Fast and Easy Updates to Help a Home Sell

 We are smack dab in the middle of home buying season, and while some properties are off the market before they’re even on it, others haven’t had such luck. A great way to boost your home’s selling power is to make small and affordable updates throughout the home. These quick updates and fixes won’t break the bank or a budget, and they will help make your home more inviting to potential buyers and a potential sale.

Spruce Up the Front Door

The front door is one of the first things potential buyers see when viewing your home. Spruce up the front door by touching up paint (either paint over chipped or fading paint, or change the color completely), adding a kick plate, changing out the hardware, or you can replace the door completely. A new front door can add energy efficiency and additional security if you choose a metal door. Making the front door pop not only adds a special touch to your curb appeal, but potential buyers definitely notice a door that’s been taken care of.

Freshen Up the Kitchen

Kitchens appeal to so many buyers. If you don’t have the budget or time to overhaul your kitchen, don’t panic. If you have nice wood cabinets and don’t have the budget to update them, consider adding a coat of paint to freshen them up. You can also add new hardware (knobs, handles or pulls) to help give cabinets a younger look. You can also change out any outdated countertops, and adding a new faucet to the sink is another way to give a kitchen a new vibe. If you have the time and the budget, consider changing any flooring that is chipped, cracked or broken. Vinyl flooring is economical and affordable, and it’s available in a number of types and styles to suit any kitchen design.

Update Porch Columns

Porch columns are another item buyers see immediately; if you have columns that have chipped paint, are decaying, or don’t match the style of the home, consider updating or replacing them completely. Sand and paint over chips, or update the look with vinyl wraps. If you have the budget to replace the columns, consider fiberglass, which is weather resistant and helps support the weight of the porch roof.

Tidy Up a Bathroom

Bathrooms are another large selling feature of properties, and outdated bathrooms are a top sale killer. Update within reason of your budget and time: replacing the vanity, counter, sink and faucet can be a quick fix that is also budget friendly (some home improvement stores have entire kits available for this). If this doesn’t fit your budget, consider painting the vanity and replacing the hardware and faucet. Other updates that can be done in the bathroom: change out a toilet (you can usually find energy efficient toilets at a local big box store for under $200), update a showerhead, and replace any vanity or overhead lighting for more modern and energy efficient options.

Update a Staircase

Many staircases are located just as you enter a home, which means they are a focal point and something buyers look at and judge the moment they walk into a property. If your staircase has seen better days, take the time to do some small updates. Fix any broken or loose steps and evaluate the railing; refinish a wood staircase, replace a broken railing, change outdated balusters, and, if the stairs are carpeted, clean or replace the carpet.

Jazz Up a Fireplace

Whether it’s gas or wood, many homes have fireplaces, and many buyers love them for their purpose and as focal points. An updated fireplace can say loads about your home, and a great looking fireplace can help a sale. You can paint and transform outdated brick or add ceramic tiles to add color. You also have the option of adding budget-friendly artificial stone veneer or natural stone (if you have the time and money). Mantels are a large part of fireplaces – add, update or replace a mantel with wood, stone or marble. An updated fireplace and mantel can help any home sale.

Light Up the Yard

Lighting can take the exterior of a home from drab to fab. Dark homes don’t pop to buyers, and outdoor lighting can add a ton of appeal. Update any outdated outdoor lighting fixtures, especially those that no longer work or are broken. If you have some extra money to put toward projects, consider adding additional outdoor lighting in the way of a lamppost or path lights, and if you live in a sunny climate you also have the option of solar lights.

Organize a Closet

Buyers will go through cupboards and closets, and a cramped bedroom closet can be an issue with some buyers. A quick and budget-friendly fix is a closet organizer. Organizers come in a variety of options, from wood and plastic-laminate to wire, and most are DIY, which cuts down any installation costs. If your closets are stuffed or poorly organized, buyers will see this and could potentially be turned off by it.

Make an Attic More Usable

Most homes have some kind of attic, whether it be a small crawlspace that’s barely accessible or a large attic area accessed by a staircase. Make sure your attic area is accessible: if it’s not, add a ladder and insulate the door for better energy efficiency. If your attic area is just studs, add a plywood floor to make it more accessible and ready for storage. By adding a couple extra things to an attic area, you’re adding usable space and making your home more marketable to potential buyers.

These fixes are relatively easy, and most shouldn’t break the bank. If you can afford to do some, go for it, but do what is in reason of your time and budget. You want to sell your house, and you don’t want to spend a fortune updating it. Small fixes can be the ticket to a quick sell, or they can help a home that’s been sitting for a while finally get some movement.

 

Budget Friendly Curb Appeal Ideas Done in a Day

88 percent of homebuyers begin the process online, looking at pictures on the listing site. Good photos and real curb appeal help entice buyers to check out your house in person. You want to make a great first impression, so don’t feel scared to make a statement — you want buyers to fall in love with your house. The fixes below are minor and budget friendly enhancements that can be done in a day to help make your house more inviting and appealing, and help get potential buyers to schedule a showing!

Glam the Front Door

The entry is a huge focal point for potential buyers, especially when it’s one of the first things they see. Create appeal by cleaning the front door — wipe it down, remove dirt, update the color with some paint. The front door should play off a home’s interior: add a kick plate, swag or a seasonal wreath to reflect the interior style of the house.

Create Symmetry

It is known that humans find symmetry beautiful – symmetry is attractive to the human eye, especially in nature. Symmetry is also appreciated in the design world for its familiarity, balance and it works with every style. Using symmetry to entice potential buyers is a quick and cost-friendly tool to the home seller: compose light fixtures, plants and front-door accents based on symmetry to create welcoming and inviting entryways and boost the house’s curb appeal.

Makeover the Mailbox

If you have a mailbox, it can be a great way to accent your house and add a little touch of personality. If you’re going to replace the box, pick one that mimics the style and trim of the house. You also have the option of dressing up a mail box by painting the post to match the house’s exterior color, or you can surround it with flowers or other plants.

Add Outdoor Lighting

A quick, easy, and budget friendly way of adding appeal to the outside of your house is to add outdoor lighting. Outdoor lighting adds a little something extra, and it can also provide safety and security. Homeowners have many options for lighting, from wired to solar, and lights can be purchased at many retailers and hardware stores. Install landscape lighting along paths and trees.

Patch Up the Grass

Pets, animals, weather and other events at your house can take a toll on your yard’s grass, and most buyers will notice a lawn that looks like it’s on its last leg. Cut out any dead spots and replace with sod, or, if you have time, replant with seed. If you live in a non-drought area, turn on the sprinklers: a lawn needs at least 1″ to 1 ½” of water per week and should be watered deeply 2-3 times per week.

Install Window Boxes

Window boxes can be a really budget friendly way to liven up the outside of a house. They help play up windows, and they can add a pop of color by way of plants or flowers. For a traditional look, choose boxes made of copper or iron, and pick painted wood for more of a cottage feel. Use a window box to play with flowers that will suit the lighting in the yard and the color scheme of the outside.

Renew Planters and Beds

Poorly maintained planters and flower beds can be a big letdown to potential buyers – especially when many view poor upkeep as an indication of what a house may look like inside. Be sure to prune overgrowth, pull weeds, plant extra flowers and add new mulch to restore life and color depleted by the sun and harsh weather. Adding a border around flower beds or along paths can be a great addition, and budget friendly. If your yard already has a border, clean and restore pieces that are worn or upgrade the stone altogether.

Another budget friendly fix you can do in less than a day is pressure washing any dirty siding, decks, patios, driveway or sidewalks. A pressure washer can be rented at any home improvement store for a small amount, and freshly washed pavement and siding can help make a home look revitalized. If you’re limited on outdoor space or have no yard, add some color by creating a container garden. These small gardens are easy to maintain and can easily be transported to your new residence once the sale is finalized. As a seller your top priority is getting the most out of your house — concentrating on small and easy fixes that are budget friendly can really help give your house that pop so many buyers look for.

Barbecue and Fire Pit Safety for the Summer

Throughout the United States, the summer months are those months where millions of Americans find themselves enjoying the outdoors or chilling in the backyard. With summer comes barbecues and evenings outside, sitting beside the fire pit. It’s important to remember that barbecues and fire pits require a certain amount of safety when in use. To help you in your summer celebrations, keep these safety tips close by when using a barbecue or fire pit this summer.

Barbecue Tips

Grilled food is a true treat, especially when you don’t want to cook inside during the warm summer months. Grills should always be used outside, in a well ventilated area. To ensure safety, grills should be stationed away from the home, deck railings and away from any low hanging tree branches or plants.

The most important thing to remember is to never leave the grill unattended, especially if you have children and pets. The second most important safety item is to remember to keep the grill clean by removing grease and fat buildup. You can also clean or replace any trays that sit below the grill and collect food waste, oil and other grill debris.

Propane Tips

Propane can be found in both liquid and gas form. Naturally odorless, an additive is added to the gas to give it a distinct odor to help people identify when the gas is around. Propane, when stored under pressure, is a liquid. When you hook up a propane tank to a gas grill, the tank is opened which allows propane gas to leave the tank and power the grill. Liquid Propane is very cold, so cold that it can cause freeze burns if it comes into contact with skin.

Storing propane is an important part of propane use. A propane tank should always be stored and transported upright, and proper propane storage requires the tank be in a temperature controlled area. If you store a propane tank in an area that’s susceptible to high temperatures, there is a risk of the pressure release valve opening and releasing gas, which is a fire hazard.

When transporting propane, make sure the pressure release valve is closed and that there is cap or plug over the valve outlet. Tanks should always be transported in an upright position, sitting on the tank’s foot. During transport, the tank should be secured, even if it’s empty. You can secure the tank with a safety strap, the seat belt, or some kind of other container to prevent the tank from tipping over.

It’s important to remember not to transport more than four propane tanks inside an enclosed vehicle at one time. You can carry more than four if you are transporting the tanks in the bed of a truck and they are secured to prevent escape.

Fire Pit Tips

Sitting beside a fire pit, enjoying a drink, roasting marshmallows, or just listening to the crackle of the wood can be some of the most enjoyable and memorable moments of the summer. Fire pits are a great outdoor accessory, but they do require an amount of safety to operate. A fire pit should be at least 10 feet away from any structure or combustible surface. Unless the owner’s manual says it’s ok, do not put a fire pit on grass, a wood deck or in an enclosed deck/porch.

When it comes time to light the fire, be sure to always burn dry, seasoned wood that was cut at least six months earlier. In order to prevent sparks, keeps logs no longer than three-quarters of the pit’s diameter. When starting the fire, don’t use gasoline, lighter fluid or kerosene as these are not meant for fire pits! Use a fire starter or newspaper and kindling.

Do not light a fire in windy conditions, and it’s important to remember to stay up-to-date with burn bans or burn ordinances in your area. If the pit is located in an area near trees or bushes, pick up any leaves or combustible material from around the pit before starting your fire. Keep a bucket of sand, a fire extinguisher or a garden hose nearby in case things get out of control.

 

Prepping Your Home for a Vacation

Vacations are a time to relax and escape from regular life. When you’re miles from home, the last thing you want to worry about is the safety of your home. If you plan on taking a vacation this summer (or any time this year), here are some simple tips on prepping your home for vacation.

Stop Your Newspaper and Mail
One sure way of being absent from your home is a pile of newspapers in the driveway. Contact your newspaper delivery person and stop service while you’re gone. If you don’t have a locked mailbox, contact the post office and have them hold your mail. You can also ask a trusted neighbor to collect mail, newspapers and deliveries and have him/her hold the for you until you’re back.

Park Your Car in the Garage
The last thing you want is to get home from a vacation and have your car gone. If you can, park your car inside the garage, or have a family member park it at his/her house. You can also ask a neighbor to park their car in your driving, making it look like someone is leaving each morning.

Put a Light on a Timer
A dark house stands out in a neighborhood, especially when all of the other homes are lit up. Before you leave, buy a timer and install it on a lamp in your home. It’s also a good idea to install a motion-activated sensor on the outdoor floodlight that will be triggered should someone walk by it. You can also ask a neighbor to turn on the front porch light in the evening.

Mow Your Lawn
Grass can grow pretty fast in two or three days. If you have a lawn, make sure it’s trimmed before you embark on your trip. If you’re going to be gone longer than a week, ask a family member or neighbor to cut the grass in the front yard while you’re away.

Some of these items are easily overlooked, but could cause major issues when you’re away:

Unplug Small Appliances and Electronics
Small appliances and electronics can be energy vampires when plugged in, and some are still active even when they look like they’re turned off. Before you leave, unplug those items that won’t be used while you’re gone (coffee maker, toaster, espresso machine, etc.). It’s also a good time to make sure all smoke detectors work properly throughout your home.

Turn Down the Thermostat
Your thermostat makes sure your home maintains a specific temperature throughout the day. Before you leave, set the thermostat to a lower temperature if the house is going to be empty. This will help conserve energy while you’re gone. If you do turn down the thermostat, be sure to keep your home at a temperature that will still protect plants, pets and furniture.

Put the Water Heater in Vacation Mode
Traditional water heaters heat water throughout the day, even when you’re not using water. Before you head out on a vacation, out the heater in vacation mode. Check to see if your water heater has a VAC setting – which is for vacations. If it doesn’t you can turn down the thermostat to the lowest setting. But don’t stop the water heater: turn off water valves to the dishwasher, washing machine and any sinks. The last thing you want to come home to is a flood in your house because a pipe broke or a hose burst.

Tidy Up the Kitchen
Before you leave it’s always a good thing to clean out the fridge and dispose of anything that will go bad while you’re gone. The sink can harbor things that cause bad smells – run a half cup of vinegar and some water through the garbage disposal to alleviate any potential buildups, and make sure to take out any trash and recycling so you don’t come home to a smelly house. If you have a trusted neighbor, ask them to put your garbage, recycling or yard debris bins out on pickup day.

Leave Emergency Contact Info with Neighbors
You may tell your family that you’re heading out, but you should also let a neighbor know. Neighbors live near you and can be your first point of contact should something happen to your home while you’re away. Let a trusted neighbor know you’re going out of town – provide them with information on where you’re going, how long you’ll be gone, and contact information for yourself and family members in case of emergency

Home Designs for Busy Families

With their calenders crammed with things to do and places to go, today’s busy families what to spend as little time as possible handling mundane household chores. To help families stay organized, newer homes are being built with customized floor plans to allow more flexibility and better use of space. Here are a few examples of these home design trends.

Mudrooms
While mudrooms have been around for at lease a decade, they have evolved into a larger, more centralized area for each member of the family, complete with individual cubbies for books and backpacks, drawers for hats and gloves, and a bent for removing wet shoes and boots.

Most mudrooms are 6 feet by 8 feet, although some can be as large as 8 feet by 12 feet, and some include USB outlets, walk-in closets and windows with natural light. These rooms once shared space with washers and dryers, but laundry machines have moved closer to the bedrooms where most of the dirty laundry collects, builders say.

Study/Computer Stations
Parents want to keep a close eye on their kids as they do their homework, but where that study space is located differs among households. In many homes, kitchen islands double as a study area as well as an area for cooking and eating. Other homes are built with study nooks on the upper floor, a separate study in the lower level or a pocket office located off the kitchen.

Self-Service Kitchens
Newer homes are designed with the kitchen or pantry set up so family members can grab their own meals while on the go. These self-serve areas are located away from the mail food prep area and are equipped with a mini refrigerator or refrigerator drawer to hold fruit and snacks, and a microwave at child-sized height for easy access.

Home design features like these can help today’s families stay organized as they go through their busy lives.

Return on Investment

Remodeling and replacement projects can add value to your home, but some projects recoup their costs better than others. According to Remodeling Magazine’s 2015 Remodeling Cost vs. Value Report, small and exterior projects return the most value on your money.

The project that offered the best value overall was a steel entry door replacement, which recouped 101.8 percent of its costs when the home was sold. The steel entry door is consistently the least expensive project named in the reporting, costing about $1,200 on average. The second best value is the addition of a manufactured stone veneer, which can recoup 92.2 percent of it’s original cost, but be prepared to invest at least $7,000 for the improvement.

Replacing a garage door can return 82.5 percent for an upscale project and 88.5 percent for a midrange project. Replacing your home’s siding with fiber cement will return 84.3 percent of the costs, while replacing vinyl siding recoups 80.7 percent. Adding a wood deck will return 80.5 percent and replacing wood windows earned 78.8 percent.

A minor kitchen remodel is a strong bet to add value to your home. An investment of $19,226 can return 79.3 percent of its costs. A major kitchen remodel recoups 67.8 percent and a bathroom remodel returns 70 percent.

To find out which home improvement projects bring the most value, give us a call!

Common Pests and Your Home

The list of new responsibilities can seem overwhelming when you buy a home or become a first-time homeowner. One responsibility that tends to get overlooked until it becomes a larger issue is that of household pests. A household pest is “a destructive insect or other animal that attacks” your home. Pests range throughout the U.S., but the most common pests are those that have become almost commonplace in our lives. Here are some of the most common pests encountered by homeowners throughout the U.S., and what you can
do to help prevent pests in your home.

Most common Spring and Summer Pests:

Termites:

Termites are generally grouped by their nesting and feeding habits: subterranean, soil-dwelling, dry wood, damp wood and grass-feeding. They feed on dead plant material, generally in the form of wood, leaves, soil and animal dung. Termites can cause significant structural damage to buildings. Those classified as subterranean and dry wood are those that are responsible for the damage to homes.

Ants:Ant

Ants are the most common household pests in the north central states. They are social insects, and they have a wide variety of nesting habits. Ants can build nests in soil, behind moldings, baseboards and counter tops, and some types nest in decaying or moisture damaged wood. Ants will feed on all types of food, and ant damage varies. Most ants cause little damage, but carpenter ants can weaken wood structures similar to termites, and the majority of ants don’t transmit diseases.

Flies:

Large fly on a green leafFlies are some of the most annoying pests in the home. They land on almost every surface, and their diet includes a wide variety of foods: human food, animal food, animal carcasses, garbage and excrement. Flies also carry germs and diseases. They are known to transfer over 100 pathogens, some of which include salmonella, anthrax, tuberculosis, and the eggs of parasitic worms.
Spiders:

Spiders are generally not harmful and they do feed on other insects like flies and other spiders. Most spiders found in the home are not venomous, but there are some that homeowners don’t want to find inside their house. The Black Widow and Brown Recluse are two of the most talked about spiders homeowners do not want to find in their homes. Black Widows can be found throughout the U.S., and Brown Recluse are predominately found in the Midwestern States, most notably Oklahoma, Arkansas and Missouri. All spiders have the ability to travel to all states by ways of hiding in boxes, packages and produce.

Most Common Fall and Winter Pests:

Stink Bugs:
stinkbug
Stink bugs are found throughout the U.S., and most of the time homeowners don’t know they have an issue until early fall, when stink bugs turn up on the sunny side of homes where they can warm themselves. During the summer months stink bugs live outside, feeding on fruits, grains and other crops. During the colder months, stink bugs will hide inside walls or in attics and crawl spaces. These bugs get their name from the unpleasant odor they produce when they feel threatened.

Rodents:
Side View of Head Field Mouse (Apodemus sylvaticus)
Rodents are warm-blooded and are found throughout the U.S. The most common types of rodents are mice and rats. Both rapidly breed and are capable of squeezing through spaces that appear smaller than their bodies. Rodents seek warm shelter in the cold months, particularly mice, who seek food, water and warmth within homes. Generally, if one rodent is found, many more are hiding nearby.

How to Avoid Pests:

Most home pests can be avoided by doing simple, everyday things. As a homeowner, make sure your doors and windows are closed, as these are the most common ways for pests to enter a home. Make sure window and door screens are in good repair or working order. By eliminating moisture buildup in small areas and basements you reduce the risk of creating hospitable environments for pests. Sealing openings in a home’s foundation will help reduce access to your home.

Trees harbor pests — by keeping tree branches trimmed and away from the home you deter pests (especially spiders) from having easy access to your home’s roof. Moisture attracts pests — direct rain water away from the home and foundation to prevent possible moisture buildup. If you have fire wood, store it at least 20 feet away from the house. Flies and other pests are attracted to garbage, so ensuring that garbage cans are sealed tight and all animal deposits are picked up will help reduce the risks of attracting pests into your home. The best deterrent to pests remains a clean, uncluttered home, where food, crumbs, and anything else that has the potential to attract pests is put away, covered or thrown away.