart windows that have responsive glass but terrified of their price tags, it might make sense to put the windows in rooms that get extra hot or cold (just be sure to match the style of the windows in the rest of your house), rather than doing a whole home install that can become hugely cost-prohibitive.
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Tips For Running a Successful Garage Sale

Awww, springtime. It’s a great time to go through the closets and find anything you’re not using. But what do you do with all that junk that’s no longer in your trunk? For lots of homeowners, the choice is clear: it’s garage sale time. Or it’s yard sale time. A garage is not a prerequisite for the sale part. Running a Successful Garage Sale is Simple There are so many things in life that people will remark, “if it was easy, everybody would be doing it….” when presented with a related struggle. This is not the case with a yard sale. They’re a lot of work, but they’re not all that tricky to pull off. If this is your first yard sale or you simply want to be sure you’re doing all you can to make it a success, these are tips just for you: Check your insurance policy. Hey, it seems innocent enough until someone slips and falls and breaks a bone. Suddenly you’re on the hook for their medical expenses. Do you have enough coverage for this? Check with your agent before you start that big sale.
Label everything. It can be tempting to simply put things in bins that are labeled with prices, but it’s much better to label everything so no one is confused. Your kids can be great helpers here, it’s a low risk job that will keep them busy for hours.
Group like items. When you set things out, group them by use or some other common theme. After all, if you sell someone a bucket, they might also want to buy that hose.
Pretend you have an outside store. Everything in a store is for sale for the right price, so make sure that you clear the area of anything you’d rather not sell (or at least put a sign on it). Also, keep your money in a safe place like a money box, keep records on sales, and while you’re at it, get a credit card reader that will work with your phone (many companies offer these for low or no cost swipe fee).
Line up plenty of help. Buying stuff at a yard sale can be fun, but running said yard sale is generally pretty boring. Make sure you’ve got plenty of help so that you’re not forced to spend the whole weekend sitting all alone at the check-out table.
Advertise liberally. If you want to sell something, you have to tell people it’s for sale. Advertise liberally, using social media, local media like newspapers and signs that you’ll post a day or two before the big day. Donating to Charity Many people make arrangements with a local charity to collect the items that did not sell. You can do this, too, just keep in mind that most charities will not allow their volunteers inside your home. In these cases, you’ll have to be present in order to donate stuff. It might be just as easy to box up the remains and toss them in the back of your vehicle for a ride to the Goodwill. Not Sure If You’re Insured Enough for Yard Sales? Don’t worry, your HomeKeepr family has you covered. The insurance agents that are part of this exclusive network can quickly assess your needs and write you the policy required to ensure that if someone is injured on your property, you’ll be covered. Just log in and ask your real estate agent to recommend the professional that’s best for you. It couldn’t be easier!
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Buying a Short Sale Home? Keep This in Mind

One of the greatest myths in the world of real estate is that buying a home that’s in a pre-foreclosure state, or one that has already been foreclosed upon, will get you the very best deal possible. This is inaccurate for a number of reasons, though if you know what you’re looking at you can sometimes snag a bargain. There are a few things you need to know before making that leap the first time. What is a Short Sale? Short sales happen because a homeowner is in big trouble financially and needs to unload their house. They may be in a negative equity position (underwater) or simply lack the equity to sell their home. There was a time when homeowners had to miss a few payments before lenders would consider a short sale, but today there are conditions, like a sudden loss of income, that can make a short sale possible faster. Short sales save the homeowner from a long and potentially credit damaging foreclosure. They save the bank from having to get lawyers involved to collect the home that’s collateral for the mortgage that’s in default. They don’t do anything for a buyer by design (that’s not to say that you can’t benefit from them, they just didn’t really consider buyers when creating this out for homeowners in trouble). Buying a Short Sale Home: The Basics To successfully navigate a short sale, you’re going to need a few things: An experienced real estate agent. Writing a contract for a short sale is not like writing a contract for a standard home. There are usually a variety of clauses that must be included, as well as knowledge of what will and won’t be accepted in said contract to consider. Your interests have to be protected, which can really bloat a standard purchase agreement with a lot of extra verbiage. A really good home inspector. When people ask their banks for permission to sell short, they’re not doing it because they’ve been spending all their extra money fixing up the place. Often, these homes are in some amount of disrepair due to neglect. When finances are tight enough to get a short sale approved, you can bet home improvements are far from the current owner’s mind. Patience. It can take a very long time to get a short sale approved. If you’re looking to buy one as an investment, that wait might not matter, but if you want a place to call home, it’s going to be frustratingly long. This is because not only does the homeowner approve the contract, the bank has to, as well. If there are two or more banks involved, so much more the trouble. Buckle in, because it can take six weeks – six months — to close. Liquid or liquidatable assets. Depending on the state of the home, you will likely have to put some money into it right away. A leaky roof and HVAC with issues aren’t cheap to fix. It is highly recommended that you use a real estate agent to purchase a short sale. This point cannot be stressed enough. Short sales are not always deals, as stated above, because banks know what their property is worth — they’re not going to let you steal that house for a song. The banks involved are also unlikely to make repairs or give you any sort of concessions. How Can Banks Afford to Do This? The next time someone tells you that mortgage insurance is a waste and does nothing for anyone but the bank, remind them that MI is what makes short sales possible and often prevent long-term credit damage during a foreclosure. When a home qualifies to be a short sale, the bank is using proceeds from a claim against the mortgage insurance to make up the difference between what the sellers owe and what a buyer is giving. MI can help prevent something known as a “bleeding foreclosure.” This is a foreclosure (or short sale) that has sold, but has a balance remaining that cannot be forgiven. Not all homes sold short will “bleed,” but it’s a potential in many states, especially if you’re not carrying MI on your mortgage. So, rather than pay extra every month for MI, you’ll be paying monthly for the outstanding balance on a house you no longer own. Ready to Shop for Short Sale Homes? Check out your local service providers in the HomeKeepr community. Not only can you find the best home inspectors, but you can be connected to electricians, HVAC installers, roofers, even bankers. You’ll know they’re good by the recommendations that your and other real estate agents have provided. Get your short sale team ready today at HomeKeepr!
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FSBO? Are You REALLY Ready to Sell Your Home Yourself?

Everybody likes the idea of a little DIY. Whether that means unclogging your own sink drain or putting in a few shelves in your pantry, there’s a lot of satisfaction that goes along with doing it yourself. Maybe this is why homeowners often seriously consider selling their homes on their own. Although going FSBO has the potential to save a few bucks, there’s a lot to know before jumping in. What is a FSBO? In real estate agent speak, “Fiz-Bows” are homes that are being sold and marketed by their owners; it’s short for For Sale By Owner. These sellers may negotiate with Buyer’s Agents to sell their house, but more often negotiate with the buyer directly. This buyer is either someone that the seller knows or it’s a complete stranger who called off of some kind of advertising for the home in question. As you might imagine, this situation is just peachy until it’s not. A Few Points to Ponder Before Going FSBO The decision to sell your home yourself is not one that you should make lightly. There are a lot of things that must be done in order to execute a real estate contract and even seasoned real estate agents sometimes make serious mistakes. So, before you take the leap, keep these items in mind (just for starters): Real estate agents carry errors and omissions insurance for a reason. There is no perfect contract and the more complicated they get, the higher the risk of something being accidentally recorded incorrectly. When that mistake is a high dollar issue, E&O kicks in to help resolve it. Generally speaking, if you’re selling your own home by yourself, your errors and omissions are on you. Marketing matters. Even in a seller’s market, it’s fairly unlikely that plopping a “For Sale” sign on your lawn will attract the right buyers. Sure, you might get the neighbors popping by for a look, but they’re really just comparing their home to yours, they’re not generally serious buyers. This is going to be one of your biggest expenses, and marketing doesn’t come cheap. You can’t just list your home on one site, you need to be putting your marketing where the people are — that means social media, local FSBO sites, the MLS (if you can access it where you live) and other outlets. This is where knowing your audience (your buyers) is really important. It’ll help you narrow your focus so you don’t spend as much on marketing as you could if you took a scattershot approach. Contracts. You can’t sell a house with a handshake agreement. Well, you CAN in most states, but it’s not advised. Makes it real hard for the bank to finance and so forth. First thing’s first, do you have a contract you can use or a lawyer who will draft one for you? Any existing contracts should be checked over by a real estate attorney to ensure that you are protected. Handling Offers. We all expect that contracts will come in at full price and also include nice notes about how our kitchen is amazing and the buyer can already smell the bubble bath in the master suite. That’s not always reality, though. What will you do when an offer comes in that’s insultingly low? The emotional weight can be massive. Most of the time, these things go off without a hitch, but there are some trouble contracts here and there. Are you confident enough to stake your equity on this gamble? There’s nothing wrong with selling your house yourself, but if you choose to do this, you have to realize that it’s a huge commitment, as well as essentially being a second job. You have to be ready to show your house any time a potential buyer appears. You need to monitor the market so you can see when a price change is going to be necessary. Most importantly, you have to know how to respond when there’s a problem. There Are No Perfect Houses Anybody can sell a house that’s perfect. There’s no question about it. But in the real world, all homes have some kind of flaw. They’re structures made of thousands of different parts, after all. That one knotty stud with the bent nail under the drywall makes your house totally unique, even when compared with other homes that are the same floor plan. The thing with all this uniqueness is that when a home inspector comes to inspect the home, they’re likely to find something wrong. As an owner, not having a lot of experience looking at inspection reports, you may think you’re being unfairly attacked or just feel generally insulted by the findings. After all, you wired up that outlet or plumbed that tub yourself. If you can see your home the way your buyer does, you may have the stomach for selling it yourself. You have to be fair-minded, otherwise everything will blow up during the inspection period, if you make it that far. Looking For A Pre-Inspection For Your FSBO? Look no further than your HomeKeepr family. With a click of a mouse, you can be connected to some of the best home pros in your area. HomeKeepr users know that recommendations are far better than reviews. Check it out right now! It’s free to join and you’ll get all the benefits of membership.
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5 Ways to Make Gardening Easier

More people are choosing to stay in their existing home, expanding into unused space rather than going through the trouble of selling and buying again. If you’re in the same position, it might make sense to expand your living space by finishing your basement. The good news is that since the structure is already there, a basement remodel can be accomplished by a homeowner with limited construction knowledge. Serious Considerations Before Starting Your Finishing Project Basements are interesting spaces because at least some part of them are underground, holding back tons of soil and rocks. The fact that they don’t collapse inward is a testament to the engineering involved. Even though the basement concept is brilliantly designed, depending on the age of your home, other issues can quickly turn your project into a gaping hole for money to disappear into. Before you even start picking out materials, check that the moisture level is low enough to not ruin the materials you’re going to be using. Make a rough check for both seeping water from walls and humidity inside the basement with 24 inch by 24 inch squares of heavy clear plastic sheeting. Tape them to the walls in random spots, then wait two weeks. If there’s water between the plastic and the wall, you’ve got an unsealed foundation. If the water is only on top in the form of condensation, you need a dehumidifier stat. If there’s either kind of moisture present, you’ll also want to choose materials that can tolerate some amount of exposure to water, just in case your sealing and dehumidifying fail you. 1… 2….3…. GO! It’s time to get that remodel started. Don’t get too far ahead of yourself, though. Keep these five tips in mind as you go through the process. It takes the time it takes. It may seem like your basement remodel is dragging on and on, but remember that you’re creating an entirely new livable floor in your home. This is no small thing. Take your time, don’t cut any corners or else you’ll find yourself fixing those things you thought were unnecessary the first go. Remember that excellent prep work is where you’ll spend most of your time during any construction job. Check for and clean up damage first. Bugs, rot and mold are all enemies of good basement remodels. Sure, you can cover them up, but that means that you’re covering up ongoing damage. You need to get a pest inspector out, they can help you determine if there are bugs or rot. Mildew and mold are more apparent, most aren’t dangerous, but they do indicate active moisture issues. Regardless of the issue, you need to fix it now. Remember that your furnace needs to breathe. Furnaces and water heaters need plenty of room air in order to properly combust to generate heat. Even though electric furnaces and water heaters don’t necessarily need oxygen, they definitely need space so home pros can get around them to work. When you plan your new basement layout, keep this in mind. Adding a door with a vent to a utility closet will also help with those gas appliances. Create trapdoors for access. Once all those utilities are sealed behind the wall and inside the ceiling, you can’t get to them without causing major damage. This is why it’s so important that you keep shutoffs, important electrical junctions and other utility access points accessible. You can make these access doors blend into the design of your basement or make them extremely obvious, depending on what works best for you. Plan for the worst. Your basement is dry and has never been wet, but with record setting rains in many areas of the country, it’s a good idea to use materials that can survive minor flooding. Instead of using laminated plank flooring, for example, choose tile because it doesn’t matter if it does flood. If you have room for an emergency sump pump, have one installed to protect your investment. When you’re planning to refinish your basement, there are lots of things to keep in mind. Check and double check your plans, just to be sure that they’ll work well with the space you have to use. It’s a huge job, but if you’re well-organized and patient, it should be no problem at all. Tired of Waiting for Your Basement to Finish Itself? Check out your HomeKeepr network, it’s full of home pros that do remodeling and finishing jobs all the time. Your Realtor can recommend their favorite home pros to you through the app, speeding up the process of trying to figure out what home pro is the best match for your project. Reviews have nothing on recommendations, come on by the HomeKeepr community today for the pros you need.
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5 Tips for Finishing Your Basement

More people are choosing to stay in their existing home, expanding into unused space rather than going through the trouble of selling and buying again. If you’re in the same position, it might make sense to expand your living space by finishing your basement. The good news is that since the structure is already there, a basement remodel can be accomplished by a homeowner with limited construction knowledge. Serious Considerations Before Starting Your Finishing Project Basements are interesting spaces because at least some part of them are underground, holding back tons of soil and rocks. The fact that they don’t collapse inward is a testament to the engineering involved. Even though the basement concept is brilliantly designed, depending on the age of your home, other issues can quickly turn your project into a gaping hole for money to disappear into. Before you even start picking out materials, check that the moisture level is low enough to not ruin the materials you’re going to be using. Make a rough check for both seeping water from walls and humidity inside the basement with 24 inch by 24 inch squares of heavy clear plastic sheeting. Tape them to the walls in random spots, then wait two weeks. If there’s water between the plastic and the wall, you’ve got an unsealed foundation. If the water is only on top in the form of condensation, you need a dehumidifier stat. If there’s either kind of moisture present, you’ll also want to choose materials that can tolerate some amount of exposure to water, just in case your sealing and dehumidifying fail you. 1… 2….3…. GO! It’s time to get that remodel started. Don’t get too far ahead of yourself, though. Keep these five tips in mind as you go through the process. It takes the time it takes. It may seem like your basement remodel is dragging on and on, but remember that you’re creating an entirely new livable floor in your home. This is no small thing. Take your time, don’t cut any corners or else you’ll find yourself fixing those things you thought were unnecessary the first go. Remember that excellent prep work is where you’ll spend most of your time during any construction job. Check for and clean up damage first. Bugs, rot and mold are all enemies of good basement remodels. Sure, you can cover them up, but that means that you’re covering up ongoing damage. You need to get a pest inspector out, they can help you determine if there are bugs or rot. Mildew and mold are more apparent, most aren’t dangerous, but they do indicate active moisture issues. Regardless of the issue, you need to fix it now. Remember that your furnace needs to breathe. Furnaces and water heaters need plenty of room air in order to properly combust to generate heat. Even though electric furnaces and water heaters don’t necessarily need oxygen, they definitely need space so home pros can get around them to work. When you plan your new basement layout, keep this in mind. Adding a door with a vent to a utility closet will also help with those gas appliances. Create trapdoors for access. Once all those utilities are sealed behind the wall and inside the ceiling, you can’t get to them without causing major damage. This is why it’s so important that you keep shutoffs, important electrical junctions and other utility access points accessible. You can make these access doors blend into the design of your basement or make them extremely obvious, depending on what works best for you. Plan for the worst. Your basement is dry and has never been wet, but with record setting rains in many areas of the country, it’s a good idea to use materials that can survive minor flooding. Instead of using laminated plank flooring, for example, choose tile because it doesn’t matter if it does flood. If you have room for an emergency sump pump, have one installed to protect your investment. When you’re planning to refinish your basement, there are lots of things to keep in mind. Check and double check your plans, just to be sure that they’ll work well with the space you have to use. It’s a huge job, but if you’re well-organized and patient, it should be no problem at all. Tired of Waiting for Your Basement to Finish Itself? Check out your HomeKeepr network, it’s full of home pros that do remodeling and finishing jobs all the time. Your Realtor can recommend their favorite home pros to you through the app, speeding up the process of trying to figure out what home pro is the best match for your project. Reviews have nothing on recommendations, come on by the HomeKeepr community today for the pros you need.
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Cleaning Household Appliances

When the next bowl of chili explodes all over the inside of the microwave or you finally give in to the inch thick layer of pizza burn off inside your oven, this page of advice for cleaning household appliances will be right here waiting for you. Common Appliances and How to Clean Them For some people, cleaning is as natural as walking and breathing. But for the rest of us, it takes effort and probably some knowledge that we’re currently lacking. After all, it’s not such a big deal to clean a microwave, but for some reason it feels like it takes forever. Without further ado, here’s how to clean basically everything useful in your kitchen. Microwave Pre-prep Work: Put a coffee mug or small bowl full of water and slices of lemon in the center and run the microwave on high for about three minutes, or until the liquid is turning to steam. This will help soften food splatter and the lemon smells nice. You can also use other citrus fruits or forego it entirely and use a drop of dish soap. Break It Down: Take out the turntable and anything else that will come loose. Toss these parts in the dishwasher and run it. Or wait if you have other stuff to stick in there and make it a full load. The Nitty Gritty: Wipe down the walls of the microwave with a sponge, cloth or several paper towels, plus your favorite dish soap and water or all purpose cleaner. There’s not really a wrong way to clean a microwave. Wipe the outside while you’re at it, especially the buttons. Garbage Disposal Pre-prep Work: Unless you have a clog, there’s not much in the way of prep work to do. Flick the switch, run some cold water to make sure there’s not any food left in the device. Break It Down: Some garbage disposals, like Insinkerators, have removable baffles (the black part that’s just inside the drain). If yours is removable, take it out. If not, then move along. The Nitty Gritty: Cleaning a garbage disposal is really easy. Just clean your removable baffle, if present, and toss some citrus fruit inside. Most garbage disposals no longer use blades (don’t stick your hand in to find out unless the breaker is turned off), so the ice cube trick does nothing, but citrus is still a big deal. If it’s really smelly, drop some liquid dish soap inside and run the water until the bubbles stop. Dishwasher Pre-prep Work: Running an empty load with a measuring cup full of vinegar or bleach can help start the process off right. These chemicals help eliminate chronic smells, you’ll be really happy you did. DO NOT USE DISH SOAP. Break It Down: Remove the racks and anything else that comes loose, like cutlery baskets. Take those to the shower and wait for further instructions. The Nitty Gritty: First clean any screens that might be protecting food grinders or other moving parts. You can just wipe that out. Next, there’s such a thing as dishwasher cleaner. Your life will be immeasurably easier if you just buy a few of these and use as directed to clean the inside of the dishwasher. Last, go find those racks you put in the shower. Spray them down with a removable shower head or take your chances with the regular kind. If they’re very dirty, give them a going over with soapy water and a sponge. Go slide those bad boys back into the machine. Wipe the outside. Refrigerator Pre-prep Work: Put food into a prepared cooler and turn the ice maker off. Break It Down: Pull out all the shelves and drawers at once and place them in or near the sink. The Nitty Gritty: Start with the empty fridge cavity and wipe everything down, from the top to the bottom. Warm, soapy water is fine for most residue, tough grime can be knocked out with all-surface cleaner. Next, do the door interiors. Now wash the shelves and drawers and leave them to dry. Once all of that is complete, put the fridge back together and repeat with the freezer. Change your water filter and turn the ice maker back on when you’re done. Wipe the fridge outside down last. Freestanding Range (this also applies to cooktops and ovens that exist independently) Pre-prep Work: Smooth top ranges just need their tops wiped down. Turn the pilot lights off on gas ranges. Break It Down: Pull knobs, remove grates, pull coils and catch pans, as applies to your stove. The Nitty Gritty: If you have a stove with a self-cleaning oven, find your manual and figure out how to use it. Most will lock themselves, heat until they’re super hot and you only have to wipe the racks down and get the ash (there’s never much) out of the bottom. This will take a few hours. Maybe several hours. But it’ll be super clean. For the top, wipe the bit that’s not removable down with soapy water. Grab the coils and set them aside and put the rest in the dishwasher. No reason to work too hard. Glass top stoves sometimes need harder cleaning. There’s a gritty glass top stove cleaner available commercially. Put it all back together like you found it. Good work! You Could Clean Your Own Appliances, Or…. You could find a great cleaning service in your HomeKeepr community. Just log on, ask your real estate agent for a recommendation and choose from the home pros that are sent your way. You’ll never have to worry about cleaning appliances again when you have a cleaning service handy. Recommendations are better than reviews, come and see the difference!
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Robo Lawnmowers: Like a Roomba for Your Lawn

Robotics and automation have changed the way that a number of things work in the home. You may not realize that you can automate tasks outside of the home as well. Though they have not received as much attention as home automation sensors and digital assistants, robotic lawn mowers are starting to change the way that people approach lawn care. Modern r obotic lawn mowers were introduced only in recent years, but the devices have a longer history than you might think. Introducing the MowBot Believe it or not, the first robotic lawn mower was actually created and patented in 1969. Dubbed the MowBot, the robotic device was self-propelled and capable of making random turns within an area defined by a signal wire that was used to create a boundary. Though the battery-powered device was primitive compared to today’s robotic lawn mowers, the approach it took to lawn maintenance wasn’t that far off from how today’s devices work. It had some staying power as well, as MowBot Inc. is still producing robotic mowers today that are more modern takes on the original MowBot functionality. The Modern Robotic Lawn Mower While robots like the MowBot persisted since the 1960s, it wasn’t until the 1990s that the more modern style of robotic lawn mowers began to emerge. A solar-powered mower was developed in 1995 by Husqvarna, and this was followed in the next 10 years by other niche robotic lawn mower designs. Smaller-scale robotic mower releases occurred in the United States and the UK in 2000, but it wasn’t until 2005 that the first widespread commercial release of a robotic lawn mower occurred. Interestingly, these mowers used the same sort of signal wire that the MowBot had combined with a few more modern features. The market has taken off in the time since then, with a variety of solar-powered and self-charging robotic mowers hitting the market with innovations such as programmability, autonomous obstacle avoidance and even the ability to program or control the mower remotely from a smartphone or similar device. Some modern robotic mowers are even designed to only trim a small section of the grass blades at a time, opting instead to mow more frequently (often without any input from their owners) to keep the lawn in optimal shape. Benefits of Robotic Lawn Mowers Robotic lawn mowers offer a number of benefits over traditional push mowers or riding lawn mowers. A few of the benefits of these mowers include: Electric-powered robotic mowers reduce fuel costs and carbon emissions Smaller, more frequent cuts prevent excessive strain on your lawn that could result in browning or other damage Lightweight units that use random movements while cutting the lawn prevent damage caused by mowing in the same pattern repeatedly Electric units with smaller motors significantly reduce noise pollution while cutting The mulching action of robotic lawn mowers recycles clippings to feed your lawn throughout the year Other benefits of using a robotic lawn mower include increased free time, more consistent lawn heights and the elimination of the dangers of injury created by the traditional lawn mower.  
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Buying a Short Sale Home? Keep This in Mind

One of the greatest myths in the world of real estate is that buying a home that’s in a pre-foreclosure state, or one that has already been foreclosed upon, will get you the very best deal possible. This is inaccurate for a number of reasons, though if you know what you’re looking at you can sometimes snag a bargain. There are a few things you need to know before making that leap the first time. What is a Short Sale? Short sales happen because a homeowner is in big trouble financially and needs to unload their house. They may be in a negative equity position (underwater) or simply lack the equity to sell their home. There was a time when homeowners had to miss a few payments before lenders would consider a short sale, but today there are conditions, like a sudden loss of income, that can make a short sale possible faster. Short sales save the homeowner from a long and potentially credit damaging foreclosure. They save the bank from having to get lawyers involved to collect the home that’s collateral for the mortgage that’s in default. They don’t do anything for a buyer by design (that’s not to say that you can’t benefit from them, they just didn’t really consider buyers when creating this out for homeowners in trouble). Buying a Short Sale Home: The Basics To successfully navigate a short sale, you’re going to need a few things: An experienced real estate agent. Writing a contract for a short sale is not like writing a contract for a standard home. There are usually a variety of clauses that must be included, as well as knowledge of what will and won’t be accepted in said contract to consider. Your interests have to be protected, which can really bloat a standard purchase agreement with a lot of extra verbiage. A really good home inspector. When people ask their banks for permission to sell short, they’re not doing it because they’ve been spending all their extra money fixing up the place. Often, these homes are in some amount of disrepair due to neglect. When finances are tight enough to get a short sale approved, you can bet home improvements are far from the current owner’s mind. Patience. It can take a very long time to get a short sale approved. If you’re looking to buy one as an investment, that wait might not matter, but if you want a place to call home, it’s going to be frustratingly long. This is because not only does the homeowner approve the contract, the bank has to, as well. If there are two or more banks involved, so much more the trouble. Buckle in, because it can take six weeks – six months — to close. Liquid or liquidatable assets. Depending on the state of the home, you will likely have to put some money into it right away. A leaky roof and HVAC with issues aren’t cheap to fix. It is highly recommended that you use a real estate agent to purchase a short sale. This point cannot be stressed enough. Short sales are not always deals, as stated above, because banks know what their property is worth — they’re not going to let you steal that house for a song. The banks involved are also unlikely to make repairs or give you any sort of concessions. How Can Banks Afford to Do This? The next time someone tells you that mortgage insurance is a waste and does nothing for anyone but the bank, remind them that MI is what makes short sales possible and often prevent long-term credit damage during a foreclosure. When a home qualifies to be a short sale, the bank is using proceeds from a claim against the mortgage insurance to make up the difference between what the sellers owe and what a buyer is giving. MI can help prevent something known as a “bleeding foreclosure.” This is a foreclosure (or short sale) that has sold, but has a balance remaining that cannot be forgiven. Not all homes sold short will “bleed,” but it’s a potential in many states, especially if you’re not carrying MI on your mortgage. So, rather than pay extra every month for MI, you’ll be paying monthly for the outstanding balance on a house you no longer own.
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Tips For Running a Successful Garage Sale

Awww, springtime. It’s a great time to go through the closets and find anything you’re not using. But what do you do with all that junk that’s no longer in your trunk? For lots of homeowners, the choice is clear: it’s garage sale time. Or it’s yard sale time. A garage is not a prerequisite for the sale part. Running a Successful Garage Sale is Simple There are so many things in life that people will remark, “if it was easy, everybody would be doing it….” when presented with a related struggle. This is not the case with a yard sale. They’re a lot of work, but they’re not all that tricky to pull off. If this is your first yard sale or you simply want to be sure you’re doing all you can to make it a success, these are tips just for you: Check your insurance policy. Hey, it seems innocent enough until someone slips and falls and breaks a bone. Suddenly you’re on the hook for their medical expenses. Do you have enough coverage for this? Check with your agent before you start that big sale.
Label everything. It can be tempting to simply put things in bins that are labeled with prices, but it’s much better to label everything so no one is confused. Your kids can be great helpers here, it’s a low risk job that will keep them busy for hours.
Group like items. When you set things out, group them by use or some other common theme. After all, if you sell someone a bucket, they might also want to buy that hose.
Pretend you have an outside store. Everything in a store is for sale for the right price, so make sure that you clear the area of anything you’d rather not sell (or at least put a sign on it). Also, keep your money in a safe place like a money box, keep records on sales, and while you’re at it, get a credit card reader that will work with your phone (many companies offer these for low or no cost swipe fee).
Line up plenty of help. Buying stuff at a yard sale can be fun, but running said yard sale is generally pretty boring. Make sure you’ve got plenty of help so that you’re not forced to spend the whole weekend sitting all alone at the check-out table.
Advertise liberally. If you want to sell something, you have to tell people it’s for sale. Advertise liberally, using social media, local media like newspapers and signs that you’ll post a day or two before the big day. Donating to Charity Many people make arrangements with a local charity to collect the items that did not sell. You can do this, too, just keep in mind that most charities will not allow their volunteers inside your home. In these cases, you’ll have to be present in order to donate stuff. It might be just as easy to box up the remains and toss them in the back of your vehicle for a ride to the Goodwill.
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