Home Danger Zones

Everyone wants their home to be safe and free from dangers. Some of the most common items and appliances in a home can be harbingers of hazards, and knowing what to be wary of will help you prevent any unforeseen issues down the road. Listed below are the top areas in a home that can potentially lead to problems, and what you can do to prevent them from occurring.

Cooktops

Statistics show that 40 percent of fires start in the kitchen (redcross.org), and many of those are a result of the cooktop or stovetop. Prevent issues and fires in the kitchen by storing combustibles away from the gas or electric burners (paper towels, pot holders, etc.). Also, it’s always a good idea not to leave burners unattended when in use, especially when boiling water or heating oils.

Dryers

Dryers also have the potential to start fires in the home. Lint can build up inside the dryer cabinet, where the heating element is housed, creating a fire hazard. Clean the lint trap each time you use the dryer, and brush or vacuum buildup around the lint filter every couple of months. Dryer maintenance is also important – have the cabinet cleaned out every two years to prevent potential buildups that could cause a fire.

Washing Machines

Old hoses have the capability of bursting, which can result in a torrent of water gushing into your laundry room or area, and any low placed electrical outlets could be impacted by water leaks. Replace any old hoses with braided steel hoses, which can be found at any home improvement store or website. Also, check hoses regularly for any leaks or loose connections.

Pipes

In the fall and winter when temperatures drop, pipes can freeze and crack. A pipe with an 1/8 of an inch crack can leak up to 250 gallons of water per day (thisoldhouse.com). Pipes should be insulated to prevent cracking, and before the temperature drops turn off the water supply to outdoor spigots and leave taps open to relieve any internal pressure buildups that could wreak havoc on your home.

Smoke Detectors

We’ve all heard the very annoying chirp of a dying smoke detector. Dead, dying or missing batteries are the top reasons for smoke detector malfunctions. Batteries should be changed at least once a year, and older models that are over 10 years old should be replaced. Some detectors are also equipped with a test mode, so testing your smoke detector throughout the year will also help indicate if any maintenance needs to take place.


Fireplaces

Fireplaces are more prone for use in the winter months in those regions where the cold temperatures set in. Creosote buildup can cause chimney fires, where sparks fly out and ignite rugs and furniture. For avid chimney users, have your chimney swept once a year, and remember to keep the screen closed when not using the fireplace. It’s also important to have your chimney damper or flue open before lighting a fire and when it’s in use.

 

Electrical Wiring

Bad wiring in a home can short out and potentially start a fire, and a lot of times you won’t be able to see direct issues with electrical wires. Signs to look for are frequent blown fuses, flickering lights, or feeling a tingling sensation when a wall switch or appliance is touched. If you have a home that is more than 40 years old, consider replacing the wiring and updating the electrical systems.

Roofs

Roofs are known for providing excellent space for snow and ice buildup. A roof that is too warm will cause snow to melt. When this happens, runoff freezes in gutters, which forms into ice, creating a dam that forces water below the shingles. To help prevent issues, make sure your roof is properly insulated by adding attic insulation and vents, which will help keep the roof cool and prevent snow melt.

Gutters

In the fall and winter months, gutters have the tendency to become clogged and backed up by rogue leaves and debris. When gutters become clogged, they can overflow, which allows water to pool around home foundations, potentially leading to basement leaks or water underneath the house. If you live in an area with lots of trees, clean gutters regularly during the fall months to help prevent clogs and potential problems, and clean then again in the Spring.

A Moving Experience

Moving is often a stressful experience, even when it goes well. While you may never have a great time boxing up your possessions and moving them to a new place, there are certainly steps you can take to make the experience as easy as possible. Here are a few tips from styleathome.com that can help you save time and reduce your stress when moving.

Choose Wisely: You will want to make sure whatever transportation you choose has enough room for all of your things, especially if the move is far enough that you only want to make one trip. Generally, the contents of a one-bedroom apartment will fit in a 16-foot cube truck, while two or three bedrooms usually fit in a 24- or 26-foot truck. If you’re moving a full house, you can also use a 24- to 26-foot truck, but if you have a lot of possessions, it might require two trips.

Make A Plan: Before you put anything in a box or contact movers, create an itemized list of everything that should be done and follow it as you go. This will make the move easier for yourself and others who are helping you. If you’re using movers, you should also make an inventory as you pack, and check it when you unpack to make sure none of your items were lost.

Communicate: Once you have a plan, make sure your movers are aware of your requirements. The more information they have about the situation, the less time they will require and the more prepared they will be. If you’re moving into a condo or apartment, ask your landlord or building supervisor if there is anything you should know about moving into a building. For examples, condos often have service elevators you can reserve for the move.

 

Information received from CRS, The Council of Residential Specialists

How to Save Energy in Your Home

Fall is upon us and in the months generally known for colder weather, keeping our homes warm is a top priority. Even in those geographic regions where the mercury doesn’t drop below 50, knowing your home is not losing energy is a relief when you spend your hard earned dollars keeping your home warm or cool.

Saving energy in your home is not a difficult process. There are many easy free and low-cost ways to save energy and money on your heating and cooling bills. Listed below are some steps you can take in your home to help conserve energy and save yourself some money in the process:

Install A Programmable Thermostat:

Heating and cooling your home uses more energy and costs you more money than any other area or system in your home. Heating and cooling makes up almost half of your utility bill, so knowing how to eliminate energy waste when it comes to heating and cooling will save you money each month. By installing a programmable thermostat you help to automatically adjust your home’s temperature to when you’ve programmed, which helps it stay warm (or cool) when you need it to be.

Seal Air Leaks:

A home is rarely air tight, and checking for air leaks is a great way of determining where warm or cool air could be escaping and adding money on to your energy bill. There are a number of areas where air escapes: windows, doors, electrical boxes, ceiling fixtures, attics and more. You can help reduce or eliminate leaks by caulking and/or weather-stripping doors and windows, installing foam gaskets behind outlets and switch plates, or using foam sealant on larger gaps around windows and baseboards. Taking the time to find air leaks and fix them will help save you money and keep your home warm or cool.

Improve Insulation:

Heating and cooling make up the majority of your energy bill, over 50 percent, so knowing your home is insulated properly can help keep your home warm in the winter and cool in the summer. Checking the insulation in your home’s attic, walls, floors, and ceilings will tell you how much air is flowing between the inside and outside of your home and help you determine the best way of controlling the temperature inside. One important place to look for insulation is your attic – a well-insulated attic can help slash your heating and cooling bills in both the winter and summer months by helping to maintain indoor temperatures and seal air leaks through your roof.

Install Efficient Windows:

Window glass is not known for being very thick, and single-pane windows are notorious energy loss culprits. One option is to replace current windows with storm windows. Storm windows “reduce temperature loss by sealing leaks and creating a dead airspace between window panes” (motherearthnews.com). Storm windows can be expensive, but their return on investment is about 10 years, which is relatively short. Another option, if installing new windows is not feasible, is to cover windows with transparent material to help improve insulation. This site has great techniques on conserving energy in your home by implementing winter window treatments.

Conserve Water:

Using less water benefits you, your water bill and the environment. When you use less water, you also use less energy needed to heat the water. The Department of Energy lists water heating as the third most energy consuming function in a home. To help conserve water, you can take shorter showers and be conscious of the water used when washing dishes, food and clothes. When running the dishwasher or the washing machine, make sure the machine is filled to capacity to save water and energy on extra washes. You can also save energy by lowering the temperature on your hot water heater. The Department of Energy says 120 degrees is sufficient for most household uses. You can also save water and money by installing water-efficient fixtures and appliances throughout your home.

Turn Off Electronic Devices:

Do you leave your coffee maker plugged in when not using it? According to the US Department of Energy, “In an average home, 75 perfect of the electricity used to power home electronics is consumed while the products are turned off.” This is called a “phantom load,” or the energy appliances or electronics use when not turned on. You can minimize phantom loads and save on your energy bill by unplugging appliances and electronics when not in use, or plugging them into a power strip and turning the strip off when not using the appliances or electronics

Change Out Light Bulbs:

One cost-effective technique for saving energy and money is replacing the traditional incandescent light bulbs in your home. There are a number of options available that will help you save energy, and some offer longer life and greater savings than others. From halogen incandescent bulbs, to compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs), to light-emitting diodes (LEDs), each bulb has its benefits. Halogen incandescent bulbs are energy-efficient incandescent bulbs and can last up to three times longer than traditional incandescent bulbs. CFLs last up to 10 times longer than traditional incandescent bulbs and are extremely affordable. LEDs are becoming more and more popular and their prices have significantly dropped in recent years. LEDs use 20%-25% of the energy traditional incandescent bulbs use, and LEDS can last up to 25 times longer, some even being touted to last up to 25 years.

You also have the option of performing a home energy audit. An energy audit, also known as a home energy assessment, assesses how much energy your home consumes and helps you evaluate the best measures you can take to make your home more energy efficient. There are a number of options for home energy audits, from Do-It-Yourself audits, to professional audits that include blower door tests, thermographic inspections and PFT air infiltration measurements. Find an option that best suits your needs, wants and wallet and discover how you can make your home more energy efficient and save yourself some money.

If you’d like more tips on saving money and conserving energy throughout your home, here are some helpful links for more information:

 

Top 10 Home Styles in the U.S.

Top 10 Home Styles in the U.S.We’ve all had that moment — driving down a street and we see a home we like specifically for the architecture and design elements. The United States is full of different home styles and architecture, and pinpointing a specific one can be difficult, especially when dominant home styles change from region to region. The homes below are examples of the most prevalent home styles found throughout the United States.

Victorian

Victorian homes give off a certain air and possess a very stately feel. Victorians are more about beauty than functionality, with complex designs, ornate trim, and large wraparound porches. The Victorian exterior is seen as a medium for decoration. These homes generally have gables, bay windows, towers, overhangs and many are known as ‘Painted Ladies.’ The Victorian style also has sub styles, the most notable being Gothic Revival, Italianate, Second Empire, Queen Anne and the Romanesque style.

 

Craftsman Bungalow

The Craftsman or Bungalow style is seen as an expression of structure and elements that rely heavily on simple, elegant design. The Craftsman is one of the most common and popular styles in the United States, with an incredible resurgence in the last five years. These homes are characterized by their wide front porches, low-pitched roofs and exteriors that use wood, stone and/or brick. The interior of the Craftsman also has an open floor plan with many built-ins throughout the house.

Tudor

Tudors are very distinct and based on English building traditions during the Tudor Era (1485 – 1603). Tudors are characterized by their asymmetrical exteriors with windows playing a large part in the design. These homes generally have stone and stucco walls with wood accents/framing, and Tudor roofs are steep-pitched. Tudor homes are one of the most recognizable styles in the United States due to their specific architectural components.

 

Cape Cod

Cape Cods were first built in the 1600s and took inspiration from Britain’s thatched cottages. Cape Cods have steep roofs, dormer windows and large chimneys — elements that helped the homes withstand harsh Northeastern winters. The Cape Cod style is most recognized for its dormer windows, which play a large part in the design of the home.

Ranch

Ranches are also known as ‘Ramblers.’ Ranches are characterized by their single-story construction and low pitched roofs. Ranches became very popular in the post World War II era, with a large resurgence in the 1960s as ‘mid-century moderns.’

Colonial

Colonials are another home style that have a distinct appearance. Symmetry plays a large part in Colonials — evenly spaced shuttered windows, dormers, columns, and old Colonials will have many fireplaces. The most common Colonial in the United States is the Georgian Colonial, characterized by its strict symmetry, box shape, paneled front door below a decorative crown, simple or flattened columns, and the most notable feature of five shuttered windows across. Other notable Colonial styles in the United States are Dutch, Federal, and Spanish.

Contemporary

Contemporary homes have an almost futuristic look to them, but many contemporary homes look to connect the indoors with the outdoors. Natural light plays a large part in the contemporary home, as do flat roofs and simple horizontal and perpendicular lines. Contemporary homes embrace industrialism and put an emphasis on the use of efficient and affordable materials, and the homes emphasize an importance of combining materials (steel, glass, wood, stone, etc.) to create a fluid space.

Spanish

Spanish style homes incorporate a fusion of design elements from European and Native American architecture. The Mission Revival style is the most popular, which has its roots in Spanish churches built by missionaries. Spanish style homes tend to have clay roof tiles, arcaded porches, arched corridors, bell towers, square pillars and quatrefoil windows (these windows resemble flowers).

Mediterranean

The Mediterranean style became very popular in the United States in 1918 to 1940. This style is modeled after the hacienda style, where red tile roofs, arches, and plaster surfaces play a large part in the exterior of the house. Mediterranean style homes have become popular again, but the style has adopted more design elements like porticoes, balconies, and ornamental details that include heavy wood doors, tiles in multiple colors or designs, and balconies with ornate iron railings and embellishments.

 

Pueblo Revival

The Pueblo Revival is a style favored in the Southwest, highly influenced by the ancient Pueblo’s simple multifamily homes. This home style favors materials sourced from the earth — adobe, concrete, stucco or mortar, and wood beams — and the homes tend to feature enclosed courtyards and flat or sloping roofs. The Pueblo style is also characterized by rounded exteriors that exhibit square windows, weathered wood doors and exterior stone accents.

Homes can take any shape or size, and many homes built today embrace two or more styles. The United States has many other home styles not featured. If you’re looking for a home in a particular style, your agent will be able to help find that perfect property.

If you’re interested in learning more about home styles, you can find more information here: This Old House, Popular House Styles, DIY Network

 

Red Flags for Homebuyers

Home buying season is upon us, and while some buyers get caught up in the emotions of finding their new home, an important part of buying a home is paying attention to red flags. Red flags are those items that could potentially cost you a lot in the future, or even in the beginning – essentially, warnings of a danger or a problem. According to HouseMaster, a major home inspection company with offices in the United States and Canada, 40 percent of previously owned homes have at least one serious defect (housemaster.com). Provided is a list of items and things to consider or avoid when looking for your next home.

1. You’re also buying a neighborhood:
Neighborhoods are a vital part of the home buying process – make sure you visit at different times of the day to get a true sense of the neighborhood. Also, consider trends when looking for your next home. Does the neighborhood have an HOA? Are the homes in need of repair? Is the neighborhood going down rather than up-and-coming? What is local crime like? A neighborhood can be the most obvious red flag for a buyer.

2. Fixers:
Fixers can be great deals, but it’s important to know how much you’re getting into when you buy a fixer. Do you have a comfortable level with renovations? Are renovations going to make the purchase not economical? Will they break your bank? If a fixer will cost you more in renovations than your budget can handle, or go above what the home is worth, it’s a potential red flag.

3. Issues with a Home Inspection:
A home inspection is not required to buy a house, but it is always recommended, as an inspection can shed light on potential red flags. All offers should be contingent upon a satisfactory home inspection – if there are issues, you can potentially negotiate with a seller. Also, some issues can prevent financing for a mortgage. Always get a home inspection, and be wary of homes being sold “as is.”

4. Additions and Decks:
Are there additions to the home or property? Do they look like a DIY job? Any work should be done to code, especially when it comes to remodeling. Additions that are not done to code can be expensive to fix, and they can potentially lower the value of the home. If work has been done, you can contact the county or city for work permits and check if the city tax records match what the seller claims. If a home has a deck, ask the seller who built the deck and when it was built. Decks are notorious for being costly to fix or repair, and there’s potential that it will have to be rebuilt to be fully safe. An unsafe deck, or one that just doesn’t look right is a definite red flag.

5. Noticeable Structural Problems:
Always check doors and windows to make sure they open and close without issue, as they can be indicators of structural issues below the house. Foundation issues can be very expensive; look for large, noticeable cracks on the outside of the house and any cracks in concrete floors where the sides are not even. Foundation fixes generally cost thousands to fix – unless you have a large budget for repair work, avoid this big red flag.

6. Pest and Termite Damage:
Pest damage to homes can be very costly. If the pests have chewed into any studs, the structure of the home is compromised and can be expensive to fix. If a home has been inspected and treated for pests in the past, the seller needs to disclose this to a buyer. Some pest issues will return without proper treatment and management; be sure to ask the seller if they have had pest issues in the past.

7. Water Damage:
When walking through a property, look for moisture or water stains. With a proper home inspection, the inspector will look under the house for potential water issues. Moisture and water can be signs of drainage issues and can lead to some very expensive fixes. Water issues are a huge red flag when it comes to finding a home – they can affect the foundation, structure, roof, and a number of other areas in the house.

8. Faulty Electric and Old Wiring:
Is the home an older home with outdated electrical? Be very wary of a home with faulty or inferior electrical work. Older homes with outdated electrical cannot handle additional electrical work that builds up over the year, and knob and tube wiring or aluminum wiring found in older homes can be extremely costly to replace or repair.

9. Asbestos:

Asbestos was used as inexpensive fire-retardant material from the 1940s through the 1970s. We now know that asbestos can be extremely detrimental to lung health. Asbestos was used in blown-in attic insulation, vinyl floor tiles, some glues and linoleum, window caulking and glazing, roofing material, HVAC duct insulation, siding material, plaster, fiber cement siding, some forms of paint, and thermal insulation on basement boilers and pipes. Asbestos is an much a red flag as mold.

10. Mold:
Mold is a part of the natural environment, and molds begin grown indoors when mold spores land on surfaces that are wet. Molds are a health hazard to humans; some molds produce mycotoxins – toxic compounds – that can lead to neurological problems or worse. Both asbestos and mold are huge red flags when found in a home, not only for health reasons, but also both are notorious for being extremely costly to eliminate. Asbestos and mold are two issues that should always be addressed by trained professional to insure the issues have been properly treated and disposed of.

Buying a home is an emotional process: red flags are a way to take a step back and take a moment to truly evaluate a house. The last thing you want to do, as a homebuyer, is buy something you’ll end up hating or regretting. A house is a huge commitment, and making sure yu get the most for your money is always top priority. Your family and your agent can both help when it comes to discussing your dream home – you’re not alone.

10 Tips to Prepare for A Home Sale

 

 

We are in the middle of summer — one of the busiest times for any real estate market — with thousands of homes and properties going up for sale in every town and city throughout the United States. Getting the most for a home is always a seller’s top priority; heeding these ten tips and tricks when considering putting your house on the market will help toward getting you top dollar.

 

 

1. Paint Color:

When choosing an exterior paint color, stick with what’s popular in the neighborhood, goes well with the surroundings of the area, or fits the style of the home. Picking a paint color that is not common or completely clashes with the rest of the neighborhood is a very risky decision, especially when thinking about listing a home. When it comes to paint, choose safe colors for the biggest return on investment. The same should be considered for interior paint — big, bold, bright colors might work for your current design scheme, but when buyers walk through a home, and the main living space is four different colors, it’s likely all they’ll see is dollar signs and time spent repainting.

2. Landscaping:

Landscaping can make or break a home sale, or turn it into a long, laborious process. When thinking of landscaping, consider the plants or trees before anything gets planted — trees and roots can wreak havoc with lawns, foundations and pipes; take into consideration how large a plant or tree will get and how far the root system will travel over time.

 

 

3. The Front Door:

The front door is one of the first things potential buyers see — a strong and visual front door can leave a great first impression to potential buyers. If the door is broken, doesn’t work properly, or is in desperate need of a makeover, a buyer may see these things as weak points and consider offering less.

4. Upgrades:

Don’t assume you’ll recoup every investment, especially when it comes to large upgrades. Pools are notorious for poor return on investment, as are other large home additions. If you’re considering upgrading your home before putting it on the market, look to areas that are sure to make you money: kitchens and bathrooms, if tastefully done, will always add to the value of a house.

5. Fireplaces:

Fireplaces appeal to a large majority of buyers, but changing out the aesthetics of a fireplace can either be a great investment opportunity, or drastically lower a buyer’s offer. It’s best to take trends into consideration when making updates or changes to a fireplace — painting over exposed brick can be a huge deal breaker for some buyers, especially when a majority of people like exposed brick fireplaces.

6. Old Appliances:

Potential buyers look at the appliances in a home to gauge their age and how well they’ve been taken care of. Appliances play a large part in any home, and if they are old, outdated and no longer working can create hesitations in potential buyers. If it’s a classic that still works, don’t worry about replacing it; if you can’t get the door clean, or the oven temperature doesn’t rise above 350 degrees, it’s probably time to replace it. There’s no need to go all out on the latest and greatest technology either — while a beautiful stainless steel fridge might be alluring, it’s likely you won’t recoup the cost through the home sale, and it’s more likely you’ll want that classy fridge in your new home.

 

7. Deep Cleans and Small Stuff:

Most buyers have an eye for the small details of a house. An initial deep clean of the house, and continued maintenance thereafter, shows potential buyers that the house has been maintained. The small details matter: windows and window tracks, light switches, molding, a garbage disposal, tile, grout, sinks, ovens and appliances are all looked at by buyers. Make sure these items are not overlooked when the house goes on the market — potential buyers will appreciate the time you took to address them.

8. Trends:

Trends can be quite alluring for those looking to dabble in interior decorating. Some buyers like trends, but the majority of buyers look for classic, neutral colors on walls and fixtures. While a chevron pattern may be the perfect accompaniment to your current sofa or bedspread, most buyers will see the pattern, when applied to walls, as a potential paint job. If you’re considering listing your house, consider accessorizing with drapes, pillows and some pictures. These are simple ways of adding personality, and buyers will appreciate a neutral color scheme on the walls.

9. Hard to Clean Surfaces and Floors:

Buyers always look at the floors and counters in a potential home, and these surfaces can be huge selling points. If the counter tops are stained, hardwood floors scratched up, carpet damaged, or the tile is breaking, consider cleaning or finding a quick replacement. If a solid counter top is stained, a buyer will no doubt see dollar signs. If you have hardwood floors, some products can actually dull the wood over time. If the wood needs a little TLC before the house is listed, consider having the floors buffed — this will add some life, and buyers will see that they’ve been cared for.

 

10. Small Spaces:

Kitchens and bathrooms are undoubtedly some of the biggest selling features of a house or property. If either of these areas is small, consider revamping to make them look larger. A small bathroom with no windows is going to look like a cave if the color scheme is on the darker side. Bigger in a small space is always best — stick with neutral, light colors to help make the room look larger. Update any light bulbs that are reaching the end of their life; upgrading to a higher wattage or lumen can help enhance a small area too.

Selling a home is a large task, and every seller hopes to make money on their home sale. Prepping your home before a sale will always result in better viewings and interested buyers, and the end result will be a happy seller and an even more excited buyer.

 

 

Cause for Celebration

Summer is here, and there’s no better way to celebrate than with a cool drink at an outside party with your friends and family. If throwing your own celebration is part of your summer plan, these tips from RealSimple.com will help make your party seem effortless.

Get help: While you may want to give the impression that you pulled off the perfect party all by yourself, if you really want to ensure everyone has a great time – including yourself – ask one of your friends to help you with simple day-of tasks, such as making sure the garbage isn’t full or restarting the music when the playlist ends.

Eat right: Pick smart choices for your party. This means if it’s outdoors, try and find things that are easy to eat without making a mess. Finger foods like bruschetta or small sandwiches are always a big hit. If you’re making a salad, try using hardier greens like cabbage that won’t wither in the heat as easily; lightly dressed coleslaw is great for this.

Banish bugs: Citronella candles at the edge of your party will help drive away annoying insects. You can also leave bowls of just (cherry is the one that works well) farther way to attract insects so they don’t bother your guests.

Information received from CRS, The Council of Residential Specialists